Although I have been calling for restraint, observation and dialogue in the White House's policy regarding many of the protests that are occurring across North Africa and the Middle East, the situation in Libya poses an entirely different scenario and must have an entirely different response.
Marc Lynch over at Foreign Policy should be listened to by the Obama administration. It's past time for the international community to act to prevent escalating atrocities. Writing earlier today, Lynch suggested that there needs to be
[a] response sufficiently forceful and direct to deter or prevent the Libyan regime from using its military resources to butcher its opponents. I have already seen reports that NATO has sternly warned Libya against further violence against its people. Making that credible could mean the declaration and enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya, presumably by NATO, to prevent the use of military aircraft against the protestors. It could also mean a clear declaration that members of the regime and military will be held individually responsible for any future deaths. The U.S. should call for an urgent, immediate Security Council meeting and push for a strong resolution condeming Libya's use of violence and authorizing targeted sanctions against the regime. Such steps could stand a chance of reversing the course of a rapidly deteriorating situation. An effective international response could not only save many Libyan lives, it might also send a powerful warning to other Arab leaders who might contemplate following suit against their own protest movements.
Lynch is exactly right, the use of warplanes and other heavy weapons against civilians is a point of no return for any regime and, once crossed, the international community must act. Although there are many obvious instances where the use of force against civilians is blatantly inhumane, illegitimate and deplorable without military grade weaponry, once those arms, planes or vehicles are put in action the stakes are dramatically altered. The situation can quickly spiral out of control and it is a responsibility of the world at large to act to prevent mass murder. Events in Libya should no longer be viewed as a regime attempting to maintain control, what we are witnessing is blatant criminality. A no-fly zone should be implemented immediately and the Security Council needs to think seriously about what options are available for a multinational force to prevent further violence on the ground.
With Al Jazeera reporting that advertisements are appearing in neighboring Guinea and Nigeria offering would-be mercenaries up to US $2000 dollars per day, it's clear that the international community is in a race against time. Individuals answering that call must not be allowed to enter Libya by any means and the U.S., NATO, U.N. and/or African Union must step up and act now.