Kerry Supports Libyan No-Fly Zone

John Kerry's Washington Post op-ed supports U. S. leadership in establishing a no-fly zone in Libya.

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry has an op-ed in the Washington Post in support of the U. S. taking a leading role to implement a no-fly zone in Libya:

So far, Gaddafi’s forces have relied on airpower selectively. But Gaddafi is shrewd. My fear is that he is either choosing to bleed the opposition to death, rather than invite global action with a broad massacre, or waiting for the world to prove itself unwilling to act. Then he may well begin killing civilians in large numbers.

We cannot wait for that to happen. We need to take concrete steps now so that we are prepared to implement a no-fly zone immediately if Gaddafi starts using his airpower to kill large numbers of civilians. Diplomacy is urgently needed to build broad support for a no-fly zone.

In the op-ed he points to the examples of Bosnia, Rwanda, and Iraq.

The implication of the op-ed is that Sen. Kerry is proposing a bombing campaign to reduce Libya’s air defenses followed by regular air patrols to prevent the use of helicopters or jet aircraft by the Libyan military. That’s what several U. S. military authorities have noted would be required to prevent Col. Qaddafi’s using helicopters against the rebels while providing a reasonable level of safety for the flyers imposing the no-fly zone.

The op-ed leaves a number of questions unanswered. At this point the Security Council has not produced a resolution ordering the no-fly zone that the Gulf Cooperation Council has called for. Should the U. S. or NATO implement such a no-fly zone without UN sanction? Would venue shopping for international sanction increase or reduce the legitimacy of the action?

Don’t stakeholders (like France and Italy) have a greater interest than does the United States in Libya? Shouldn’t Turkey’s assistance be cultivated? Not only is Turkey a Muslim country but IIRC Turkey has one of the largest air forces in the world. Will the U. S. taking a leadership role encourage or discourage these other countries from active participation?

Where would the no-fly zone be established? How long would it be maintained? What if Qaddafi prevails?

If the reason for the U. S. taking a leadership role is that we have the excess military capacity to do so, why aren’t countries that are calling for us to use it footing part of the bill for that excess capacity?

FILED UNDER: Open Forum, , , , , , , , , , ,
Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. James Joyner says:

    This demonstrates yet again that the functional difference between neocons and liberal interventionists is nil.

    Your questions are all valid and significant. There’s a growing notion that there’s a “duty to prevent” when leaders are killing their citizens. But, goodness gracious, that’s a slippery slope.

  2. PD Shaw says:

    John Kerry is a hard guy to read; I generally thought his views on foreign wars were a bit politically opportunistic. But I believe that stage of his life is over. Anyway, he’s not persuasive.

    And is just me or is CNN banging the drum to do something, anything?

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    In my view one can make humanitarian arguments or one can make pragmatic arguments. I don’t think it’s coherent to intermingle the two. If it’s acceptable to intervene in Libya on humanitarian grounds, why not in Tibet? Or Chechnya? I’m pretty sure that’s the reasoning of the Chinese and Russians, too.

    To anwer that question you need to shift to pragmatic grounds. However, once you’ve switched to pragmatic grounds, you’ve got to wonder why France and Italy shouldn’t be leading the charge? That’s how I get to my position on this subject. I think that we should be offering strictly humanitarian aid. If the French, Italians, and maybe the British and Turks want to intervene militarily on behalf of the rebels or indiscriminately on humanitarian grounds, I would applaud their efforts.

  4. PD Shaw says:

    Dave, I certainly think you can and should intermingle practical and idealistic concerns; I think that’s a core part of just war theory. The good that may be accomplished needs to be weighed by the probability of success, and the considerable risk here of supplanting one despot with another.

  5. Gustopher says:

    Too little, too late. Kerry should know better.

    If we were to intervene, it would have been better to do so a week or so ago, and with a lot more than just a no-fly zone. I don’t think it would have been a good idea, but it would have had at least a chance of being effective.

  6. jwest says:

    Qaddafi’s forces are retaking territory, the rebellion is being crushed. All President Carter Obama needs to do is procrastinate a bit longer to totally avoid making any decision.

    We don’t have to worry about how the pro-democracy forces in Libya feel about the U.S., in a few days they’ll all be dead.

  7. James Joyner says:


    Gaddafy has been a bad guy for as long as I can recall. Reagan was taking shots at him in the 1980s. Why is it our responsibility to do anything about him?

  8. Contracts says:

    I’m starting to wonder if the no-fly zone threat is really just saber rattling to put a bit of fear into Qaddafi. By that, I mean that if we keep talking about it like it’s a genuine possibility, perhaps his behavior is moderated, because even though he’s pretty sure we won’t intervene, there is still that possibility. If so, well played by the administration, even though it does make them appear weak and indecisive.

  9. Dave Schuler says:

    PD Shaw:

    In classical just war theory we have no casus belli against Libya.

  10. jwest says:


    It’s not our responsibility to instigate anything against Quddafi, but it is the stated policy of the U.S. and the collective conscience of the American people to be supportive of people rising up against tyrannical governments.

    Instead of overtly voicing strong support for democracy in the Middle East and covertly supplying the tools to accomplish that goal, Obama dithered. Now, opposition groups in Iran can see what to look forward to when the thought of standing in front of a tank crosses their minds.

    America loves an indecisive, weak hearted leader. Jimmy Obama should do well in 2012.

  11. jwest says:

    Foreign policy needs to be played with the skill of a world-class poker champion, not the indecisive bumbling of someone learning to play “Go Fish”.

    In the first days of the uprising, Obama should have made a public statement to the effect of:

    “The United States fully supports the people of Libya in their quest to bring democratic reforms to their country. Although we view this uprising as an internal matter that needs to be decided by the Libyan people, I have ordered our carrier task force to station itself off the Libyan coast. In the event that any genocidal actions or crimes against humanity do occur, the U.S. will act on behalf of the civilized nations of the world to defend innocent people.”

    Maybe it would be a bluff, maybe not. But that’s how someone with balls would play it. Regrettably, the MSM didn’t vet for balls previous to the election.

    To all those would-be freedom fighters suffering under oppressive regimes, all we can tell you is “Go Fish”.