The Next Move in Libya

You have to sympathise with mainstream media hacks, on the same day that the Telegraph pronounced that RAF Typhoons are unable to engage in air to ground sorties the MoD released a video of one doing just that.

The Royal Air Force’s most advanced warplanes have been unable to drop bombs on Libyan targets because defence spending cuts mean that pilots are not fully trained, The Telegraph can disclose.

Was followed by this from the MoD

Typhoon jets are providing a ground attack capability in addition to Tornado GR4 aircraft as British forces continue to support NATO operations in Libya.

Funnily enough, the Telegraph also had the same story shortly after!

Knowledgeable readers of Think Defence will know that the Typhoon is only cleared for a limited range of air to ground weapons, the Enhanced Paveway II, not Paveway IV and Brimstone as carried by the Tornado, and this was the weapon used.

Some might say that a thousand pounder is somewhat excessive for a single tank, some might say this is a bit of PR spin, some might even say the fact that funding has not been provided to enable integration of Brimstone/Paveway IV is rather  poor!

Hard choices prompted by budgetary pressures will always slow down the less high profile activities like weapons carriage and release trials and to be fair to the RAF, if Tornado can carry Paveway IV and Brimstone then integration onto Typhoon was probably seen as something acceptable to delay. With the withdrawal of the Harrier though, and the likely accelerated drawdown of Tornado squadrons surely it would make sense to accelerate integration of all the systems able to be released from the Tornado, in addition to the RAPTOR pod, before the F35 comes into service.

Anyway, enough of this fun, what is happening in Libya and more importantly, what is the next move.

The African Union peace delegations failure to secure an agreement from the rebels surprised no one and now we seem to have descended into the bickering and squabbling phase with the Uk and France making none too subtle accusations of the lack of engagement from other NATO members. The newly formed ‘Contact Group‘ has followed up with a call for Gaddafi to stand down.

The contact group was formed at an international ministerial conference in London on 29 March and includes European powers, the US, allies from the Middle East and a number of international organisations.

So now we have NATO, the EU, the African Union, the League of Arab States and the United Nations all having a dabble in Libya.

With Misrata under siege and a lack of conclusive outcomes it seems clear that the quick and decisive victory for the rebels is is a forlorn hope. Despite the UN resolution being primarily about protecting civilians and not regime change, regime change was always the desired outcome and with every day that passes, Gadaffi’s position gets stronger. Yes he may be the subject of sanctions and of course his heavy armour is gradually being eliminated but against the weak rebel opposition, what he has would seem to be enough.

As the rebels again rejected the AU plan the EU seems to be positioning itself to participate in a ground operation.

The EU I hear you say, surely some mistake, a paper tiger, good at parades and arguing about what to call the mission but bugger all use for anything else.

The Irish Times are reported that EU Foreign Ministers have resolved to conduct a military operation in Libya, but only if it gets a note from mum, in this case the UN. The mission would be called ‘EUfor Libya’ and in the words of Baroness Ashton,

“It is absolutely right that in terms of looking at humanitarian support one uses assets very carefully, especially military assets, because it’s very important that people involved in humanitarian aid are safe.”

Such a mission is contingent on a request from the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), giving it a UN mandate.

As for William Hague and Alain Juppé stamping their feet up and down, whining about other NATO members not sharing, if I was the Spanish, Italian or German political leaders I would be inclined to remind them that NATO is a political, defensive organisation and Libya is not massing for an attack on Berlin, Rome or Madrid.

In short, you made your bed, so you can bloody well lie in it, why should we carry the cost and risk of French and British military adventurism.

With a rising tide of refugees crossing the water into Italy, the very real likelihood of the need for a massive aid effort and the ongoing slaughter in Misrata whatever comes next must be done quickly.

Trying to get back by with the minimum force level is not good enough but if we get involved on the ground we become responsible for every casualty and more importantly, whatever comes next. Gadaffi seems to have genuine support so if we did put ground forces in they will be taking sides in someone else’s war.

