One of Our Principles is Missing

Misrata Libya

Reported widely today is the ongoing discussions on possible military action in Libya. A No-fly zone seems the easiest option and one which is gathering support. Some of the loudest calls for action are coming from an alliance of left wing interventionists who have obviously forgotten the lessons of Iraq and the Balkans and indeed their opposition to them. Indeed the parallels between Libya and Iraq are striking, both are nations with a despotic dictator and both have had a brush with defeat. Yet as Sadam, post-Desert Storm, was widely predicted to go down ‘in weeks’ it would seem Gaddafi is also widely predicted to go soon but has decided not to grant everyone’s wishes, every indication is that he is going to hang on as long as possible.

The Libyan opposition movement in the east of the country would seem on the face of it to be disorganised, lacking in training and bereft of heavy weapons and aircraft.

Who knows what will happen, events might surprise us and Gaddafi could go soon or he could just decide a protracted civil war is his bet, against the lightly armed opposition, he might even be able to prevail. With news coming out of Libya that government forces have retaken Ras Lanuf the military momentum is clearly with Gaddafi.

The NATO meeting today was preceded by  Secretary-General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, saying;

“Any operation we undertake needs to respect three key principles: firstly there has to be demonstrable need for NATO action, secondly there has to be a clear legal basis, and thirdly there has to be firm regional support,” he said, as NATO defence ministers met to discuss options to respond to the turmoil in Libya, including a possible no-fly zone”

I suspect NATO will continue planning for a no-fly zone, increase stand off-air and maritime capabilities but do nothing without a UN resolution.

Speaking on the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme this morning, Dr Fox explained the principles under which a no-fly zone over Libya could be implemented:

“We’ve set out three principles that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have made very clear, the first is that there would have to be a demonstrable need for a no-fly zone, the second would be that there was a strong legal basis for it, and third, that there is broad international regional support.

“I think it’s very easy to see the difficulties that there would be were we not to have our countries involved in any such operation. But I think it’s also fair to say that today’s meeting of NATO Defence Ministers is to look at all the options; it’s not there to take decisions on launching any specific operations.”

So that sounds like talks about what we might possibly or possibly not do, maybe sometime in the future.

I am with Lord Dannatt on this one, in the Telegraph today he said

I think just talking about a no-fly zone – Robert Gates in the United States said that was rather loose talk. I think it is fairly loose talk. We need to be quite clear what our national interest is as far as Libya is concerned.

Previous no-fly zones have not been terribly effective, mostly just prolonging conflicts but there is one principle that Dr Fox and other’s seem to have forgotten in the rush to ‘get their gun on’ and it is this

What is the UK’s interest here

Have we really learned nothing from the vanity and hubris of Blair, putting service personnel in harm’s way, the same personnel the government is making redundant etc, so politicians can puff out their chests and bask in a bit of uniform love?

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