Certain national-security circles are buzzing at the prospect of imposing a no-fly zone over Libya. But they’re putting the airplanes before the authorization, and no doubt setting the Libyan rebels calling for such action up for disappointment. NATO defense ministers are meeting in Brussels on Thursday to debate the wisdom of keeping Muammar Gaddafi’s airplanes grounded, but Western diplomats are making it clear that they will not act without backing from the U.N. Security Council. All indications are China and Russia will not let that happen.
So here’s what’s next: either Beijing and Moscow will come around to the Western view that a no-fly zone — or at least a credible threat of one, which currently doesn’t exist — might be a tool to use against Gaddafi. Either that, or NATO will seek some non-U.N. diplo-cover — perhaps from the Arab League — for the action. But if the nations involved stick to their guns, there’s not going to be any good-guy guns in the skies over Libya anytime soon. Meanwhile, Gaddafi’s warplanes attacked rebel positions five times Tuesday even as rumors swirled that he is planning to leave Libya and head off to exile somewhere — something Gaddafi loyalists are terming “rubbish.”