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The Senate Was For a No Fly Zone Before It Was Against It

John on April 2, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Granted, what Obama is doing in Libya goes far beyond a no-fly zone, but the Senate did vote on at least that much last month:

With no objections, the Senate on March 1 backed a resolution strongly condemning “the gross and systematic violations of human rights in Libya” and urging the U.N. Security Council to take action, “including the possible imposition of a no-fly zone over Libyan territory.”

There was no recorded vote. It was simply approved by unanimous consent.

No one in Washington is interpreting that resolution as a full-blown authorization for military action, especially as the no-fly zone expanded to airstrikes on Gadhafi’s tanks and munitions sites. But the measure undercuts the congressional criticism that Obama was totally off on his own. Defense Secretary Robert Gates pointedly reminded lawmakers of that during his marathon testimony on Thursday.

I supported the no fly zone and the rest of the “kinetic military action” when it began. But of course I supported the Iraq war as well, so that’s not exactly surprising. I am less comfortable with what we’re doing now for several reasons:

  1. There may be as few as 1,000 front line rebels. That doesn’t seem like a large enough force to prevail. If we can’t prevail, what’s the point?
  2. Some of the insurgents may be al Qaeda. If so, we shouldn’t be protecting them obviously.
  3. I assumed (wrongly) that we were going in to Libya for regime change. But it seems the President isn’t really committed to that. So what’s the point?
  4. If this was a purely humanitarian mission, why haven’t we undertaken similar missions in places where the violence against civilians is as great or greater. North Korea comes to mind. Iran? Sudan?

I still support getting rid of Kadaffi, but it’s looking increasingly likely that he could hold on for some time. And if he does fall, do we have a plan for the aftermath? What is it? I seem to remember President Bush getting hammered on that point. Is anyone even asking the President what his plan is here? Seems to me he’s hoping to get out quick. I’m not convinced that’s going to happen.

Addendum: Robert Howard who tipped me this story via Twitter points out (correctly) that a vote for the UN to do something isn’t the same as a vote for us to do something. He’s right. I doubt the current Senate would have voted for us to intervene as we have, certainly not unanimously.

Even if they had done so, it wouldn’t justify what Obama has done, which goes well beyond controlling the skies over Libya.

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