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Too late?

Nick Robinson | 09:34 UK time, Wednesday, 16 March 2011

As Colonel Gaddafi's promises to crush the uprising in Libya echo grimly around them, diplomats at the United Nations will begin discussions on a resolution which they might vote on this week. On the other hand, they might not.

President Obama

On Monday William Hague said the world had now reached the point of decision. It might, perhaps, have been more accurate to say that the world had extended the period of indecision.

Already the political blame game is beginning. David Cameron is trying hard to hide his frustration with President Obama. I'm told that he's not always succeeding.

The new French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe is not being so diplomatic. I now have the full version of his statement to the French parliament yesterday in which he blames the EU, China, Russia but, above all, America.

"If today we are stuck, it's not only because Europe is impotent, it's because at the Security Council, for now, China doesn't want any mention of a resolution leading to the international community's interference in a country's affairs... but what about American power? What about Russian power? What's China's power over Libya?... Russia is evolving and the Americans haven't yet defined their position on Libya."

Evidence of that lack of American definition came in yesterday's White House briefing after the president met his national security team to discuss Libya. The official "read out" stated that:

"The President instructed his team to continue to fully engage in the discussions at the United Nations, NATO and with partners and organizations in the region."

No wonder yesterday's White House press briefing included questions suggesting the president was "sitting on the fence", "satisfied to follow not lead" and needed to make a decision (see transcript below). Leadership, the press pack were told by a defensive White House press spokesman, involves considering the mission, it's likelihood of success and the risks it poses.

That is the debate that will soon follow. Did David Cameron give the lead on Libya only to discover that the world was too weak, too divided, too scared of the shadow of Iraq to act? Or did the prime minister deploy his rhetoric before developing a workable plan, fail to persuade crucial allies and, thus, raise false hopes of what the world would do to help the uprising in Libya.

Meanwhile in Bahrain...

PS Mark Mardell's blog post and Today programme essay is fascinating. Here's the transcript of the White House press briefing

Q: On no-fly zone, what exactly is the US - the administration's position before the Security Council?

Mr Carney: Our position, Chip, remains that we are evaluating a number of options, military options, including -

Q: But a decision has to be made now.

Mr Carney: - including a no-fly zone. We feel that it is important that any action like that that might be taken should be done in concert with our international partners. Though the United Nations would be our preferable vehicle for that, and therefore we would look to the UN as a forum for evaluating that option. I think I mentioned yesterday that today is the deadline for the no-fly zone option to - preparations or plans to be submitted in Brussels at NATO. And I believe the NAC will review those tomorrow. So this process is moving forward.

But our position is that action like that should be considered and taken if decided upon in coordination with our international partners, because it's very important in the way that we respond to a situation like we see in Libya, that it be international and not unilateral; that it include the support and participation, for example, of the Arab League and other organizations and countries in the region.

And that is our sort of focus as we proceed with these conversations.

Q: Is the President satisfied to follow, not lead, on deciding whether to do it?

Mr Carney: I take issue with the characterization. We think it is precisely because the President believes that the best outcome in a situation like we see in Libya, as we have seen in different forms in other countries in the region, that the best outcome will come when the action taken by countries - third-party countries outside of the country where the unrest is happening - be done in consensus with international partners, precisely so that it is not viewed by those who oppose positive democratic reform as the dictate of the West or the United States.

Q: But wouldn't it be fair to say - accurate to say the United States is still sitting on the fence on this? Isn't it time to make a decision, yes or no?

Mr Carney: Well, Chip, you tell me if as an American citizen would you want your President not to consider all the implications and ramifications of taking military action.

Q: Doesn't there come a point to make a - where you have to make a decision?

Mr Carney: And I would go back to what I said to Jill, that we have acted with great haste, and we have coordinated international - led and coordinated an international response, the likes of which the world has never seen in such a short period of time. And we have - we continue to consult with our international partners. We meet - we have met with, as the Secretary of State did, with the Libyan opposition discussing new ways we can put pressure on Qaddafi.

And when it comes to considering military options, this President will always be mindful of what the mission, should it be engaged, what it entails, the risks that it poses to our men and women in uniform, and its likelihood of having the kind of impact that we set out for it to have. And that is his responsibility as Commander-in-Chief.

And I would suggest to you that that is what leadership is all about.

Yes, Mike.

Q: Is he worried about, though, the bureaucracy of making this decision with our allies, that by the time a decision is made the conflict may be over? I mean, the rebels may have gone home.

Mr Carney: We are obviously aware of the situation in Libya and the events and the fighting that's happening there. Again, I do not believe that the American people would want the US President to act unilaterally in a way to engage militarily without taking careful consideration of what the consequences of that would be; what the goals of the action would be; and being, as we have said from the beginning, very mindful of the fact that the desired result here will be best achieved if we act in concert with our international partners. And that is the position he's taken, and it's the position he takes today.

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    Even if they have a vote it is likely to be delayed, obstructed, watered down or vetoed by China.

    Cameron has backed the wrong side in openly backing these rebels and encouraging civil war accross the middle east.

    Not only will gadaffi remember who did what, but dictators/kings accross the region can now see the dangers of being alied with the disunited kingdom ... spend millions on arms, as soon as any trouble starts britain cuts off the supplies.

    For general trade, oil and arms sales - China is going to be the big winner out of this.

  • Comment number 2.

    Failing UN approval, we should enter a non-self-defence war for regime change in another country, only if playing our part in an effort sanctioned and supported, both in principle and in practice, by Europe and by key states in the Arab world. Otherwise, let's confine ourselves to non-military options. Doesn't matter what the American position is, that's for them to decide.

  • Comment number 3.

    Cameron's attempt at being an international statesman founders on the the rocks of European intransigence. Or ... Dave the blunderer blunders again. Face it Nick, the guy is not up to the job. Nevermind what's going on in the White House, Dave has proven the notion that PR is hollow and a PR man has no substance.

    General Election Now.

  • Comment number 4.

    As I said on my comment to your previous blog entry, I do think this is a case of western leaders seeing how fast they can run while managing to avoid winning the race.

    However, I also include Cameron and Hague in this. I am unconvinced that they really want to stop Gadaffi - their life would be so much easier if his dynasty continues.

    This year, as the world seems to catch fire, we are but ineffectual witnesses.

    I suppose the problem here is we do not have a Blair or a Bush, both of whom were complete crusaders for a cause and battered feeble minds into agreement, even if they completely blew it in the long run.

    We have Cameron and Obama, both of whom could not batter a fish without a run up.

    Think back to how Blair looked and talked after 9/11. He was on fire and wanted to get a solution. What ever we think of what happened next, at the time he was doing a good job of inspiring people or giving them the beating of their political lives if they did not come up to the mark - and that included several entire countries.

    Now look at Cameron - he looks like he wants to hide behind the sofa, and Hague looks like he just ate the worm end of a bad apple.

  • Comment number 5.

    "That is the debate that will soon follow. Did David Cameron give the lead on Libya only to discover that the world was too weak, too divided, too scared of the shadow of Iraq to act? Or did the prime minister deploy his rhetoric before developing a workable plan, fail to persuade crucial allies and, thus, raise false hopes of what the world would do to help the uprising in Libya."

    Probably a bit of both, Nick. Carney's replies to questioning are interesting in what they reveal about the current mindset. Certainly a very different attitude to GWB. Its kind of ironic that the Libyan rebels best interests may well have been served by the presence of the previous incumbents, Blair and Bush. The Spectator muses on how it was almost certainly Gadaffi who was more of a threat to the west through sponsorship of terrorism than Saddam was, yet, look how history turned out, eh? Deliciously ironic...

    1#

    It just goes to show that when you ditch all that ridiculous attention seeking rhetoric, you sometimes do have something pertinent to say. Why dont you do it all the time?

  • Comment number 6.

    For a guy who, in my mother's dismissive phrase, 'likes the sound of his own voice', Obama has been incredibly silent. I am no fan of Blair but I do think he was right that the Iraq experience showed that organisations like the UN will talk forever and never even get round to enforcing things they agree about (eg that Saddam Hussein was in multiple breach of inspection agreements). Therefore either , some leader is bold enough to go it alone or with a small subgroup of the like-minded nations, or Ghaddafi will get on with slaughtering his own people, and we are talking about thousands including the women and children of the wrong tribes. I fear the latter and Cameron et al. will just engage in a lot of hand-wringing in the aftermath -ineffective sanctions etc.etc. However, I have a bigger concern about Obama, that if, as at present seems likely, he fails to act, he will find Iran emboldened to meddle further in the Gulf and far bigger problems will follow (although as a consequence Obama will probably be destined for same fate as Carter). I never thought that I would come to believe that McCain/Palin was a better option for the world.