The folly of getting involved in the first place is obvious for all to see and I think we could all have easily written the script as played out so far but to reuse a very well worn phrase, we are where we are.

What would be the lesser of two evils; a a series of sharp, direct, air, sea and land actions to fracture the Gadaffi power base or having a partitioned Libya, with continual civil war and an enduring air operation that will prove to be inconclusive yet leave Gadaffi in power?

We can ill afford a protracted peacekeeping or peace enforcement operation like the Balkans.

Although in the stalemate scenario Gadaffi would keep his head down, he is not stupid after all, the likelihood of him linking up with a resurgent Northen Irish republican movement or al Qaida should not be immediately or casually dismissed. A festering sore on the southern borders of Europe is going to have to be lanced at some point and that point may well be when Gadaffi has had he time to rebuild his defences from the Russian, North Korean and Chinese weapons catalogues.

It is with some reluctance that I wonder if now is the time to instigate decisive actions to get rid of Gadaffi, directly, not using proxies or supporting the rebels but simply go straight down the middle.

If the difference between a legal and an illegal action is some Chinese fellow raising his hand in New York whilst selling Libya anti aircraft missiles, then should we really care anyway. The UN provides us with a wafer thin convenient fig leaf of legality, from which to hide behind, but is it really important when our long term security is at stake?

What is the next move, not sure, but I think we should be seriously considering taking the gloves off and telling the Russians and Chinese to do one.


If you want a far saner look at options for the UK,  this article, from Shashank Joshi, of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) is a great read.

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April 13, 2011 10:16 pm

According to MoD we are currently providing 25% of the strike assets(not to shabby) but that NATO need more to be effective (code for we need the Americans again). This has shown that despite the promises about EU defence since kosovo ect that without US assets we are incapable of doing much as an eu force for any period of time let alone UK only. How much longer will American tax payers be prepare to fund EU (and UK) defence when they face their own financial hardship?

It should be worth noting that the UK amphib group has sailed for the med and although this has been long planned it has sailed 3-4 weeks early. With the US marine force still in the med could a safe haven in misrata (like the kurdish one in 1991) be a possibility.

April 13, 2011 10:56 pm

That ” With the US marine force still in the med could a safe haven in misrata (like the kurdish one in 1991) be a possibility” is what I’ve said all along:
– RM will be used to secure a beach head (joking: a port!)for delivery of humanitarian aid, but will refrain from any offensive operations. Italian marines will probably also go ashore and the Americans (& Black Watch, if it still in readiness) are to watch the back of those ashore.

A cease fire (and the green line in the middle, with brother Arabs watching that one)will not be possible otherwise, as the whole town of Misrata would be left up for slaughter.I.e. absolutely no way then to claim “mission accomplished”.

Michael (Civ.)
Michael (Civ.)
April 13, 2011 11:09 pm

Good to see the RAF using the Typhoon like that, some might call it using a sledgehammer to crack a nut but i’ve no problem with anyone using a cheap 1,000lb bomb on an expensive tank.

I prefer Shashank Joshi’s idea but it’s probably too much of a fudge for most people, even though it would tie up both sides and get them focused on each other rather than anyone else in the outside world.

However, we like to go in for clear cut victories don’t we. I hope they aren’t going to do what you’re suggesting & what Mark seems to think is a possibility. Have we degraded their armed forces enough already to be able to invade the place?

I really don’t like it that the Coalition Gov. is doing pretty much what New Labour did. Why do these shiny faced politicians think it’s ok to fight wars in different places simultaneously?

April 14, 2011 2:42 am

“This has shown that despite the promises about EU defence since kosovo ect that without US assets we are incapable of doing much as an eu force for any period of time let alone UK only.”

Wait, wait, wait! Promises? What promises?

And where is the connection between “European defence” and bombing Libyan loyalists in a Libyan civil war? I see none.
This intervention is foreign policy, but not defence policy.

