Libya; Ho Hum......

A 49 page parliamentary report from the Foreign Affairs Committee published today draws some pretty damming conclusions on David Cameron's ill advised and poorly planned and executed foray into Libya in 2011. 

Drawing all the critical strands together in the report we can neatly summarise them with the technical phrase which is often used on these occasions, it was a clusterfxck.

The failure of the half hearted enterprise was hard coded in it's very inception. We had no business being there and the policy of doing so at minimum political and military risk with no thought to nation building at the conclusion of the operation was either naive or simply stupid. Perhaps it was both. 

Now, Crumble is no Kissinger and I hate to say I told you so....... but I told you so. In what I thought at the time were some pretty good posts, I repeatedly articulated what was plain to any passing bystander but not to the genius's in Whitehall who failed to soak in any lessons from other recent interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan and seemed oblivious to events in the rest of the Middle East. Sometimes I think you could hammer six inch nails into their foreheads and it wouldn't make any difference to their ability to reason.

Just for the record, here are the posts from February to August 2011,

Unrest in Libya and Haslemere                      February 22nd, 2011

Libya; The Wrong Issue For Britain                March 4th 2011 

Libya; No-Fly Zone Issues                               March 11th 2011

Libya; Who's The Nutty One?                         March 31st 2011

Libya; Straight Talking At Last                       April 4th 2011

Another Fine Mess.........                                 April 14th 2011 

Libya; Coalition Fragments                            July 15th 2011

Bless                                                                August 23rd 2011

What is to be done then to assist the Prime Minister of the day in making a balanced foreign policy decision thereby avoiding reckless interventions such as Libya. We can't go on leaving entire countries in a bigger mess than they were before we turned up uninvited. In my view, the Prime Minister needs a sanity check mechanism in his decision making process. One that is unencumbered with domestic political or career mindsets and definitely no policy wonks straight from the PPE course at Oxford. What I have in mind is a panel of six or eight clever folk who have an expertise in looking at problems in four dimensions, obliquely and from the inside out. They could be specialists in given fields but it isn't a hard requirement. Their task on being given a briefing paper would simply be to figure out the unintended consequences if the paper became policy. Their job would be to ask the 'what if's?' that others are either too timid, too inexperienced or too stupid to ask. Their input might just assist the Prime Minister and his or her Cabinet in coming to better judged decisions, or at least be more conversant with risk. The team could work from a basement in Whitehall or from their home locations. All they need is the highest security clearance, be politically agnostic and without any career ambition in government. You could say that I've just described MI6 but that hasn't worked out so well over the past twenty years has it?  

Back to the blog in 2011 and this post,  Libya, The Black Watch & Spike was my favourite, mostly because of this concluding line from Spike Milligan, 'How long was I in the Army?...... Five foot eleven!'

You Couldn't Make It Up (2)



"Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Undersecretary Carlo Giovanardi said the government will study if it's feasible to conduct drug tests on stock-exchange traders, with the help of the Milan Bourse and the country's market regulator. Giovanardi, who is in charge of family policy and drug prevention, said that the abuse of drugs including cocaine might explain part of recent stock volatility."

The volatility wouldn't then be caused by dysfunctional governments, (Belgium doesn't even have one), who have overseen their now creaking,  over leveraged banks engage in government sponsored lending at all levels, (in Dexia's case the lending was mostly to local government), which is now resulting in the transfer of power and influence by stealth from across Europe to Germany. When the citizens of Europe wake up to this unpleasant reality they mostly, Mr Giovanardi, won't be happy and it won't have anything to do with traders........... stock markets are simply reflecting the economic consequences of meddling, stupid Eurocrats.

Libya; Coalition Fragments


As I described last week in "Gotcha!," the manufactured outrage from Westminster which has been on permanent transmission this week, about the phone hacking scandal has a "hollow and tinny sound," to my ears. Watching our apparent Members of Parliament, members of the government and parliamentary committees descend to the level of feral cats in trying to out do one another has been yet another unedifying spectacle. 

The least qualified entity in the country to critisise anyone in these matters is the entity mostly responsible for the growth of media influence over our national institutions. They may have legal authority but they have no moral authority.

