No fly zones and the Libyan uprising

           I think the USA is right to say that any No fly zone would need UN backing, an invitation from the Libyan democratic movements, and agreement from the immediate neighbours of Libya as pre-conditions. These are all unlikely to come together. They are also right to warn that a No fly zone may require warfare to impose it. It may need the bombing of land installations that maintain and support the Libyan airforce, or may entail bringing Libyan planes down over inhabited territory. It may well result in the deaths of Libyans who are not party to the uprising or who are on the democratic side. The arithmetic of war is always unpleasant to weigh, and poses all sorts of legal and moral issues for anyone thinking of interfering in a civil war from outside. If it is attempted, the west needs to be sure of its legal and moral ground, and to see how it could mount an operation where the positive results outweighed the damage done. Any campaign is about hearts and minds as well as about planes and bombs.

              The UK is not in a position to carry out this task. Yesterday the government decomissioned Ark Royal.  Tripoli is around 1500 miles from London,  and over 1000 miles from Cyprus. If NATO forces are to carry out this task it would be easier for the US to do it from  carriers nearby, or for Italy to do it. Palermo is around 350 miles from Tripoli and Naples a bit over 500 miles. France is considerably closer too.  Marseilles is about half the distance from Libya compared to  London.

               Many of us would like to see the brave resistance of the democratic uprising be successful. It is heart breaking to watch the tv pictures of the brutal repression now underway in Libya. They show that the more serious threat to the Libyan people comes not from the Libyan airforce, but from the tanks, heavy guns and small arms fire of the troops still loyal to the dictator. If you wanted to stop that it would require a western military presence with force on the ground. Trying to stop that from the air would mean numerous deaths and much destruction of  Libyan cities from air bombardment, with no guarantee of success.  The Libyan army could go to ground in the buildings of the cities.

                 The EU is unlikely to be the body that takes such a decision or mounts such an operation. NATO is the organisation  with the command and planning capacity  and potential military support which could do it. NATO will rightly want greater certainty about local reactions before committing forces, and  a plan which gave a reasonable chance of success. The truth is that today the position of the democratic forces does not look good. Tomorrow may bring a change. It is also difficult to see how the dictator can govern a country where  he has so clearly lost control. It is one thing to force people into temporary submission. It is another to govern them, when your army is relatively small and when so many people have reason to resent the government. The dictator’s government will be like an occupying power for many parts of the country. Once  government troops have recaptured a city they need to ask themselves how can they protect themselves once the hot fighting has stopped? How can they enforce the government’s will when there will be so little support from many of the citizens? Brutality can take you so far, but it only works as a means of governing if most people most of the time accept the authority that imposes it.

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  1. lifelogic
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    Agree fully nothing really to add – I just hope for a good outcome in the end with as little bloodshed as possible.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 12, 2011 at 8:26 am | Permalink

      At least I have not heard anyone on the BBC blame the appalling earthquake/tsunami on global warming yet – doubtless it is only a matter of time. It will be lumped in with “increasing frequency of natural disasters and increasing sea levels” no doubt.

      Who cares about science – it’s scary TV footage, basic human emotions and misguided appeals for you to look after your grandchildren’s interests by driving your bottles to the recycling centre that count on television. Science and logic never get a look in – unless they can find a mad professor type who might give a bit of good mad professor footage.

  2. Duyfken
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    It seems that a possible or only path to Libya’s freedom is guerrilla warfare – terrorising the terrorists – and presumably some external help could be provided in the way of equipment etc. Were Ghaddaffi to re-establish his rule, when does the oil start to flow again and who gets it? Also, for how long do the present sanctions remain in place? UN, NATO and the EU should be thinking beyond the present question of No-fly zones.

  3. Javelin
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    I think a widespread guerilla war will win in end despite US intelligence. Which will fall to Muslim extremists to carry out.

    In the mean time the unelected Baroness Ashton seems to be running our country. Except at the weekend when she returns home.

    John why does every story you publish involve unelected officials. It appears all the important decisions are no longer taken or debated by Parliament.