  • Comment number 7.

    The diplomatic spotlight should be turned on Russia and China also ... as the ones with limited human and other rights and who seem to try and block many things which are obviously humanitarian in nature.

    However, I think that the delay in getting a UN resolution for a no fly zone is now proving to be a red herring as not deliverable in a useful time period.

    The Libyan air force may not be the most capable although a 'no fly zone' would also probably, in any case, need 'tank buster' capability in terms of air-craft, to negate the threat to civilians from Gaddafi's tanks and convoys of mercenaries. That would be a direct millitary confrontation between those policing the NFD and Gaddafi's penultimate 'last stand'.

    IMO, the immediate response should be from other Arab countries and this should be to immediately supply and arm the 'rebels' with more sophisticated anti-aircraft ground based weaponry and very fast mobile 'tank busting' artillery and other anti-tank and vehicle equipment ... I emphasize, IMO, this should be supplied through Arab countries and not through NATO or the EU.

    The position is to either help the rebels now with equipment (if not a NFZ) or watch Gaddafi grow in stature as a despot as he crushes his own people with a programme of terror and reprisal.

    The 'free world' should be able to arm the 'rebels' efefctively, without a UN resolution ... that is surely the very least that can be done for civilian protection.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    I am simply appalled. I was against the invasion of Iraq because of the lies that were told to justify it at the time.

    However, the position re Libya is much closer to what it was in Croatia, Bosnia or even in Rwanda. The free world knows which side it is on but sits around talking when there is a clear opportunity for action. There is an army fighting on the ground in eastern Libya. We must send it supplies. Now.

    Inaction now will not just lead to repression in Libya and Bahrein, but to repression in dictatorships the world over for years to come.

  • Comment number 10.

    Why doesn't Cameron just shut up? He's making both himself and Britain look stupid with all his sabre rattling.

    Someone should tell him that we no longer have a sabre to rattle after last year's Defence Review.

  • Comment number 11.

    From the Americans point of view it's all about oil supplies

  • Comment number 12.

    "We meet - we have met with, as the Secretary of State did, with the Libyan opposition discussing new ways we can put pressure on Qaddafi."

    Gaddafi/Qaddafi has made many enemies over the decades and has probably authorised the killing of a significant number of Americans in that time, i.e. Berlin, Lockerbie and elsewhere.

    Not many Americans tears will be shed when Gaddafi and his family face justice.

    POTUS Obama will make his move when all the component parts are in place and Europe will be reminded of its impotence in these matters.

  • Comment number 13.

    #10 yeah and the 2007 SDR

    quick get ARK Royal and the Harriers back from the nackers yard and India, seems just like the Falklands.

    The it also seems like suez too.

    We need independent means away from the US as they only ever act in their interest and do that poorly too.

  • Comment number 14.

    To port a view over from another's blog: 'One person's dithering is another's deliberating?'

    I guess it then goes to who those latter people are, or work for.

    Especially if in the media.

    So far this week, governmentally, analysis-wise, I'm getting...

    1) Don't trust Libya (any more)

    2) Don't trust Japan

    3) Don't trust the US (except its President), on some things, if not others

    4) Don't trust the UK (at least, until the next election), except on renewables

    'Unique' doesn't come close.

  • Comment number 15.

    Oh the politics of oil. Of course Obama is playing cards close to his chest ... what outcome suits Saudi Arabia and thus guarantees the flow of oil, that's all they are interested in and they will play all sides against their middle to attain their short term ends. Any government that would infect large numbers of fellow human beings with syphillis only 70 years ago to test out antibiotics has not changed that much as a machine. Yes, cosmetics have changed, but the eagle stills preens above the seat of power. But, as the muslims know, all power comes from God, so in the end everything is unfolding as it should and indeed as the Qur'an says, the next world is better than this, maybe it is only the manner of arriving in it that troubles individuals, nations and super-nations!

  • Comment number 16.

    #2

    One wonders whether the Obama's reticence on this issue stems from a concern not to further destabilise the region and encourage further dissidence particularly in Saudi Arabia.

    The Arab response has always been key to me regarding Libya, assisting an Arab lead force in preventing a humanitarian disaster or providing a safe enclave in eastern Libya is a whole different matter to having a full blown assault on Libya.

    Of course it will all be academic if a decision is not made soon.

  • Comment number 17.

    #1

    I agree entirely. If Gadaffi wins he will not be letting the Western oil companies back into Libya in a hurry.

    The Chinese in particular will be the winners.

  • Comment number 18.

    I don't think Obama should be castigated for being circumspect about the prospect of another USA-led war for regime change in the Middle East. Who knows (?) what this could entail or where it may lead. I guess Cameron could invite him to 'Camp Chequers', butter him up a little, maybe offer to help put together some sort of dossier which the President could use to sell the idea of American military intervention to a sceptical US Congress and public. But best not to, I'd say.

    Re British foreign policy: we have a chance to apply some clear 'waterfall' principles. Plan A is to get UN approval for anti-Gaddafi military action by a broad coalition of nations with the means to carry it out quickly and successfully. Plan B is to concentrate on what are, from our point of view, the key regions here; the one we principally belong to (Europe, the EU) and the afflicted one - North Africa and the Middle East. If there is strong and widespread official support, in principle and in practice, in these two regions for military action against Gaddafi then we can be a part of it. The US position is always relevant of course, being the wealthiest and most influential player on the international stage, and easily the biggest military power, but it's a matter for them what that position is. Rightfully cautious, at present.

    And finally, since plans A and B look like non-starters, we go with plan C. Which is to restrict ourselves at this point to non military options.

  • Comment number 19.

    Inaction = supporting slaughter and tyranny by allowing Gaddafi to win - this is exactly what happened in Gulf War One to the Marsh Arabs - G Bush senior stopped the US advance, having encouraged the marsh arabs to rise against Saddam, then he left them hanging out to dry and they were virtually wiped out - are we surprised the arab world distrusts the west?

    I broadly agree with the Anglo-French position on this - a coalition needs to intervene to stop Gaddafi and help the people win their freedom - where I part company is the totally inept, stupid and grandstanding way Cameron has gone about this, along with his mate Sarkozy, another dangerous hedonist.

    They should have appraised the level of support/oppostion to a range of options - formed a view on the art of the possible - then decided with those willing to support intervention on the least worst fit in terms of miltary effectiveness vs. level of intervention, then canvassed this with the international community to see how far he could go in terms of NATO, EU & UN resolutions.

    Instead hCameron shot his mouth off to score cheap political points and hardened opposition to intervention. Despite the defence cuts, the UK does still have the assets to end Gadaffi's tyranny in the shape of the assault ships HMS Albion & HMS Bulwark, the helicopter carrier HMS Ocean and the air assets in the shape of Typhoons and Apache helicopter gunships, plus other naval assets.

    We also have the major Arm of the Army's Tank Corps, which is not heavily used in Afghanistan in its primary role, but could be used with Challenger II tanks for an amphibious assault - Gaddafi doesn't have a military answer to the combination of tanks, Apache and armoured infantry with air supremacy - I'd give it 20 hours max of combat.

    Backed up by French naval airpower and possibly the Foreign Legion from their bases in Corsica and southern France, a full armoured battlegroup could have been assembled off the Libyan coast by now, which then might never have had to fire a shot - their presence alone might have prompted Gaddafi to run.

    Haig has been made to look a complete plonker - Cameron is an arrogant man who thinks he can browbeat everyone into getting his way - two classic products of the English public school system if ever I saw them. The inaction of the USA seems to be the precursor to a return to isolationism, which always seems to lead in the end the US paying a steep price when it then has to defend its vital interests that were left dangerously exposed.

  • Comment number 20.

    4. Hastings

    'Think back to how Blair looked and talked after 9/11. He was on fire and wanted to get a solution.'


    You're right, where are the real neocons when you need them? Damn these pale imitations.

  • Comment number 21.

    Obama would be in there like a ferret down a rabbit hole if if was Kenya and not Libya.

  • Comment number 22.

    I find this somewhat troubling as the main institutions are apparently in-able or unable to even come up with a plausible response to what has happened recently.

