When the No-Fly Zone Didn’t Fly

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JIM WATSON / AFP / Getty Images

President Obama announces the U.S.-led military campaign against Libya has begun in Brasilia on Mar. 19, 2011.

Reporter Michael Lewis profiles President Obama in the latest Vanity Fair. He views the President through the prism of basketball, and the F-15 weapons officer whose plane crashed in in Libya 18 months ago.

But the most fascinating part may be Obama’s grudge match with the Pentagon over whether or not to get involved in Libya in the first place. He wasn’t pleased, according to Lewis’ account, when his key military leaders, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, initially presented him with only two options — do nothing, or impose a no-fly zone that would do nothing:

“I don’t know why we are even having this meeting,” he said, or words to that effect. “You’re telling me a no-fly zone doesn’t solve the problem, but the only option you’re giving me is a no-fly zone.” He gave his generals two hours to come up with another solution for him to consider, then left to attend the next event on his schedule, a ceremonial White House dinner…

The principals reconvened in the Situation Room at 7:30 p.m. The Pentagon now offered the president three options. The first: do nothing at all. The second: establish a no-fly zone, which they had already conceded would not prevent a massacre in Benghazi. The third: secure a resolution from the U.N. to take “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians and then use American airpower to destroy Qaddafi’s army.

Full thing here.