  4. alan jutson
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Given the strength of our armed forces, our days of helping to police the World, other than on a very small scale (as part of a combined force with others) are now over.

    Yes, very aware that we had to cut back on Defence (and many other things) because Labour had not only spent all the money, but committed the Country to unfinanced future contracts and expenditure as well, but the folly of decommissioning our carriers and harriers, when they were still capable of years of good service, must now be striking home.

    Our armed services are losing not only equipment, but experienced personel, and with that the flexibility to perform.

    Sad to see what is happening in Libya but we need to keep out of it (unlike Tony Blair and the Labour Party) other than to be part of the United Nations discussions and diplomatic negotiations and sanctions, if that is what is agreed.

    For the past two decades we have sent (at great human and financial cost) our young men and women to foreign lands in the name of supporting democracy, without a great deal of success. Time now to re-evaluate.

    John, you comments about a no fly zone being impossible to implement without involving a possible direct attack mode (to protect our pilots) is I think very valid, because I do not see the present Libyan government giving up without a fight, and all that, that entails.

  5. Euan
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Crocodile tears from the UK and US. The only time we’re bothered about repression is when we don’t like the people that are doing it. If it’s a homicidal dictator that is very pro western then we’ll train and equip their security forces and turn a completely blind eye to all their excesses. It’s pretty surprising that the US is bothered about the UN, it normally jumps at any chance to bomb another country (having done so to over 50 countries since WW2).

  6. Stuart Fairney
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    “Many of us would like to see the brave resistance of the democratic uprising be successful”

    How on earth do you know the people doing the shooting are not just opportunist thugs? How do you know they are democrats? What will you do if they elect a Hamas type government or engage in a revenge bloodbath as their tribe gains the upper hand over the Colonel’s?

    They aren’t going to win without serious military hardware/help and I question the wisdom of giving advanced weaponry to an unknown and undefined Islamist group. Keep your nose out of a civil war unless you yourself plan to do the fighting a la Orwell and the international brigades in the 1930’s (and I don’t see any MP’s rushing towards the sound of the guns). Then there is the small matter of our utter indebteness and overstretched army.

    For God’s sake stop the sabre rattling.

    • StevenL
      Posted March 12, 2011 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

      …I question the wisdom of giving advanced weaponry to an unknown and undefined Islamist group.

      I can’t get over the number of comments I’ve read over the last week or two around the blogosphere suggesting giving stinger missiles to these people. I’m presuming the people advocating this don’t use passenger jets or live underneath any civilian flightpaths!

  7. APL
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    JR: “an invitation from the Libyan democratic movements, .. ”

    You delude yourself if you think there is any appetite for ‘democracy’ in Libya.

    You’d be better occupied trying to reestablish democracy in the UK.

    • Stephen Almond
      Posted March 12, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      Well said, sir!
      Despite the warm words of the BBC, I see gangs of young men playing at war, shooting guns into the air and having a ‘good’ time.
      It’s like an armed version of the student riots, here in the UK.

  8. A.Sedgwick
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    The rebel leadership made an understandable error in throwing out Hague’s “diplomatic” mission, hamfisted as that was, because one option is a UN Force in Eastern Libya. That seems unlikely given that prickly response.

    If no intervention takes place Gaddafi will probably regain control with terrible retribution and some outlawing by the West but other countries will jump at the chance to get into Libya. There are parallels in other parts of Africa.

    Had George W. still been President the warplanes in their hangars and runways would probably have been blasted by now and the reality as usual is any response is in the hands of the USA. It is a tough decision for Obama and a defining moment for his presidency and legacy. There are very significant long term ramifications.

  9. Dan smith
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Sensible discussion, this would either be a bluff, which if done very quickly a week or so ago might have worked when Ghadaffi forces, seemed in disarray and he was losing a town a day, or it would be a real long term operation which would mean significant bombing of the Libyan air force and air defence infrastructure.

