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[Editorial] No-fly zone

The anti-Gadhafi uprising in Libya entered its fourth week and the nation is sliding toward a civil war while the international community can find no effective way of intervening in the situation to stop the violence. The outside world is unable to estimate casualty figures even approximately, as fighting goes on in population centers along the northern coast. All the Western powers and the United Nations can do is send relief goods to Tunisian and Egyptian border areas where about 200,000 refugees have arrived.

U.S. President Barack Obama and his advisors are reported to be reviewing an assortment of military actions to help anti-government forces but none of them looks practicable. They include sending arms to the rebels, dispatching marines and special forces to strategic locations in Libya, and launching air strikes on airstrips, missile positions and radar sites to prevent government forces from launching air attacks on civilian fighters.

Imposing a no-fly zone over Libya must by now be considered the most desirable means of helping the rebels and pressuring Gadhafi, the use of ground forces is to be ruled out because of repercussions from the Arab world and the Libyan people. Britain and France are drafting a U.N. resolution to authorize international action.

However, a consensus on the no-fly zone has not been established within the Obama administration. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that enforcing a no-fly zone amounts to an act of war and would require an advance military operation to paralyze Libya’s air defenses. It would then eventually drag the U.S. into another conflict in an Arab nation while its involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq has yet to be wrapped up.

Soon after the Libyan people rose up against the 41-year-long Gadhafi rule, the democratic international community stood by the cause of Libyans, expecting a quick success as in their neighbors to the east and west. Now, hope for an early settlement of the situation is waning and what is seen ahead is a protracted civil war, barring a dramatic concession by the dictator to avoid bloodshed. Outsiders can only assert that Libyans should decide their own future.
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