The negative side is a longish list:
- It requires first an attack on radar and Surface-to-Air missile stations. Some installations will probably be in civilian areas, so it is likely that civilian women and children will be killed, either from stray/misdirected missiles, or because they live too close.
- It requires attacks on pro-Gaddafi air force bases. More deaths.
- It requires enforcement, which means a lot of flying over a very extensive border and land area.
- There could be combat with Libyan jets, if any air bases were able to fly
- There is no absolute certainty that Gaddafi would leave in a short time, although it is pretty certain that a NFZ would speed his departure.
- It requires UNSC authority. Russia and China are not enthusiastic about a NFZ.
- Interestingly, the Arab League does seem at present to be in favour of the NFZ.
- If it is not made clear that the single exception to a NFZ would be a plane carrying Gaddafi into exile, it could make him even more likely to stay.
- Here's STRATFOR identifying more difficulties.
Against this there are arguments in favour of a NFZ.
- From reports in both mainstream and social media, it is pretty clear that while the Libyan revolutionaries are absolutely against an Iraq-style US invasion, reports do suggest that at least some of the rebels want a NFZ. This dates right back to the beginning of the rebellion, because Gaddafi was flying in mercenaries. In fact one airport at least was blocked by parking lorries on the runway (amazing how easy it is to disable an airstrip).
- A NFZ would stop Gaddafi being able to bomb and strafe Libyan sites and forces. So far he has used his air force to attack demonstrators, and recently to attempt to bomb arms dumps held by rebels, although there is a tendency for his pilots to miss their targets accidentally on purpose.
- A NFZ is also necessary for food aid to be brought in through a Turkish/Egyptian enforced NFZ.
- In coming days, we could see the airforce used to attack rebel forces, and it is not impossible for Gaddafi to order bombing of whole towns. In that event, the pressure for a NFZ on humanitarian grounds would become intense.
- There is a big strategic question. Dictators all over the world are watching developments closely. They have seen Bin Ali and Mubarak fall, and now we have a self-deluded dictator in Gaddafi who has chosen to stay and fight his own people. If Gaddafi succeeds, he will set a precedent for other dictators to use his strategy, which will mean immense suffering and protracted revolutions.
- Using the criterion that we must weigh up the number of deaths caused by imposition of a NFZ against the number of deaths caused by not applying a NFZ, it is pretty clear that the NFZ would have an outcome of save a significant number of lives, arguably in Libya, but overwhelmingly in the long run as other dictators learn that Gaddafi's strategy fails.
Therefore, even though I am a Green and a Quaker, and would very much prefer not to "start from here", it seems to me that the Green Parties, and all other progressives and humanitarians of the world should back the NFZ under these following conditions:
- Absolutely no US land invasion
- NFZ to be requested by the provisional/transitional Libyan Government in Benghazi.
- This request to be endorsed by a vote from the rebels themselves
- Arab League or other non-US/UK states to lead the NFZ (though it may be necessary to call on Western logistic and intelligence resources).
- UNSC to authorise the action
As ever, the international community is lagging behind events, responding to them as they occur. The remedy for this is for the UN to develop a protocol that makes clear to all rulers exactly what UN action will follow from which actions.
The UN also needs a similar algorithm to prevent the slide into dictatorship.
And it needs a Global Index of Human Rights to provide a continuous downwards pressure on human Rights abuses. So that eventually, we do not have to keep meeting situations that demand ugly decisions involving the use of force.
[updated 8th March]