It it strange for me to find myself arguing against military action. Over the past decade I have found myself on the opposite side of the argument over Afghanistan and Iraq. I maintain the same views on those two conflicts. Here the circumstances are different. I am no pacifist but one must only go to war with a very, very strong justification indeed.
My motto is ”if in doubt, stay out.” What is the overriding reason for taking military action in Libya?
I remember Rageh Omaar – the Scud stud – expressing his views on the Iraq conflict a few years back. He believes that British involvement has been catastrophic. ”Let me put it another way”, he said, ”what has France lost by staying out?” I would like to say the same thing here. Would it significantly damage the UK’s relations with France and the US? No. If the Libyan rebels win will they hate us for not helping? No. They would have to hate most of the world then.
France, the UK and the United States have all launched air raids against Gaddafi’s war machine. He has not sponsored terrorism in about 15 years. Why is it essential to attack him and why now? I have heard no convincing answers to that. I doff my cap to the anti-Gaddafi fighters but what legitimacy do they have to call themselves a government. Just because Gaddafi is bad – and he is horrific – it does not automatically follow that his enemies are good? If he wins – as he probably shall – his enemies who are captured will likely be horrifically tortured and killed. This happens all over. We cannot save everyone who is oppressed. I know it is better to save some than none.
It is curious that France should lead the charge over this. I remember in 2003 she was dead set against the Coalition’s military action against Saddam Hussein’s regime.
At least Gaddafi and his mob will be easier to defeat than Saddam’s crew. Libya has a much smaller population than Iraq. There is a major insurrection against Gaddafi ongoing right now. Ok, in Iraq the Kurdistan region was effectively independent before the Coalition went in. However, there was little fighting between Kurdish forces and pro-Saddam forces.
Gaddafi will likely survive and be anti-Western more so than he has been in the last 15 years. On the other hand he might be cowed and not want to piss off Western countries.
The UK, US and France are all too busy in Afghanistan. Gaddafi is no threat to them. He may become so now. This decision to impose a no fly zone has been taken on the one hand too late and on the other hand hastily. Had it been implemented a month back the revolution may well have been crowned with success by now. Western capitals were gripped with something must be done -itis.
This war is avoidable. It is not a war of national survival. Gaddafi wanted to prevent this fight as being between Libyan independence and Western oil theft. The attackers have lent this bogus claim a spurious credibility. People who might otherwise oppose him may well back him up now.
I ask Obama, Sarkozy and Cameron – how many personnel are you willing to lose over this? When the casualties mount will you stick with it? The British public mostly opposes its military’s presence in Afghanistan despite only 200 or so Britishers being killed there in 10 years. How many Libyan civilians are you willing to kill before you do more harm than you tried to prevent? What are the probable and even the possible ramifications of this war? Will this inflame Arab and Islamic opinion against the crusader states anew? This shows all the signs of not having been thought through. Have contingency plans been made for the likely outcomes.
Gaddafi survives – what do we do then? Do we accept him or keep up some sort of sanctions that only make him more irate? Gaddafi is ousted and one of his circle takes over to rule on as before – what do we do then? Do we recognise this leader or do we say he is as filthy as his former master? France has already recognised the opposition as the rightful government. What legitimacy do they have. ”The Libyan people”. We hear this phrase bandied about much by do-gooder Western statesman. As if the Libyan people are homogenous or unanimous against Gaddafi. All those years of pouring praise on Gaddafi by state media have seeped deep into the conscious and the unconscious mind of many Libyans.
What if this all devolves into a protracted civil war – do we wade in or get out?
The revolution succeeds – what do we do then? Do we help organise elections or what? What if these elections are blighted by massive cheating and violence. Libya has not had a proper democracy before and they are unlikely to get it all right the first time around. The likelihood of a fairytale ending – of Libya turning into an Arab Norway is very slight.
I shall be honest enough to admit that there are some disadvantages to stopping armed action now it has begun. It will make these lands seem feeble, inconstant. Gaddafi might be stringer than ever.
Do we wants mass illegal immigration in the EU from Libya? I say no.
Tunisia and Egypt could have helped but have not. That should tell us something. They have their own internal troubles to settle. We could just be prolonging the agony of the revolution. At the very least these air strikes have been imprudent. Why stir up a hornet’s nest. I thought Colin Powell’s lesson of Vietnam is instructive. Either go into a war totally committed or else not at all. No half measures. One should not fight half heartedly. It is the will to win that counts. The Communists in Vietnam fought the US to a standstill by being determined by being will to suffer millions of casualties. Not by better weapons, tactics, training or anything of that nature.
David Cameron says it borders on racism to say Arabs cannot manage a democracy. Why else have so few Arab democracies emerged? In fact one could argue that no fully democratic states have ever emerged in Araby. Palestine is fairly democratic but riven with corruption and fighting between different political parties. Hardly a democratic model. Democracy is not always exportable. Some people like dictatorship. This is an uncomfortable fact for many naive Occidentals. One must be chary about exporting democracy. Robespierre disagreed with the French Revolution being brought to Germany by military means – ”no one welcomes armed missionaries.” We would do well to remember his sage words. He was a fanatic and a man of violence yet even he recognised that essential truth though he overstated it.
Here is a quotation for Carl Schurz – a German-American 19th century politician.
”The man who in times of popular excitement boldly and unflinchingly resists hot-tempered clamor for an unnecessary war, and thus exposes himself to the opprobrious imputation of a lack of patriotism or of courage, to the end of saving his country from a great calamity, is, as to “loving and faithfully serving his country,” at least as good a patriot as the hero of the most daring feat of arms, and a far better one than those who, with an ostentatious pretense of superior patriotism, cry for war before it is needed, especially if then they let others do the fighting.”
There may be great job opportunities in Libya whatever the outcome. People will be afraid to go. I may go to Afghanistan or even Japan. People will be stupidly scared of it because of that tsunami. It killed 10 000 out of 150 000 000 people – come on!