Intervening in Libya

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What - if anything - should Britain do about Libya? Do we have a moral duty to intervene on the side of the rebels, and - if so - how far should we be prepared to go to help them? One rebel spokesman this week asked Britain to intervene immediately with air strikes against Gadaffi's forces. Should we wait for a UN resolution (which might well be vetoed by Russia or China) or should we act now to save civilian lives? There are many practical considerations involving international and domestic politics, military capabilities and economics; but before we start arguing about what might be achievable or prudent, we must decide what is right.

If military intervention is ruled out, what about supplying arms to the rebels? If not weapons, what about food, shelter, medicine and other humanitarian assistance? And if we send in doctors, should there be troops to protect them? What about indirect pressure on the regime through financial, trade and diplomatic sanctions? And what if Gadaffi remains in power despite them? Or should Britons now accept that we have neither the power nor the moral authority to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries? Politicians are driven by the idea of progress and things getting better but it can be a dangerous imperative when trying to overthrow dictators. If we support the Arab populism in the name of freedom are we merely clearing the stage for the next anti-western tyranny that waits in the wings?

Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk with Matthew Taylor, Claire Fox, Clifford Longley and Anne McElvoy.

Barak Seener, Middle East Research Fellow at RUSI
Geoffrey Robertson QC, member of the UN's justice council
John Rees, co-founder of the Stop the War Coalition and Vice President of the Cairo Anti-War Conference since its foundation in 2002
Sami Hermez, Visiting fellow at the Centre for Lebanese Studies, St Antony's College, Oxford.

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45 minutes

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Sat 12 Mar 2011 22:15