    The UN is the biggest waste of time and money for they talk a lot but deliver little. Even when they mistakenly are in the right place they make the wrong decisions, doing nothing is seen as the safest option. The UN is closely followed by the EU who spend billions to do nothing on our behalf. Once again they talk a lot but deliver nothing. They will have a review and if the problem has not gone away they will have a review to review the review. We all should be ashamed for we appear to be happy to stand back and and shack our heads at what is happening but do not want to get involved. This typifies the culture here and throughout the developed world, see some one in trouble well pass them by on the other side of the road and don't get involved. No one wants to make a decision and or to take any action.

    Shame on us, we will will soon be having another Chamberlain waving his paper for peace in our time while civilisation implodes. Our apathy to take part in our own lives is rampant, "The Big Society" we are all too busy let someone else do it. God help us........

  • Comment number 23.

    My post from the previous blog and Guardian 15/03/2011 - excuse please if already read.

    The Libyan freedom fighters have asked the West for help via a no fly zone to stop Gaddafi bombing them and innocent people, and to give them half a chance at democracy.

    The Japan tragedy has pushed Libya off the front pages. However, I did read somewhere today commentary from a Libyan freedom fighter that, without this help from the West, their battle (against a demonic ruler, keeping the riches of the country for himself and his family) would be lost. What does the West think Gaddafi will do to the freedom fighters should he re-take Benghazi? Invite the fighters all to a celebration party in his tent? I don't think so! There will be genocide!

    Is the West comfortable with genocide? Is the West happy to keep pontificating whilst people die like this? Will the West be able to look in the mirror when the mass hidden graves appear? Oh, of course, the West will nicely ask Gaddafi (this utter mad man) for permission to inspect and identify the bodies for the families (if theren't not burnt in order to hide their identities), if it ever gets him in to a courtroom in the Hague for crimes against humanity!

    Isn't it a time for action versus platitudes and tons of bureacratic bullshit? I am getting very worried indeed for the freedom fighters and I am beginning to feel the shame of being a member of the West.

    Also, will the Libyan freedom fighters, if there are any alive at the end of this awful struggle against this demonic ruler, feel so let down by the West that they turn against it? I wouldn't blame them one bit if they did.

    Please, the powers that be, do something to help them before it is all too late and too futile!

  • Comment number 24.

    "17 At 11:40am on 16 Mar 2011, Wee-Scamp wrote:
    #1

    I agree entirely. If Gadaffi wins he will not be letting the Western oil companies back into Libya in a hurry."

    Not just the oil companies. A client of mine had just tendered for a project involving ship repairs in Libya when all the trouble flared up. Not a large client by any means. I was in the middle of explaining the new branch tax rules to him at the time. The MD had read some idiotic interpretation that said that the new rules didn't apply to small companies but I was able to point to the actual legislation rather than a hysterical miss-interpretation of them. "You'd be surprised at the idiots who bought into that miss-reading of the rules", I said. "No, I wouldn't" he replied, and we both laughed.

  • Comment number 25.

    19 richard bunning

    Haig has been made to look a complete plonker - Cameron is an arrogant man who thinks he can browbeat everyone into getting his way - two classic products of the English public school system if ever I saw them.
    ==================================================

    Sorry but William Hague (not Haig) went to a state comprehensive school I'm afraid. Not sure why you felt the need to introduce the public school angle to this discussion, but it would presumably have been better if it had been correct.

  • Comment number 26.

    richard bunning @ 19

    Your interpretation of the situation regarding the Marsh Arabs at the end of the first Gulf War is that George Bush Senior left them to their own fate.

    As it happens, in those days, 'the law' was usually obeyed, in that case, in the form of a UN resolution which mandated the ejection of Saddam Husseins forces from Kuwait, which Bush followed to the letter and therefore, there was no authorisation to assist the Marsh Arabs, who were duly slaughtered and their homeland destroyed.

    Post 9/11 however, the US has taken a more flexible view with respect to geopolitics.

    It is possible that history will repeat itself and those Libyans who have opposed Gaddafi will be identified and eliminated if Gaddafi prevails.

    However, one wants to think that the international community will not be prepared to let this happen.

    Each case (read Arab Country) has to be taken on its own merits/demerits.

  • Comment number 27.

    I doubt that anything will happen from the UN or the EU - they are too weak and directionless to make any decisions that will actually address the problems. I doubt that China are in any rush to support rebels in another country, when it goes to such lengths to suppress government opposition at home. Whenever the US gets involved militarily elsewhere, they usually get criticism for it - perhaps Obama is playing the "let's see what you can do without us" card ?

    Strong words, which Gaddaffi will ignore as he always does, is about all anyone can realistically expect.

  • Comment number 28.

    19 richard bunning

    Haig has been made to look a complete plonker - Cameron is an arrogant man who thinks he can browbeat everyone into getting his way - two classic products of the English public school system if ever I saw them.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Hague went to a comprehensive school so perhaps you weren't using both eyes.

    More generally, why do you think it is the responsibility of the UK and France to sort this problem out? The Arab League have voiced support for a NFZ, shouldn't they be producing a proposal for achieving it, which involves them taking an active role.

  • Comment number 29.

    25

    I stand corrected on William Hague not being a public school product - the "Haig" spelling was obviously a rather too subtle reference to Field Marshal Haig of WWI fame from which the "lions led by donkeys" quotation arises....

    In truth Hague has not grandstanded as has Cameron even if his supervision of operations has been lamentable and he should have carried the can for the special forces cock-up.

  • Comment number 30.

    "Meanwhile, in a TV speech, Col Gaddafi taunted the UK and France.

    Britain no longer exists. It is a trace of what it used to be. It has been promoting attack on Libya. Is there a common border between us? Are you our guardian? By what right? he said."

    And that is what happens to you (Cameron and the 'UK' Government) when you try to punch above your weight.

    You get found out.

    Better to keep very quiet, understand your limitations and work behind-the-scenes with partners to achieve geopolitical objectives.

  • Comment number 31.

    It seems to me that now the USA has lost its bottle we need to look for partners with a greater testicular volume.

    I think the new alliance between the UK and France needs to be reinforced.

  • Comment number 32.

    25

    Yes the arab league should play a major role - I envisage the coalition invasion force leaving immediately Gaddafi is history and handing over to the arab league to oversee the transition to democracy - and indeed they could also field forces to places by Bengazi to help the rebels hold the line whilst the UK & French decapitate the regime @ Tripoli.

    In terms of NFZ, there are big issues in terms of command & control, blue on blue risks etc if we mixed NATO assets with other airforces, so better to allow NATO to run it all and use their proven C4I to manage it - less risk, more effective and with the very advanced air interceptors of the UK, France & USA, Gaddafi's planes stand zero chance.

  • Comment number 33.

    19#

    Thank god your involvement in politics is restricted to blowing the class war dogwhistle, Dicky. You'd be a liability in the field. What you suggest, that we unilaterally invade Libya is nothing short of certifiable.

    Somewhere, a students union picket line is missing you, Dicky!!!

  • Comment number 34.

    Giselle 23

    I sympathise and agree with most of what you say and sympathise even more with those on the receiving end of Gaddafi's retribution.

    The problem though is that I think Iraq has left a scar much much deeper than we anyone imagined. It still totally polarises arguments for and against that intervention, and for America and especially Obama (who was elected at least partly because he countenanced a far more careful approach than Bush in such matters) it acts as a massive barrier to any current forays into international conflicts/wars. Lob the fact that China and Russia will never be on the side of intervention and there's an Everest to climb.

    In the end any humanitarian positives that might come out of intervening in Libya will for the West be stacked up against accusations of warmongering, oil theft, imposing views on a different culture, no exit plan etc etc, and thats from those at home, never mind critics who would be many around the globe.

    In the grand scheme of things, in some horrible game of stone scissors paper, Iraq beats both Bosnia and Rwanda - Libya is struggling to register.

    For those battling against Gaddafi the best they can hope (probably in vain for) is the UN allows UK/France/Arab League to barely intervene in order to allow those left standing to scrabble to safety.

    And what about Bahrain.....

  • Comment number 35.

