Libya

              On Monday I attended the debate on Libya, but decided not to vote. I should explain why.

              I of course support the United Nations in its wish to protect civilians in Libya from the barabrism of its government. I could not disagree with the main sentiments of the Commons motion. We would all like the Libyan government to behave better, and would like democratic forces to be allowed to protest and to seek peaceful change.

             My concern is who intervenes and what they do. I would prefer the UN resolution to be enforced by the Arab League, supported by NATO powers close to Libya who will find it easier to lend planes and personnel to the task. I do not wish to see more UK lives at risk in conflict after the enormous sacrifices made by our armed forces elsewhere in the Middle East. At a time of necessary restraint on public spending  we need to avoid any new open ended financial commitments as well.

              The debate raised the issue of how do the UN forces achieve success and get out again?  Whilst the aim of the intervention very clearly is to seek to protect Libyan civilians from violence by its government, and not regime change, the easiest way of seeing an end to this business would be the end of the Gaddafi regime. Were the Gaddafi factions to fragment and to topple him, that would provide an exit. If the bombing did kill him, as some have suggested, that too would mark an end.

                  If the Gaddafi regime stays in place  there will remain a serious risk that he and his forces will revenge themselves on the rebels. If the UN does not arm and support the rebels it will be difficult to prevent this. The air zone allows bombing of tanks and army units when they are in open ground moving from town to town, but does not allow intervention house by house in urban areas if the Gaddafi forces blend into the urban landscape and attack the rebels at closer quarters. There will be growing pressure to offer assistance to the ground forces of the rebels if the internal conflict continues.

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45 Comments

  1. Mike Stallard
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    I just cannot see how this is going to work.
    OK, so we stop the Commander of the Faithful coming after his own people by bombing him.
    Then what?
    Osama bin Laden has proved that the West has no idea how to find people in the Arab world. The Commander of the Faithful is an expert in survival too.
    As soon as we get fed up and the media cameras move on, the Commander of the Faithful will move back in and restore democracy and the Rule of Law by force.
    Hasn’t anyone seen that?

    • Winston Smith
      Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      Bin Laden has long been dead. There has been no sighting or video of him for years. The audio tapes released periodically are not credible, except endorsement from US military experts. Its convenienent to have a figurehead as a focus for the enemy.

    • forthurst
      Posted March 23, 2011 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      Did we invade Afghanistan to a kill or capture bin Laden? Why is the route of the TAPI pipeline through Hemand province etched in the blood of Englishmen ? Is bin Laden directing operations there as he directed the demolition of the World Trade Centre building 7?

      Osama bin Laden has been dead for a long while, which was attested by Benazir Bhutto.

  2. Javelin
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Absolutely agree, on closer inspection of the rebels military capability this UN resolution appears to be even less well thought through than Iraq. At least in Iraq they got through the combat phase.

  3. lifelogic
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    Congratulations on at least not voting for it. It was a very difficult and finely balanced decision for anyone to have to make. On balance I would be against as it is far from clear that any overall benefit will follow from whatever ensues. Also Britain is the last country to be involved due to the history and politics in the region.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:43 am | Permalink

      All the evidence clearly shows that high tax rates and big public expenditure result in lower tax revenues. As Osborne is now borrowing nearly £12B last month perhaps he might be able to finally work this out.

      The (Tory Inspired) non dom tax has cost them a fortune already in revenues as has the top 52% rate.

      Will he finally act today I rather doubt it?

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 23, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

        I see that the BBC already seems to have decided that the budget is – too much to0 fast and risking and the recovery – rather than too little (indeed often none at all) to0 slowly as is likely to be the true position.

        • lifelogic
          Posted March 23, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

          Well done Osbourne on the Enterprise Investment Scheme and R&D credits and the rather trivial 2% corporation tax cut. But the 52% on high earners and the wealthy still means they will not come or will leave and will tend to push companies like HSBC away. Tax revenue will thus be reduced. Mad counter productive increase in the non dom tax for similar reasons.

          A bit of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. UK still remains one on the least competitive places do business of the main economies with the gloomy prospect of Labour back in power soon too.

          High taxes and very poor public services and poor infrastructure too.

          • lifelogic
            Posted March 23, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

            “A budget for growth” – Yes but mainly growth outside the UK.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 23, 2011 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      David Cameron “we cannot drop democracy from 10000 feet “

    • zorro
      Posted March 23, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

      I fully support John’s decision to abstain – definitely the right one I think history will judge…

      zorro

  4. A.Sedgwick
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    I think the Monroe Doctrine applies to Libya for Europe, equally there is no way we should have got involved with Iraq or Afghanistan and we should have pulled out of the latter by now – the death toll is enough. Making Wootton Bassett Royal does not bring back the wasted lives of our best young people in faraway places.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:59 am | Permalink

      Indeed these were even more clearly wars that were always likely to do far more harm than good.

  5. NickW
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Before a Military intervention begins the answers to two questions needs to be established.

    What are our parameters for success and failure?

