Should the United States Enforce Libyan No-Fly Zone?

Lama Hasan travels with Libyan rebels as close to Tripoli as they dared to go.
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As forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi battle the opposition for control of key cities, the Obama administration is under growing pressure to do something to stop the violence.

Although rebels celebrated after pushing Gadhafi's forces out of Misrata, this increasingly appears to be a fight no one is winning.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon talked to Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa and called for an end to the fighting, according to a U.N. statement Sunday.

The fighting in Libya has escalated with forces loyal to Gadhafi using helicopter gunships and rockets to pound rebel forces over the weekend.

Gadhafi says his forces have retaken rebel occupied cities, while the rebels say they are still in control of the east.

And there have been more calls for the United States to step in with a big move: enforcing a no-fly zone.

"This would send a signal to Gadhafi that the president is serious when he says we need for Gadhafi to go," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said.

A no-fly zone could allow rebels to take a decisive step forward and stop Gadhafi's ability to launch air attacks.

But it could also require U.S. bombing inside Libya to take out air-defense systems.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has tried to shut the idea down and was joined Sunday by President Obama's chief of staff, Bill Daley.

"Lots of people throw around phrases of "no-fly zone," and they talk about it as though it's just a game on a video game or something," Daley said on "Meet the Press."

Concern About Gadhafi P.R. Win

One fear is a public relations victory for Gadhafi if he managed to shoot down a U.S. jet.

"There may be in the end cheaper and more effective ways to deal with the situation such as providing covert arms to the rebels," said former deputy assistant secretary of state Steve Ganyard, who is a former fighter pilot who enforced no-fly zones.

"We can't just go in and put airplanes over Libya. It's going to take a campaign to take out these surface-to-air-missile systems, to bomb where the aircraft are being parked. It's not just go in and establish a no-fly zone with no cost.

"We will have to blow things up on the ground in Libya if we want to establish a no-fly zone. It's a two step process and it will take time and a significant military package to accomplish," Ganyard said.

Another option is to deploy cell-phone "base stations" on aircraft flying outside Libya to prevent the regime from jamming rebels' phone and Internet connections.

But such options would take time to implement.

"Almost all the options that the U.S. has now will take weeks if not months to put into effect ...," Ganyard said.

Obama last week said the administration is considering a range of options to respond to the unrest.

"I want us to be making our decisions based on what's going to be best for the Libyan people in consultation with the international community," Obama said Thursday.

While Obama acknowledged the danger of a stalemate that "could be bloody" if rebels do not push out Gadhafi, Obama also indicated a willingness to avoid any sort of military action in Libya.

"We did not see anti-American sentiment arising out of that movement in Egypt precisely because they felt that we hadn't tried to engineer or impose a particular outcome, but rather they owned it," he said of the revolution in Egypt.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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