Obama Team Shoots Down Libya No-Fly Talk : It's All Politics While some U.S. policymakers continued to call for strong U.S.-led military action against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, namely a no-fly zone, Obama officials kept resisting such demands, citing the difficulty.
NPR logo Obama Team Shoots Down Libya No-Fly Talk

Obama Team Shoots Down Libya No-Fly Talk

U.S. sailors on USS Harry S Truman aircraft carrier's flight deck in the Mediterranean Sea, June 14, 2010. Fabrizio Bensch/ASSOCIATED PRESS hide caption

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U.S. sailors on USS Harry S Truman aircraft carrier's flight deck in the Mediterranean Sea, June 14, 2010.


Calls continued over the weekend for President Obama to use military force to support Libya's rebels in their fight to overthrow Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

And the Obama Administration continued to shoot down such talk, indicating that the no-fly zone idea was itself not going to fly, at least not now.

White House Chief of Staff William Daley acknowledged that the sanctions and international condemnation had so far done little to stop Gadhafi from using his advantages in air power to support his loyalist ground troops against overmatched rebels.

But Daley made clear that it's unlikely the president will overrule his military advisors on this one.

On Meet The Press Sunday, Daley said:

MR. DALEY: Well, you know, lots of people throw around phrases as "no-fly zone," and they talk about it as though it's just a game on a — a video game or something. And some people who throw that line out have no idea what they're talking about.

Bob Gates understands the difficulty of going to war. This is a man who spent his — almost his entire life working for the government. He knows the difficulty of war and the challenges, as does Admiral Mullen.

So when people comment on military action, most of them have no idea what they're talking about.

Notice how Daley was careful to say "most" of the proponents of a no-fly zone don't know what they're talking about. Obviously, some do, like Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican and 2008 GOP presidential nominee who was a prisoner of war for years after being shot down over North Vietnam by antiaircraft fire.

On Sunday, when asked by Christiane Amanpour on ABC News' This Week, if he still supported the idea of a no-fly zone even after Gates cautioned that it would essentially mean starting another U.S. war in a Muslim nation, McCain said:

SEN. MCCAIN: Yes, I do. Senator Kerry and Senator Lieberman and I and others have called for that. I would like to point out their air assets are not large. Their air defenses are somewhat antiquated.

And this would send a signal to Gadhafi that the president is serious when he says we need for Gadhafi to go and, also, it would be encouraging to the resistance who are certainly out-gunned from the air. But these air assets that the Libyan — that Gadhafi has are not overwhelming. They're not — you know, I'm not saying they aren't a challenge --

Morning Edition recently examined the question of what it would take to mount a no-fly zone in a nation as large as Libya. It turns out, it would potentially strain U.S. forces and hurt the nation's efforts in Afghanistan.

It's hard to imagine that holding off on U.S. military intervention in Libya, even a no-fly zone, would hurt Obama politically.

With the nation winding down its efforts in Iraq and facing the perennial increase of fighting in Afghanistan that always arrives with the coming of Spring, to say Americans don't have much of an appetite to involve the U.S. military in what appears to be a civil war in a Muslim nation is an understatement.

If anything, the political risk for the president would be on the other side, especially if U.S. warplanes were shot down or crashed in the Libyan desert and U.S. pilots were taken captive and paraded through Tripoli by pro-Gadhafi forces.