The West is dithering over Libya, and the result is innocent civilians are dying, and will die in even larger numbers if all we do is talk. We seem to have learned nothing from Iraq, nothing except the wrong lessons that is.
It’s all George W Bush’s fault of course. If there had been no stupid war in Iraq (it held no Al Qaeda or Weapons of Mass Destruction, there was no United Nations second Resolution – but there was lots of oil) and the West had instead hunted Osama bin Laden down in Afghanistan with more troops much earlier, not only would lives not have been lost so much in Iraq in the past or in Afghanistan now, but our reputation in the Arab world would be much higher and our hands would be much freer to act over Libya. Having said that, if we had a little more leadership from Obama and Cameron on the issue now it would help.
We know Dubya had a problem with long words, and one word that he clearly never got to grips with was ‘precedent’. Because he created a precedent of invasion for the wrong reasons back then, the West is now paralysed with fear over using military force for the right reasons now. In fact, Western governments aren’t even keen on a Bosnian style ‘No Fly Zone’. They’re pretending that a UN resolution is needed, when there was never one needed for the NFZ in Bosnia and nobody complained about that at the time as it definitely saved lives.
Now the West has said very early on that they would not act without a UN resolution despite Libya being in the NATO threat area, and since Russia and China have both said they would veto any such resolution, it effectively frees Gaddafi to wreak what havoc he likes. The West has cut off whatever vestige of balls it had left and replaced their brains with the scraps.
OK, perhaps Western forces are a little over-extended, and George W’s wrecking of the World economy (less and less regulation of financial markets allowing an accumulation of problem debt which vapourised just as he was leaving office) has ensured that there is also very little money available to support democracy in Libya with any large military force. But the initial rush to place sanctions on sending any arms to Libya has nullified not Gaddafi (who has been building up his arms for years from Western suppliers) but the under-equipped rebels who desperately need some kit to fight off Gaddafi’s foreign mercenaries, particularly the reputedly Syrian piloted Libyan Air Force.
In any case, Gaddafi has had sanctions applied before, and with so many porous borders to poorer countries has always been able to get around them.
There’s an astonishing amount of hand-wringing and lack of Statesmanship around. Even now the EU are still talking and not acting. By the time they have decided what to do, it’ll be far too late. Here’s David Cameron talking tough:
We are going to step up today, in the European Council, measures to isolate that regime and measures to put pressure on that regime and we should plan for every eventuality as I’ve been arguing now for around two weeks, this is absolutely vital work.
Sorry David, leaders don’t argue, they act, lead and initiate. Do you really think Gaddafi cares one iota about Western pressure? No, he’s a paranoid psychotic who only wishes to take bloody revenge on the rebels. You can’t reason with minds such as his. Anyway, where would he go? Why would he want to go? He has everything he wants where he is. He has oil, billions of dollars in the bank, military force, and the will to murder as many people as it takes.
The only thing Gaddafi understands is force. Remember the US Air Force strike on his desert tent that night all those years ago? There was no UN Resolution for that, no diplomatic discussions, just Wham! Bam! Thank you Ma’am. Bomb dropped.
Gaddafi’s behaviour changed markedly after that, he became very much more subdued. He is basically a bully, and bully’s are usually cowards. They talk tough, and if you believe them (like some in the West obviously did with Saddam Hussein) then you become their puppet to be manipulated at will. And the fact that Gaddafi is now talking of a full military campaign against the rebels in the East must be a warning to the West to stop talking, and act now. What has happened in Zawiya, as reported by an ITN reporter last night, is a stark warning to be heeded. The reporter talked of devastation on a massive scale after tanks, planes, and artillery bombarded the town mercilessly.
If the West is serious about wishing to spread democracy it must do something now. If all it does is talk, talk, talk, a message will go out to all despots and dictators that while the West may shout loud, it carries a small stick and they can indulge themselves as much as they like.
However, perhaps Democratic Reform isn’t something that Cameron or the West are serious about; just the oil. After all, the UK is holding a referendum about Electoral Reform in a few weeks time, and David Cameron stands firmly against change, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised he is more concerned with putting on a PR front than doing anything useful, rather like his “mojo-less” colleague William Hague who seems to concentrate more on having the timbre of his voice always at the right level rather being in charge of events happening on his watch and in his brief.
There is one obvious reason why Hague’s FCO advisors may be wary about assisting democracy in Libya (apart from the surprise and unpreparedness they had for current events) and that is fear of the “Muslim Brotherhood”. Perhaps they see democracy as a way for an aggressive muslim fundamentalist regime to take control over Libya’s light, sweet crude and err on the side of keeping all doors to this possibility closed?
In my opinion that would be a mistake. Many of the world’s muslim groups that have been branded ‘terrorists’ have only territorial squabbles – Hizbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, and the peaceful Egyptian Brotherhood in Egypt. We should always ask about the motives of those providing us with the intelligence on the Middle East: defectors tell lies to gain privilege, torture doesn’t work, and certain countries are involved with territorial issues that take precedence over wider Western needs.
Yes, of course there are violent groups too, and Egypt has its share of Al Qaeda sympathisers, but I would question whether in any country they are in the majority, or even a significant miniority. In Libya, the protestors just want justice and freedom. What’s wrong with that?
Are we brave enough to help them gain it?