An Arab League intervention in Libya

Matt Yglesias is perplexed by the spectacle of the Arab League endorsing a no-fly zone over Libya: I’m a little confused by this idea of the Arab League calling on western powers to intervene militarily in Libya. If the Arab League is so eager to see an intervention, why don’t Arab League member states intervene ...

By , a professor at Indiana University’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies.

Matt Yglesias is perplexed by the spectacle of the Arab League endorsing a no-fly zone over Libya:

Matt Yglesias is perplexed by the spectacle of the Arab League endorsing a no-fly zone over Libya:

I’m a little confused by this idea of the Arab League calling on western powers to intervene militarily in Libya. If the Arab League is so eager to see an intervention, why don’t Arab League member states intervene in Libya? Egypt, in particular, is conveniently located adjacent to Libya and specifically to the opposition-held portion of Libya. Even better, Egyptian soldiers would speak the same language as Libyan people.

Of course mounting a intervention would be expensive for Egypt, but there are plenty of rich Gulf states that could help defray the costs. The point is that it seems to me like an Arab League that sincerely wanted to help the Libyan rebels has plenty of ways of doing so while the kind of western intervention they’re calling for seems very unlikely. But is there some logistical or geographical angle I’m missing here?

First, the Arab League didn’t call on Western powers to intervene. It asked the UN Security Council to authorize a no-fly zone.  But let’s assume, as would almost certainly be the case, that Western powers would be the ones implementing a no-fly zone.  If we’re talking about complex air operations involving actual strikes, I can think of a number of reasons–not least, precision–why you’d want Western air forces in the lead. 

A reader comments:  "Conducting even simple air ops at a distance is beyond the capability of most nations. the roughly 50 miles each way that planes from Egypt would face goes well beyond what they have been trained to do." 

David Bosco is a professor at Indiana University’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies. He is the author of The Poseidon Project: The Struggle to Govern the World’s Oceans. Twitter: @multilateralist

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