Yes or No No-Fly

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A rebel militiaman is brought into a hospital after being seriously wounded on the frontline on March 8, 2011 near Ras Lanuf, Libya. (John Moore/Getty)

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on The Brian Lehrer Show, Micah Zenko, fellow for conflict prevention at the Council of Foreign Relations and author of Between Threats and War: U.S. Discrete Military Operations in the Post-Cold War World and Bruce Jentleson, professor of public policy and political science at Duke University, author of  American Foreign Policy: The Dynamics of Choice in the 21st Century debated whether or not there the international community should impose a no-fly zone over Libya.

Due to restricted media access and constantly shifting battlefields,  the international community cannot determine exactly what is happening in Libya, but rumors and eye-witness reports of atrocities abound. Despite a request from the Arab League for a no-fly zone over the North African country, the G-8 ministers could not agree on Tuesday if that tactic is merited in this case in order to limit civilian casualties and protect international interests.

Bruce Jentleson, professor of public policy and political science at Duke University and author of American Foreign Policy: The Dynamics of Choice in the 21st Century, was adamant about the need for the international community to impose a no-fly zone.

If Gaddafi stays in power not only is it bad for the Libyan people but the message that goes out regionally and globally is if the international community is not prepared to do something about Gaddafi then other dictators are going to be pretty sure that other dictators aren't going to do anything about them.

Micah Zenko, fellow for conflict prevention at the Council of Foreign Relations and author of Between Threats and War: U.S. Discrete Military Operations in the Post-Cold War World disagreed. He said it would be preferable if Gaddafi was not in power but it's not in U.S. interests to intervene in what he called a civil war.

This is not a peaceful democratic uprising by protesters, this is now an ongoing stalemated civil war which we don't know much about the rebels who are conducting it and we don't quite know what support we'd be giving them.

Zenko compared the situation Libya poses to the Ivory Coast civil war—where the U.S. has not intervened on behalf of the rebels. He also noted that the African Union has repeatedly asked the international community to put a no-fly zone over Somalia and that request has been ignored.

I don't think the U.S. should be intervening when asked by the Arab League, I mean we've never really asked the Arab League for permission to do anything else in the region. When the Arab league decides that we should now put a no-fly zone over Libya, why we should be doing that at their request.

There is a fear that enacting a no-fly zone would be a slippery slope for Western powers, particularly the U.S. A no-fly zone would most likely result in Libyan and American planes shooting at each other with potential death of Americans. There might also be a need for ground troops—pulling the U.S. military into yet another war in the region. Zenko said there is not yet proof of mass civilian killing on either side to merit the no-fly zone.

If a government or a rebellion force within a territory they control, willfully allows or actually kills civilians in large numbers, the U.S. should be willing to commit the resources to intervene to stop that. We have not seen that yet, if the state wanted to kill lots of civilians, they have a pretty significant military they could have been doing so already, and we haven't seen it in large numbers by the rebel forces either.

Jentleson, on the other hand, believes the risk of inaction is greater than the risk of action. He said it would send the message to dictators around the world that even if they kill and repress their people, they will not be stopped, that repressive regimes would say, '"after all they didn't do anything about Gaddafi and he's one of the worst around.'"


Bruce Jentleson and Micah Zenko


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Comments [20]

darby clifford-rosengren from helsinki, Finland

With all due respect, Norway is, of course, a member of NATO. Please remind your guest.

Mar. 22 2011 11:18 AM
Nate Bowman


I think it was quite revealing that you used the last 10 seconds of your guest's time to discuss the danger of NOT creating a no-fly zone.

Wouldn't it have made more sense to talk about the danger of getting involved in the morass of another country's internal conflict?

Have you learned nothing from the lead-up to Afghanistan and Iraq and where we are now?

And how much it costs?

And that the only LEGAL way to institute a no-fly zone (since it is an act of war) is through a UN Securtiy Council resolution? By discussing whether or not the US should institute the no-fly zone, you imply that the US can act unilaterally AND legally.

Mar. 15 2011 11:39 AM
Jim from Brooklyn

GE should donate some wind turbines to Northern Japan today.

Mar. 15 2011 11:31 AM
Melodie from NJ

The 99% of Americans cannot afford yet another war/intervention in the mideast. If only the corporate CEO's of the 1% could dip into their own absurdly deep personal pockets to protect oil interests and do something humanitarian at the same time. I know I am a dreamer. A frustrated one.

