Naval and air forces of the U.S military have begun to move closer to the Libyan border. As a result, some are questioning whether the U.S. or any other nation should implement a no-fly zone over Libya in response to media reports of Libyan military aircraft using lethal force against civilian protestors.
“We have planners working various contingency plans and … as part of that we are repositioning forces in the region to be able to provide options and flexibility,” said Defense Department spokesman Dave Lapan to the Associated Press (AP).
But, unless it’s as part of a United Nations (UN) undertaking, U.S. armed forces should not become militarily involved in this North African nation’s civil war.
The U.S. has already frozen $30 billion of Libyan assets, the largest amount ever by the U.S., according to David Cohen, an undersecretary for the Treasury department, as reported by the AP. This has also been the type of action taken by the European Union, which froze Libyan assets and implemented an arms embargo.
These actions have the potential to help bring the end of the 42-year rule of Libyan leader Moammer Gadhafi, which is the desire of many western countries, without the use of military force.
The UN Security Council voted Saturday to impose penalties on Libya, but didn’t mention the use of military force via a no-fly zone or any other measure.
The use of military force has the potential to open a Pandora’s box of possible complications.
It would only take one well-placed rocket to take down an aircraft. One should remember the 1993 UN-sponsored battle between U.S. security forces and irregular military forces in Mogadishu, Somalia, which ended in the injury or death of 102 American service members after an attempt to rescue passengers of a downed Blackhawk helicopter.
Beyond possible violent episodes like this, or incidents involving air combat with Libyan forces, the use of force by the American military could add fuel to anti-American ideologies that see the U.S. as a force of imperialism that violates foreign nations’ sovereignty – creating more enemies.
The Arab League has already suspended Libyan membership but the African Union has not yet taken action against the country. These two governing bodies, or the UN, would have much more legitimacy to become involved militarily than the U.S.
“In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said to an audience at West Point last week.
As this important military leader understands, the use of large military forces in unstable regions is a dangerous decision to make, as small conflicts like no-fly zones can always escalate. Nation’s must gain support of either the UN or their regional powers if they want military assistance with their civil war or help in dealing with the llegal massacre of civilians.