In my piece, "Libya, The Wrong Issue For Britiain," I discussed the rank stupidity of our politicians grandstanding on the world stage about Libya where we have no pressing national interest. It is for others who do have such an interest to take the lead and commit their resources; our forces have a few other things to occupy themselves with. Taking the discussion a stage further, lets examine the no-fly zone concept which is being bandied about as if it where as easy to implement as putting the washing on. It isn't. Of course, one thing we do know about is no-fly zones. A good starting point for the interested mind would be simply to stare at the sky above Terminal 5 whenever there's a hint of snow or indeed, above our aircraft carrier now that our forward thinking Whitehall strategists have binned the Harrier; that'll be empty too. Actually, they tin tacked the Ark this week as well so I guess the British will be using that American innovation of using large islands like Britain as aircraft carriers by using....... ehmmmm, how far away is Cyprus from Libya?
Smart people stop and think rather than talking off the cuff. Those that do might readily quickly conclude that in order to protect the aircraft enforcing the no-fly zone, one must begin by suppressing enemy air defenses. In order to systematically neutralise those defenses we need to know where they are.
We could of course take a stab at guessing where or even make the assumption that they have none but testing those theories out can be somewhat dangerous for those involved.
Now, my experience and knowledge of air defence is limited to shoulder launched weapons but was anyway, years ago. Nonetheless, even the pedestrian observer will realise that to maintain a no fly zone constant patrolling is required by surveillance aircraft and an absolute preparedness to immediately strike at enemy air defence radar's that are radiating. The enemy of course, is not stupid and many gun and missile positions will be located in built up areas, close to schools and hospitals and the like.
Also, despite the best efforts of the billions of pounds spent on military-industrial complex, years of training and the best of intentions mistakes do happen. For example, the rebels in Benghazi have captured many government weapons, including armour. A few missile strikes in error on the rebels isn't going to come over too well on Al Jazeera.
There can be no doubt that our politicians regard a no-fly zone as a low cost, low risk option. The reality could be anything but and indeed, what it would actually achieve is open to question.
Even if the rebels were to overcome Ghadafi, and that doesn't look like happening anytime soon, ideas of a quick surgical action followed by flag waving, free and happy people is utter nonsense. If we have learned anything from Iraq it should be that engagement in other countries requires long term planning, commitment and resources. To my mind, we have a paucity of all three in the UK.
France meanwhile, is displaying an uncharacteristic enthusiasm for intervention; nothing to do of course, as Bronte points out, with Total's interests in Libya.
Britain needs to stand off and prepare for any action that may be required in the Gulf, for that is where our national interest lies. I will finally point out, if we were so concerned with human rights, democracy and freedom then we'd be sailing down to the Ivory Coast to sort that impending bloodbath out but, sorry; no oil or media correspondents to speak of there.