Argument: Libyan no-fly zone would evolve into larger military engagement

Issue Report: No-fly zone over Libya


Edward Rees. “The Case Against a No-Fly Zone in Libya.” The Atlantic. February 28th, 2010: “Any NFZ carries two serious risks: downing the wrong aircraft, such as an aid flight or transport; and getting drawn into the conflict on the ground. Even if Qaddafi doesn’t provoke ground strikes by shooting at occupying planes, it’s not hard to see how the NFZ could escalate into a bombing campaign. It could quickly devolve into a “no drive zone” operation, in which Libyan ground forces such as tanks, artillery, and convoys become targets. As the NFZ escalates, so does the risk of losing planes and pilots, as does the possibility of mistakenly bombing protesters, some of whom already occupy military bases and could try to use the hardware themselves.”

Daniel Larison. “Why a no-fly zone for Libya is a bad idea.” The Week. March 1st, 2011: “it would inevitably evolve into a broader military mission requiring the targeting of Gaddafi’s ground forces. A no-fly zone would simply be a prelude to more aggressive action against Gaddafi’s forces, and it would represent the start of a prolonged commitment by the United States and others to Libya.”

D.B. Grady. “Why a Libyan No-Fly Zone Is Worth the Risks.” The Atlantic. March 9th, 2011: “A major risk of the U.S. using air power is the temptation to overuse it. According to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, “A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses.” From a U.S. perspective, this would obviously be preferable to the Marines adding a star to their Tripoli battle streamer. But once the first U.S. missile strikes the first Libyan target, the shock is gone and the stage is set for continued operations. It’s far easier to launch the second missile.”

Ross Douthat. “The Perils of a No-Fly Zone.” The New York Times. March 10th, 2011: “For some commentators, of course, such “mission creep” is the whole point: Today, a no-fly zone; tomorrow, air strikes to back it up; the day after that, “advisers” for the rebels; the day after that, boots on the ground. To my mind, the dangers involved in this kind of escalation are a good reason not to go to war in first place. But for supporters of a no-fly zone, it’s the raw unlikeliness of this kind of escalation that should make them think twice about their strategy. The lesson of previous campaigns is that the no-fly gambit only really makes sense as a means to regime change if we’re willing to back it up with further shows of force. And unless public opinion shifts dramatically — or our commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq are suddenly magically transformed into Germany and South Korea — it’s very difficult to see Western governments being willing to follow up with anything save words. (How many casualties would the American public accept to see Libya’s rebels take power in Tripoli? 10? 5? Whatever number you pick, the real one is probably lower.)”