    The further extended from Tripoli that Gadaffi's forces are, the more vulnerable they become to counter-attacks and clandestine operations.
    Recall that the mighty Red Army of the Soviet Union (as was) was defeated by the lightly armed Afghans and their distinct territory.
    The rebels will have dug in by now and they will be even less vulnerable to Gadaffi's wayward pilots.
    Artillery and mortars are the main armaments of Gadaffi's forces. An air exclusion zone risks high civilian casualties for only a minor military benefit. What the rebels need most are armaments - not our aerial support.

  • Comment number 36.

    It all very well slanging off Cameron and Hague on these matters- but they can only operate on the basis of the info the diplomats give them.
    duff info = duff response.
    The reality is that the whole debacle ,is extremely political and it amounts to getting the big boys-USA,China and Russian to the table to make a decision.
    So dont hold your breath.At least the UK and France are trying.
    My take on the situation is that by the time they all get together,Gaddaffi will have overwhelmed the rebels and everything will be back to way it was ,with some difference being:
    1)No more trade in arms for UK and US - Libya trading with China and Russian only
    2)No more UK or US expertize in oil and gas business - Libya rely on China and Russia only
    3)No more oil production to Western Europe - all production to China and Russia via Turkey or FSU.
    Everybody ,except the Chinese and the Russian complaining "what a nasty person" Gaddaffi and his family are and there is nothing anybody can do about it.

  • Comment number 37.

    Libya.

    One of the best moments in my life occurred when on of Monty's Desert Rats visited my house.

    This elderly gentleman had been out riding his bicycle and had lost control on a bend and scraped his handlebars along my son's car.

    He had come around with some cash to pay for the repairs and I invited him in.

    We chatted for a while about his experiences out there in the Libyan Desert and this wonderful fellow was still following Monty's fitness regime!

    Anyway, he offered the money and I refused it point-blank, stating that if it was'nt for him and his chums, we would'nt even be here now.

    Suddenly he whipped out a harmonica, which he'd used to entertain his chums out there in the desert and proceeded to give me a rendition of 'Lile Marlene'.

    I found the experience incredibly moving.

    These boys were our finest.

  • Comment number 38.

    How politically motivated can these people be?

    Leaders of countries have dealt with and formed reasonable relations with Gaddafi so it's beneficial for many to retain the status quo. Except that you can't be both pro-Gaddafi and pro-democracy at the same time. Therefore, to avoid drawing lines in the sand, we simply avoid the issue completely by making excuse after excuse until a winner and loser has been decided so that the international community can all go home and claim that they couldn't do anything to influence whatever outcome arises.

    I disagree with unilateral intervention based on one country simply saying "Yeah, let's get involved."

    However, what we are hearing is that other countries in the region are in favour of supporting military intervention measures. It shouldn't matter what Russia, China or America think, the decision they make is for them alone just as it is down to our government to make choices for the UK, whether people agree or disagree with whatever decision is made.

    The choices are simple: Act or Don't act. A very black and white affir but claiming that they are taking all steps necessary by doing nothing is definitely in the shades of grey region.

    If we have common consensus among the Arab countries in the region, they are the people we should be listening to and basing our decisions on and not on the 'so-called' international community consisting of Russia, America, China and other European countries because they are but a part of the international community and don't represent every aspect of the world we live in.

    People are dying and are asking for help so isn't it our duty to take whatever measures we consider necessary to offer our support in whatever way we can. However, we should not be leading on the issue, the public face of any outside intervention must come from the Arab leaders in the region who are in favour of military intervention to prevent the further slaughter of innocent civillians who have done nothing wrong except take up arms to fight for their country, their freedom and their future.

    If the international community can't support such values then we are truly lost as a world and as a people. We may as well withdraw all our troops from abroad and let those countries take care of themselves whatever the results and as for Japan, having suffered such a calamity, well I'm sure they can sort themselves out so let's pull out the aid we are offering there as well. It's nothing but selective discrimination in favour of government policy because they don't want to do anything. I just wsh they could at least be honest with us all and state that they would rather keep Gaddafi in charge rather than all this pointless rhetoric and doing nothing while claiming that they have done everything they can to make progress.

    How long does it take to respond to an earthquake in another country?
    How long does it take to respond to a tsunami in another country?

    There are many other disasters out there that cost the lives of many people and leaving many more to suffer the aftermath of it all, yet the international community responds quickly in a united front.

    How long does it take to respond to genocide?
    How long does it take to respond to countless thousands dying while politicians sit on their backsides spouting pointless rhetoric?

    Well how long is a piece of string?

    If they were truly afraid of another Iraq, put it in these terms, nobody in the region asked us to attack Iraq and yet here we are being asked to intervene by countries in the region and we do nothing. All it seems to prove is that our governments care little for anything and will simply do as they please and rely on PR to spin a fine tale to suit their own propoganda machines.

    I find the whole situation pathetic.

    Is this really the best that the UN can do?

    Says it all for us humans doesn't it.

  • Comment number 39.

    The French Foreign Minister is correct to blame the EU, China, Russia and America. While the world dithers, Gaddafi is slowly but surely crushing the rebellion.

    Obama has shown himself to be totally inept in a crisis.

    As usual, China and Russia appear unwilling to oppose a cruel dictator - which is why the UN Security Council is a waste of time.

    The fact that Libya was elected chair of the United Nations Human Rights Commission in 2003 really tells us everything we need to know about the UN.

    https://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/2672029.stm

    If Gaddafi regains controls, then what? Under Blair and Brown the UK was on friendly terms with this odious regime. But now without any friends in the West, Gaddafi may feel it is time to resurrect his WMD ambitions. A Libya supporting international terrorism is not a welcome prospect.

  • Comment number 40.

    "The problem though is that I think Iraq has left a scar much much deeper than anyone imagined." - TGF 34

    Yes, that episode has left little appetite for this one (even if the two scenarios are rather different).

  • Comment number 41.

    Meanwhile, back on the dark side, a relative was an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher in the early 1980's and a Libyan turned up for some lessons.

    He was employed by the Libyan Broadcasting Company and my relative asked him what his role was within that organisation.

    He replied (with some difficulty) that his job was to take his camera and follow/record anti-Gaddafi Libyans across Europe.

    My relative assumed that something had got lost in translation.

    However, I was able to tell my relative that Gaddafi appeared to be obtaining this material and then deciding whether to follow up with his hit-squads.

    That particular EFL teaching soon stopped but we all were left with disturbing feelings about the regime in that country.

  • Comment number 42.

    Huge tactical error from day 1.

    We aren't the world police and we should never pretend to be. Not again.

    If we'd stayed silent, entirely, on this issue we could then offer support to the eventual winner of this conflict and secure our oil supply.

    What we have now is the worst of all worlds.

    1: we look weak and inept on geopolitical issues
    2: Gaddaffi wont deal with us
    3: the rebel elements of Libya see us as a total failure, they will hate us - do you praise the police officer who turns up to your burgled house a few weeks later and says 'Well, we tried."?
    4: Russia and China know they control international politics, the US, UK, EU, UN, etc wont act without them and they wont act unless it is in their interest - which essentially nothing is. They are best served by becoming islands of stability in a world in turmoil.

    Russia and China are the real benefactors and the US gets most of its oil from elsewhere. The only major political entity with a real stake in Libya is the EU and the EU is an utterly ineffectual organisation thus any attempts to galvanise international support were going to fail.

  • Comment number 43.

    The inability of the West and the USA to act and assist Libyan people to liberate themsleves from the clutches of Gadahfi's dictatorship passes a signal to dictators all over the world that they can continue their dictatorship undisturbed. This makes a nonsense of the West touting the word "democracy and freedom".
    If the West does not act to liberate the democracy seekers in Libya, the West must understand the If Gadahfi wins, all the oil contracts previously held by the West, will go China. If Gadahfi wins, the West will loose a thousand fold. Obama is too afraid to take any risk with his second term election. Those who take the risk in most cases win. Here, Obama and the West have lost; China wins.

  • Comment number 44.

    33

    I didn't have you pegged as someone willing to let Gaddafi win, FUBAR - you surprise me!

    If we sit on our hands, he will win and every other despot will take heart and every arab who was willing to stand up for their freedom will slink back into the shadows... until the secret police come for them that is...

    I think a larger version of what we did in Sierra Leone would be the best solution - a rapid incursion, neutralise the enemy and withdraw, leaving the civil power to take over.

    As to student politics, let me tell you virtually all students I know would demonstrate against what I'm proposing - you must lead a bit of a sheltered life...

