What is happening in Libya is ghastly but unless I’ve missed it – which is not impossible – I haven’t seen a case for intervention that marries morals with a practical course of action that might actually work and that’s not based on conscience-salving more than it is on interest or a considered measurement of what might be possible. ~Alex Massie
Massie hasn’t really missed anything. As the much more pro-intervention Steve Clemons has pointed out, calls for a no-fly zone have a lot to do with conscience-salving and not much to do with what would support the rebels:
A no-fly zone has become an emotional touch point for many who want to help the struggling and brave Libya Opposition — but it doesn’t change facts on the ground.
Clemons proposes that the U.S. and other states comply with what the Benghazi council has actually requested. It’s worth noting that a no-fly zone isn’t on the list. Briefly, these requests are 1) recognition as the Libyan government; 2) arms supplies; 3) disrupting Gaddafi’s communications; 4) coordinating on intelligence-sharing. Clemons argues that these are the things that the council wants, and they are things that could lend meaningful aid to the rebels. That raises the obvious question: why take sides in a Libyan civil war? That’s the first question that Clemons, Slaughter, and everyone else advocating for some form of involvement in the war need to answer, and so far none of them has given an answer that is remotely persuasive.