April 14, 2011 8:33 am

Lets imagine for a moment, that hours after the first bombardments, 1500 Royal Marines poured into Ras Lanuff and 1000 Paras were helicoptered into surrounding strong points.
Hours later, in this beach head, a (half sized) armoured regiment was deployed.

A Strategic Raid could have ended this in hours.

As for reality?
Gadafi is popular.
In the same way Gordon Brown is popular, in his version of Newcastle.

The problem is was and always will be thaty Libya is not a country, its a line on a map in which several dozen tribes live, quite a lot of whom dont live entirely within the borders (shades of afghanistan…)

Gadafi was popular with his tribe, and their allies, and he subjugated the other tribes.
The other tribes rebelled, and if we put them in control, will, within 5 years, have weeded out members of the western tribes from government, and wealth, and have their own secret police torturing them.

Once the rebellion kicked off, the only way to prevent a massacre was the split the country and allow people on the wrong side of the border to cross.

The only was to prevent a massacre and protect our oil interests, was to make sure the border went from Sirte to the Tunisian/Algerian border.

Killing Gadafi doesnt really change anything.
Beyond of course my election prospects.

I would have thought a 1000lb LGB was cheaper than a Brimstone.
Its certainly cheaper than a Storm Shadow.

Brian Black
Brian Black
April 14, 2011 11:11 am

Typhoon may not have Brimstone and Paveway IV just yet, and we’ll have to see how their integration goes, but I doubt we‘ll see a gap in those capabilities.
NATO is only involved in Libya because it has the international command structure needed to run the show. There’s no obligation for other NATO states to get involved. If Britain and France are sweating over the greater participation of other NATO countries, then perhaps both governments have a lesson to learn in consequential thinking.

There seems to have been the presumption that Gadaffi’s forces would crumble after a week or two of bombing; and I get the impression that no other possible outcome was considered prior to our involvement.

From early media reports, a quick win in Libya did seem a reasonably plausible outcome. Gadaffi apparently had little popular support and relied on foreign mercenaries – forces not likely to show enduring loyalty to the regime once the tide was seen to be turning against them. As time has gone on, it would seem that the regime was significantly stronger than was supposed.

Beginning this operation with self-imposed restrictions is also only likely to have given increased hope to Gadaffi that he‘d be able to bear the coalition strikes.

IMO we do now need to accept escalation or failure. And if we are to accept the escalation of the level of our involvement, I think it’s likely that the UN’s approval will be considered less important than it has been so far.

Seeking a UN resolution was something of a charade anyway; with politicians and diplomats seeking a superficially humanitarian mission whilst making blatant nods and winks towards regime change.

So escalation or failure? It would be quite a sobering experience – to have the world’s most powerful military bloc seen off by a couple of irregular tinpot brigades. I wonder if the politicians are prepared to see that happen.

A Different Gareth
A Different Gareth
April 14, 2011 11:12 am

“Some might say that a thousand pounder is somewhat excessive for a single tank, some might say this is a bit of PR spin, some might even say the fact that funding has not been provided to enable integration of Brimstone/Paveway IV is rather poor!”

Some might also say BAE continues Typhoon Paveway IV testing from March this year.

The Paveway IV programme has been running since mid 2009 at least. Do such things normally take this long?

Dangerous Dave
Dangerous Dave
April 14, 2011 1:01 pm

Mostly, what DominicJ said!

From a purely humanitarian view, maybe partition and (forced) reconcilliation would be the way to go. Libya is a big, mostly artificial country. There’s plenty of cpace to divide it up amongst the two main factions, and still give them each a share of the oil. The problems are that; firstly, the west doesn’t have a great track record of reconstituting middle-eastern countries (the various Mandates that we and the French gave ourselves post WWI), and secondly reconcilliation is necessary to stop Libya turning into an internicine civil war zone like Lebanon.

April 14, 2011 1:25 pm

I know it has been mentioned before, taking the port of Misrata, but I read yesterday that the French FM had said that this is exactly what will be happening shortly, that France and UK will sieze the port to allow for humanitarian operations. Cannot find the source again, has anyone else seen this comment or did I just “imagine it”?!?

