Saturday, 19 March 2011
Operation Ellamy and That Unspeakable Three Letter Word
Yesterday a serviceman died in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham. Belonging to the 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, he was blown up by an IED in Helmand province on Wednesday and after treatment at Camp Bastion's military hospital, he was medevaced back to the UK. His family were with him when he died.
360 military personnel have died in the Afghanistan war and Dave Cameron announced yesterday Britain is now at war with Libya. Of course few in the media mention the 'war' word; conflict, uprising and combat are used to describe the reason for the presence of our armed forces in Afghanistan, but never war.
The Archbishop chronicles the PM as a 'statesman' for being the first to call for the enforcement of a no-fly zone and that the UN resolution 'is in a sense a diplomatic triumph for the Prime Minister...'. There is nothing statesmanlike about a PM who has legislated for the redundancy of 100 trainee pilots and thousands of other military personnel - not to mention the military hardware he's having scrapped and the Scottish RAF bases he intends to close - yet he expects our armed forces to take a leading role in this new war. In recent months David Cameron was encouraging the sale of weapons to Gaddafi and he was content to do oil deals. The fact that Gaddafi was a brutal dictator didn't deter him.
As for his 'diplomatic triumph', only two-thirds of the UN voted for the resolution; not exactly a triumph. That suggests to me that the international community is not united in this operation, especially if it drags on. The UN Resolution 1973 (2011) leaves room for interpretation - a normal practice - but what does 'all necessary means' mean and what is the definition of 'occupation'?
Why are our military included in the aerial intervention of Libya? I have no doubt those who favour it genuinely want to save civilians from a brutal regime, but the murder of Yvonne Fletcher, the Lockerbie tragedy and the discovery that Gaddafi had been supplying arms to the IRA were certainly incidents when a case could have been made for military intervention and justifiably so. No doubt we will find out in due course.
Surely, if the Arab League nations do take part, it will be noticed that they will be supporting democracy abroad but not tolerating it at home. It will be interesting to see what role, if any, Egypt and Tunisia decide to fulfil.
It's also hard to understand why, if state oppression triggers UK military intervention, why only Libya and not Bahrain?
Gaddafi has called the UN's bluff by announcing a cease fire. Good timing. Time to move his forces, reorganise his logistics and get his military into built up areas. A smart child could have made that prediction.
All I can hope for is a speedy conclusion to this war but, with our politicians' distinct lack of forward planning, my concern is for the 'after'. Helping the introduction of democracy could turn out to be a thankless task. Like Afghanistan. But we've now declared which side we support in a civil war so all we can do is wish those involved the very best of luck.
Update: Although China abstained from the resolution it is contributing aid to Egypt and Tunisia.