Tuesday, March 15, 2011

No-fly or not no-fly

It seems there is a good deal of soul searching regarding whether or not the US (sometimes known as "NATO") should try to create a "no-fly zone" over Libya, in defense of "Libyan rebels" (whoever they are.) In the region, there have been requests for us to do so from some "Libyan rebel leaders" and from the Arab League. At home, the call has come from legislators who say we should be supporting the "brave freedom fighters" struggling (unsuccessfully) to seize control from long-time boogey man Muammar Gadaffi.

Before we start waving our little flags and throwing big bucks at Libya, though, we really need more information. First of all, just who are the Libyan rebels? Nobody seems willing to tell us where they come from, what they stand for (except ousting Gadaffi), how they happened to assert leadership over what has been portrayed as a "spontaneous uprising," or what they are likely to do if they gain power. There's no sense in poking our noses into a tribal war or an attempt to replace the Gadaffi family and its allies with a new set of self-aggrandizing autocrats.

In case you haven't noticed, the closest thing to democracy we've ever seen in the Arab world was the election of Hamas in Gaza, back in 2006. We have some promises from the Egyptian military, but I wouldn't hold my breath. Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan — where we've been trying to "build democracy" for most of the past decade — has yet managed to pull off an election not totally rife with corruption. Elections just don't work in tribal cultures, where the idea of the nation state still hasn't taken hold.

Then again, if the Arab League really wants a no-fly zone that badly, why don't they ask the Saudis to do it instead of the US and Europe? The Saudis certainly can afford to take action, and thanks to US and UK arms sales, they have the equipment as well:

The last thing in the world the US needs right now is another war in the Middle East. As Secretary Robert Gates has told us, imposing a no-fly zone is an act of war. How long would it be before "military advisers" and "strategic support services" were tramping around the North African desert?

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