The Gulf Cooperation Council emerged with a statement yesterday advocating a no-fly zone over Libya to end the use of aircraft by Gaddafi against his own people.
While one may be, at first, tempted to applaud such a statement, actions speak louder than words. The GCC wants the UN Security Council to execute the no-fly zone over Libya, but surely the GCC knows that is extremely unlikely with reticent Russia and China as permanent seat holders.
A counter-offer: why doesn’t the GCC team up with the African Union to do the dirty work themselves? The rebels, if successful in overthrowing the Gaddafi government, would remember favorably the assistance of their neighbors during the fight.
It’s not as if the GCC members don’t have the capability. For starters, the United States just completed a $60 billion deal to send Saudi Arabia advanced fighter aircraft (F-15s) and helicopters, the largest arms sale in the history of the United States. And in January, Raytheon signed a nearly $500 million deal to send precision guided missiles to Saudi Arabia – precisely the kind needed in the first steps of implementing a no-fly zone. Just a few examples, but they highlight that the GCC has the ability to execute a no –fly zone on its own.
If anything best explains President Obama’s hesitation in getting involved in Libya, it is that America’s footprint in the region has become a very unpopular one, and one that has a high risk of creating more problems than it solves. As Defense Secretary Gates said before congress last week, regarding a no-fly zone:
“If it’s ordered, we can do it, but … there’s a lot of, frankly, loose talk about some of these military options, and let’s just call a spade a spade. A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses. That’s the way you do a no-fly zone, and then you can fly planes around the country and not worry about our guys being shot down,” he told a House Appropriations hearing. “But that’s the way it starts.”
A no-fly zone over Libya may be the best option, but not for the United States.