Libya: Hands up who saw this coming

It was with considerable sadness that we noted the state of events in Libya today. This piece from the Telegraph describes the havoc being created by the apparently random launching of cluster bombs into the streets of Misurata by forces loyal to Gaddafi. This one from the Daily Mail details the confusion and disagreement surrounding the desire for regime change, an objective that clearly  oversteps the boundaries of the UN resolution legitimising action in Libya.

Oliver Miles, a former British ambassador to Tripoli, comments:

We’ve set ourselves a problem to which we don’t actually have the solution. We say he’s got to go, but we don’t know how to make him go.

This, in our view, is the crux of the matter: once again, we (in concert with the French and the Americans) have initiated an intervention which is already proving inadequate to the situation, and which seems virtually certain to create more chaos than it resolves.

One question that arises repeatedly is whether the UK’s part in military action in Libya is truly motivated by concern for the people of the region, or whether there is an underlying, more cynical motive. John Baron — the only Conservative MP to have voted against bringing in the armed forces — voices the opinion that:

If one was being charitable one would say that this is mission creep. If one was being uncharitable, one would say this was always the underlying motive.

So, the very grounds of the UK’s military presence in Libya are pretty shaky. Factor in the actual results, and we’re shaping up to create another failed state, locked in a power struggle, where humanitarian concerns take a backseat to a self-centred military objective.

Which, of course, is precisely the kind of scenario that is likely to alienate and embitter the broader Libyan populace. If this conflict drags on, we fully expect war to exact its usual toll and damage the country’s infrastructure. As basic services become scarcer, as food becomes harder to come by, the chances are that rebel groups, who see Western intervention as the cause of their woes, will spring up and become active.

We’ve seen patterns like this before, yet we seem determined to play them out again and again, to the detriment of the Libyan people and the increasing instability of the political map.

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