    What does the situation on the ground have to be to allow us to withdraw our troops / cease military action.?

    If action begins without knowing the answer to those questions, the commitment is going to be open ended.

    Everyone needs to understand that military interventions sometimes fail to achieve their objective. If success is not realistically possible, that fact has to be accepted and the mission ended.

  6. alan jutson
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    A difficult decision for you, with which I have some sympathy.

    Vote yes, and you support what certainly at the moment appears a western solution, with little front line support from arab countres.
    So its the US and UK in the fireing line again, with all of the ramifications of such a position which seems to make us once again even less popular in the wider arab world.

    Vote no, and you fail to support those who are trying to overthrow the general (whoever they may be) in the HOPE of a more democratic system.

    I would have liked to have seen more arab front line support for any action, after all it is an arab area problem (yes I know oil is involved) but surely this should be an arab solution, for the arab people with perhaps back up from the west, not a western solution with limited arab back up.

    Seems once again we have no real exit strategy, as we have no idea how long this conflict may go on, or indeed how we may be sucked ion further.

    What is for sure, is it is stretching our armed services, and our finances to the limit.

    Why can we not simply learn the lessons of past decades, and keep out of other peoples conflicts.

  7. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Cameron seems to have learned just one lesson from the Iraq inquiry – how to enter a conflict legally. As for the essential requirement of having a plan for what comes after the initial conflict and an exit strategy he clearly lost interest in the subject. How much better he must have felt though stepping out and speaking on “world” and military matters rather than dealing with domestic affairs such as the NHS reforms and the economic mess that he is presiding over.

    • zorro
      Posted March 23, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

      A good example of his attention span….

      zorro

  8. Electro-Kevin
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Yet again we are being dragged into something created by hysterical news reporters. Wall to wall TV coverage.

    Our leaders view this and think “We must be SEEN to be doing something.” our population demand it and we must think about the headlines.

    So it is no good them quietly sponsoring rebel factions and providing secret SAS training to depose Gaddafi by proxy – they must posture openly and deploy shock-and-awe tactics with military hardware marked with national insignia.

    Except our population do not demand it. We are heartily sick of such interventions and egotistical politicians who rarely pay the price.

    I read that Italy is already complaining of a human catastrophe on their southern borders – refugees from the recent uprisings, many of them Libyans. All Gaddafi need do is facilitate this movement and put it about that housing, health and welfare are free to all comers here in Britain.

    Mr Cameron has already declared that their country is on our southern border, thus confirming that he believes we live in a country called Europe and must do our duty to it.

    • Winston Smith
      Posted March 23, 2011 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      Quite. The chasm between the political/media elite and the general public has never been more obvious. MPs of all parties and the commentariat in the media are wholly behind this military action, whereas, nearly two-thirds are of us peasants are opposed to it. This is despite the media’s manipulated coverage. The public are not a stupid as the elite presume. I have yet to hear a convincing argument in favour of our military intervention. This chasm between the elite and the peasants cannot continue.

      • Stuart Fairney
        Posted March 23, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

        Again I agree entirely, the whole set up has the whiff of the ancien regime about it. A serious event (I think the collapse of the fiat currency system) may bring about some wholesale change which may not be pleasant.

      • Electro-Kevin
        Posted March 23, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

        Well… really ! You describe yourself how you wan’t – but I certainly wouldn’t describe myself or Mrs E-K as ‘peasants’.

        We have a coffee perculator !

        • Electro-Kevin
          Posted March 23, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

          Though I do admit to being prone to the odd aberrant apostrophe.

  9. Scottspeig
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    I think you were wrong not to vote (and think you should have voted against). There are so many issues at stake here. Not only that, but since we are still in Afghanistan, we should have said that we cannot over extend our capacity, both in size of forces deployed and the cost to this nation.

    The benefit to this nation is pretty negligible and Gaddaffi posed minimal threat to our country (as opposed to an unknown later). As such, our government has no job being there and spending money.

    If it really wanted to help, it should have a voluntary military and send that.

  10. Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    I applaud your stand Mr Redwood, although I would have preferred a vote against another imperialist war that will not benefit anyone, least of all Libyans.
    Cameron is certainly heir to Blair – can’t wait to stick his nose in conflicts that are none of our business and we know little about.

    • zorro
      Posted March 23, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

      I think that John’s position was best politics – I think that it is pretty clear what John thinks. He must be careful not to aggravate David Blair too much just in case DB decides to cut the number of seats in Parliament – best not to be too clearly in the firing line.

      zorro

  11. Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    I am sick of British politicians pretending that interventions like this are on moral/humanitarian grounds, when they did absolutely nothing about Mugabe killing thousands in Zimbabwe and causing even greater numbers to starve to death.
    If they hadn’t allowed this country to become so reliant on oil, I’m sure they would have ignored Libya just as they ignored Zimbabwe.