Michael (Civ.)
Michael (Civ.)
April 14, 2011 2:08 pm

Just out of interest, when was the last time a limited intervention using just air-power worked?

I don’t think Kosavo counts as we were on the verge of sending a hundred and fifty thousand soldiers in on the ground and the Serb’s knew that. There is no troop build-up in any of the countries surrounding Libya, that i know of anyway :)

Tubby, i think i heard something like that awhile back but can’t remember where. Maybe the French have finally caught the western politician’s disease, namely leak what you’re going to say or do to the Press days before you say or do it.

On partitioning etc etc……if we do that with Libya, then why not do it with every other African country that had it’s borders defined by other people. A start has already been made with Sudan hasn’t it? Also does everyone remember the insane little war between Ethiopea & Eritria after they split up?

Two of the most impoverished countries on this Earth borrowing money to buy weapons to kill each other. That has to be the second craziest war ever fought, the first being the “Football War”!

Of course that’s IMHO.

Brian Black
Brian Black
April 14, 2011 2:32 pm

The restrictions on the use of land forces has been cropping up in a few French statements recently, Tubby. Possibly indicating a wish to get troops in on the ground? IDK.
Are fast jets with 1000lb bombs, or Brimstone, suitable for an enemy increasingly shifting towards pick-up truck warfare?

The Yanks with their A10 and AC130 would be handy right now. Just shows up another absent capability within Europes forces; and makes me wonder whether the magical F35 will be accepted as a suitable replacement for USAF A10, along with everything else it’s meant to replace.

April 14, 2011 3:06 pm

I dont want a temporary split.
I think two entirely seperate countries is the way forward, like Portugal is no longer part of Spain, or Hungary is no longer aprt of Austria.
Full split, go your own way.

Interesting, I’d not heard misrata mentioned, but there is a 600 strong Royal Marine force en route.
I’d just assumed for Ras Lanuff or Sirte.

Michael (Civ)
Self Determination

I can see a 1000lb bomb being over kill for a pick up truck, and brimstone probably costs significantly more, but I doubt they will prove ineffective. Didnt France change the course of the Toyota war with a few airstrikes?

April 14, 2011 3:10 pm

This “Clinton says Gadhafi regime militias and mercenaries have fired mortar and artillery rounds into residential areas in Misurata. In a statement Wednesday, Clinton says the regime reportedly has destroyed food warehouses and cut off water and power to the contested city in an apparent attempt to starve the people into submission.

Clinton says snipers targeted people seeking medical attention. Thousands are being forced from their homes by tanks. And regime officials are promising to attack humanitarian aid shipments to the western city.

Clinton says attacks on civilians must stop.”
went onto the electronic version of Washington Post midnight our time
– it clearly lays out a justification for doing “something” (more, that is)

April 14, 2011 3:22 pm

“The Royal Air Force’s most advanced warplanes have been unable to drop bombs on Libyan targets because defence spending cuts mean that pilots are not fully trained, The Telegraph can disclose.”

According the Sharkey, the Typhoons are bombing targets “sparkled” (thanks Jed) by an accompanying Tornado, because the Typhoon pilots havent yet trained with the targeting pods.

Looks like we’re going into Misrata then.
If only Cameron wasnt too stupid to learn from his mistakes, we’d be a shoe in for SR come budget time.

Michael (Civ.)
Michael (Civ.)
April 14, 2011 4:12 pm

From what little i know of how military operations were planned in the past (that you start from an end point & work your way backwards), does anyone see any evidence that that we still plan this way?


Self Determination?

To me that means you sort it out yourself and don’t rely on other people to come to your aid.

I know that we’d get dammed if we do & dammed if we didn’t, that people would call whatever we did hypocritical, depending on their point of view.

It’s a pity that Gaddafi & his merry band of nutters thought it might be a good idea to cuddle up to Russia & China but i see no reason to trust or support that other bunch of nutters in Benghazi.

