Libya: Debating the No-Fly Zone (Video)

This post is part of our special coverage Libya Uprising 2011.

Tweeps, bloggers and netizens are continuing their debate the purpose and effectiveness of establishing a no-fly zone over Libya to protect protesters and civilians from air attack.

Debates over some form of intervention began when Libya's nonviolent protests against the four-decade rule of Colonel Muammar Al Gaddafi were met with extreme force and violence. The regime's crackdown on protesters turned many of Libya's armed forces against Gaddafi, pushing the country into open warfare. The bloodshed that has so far killed anywhere between 1,000 and 6,000 people, prompted the International Criminal Court and UN Human Rights Council to investigate possible human rights abuses.

In theory a no-fly zone would prohibit pro-Gaddafi's forces from mounting bombing raids and using attack helicopters to assault civilians and the largely untrained rebel troops. As Global Voices recently pointed out a no-fly zone remains controversial for a number of reasons: its technical difficulty, its cost in money and lives and worries over real and perceived threats of Western occupation.

Here is a video of an attack helicopter over the town of Misurata during late February.

After a weekend of more state-sponsored bloodshed, however, the idea has received a boost. On Monday, March 7 the Gulf Cooperation Council called on the United Nations Security Council to establish a no-fly zone “to protect Libyan citizens.” Libyan Interim Transitional National Council, the leadership of the rebellion against Gaddafi, has also pressed upon the European Parliament and the rest of the West to impose a no-fly zone. Avaaz, the US-based digital citizen group, has created a online petition imploring the UN Security Council to put in place a no-fly zone.

As atrocities against civilians continue, the debates regarding the effectiveness of a no-fly zone remain much the same. Here is from a group of Tweeps from outside Libya.

#libya The Libyan Revolution does not “need” a no fly zone. It's just a way to reduce the number of martyrs. Gaddafi will lose, but slower

@ozpink: … if the world waits to long to install ‘No Fly Zone’ how will Gaddafi react to international condemnation of his regime? #Libya

@itchy8me: No fly zone over libya. What do the #libyan people have to say about this international intervention? #feb17

@shradm: How do you solve a problem like the one in #Libya? Why does rest of the world only watch genocide and civil war? Is no-fly zone so hard?

@plemochoe: #libya The real reason to be AGAINST a no fly zone is that the Americans would have to do it, and the people might feel differently then

@Liberationtech: Instead of no fly zone, US could use US Navy ships & aircraft to enable #Libya to maintain net connectivity

@betasam: Will USA interfere in #Libya? Does a no-fly zone present a solution? #randomthoughts

@Machahir123: Libya's air force would pose only a “modest” threat to efforts to impose a no-fly zone over Libya: US marine corps via AFP #libye

The situation is just as cloudy for those inside Libya or with direct ties to it.

@IndyLibya: US NATO envoy: A no-fly zone over Libya won't work – Hot Air #Libya #Feb17

@OnlyOneLibya: I'm for the NFZ against #Gaddafi & ASAP! It will severely limit his ability 2 massacre Libyan civilians. Libyan TNC wants the NFZ. #Libya

@Proud2bBenghazi: @ArcanisZZ 1st #libya is NOT iraq or afghan 2nd we want desperately need help we r asking 4 supplies needed & noflyzone to win our OWN battle

From the United States, a blogger who is a former Defence Intelligence Officer worries that Gaddafi may hold-on if no one votes for a no-fly zone.

Key to al-Qadhafi's forces military operations is complete control of Libyan airspace. The opposition forces have only older anti-aircraft artillery and possibly some shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles. Both systems are limited to relatively low-altitude coverage. When these systems are manned by poorly or untrained operators, they are fairly easily avoided by fighter bombers. While the heavily armed and armored Mi-24 helicopter gunships are more vulnerable to these systems, Libyan air force pilots are making devastating strikes on rebels in the oil refinery and port city of Ra's Lanuf to the west of Tripoli, and in Az-Zawiyah to the east of Tripoli, in each case forcing the rebels to give up hard-gotten gains…

It may come down to this. Either the United Nations authorizes the imposition and enforcement a no-fly zone over Libya, or Mu'amar al-Qadhafi remains in power.

Over at the Ethiopian review, Eritreawi wonders if a no-fly zone would just invite rich Western countries to stay and plunder Libya:

Give me a break! the Arab League enforcing a “no fly zone” in Libya, this is laughable at best and dangerous at its worst. No Arab or African nation has the air power and the technology that goes with it to enforce a no fly zone. What the Arab League is doing is laying the ground work for western powers to dip their dirty hands on Libya so they can install a regime that obeys them, make Libya a basket case like the rest of Arab countries and of course the main target control its oil wealth. That is what at stake in Libya at this moment.

From Israel, Carl in Jerusalem (writing in Israel Matzav) wonders if political considerations make the whole idea of no-fly zone a “bluff” from the NATO powers:

So Britain isn't able to participate and France won't participate unless there is UN approval which is unlikely to come (think “Russian or Chinese veto”). That leaves Obama. Does anyone really believe that the US under Obama is going to go it alone to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya? You've got to be kidding…..

This post is part of our special coverage Libya Uprising 2011.


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