    We have the assets - what is the point in taking no action until there is total unanimity over it, which basically is never going to happen about anything so long as totalitarian China is a member of the UNSC, and fears it might justify action to support a rebellion there?

    All the other nations who are leary of military action are only really opposed because they don't want to get their forces involved...

    .... so offer a UK/French battle group to take out Gaddafi, then leave right away - I bet the rebels bite our hands off for it now - and I think the arab world would develop a new respect for us.

  • Comment number 45.

    Perhaps the Arab League should mobilise themselves to assist in Libya and other nations they purport to represent?

    Non-Arab nations are cautious now about any interference in Arab Nations.

    The ravages of Blair and G W Bush that millions of western nations' 'ordinary' people demonstrated against - yet still went ahead against the will of the majority of 'ordinary' people in the West in spite of 9/11. But we never hear about that do we?



  • Comment number 46.

    A victory for Gaddafi would send a strong message to other dictators.

    We now see Saudi Arabia sending troops to crush protests in Bahrain.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12753727

    Is the UK standing up for these protestors?

    No, of course not!!! The UK Foreign Office supports Saudi Arabia.

    The UK Government had arranged a trade delegation with Prince Andrew to visit Saudi Arabia just this week, "to boost defence contracts".

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12721767

    Although the Prince cancelled his trip, arms deals will presumably still go ahead.

    William Hague needs to get a grip!

  • Comment number 47.

    Like a silly boy threatening others in the play groud with their dad David Cameron has not thought this through and mistaken expedient and naive posturing for effective action. Jumping in and asking for a no-fly zone that the USA, China, and Russia arent interested in and would veto if it got anywhere near a vote showed a mis-guidded focus on home-based opinion over a considered risk-based approach to what was possible and likely. He has put the UK in the position of looking stupid, inexperienced and naive internationally and has been out-manouvered by, and will likely leave in place, a manic former terrorist with copious amounts of oil money without any influence on him or the Country, and most likely an influencial enemy. Not only that but we no longer have enough aircraft and any aircraft carriers to help enforce one anyway, so what the heck was he thinking!

  • Comment number 48.

    West to the Libyan popular uprising: We are behind you.......way behind you. They are afraid Gadahfi will blow up the oil fields and the oil is more important to the West than the freedom of the people of Libya.

  • Comment number 49.

    To all those criticising China and Russia - why no strong critique of Germany's position?

    Russia in particular is under no domestic pressure to intervene in Libya. I expect therefore that no domestic pressure plus some remaining resentment over the Georgia crisis will ensure that Russia fails to support intervention unless there is a clear mandate from all other parties. While it has Germany on side, Russia has more than enough cover for inaction.

  • Comment number 50.

    I tnink a lot of the indecision stems from having a weak President of the US. I said a long time ago that Obama is another Carter, who dithers over making important decisions. Obama also probably realises that the balance of power in the World has changed, and he must take account of what China and Russia have to say.

    On the other hand, it proves how little the rest of the World can function without the US acting as its Policeman in World affairs. If the US do act they are wrong and flexing their muscles towards other states, if they don't they are still wrong, according to many. The UN prefers peace keeping as its choice of intervention and the EU is so large it will never agree on a course of action to suit all.

    If however, the intention of the British and French in Libya, is to bring about regime change, I see then, very little difference between this and Iraq. In which case it would make the case for what Blair did to be the correct decision in Iraq, according to those who support this action.

    I am not military expert, but I would have though it is quite possible that a no fly zone could see many innocent people killed in the process. As no one has yet, really identified who is behind this revolution, it is said it is the ordinary people of Libya but is it really, caution would always be a better way forward, I believe. Iran is an ever present danger in the Middle East and does much behind the scenes to influence what happens there.

    Cameron on the other hand is in the position now, that he may have backed the wrong horse in Libya, by so much rhetoric on the subject. I think he would now like to ensure that horse now comes home, by getting some kind of action in place.

    Strictly 27

    I took the time last night to read over the posts from yesterday. I did indeed get the wrong end of the stick with one of your posts. I hope therefore, you will accept my sincere apologies for this, and my assurance that I will try not to let this happen again.

  • Comment number 51.

    38 "Well how long is a piece of string?"

    I grew sick and tired of people asking me that question and so now I always carry a short piece of string around with me. It saves much arguing.

  • Comment number 52.

    Damage limitation,that's what it's called.It was very obvious from the start that Colonel Gaddafi would prevail.He has said today that the only Europeans he will deal with now are the Germans.He will remove all their monies and assets from The UK and France and transfer to China and India.A big error of judgement by Cameron and Sarkozi.Another thing that has bugged me is the condemnation of civilians killed,all rebels killed are armed civilians,today it's reported that 5 died in a operation there,but what about all those killed in other areas by our forces.What a royal cock-up this has turned out to be.

  • Comment number 53.

    China and Russia not interested in getting involved? Think about it?

  • Comment number 54.

    FWIW I think Cameron's strategy is stunningly good politics.

    He is promoting an option that may not be accepted but he comes out ahead almost whatever happens.

    If the plan is vetoed and the rebels are overthrown our Dave can blame the USA and tell everyone 'I told you so'. If the rebels win, he can claim Britain was their strongest supporter.

    In the event the no fly zone is supported and the rebels win, our Dave is the all conquering world statesman. If it's approved and it turns bad Dave can hide amongst collective responsibility especially since France, Spain and Italy have more to lose.

    A lot of people forget how clever and wily Cameron can be with his politics.

  • Comment number 55.

    34. At 12:54pm on 16 Mar 2011, TheGingerF wrote:

    .....
    For those battling against Gaddafi the best they can hope (probably in vain for) is the UN allows UK/France/Arab League to barely intervene in order to allow those left standing to scrabble to safety.
    .....

    Well, however little, that would be something, wouldn't it? But the pontificating and posturing and this meeting, that meeting, next week's meeting, will all mean it will be TOO LATE for those poor people to "scrabble to safety".

    If I was 50 years younger, I'd be on a plane now trying to find a gun on arrival - does that tell you how angry I am at bloated and overpaid and bullshitting politicians and committees, and the totally unfit for purpose UN?

    How do you communicate with these politicians and leaders and bureacrats in the UK, a so-called democracy, when all you can really do is write to your MP - who doesn't actually agree with you 99.999999% of the time?

    I'm in utter despair at what's happening in Libya, and Bahrain - where my late father served - and in the comfort of my home in the UK, I am struggling to cope with the sheer overwhelming grief I feel for the people suffering in Japan. One of our UK teams has had to come home because of bloody bureacracy!

  • Comment number 56.

    31. At 12:44pm on 16 Mar 2011, Wee-Scamp wrote:
    "It seems to me that now the USA has lost its bottle we need to look for partners with a greater testicular volume.

    I think the new alliance between the UK and France needs to be reinforced."

    Mr.Sarkozy and Mr.Cameron are certainly in need of friends.

  • Comment number 57.

    "I took the time last night to read over the posts from yesterday" - susan @ 50

    Excellent - guess that included all of mine then. Any particular one which struck you as standing out from the crowd? In a good way, I mean.

  • Comment number 58.

    44 ".... so offer a UK/French battle group to take out Gaddafi"

    Would we need an entire battlegroup? Surely 007 could do the business on his own? bryhers, you've probably had him over for dinner recently. Is he up for it?

  • Comment number 59.

    34. At 12:54pm on 16 Mar 2011, TheGingerF wrote:

    .....

    In the end any humanitarian positives that might come out of intervening in Libya will for the West be stacked up against accusations of warmongering, oil theft, imposing views on a different culture, no exit plan etc etc, and thats from those at home, never mind critics who would be many around the globe.
    .....

    Have just listened to Gaddifi's speech against the UK. That's before we have done anything against him. So, we're already poison in his mad head anyway, and how long will it be before we have another attrocious terrorist attack from him once he's killed everyone who's against him in his own country?

  • Comment number 60.

    5. At 10:49am on 16 Mar 2011, Fubar_Saunders wrote:
    1#
    It just goes to show that when you ditch all that ridiculous attention seeking rhetoric, you sometimes do have something pertinent to say. Why dont you do it all the time?
    =========================================

    I was saying the same thing last week - before it actually happened.

    You were probably so busy ranting at everyone you didn't notice.

  • Comment number 61.

