As the engagement in Libya rolls on, it may yet dawn on some of the self obsessed minds in Whitehall that this thing may be a wee bit more complex than the initial wheeze it might have seemed to their PR orientated minds. Obviously, our coalition government has a plan so cunning that only a fox could spot it which would explain why I, not being a fox, am completely confounded. We've discussed before, here and here, what madness it is for the UK to be involved in Libya and events have moved on.
Having dispersed with the usual niceties of having diplomats shuttling all over the place trying to find a diplomatic solution before committing our forces, we went straight to weapons free as a result of a backroom deal cobbled together at the UN by a disparate collection of diplomats. The British people now find themselves, without any national debate, embroiled in a complex problem that I'm convinced our apparent leaders only have scant, if any, appreciation of.
David Cameron & Nick Clegg discuss Libyan Intervention
The whole thing is an ill advised and poorly thought through shambles, which has all the ingredients to morph into a complete catastrophe.
I've been loitering over at Think Defence and I repeat here some comments I made there about where we now find ourselves.
Consider the following:
1. What is the national interest of the UK here?
2. Germany, a key NATO member, is on the sidelines.
3. …. so is Russia, who are happy to see the West embroiled in yet another middle eastern op.
4. The Italians, who have the greatest national interest in Libya are on the sidelines and hedging their bets; ie, their airfields can be used, (for the moment), but their forces are not engaging.
5. What exactly has all this to do with NATO, has it become the armed wing of the UN now or just a convenient cover for some countries to legalise their offensive ops without declaring war?
6. Where did the Arab League disappear to? Bet none of us saw that coming did we…..
7. Who is actually making the calls on the operation now, what is the aim and what is the exit plan? No, I didn’t think so….
8. Has anyone bothered to explain the risks involved here to civillian population in the coalition countries of a terror strike by Gadaffi agents?
9. Can we run a concurrent and potentially much larger op in the Gulf if trouble kicks off there, and where our real national interest lies?
10 Odd that the French, who took what they suggested was the moral high ground in Iraq, should be so aggressive in leading the Libyan campaign…….. why though, are we trotting after them?
11. The loose, and temporary, affiliation of rag tag rebels are only advancing because they are backed by billions of pounds of the best military technology on the planet. At some point, boots will be required on the ground, if just to maintain order when Gadaffi is swinging from a lamppost. From where will they come?
12. It’s not news that the rebels include AQ fighters. Gadaffi was happy to send some of the more fundamentalist elements in the East to Afghan over the past ten years. Now they’re back, how do we feel about supporting them?
13. Isn’t this one operation where the Chiefs could have turned round and said, “On this occasion Prime Minister, it might be an air bridge too far?”
14. Interesting too that the Sherman’s are stepping back by refusing to countenance arming the rebels or committing ground troops. They’ve also sent the USS Enterprise back to the Red Sea. They are definitely on a direct path to let Europe deal with this. We’re going to be left holding this orphan baby and it’s not ours.
15. At the moment, we’ve succeeded in helping to disperse lots of arms all around the area which have been looted by the rebels from government arms dumps. These include, just to keep us on our toes for the next twenty five years, hundreds if not thousands of shoulder launched air defence missiles.
16.Potentially supplying arms to a disorganised rabble with no command and control, no logistics and no training will not help to eject Gadaffi. We’ve seen in the last 24 hrs that the rebels turned tail and legged it down the road at 80mph, not because they needed more arms but because they’re crap and didn’t know what to do when someone had the temerity to shoot back at them.
17. Meanwhile, a king sized problem is brewing in Yemen where things are very close to kicking off but nobody is taking any interest. Thing is, AQ do have power and influence there and could easily slip into any power vacum created by instability.
18. Our key national interest in the region though, remains firmly focused on Bahrain and Saudi. Instability there, under Iranian influence, would create massive problems for the UK and actually, the whole global economy.
Anyone normal citizen, who doesn't spend most of his time talking to the media or policy advisors will be well aware there is no groundswell of public support for involvement in Libya. Whilst no one has any sympathy for Gadaffi there is no resonance from the public who, at the least, question the unnecessary cost involved. EUReferendum has some interesting numbers, and a few other pithy facts in posts which HMG may find somewhat unsettling in the event they listened to anyone other than the BBC or Sky.
The whole sorry situation brings to mind a speech that Cameron made on the deck of Ark Royal, shortly before he promptly scraped it. After grandstanding about the Covenant, Drake and Nelson he said,
" It is time for us to think again about how to make our country safe, how to project power in the world, how to look after our national interest, and how to make sure we are secure for the future. That is what we should do."
Getting into his stride of fairy tale make belief he then went on to say,
".....it is time for us to rewrite that Military Covenant, to make sure that we are doing everything we can for you and your families at home, whether it is the schools you send you children to, whether it is the healthcare that you can expect, whether it is the fact that there should be a dedicated military ward for anyone who gets injured or wounded in Afghanistan or elsewhere."
Well, I'm here to help so here's an idea Prime Minister. Instead of loosing off Storm Shadow missiles at £1m a copy in a country where we have no business being, why don't you throw some cash at whichever genius came up with this, so we can get our lads out of wheelchair's....