This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 2, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses. That's the way you do a no fly zone. It also requires more airplanes than you would find on a single aircraft carrier. So it is a big operation in a big country.
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN, R-A.Z.: We are spending $500 billion not counting Iraq and Afghanistan on our nation's defense. Don't tell me we can't do a no-fly zone over Tripoli.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Before the break, we asked you should the U.S. establish a no-fly zone over Libyan airspace? Here is the vote, 52 percent of you said yes, 48 percent said no. A nonscientific poll there.
In the meantime, the U.S. military is moving assets to the region. In the Mediterranean Sea now there are five U.S. surface warships. The USS Ponce, the USS Stout, the Mount Whitney, the USS Barry, and the USS Kearsarge. All there, in position, they've moved in recent days. We're back with our panel. Charles?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, the ships in the Med right now would support extraction or rescue or humanitarian effort, but not an air campaign.
BAIER: The USS Enterprise, the carrier, is just outside; it's in the Red Sea.
KRAUTHAMMER: And let's remember, it was in the Med two weeks ago in February. It was moved out. Obviously it was headed into the Persian Gulf area, to protect the Gulf, but it left the -- North Africa sort of unprotected. I'm not sure why we don't announce that another carrier is on its way, have one in the Gulf - in the Persian Gulf -- or in that area, Arabian Sea, and the other in the Med.
But the real issue isn't can we do it? Obviously yes, in time. Should we? And for that, I think you've got to have two conditions. A, you've got to have an open, clear request from the rebels. And I think the secretary of state is right. We have to know who the rebels are, they have to get it together, have at least a voice, and then a request.
And then as in Balkans, number two would be, we would ignore the U.N. as we did in the Balkans because Russia and China would veto. What you've got to have is unanimity in NATO. And there you have one American carrier -- look Italy is an aircraft carrier, it's right nearby. If you use Italian air bases, NATO aircraft, American aircraft carrier, you've got a serious air campaign.
So you can do it but it has to be done in the right way and with real caution and a specific request from the rebels. It shouldn't be a freelance overnight thing.
BAIER: Nia, there seems to be a lot of skepticism about it up on Capitol Hill?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, WASHINGTON POST: Definitely skepticism. But you also heard John Kerry today really give a forceful argument for having this no-fly zone. But I think at the same time you heard a lot of different voices and some walk back from Clinton statements. You heard for instance, Gates sort of giving these caveats of how difficult it is. Even you have somebody like David Cameron who was initially very strong supporting this no-fly zone; saying the British would lead this and now he's walking back.
So I think in a lot of ways this -- in some ways it's saber-rattling, it's sending a signal to the rebels that we are supportive. It's also sending a signal to Qaddafi that we're not done yet, that sanctions aren't the only thing we have in our tool box.
BAIER: Steve, the folks who are against it say that just the image of U.S. warplanes providing cover or taking out installations, the air defenses, to set up this no-fly zone, would send a signal that the U.S. is somehow engaged and in the battle there with Qaddafi and send the wrong signal to the people who are against this.
STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think that has it almost precisely backwards. I think it would send the kind of signal that we want to send, not only in Libya, but in the region, that the United States is no longer going to be getting the back of dictators throughout the region but will be helping the small "d" democrats.
Look, I mean, there is a moral reason I think to make -- the case to make for doing this. There is a strategic reason for doing this. The president has said now repeatedly over the past six weeks that the United States is on the side of people who advocate these certain universal principles. Well, we were late, I think, in Egypt. But he eventually got there.
Now we have an opportunity to do something about it. And rather than having the administration out talking about the possibilities of how this could be done, what you got from Secretary Clinton and Secretary Gates today largely were reasons that we couldn't do anything.
And it seems to me they are stuck in thinking about what is possible today rather than looking at what is likely in two weeks. You've got Qaddafi who basically said -- you know, after everything we had done, hasn't changed his behavior, continued bombing people.
BAIER: Next week we will bring you exclusive reports from Afghanistan. I'll be talking to General David Petraeus in his only national TV interview before he testifies on Capitol Hill later this month. We will also tour a Kabul military training center for a firsthand look at U.S. efforts to train Afghan security forces and show you some challenges in the remote villages along the Afghan -- Pakistan border. I will report from Afghanistan on Monday and we'll have more throughout the week next week. That is it for the panel, but stay tuned for something we missed in the president's meeting with governors.
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