What is America to do in Libya?

Washington and the entire foreign policy/military establishment are wrestling with the question of what America should do in the ongoing revolution in Libya to help the revolutionaries overthrow Colonel Gaddafi and prevent a possible protracted civil war and a humanitarian disaster.

The present debate can be seen as an expression of frustration that there is really not very much that can be done – if America does not want to start a another war in the Middle East, of course.

U.S. warships have been ordered into the Mediterranean Sea and the newspapers and broadcast media are filled daily by reports of refugee flows into Tunisia and Egypt and the evacuation from the ports of Tripoli. Humanitarian assistance is the only thing, so far, that the Obama administration has been able to promise with certainty.  

About all other possible actions and scenarios, the debate is intense. It is here that the introduction of a “no-fly zone” over Libya has become something of the flavor of the day. But no one in the Administration, and least of all Defense Secretary Gates and the military leaders, seems to show any enthusiasm for this idea.

We must be clear about this, said Gates and the generals somberly this week, that measures to close the Libyan airspace begin with acts of war – air strikes against Libya’s air and missile bases. Do we really want another war in the Middle East, they seemed to ask.

So it’s necessary that we count to ten, slowly, before we start another war, writes Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times today about this debate and on the fallout of previous “no-fly zones” — in Iraq, Bosnia and Kosovo.

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