When we started operations in Libya I did question the strategic interest, where were the UK’s interests in expending treasure and risking blood, frankly, I didn’t see it. In fact, our true strategic interests actually lay with maintaining the status quo, supporting the Gadaffi regime and possibly assisting with a managed transition that minimised bloodshed, contained the refugee problem and yes, kept the oil flowing.
Like many dictators though, Gadaffi was great at staying in power bit monumentally useless at seeing his long term vulnerability and once he started machine gunning protesters, any understanding or unwritten agreement with the West was null and void.
Hi long term future involves either a bullet or a hot seat at the Hague, especially as the rhetoric from the US, UK and France is that Libya has no future with him still in place, thus closing any doors to a negotiated transition.
Tough talking inevitably has consequences.
So no matter what doubts I and most others had, once we had engaged, they were rendered irrelevant.
There is no wriggling out, there is no backsliding or whining about others not taking part.
We have made our bed and have to lie in it.
In the last post on this I asked if it was time to ante up, the alternative being a minimum effort engagement that results in a stalemate, a gradual and begrudged slide into committing ground forces and the partition of Libya, with a pissed off Gadaffi & Sons running the show in Tripoli.
It is therefore in the UK’s interests to have a stable country on the southern border of Europe, a nation that is not a source of tens of thousands of refugees that Italy will happily rubber stamp permits for and send them on their way to the land of milk and welfare honey, the UK that is, and a nation that could be a valuable trading partner.
Direct intervention now has many many pitfalls but a swift operation to achieve a decisive victory for the rebels might be preferable to the long drawn out alternative.
But do we have the capability, even with the political will?
Despite the knocking from some quarters in the USA with inappropriate talk of aircraft being only useful for air shows and weight pulling, the fact is, yes, the UK and France does have the capability to mount a ground operation, supported by appropriate land and sea forces.
They are currently in Afghanistan, on a mission of dubious strategic interest.
Perhaps Mr Cameron and Sarkozy might use Libya as the fulcrum on which to lever our early withdrawal from Afghanistan.
If you had to analyse where the UK and France’s actual strategic interests lie, I would venture that Libya comes higher on a list than Afghanistan.
Maybe it’s time to choose.