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Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the committee’s ranking Republican, expressed concern that U.S. policy options in Libya only have focused on a no-fly zone and military intervention.

“Given the costs of a no-fly zone, the risk that our involvement would escalate, the uncertain reception in the Arab streets of any American intervention in an Arab country, the potential for civilian deaths, the unpredictability of the endgame in a civil war, the strains on our military and other factors, I am doubtful the United States’ interests would be served by imposing a no-fly zone on Libya,” Mr. Lugar said.

He said the Arab League and other governments advocating military action should pledge resources needed for such an operation.

Mr. Lugar said such a payment would not be unprecedented, adding that more than $50 billion in foreign contributions were received to offset American costs in association with the first Persian Gulf War in 1991.

Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Institution’s center in Doha, Qatar, said in a phone interview with The Times that while imposing a no-fly zone at this stage “may be too little too late, it’s better late than never.”

“At this point, the international community has to choose the least bad of what are all very bad options,” Mr. Hamid said, blaming a lack of U.S. leadership for the predicament.
“What we have realized in the past couple of weeks is that if the U.S. does not lead, it is very hard to get much done from the military standpoint. The impotence of the international community became abundantly clear,” he said.

The U.S. appeared to make an about-face on its position late Wednesday, hinting that it would support not only a no-fly zone over Libya but other measures as well.
Some experts say it will now take more than just a no-fly zone to stop the advance of pro-Gadhafi forces.

James Lacey, director of the war policy and strategy program at the Marine Corps University, advocates setting up a “no-tank line” that Libyan armored units would be forbidden from crossing.
Mr. Lacey said that, besides imposing a no-fly zone, the international community should prepare special operations forces teams to join the rebels to help reverse the tide of the conflict. “If the world is not willing to do this bare minimum, then it is best to do nothing,” he added.

Mr. Lacey said if NATO lends active support, a no-fly zone could start almost immediately and be progressively more effective over the course of a week.

Meanwhile, in a sign that the Obama administration may be preparing to officially recognize the Libyan opposition, Mr. Burns said the U.S. has authorized the Interim Transitional National Council to open an office in Washington.

He said the Obama administration is still trying to develop a clearer picture of the opposition’s goals.

“I don’t want to pretend that we have a full picture in which we have total confidence,” Mr. Burns told senators.

U.S. officials have had extensive meetings with some members of the opposition Interim Transitional National Council and “those with whom we’ve met have struck us as being positive and serious,” Mr. Burns said.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met Libyan opposition envoy Mahmood Jibril in Paris on Monday. Mr. Burns said Mrs. Clinton “came away impressed with his seriousness.”

France is the only country that has officially recognized the council as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people.

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