    Because of the antics of Blair & Bush in the past the international community are looking for agreement before doing anything.
    Unfortunately the EU, UN etc are just talking shops ..., it will all be over by the time should they ever come to a decision be it right or wrong.
    France & the UK are at least trying to rally an effective response, but without the US on-board they are whistling in the wind.
    President Obama - well he's shown himself to be a ditherer, but I suggest he's weighing up 'sacrificing' the Libyan rebels and possibly more democracy in the Middle East with keeping the 'status quo' of secure oil from states like Saudi Arabia.
    Those who think highly of the President may believe he will have trouble looking at himself in the mirror once Gaddafi and his ilk start slaughtering their opposition in the coming months & years.
    Personally I don't think that highly of the President and hope for the World that the US only keep him for one term.

  • Comment number 62.

    Too late?
    Yes, I think it's too late; I'm awfully glad that a no-fly zone was never applied.
    It's good that the world has extended the period of indecision.
    David Cameron has no more right to demand a no-fly zone than does Obama. The decision rests with the United Nations' Security Council.
    The French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppe can blame whomever he likes, but it has been and will be the veto of China & Russia that will cause the BIG PAUSE. They want this BIG PAUSE.
    The President is not sitting in the fence; for once he is doing the right thing, the legal thing. He is awaiting United Nations' approval.
    Did David Cameron give the lead on Libya only to discover that the world was too weak, too divided, too scared of the shadow of Iraq to act?
    Iraq was an illegal invasion that has caused the death, maiming and refugee-status of hundreds of thousands of displaced Iraqis. Would this not give you pause? Should this sort of action not have demanded a United Nation's Resolution?
    Meanwhile in Bahrain...Saudi Arabia is busy trying to squash a true Peoples' revolt for democracy and social reform; it is doing so under the complete silence of the United States. What does this tell the world? That Libya is special, that Gaddafi is special? Why are they special?
    Here's what I think: This Libyan revolt was NOT a Peoples' Revolt. This is why Gaddafi has requested that the United Nations and/or the AU to investigate the nature of the so-called "protestors". Are they Libyan, or are they mercenaries, and if they are mercenaries, from whence did they come - the United States, Britain, Israel? Who armed them?
    The western powers want Libya bombed so that the collateral damage on the ground will be Libyans; then, the mercenaries can claim Gaddafi killed: "He killed his own people!"
    I don't believe that Gaddafi has (intentionally) killed his own people; his people are the Loyalists. I believe that the international community may get a huge surprise about who comprise the so-called opposition, the so-called protestors.

  • Comment number 63.

    DMHUK 47

    Not only not thought through, but alienating trading partners in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia by openly siding with rebels.

    They will observe when the chips are down he is untrustworthy.Siding with the Arab revolt while it was winning,now too late to retreat,he justifies a reckless policy by dragging in other people.

    Whatever our private feelings,it`s not our struggle.Give humanitarian help impartially,do nothing else unless vital interests are threatened in the Gulf by Iran or its Shia proxies.

  • Comment number 64.

    Doesn't quite work, Andy (51). The question tends to be about the proverbial and generic 'piece of string' ... all you're doing there is showing people how long yours is. What does work, however, is your post 24. For me anyway. Finding the UK tax planning angle in the Libyan crisis. Hats off.

  • Comment number 65.

    The lack of real understanding in the west about the religious differences and how they affect the muslim countries is one where we should hold back for this is something they have to settle among themselves.

    All the west will do is put this off and turn the whole of the muslim world against them as we have seen all too often before.

    Who in their right mind would put foreign troops into the middle of what is really a conflict of different religious factions.

  • Comment number 66.

    Upon reading the Times this lunchtime, I see that the master cartoonist Peter Brookes has really nailed it today with his cartoon of David Cameron as Monty in a Gung-ho Films presentation 'I was Monty's Double'.

    In his dreams!

    That is the sheer brilliance of political cartoonist such as Brookes, in exposing the folly and hubris of politicians such as Cameron.

    As I mentioned earlier in this blog, Cameron would have been far better served if he'd kept a very low profile on this one as he has'nt a hope in hell of 'biffing any blighters in North Africa'.

    Those days have gone.

  • Comment number 67.

    OOPS! – Fiasco of the day.

    Unemployment UP again.

    No sign of the wrong kind of snow but still unemployment rises.

    Now at the highest level for 17 years. That’s right, higher than during the worst global recession since WWII. Higher than at any time since … since … well higher than at any time since the tories were last in office.

    All of this achieved before the majority of their job losses actually happen.

    Can they get unemployment up to 10% like they usually do?


    Tories: taking labours mess and making it worse.

  • Comment number 68.

    46. At 1:32pm on 16 Mar 2011, DistantTraveller wrote:
    A victory for Gaddafi would send a strong message to other dictators.
    "We now see Saudi Arabia sending troops to crush protests in Bahrain.
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12753727
    Is the UK standing up for these protestors?
    No, of course not!!! The UK Foreign Office supports Saudi Arabia.

    Mr.Hague hasn`t got a grip becausae it`s not his policy.He has always been clear it is sometimes necessary for us to do business with people we despise.

    It`s not grip he needs but a leader who thinks before he acts.The other despots,shooting down their own people,think he`s untrustworthy.He was selling arms to them the other week!

    Mr.Obama`s hesitation is rational in the light of all the circumstances.
    Why would he subject his presidency to further strain by rescuing Mr.Cameron from his own impetuousity.

  • Comment number 69.

    By the time the quangos have decided , Gadaffi will be back in power .

  • Comment number 70.

    It would probably take a few Tornadoes flying from Malta to take out the entire Libyan airforce. Let's just do it and to hell with the Obama and co. Lets show some independent thinking for a change. We know it would be the right thing to do.

  • Comment number 71.

    #58 - this is why I don't understand why everyone is waiting for Obama to make his mind up. If military intervention is the way forward, then the might of the USA won't be needed against what is left of the Libyan army (plus whatever mercenaries there may be)

  • Comment number 72.

    37. At 1:07pm on 16 Mar 2011, JohnConstable wrote:

    .....
    One of the best moments in my life occurred when on of Monty's Desert Rats visited my house. and

    These boys were our finest.
    .....

    My late father, who was sunk on the HMT Muncaster Castle on 30/03/1942, eventually got to his destination on the HMT Rajula at 07:00 hours in Tewfik Harbour, near Suez on 21/06/1942. He then spent the rest of the war in all of these countries, including Aden, Eritrea, Egypt, Palestine, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, etc. He was at El Alamein on 28/01/1943 and in Benghasi on 02/03/1943.

    His diary, kept from 13/02/1942 - having lost his first diary after U-68 put a two torpedo spread in to the MC - has an entry for every date spent there until he got home to Inverness at 14:30 hours on 13/01/1946. There is even an entry - which gives the biggest clue to who I named after - about a meeting with a "lady" in Tobruk!

    I feel, having read Dad's diary so many times since he died, because it is so interesting, that I should speak out for the freedom fighters. My Dad was, after all, like your visitor, a freedom fighter too.

    They need our help, not our words which will make it all too late for them!

  • Comment number 73.

    54. At 1:59pm on 16 Mar 2011, The_Ex_Engineer wrote:
    "FWIW I think Cameron's strategy is stunningly good politics.
    He is promoting an option that may not be accepted but he comes out ahead almost whatever happens.
    If the plan is vetoed and the rebels are overthrown our Dave can blame the USA and tell everyone 'I told you so'. If the rebels win, he can claim Britain was their strongest supporter"

    Logic is not your strong point.If Mr.Quaddaffi wins,he and his fellow despots know who was first to side with the rebels,who took the initiative for a no-fly zone.

    If the rebels win,no-one in Western governments knows whether they will be pro-western,or even feel an obligation to be so since we have supported the leaders who exploit them

    Finally,Saudi backed troops in Bahrain today shot down protesters.Do we go in there as well and risk an alliance of Iranian and local Shia?

  • Comment number 74.

    Well it's the 16th March but clearly not much has changed.....

    What should the international community do about Libya?
    At 4:31pm on 25 Feb 2011 jacko wrote:
    This will be a great opportunity for the United Nations to do what it does best. Hold lots of meetings, issue statements at press conferences, and generally to be sanctimonious and totally ineffective. Think UNPROFOR at Srebrenitsa.
    All of which will be great news for the protestors as they get systematiclly mown down by Gaddafi's henchmen.
    Where's Dubya and Rumsfeld when you need them?

