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UN No-Fly Zone in Libya Appears to Work—Before Firing a Shot

Libyans at the rebel-held eastern town of Brega celebrate after rumor spread that their fighters took over the town of Ras Lanuf from pro-Kadhafi forces during battles.
Roberto Schmidt | AFP | Getty Images
Libyans at the rebel-held eastern town of Brega celebrate after rumor spread that their fighters took over the town of Ras Lanuf from pro-Kadhafi forces during battles.

The Libyan government announced an immediate cease fire on Friday morning—just hours after the U.N. authorized the use of force against the Qaddafi regime to protect civilians.

The Libyan Foreign Minister, Moussa Koussa, is quoted by CNN as saying that Libya is "obliged to accept the Security Council resolution that permits the use of force to protect the civilian population," and that the Qaddafi regime will engage in "an immediate ceasefire and the stoppage of all military operations."

Last Monday, I wrote in support of the idea of a no-fly zone, while my colleague John Carney opposed it.

I wrote then:

" But—and this is perhaps the critical point—my greatest hope would be that the credible threat of a no-fly zone by the United States would be enough to persuade Col. Qaddafi to vacate the country."

While my expectations have fallen short of their ultimate aim, at least part of what I hoped for seems to be coming to pass.

While Col. Qaddafi appears to have no intention of leaving Libya anytime soon, the U.N. use of force resolution would appear to be a major diplomatic victory—if not in getting the colonel to vacate the country, at least in the battle to stave off his continued massacre of his own people.

It's too soon to declare victory in the battle to protect Libya's civilian population, because there is no telling what mischief Qaddafi may yet attempt to perpetrate. (A man willing to use airpower against his own people clearly possesses a great maleficent determination.)

And the impact of the no-fly zone on the long-term viability of the Qaddafi regime also remains to be seen.

But the open question that still remains is this: Why delay so long in implementing the use of force resolution in the U.N.?

Specifically, if a no-fly zone is a good idea today it stands to reason that it would have been a better idea two weeks ago.

That is the Libyan no-fly zone would have been a far better idea before Qaddafi's campaign against his own people had claimed so very many civilian lives.

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