The U.S. and Europe Contemplate Military Intervention in Libya

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Photo: Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images

The Pentagon has begun moving warships carrying air support toward Libya as both the U.S. and the U.K. contemplate a no-fly zone. Hillary Clinton, who has been discussing the no-fly zone with foreign ministries, told reporters outside the U.N. that “nothing is off the table so long as the Libyan government continues to threaten and kill Libyans.” Clinton also insisted that the naval deployments were to rescue refugees at sea and were not meant to signal imminent military action. Other U.S. officials have said that moves were designed more as a warning to Muammar Qaddafi and a show of support for protesters and that direct military action is still unlikely. In the event of a no-fly zone, fighter jets would patrol and shoot down Libyan aircrafts ordered to attack protesters.

Any decision in terms of imposing a no-fly zone would have to happen under a mandate from either the United Nations or NATO. But both Britain and France have indicated a willingness to intervene militarily, especially if Qaddafi uses chemical weapons, like his remaining stocks of mustard gas, or helicopters to mount bombing raids on his own people.

Why are Western alliances offering to help? Heck if Turkey knows. At a conference in Germany, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, prime minister of Turkey, which has the second-largest standing army in NATO, expressed his bafflement at the very concept. "Can you even consider such an absurdity? As Turkey, we’re against this, this can’t even be talked about, it’s unthinkable.” Wait, is it because of our, uh, complicated history of military intervention? Or he just thinks we're after the oil?

Meanwhile, pro-Qaddafi forces are intensifying their attacks, although thus far rebels have been able to fight back. Reports from last night said that fighter jets bombed an ammunition depot in the eastern city of Ajdabiya. A resident of Az Zawiyah, just 50 kilometers outside Tripoli, said fighting intensified after sundown when Qaddafi's troops attacked from the west and east before the rebels used RPGs to damage their tank and scare them off, but not before they were warned that fighter jets would follow. How does this jibe with Qaddafi telling the BBC yesterday that "all my people love me" and would "die to protect me"? It doesn't. Looks like someone forgot to give him his crazy pills (for the past 40 years).

West casts military net around Libya [Financial Times UK]
U.S. Readies Military Options on Libya [NYT]
Libya: West ready to use force against Col Gaddafi amid chemical weapon fears [Telegraph UK]
Gaddafi's forces battle rebels [Al Jazeera English]