“With no evidence emerging that Col. Gadhafi is about to fall, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky urged the U.S. to consider various moves that would mark a sharp escalation in American involvement.
Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” Mr. McCain said the U.S. can help the rebels now by pumping in humanitarian assistance; by providing technical assistance, intelligence and training; and by declaring support for a provisional government. Mr. McConnell of Kentucky, speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” said that “arming the insurgents” could be an option, citing as a possible model U.S. efforts against the Soviets during the Cold War.”
I understand the instinct to get involved in Libya. Gadhafi is a brutal, half-crazed tyrant, and it’s hard to sit back and watch while his military attacks his own people. But military experts have stressed the fact that implementing a no-fly zone isn’t as simple and straightforward as we would like to think.
“There may be in the end cheaper and more effective ways to deal with the situation such as providing covert arms to the rebels,” said former deputy assistant secretary of state Steve Ganyard, who is a former fighter pilot who enforced no-fly zones.
“We can’t just go in and put airplanes over Libya. It’s going to take a campaign to take out these surface-to-air-missile systems, to bomb where the aircraft are being parked. It’s not just go in and establish a no-fly zone with no cost.
“We will have to blow things up on the ground in Libya if we want to establish a no-fly zone. It’s a two step process and it will take time and a significant military package to accomplish,” Ganyard said.
We also seem to have little idea who the rebel leaders are, or what kind of Libya they’re likely to create should they get power. Given how quickly all this has happened, they themselves probably don’t know the answer to such things. The British, for example, sent an armed diplomatic mission to make contact with the Libyan rebels, but the rebels arrested and evicted the team.
“The team went to Libya to initiate contacts with the opposition,” the British foreign minister explained. “They experienced difficulties.”
The British government is now experiencing difficulties explaining just what they thought they were doing, and the Libyan state press is using the incident as evidence of foreign involvement in the rebellion. So things are a little more complicated and mysterious than it might at first seem.
– Jay Bookman