I know that i might sound mealy mouthed but i know that there is lot’s going on that i don’t have good information on, i can only hope that whatever they decide to do, they do it for the right reasons.

I suppose the thing that really annoy’s me is that once again a government is basing decisions on information that it won’t put into the public domain. We’ve been down that road and honestly i’m getting fed up with it.

Richard Stockley
Richard Stockley
April 14, 2011 4:14 pm

My tank recognition not being what it used to be, the film seemed to show a motley collection of T-72’and T-62’s seemingly abandoned at an already bombed out facility. Are we bombing unserviceable and abandoned vehicles to justify the mission?

I’ve already read that NATO has taken out a number of old and abandoned Tu-22 Blinders ‘just in case’ they were made serviceable.

In this sense, and not to detract from the very real danger inherent in the mission, the RAF is taking part in some very real target practice on targets of very little military importance, should we therefore be risking our pilots lives over enemy territory on anything less than the most significant and real threats?

April 14, 2011 4:38 pm

“According the Sharkey…”


“IMO we do now need to accept escalation or failure.”
Indeed, seems this is coming to the same crossroads we are all too familiar with, the ehco of Afghan and Iraq also had a similar junction.

April 14, 2011 5:11 pm

I saw a report in the last couple of days that MOD was planning to distribute 500 satellite phone units to the rebels (actually it was on the same day as the NATO strike-in-error on the rebel tank, which made it especially significant). A very sensible idea, but why on earth didn’t someone do this three weeks ago?

April 14, 2011 5:12 pm
April 14, 2011 5:19 pm

The point here is that there were a lot of good arguments for not getting into this in the first place, but now that we’re in it, Gaddafi absolutely has to be destroyed – killed or imprisoned. If he’s left in power he’s going to want revenge, and given the kind of stuff he did to us in the 1980s when we hadn’t even given him a good reason, can you imagine what he’d try now that we’d actually bombed his country?

April 14, 2011 5:28 pm

Thanks Alex,

I loved it… and the billing app was centralised, so only the folks on the Tripoli side get a bill!

John Hartley
John Hartley
April 14, 2011 8:08 pm

Mission Creep!
Do we want to get stuck in another Afghanistan?
NATO airpower is stopping the worst, so stay as now, but get the politics going. Russia likes to feel important, so let them organise a conference to sort things out.
Iraq may not be an ideal model, but you have one country with 3 near autonomous regions (Sunni,Shia, Kurd), so Libya as one country with two autonomous regions may be the least worst option. Perhaps send back the young “King” of Libya to be the token constitutional figurehead.

For the UK a reality check. Defence needs some extra cash. Delay the increase to DfID & use it to arm RAF Typhoons with Paveway IV & Brimstone. Bring back one sqn of RN Harriers, while using grounded RAF Harriers for spares.
Give Typhoon conformal tanks & sort out the Airtanker PFI mess.

Phil Darley
April 14, 2011 8:27 pm

This may be a bit naive but all if these weapons (brimstone/stormshadow etc) were supposed to be integrated , as we the continual uograde of ALL aircraft to T3.

I don’t know how they arrange the costs in detail but it seems that all the integration is EXTRA!!!! It’s like buying a car and paying extra for seats, windows and paint.

It looks like the RAF and / or the MOD is trying to hamper the Typhoon. It was designed to be a swing role aircraft and should be given the means/kit to achieve it’s design potential! It is being fcuked over Nd I don’t know why?

I can only think the RAF have lost patience with the time it’s taken to become operational and are losing interest and hoping for an even newer and shinier toy!

If that us the case they are making big mistake, they should get as many Tiffys as they can and make sure they are fully spec’d S I don’t think much will be coming their way in the near future!

April 14, 2011 8:53 pm

I don’t think the MoD or RAF are trying to sabotage Typhoon. All this upgrade and FFBNW seems to be accepted MO. Much as it is with naval projects.

