In Libya, the United States seems content for now to watch Gaddafi brutally reassert control. The regime is using its superior organization and firepower to drive the revolutionaries further and further to the east.
NATO and the UN have, to varying degrees, discussed the idea of enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Gaddafi from bombing the rebel strongholds in the east. Although, I think it's a general rule that when the US government proposes military action, its stated aims are almost never its true aims, a no-fly zone deserves consideration. We are watching a brutal dictator crush a revolution, bombing civilians with Russian and French-built military aircraft. A revolutionary army to oust Gaddafi cannot move across wide open desert roads toward Tripoli under an all-out military assault.
And keep in mind, the rebel-controlled National Council, which France was the first to recognize as the legitimate government of Libya, has asked for a no-fly zone. If the case for humanitarian intervention is ever valid, why not here? Why should the international community simply stand back and watch?
Defense Secretary Gates has been going around making the case that enforcing a no-fly zone would not be easy. He's wrong. It would be easy. Crater Gaddafi's airfields. The west could prevent military planes from even taking off in Libya, let alone shoot them down once they're flying. We've also heard explanations of how hard it would be to maintain a no-fly zone once in effect. That's beside the point. Who says a no-fly zone has to be 100 percent enforceable from the moment it's declared? Announce it, enforce it when and where you can, and set up the logistics to make it more effective as quickly as possible.
I do not understand the slow motion we are seeing from the administration. France and Britain are calling for a no-fly zone, and Italy has offered use of its bases. But the US drags its feet. Is this just diplomatic positioning? Does Obama want it to look like we were dragged in by the international community rather than leading the push?
And then there's this:
"The regime will prevail," Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said darkly at a Senate hearing on Friday. What?! I must not have gotten the memo that it was time to write off the Libyan opposition. Once again, I do not understand what the Obama administration is doing here. The US should continue discussing a no-fly zone, but the focus on the difficulty of such an operation seems overblown and dishonest.
Of course, as always, the American people should be suspicious of a push by the political elite for any military action. But we should also be vigilant that the US government is ready to sell out a people's movement to keep a predictable, western-friendly dictator in power.
(And yes, Gaddafi has been a friend of the US, Britain, and Italy since 2003.)