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.