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!'

No, We Don't Have to Do Anything Actually

I would have a few questions for these lads..

So the UK is to accept thousands of Syrian refugees.

The media frenzy has leveraged up the emotional blackmail leaving the Prime Minister with no where to turn. He should have turned to the citizens who will again bear the brunt of the influx. If the Government chooses to act on whatever happens to be the latest issue trending on Twitter then good luck to them but it’s hardly statesman like. The dead child on a Turkish beach seems to have been the tipping point. That was the dead child on a Turkish beach proving Stalin’s dictum that ‘one death is a tragedy, a million deaths a statistic.’ The boy drowned after getting on board a Turkish boat run by Turkish smugglers in Turkish waters under the eyes of the Turkish coastguard. How does that become the problem for citizens in our towns and cities who already are swamped with previous waves of immigration creating overcrowded schools, GP’s and housing lists. Moreover, why get in the boat in the first place? If the family were fleeing war they had succeeded in doing that by being in Turkey. Ifd the father had actred so recklessly in the UK he’d now be in jail awaiting trial.

I have read a number of pieces on the web from locals suggesting that many of these refugees are not Syrian, Afghani or Iraqi but include Palestinians and others. Have you noticed incidentally, just how many apparent refugees are young men aged between 10 and 30 carrying the latest smartphones and wearing spic and span Nike trainers? One could say that anyone living in the Middle East could have refugee status, I wouldn’t want to live there but the line, a line, must be drawn.

Frankly, I do find it somewhat repugnant that we didn’t lift a finger to save the Yazidis when ISIS where hunting them down like animals but as soon as people turn up in Greece on News at Ten ‘something must be done.’

The causes of the crisis are wide and varied. We do know however that ill-advised action in Libya and ill-advised inaction in Syria are big contributors to the problem. Thank you Twitter. I wrote about them here at the time. I’ve also written over the years about the tidal wave of humanity on its way from north and sub Saharan Africa as a result of war, economic failure and climate change. The current problem is characterised by the media, especially the BBC who have lost all objectivity, as an urgent temporary crisis. It isn’t. We haven’t seen the beginning of this yet and just wait till the Indian sub continent hear there’s a new game in town. The UK is going to have to get a whole lot more selfish unless it chooses to completely change its way of life upside down. The Australians have gone down that road, we should urgently consider it.

One thing that Mr Cameron does have right is in focusing on the dispossessed in the camps rather than those besieging Hungary and Austria. That gives some basis of control and screening. Germany may retrospectively be moved to consider this when they collectively  realise that they may have opened the doors to the biggest Trojan Horse in history.

Let’s be clear about one thing. The UK has had open doors for many years but with no planned increase in infrastructure to support the soaring population. In the eighty years between 1851 and 1931 the population grew by about 1m souls and between 1951 and 1991 by 2m. Following the relaxation of controls by the Labour government some 3.6m immigrants arrived between 1997 and 2010. That’s more than the net total in all of our previous history. Thanks Tony.  The Office of National Statistics now estimate that as of last year, 8.3m people living in the UK were born abroad which is around 13% of the population. Don’t let any ranting old pop singer let you believe otherwise.



The lie down and cry Islington Liberals will of course be banging their very big moral drums but they will be the ones least affected. The poor bloody infantry in all this will again be the white working class in our poorest urban and rural areas. School places, accommodation, GP and NHS dentists lists are all already challenging as pressure on public services grows.  Mr Cameron seems to be aware of this given his reluctance to act until pushed to the edge. He should remain so for we are building up problems for ourselves in our social structure which are all of our own making.

Regardless of what they think at the BBC, I’m not alone in thinking this is not going to end at all well.

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.

 

Another Fine Mess..................

 

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.........

 

Libya; Straight Talking At Last

Back to the increasingly complex situation in Libya. Actually, it's all really rather simple; we have no business being there.

We seem to be making a habit of late on the blog,  of using Americans to make a point but in this case one Michael Scheuer makes an enormous amount of sense and underlines many points previously made here and elsewhere. A former CIA analyst, he makes mincemeat of the two airheads interviewing him on CNN but do take the time to watch, it's worth it.

(When watching, just replace every reference to President Obama with David Cameron and references to the US with the UK).

 

 

Libya; Who's the Nutty One?

Libyan Rebel

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....

 

 

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!"

Libya; No-Fly Zone Issues

 

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.

The last Harrier squadrons fly past Parliament

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.

Libya; The Wrong Issue For Britain

 

We do not in any way rule out the use of military assets” to deal with Gaddafi’s regime.”

David Cameron

mmmm........ only the British could send a Naval ship named after a pork sausage to rescue British citizens from a Muslim country.. God speed HMS Cumberland!

The vast majority of media and political half witted focus in the Middle East is on Libya which is on the verge of civil war. In fact, it feels at the moment that the media is driving what foreign policy agenda we have not, as should be the case, our national interest. Insofar as our domestic interests are concerned, Libya is completely the wrong target. What more could we possibly expect though from people who make policy up on the hoof with the next strategic challenge being the creation of their next sound bite.

