Op-Ed: No-Fly Zone? Let's Get Qaddafi!
As forces loyal to Libya’s ruler, Moammar Qadhafi, continued their drive eastward toward the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, the UN has finally agreed to a no-fly zone over LIbya. The rebels begged for it, and even the Arab League had called for an urgent “humanitarian based” no-fly zone over Libya to be imposed by the US and its European allies.
Talk shows on the major TV networks across the U.S. paraded Arab and Middle East expert-guests who argued that foreign (i.e., Euro-American) intervention in the Libyan civil war should be limited to an imposition of a no-fly zone. The experts explained that any introduction of Euro-American troops or even military advisors on the ground in Libya may backfire in view of the fact that the rest of the Arab world may interpret that move as a western imperialistic attempt to influence and control events, tilt the situation toward western interests.
Aside from this senseless paranoia, typical of Arabs’ stance toward NATO in general and the U.S. in particular, an imposition of a no-fly zone is not a trivial, riskless matter. It requires a phased approach, where its first chapter involves the destruction of the entire Libyan air defense systems including military airports, military aircraft, ground-to-air missile batteries, radar systems, command and control systems, and more. In short, phase one is a “shock-and-awe” stage resembling the first days of the Iraq war.
In other words, imposition of a no-fly zone is a full-scale assault. It’s a war. People will be killed, some of whom will be innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. And even if mistakes never come about, Libyan President Moammar Qadhafi will make certain that pictures and movies of staged massacres become major hits on Youtube, al Jazeera, and the rest of the international media. He will play to turn public opinion against the U.S. who voted for it. After all, movie production of seeming massacres presented as authentic news is an Arab specialty.
The Arab League wants the U.S. and NATO to launch a war on Qaddafi, to help the Libyan rebels defeat the dictator, while, all the while, making it look as if the Libyan people, on their own, were able to overthrow their ruthless tyrant.
Although most people find the above plan reasonable, in spite of the risk involved, I tend to see it as a shortsighted, unfortunate design.
My first problem has to do with the question of responsibility.
Why should the Euro-American forces lead the way? Where is the formidable Egyptian military? Where is the best American-trained, American-equipped Middle Eastern war machine? If the Egyptians can’t handle such a “simple humanitarian act,” what was the purpose of building their military up to that sky-scraping level? Why do the Arabs always look to the West to take care of their own dirty laundry? And why is the West willing to go ahead and comply? Are they our naughty children? Are we their Jewish mama?
The Arab League wants the U.S. and NATO to impose a no-fly zone over Libya. The Saudis want the U.S. to bomb Iran for their own sake. The Palestinian Arabs want the U.S. to force Israel to hand them out an independent state, cleansed of Jews, without consenting to non-violence, without ceasing their anti-Semitic incitement, or the need to abide by any former agreement with the Jewish state, without ending the conflict by recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.
When will these Arabs grow up, take matters into their own hands, for their own good, help each other while utilizing their huge wealth, and behave more like the responsible western-minded caring people?
The U.S. and Europe should stay out of Libya. If the Arab League wants a no-fly zone over Qadhafi’s head, let them have our permission; let them go ahead and move on it — not the other way around. In its aftermath, no Arab propaganda will be able to blame the West for its imperialistic, satanic tendencies. An imposition of a no-fly zone by a neighboring Arab country like Egypt will be a welcome shift of a long-lasting paradigm. Can you imagine an Arab country going to war for the sake of protecting human rights? What a fabulous dream.
Except, there is a greater issue.
We all want Qaddafi to go. (Some wish that he moves to Venezuela, others want him to go to hell.).
At the same time, the no-fly zone, even if imposed by the U.S. and its European allies, does not guarantee the realization of that objective. Qaddafi may still win. He may still massacre the defeated rebels, their families, their relatives, their friends, and all those suspected of colluding against him. His winning odds are north of 50 percent even in the absence of air power.
If we go to war (and as I argued earlier, an imposition of a no-fly zone is war), then let’s win; let’s go directly after the tyrant; let’s bomb his tent, kill his sheep; let’s demand his surrender lest he prefers his 72 Virgins. Let’s go after the real target; let’s pull off our true objective. It’s easier, it’s simpler, it’s less risky.
Forget the no-fly zone. Let’s just win!