It's around about now, when things generally are going to hell in a handcart, that my old driver Bombardier Clark, full of expectation as to how his new boss planned to dig himself out of the proverbial, would utter the helpful phrase, "Well Sir, things are bit fvcking fvcked up now aren't they Sir,"
This phrase is probably becoming well worn in the Ministry of Defence and I'm sure they're glancing over to the Foreign Office and No 10 with that same bemused air as Libya starts to come apart at the seams and we approach a pretty important fork in the road.
It's clear that little has been learned from previous conflicts, not least of all the vacuum of diplomatic activity before we embarked on what some people obviously thought would be a tidy and quick little war where the bad guys would fall over in quick time and no one would have the temerity to shoot back. We're left now with a coalition consisting almost only of Britain & France but, with a myriad of vested interests hanging around the fringes but not wanting to get their hands dirty. Meanwhile Libya is descending into the chaos that we earlier thought probable and the fork in the road points to deeper involvement or cutting and running.
The clearest signal that the engagement is unravelling is that the allies are all beginning to blame each other. This never looks good in the Arab world, especially at a time when Gadaffi is sending envoys and letters across the world asking for a ceasefire and peace whist we're dropping 1000lb bombs on antiquated pieces of armour.
As time drags on and Gadaffi is able to consolidate after the earlier shock attacks, France and Britain may be faced with a stalemate that will inevitably lead to partition and Gadaffi remaining in situ. Whether he remains or not, the tribal make up of the country would suggest maps will be redrawn whatever the outcome and there will be the obvious rebuild cost to us for that. You simply can't wander around blowing up things and not be left with a bill at the end of it.
One of the first lessons traders learn is, "the first cut is the cheapest," and as for trading the same is true of warfare. If we've made a mistake, and I think we have, we must extract ourselves quickly. The national interest of the UK lies further East in the Gulf and we must maintain stability there at all costs. To maintain our involvement in Libya we will have to lever up our participation and engage on the ground; it can be the only outcome and that is not something that most British people would sign up to, not that anyone expects to be asked about these things.
It has been said that David Cameron is quick to admit mistakes. Where we go from here is going to drill down to exactly that; a politicians pride and vanity or the common good. As it is, we are now at risk from terrorist strikes............ (quick and tidy wars do not exist outside of Hollywood), and the further dilution of sparse assets that are required elsewhere. The Americans decided early on it wasn't worth the trouble and the Germans and Spanish didn't turn up at all. It's make your mind up time Mr Cameron.........