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Middle East

Pro: The West can't say no if Libyans call for a no-fly zone

The US and its allies are considering setting up a no-fly zone over Libya as the violence there escalates. Deutsche Welle's Rainer Sollich say it's a sensible option but only if the Libyans explicitly want it.

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Al-Kuds Al-Arabi, one of the most widely-read Arabic language newspapers recently commented that "the West does not want democracy in the Arab world." The West is only following its own interests there, the paper wrote. That sentiment is widespread in the region and it corresponds to a strong antipathy to any foreign interference.

We Europeans need to take that very seriously. I believe that's one of the main reasons why every outside military intervention in Libya must be carefully weighed. It can only be justified on humanitarian grounds. And it cannot be allowed to happen against the will of the majority of the people in the region.

We in the West naturally have our own good reasons not to impose a no-fly zone over Libya – those who do implement it can only do so using violence. And then Libya could turn into a new Iraq or Afghanistan for us – a never-ending military adventure without any recognisable exit strategy.

But at the same time our own values commit us to provide help in an emergency situation. Can we simply continue to be onlookers if dictator Muammar Gadhafi orders larger bloodbaths in the next days, when it's proven that he's been bombing his own citizens?

No, we can't. We wouldn't be able to survive that on a moral level. And that's exactly why imposing a no-fly zone, despite the enormous risks involved, is a sensible option. Even if this measure – hopefully – does not need to be enforced with military means. A credible threat alone is an effective way to pressure Gadhafi and could help to avoid further bloodshed.

One of the prerequisites is that the West is asked to provide such help. The Libyan opposition has not been calling for it loudly and unambiguously enough so far. But as Gadhafi's regime step up its violent tactics, the scepticism towards western help seems to be waning. If mass murder becomes the norm in Libya and we're asked for help – we cannot then say no.

Author: Rainer Sollich (sp)
Editor Michael Knigge

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