I confess that I bought the current issue of Airforce Monthly because it contained articles on the shape of the RAF in 2020 and the Boeing airtanker contract. There is an article in it about the recently departed ADV Tornadoes. The whole article is catalogue of this upgrade and that upgrade, this batch and that batch. But what caught my eye was the fact that the RAF sent a squadron (18 cabs?) of F3 ADV to GW1, but they sat out the conflict (well only flew in rear areas) because they didn’t have “correct” IFF equipment. So all those maintainers and all that apron space and a lot of AVCAT was wasted. But what got me was the way AM reported it was in a matter of fact, as if it was par for the course. I wouldn’t say useless equipment is deployed more “not functioning in the desire manner” perhaps? The article in AM made the RAF sound like it is heading for collapse. Not pretty reading. They need to consolidate on one Typhoon airframe, get them all up to the same’, and get some flyers trained. Better 72 that work now, than 100 or whatever all of different spec’ in the future. It seems the T1 Typhoon (which can’t be worn out surely) would be good bet to consolidate on rather T3 in the future. The goal posts seem to be ever moving.

Phil Darley
April 14, 2011 10:04 pm

The RAF website still states the T1s are to be upgraded. Why has this suddenly changed? I cxn accept 160 ish Tiffys as long as they are all fully spec’d but 107 is simply not enough.

April 14, 2011 10:06 pm

TD quoted: “Better to be a hard as coffin nails David than a big wet fart of a Goliath”

Dude, it’s way, way worse than that !

We are in fact a small and rather wimpy David, with multiple personality disorder who thinks he is a rock ard’ Goliath :-(

April 14, 2011 10:21 pm

Um. Yes I know about “fitted for, but not with” is the way of life in the MoD. The RN is lucky that ships have higher utility factor than aeroplanes and so can be of some use without weapons. For example only sad people like us are going notice than frigates near Libya aren’t all carrying Harpoon. Or who would really know if the Sea Wolf silo was half empty? The frigates did what was asked and “rescued” ex-pats; good thing that the Colonel didn’t have any Silkworms. The Rarden cannon is old hat, but it can still deliver 30mm shell full of HE on to a target; enough to keep Mr Taliban’s head down anyway. But sending a whole squadron to a war zone that can’t do anything, when you have the world’s primary air power on your side, and the opposition is a Third World force? I don’t understand. The RAF’s Lightning was bereft of a lot of toys available to export customers, but at least it functioned. It seems the RAF have been on a slippery slope ever since Tornado was purchased. Perhaps all those years ago the UK should have bought a second airframe from the US to cover fighter duties. How much better off would the RAF have been concentrating efforts purely on the GRx Tornadoes. And then buying, I don’t know, F16 off the shelf, tried and tested, and not to be fiddled with by DERA or whoever? Perhaps consolidation on to one aeroplane, even if that aeroplane itself has various differences between tranches, is a mistake? It is crackers. I am not going to say the following purely to be anti-RAF but if the organisation shut down tomorrow the UK would be no less safe than it is now. And that is so, so wrong.

April 15, 2011 12:40 am

I think Libya can be unified under a proper government. Don’t forget that there were large protests in Tripoli right at the start, till the crackdown beagn. I think we’re underestimating just how many of the people in the West of the country want shot of that prick, if you’ll pardon my French.

April 15, 2011 10:00 am

Michael Civ
One of the founding principles of the UN, possible even one of the 14 points, was that individual cultures and peoples should be allowed to set their own borders and laws.
If the “Benghazi” want Independance, the UN should support them.

It doesnt, because everyone with a vote has a group of seperatists it wants to keep boxed up, but thats by the by.

Come now, its hardly contested airspace.
Its expensive live fire practice if those tanks arent operable, and so wasteful, but not risky.

I saw little reason to question that detail, but I rarely accept what he says on face value.

Its a bit more like the Golf with the 3 litre V6 engine costs more than the 1.2

Chris B
That the people of Tripoli dont like Gadafi doesnt mean they do like whoever comes out as Hetman of Benghazi.

