Wall Street Journal
MARCH 8, 2011.
The U.S. Should Keep Out of Libya
By RICHARD N. HAASS
A good many people across the political spectrum—including some members of the Obama administration—are pressuring the president to intervene militarily in Libya. Much of the commentary has focused on establishing a no-fly zone, but there have been calls as well for enforcing a no-drive zone, or for arming or otherwise assisting regime opponents.
Those making this case appeal to a mixture of morality and realpolitik. They argue that by intervening we will prevent the slaughter of innocents and at the same time demonstrate our willingness to make good on expressions of support for freedom and security.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has taken the opposite position. Testifying before Congress last week, Mr. Gates pointed out that the first step in establishing a no-fly zone that would ground Libyan aircraft and helicopters would be to suppress Libyan air defenses that could threaten U.S. or allied aircraft. This would entail attacking selected targets. In other words, to establish a no-fly zone would be to go to war.
Mr. Gates was and is correct in reminding people of what implementing a no-fly zone would actually mean. But the reasons for questioning the wisdom of establishing such a zone, or taking other military action, go well beyond his warnings.