Saturday, March 12, 2011

Dumb Question: Why Doesn't the Arab League Enforce a Libya No-Fly Zone?

If the Arab League just endorsed a no-fly zone in Libya, why does everyone assume NATO (read: the US) has to be the ones to enforce it?

If you listen to some folks beating the drums for unilateral US military action because they feel that rolling up the Libyan air force and air defenses would be such a cakewalk -- well, if they're so antiquated, do we really need the capabilities of the fifth-generation F-22? (Some say no -- after all, we managed pretty well in the intra-war Iraq no-fly zone without supercruise or stealth, and the Iraq air defenses were much more robust. At least at first.)

And if F-18s, F-16s, and F-15s can do the job... let's see, who else in the region has that kind of hardware?

Why, some of the more prominent members of the Arab League! And some of them are right next door!
  • Egypt has airfields and 220 F-16s (courtesy of all that US foreign military assistance over the years)
  • Saudi Arabia has a bunch of few F-15s and Tornados (And even sortied some of them during the first Gulf War. Plus, maybe they could underwrite some of the costs)
  • Kuwait has F-18s [Insert Charlie Sheen joke here]
  • Even Bahrain could kick in a few F-16s.
(Hell, if you want to get really wacky, let the Syrians bring their MiGs, too.)
Granted, these forces wouldn't be as well-trained, equipped, capable, precise or integrated as Western forces. And an overland approach from Egypt would probably face more air defense challenges than carrier attacks or sorties from Italy. And there would probably be more collateral damage.

But I can think of a few Middle Eastern regimes that could use a few brownie points with their own discontented populations by helping an emerging democratic movement in the region.

Plus, wouldn't they like to look like they had some power of their own to assert, instead of running screaming to the West (again) for help? (Okay, fine: Have NATO provide intel on air defense sites and maybe some AWACS coverage.)

And, if you want to be mercenary about it, if Arab League militaries lose any planes to those antiquated Libyan defenses -- well, replacements mean more foreign military sales for Lockheed-Martin, Boeing and General Dynamics.

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