After weeks of warning from the Pentagon about the downsides of launching a no-fly zone over Libya, the U.S. and its major European allies declared war on Muammar Gaddafi and his forces holding on to power in the north African nation. NATO surveillance aircraft have been scouring Libya for potential targets for more than a week. Warplanes from the U.S. and other allies, flying from any of several bases in Italy in the region, could begin taking out Libyan air defense sites and tank formations within hours. But U.S. officers suggested that U.S. action might not be imminent, and that other NATO warplanes might strike first, perhaps aided by U.S. cruise missiles from several of six American warships - and a submarine - in the Mediterranean.
This sudden U.N. declaration proclaimed that the U.N. alliance would halt Gaddafi loyalists from killing those opposed to his rule by "all necessary measures" - a clear warning that air strikes are likely against tanks and other Libyan military assets on the ground. That means the U.S. and its allies are declaring a "no-drive zone" as well as a no-fly zone in contested areas of the country. It might be hard to tell them apart in any opening volley. "A no-fly zone requires certain actions taken to protect the planes and the pilots," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday during a visiting to neighboring Tunisia, "including bombing targets like the Libyan defense systems."