Military Action Taken in Libya: United States Backs Resolution

By Nikki Broderick ‘14Staff Writer

On March 17, the United Nations Security Council authorized a resolution to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. The resolution also allows for military action to protect Libyan citizens.

The no-fly zone over Libya has been one of the latest developments following the country’s Feb. 15 revolt. Rebels have been fighting to displace the 42-year rule of Moammar Gadhafi with democracy. The anti-Gadhafi rebels currently control parts of Western Libya, and are fighting violent retribution from pro-Gadhafi forces throughout the region.

Libya banned international journalists except by invitation from the Libyan government. The United Nations decided to take action in Libya in the wake of over a month’s worth of unofficial reports that Gadhafi had hired mercenaries to eliminate rebel forces.

The March 17 resolution received a unanimous 10-0 vote from the United Nations Security Council, with five abstentions from Brazil, Russia, India, China and Germany. The Arab League of Nations and European allies—including the United States, France and Great Britain—are to enforce the no-fly zone.

Gadhafi has dismissed the resolution as arbitrary, and has said that he will meet force with force. He has ignored the international community’s calls for a cease-fire. As of March 20, after cruise missiles partially destroyed one building within the Gadhafi compound, the whereabouts of the longtime leader are unknown.

Since the implementation of the no-fly zone, the most active contributors to military force have been France, Great Britain and the United States.

Though leaders in Great Britain and France have also committed to take charge of military action, it is the military involvement of the United States—with its history of involvement in the Middle East—that is getting the most international attention.

A contrast with the previous administration’s handling of the Iraq invasion in 2003, President Obama has taken a quiet approach to his administration’s involvement in Libya.

As of March 20, President Obama had only publicly addressed the military actions in Libya in the context of a speech on human rights in the region. President Obama has made several phone calls to important leaders in the Middle East, including the King Abdullah of Jordan, to lobby for support of the UN no-fly zone.

A further contrast with President Bush’s emphatic statements of confidence preceding and during the invasion of Iraq, President Obama has not voiced any strong opinions regarding full-fledged war in Libya. His reticence seems to be a tactic adopted to avoid the unpopularity garnered by Bush for his outspokenness. It is likely also influenced by the opinion held by many Americans that the United States should not be involved in Middle Eastern conflicts.

Although President Obama seems to be taking lessons from President Bush’s handling of his administration’s involvement in the Middle East, current circumstances differ greatly from those confronted by the Bush administration in 2003.

This time, the United States has stronger support from the international community, with European allies joining the United States in taking military action, and public opinion more readily supporting the perspective that there is reason to bring military action to the region.