    The debate in the UK media seems to assume it is either a UK alone operation or an Anglo-US operation, Ark Royal has just been taken out of service but for want of a political decision it could be put back in service as could the Harriers but short range ground attack planes such as Harrier are actually not what is wanted to take on the Libyan airforce. The response from politicians to avoid discussing the possibility of revisiting the carrier decision is the nonsense of mounting an operation from Cyprus which as you say is over 1000 miles away. yes we could launch a single strike from there, or even from the UK as was done in 1986 but a 24/7 patrol operation over Tripoi, Benghazzi and points in between and I am sorry but you are talking nonsense.

    AS a NATO operation this would call on as a first instance the assets of the Southern tier members so, Spain with a Carrier, and bases in the Balearics, France with a Carrier, and bases in Corsica, Italy with 2 Carriers and bases in Sardinia, Scilly, and Naples, and 2 Carriers, Greece and bases on Crete. If that is available I have no problem in RAF contributing AEW or Air Refuelling assets or if necessarry even some Typhoons but actually with the engagement of the Southern tier NATO members their need would actually be more likely to be logistics and back up support rather than combat aircraft.

    If all of them are saying no it is not a priority, despite the fact they are nearer and so more vulnerable to any consequences however the situation turns out then, we should clearly not be involved.

    • StevenL
      Posted March 12, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

      Does the typhoon work other than for airshows yet? I read 2018 before it can drop any bombs. What’s the latest?

      I’m starting to think we should have just bought F-16s.

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 13, 2011 at 8:05 am | Permalink

        We should have done but we are in the EU so were so it was discouraged by the UK’s unelected leaders.

        • dan Smith
          Posted March 13, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

          We should have done but regardless of the EU the real masters of the defence budget BAe and their subcontractors decided otherwise.

          In terms of the Typhoon it was never designed to drop bombs it was designed to dogfight Migs the Tornado and the Harrier were the long range and short range bombers or attack aircraft.

          As the delays have gone on and the justification have changed they are now trying to turn it in to a multirole aircraft that it was never meant to be.

    • APL
      Posted March 13, 2011 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      Dan Smith: “I have no problem in RAF contributing AEW ..”

      Haven’t we just cut up all the old comet airframes?

      • dan Smith
        Posted March 13, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

        We have 5 E-3 aircraft based on 707’s.

        The Comet based Nimrods were designed to chase submarines but would not have been too bad at spotting tanks in a desert if we still had them.

  10. Javelin
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Nuclear reactor explodes in Japan in past half hour. BBC say people being stopped 60km away. What does this mean for the UK energy stategy. Given the changes in the middle east and demand for oil from China and India and the lack of progress by the previous Labour Government. If we are losing our oil supplies from the Middle East and the public reject new nuclear plants what are we doing next? Expect oil and gas prices to rise next week.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 12, 2011 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      Just means we need new fail safe reactors that shut down safely even in an earthquake or similar. All is quite possible.

      Surprising that in Japan prone as it is this has apparently not been done.

      • Bazman
        Posted March 12, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

        They did have this technology and were programmed to shut down just before an earthquake. Whether they did or not is not clear.
        Why not just mount it on rockets that blast it safely to the sun when it fails? Probably for the same reason that planes are not made as tough as their flight recorders.

        • lifelogic
          Posted March 13, 2011 at 5:11 am | Permalink

          They shut down automatically but did not self cool without power. You would now design so that even given a failure of all the power and cooling systems it fails to a save mode. This mode would have a self cooling system designed to be independent of power built into the design should it over heat.

          A bit too heavy for rockets but it’s a idea – probably a better one than wind farms “green” house bling.

      • English Pensioner
        Posted March 12, 2011 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

        According to the latest BBC news it seems that the Japanese have made their reactor secure. The small explosion was in the cooling system which produced a small amount of radio activity whose level is now falling. The impressive cloud of dust was from the brick shell of the building collapsing and was much the same as when Fred Dibnah demolished a chimney!

