Yesterday evening, the UN Security Council voted 10-0 to approve a no-fly zone over Libya and “authorizing all necessary measures” to prevent Muammar Qaddafi’s forces from killing civilians.
Before the vote, in an article posted on the Council on Foreign Relations website, CFR president Les Gelb criticized the Arab League for calling on the UN to impose a no-fly zone. “They would have no trouble doing the job all by themselves. They possess hundreds upon hundreds of frontline jet fighters and the necessary air bases—in sum, full air superiority over Libya,” he said. So why did they go to the UN? Gelb has the answer:
Why are they all insisting that before any action can be taken it must first be approved by the U.N. Security Council? Elementary, my dear Watson, as Sherlock Holmes used to say to his rather slow companion.
The answer is plain: they know very well that the U.N. Security Council won’t approve the action. Which, in turn, means that they have no real desire or intent to secure the skies over Libya and are using the U.N. as an excuse.
The Daily Beast re-published Gelb’s column after the UN approved the no-fly resolution. But absent in the Daily Beast’s version (which the CFR version links to) is Gelb’s prediction that the UN “won’t approve action”:
Why haven’t they acted? The answer is plain: they didn’t expect the UN Security Council would approve the action. And if it didn’t, they would be relieved of their obligation to act, in their eyes at least. They had to reckon, along with everyone else, that China and Russia would veto the no-fly plan. But those two usual nay-sayers must have been impressed with the Arab League resolution, and perhaps some side understanding with the United States still not known.
The Daily Beast version contains no indication of the change. But seeing that the UNSC’s approval of the no-fly resolution eliminated the main justification for Gelb’s criticism of the Arab League, the Daily Beast version just white washes that whole argument.
Gelb’s argument aside, perhaps the Arab League went to the UN because it preferred that the international community speak with one voice on Libya and didn’t want to own the Libyan intervention themselves — something Gelb complains that the U.S. would ultimately end up having to do.
And as it turns out, because the issue was referred to the UN, no one country owns the Libyan intervention and the international community — led by Britain and France this time, not the U.S. — is working together collectively to resolve the crisis. (HT: Brian Katulis)