Thursday, 24 March 2011
Cameron May Rue His Hasty Decision
On Monday night ComRes released the results of a poll for ITV News suggesting that 53% of voters think military action in Libya is an unnecessary risk. I wonder if that number will increase since William Hague's statement in the House of Commons at lunchtime.
David Cameron's debate on Monday was nothing more than procedure and an ego-boosting exercise. What PM in the past has sent out troops to war without the consent of parliament, with the feeble excuse that they didn't have time to consult? He achieved his goal with 544 MPs in agreement with him and 13 against. Where were the missing 17%? Did your MP ask your opinion? So many were complacent in their decision making purely on the grounds of the UN resolution. John Redwood was one MP who did give careful consideration to all contributions to the debate. I commend him.
This lunchtime it was obvious from Hague's statement that the UK government intend to extend our participation in this war; possibly to the use of ground troops, although he carefully added 'not at the moment' in his statement. According to Hague the decision lies with NATO who will be required to lead the invasion, because the US has categorically refused to be in charge. They know Americans would not be sympathetic to their government involving themselves in the invasion of another Muslim country.
Our politicians have deployed our air force in a war where there is no one in charge. NATO is deadlocked by internal disputes so it is not in charge. The United Nations Security Council, which only gave enough authority to enforce a no-fly zone, is not in charge of this now far more aggressive campaign. The Arab League, which withdrew support within hours of granting it, is certainly not in change and France is calling for a 'steering committee', although it's not clear who would lead it or how it would delegate authority between the Western powers. Not only is no one in charge, no one wants to be and no one has any idea who to appoint.
What is causing the confusion? The US, France and Italy are all coming to Libya with what look to be very different goals, resulting in conduction different missions in different ways. It's said, by those who study North African politics, that France is attempting to make up for supporting the Tunisian dictator Ben Ali instead of giving support to those who desired democracy.
Perhaps most of all, no Western power wants to lead the intervention because that would be to implicitly lead the war against Gaddafi and for that war to succeed it must remain led by the Libyan people. If led by the outside it becomes regime change and that's something which has resulted in horrifyingly disastrous results.
We're once again involved in a war which has no structure, no proposed end-game and no majority support from our people. The rebels have no established leader who is both legitimate and competent enough and until someone steps into the leadership role, or until a multinational body such as NATO can organise itself into taking charge, this war will continue without a leader. But, leader or no, it will certainly continue and David Cameron is quite determined the UK plays a prominent role.
William Hague didn't mention the deaths, in Afghanistan yesterday, of two soldiers from the 1st Battalion Irish Guards although he did condemn the death of a British citizen in Jerusalem. Was it too much for him during his declaration that our participation in the war on Libya will continue, or did he not wish to draw attention to one of the horrific costs of war - 362 UK military lost lives in a conflict which has been running 10 years?
Germany may yet prove to to have made the right decision. Libya's war can only be won by their own people. Already we are hearing repercussions here, making the UK less safe than ever. Cameron's hasty decision may cost far more lives than those of civilians in Libya.