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Daily View: Military intervention in Libya

Clare Spencer | 10:44 UK time, Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Following the head of the British Armed forces plea to Nato members to intensify bombing in Libya, commentators ask what the British military should do next.

Simon Jenkins suggests in the Telegraph RAF bombing won't persuade Libyan civilians and crime against humanity charges end hope of negotiation and possible exile for the Gaddafis. He says the British need to get out Libya:

"Unless Britain really intends to make Libya another client state like Sierra Leone, it must have an exit strategy that does not depend on Gaddafi's death. The Arab League has vanished. The Americans have all but vanished, along with Russia and China. Even Sarah Palin has deserted the cause, pointing out that America has 'no clear and vital interest at stake'. For a British government to be exposed to the neocon right of Palin takes some doing. Where are the benighted Liberal Democrats in all this?...
"Cameron has the NHS, economic recovery and the fate of the coalition to address. The Libyan whizzbangs are no longer on the front page, and the glory of victory is waning. He should not be wasting time playing Beau Geste trying to kill the sadist of the Sahara."

Conversely in the Telegraph Con Coughlin asks for strong political leadership on the military campaign in Libya:

"Sir David [head of the British Armed Forces] wants Nato warplanes to bomb the perimeter fence around Gaddafi's compound in Tripoli, a step which is not allowed under the current rules of engagement on the spurious grounds that the fence does not constitute a threat to Libya's civilian population. But Sir David argues that if it were removed, this would demonstrate the regime's vulnerability to ordinary Libyans, as well as affording rebels the opportunity to overthrow Gaddafi themselves.
"Another idea under active consideration is to cripple the dictator's main oil refinery at Zawiyah, which supplies the regime's energy needs. If the lights went out all over Tripoli, even Gaddafi might finally concede that his time was up. There's still a chance we can win in Libya, but we need strong and effective leadership if we are to do so. Then, at long last, we can celebrate a rare success in a British military campaign."

The Daily Mail's editorial says the British can't afford continued involvement:

"Will Britain be tempted to deploy troops on the ground? Do we have the resources to meet our existing commitments? As we report today, the MoD has already had to borrow a spy plane from the Americans to use over Libya because ours were axed last year.
"The further we sink into the quagmire, the more expensive this conflict will become and the more stretched our Armed Forces will be."

Kailash Chand argues in Tribune that intervention in Libya is just the next stage of the "war on terror":

"The 'war on terror' is far from over. Rather, it is moving into a new era. The military intervention in Libya and the continuing war in Afghanistan show how little the West and the US in particular have learned. State terrorism and fundamentalist terrorism feed off one another. Unless the US changes its strategy of using military intervention of questionable legality to assert its interests, terrorism will not be eradicated. Rather, more terrorists will be created."

The appeal to boost military intervention in Libya comes at the same time as Defence Secretary Liam Fox's is reportedly asking for a reduction in the ring-fenced amount of British tax money going to aid.

This is picked up by Alice Thompson in the Times who says when there are finite resources, money could be freed up elsewhere to pay for the Libya conflict:

"One day taxpayers waiting for hip operations and special-needs school places will turn on DfID. Only by letting it share Whitehall's pain can its future be safeguarded. The Prime Minister should take away a quarter of its budget and let other departments bid for it. Mr Fox could argue that the Armed Forces need it to win hearts and minds in Libya, the BBC should argue that DfID should pay for the World Service, which looks likely to lose 630 staff and 30 million listeners."

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