Phil Darley
April 15, 2011 11:12 am

Typhoon us not even FFBNW, we have the weapons and are operating on the GR4s. St the moment the fcuking things are not wired, computers programmed, and cleared for use. Not only that none if the aircrews are trained to use the bloody things in a2G!!! If that’s not bad enough we didn’t buy anywhere near enough spares. We use ours more than anyone else but bought the least spares of all 4 nations

Dangerous Dave
Dangerous Dave
April 15, 2011 12:20 pm

@ DJ-14/04:

No, I don’t want a temporary spplit. What I was trying to say was a permanent split and then a reconcilliation committee (like in South Africa) to lower tensions and increase the likelyhood of the 2 new countries “moving on” rather than descending into “what if’s” and “recriminations”.

April 15, 2011 1:29 pm

@Richard S
The Telegraph are indeed calling it abandoned and a stunt to offset criticism in the Public Accounts Cmtte report published today.

April 16, 2011 9:40 am

Re: the recent reports about cluster munitions being used in Misrata, conveniently Libya is not among the 108 nations that have banned them, as in
Kenya 03-Dec-08
Lao PDR 03-Dec-08 18-Mar-09
Lebanon 03-Dec-08 05-Nov-10
Lesotho 03-Dec-08 28-May-10
Liberia 03-Dec-08
Liechtenstein 03-Dec-08
Lithuania 03-Dec-08 24-Mar-11
Luxembourg 03-Dec-08 10-Jul-09
Macedonia, FYR 03-Dec-08 08-Oct-09

April 16, 2011 9:43 am

Further about cluster munitions: Why now, when not before?
– saturate the port area, and Misrata will effectively become cut off; end of story

April 17, 2011 11:51 am

Cut off?
From us?
Just send an armoured bulldozer in first, job done.
Custer bomblets aint gonna scratch a dozer blade.

Richard Stockley
Richard Stockley
May 23, 2011 9:42 pm

UK Apaches and French Tigers to Libya, we’re wading deeper and deeper in, next thing you know we’ll deploy 500 marines ashore to establish a beachhead.

Hmm, wait a minute, isn’t that what happened in Vietnam?

May 23, 2011 10:08 pm


When you add in the element of advisers for the local civil-war side of choice before that, more or less it is. More crucially for Libyans and their neighbours across the Magrheb, it has unpleasant echoes of what happened at Port Said. Sarkozy had his moment right at the start, and he botched it. The French, in that fashion of theirs that’s really quite a lot like the US — “we’ll do what we do, the world can get stuffed” — could have moved quite bluntly to kill Moammar and his senior sons in the name of a quick resolution and prevention of, well, exactly the situation we have now and its degeneration into even worse versions. I wonder how much of it was a sudden case of timidity (the French have never been all that timid about “regime change” in Africa, just look at Cote d’Ivoire), how much part of that international-law consensus that assasination is bad form (puts the ruling classes in the line of fire, don’tcherknow), and how much was Berlusconi pitching a private fit that if Qaddafi and all that Libyan oil/blood money keeping Italy solvent went down, Italy would renege on the debts owed across its pension system to French banks ….

May 24, 2011 7:32 am

north vietnam had a backer with deep pockets
whos backing west libya?

It does of course beg the question, could we have ended this in a week if 3cmdo went in heavy on day one

Richard Stockley
Richard Stockley
May 24, 2011 8:30 am

Hi Dominic, my comparison with Vietnam was more to do with a guerrilla warfare, the threat that I can see comes from the presence of Al-Qaeda Maghreb in Algeria. A deep pocketed backer is not required in this sense. Bin Laden’s beef with the West stemmed from foreign troops on Arabian soil (sand?). I feel that with the Arab Spring, Al Qaeda has been left somewhat out in the cold and lacking something of a future in North Africa. With the arrival of foreign troops in Libya, this could give them fresh impetus, especially with plenty of pro-Ghadaffi volunteers ready to pick up a rifle and strap on a suicide vest.

I’m sure 3 Cdo could have it wrapped up in a week, but it could be another 10 years before the last British soldier left Libya.