    • Mark
      Posted March 12, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      Steven Holliday (CEO National Grid) has told us we will no longer have electricity on demand. We will have to wait for the wind to blow. However, the UK is not in an earthquake zone prone to magnitude 9.0 quakes – and we could turn round and tell the EU to keep their Large Combustion Plant Directive as the Dutch are doing, and carry on burning some coal, and accelerate the building of CCGT capacity that would see us increase our dependence on imported LNG. Nuclear capacity won’t affect our energy balance in the timescale of the futures markets: furthest out traded December 2019 Brent closed the week at 109.40 $/bbl, a discount to the prompt April at 112.94 $/bbl and only a modest premium over December 2015 oil at 105.48 $/bbl – the low point of the forward price curve.

      Mean time the earthquake in Japan will have forcibly reduced their energy consumption quite sharply. That could actually see oil prices fall. Rising prices would be more about nervousness about oil producing countries where revolution has yet to strike. The Chernobyl disaster didn’t have a significant impact on oil prices back in April/May 1986 – indeed by July 1986 Brent prices were back under 10$/bbl.

      • Stuart Fairney
        Posted March 13, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

        “Steven Holliday (CEO National Grid) has told us we will no longer have electricity on demand. We will have to wait for the wind to blow”

        Where did he say this?

    • Damien
      Posted March 12, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

      Oil demand in Japan will fall as refineries are closed there and so the upward pressure on worldwide oil prices will ease. However demand for Brent remains high because of the shortfall from Libya despite Saudi Arabia offering to increase supply.

      Meanwhile Japan will have to buy -in gas from the world markets to replace the lost of domestic energy supply from the nuclear power stations and oil refineries therefore expect further increase in the price of gas to the UK .

    • APL
      Posted March 13, 2011 at 12:05 am | Permalink

      Javelin: “Nuclear reactor explodes in Japan in past half hour.”

      I believe the Japanese reactors were BWR (Boiling water reactors) where the moderator in the reactor core was water. The water is heated by the nuclear reaction and the steam drives the turbines.

      It looks like the reactors were shut down immediately the earthquake struck and the diesel generators took over, perhaps the diesel generators died when the tsunami inundated the engines, but the pumps that supply the water into the reactor core failed and the result was a build up of steam and hydrogen – another byproduct of the reaction. The explosion we have seen may have been a hydrogen explosion.

      Apparently the reactor have been inundated with borated sea water. The Boron is a moderator that will absorb the neutrons that generate the nuclear reaction.

      So far as we know the reactor has failed safe.

      Of course the green fascists will make much of the incident

      • APL
        Posted March 13, 2011 at 12:28 am | Permalink

        By the way, let’s remember what we know has happened so far …

        MASSIVE EARTHQUAKE and TSUNAMI, leading to a relatively minor explosion in the cooling system of an already shutdown reactor.

        The MSM appears to be elevating the explosion in the cooling system of a reactor over the Earthquake and Tsunami and the deaths of so far unknown Japanese.

        Go figure.

        • dan Smith
          Posted March 13, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

          Yes earthquake and Tsunami leads to at least a couple of towns being wiped off the map with deaths probably north of 10,ooo and perhaps even 100 ,000 but the media wants to talk about a small release of radioactive material which may increase by a % or two over the next decade the, cancer rate maybe!

  11. John B
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    I wonder if Downing Street harbours some kind of schizophrenia virus which partitions the mind?

    Blair, then Brown, now Cameron have one side of their brains embroiling British forces deeper and deeper in foreign wars whilst simultaneously the other half is confiscating their means to do so.

    The impossibility of doing the former because of the latter being entirely lost on them, so clearly there is some internal dis-connexion among the synapses.

    Do you suppose when we are down to flinging stones, ministers might notice?

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 12, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely –

      They always want so be see to be doing something on the world stage with the weapons and money that they no longer have. Having pushed the business away with their over tax, regulate and waste policies.

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 12, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps send a few 92 year old woman to sort it out now that you can no longer retire or discriminate against them. They could swim to Libya I suppose if no ships or planes available.

