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Let Libya's Neighbors Fix It

Author: Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus and Board Senior Fellow
March 16, 2011
The Daily Beast


The 22-nation Arab League has called for a no-fly zone over Libya. So have Britain and France. They say Libya will become a humanitarian calamity if Col. Muammar Gaddafi isn't stopped now. They say his victory will mean the strategic collapse of all that could be good in the Mideast. But these strategic moralists fail to note one insidious and self-damning fact: They would have no trouble doing the job all by themselves. They possess hundreds upon hundreds of frontline jet fighters and the necessary air bases—in sum, full air superiority over Libya.

So, if things were so terrible in Libya weeks ago, why didn't they impose the no-fly zone? Why don't they do it now? Why are they all insisting that before any action can be taken it must first be approved by the U.N. Security Council? Elementary, my dear Watson, as Sherlock Holmes used to say to his rather slow companion.

The answer is plain: they know very well that the U.N. Security Council won't approve the action. Which, in turn, means that they have no real desire or intent to secure the skies over Libya and are using the U.N. as an excuse. Everyone knows full well that China and Russia are likely to veto any military move over or against Libya, or any other country, for that matter. Beijing and Moscow just don't like all this "saving the people" talk, for fear that one day it might be used against them.

For argument's sake, let's pretend that Beijing and Moscow suffer a bout of hallucinatory humanitarianism or are mightily impressed by the Arab League's endorsement of the no-fly zone, and decide not to block it. Guess who draws the short straw and would be expected to perform the no-flying gig? Right again, Dr. Watson: the United States of America.

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The Horrible Libya Hypocrisies

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Leslie H. Gelb says the United States is participating in the no-fly zone over Libya despite the absence of vital U.S. interests there.