On Saturday, March 12th, the Arab League urged the United Nations to vote on imposing a “no-fly zone” over Libya, to protect the civilians and the rebel forces in the eastern half of the country. Since then, a “no-fly zone” was authorized with notable abstentions coming from Brazil, Germany, Russia and China. But as France took to the skies to patrol the airspace around Benghazi, and British and American cruise missiles began to pound anti-air installations, the absence of any Arab military taking part in the “no-fly zone” is precisely the mistake that Western countries should have known to avoid by now.
For the last 30 years, America has given Egypt billions of dollars so that they could strengthen their armed forces ($1.3 billion just last year). With those billions of our tax payer dollars, Hosni Mubarak has purchased hundreds of F15 and F16 fighter jets, and still more are on their way from Lockheed Martin. Yet despite all of this military hardware at their disposal, and despite joining the call for a “no-fly zone” to be imposed, the military leadership in Egypt did not contribute to the imposition of the operation.
Nor did the Saudis who are another large purchaser of American military hardware, and who would have a much shorter flight for their sorties than the American bombers taking off from Missouri. What is the point of purchasing all of those weapons if they are unwilling to use them even when they are calling for military action? Obama, Cameron, and Sarkozy should have told the Arab League to put its money where its mouth was and fly a few missions over Libyan skies.
One could call it a missed opportunity by the Obama administration, or, as his supporters have come to realize, just business as usual at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.