Libya: Intervention and the Hostage Problem
In our most recent post, we argued that the Europeans have the capability to intervene (aircraft carriers, support vessels, aircraft, etc.). Why, we asked, does it have to be an American aircraft carrier that gets the job done? We neglected to mention the fact that an actual aircraft carrier may not even be necessary, as there are three large floating aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean:
- Malta: Pilots defecting from Libya landed their jets here; also serves as a rallying point for fleeing Americans.
- Sicily: ENI’s Greenstream natural gas pipeline runs from Libya to Sicily.
- Crete: Already being used as a rendezvous point for evacuation ships; in terms of aircraft, it could cover part of eastern Libya, but much of that territory already belongs to the rebels anyway.
The first two could definitely be used as bases for land-based aircraft.
In terms of the Westerners still stuck in Libya, reportedly some 5,000-6,000 Europeans remain. Without a significant ground component in addition to the aerial units enforcing the putative no-fly zone, the intervening power would be setting up the mother of all hostage situations. Assorted tribes, Libyan military, and mercenaries could all respond by seizing these hapless foreigners as bargaining chips, human shields, and so forth.
As always, if you do anything, do it right.