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Daily View: Armed involvement in Libya

Clare Spencer | 11:32 UK time, Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Commentators analyse the West's involvement in Libya after the Libyan government has said Muammar Gaddafi must stay in power to avoid a power vacuum.

The Daily Mail's Max Hastings argues there is disagreement about the role of Western armed forces in Libya:

"David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy seem confident we can confine our role to that of armed referee: prevent a humanitarian disaster, and thereafter leave the Libyans to settle their own future.
"Last month, I quoted General Colin Powell's warning to President Bush before the 2003 invasion of Iraq: 'It will be china shop rules. You break it, you own it.'
"David Cameron believes this principle does not apply in Libya, because we have not invaded the country and do not intend to.
"Almost everybody else, however, both in and out of uniform, assumes that having taken sides in a Libyan civil war, we must assume a responsibility, which will be hard to fulfil, for achieving a benign outcome."

Stephen Walt asks in Foreign Policy if America is addicted to war:

"Since taking office, Obama has escalated U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and launched a new war against Libya. As in Iraq, the real purpose of our intervention is regime change at the point of a gun. At first we hoped that most of the guns would be in the hands of the Europeans, or the hands of the rebel forces arrayed against Muammar al-Qaddafi, but it's increasingly clear that U.S. military forces, CIA operatives and foreign weapons supplies are going to be necessary to finish the job...
"It remains to be seen whether this latest lurch into war will pay off or not, and whether the United States and its allies will have saved lives or squandered them. But the real question we should be asking is: Why does this keep happening? Why do such different presidents keep doing such similar things? How can an electorate that seemed sick of war in 2008 watch passively while one war escalates in 2009 and another one gets launched in 2011? How can two political parties that are locked in a nasty partisan fight over every nickel in the government budget sit blithely by and watch a president start running up a $100 million per day tab in this latest adventure? What is going on here?"

In Australia's On Line Opinion Gary Brown says that whether declared or not, we are at war in Libya and supports an armed attack:

"It is the nature of democracies and diplomats to dither, procrastinate and explore non-violent means to resolve difficult questions, and this is no bad thing. Nevertheless, some decisions can only be put off for so long, or the result can be a Rwanda, a Srebrenica, an Auschwitz. In Libya we waited almost too long. Now that we are committed, we need to use the full measure of our air, technical and logistical superiority to ensure the speedy removal of the Gaddafi regime. If we drop this ball, we could yet stand indicted before the whole world as big on talk, but lamentably short on action. In this case humanity demands action, and so does political interest."

In the Independent Donald Macintyre says the emergence of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi as a player in the current moves to end the Libyan crisis has been a "further obstacle":

"As the Europeans - and perhaps to an even greater extent, the Americans - look for an exit, it may be tempting to see Muammar Gaddafi's second son and his reform project as part of any solution. Some on his pre-crisis reform committee are now siding with the opposition and could theoretically offer some common ground.
"Yet there remain some problems. The first is the fate of his father. On Sunday, an anonymous diplomat told The New York Times that part of Saif's proposal was that his father would stand down and that Saif would lead the transition to something closer to democracy. This may be true, but even the diplomat doubted this was acceptable to Colonel Gaddafi, let alone the opposition in the east."

The Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell makes fun of the UK's armed involvement in Libya.

A cartoon representing British Foreign Secretary William Hague says "I cannot be seen to be negotiating with a mad dog tyrant murdering his own people." To which a character looking like Col Gaddafi responds:

"Woof, no problem. I simply demand debriefing in secret by bald bloke in expensive Kensington and Chelsea safe house, woof! You can murder as many of my people as you like, no questions asked, woof."

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