thoughts he offers in On the Line With Libya, after speaking with a highly connected Libyan family, a member of which is a senior military officer he tries not to too clearly identify. The officer tells him that 3 naval vessels were ordered to go to Benghazi - now completely under the control of anti-Qaddafi forces - and attack, but which have not yet left. While pro-Qaddafi officers staged a a rally on behalf of the dictator, they backed off when they realized they were heavily outnumbered by those opposing him, and so far the vessels have not left. Officially there is not yet a mutiny - the officers "accepted their orders" but the ships have not sailed. Those opposing Qaddafi operate in fear of summary execution should they openly oppose him.
It is in this context that Kristof offers a list of suggestions well worth considering.
There is something similar happening with the air force. several of whose officers have already defected to Malta with their planes. One unit near Tripoli opposing Qaddafi has remained on its base.
As Kristof writes
Those are the people we need to send signals to: Libyan military officers who are wavering about which way to turn their guns.
Let me outline the key points, and then offer a few thoughts of my own.
Kristof offers 5 points, noting that John Kerry and others (including President Sarkozy of France) have advocated for much of this list.
Offer sanctuary for Libyan pilots who if ordered take their planes out of Libya rather than bomb their own people. Remember those already fleeing to Malta.
Impose financial and trade sanctions on Libya, especially by cancelling military transfers and freezing assets of Qaddafi and his family. These will take some time to bite, unless the world also cuts off Libya from the global banking system, which would be immediate. Such actions
would signal to those around Colonel Qaddafi that he is going down and they should not obey his orders.
Impose a no-fly zone as we did in Iraq after the first Gulf War. We should warn Libya that if aircraft are used against their own people Libyan military assets will be destroyed (I will come back to this point anon). This is something a defecting Libyan diplomat has urged.
Encourage continuing pressure by the Arab League and the African Union.
Seek a referral by the United Nations Security Council to the International Criminal Court for the prosecution of Colonel Qaddafi for crimes against humanity.
A few of my thoughts and observations. Let's start with the no-fly zone. Here I think we need to be cautious. If at all possible, the forces actually used within Libyan airspace should not be American or even NATO. Action by non-Muslim forces against yet another Muslim nation might be problematic. We should provide the logistics, but perhaps work through the Arab League and have Egyptian and perhaps Algerian planes be the operational forces. Further, we need to be very careful about the military assets we might destroy. Go back to the three naval vessels that have not YET sailed to Bengazi - how do we avoid destroying assets under control of officers that are opposed to Qaddafi without actually strengthening his hand?
On the referral to the International Criminal Court - it cannot be the United States involved in such an action - under the Bush administration we refused to be subject to the ICC, and threatened nations that would not agree to waive taking US personnel before it. Rather, it needs to be nations who are themselves subject, and again, if possible, Arab and/or other Muslim nations, to make clear this is not an effort of non-Muslim nations against a Muslim nation. Perhaps Turkey or Jordan could be leaned on to act.
Kristof notes that Qaddafi has tried to argue that the pressure on Libya is a result of nations trying to recolonize Libya. To undercut that argument the two nations that must not be seen to be in the lead are Italy, whose colony Libya was before WWII, and the United States, which in the period after WWII had a large military presence in the nation - I believe at one point that Wheelus AFB was the largest such installation in the world.
What happens in Libya will have a huge impact on other nations. Kristof reminds us of that. There are risks to be sure. But Kristof closes with two reason he thinks we need to move ahead.
The first is that many Libyans are wavering.
That military family in Tripoli estimates that only 10 percent of those in the Libyan armed forces are behind Colonel Qaddafi — and the rest are wondering what to do next.
The second is that as this democracy uprising spreads, other despots may be encouraged to follow Colonel Qaddafi’s example. We need to make very sure that the international reaction is so strong — and the scorched-earth strategy so unsuccessful — that no other despot is tempted to declare war on his own people.
On this second point, we absolutely want to send that message. But we need to do so in a way that is not seen as the US imposing its views, but rather supporting those in favor of democracy, while working in concert with international organizations, especially the Arab League and the African Union, and - yes, Republicans - under the auspices of the UN Security Council.
Kristof's final words are clear: So let’s not sit on our hands.
I agree. It is the only way to establish in Libya what I always hope for, which is not just an absence of military conflict, because that can be achieved by tyranny.
What I hope for is simple, it is one word, and I will here end with it: