After a long and difficult European summit in Brussels last Friday, where any mention of No Fly Zones was written out of the final script, the Prime Minister faced yesterday an equally sceptical and concerned House of Commons. William Hague is likely to fare no better when he meets with G8 Foreign Affairs Ministers in Paris today.
Having invested considerable political capital in pressing the case for a No-Fly Zone, it is unlikely that the Prime Minister will allow this matter to drop quietly. But, unless there is a highly visible massacre of non-combatants or televised carpet bombing of civilian areas there is now no realistic prospect of a No-Fly Zone been enacted. Memories of recent interventions hang too heavy in the air to allow international consensus to gel.
If the Prime Minister is interested in pursuing other military options he might want to take a read of a recent report from the respected defence think tank, the Royal United Service Institute. RUSI points out there are other ways that the West could help forestall a Gaddafi victory in Libya without resorting to a No-Fly Zone.
Military options include equipping and financing the rebels and deploying the use of Special Forces to advice and organise the rebels. Non-lethal options include providing intelligence and communications equipment to actively jamming the communications of pro-Gaddafi forces.
Whether any of these options are realistic – or for that matter legal – is of course another issue, and, given what’s actually happening on the ground, one has to question how much difference they would actually make in practice.
Perhaps all this goes to show the importance of refocusing attention away from military options, to finding a diplomatic solution to this stalemate.