I thought I would let things develop a bit before writing a post on Libya, the evacuation and possible implications.
My first thought on this is to question why after wall to wall reporting, those in country evidently being aware of their surroundings and government advice, expats chose to stay in Libya until the last minute, putting themselves and others in danger. Holding a British Passport does not make one somehow immune from the effects of the world around you and certainly should not be a replacement for old fashioned common sense. I wonder how much UK tax those hopping on C130’s and Type 22 Frigates have paid whilst working in Libya, I expect less than those flying C130’s or manning frigates.
I don’t want to sound churlish because when all said and done, those evacuated are British citizens but, just sayin’
The chaos of the situation is plainly evident, with differing reports of how many people have been evacuated posted on the FCO, MoD and news organisations web sites. An accurate count is important but some leeway is of course understandable and may be explained by the difference between UK national and others.
The excuse that David Cameron gave for the UK’s apparent tardiness in response was getting the balance right between relying on scheduled flights and charters. The argument is that once government chartered flights start landing then no scheduled operator will continue operations, why should they. This time, it would seem, the calculation of when to wade in with charter flights was taken a little too late and resulted in a gap opening up between the last scheduled flight and first charter flight.
After the decision to go with charter flights was taken a number of ‘technical problems’ arose, which resulted in delays and an even bigger gap.
The gap was such that the RAF even had to send a C130 Hercules, flying from Malta it picked up 64 passengers and a dog.
It should be said that the most effective means of evacuating non combatants from a trouble zone is the conventional civilian transport infrastructure; this should ALWAYS be the default choice but when these fail, special measures have to be taken.
The British Government have something called COBR (Cabinet Office Briefing Room) which describes the concept of operations for emergency response, page 21 of this document
COBR only met yesterday for the first time, a bit late I think.
After issuing a grovelling apology David Cameron muttered the immortal lessons will be learned line and Nick Clegg (Deputy Prime Minister) when asked who was in charge whilst the Prime Minister was in the Middle East replied;
Yeah, I suppose I am. I forgot about that. I’m holding the fort but I’m hoping to take the end of the week off with my kids. Someone else will have to do it then
It doesn’t look good does it?
The armed forces have, as usual, responded as one would expect and the cruel irony is that both the C130 and Type 22 are due to be withdrawn in the wake of the SDSR, HMS Cumberland was on her final patrol before being diverted to meet this need. That will be a bitter sweet homecoming, a job well done followed by a P45, remember this when politicians various line up to heap praise on the armed forces.
My favourite article so far goes to the Guardian with its take on the SAS returning to its roots, it amazes me that people get paid to write this tosh although the quote of the week has to be from David Cameron , click here
I had to raise a wry smile at the usual troop of tofu knitting liberals demanding that we ‘do something’ to intervene in the conflict. Whilst the lunatic with a snappy dress sense might be guilty of machine gunning his own people I don’t think he has yet to deploy weapons of mass destruction against them, yet those who were most vociferous in opposing the removal of a certain S Hussain esquire are now those calling for the same kind of regime change.
Ironic, isn’t it.
We have a natural, human tendency, to intervene. Witnessing a fight in a pub our natural reaction is to want to get the antagonists to calm down and stop.
It is the same dynamic that saw NATO’s intervention in the Balkans.
As soon as you deploy the armed forces you are opening up a commitment, even a no fly zone might eventually drag in other forces; it is not a decision to be taken lightly but given the glacial speed at which the UN takes decisions, the likely intransigence of China and Russia, it will be all over by the time a harshly worded joint resolution will be issued.
I am sure Mr Gadaffi is not going to be influenced by harsh punctuation or carefully crafted travel ban.
The UN Security Council are meeting and David Cameron has warned Libya ‘the world is watching’ whilst refusing to rule out military action.
Dave, take a look at what is the MoD’s cupboard after the SDSR hatchet job
It would seem the dominoes have started to fall but no one really knows how this will end, of course we all hope for the best.
Many are now calling, rather predictably, for a revision of the SDSR and a reversal of the decision to withdraw the Type 22’s and CVS/Harrier, forgetting of course that land bases in Malta, Spain and Italy would make a far more effective location from which to mount such an operation.
As for enforcing a no fly zone, what with exactly?
There have been a couple of sensible suggestions (mostly from the Think Defence readership) for keeping a small number of civilian registered aircraft at high readiness for such gap filling duties. Something like the numerous BAe 146’s now available on the second hand market would be a good choice. They have a good passenger capacity, not too large for small runways and airports, good short field capabilities, already in service so an existing training/maintenance is in place and they do not need a great deal of airport infrastructure (stairs etc). BAe tried sometime to offer a number of second hand models to the MoD as gap fillers between the current equipment and A400/FSTA and they have been chartered to the MoD by Titan Airways for use in the Middle East. The only problem with the BAe 146 is their modest range, they would be limited to where they could operate. An unrefueled return round trip journey would not even be able to cover all of Libya from Malta.
No doubt things are happening in the background.
The real security question is what is going to happen to the possibly hundreds of thousands of refugees, those associated with the old regime or who do not fit with whatever new emerges?
Once they are in the southern EU states they will have relatively easy movement within it and quite probably to the UK. We should be thinking about this now, not frothing about learning lessons or who is in charge as it represents a greater threat to UK security.
I wonder if an EU ‘deal’ to share the burden is on the horizon.
In the medium term, if Gaddafi does go there are a number of possible scenarios. Worse of all would be a tribal or civil war with factions of the armed forces taking up positions on tribal lines but there have been some encouraging signs that the oft predicted venting of harboured grudges will not happen. The east of the country is traditionally more tribal than others but they have demonstrated a great deal of cooperation in freeing themselves of Gaddafi.
The deep rivalry between the military and security apparatus like the 32nd Brigade may also be a source of conflict.
It is an unpredictable time, Libya is not Egypt.