Contra: A no-fly zone over Libya makes no sense | Middle East| News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW | 03.03.2011
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Middle East

Contra: A no-fly zone over Libya makes no sense

Western countries are considering imposing a no-fly zone over Libya in a bid to halt bloodshed. But Deutsche Welle's Daniel Scheschkewitz remains doubtful about the effectiveness of what he says is a difficult measure.


It's clear that what's happening in Libya is a brutal violation of human rights. But is it genocide? A regime that's using all means possible – even murder and violence – to cling to power. But it still remains an internal Libyan power struggle.

A military intervention – and that's exactly what setting up and imposing a no-fly zone would amount to – would be a dangerous precedent that would throw into question the international legal sovereignty of nations. Individual armed attacks on civilians does not provide sufficient grounds for an intervention.

DW Deutsches Programm Daniel Scheschkewitz

Deutsche Welle's Daniel Scheschkewitz

The situation in Libya is not comparable with the genocide in Rwanda. A no-fly zone could easily be misconstrued as an "imperialist" interference by the West to secure its energy supplies. That would provide a welcome argument for al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups waiting to turn the current upheaval in the Arab world to their own advantage.

Apart from that, a no-fly zone can only be set up with a huge military effort. The US military has rightly pointed out that you would first need to dismantle Libyan air defenses if NATO airplanes aren't to face Libyan surface-to-air missiles. In addition, the desert nation is home to a huge surface area. Several hundred planes would be required daily to monitor it, requiring a huge military operation. Few NATO members currently have the appetite for it after the experience in Afghanistan.

Besides, what would a no-fly zone achieve for anti-Gadhafi forces? The battles raging in the cities, led by Gadhafi's militias, could only be stopped by ground forces. And so far, nobody is ready to send them – neither the US nor the European Union, not to mention the Arab League or the African Union.

The international community can only isolate the Gadhafi regime in the long-term through sanctions and an arms embargo. It can also send a signal to the murderers in Tripoli that its human rights violations will not go unpunished. World powers have demonstrated rare unity and speed in doing just that. Now, a large humanitarian rescue operation is needed at Libya's borders. But it's the Libyan people themselves who will have to take the last step towards their freedom.

Author: Daniel Scheschkewitz (sp)
Editor: Michael Knigge

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