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; 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!'