    No doubt the quasi-pacifists and the poltically-calculating countries sitting on the fence will be ready to present themselves as 'friends of Libya' should Gaddafi finally kill enough of his fellow citizens to stay in power. They'll be rewarded with all the new infrastructure contracts. Perhaps THAT is why German engineering is so successful - some are still supplying Iran even to this day.......

  • Comment number 75.

    Pickled @ 27

    I agree with your comment. There is no clear and easy course of action, so hand-wringing is the most likely response. With this in mind, it would have been better to moderate the rhetoric from the start.

    Talking of which, I noted your definition of "to davies" from a previous thread. Touché. I am trying to moderate the patronizing tone, honestly, but people say the dumbest things.

  • Comment number 76.

    44. At 1:24pm on 16 Mar 2011, richard bunning wrote:

    33

    I didn't have you pegged as someone willing to let Gaddafi win, FUBAR - you surprise me!
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Had we been equipped to the levels we were at the end of the cold war Richard, it might have been possible. But this is twenty years later and we dont have the leadership, we dont have the men, we dont have the resources, we dont have the political backing amongst our own population who are already sick to the back teeth of seeing coffins being unloaded from C17's every week... we cannot do it. Not unilaterally, not even bi-laterally. This isnt a game of RISK, we're talking about real resources, people, tanks, planes, helicopters, ships, etc - the UK's cupboard is all but bare. Dont you get it???
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------
    If we sit on our hands, he will win and every other despot will take heart and every arab who was willing to stand up for their freedom will slink back into the shadows... until the secret police come for them that is...
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    I know. I'm not disputing that.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    I think a larger version of what we did in Sierra Leone would be the best solution - a rapid incursion, neutralise the enemy and withdraw, leaving the civil power to take over.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    Have you any notion whatsoever as to how big Libya actually is? How many boots on the ground that would take, let alone the logistical tail? And the regimes, whilst equally brutal are very different in their level of equipment, training, dedication, etc. You are absolutely not comparing like with like.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    As to student politics, let me tell you virtually all students I know would demonstrate against what I'm proposing - you must lead a bit of a sheltered life...
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------
    Fair enough, that may have been a bit gratuitous. I withdraw it.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------
    We have the assets - what is the point in taking no action until there is total unanimity over it, which basically is never going to happen about anything so long as totalitarian China is a member of the UNSC, and fears it might justify action to support a rebellion there?
    --------------------------------------------------------------------
    But this is the thing mate, WE DONT have the assets! You've got a navy of barely 25 surface vessels, no carrier strike aircraft, about 8 subs, you could fit the entire Navy and Airforce into Old Trafford and STILL have the pitch completely free, no Jaguars, no Buccaneers, hardly any AAR tankers, half of the Tornados are in Afghanistan, your Hercules fleet is stretched to breaking point as is your airbridge/strategic Air transport, you dont have enough merchant or white ensign transport ships to send your tanks over there, if you can start half of them up considering most of them have been parked up in Germany for the last decade and have hardly moved - we are spectacularly ill-equipped for this caper.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    All the other nations who are leary of military action are only really opposed because they don't want to get their forces involved...
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Damn right. Neither do we, not unilaterally at least!
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    .... so offer a UK/French battle group to take out Gaddafi, then leave right away - I bet the rebels bite our hands off for it now - and I think the arab world would develop a new respect for us.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    But thats what we did with Saddam. And look at the quagmire that left and how long it took us to get out. Sorry Rich, but if it was that easy, Reagan and Clinton would have done it years ago. Gadaffi only came in from the cold because he realised that with GW Bush in the White House that unless he played ball, he could have been and almost certainly would have been next. And he could not countenance that.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------
    But Bush, Blair and Brown are gone and the British people are weary of seeing their sons and daughters come back in coffins or wheelchairs for battles that are not theirs to fight. This is one of the rare occasions I agree with the thrust of what Bryhers says. This is a matter for the Arab league. By all means offer the league support, facilities, expertise, etc. But beyond that, thats where it stops. They have to do this for themselves.

  • Comment number 77.

    38. At 1:11pm on 16 Mar 2011, AlphaPhantom wrote:
    ....
    How long does it take to respond to genocide?
    How long does it take to respond to countless thousands dying while politicians sit on their backsides spouting pointless rhetoric?

    Well how long is a piece of string?

    If they were truly afraid of another Iraq, put it in these terms, nobody in the region asked us to attack Iraq and yet here we are being asked to intervene by countries in the region and we do nothing. All it seems to prove is that our governments care little for anything and will simply do as they please and rely on PR to spin a fine tale to suit their own propoganda machines.

    I find the whole situation pathetic.

    Is this really the best that the UN can do?

    Says it all for us humans doesn't it.
    ....

    You put it so well, thank you, AlphaPhantom.

  • Comment number 78.

    sagamix 57

    Now let me think.....no. However, I would not worry too much, mine were not that good either. Too much protecting the ramparts, without seeing the full picture.

  • Comment number 79.

    Interesting piece by Simon Heffer today, quoting Palmerston: "Our duty - our vocation - is not to enslave but to set free. We stand at the head of moral, social, and political civilisation." Heffer then goes on to explain why the UK should not attempt to intervene in Libya.

    He may be right. I'm undecided. Caught in the headlights.

    But to chose not to act, to chose to wait and see, is as much an existential choice as to do something.

    From many contributions to this blog, and the previous ones, I note that many, though of couse not all, of the Left are salivating at the thought of hundreds of thousands of people being kiled and tortured if this will win a few thousand votes for Labour at the next election.

  • Comment number 80.

    IMO, there is a very discernible difference between the tone of Labour and 'left' and the Coalition govt regarding Britian making foreign millitary interventions ... this applied to Iraq as much as Libya.

    The Conservatives, in opposition, fully supported the difficult position of the Labour govt and Blair in 2002/2003 (based on what Parliament was told about WMD etc) regarding Iraq and did not attempt to make any political capital out of that or e.g. repeatedly ask for resignations from the Foreign Sec etc. or e.g. do everything possible to make it difficult for the govt to its job on a difficult issue. I recall that a certain William Hague standing up in Parliament stating that he did not seek to make political capital on the Iraq issue, at the time.

    To their credit, the Lib Dems were the correct voice of caution and reason on Iraq.

    That was in complete contrast to the current behaviour of the current Labour party and its Blandwagon of supporters who now criticise every move of the Coalition govt. in a cheap and nasty concerted effort to make political capital out of the Coalition's efforts in its attempt to obtain a consensus on e.g. a NFZ etc.

    IMO this is further evidence of the lack of integrity of Labour and its blandwagon ... we have to remember here that the main reason that the international community is reluctant to intervene in Libya is because the previous UK Labour govt ... botched and bungled ... Iraq.

    Disgraceful ... you bunch of traitors! You not only damage yourselves, and your country ... but make it more difficult for our govt to achieve its international leadership role on Libya ... this in turn may well still be costing lives in Libya (as well as Iraq)!

    You need to stand back and remember what William Hague said because he is better than any of you!

  • Comment number 81.

    9. At 11:12am on 16 Mar 2011, geoff hughes wrote:
    'The free world knows which side it is on'

    What exactly does it know about the 'side' it is on in Libya? Someone educate me..without using all the usual claptrap about amorphous 'democracy' and 'freedom'.. about the nature of the rebels.

    The objective of the West if it supports anyone is to pick the winning side and ATM the initial prediction of the Civil War in Libya may seem to be wrong.

    Perhaps the West should just keep out of it altogther.

  • Comment number 82.

    John @ 79

    Don't understand your last paragraph, John. Can you explain? Who exactly has been salivating at the thought of mass slaughter and torture?

  • Comment number 83.

    #80 Miliband in PMQs on 9 March "I want to support him [Cameron] on Libya wherever I can" seems fair enough to me, and it seems fair to question when the foreign secretary makes mistakes which have been coming thick and fast. Or do you think that government should be allowed to carry on without scrutiny and question (even if it is from a party with a questionable recent past in foreign intervention)?

  • Comment number 84.

    How times change.
    It seems like only yesterday that we were cutting arms deals with Gaddafi & letting a mass murderer free because he was feeling a little poorly (still going strong I see).

    These Dictator chaps are so quaint when they play our game & such nasty individuals when they don’t.
    Still, it’s nice to see a British PM leading the way for a change with the Americans dragging behind; poor Obama seems a little lost on this one.

    I don’t think DC will get very far with the (Dis)United Nations, but good luck to him all the same; Poor chap seems damned if does something & damned if he doesn’t.