Actually, I'm being a bit unfair, the stakes here are very high indeed and there is not much room for error. The ramifications for getting things wrong will be considerable, but not in Libya. I don't understand why we are flying Egyptian nationals out of Libya for example. It's simply not our responsibility. Not only do the Egyptians have plenty of aircraft to do it themselves but why would we risk our own assets, especially as we've made a not too clever job of evacuating our own people.

As every schoolboy knows, Libya is split between Cyrenaica in the East and Tripolitania in the West with 500 miles of desert in between. Benghazi in Cyrenaica, the rebels base, is the historical capital of Libya. Both goverment and rebel forces appear to be limbering up for a bloody fight, planning and preparing whilst possibly negotiating. Any negotiations however, are just to buy time.  This pause also allows Western assets to position themselves although what for is anyone's guess.

There are rumours of Egyptian Army support for the rebels. Talk of a 500 mile advance to Tripoli is challenging though, if only because fast jets would make mincemeat of the column. Perhaps thats what the no fly thing is all about. Notwithstanding that, they have no hope of reaching Tripoli if Egyptian taxi drivers are involved. Half the chaps will end up in Zimbabwe and the rest will be taken to the pyramids. They should plan on 25% wastage due to traffic accidents.

For the West there aren't really any good options. The tribes in Cyrenaica have a more fundamentalist tendency than the government run by old Looney Tunes himself in Tripoli and no one will shed any tears when he is swinging from a lampost. An unintended consequence of Gaddafi being replaced by a fundamentalist regime ought to be more than a passing concern. Whatever the outcome, given Libya is made up of something like 140 different tribes it won't be easy to hold the country together as one entity, especially a democratic one.

 

Our governments flow of statements though is perplexing. The only national interest that we have is a bunch of arms sales which started with Blair's relationship with the regime in round about 2005 and some exploration rights that BP paid £350m for, which is a rounding error in BP's expenses. We should stand off and let those with a real stake in Libya take responsibility. That would mostly be the Italians, the Egyptians, the French and the Russians. You could of course include the US on the basis that they think they have a stake everywhere and indeed, the Enterprise is racing back through the Med from the Red Sea where she had only just arrived........ from the Med.

For the British, the Americans and indeed the rest of Europe and certainly Japan there is only one place that matters; the Gulf. Specifically, we should be losing sleep about protests in Bahrain spilling over into Saudi, with or without Iranian backing.

Bahrain is 70% Shia, Kuwait 30% and Saudi 20%. That is a significant demographic problem for the Sunni rulers. Any empowerment of the Shia in Bahrain could potentially encourage those in Kuwait and Saudi to become much more vocal. If this happened with Iranian sponsorship then the outlook could become very murky, very quickly and there are indeed signs of Iranian interest in the current unrest. Nothing terrifies the Saudi royal family more than a rise in Iranian interest, as evidenced in the huge increase in social spending announced recently. It should terrify us too.

If other countries want to intervene we should let them but our interest lie strictly further east. When Libya descends into civil war and chaos our government must have the self discipline to restrain from grandstanding and leave the heavy lifting to those who wish to join in. After all, one of the natural consequences of slashing your armed forces to the bone while over committing them on operations for extended periods of time is you can't be everywhere at once. General Richards should make the point forcibly.

Unrest in Libya and Haslemere

Yvonne Fletcher.... murdered

With Gaddafi and his despotic regime on their last legs I shed no tears; but keep a thought for PC Yvonne Fletcher, murdered by his henchmen in St James Square and the many, many soldiers and civilians murdered by the provisionals and INLA with training and weapons supplied by Gaddafi. The brutal murder of 270 innocents on PanAm Flight 103 should have been grounds enough to remove this lunatic almost thirty years ago. Indeed, my old company was dispatched to clear up and the impact of PTSD on those men is still very much a live issue today. I hope the bastard swings.

Tony Blair

Well, it's good to see that appointing Tony Blair as a Middle East peace envoy is going as swimmingly as those of us in this country who know him so well could only expect. So far, we have most of North Africa ablaze, with growing protests as far East as China, (small and known as the Jasmine protests), as far South as Zim, as far West as Wisconsin and as far North as Haslemere when yesterday, as bad luck would have it, Mrs Flashbang went binky bonk Cloud 9 when the washing machine died. Trying to be helpful, I pointed out that "we used to handwash things all the time in the Army," which almost resulted in me going the same way as the LG direct drive washing machine. 
USS Enterprise (CVN 65) transits through the Suez Canal
In response to the turbulence, (in the Middle East; they haven't yet offered assistance to middle aged men in Haslemere under domestic duress), the Americans have sent what appears to be a very large bit of US Navy and parked it close enough for the Iranians to notice, lest the Iranians harbour intentions to exploit the unrest. The Royal Navy, (who's very role in life used to be to send gunboats at the first sign of uppityness), meanwhile has a somewhat smaller presence which probably won't be growing very much given there's not an awful lot of it left, as with yet more inspired planning, we've sold most of our ships to scrap metal dealers in Turkey and to Third World dictators........................ oh dear...
Actually, we don't have much of anything left in the cupboard. If the rumoured new cuts go through, by 2015 the Army will be exactly half the size it was when I joined. Still, we can always enlist the thousands of kids on YOP schemes who work for Tesco's on minimum wages which appears to account for an aspirational career these days,
from Think Defence