Senators Discuss Imposing No-Fly Zone Over Libya

Posted March 6, 2011 at 11:00am

Sen. John McCain renewed his call for the United States military to establish a no-fly zone over Libya, while Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said to do so would be premature.

McCain said that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is “insane” and that his air force is dangerous, even though it’s not large. Setting up a no-fly zone would send a message to him that America is on the side of the rebels trying to overthrow his government, the Arizona Republican said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“We can’t risk allowing Gadhafi to massacre people from the air, ” he said. Gadhafi’s regime has cracked down hard on dissenters, and McCain also made the case for a no-fly zone last week on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

White House Chief of Staff William Daley suggested that the option is being offered too lightly.

“Lots of people throw around phrases of ‘no-fly zone,’ and they talk about it as though it’s just a game on a video game or something,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Some people who throw that line out have no idea what they’re talking about.”

Daley and Kerry both said international support for a no-fly zone would be critical.

“At this point, as the President said, all options are on the table,” Daley said. “But this has to be an international effort. It cannot be done by one country.”

Kerry believes the military should start preparing a no-fly zone, but he wants allies’ support before imposing it, the Massachusetts Democrat said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

We should “only consider its implementation if Gadhafi himself were using [his air force] as a means of terror,” he said.

McCain and Kerry agreed that Gadhafi should be deposed for the good of the United States and that humanitarian aid is a good step at this time. But McCain also called for intelligence, technical and training support for the rebels, while Kerry stopped short of offering military aid.

“That’s trickier,” Kerry said. “A lot of weapons are going to find their way there by one means or another over the next couple of weeks.”

McConnell, meanwhile, said that a no-fly zone is “worth considering” but that he’s not sure overthrowing Gadhafi is good for America. The United States must first learn more about the identities of the Libyan rebels.

“We need to make sure who we’re dealing with here,” the Kentucky Republican said on “Face the Nation.” “I’m not sure it’s in our vital interest for him to go, but I think we certainly ought to be looking for ways to be helpful to people who are looking to overthrow dictators, certainly short of sending in our own military personnel.”