So now, the House of Commons is fully engaged in unleashing its attack dogs on the media and police. The last time the House of Commons was similarly fully engaged was over the expenses scandal. That scandal too was created by the same institution. Anyone see a pattern emerging here? In fact, it seems to your humble observer that the House spends most of it's time running round in circles attempting to put out fires of its own making. 

Meanwhile, fires are burning elsewhere and are mostly off the front page. One such fire continues to be our ill advised adventure in Libya.

Our involvement in the Libyan conflict remains perplexing yet neither David Cameron or any minister have adequately articulated why we are there and what the aim of being there is beyond getting rid of Gadhaffi. There is absolutely no national interest involved, that much is very clear. The heads of the RAF and Navy meanwhile recently let us, and everyone else, into the secret that they would not be able to sustain operations beyond September without making cuts elsewhere............ which is something of a worry given no one is shooting back at them......... so far.

Yet the war has been dragging on for months and no one appears to have any clue as to potential timelines for resolution, be it political or warlike. The rebels are tribally based and tribally fractured and whilst we are told that progress is being made in turning them into a more cohesive force it wouldn't appear to me to have solid foundation. There don't appear to be many political options open either, especially given Gadhaffi has been indicted by the International Criminal Court in the Hague which provides a major disincentive to Gadhaffi leaving Libya or negotiating. This of course, was a major obstacle to finding a resolution in the Balkans with Milosevic. The bottom line is Gadhaffi has nothing to lose by fighting to the end.

Whilst minimal progress is being made on the ground the coalition is, after four months looking shaky. Italy has said it wants out, has halved its funding and is quickly hedging its position. France meanwhile, once the most hawkish country and the key instigator in the current action, is beginning to soften its position. In the backround the Russians are hovering and appear positioned to leverage their Libyan relationships as mediators. Slowly, the penny is dropping that the air campaign is unlikely to work and coalition members are beginning to sniff out alternative exits, as are the Americans who have been in the shadows of the campaign with logistical and intelligence support. 

It remains to be seen if the penny has yet dropped in No 10. I would think it probably has and the phone scandal has offered good top cover while they work on their position at the coalition meeting in Istanbul today. The big problem though remains the Libyan leader and his henchmen; what possible incentive do they have for talking to anyone when talks would result in a one way ticket to the Hague?

Standby for more "hollow and tinny," sounds from Westminster.


Libya, The Black Watch & Spike

So now that Gadaffi is knocking on the door of Benghazi, having kicked the stuffing out of the rebels all the way from Tripoli, the UN sanction a no-fly zone. In fact, they've authorised, "necessary measures; to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack."  Well that's good then.

Unfortunately, with the rebellion almost over there are a couple of flaws in the plan, not least of which is the fact that the USS Enterprise, (that would be the ship with the aircraft), is still in the Red Sea and the Charles de Gaulle is tied up in Toulon. Of course, we don't have any at all so we'll be using Italy as a stand in carrier.

Not wishing to restate the problems with a no-fly policy and how it might backfire, I just have one question to ask. Gadaffi has said, in pretty plain language, that he will respond if attacked by outside forces. If we attack, and he subsequently responds with his agents detonating a device in London which kills scores of people, what exactly is our next step? He's done it before.

Moving on, we learned last week that the Black Watch are on standby to head to Libya. Regardless of how preposterous an idea that might be, it is worth noting that the Black Watch have form in Libya, having been there before.

After the gallant but doomed regard action at St. Valery in 1940 when the 51st Highland Division was decimated, what remained of the jocks joined the 9th Highland Division to form the new 51st (Highland) Infantry Division. The reformed Division took on a home defense role between 1940 - 1942, when it set sail for Egypt and the North Africa Campaign.

The division, of which the Black Watch were part, were famous, (or infamous), for painting their 'HD' insignia which on road signs along their axis of advance.

It reminds me of that other gallant British Soldier who was in Libya at the same time,  Spike Milligan. He once apparently shot a plane down just by shouting "I hope you bloody well crash!" at it..........

So cunning a plan you'd have to be a fox to understand it.

His best lines though are the simplest, "How long was I in the army?........ Five foot eleven!"