Mar. 15 2011 11:14 AM

Oops.Wrong forum. :)

Mar. 15 2011 10:50 AM

Teachers have NO power whatsoever! At one time, when I went to school back in the '50s and '60s, kids were scared of their teachers just a bit. But for the last 40 years, teachers have been scared of the kids, the principal, and the parents.

Teachers are the scapegoats today. Yes, there are bad teachers, and always have been. But there are far more bad kids! Or spoiled and undisciplined kids whose parents can't or won't handle them, and then expect an overburdened hapless teacher to do it for them. Absurd.

Mar. 15 2011 10:49 AM
irkone from nyc

Put the bombs to use for something good for a change. Iraq and Afghanistan were strategic campaigns to control "Pipeline-istan".
Instead of killing civilians of Middle Eastern countries, how about the US military protect them?
Too radical an idea.

Mar. 15 2011 10:43 AM
reggie from jersey city

We should not be involved. The rebels tried to duplicate Egyptian model, but left the nonviolent route and took up arms. Regardless of why, provoked or otherwise, once they decided to actually fight, they made their own bed

Mar. 15 2011 10:33 AM
Joanne bay ridge, ny from Bay Ridge, New York

NO to the no fly
if the USA wants to send a message
spend time helping the Japanese victims
instead of spending more on military operations which will have detrimental ramifications....we have troubles here, build up our reputation with good will and research for alternative energy. we have a crisis here, sweep our own door before we cleanup other countries. Haven't we learned anything in the warfare that will never end in that part of the world. STAY OUT OF LIBYA!!!

Mar. 15 2011 10:29 AM

I was listening to a reporter interview one of the protesters and the protester said "...we don't need foreigners...". I think the US should send a strong message about its support for democracy, but perhaps not get involved. There are too many things going on to get involved in yet another matter. In addition, the troops are the ones doing this job, and I sure wouldn't want to be there longer if these people don't want us there.

Mar. 15 2011 10:27 AM
Kurt R from NYC

NATO and the Guld countries should definitely participate, but taking Qadaffi's air assets out of commission is the least we should do. He is conducting open warfare against his own citizens. Debating whether to act based on realpolitic considerations is precisely why the citizens of the Muslim world view us as hipocrits and duplicitous. It is precisely because we get no oil from Libya that we could demonstrate our human rights bona fides.

Mar. 15 2011 10:26 AM

How is it that whenever someone wants to use the military, the question of cost never comes up, but apparently we can't afford HeadStart, well paid teachers and a clean environment.

The Europeans should take the lead this time, we need to focus on the needs of our citizens right now.

Seems cold, but we are in too much trouble right here to mind others.

Mar. 15 2011 10:26 AM
john from Office

Let Europe deal with this. They have abandoned us in Iraq and Afganistan, always ready to fight to the last American.

Thye have militaries, why are we required to do it for the.

Mar. 15 2011 10:25 AM
John from NYC

So, progressives have discovered how evil Kadaffi is. Where were they when he was chairing the UN's human rights commission with his anti-Israeli rants?

Mar. 15 2011 10:21 AM
Jim from Brooklyn

There is another option.
Help the 'rebels' go non-violent.

Mar. 15 2011 10:18 AM

The US has shown no inclination at all to fulfill its responsibility to protect in anything like a consistent way. Israel is the most glaring example -- 40 years of repeated campaigns against civilians, tens of thousands killed in those decades -- all with unqualified support from the United States.

Mar. 15 2011 10:18 AM
Patricia from FH

How much money is this going to cost us? Aren't we in enough debt? The Republicans are constantly wanting to cut, cut, cut...will lets start by cutting defense. We don't have the money for a no-fly zone.

Mar. 15 2011 10:16 AM
David from Queens

The rebels will ultimately lose - stay out.
Their rebellion was doomed from the start.

Mar. 15 2011 10:13 AM

Let the Italians, French and Germans, and NATO do it! They have navies and air forces, and they get much of their energy supplies from North Africa, as well as having long colonial histories in those lands. The US should definitely NOT take the lead on this.

Mar. 15 2011 10:10 AM

send in the drones!

Mar. 15 2011 10:09 AM

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