  12. waramess
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    A truly irresistable urge to interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries is the hallmark of the US and British governments. They will not be thanked for it in either the long or short term but it seems to calm the conscience of its leaders at its taxpayers expense.

    We really should resist the temptation and allow matters to progress to a domestic conclusion notwithstanding the loss of life. The current wisdom seems to be the possibility of Libya dividing in two and with the “rebels” having control over the oil.

    What this might teach us is that supplying arms to despots will almost certainly lead, in the long term, to them being used against civilians.

    Our politicians should re-examine their moral values if indeed they ever had any, before rushing in, uninvited, to “rescue” civilians.

  13. English Pensioner
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    If EU action is to be taken, it should be taken by France or Italy who in the past have always tended to support action provided someone else actually takes the action.
    It would also check whether any of Cameron’s agreements with France on shared military facilities are worth the paper they are written on.

    Meanwhile there are other actions which could be taken; good old fashioned propaganda campaigns, using both old techniques like leafleting and modern methods like the internet, could perhaps help to spread disillusionment among his forces, particularly among mercenaries if they could be convinced they might not get paid. What about trying to get his pilots to defect? A couple already have, and money talks. Large rewards and even a promise of asylum might be very attractive and would cost considerably less than any form of military action. What about rewards for Gaddafi and members of his government on a “dead or alive” basis (Whoops, sorry, I forgot their human rights!)
    These types of actions don’t put British lives at risk, and if they don’t work, would have cost very little compared with our defence budget. I think underhand actions and deviousness should be the order of the day!

  14. oldtimer
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    No one has explained how a no fly zone would actually stop Ghadaffi in a ground war. The materiel odds are sifnificantly in his favour. It sounds to me like gesture politics at its worst. This is a civil war and the UK government should not be ordering UK armed forces to risk life and limb in fighting someone elses war. But of course it would be US armed forces, not UK forces, that would be the most exposed. No wonder Obama, Clinton and Case are so reluctant.

    The existing UN resolutions should be pressed home as far as they can be in order to squeeze the capacity of the Ghadaffi regime to fight. The further East his forces travel, the more elongated and exposed his supply lines become. Afghanistan has amply demonstrated how difficult it can be for conventional forces to fend off guerilla forces in an assymetric war. No doubt it would be very bloody but that would be a war he would find it very difficult to win.

  15. James Matthews
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Whether or not there is any intervention in Libya, our leaders really should take note of the military impotence this crisis has brought into high relief. In proportion to our population we now have the smallest armed forces we have had for centuries. In the past when financial problems struck, we still maintained proper reserves and mothballed equipment which might be needed in future. Now, to save peanuts, we don’t do that.

    We have accepted that we will have no aircraft carrier for at least eight years. This surely must give rise to the question, if we are sure we have no need of one until 2020, why do we think we might need one thereafter.

    It is not a matter of policing the world. Armed forces are an insurance policy. We are manifestly under-insured.

  16. Mark
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Libyan battles so far have concentrated on control of key oil assets – the refineries at Zawiyah, Ras Lanuf and Brega, and the major oil export ports of Es Sider, Brega, Ras Lanuf (as refined and semi refined products) and Zuetina. So far, only Tobruk has remained beyond Gaddafi reach, and even managed 1 million barrels of export from its storage tanks during the week. Remarkably, the Ras Lanuf refinery (Libya’s largest at 200,000b/d) reported it had maintained operations at about 70% until the beginning of the week when the fighting became so intense that it shut down. The second largest Zawiyah refinery (120,000b/d) will now keep Gaddafi’s forces in keronsene for the jets and helicopters, and diesel and petrol for military vehicles and desalinated water, whereas until he had secured control he had had to carefully eke out supplies in storage at bases. He has been careful to avoid major damage to the oil installations: two palls of smoke from export tankage at Es Sider look impressive, until you see how big the tank farm is on satellite images (a couple of miles back from the coast on higher ground).