  • Comment number 85.

    I suggest that we create a new UN, rather like the 'No-homer club' in The Simpsons, we could called it the 'No China and Russia UN', maybe then it would get something done.

    Then again, as I said previously, no-one was accused of war crimes for not risking our troops' lives by going into Rwanda or Srebrenica. It's not very nice watching the slaughter but maybe it'll lead all of those people who condemn Bush and Blair as warmongers to think twice next time they call for them to be brought to trial. Somehow I doubt it though.

  • Comment number 86.

    70. At 2:32pm on 16 Mar 2011, Wee-Scamp wrote:
    It would probably take a few Tornadoes flying from Malta to take out the entire Libyan airforce. Let's just do it and to hell with the Obama and co...

    'And Co.' being is now the USA, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi et. al., Israel, Iraq, Iran, Russia and China. Oh, and Europe. Apologies to anyone I've missed out.
    I understand and even sympathise with your feelings, but we're not even sure who we'd actually be supporting in Libya. Or be obliged to support and not support after that.

  • Comment number 87.

    Gdafi, Bahrein, Egypt, Tunisia, wherever! I have had it up to the eybrows with the problems of the world. They aren't OUR responsibility any more than we are theirs. They need to sort their own problems out.

    Let's ignore them all and sit down and watch Midsomer Murders with a nice cup of tea. Aaaaah. That's better.

  • Comment number 88.

    80. nautonier

    A fair observation; it does appear that the Labour party is opposing Cameron for the sake of it when unity on this matter should be the order of the day.
    I would have thought the war mongering Labour party would be in like Flynn on this one.

  • Comment number 89.

    63. bryhers wrote:

    'Whatever our private feelings,it`s not our struggle.Give humanitarian help impartially,do nothing else unless vital interests are threatened in the Gulf by Iran or its Shia proxies.'


    Agree with you most in most part, sensible policies and glad to see your conversion from the dark side, bryers.
    But how are we going to give humanitarian aid if we're denied access to the country? Presume you mean the lucky ones who cross the border?

  • Comment number 90.


    Well the next time the yanks want our help I now know what our answer should be.

  • Comment number 91.

    # 68. bryhers wrote:

    "Mr.Hague hasn`t got a grip becausae it`s not his policy."

    But actually, I think it IS his policy and he has to take responsibility for it. The Foreign Office has not been fit for purpose for many years - but Hague is now supposedly in charge and could turn things round if he wanted to.

    We are still selling arms to the Saudis who are now helping to crush the protesters in Bahrain. Yet in Libya, the UK apparently supports the rebels.

    If we are to have an ethical foreign policy (supporting democratic protest against dictatorships) then we should be consistent. It doesn't make sense to supply arms to those who would crush opposition.

    You say "He has always been clear it is sometimes necessary for us to do business with people we despise."

    Well, that's a shoddy sort of excuse isn't it?

    You say "Mr.Obama`s hesitation is rational in the light of all the circumstances.
    Why would he subject his presidency to further strain by rescuing Mr.Cameron from his own impetuousity"


    I don't think rescuing Cameron is the issue. It is reported that "thousands of people are thought to have died after security forces targeted protesters in unrest which began in mid-February."

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12636798

    "The BBC's Matthew Price, at the ICC in The Hague, says Mr Moreno-Ocampo's office has identified at least nine incidents that could constitute crimes against humanity"

  • Comment number 92.

    83. At 3:41pm on 16 Mar 2011, RedandYellowandGreennotBlue wrote:

    #80 Miliband in PMQs on 9 March "I want to support him [Cameron] on Libya wherever I can" seems fair enough to me, and it seems fair to question when the foreign secretary makes mistakes which have been coming thick and fast. Or do you think that government should be allowed to carry on without scrutiny and question (even if it is from a party with a questionable recent past in foreign intervention)?

    ...................
    If you think you can believe Milliband and see him as genuine?

    Scrutiny is not the same as blatant personalised political opportunism.

    Remember ... e.g. Dr Kelly ... and e.g. the millitary police service personnel who were murdered in Basra? These are the kind of issues that gives rise to 'scrutiny'.

    I think that the 'Blandwagon' do not know how to behave and lack integrity ... and 'others' as well ... in the media.

  • Comment number 93.

    Flame@87

    You really can't help yourself, can you?

  • Comment number 94.

    79. At 3:15pm on 16 Mar 2011, johnharris66 wrote:

    From many contributions to this blog, and the previous ones, I note that many, though of couse not all, of the Left are salivating at the thought of hundreds of thousands of people being kiled and tortured if this will win a few thousand votes for Labour at the next election.

    ---------
    What an utterly distasteful and completely uncessary comment

  • Comment number 95.

    For decades Britain has sought global influence beyond its 1% of the world’s population by playing Greece to America’s Rome. Now the Romans are withdrawing their legions, they have problems back home and their interests aren’t ours. We hear the echo of Emperor Honorius’ message in AD410: ‘Look to your own defences’. It’s no good blaming Obama; we have to recognise that no longer hitched to his skirts our moral posturing is noticed by few on the world stage.

    It may be too late for the Libyan rebels; they may find that even President Sarkozy’s gesture of giving them diplomatic recognition provides little defence against fighters and tanks. They may discover that both we and the French have unwisely inverted Theodore Roosevelt’s phrase and that our stick may be little but it doesn’t stop us from speaking loudly. At least such oratory appeases those in our own populations still hungry for days of imperial glory.

    Perhaps it is time to tailor our foreign policy to the means we have of supporting it. We should only promise what we have a reasonably chance of delivering. We seem to have two broad choices: one is to restrain our verbosity to the defence of our own island interests; the other is to embark on the long and bumpy road of seeking to develop a common European foreign and defence policy with the clout to make a real impact on world affairs. With the aversion so many British have to all things European, perhaps the choice is already made. But don’t let us then pontificate on events we can’t influence.

  • Comment number 96.

    91. DistantTraveller wrote:

    If we are to have an ethical foreign policy (supporting democratic protest against dictatorships) then we should be consistent. It doesn't make sense to supply arms to those who would crush opposition.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    Unfortunately the Government doesn’t have a crystal ball that they can use to predict when – or if -opposition groups will immerge. It’s also not unknown for seemingly Democratic Governments to change into rather nasty ones.

    Ultimately, a 100% watertight ethical foreign policy would have to involve the banning of any sales of arms to every country just to be sure; obviously this isn’t going to happen.

  • Comment number 97.

    I've posted several times on this and the previous blogs. I joined the Labour Party (note the Labour Party not wanting any more New Labour) at the age of 63 last year. I am backing Cameron to get something done, anything done - even though I think it's too late (and probably the cynic in me sees it as PR postulating). So, with this being an important matter to me, at least, I'm sad to see some posters now taking cheap political shots at either side on this blog now and will go away, for today at least, cos it makes me sick!

  • Comment number 98.

    85. Peter White

    'It's not very nice watching the slaughter but maybe it'll lead all of those people who condemn Bush and Blair as warmongers to think twice next time they call for them to be brought to trial. Somehow I doubt it though.'


    Remind us again, on what premise did the UK invade Iraq?

    Five wars in six years for Blair. Quite a record.

  • Comment number 99.

    Surely the real question is - why the silence on Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and so much hot air from our impotent Prime Minister on Libya. It's all very sad https://bit.ly/fIfMQl

  • Comment number 100.

    79. At 3:15pm on 16 Mar 2011, johnharris66 wrote:
    Interesting piece by Simon Heffer today, quoting Palmerston: "Our duty -
    From many contributions to this blog, and the previous ones, I note that many, though of couse not all, of the Left are salivating at the thought of hundreds of thousands of people being kiled and tortured if this will win a few thousand votes for Labour at the next election.
    =============================

    Yet what has been the practical contribution of your tory chums?

    First snooty encourages people accross the region to engage in rebellion.

    Next he makes promises of military support, emboldening the rebels.

    Finally he actually provides no support and leaves them to die.

    People in the disunited kingdom might realise that cameron is head of a failed state not a major power - but how many people in the Libya etc still thought britain was a big player who could help them?

    Perhaps the worst possible course of action from a humanitarian point of view: similar in principle to the US conduct with the marsh arabs at the end of gulf war one.

    Neither the labour party nor anyone on these blogs have any power - snooty does and has used it in a disastrous manner.

 

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