Before a No Fly Zone

Misrata Libya

Now I know the image is the flag of Afghanistan but before we start thinking about no-fly zones and humanitarian intervention in Libya we need to look at the aspects of ‘learning lessons from the previous post on Afghanistan.

Emotionally, it’s a no brainer isn’t it, Gaddafi is bombing civilians with his aircraft and the morally right thing to do is step in and stop it.

But a no-fly zone means that we have to enter another nation’s airspace uninvited and that nation has the right to defend itself, whoever we might be right. Realistically, we would have to precursor that operations with the destruction of Libyan ground-based air defences, for example, means killing Libyans.

Are we thinking twice, hopefully, all the talk is measured to achieve an effect, a slow ratcheting up of pressure designed to convince those with most to lose that it is worth losing compared to the alternative?

If we do commit there will be consequences, lives will be lost, mostly Libyan but very possibly UK and allied service personnel. What are the political, long term implications of intervening in what is shaping up to be a civil war.

The question we need to ask is this

What is in it for the UK

If we do decide to intervene for humanitarian reasons or to facilitate a change of government then what is our ultimate end objective, without an objective then there can be no strategy.

The role of Libya’s neighbours has to be fully articulated, if there is to be a no-fly zone then they should be fully engaged, if not, the question as to why we are doing something should be ringing in the back of everyone’s minds.

Finally, the politicians need to be very clear that their mouths are not writing cheques the armed forces cannot cash and the service chiefs need to find the backbone to be very clear what the limits of our capabilities are.

Only then should we discuss the ways and means.

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