    He now has the fuel to intensify his military campaign, and the ability to deny it to his opponents. He can also deny them the opportunity to export to earn revenue to pay for food medicine and arms. Effectively he can lay siege to the rebel centres of population. It may not be long before he can find customers willing to pay him a discounted shilling for oil exports, and suppliers willing to keep him in food, medicine and arms. This has been a battle for the oil installations – barely reported as such in the media at all. Control those, and you control the Libyan economy.

    • Mark
      Posted March 12, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      If you feel my assessment is too sensitive to publish, please at least pass it on to the relevant decision makers. Everything I have written is based on public domain information and reports.

    • alexmews
      Posted March 12, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

      excellent and informative post. someone looking at the maps!

  17. badgerbill
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Experience in Iraq and Afghanistan has shown that eventually the West runs out of its welcome and is turned against whilst everything was done in the name of democracy and the best of intentions.

    The Uk government should stay well out until the dust has settled. This is a problem for the Libyans, not our young people in the armed forces.

    If the UN wants us to get involved with other nations then that is the only way forward otherwise any action could be considered illegal with the resulting resentment as above.

  18. lojolondon
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Welcome to the Middle East – we all expect Gaddafi to use every weapon in his arsenal against the uprising, in fact I am surprised that Egypt was handed over so meekly! So if you want to get involved, you better be ready for a fight. And if you back the rebels you better be sure they win, or Gaddafi will make you pay!

  19. FaustiesBlog
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Going to war for oil is utterly immoral. Nobody buys the government’s claim that a no-fly zone would be instituted for ‘humanitarian’ reasons. We’ve had a decade or more to study the motives and outcomes of the starting the Iraq and Afghan wars and are in no mood to put up with another imperialistic, selfish war.

    I hope Cameron understands this.

    The Iraqi people don’t feel at all happy about being ‘liberated’ – their country has been destroyed.

    Perhaps we should mind our own business, while electing to obtain our oil from other quarters. Or, heaven forbid, drill for oil in the UK and on its shores?

    Hell, drilling for our own oil and gas would make us more energy-sufficient, create new jobs and help us plug the black hole of debt.

    Or are we under treaty obligation not to drill?

    • Richard
      Posted March 12, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

      Im always puzzled by those who find it outrageous and “immoral” that this nation would go to war over oil..
      I wonder if you and your family are happy to sit in the dark and live their lives in the cold of a winter without power and to see their standard of living and their way of life ruined because I am not.
      I am very content for my Government to protect my standard of living, by ensuring that the supply of this basic resource is not restricted nor controlled by those who might like to see this nation and its allies brought to its knees.

      You would soon change your tune if you were suddenly unemployed, your home was cold, your lights didnt come on and walking became the only way to get around because some dictator was refusing to allow us to have any oil.

      • FaustiesBlog
        Posted March 12, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

        As I said, why don’t we drill for oil in the UK?

        Why don’t we put anaerobic digesters in all new homes? The Scandinavian models of the ’80s would do nicely.

        Why don’t we use the many clean methods of burning coal? Heaven knows, we have plenty of it.

        Do you honestly believe it is just to ransack another country for its resources? Surely, that’s somewhat akin to state-sponsored armed robbery and mass murder>

        • APL
          Posted March 13, 2011 at 12:15 am | Permalink

          Fausties Blog: “Why don’t we .. ”

          Build nuclear reactors?

          • FaustiesBlog
            Posted March 13, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

            Indeed. Although I’m sure the warmist alarmists / environmental nutters in our midst will take full advantage of the explosions at Japan’s nuclear sites. Some even contend that these were not accidental. Who knows? I’m sure we won’t be told, either way.

    • English Pensioner
      Posted March 12, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

      I don’t have any particular concerns about going to war over oil but I find it unacceptable when claims are made that it is to protect human rights and similar codswallop. If we are so keen on Human Rights why haven’t we done something about Mugabe in Rhodesia.

