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Archive for March, 2011

I’ve been going through a bit of an identity crisis over what to say about the intervention in Libya. I abhor war and have spent most of my life trying to stop US military interventions, from Vietnam to Afghanistan. I never favor militarist solutions.

Yet I find the current operation partially justified. Already it has saved many civilian lives. As Juan Cole notes, Gaddafi’s tanks and planes killed thousands of Libyans in the weeks before the intervention, and they were poised to slaughter many more before they were stopped last week. The international air strikes have halted the regime’s advances and enabled the opposition to recapture lost ground.

The intervention is supported by the Libyan liberation movement and has multilateral authority and participation, with backing from the Arab League and UN Security Council. It is an unprecedented attempt by the international community to exercise the ‘responsibility to protect.’  So far the use of force has been targeted and has not resulted in many civilian casualties. (more…)

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The political and diplomatic prospects for imposing a no-fly zone over Libya advanced significantly yesterday (March 2). The Arab League, meeting in Cairo, said it will consider the possibility of imposing such a zone and will discuss the matter with members of the African Union.

This is very good news for the prospects of united international action against Gaddafi. It follows the nonbinding resolution adopted unanimously by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday (March 1) urging the UN Security Council to impose the no-fly zone. Russia, China, and other Security Council members have been reluctant until now, but if the Arab League and African Union approve, there would be little justification for further reluctance. The pieces are falling into place for establishing the necessary legal authority and political backing for decisive multilateral action to save Libyan lives and speed Gaddafi’s departure.

The Obama administration should mount a full-court diplomatic press, working directly with the Arab League, the African Union, and the UN Security Council, to prepare a resolution giving UN authorization for the no-fly zone. If Gaddafi continues to terrorize and bomb his population as he has done in recent days, the Security Council should authorize immediate action to establish the no-fly zone. The Pentagon should work with Arab and African partners along with NATO allies to facilitate preparations for the no-fly mission and ensure that if action becomes necessary it is a genuine multilateral operation in which Arab and African states participate fully. This will ensure united international support for the Libyan people and hopefully set a precedent for effective multilateral action to protect civilians from murderous dictators.

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My thoughts on a no-fly zone in Libya appear here in the New York Times online comment forum.

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