The problem with the West

The problem with the West imposing a "no-fly zone" over Libya -- and the problem of Libya's revolution itself -- was highlighted in Monday's bizarre request by the rebel leadership for Western powers to assassinate Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. That demand, which rebel leaders in Benghazi said their representatives had made when meeting on Monday with France's President Nicolas Sarkozy and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, not only reflects a poor grasp of the inclinations of Western governments; it's a tacit admission that the rebels are incapable of defeating Gaddafi, even if foreign air forces kept the regime's MiGs and Sukhois grounded.

"We are telling the west we want a no-fly zone, we want tactical strikes against those tanks and rockets that are being used against us and we want a strike against Gaddafi's compound," said Mustafa Gheriani, a spokesman for the rebel Transitional National Council in Benghazi on Monday. And that list of requests underscores one of the greatest reservations held by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other Western leaders about imposing a no-fly zone: That preventing Gaddafi's air forces from taking to the skies won't fundamentally alter the outcome of what has become a civil war, but would commit Western militaries to escalate their involvement when the no-fly zone failed to stop Gaddafi, and give them ownership of the result.

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