  20. Iain Gill
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    If anything needs immediate world wide coordinated action, resources throwing at it, and quick decisive help

    Then I am afraid now the priorities have changed, doing whatever we can to minimise the pollution from the Japanese nuclear reactors has got to be world priority for action number one

    This is much more likely to kill people worldwide and cause problems for generations to come

    I hope somewhere somebody is calculating how the polution will spread given world wide weather patterns

    I hope somebody is quickly figuring out the way to encapsulate some of these damaged facitlities in the way Chernobel was, and I hope its done a lot quicker

    And so much more

    This is a much bigger immediate threat to us than Lybia

    • English Pensioner
      Posted March 12, 2011 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

      Not if one reads the latest BBC news.
      I’m sure, in their usual unbiased manner they would let us know instantly if there was likely to be any risk, but their latest bulletin says “the reactor itself was intact inside its steel container.” and “radiation levels around the stricken plant have now fallen”.

    • Alistair Morley
      Posted March 13, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      Agreed. Relax Iain. Close reading of reportage and expert commentary makes it clear we’re not heading for Chernobyl.

      The reporting has been dreadful, though, if I knew nothing about nuclear reactors I can see how I’d be worried too.

      • Iain Gill
        Posted March 14, 2011 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

        naive in the extreme

  21. Edward.
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    There will be no intervention, the US will not be involved, Obama will not allow US forces in, thus neither will anyone else, despite the huffing and puffing of Cast iron and Sarko.

    When Ghaddafi retakes the country, there will be a low level guerrilla war and it will be bloody but it may degenerate into something even worse.

    The worry is, a counter insurgency on a scale of Iraq, the wanton killing and slaughter of civilians on all sides by trained genocidal, Islamic fundamentalist guerrillas, this could become a bloodbath, as Ghaddafi and Al Qaeda battle each other and all comers over Libyan territory, the unfortunate citizenry caught in the middle.

    • StevenL
      Posted March 12, 2011 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

      I’d have thought the Pentagon would consider setting Al Qaeda and Gaddafi on each other, in a long drawn out guerilla war, a foreign policy success?

  22. Mike Stallard
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    When I was 20 in the 60s, being English was the key to being at the top of the pile.
    Now I am in my 70s, being British is ridiculous: great big imperialist dreams and the ability of Greece!

    • English Pensioner
      Posted March 12, 2011 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

      I’m not even sure we have the ability of Greece. At least they are building a fence between Greece and Turkey to keep out illegal immigrants.
      See the EU Observer here and here.

  23. Tom
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    The African Union stated on the 10th , quote

    “6. Reaffirms its strong commitment to the respect of the unity and territorial integrity of Libya, as well as its rejection of any foreign military intervention, whatever its form; ”

    It is their war now and our media should identify it as such.

    On the question of UK energy security. Rather than spending money on inefficient wind generation , we should be seeing how clean (efficient) we can get energy from coal.

  24. Bazman
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    This Gaddafi chap…He’ll have to go.. and as I don’t know much about Middle Eastern politics lets get it on! Probably will work out something like this. Saddam could have been removed by a coup that would have been very bloody for less than fifty people, but turned into a fiasco not helped by forces trapped in a Soviet invasion mindset that disassembled the powers of the state, this being the last thing they should have done.

    • Mark
      Posted March 13, 2011 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      I suspect you underestimate the chaos a coup would have unleashed. There were many power structures inside Iraq (set to watch each other), and the divisions between Sunni, Shia and Kurd that we have seen since he was ousted.

      • Alistair Morley
        Posted March 13, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Permalink


        Additionally note that Saddam had an very good record of surviving coup attempts. He’d broken at least a dozen plots against him, including 2 US-sponsered ones, over his 30-year rule. Statistically, it didn’t look likely to happen had the invasion not rendered the point moot.

  25. JT
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    It has absolutely nothing to do with Britain. Or Bristish interests.
    It’s around 1% of oil supply – so no major world issue.
    Even if we had 10 fully armed aircraft carriers – it makes no difference.
    it has NOTHING to do with us.
    They don’t want us there.
    Intervention would only make it more complicated.
    It didnt make any difference in Suez — so don;t get all misty eyed for a past glorious Britain.
    That ended in around 1910 – 1920. Thats when we peaked.
    The sooner we accept that the better.

