The UN has approved a no-fly zone for Libya. Russia, China, India, Germany and Brazil all abstained on the resolution, avoiding a veto but indicating significant international uncertainty about whether this is the right approach.
News articles indicate that French forces will be deployed in the region to enforce the no-fly zone within just a couple of hours. Other nations, including the United States, will follow up with their own forces. Libya may ground its air forces rather than risk more direct involvement by the US and other powers.
What’s less clear is how effective the no-fly zone will be with government forces loyal to Qaddafi driving toward the outskirts of Benghazi. The Libyan military is qualitatively superior to the militias even without air forces. Its tanks and other armored vehicles may be able to capture the city even without air support. As of yet, the UN has not authorized any hostile military action against Qaddafi’s forces. In fact the resolution includes language specifically opposing an occupation force in the country.
My take: Seems like a pretty weak move that’s unlikely to stop Qaddafi from reconquering the country. Not clear why western states pushed so hard for a deployment that may not do much at all. Given the number of abstentions, they probably couldn’t have gotten a better agreement from the UN Security Council. But why waste the political capital to push for the resolution at all if the result is so toothless? Perhaps NATO countries weren’t willing to fight in Libya on their own and decided to use the UN as political cover to defend inaction. Unless they have some significant information that I don’t, it’s hard to believe that this will be effective.