UK Politics

Lord West's doubts over Libya no-fly zone and Gaddafi

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Media captionUK was 'a bit dozy' on Libya reaction says Lord West

The former head of the Royal Navy, Lord West, says the government is finally getting its act together over Libya but is not convinced about the idea of the West imposing a no-fly zone.

The government's response to the crisis in Libya was very dozy at first - the problem was no one was taking charge.

David Cameron was off on an arms trade trip; Nick Clegg was off skiing in Klosters, and apparently unaware he was in charge.

But once David Cameron came back from the Middle East, and banged a few heads together, and kicked a few backsides, things tightened up.

What we got once Cameron returned was the suggestion of a no-fly zone. But a no-fly zone isn't a straight-forward silver bullet.

It raises hugely complicated questions about how you enforce it and exactly what you target - do you hit radar, for example? What's more, it needs a UN resolution and we know Russia will exercise its veto so that it won't get one.

What is the point of a no-fly zone? It might make some in the military and air force shift sides and support the anti-Gaddafi forces but it is unlikely that it would remove him

Terrible timing

And it enables Gaddafi to portray himself as the poor little Muslim boy fighting off the big bad West.

The danger is that the prime minister is tempted to do it to show he is back on the front foot after the initial shambles. But a no-fly zone shouldn't be about proving a point, it should be part of a considered military strategy.

Mr Cameron has said defence of the realm is the government's top priority but he hasn't put his money where his mouth is.

The timing of this week's announcement that 11,000 service personnel will be axed was terrible.

Image caption The Libyan leader could portray himself as the 'Muslim boy fighting off the big bad west'

It showed the flaw in how the government views defence. Cameron and Osborne have so far seen foreign policy in terms of soft power; in terms of trade and overseas aid.

But events this week have demonstrated to them the danger of disregarding hard military power.

This administration has not been quick-footed enough over events in Libya. Cameron got caught out.

He was out getting PR pictures in Egypt while things were falling apart back home.

This classic case of left-hand right-hand confusion shows this young administration still has a lot to learn.

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Media captionUK was 'a bit dozy' on Libya reaction says Lord West

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