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Special Report

Too Late for No-Fly Zone in Libya?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 17, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: This is a FOX News alert. You're looking live at the U.N. Security Council meeting where the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice just wrapped up addressing that body that just passed a resolution that authorizing a no-fly zone over Libya and also authorizing other necessary force.

Now as we put up a map of the region, I can tell you the Wall Street Journal at this moment is reporting that Pentagon officials are saying there are options that could begin almost immediately. Options, according to this official, could include cruise missiles taking out fixed military sites and air defense systems while manned and unmanned aircraft could be used against Qaddafi's tanks, personnel carriers, and infantry positions.

Sorties, according to the Wall Street Journal, could be flown out of the U.S. and NATO bases in the southern Mediterranean. And now we are getting word from European media outlets carrying similar reports suggesting that the French and British forces could also respond almost immediately. This as the bombardment in Benghazi continues.

We're back with the panel. Charles, this is developing fast.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: The word "immediately" is the keyword. It's a matter of hours. If the airstrikes have been prepared and it's heartening to hear the Pentagon sort of ready to go as are the British and the French, then there might be a chance to stop the final assault on Benghazi.

If you do that, then what you have -- a situation in which the rebels have a capital. You have protective cordon around it, and then you actually have the rescue; A, a humanitarian rescue of, what? 700,000 people in the city. And you also have the sort of institution of a rebel territory which will be protected and could in the future be the base of an assault against Qaddafi in time.

The one disheartening element was hearing about the joint Jordanian UAE Qatar air forces. That's all sweet and lovely and a nice cover, but I don't expect that Jordan and Qatar, with all do respect, are gonna do anything to the assets that the Libyans have on the ground.

It's really important to understand that what has to be done now, is to attack everything on the ground. It has to be a no-move zone, because you've got to stop the artillery, you have to stop the tanks and you have to sink the naval vessels that are shelling from offshore into the rebel-held areas.

BAIER: As this begins, quickly, it's important to remember what Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Capitol Hill numerous times, and we heard from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that it is no small feat to put all of this together to make sure that the pilots going in are protected.

You have to take out the antiaircraft efforts by the Qaddafi forces on the ground, and you have to have search and recovery, search and rescue missions if by chance some pilot goes down or is shot down. A.B., this is a big undertaking. We're starting to get more understanding of it. There were a lot of people in this town that didn't believe it was going to happen.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: No. And I think the goal remains unclear at this hour, despite the urgency, and the resolution and the will. U.N. Ambassador Rice said earlier that they want to take -- they're looking at a broad range of actions that would protect civilians and increase the pressure on the Qaddafi regime to halt the killing and allow the Libyan people to express themselves and their aspirations for the future peacefully.

We know that he is alone. He's not going to be able to last that long with this show of force. But how alone are we? I mean, at what point do we lose, I mean, the Jordanians and the UAE and even the French and the British? How long is this gonna last, how long will they hang in? What are we going to do?

And what is the goal ultimately? We're going to try to depose him, flatten him. But at that point, what happens? And where are our allies that are with us tonight?

BAIER: Chris, we're gonna pause here, we're gonna drop the kicker and be back for some final thoughts on this breaking story as the no-fly zone appears to setting up over Libya, possibly more actions coming. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BAIER: Continuing the breaking news now about the no-fly zone looking to be set up over Libya. According to defense officials telling Fox that the Pentagon likely won't be leading the way off the top, that European forces will, that the U.S. will offer logistic support, but that's developing at this hour. Final thoughts from the panel as this is moving forward. Chris?

CHRIS STIREWALT, FOX NEWS POLITICS EDITOR DIGITAL: This will be a politically unpopular undertaking. We have a struggling economy. We have a nuclear meltdown in Japan. We have a president whose approval ratings are dropping. Wading in to or being dragged in to another conflict in the Middle East is not going to be something Americans want to see.

BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: The terrain is uniquely favorable. We're the greatest naval power ever. It's all happening on the coast. The Qaddafi forces are all exposed. It's a desert. There is nowhere to hide. If we can succeed anywhere, it would be there.

BAIER: A.B., we will get you next time. Breaking news tonight.

Thanks for inviting us into your home, fair, balanced, and unafraid.

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