No to No Fly Zones in Libya



The primary reason for opposition to the war is its cost to us. A second cause is the feeling that the cost to its victims is too great. At first glance, this reaction seems to be at a higher moral level, than the first, but this is questionable. The principle that we should retract our claws when the victim bleeds too much is hardly an elevated one. What about opposition to the war on the grounds that we have no right to stabilize or restructure Vietnamese society, or to carry out experiments with “material and human resources control” that delight the “pacification theorist”? Such opposition is slight, and in the political arena virtually nonexistent. The pragmatic and responsible student of contemporary affairs does not descend to such emotionalism.

Apparently 200 Arab NGOs begged for the imposition of UN-enforced no-fly zones over Libyan airspace, including Ahdaf Soweif, a novelist and writer who is giving the Edward Said Memorial Lecture in a week at Columbia University (someone please call her out on this) and Omar Al Qattan (Palestinian expatriate bourgeoisie). Robert Danin from the Council on Foreign Relations burbles, “What would be dramatic would be to employ a no fly zone over Tripoli to protect the protestors from Colonel Gaddafi’s aircraft.” The Pentagon has pre-positioned warships off Libya’s coastline to help secure the “no-fly zone,” and to help protect the delivery of “humanitarian aid supplies.” A “revolutionary council” in Benghazihas apparently reached a “consensus” to request air-strikes to unseat Qaddafi, some claim, while others say that they are still “debating.” Some are pointing out that the entrance of foreign troops into the field will offer an opportunity for the armed forces in Tunisia and Egypt to re-enter the fray in their own countries, quashing any insurrectionary momentum and turning the countries once again back into US client states.

Meanwhile, we know what happened the last time the US set up a no-fly zone: a decade of devastating sanctions, 500,000 children dead, capped off by an energy conflict that has sent Exxon’s profits to the moon while turning Iraqi society into a war-torn moonscape. “Humanitarian imperialism” never works. It kills. No-fly zones are the first step, and from there everything follows. As Foreign Policy, forthright because it’s aware that its readership is fond of bombing people to save them, reminds us,

In the case of Bosnia, “Operation Deny Flight” as it was called, was imposed by U.N. Security Council Resolution 816 in 1993, and applied to all “fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft in the airspace of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”…The effectiveness of Deny Flight, however, is debatable. NATOcredits it with removing air power as a weapon for the Bosnian Serb forces and pushing the conflict toward an earlier conclusion. Critics contend that it did little to prevent the worst abuses of the conflict, including the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. The mission was later expanded into an active NATO bombing campaign.

I make no pretense to knowing exactly what’s going on in Libya. There does not seem to be any real leftist component to the rebels in Benghazi. Who cares. You cannot bomb a society to freedom, and we should be loud and clear on that even if the call is coming from dusky-skinned people who really ought to know better.

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