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Just Say No to a ‘No Fly Zone’ Over Libya

Libyans shout slogans against Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi while holding a cartoon depicting Kadhafi being hit with a hammer symbolising 'the people's will'.
Gianluigi Guercia | AFP | Getty Images
Libyans shout slogans against Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi while holding a cartoon depicting Kadhafi being hit with a hammer symbolising 'the people's will'.

Now that senior senators from both the Republican and Democratic parties are putting pressure on the Obama administration to put a “no-fly zone” in place over Libya, it’s incumbent that skeptics of this kind of belligerence speak out.

So I’m taking a step away from my usual purview of economic and financial commentary to stand athwart the gathering stampede for war in order to yell “Stop!”

The very first step in establishing a no-fly zone would be a bombing attack on Libya. Our bombers would have to seek out and destroy Libya’s air defenses. Bombing another country is called war. We’d be converting a nascent civil war in Libya into an international war lead by the United States.

There’s only one thing to say to someone who might think that it’s a good idea for the United States to initiate another war of choice against an Islamic country that we don’t understand very well. That is: “Welcome back to earth. How was your 10 year trip away from the planet?”

Our top military officials and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates oppose “no-fly zone” warfare. They’d no doubt get in line if the war-party on Capitol Hill succeeds in pressuring Obama into engaging in No-Fly War, but for now they are making it clear that they regard it as a bad idea.

The leading advocates of a No-Fly War are Senator John McCain, the Republican of Arizona, and Senator John Kerry, the Democrat from Massachusetts. Both hold powerful seats in the US Senate—Kerry chairs the Foreign Relations committee, McCain is the senior Republican on the Armed Services committee. Both men have been their respective party’s nominee for president. Both were rejected by the American people.

Now we’re seeing the wisdom of those rejections.

McCain and Kerry both say they oppose putting US troops on the ground in Libya. But that doesn’t mean US troops will remain safe. Our airmen will be in constant danger above Libya. We should not expect that they would receive much by the way of mercy from Gadaffi—a guy who has already shown a willingness to kill civilian protestors that are his own countrymen. What do we think will happen when he captures foreign warfighters who were piloting deadly jets above Libya?

Our policy should be to offer aid to the afflicted, and comfort to the forces supporting reform in Libya. Gadaffi should be convinced to leave, even if that costs us promises of amnesty, unfrozen stolen wealth and asylum. But a civil war among the Libyans is not a war for Americans to fight. It is first and foremost, the responsibility of the Libyans. Perhaps some of Libya’s more responsible neighbors in the middle east will decide to police their own neighborhood.

We’re frequent critics of the Obama administration. We’ve long been skeptical of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s motivations and capabilities. But when it comes to resisting the No-Fly War, I stand with them with unbridled conviction. And I hope they hold steadfast to this position.

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