  12. D K McGregor
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    All the pundits on this small war are very loathe to put any time frame on it , why is this ? Does it matter if they speculate 2 weeks or 2 years ? Why are they asked the question if they will not put a number on it and let us see if they are to be trusted as experts in their field in the future. I could go on the telly and ho and hum just as well as them.
    This got me to thinking that a deadline should be placed on this affair by CMD and others to concentrate mind s a bit on our side and on the Libyan rebels who would have to man up rather sooner and not expect our boys to do it for them.Let’ say end of June (2011).

  13. Duyfken
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    I’m unsure still what the true British objectives are and whether our involvement is just altruistic in nature or undertaken also for British interests. If the former, it should be regarded as a part of overses aid and funded from that budget and definitely not made a further imposition on the tax-payer. May parliament keep a meticulous watch to prevent any suggestion of mission creep by our Government.

  14. Mr Ecks
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    The most urgent regime change needed is that of Cameron and Clegg.

    You must see John that they are ballsing it all up and if they are not got rid of then your party will be in serious trouble(more serious than they already are).

    Time to start plotting.

    Plot hard.

  15. Michael Read
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Agree. But even if Gaddafi is toppled that’s not the end of it. At best, the UK will be supporting a UN force for years to avoid a civil war.

    Does anyone think that anyone there in Libya has any idea about democracy? It’s just a useful temporary branding tool for an inevitable and bloody power struggle.

    We can’t win. We can lose. Worse, we will bleed our treasure whatever the outcome.

  16. waramess
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    We hear about the minutia of the case for going into combat but little about the big picture.

    Why Libya and not Zaire? Did not Mugabe inflict misery upon his people? Why not Darfur, were not the people of Sudan not crushed by the ruling class? Why suddenly do we feel moral outrage when Gaddafi decides to mistreat his people, yet again.

    None of this makes any ssense unless we listen to Gaddafi, who says it is all about oil.

    If that is indeed the case I have to wonder why you did not vote against.

    I have to wonder why only 11 parliamentatians voted against.

    I have to wonder where the moral fibre of this country has disappeared to when we have to point to a UN resolution for our actions and our inactions.

  17. acorn
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Stop press!!! In a rare act of unity, the EU yesterday, took a major step in resolving the Libyan conflict. It removed the photo’ of Gaddafi from the European Council’s Justus Lipsius building in Brussels. This must surely spell the end of this tyrant.

  18. christopher
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Abstaining is the same as a no vote. If we all abstained or voted no the brave decisions would never be taken. If life is not precious enough to save and freedoms not important then humanitariasm is just a word and meaningless.

    • Posted March 23, 2011 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

      Yes, if in doubt, bomb the Arabs.

  19. Bryan
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Why Libya? Why not all of the other nasty regimes which regularly abuse and kill their citizens?

    Why do we persist in thinking we are a World ‘power’?

    Why do we not realise that in the Arab world democracy as we preach (but not have – ref EU) does not exist?

    Time we learnt to keep our noses out.

    Or will we never learn?

  20. oldtimer
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    All the potical effort seems to have been put into getting the resolution through the UN Security Council. Not enough thought has been put into establishing the command structure, clarifying the aims of the venture or in determining the exit. This has resulted in muddle and confusion at the political level. At the military level the No Fly Zone is limited in what it can achieve to knocking out the air defence system and military vehicles caught on the open highway. Thus Ghaddafi forces continue to shoot up civilians in places like Misurata despite the NFZ. This means that the stated UN resolution objective of protecting civilians cannot be achieved other than in Benghazi and points East. This looks like leaving both Libya itself and UK relations with other Middle East states in a mess .

    I do wonder if the manifold implications of this venture have been properly thought through. I suspect not. It already exposes inconsistencies in UK foreign policy and weaknesses in our capacity to deliver its aims. I doubt whether the UK, with France, will ever again be able to get such a resolution through the UN Security Council.

  21. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    This is going to become a civil war. If we are going to help the rebels, they must show themselves to be capable of forming an interim government and having an adequate military command structure. Then we can divert some of the oil revenues to them and sell them arms and transport. Anti-tank weapons would seem to be an obvious choice. Other than that, maintenance of the no fly zone should be the limit of our involvement.

    • Posted March 23, 2011 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

      Apparently, division and civil war is seen as preferable to a strong united Arab ‘Caliphate’.

  22. Posted March 23, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    John
    What I referred to in my post that included comments on Libya,was that ALL the countries in Africa are Colonial constructs of more than 100 years ago including Libya and trying to in effect make Regime change by getting rid of Gaddafi could and will backfire,because Libya is tribal and will split into at least two maybe more parts.Presumeably Cameron will support the oil bearing east and ignore the west,then what happens when the west makes war on the east to get it’s share of the OIL wealth,that it used to have.(specific reference removed as no time to check it out-ed)

  23. Alte Fritz
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    Bismarck said in 1878 that the happiness of the Bulgarian people was not worth the bones of one Pommerian grenadier. How do we take that sentiment now? It is hard to better his summary.

    • Posted March 23, 2011 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

      I can’t remember who said it but “Our oil is underneath their sand” is about right.

  24. Iain Gill
    Posted March 25, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Permalink
  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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