  26. Martin
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    Militarily we are heavily deployed in Afghanistan.
    Cameron and Hague are suffering imperial delusions or are going though the motions to impress some of their supporters.

    Isn’t the policy of keeping Trident and scrapping almost everything else except the Tower of London clever?

  27. Andrew Johnson
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    I really cannot understand why Britain should be involved militarily in any other country’s civil war, coup d’etat or internal unrest. I would like to see no more foreign military action, never, ever, anywhere – unless Britain is attacked first. We should concentrate on self defence, border and internal security and in rebuilding our country’s economy.

    • Alistair Morley
      Posted March 13, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      The problem with this “strategy”, (I hesitate to use the word to describe mere isolationism), is that it relies upon not doing anything until it is too late. If you don’t actively promote your wider interests then you run the risk of drifting, by default, into an environment dominated by unfriendly powers. By the time the final, direct attack comes, your strategic position will have degenerated to the extent you’re in no condition to stop it. But this is Foreign Policy 101.

      A very few countries, with accidents of history or geography, can pull off isolationism. But for most countries there is no escape from security dilemma.

      • Andrew Johnson
        Posted March 14, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

        It seems to have worked very well for a large number of countries, since WW2, including Germany, France and Italy. I worked for a good while in the aerospace industry, both civil and military, and am not without some knowledge about what has gone on and is going on in the world.
        Please google the number of coalition troops involved in Iraq and Afghanistan, and you will discover that nearly all the military action involves very large US forces. In fact as far as the West is concerned, it would be very difficult for any Western nation to act with military independence against another country in a manner perceived to be against America’s interests, which is what America’s foreign policy is all about. My point is this, we do not have the finance, we do not have the materiels and we do not have the trained manpower.
        It is a documented fact, that we could not carry out a Falklands type operation. Neither could we enforce a Libyan no fly zone on our own. There is a good deal of ignorance about Britian’s offensive capabilities. Currently we do not have a long range bomber. The Tornado has a typical combat range of 1,390km and we don’t have too many of these.
        The sad but true fact is, that even prior to the Falklands war, the writing was on the wall as far as Britain’s offensive capabilities were concerned. Both Labour and Conservative governments have pursued a continuous policy of talking tough while running down all three services, Britain’s teritorial army and Civil Defence . Concentrating on self defence and border and internal security does not mean isolation, abandoning diplomacy, withdrawal from Nato and other defence pacts, or giving up our nuclear deterrent. It might mean wresting control of the nuclear codes from the US though. Having the ultimate nuclear option, is a powerful deterrent against any potential aggressor, particularly if our nuclear submarine fleet was expanded, so we do not need to fear being at the mercy of any aggressor nation.
        Don’t worry Alistair, with honourable exceptions, most of whom are not in government, there is no chance of Britain ever pursuing a “defence” policy other than that dictated by the US and the EU.

  28. Mark C
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    I seem to recall that the utterly dreadful Pol Pot was overthrown when the Vietnamese communists invaded Cambodia. And didn’t something similar happen in Uganda a few years ago? I doubt whether either regime change was sanctioned by the United Nations, but, because the regimes being ousted were despicable and the armies which intervened were neither from the old imperial/colonial powers nor American, there was relatively little fuss. Can we not seek to persuade the Egyptian army to intervene?

    • Alistair Morley
      Posted March 13, 2011 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      That would indeed solve the problem to everyone’s satisfaction. The Egyptian armed forces are probably quite capable of it, with a bit of logistics help.

      Trouble is, they seem disinclined to do so.

    • dan Smith
      Posted March 13, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

      At last someone makes the obvious proposal, Arab League wants him out, most powerful military in Arab world is Egypt right next door, if Egypt supports Benghazzi rebels on the ground, they win, without that no fly zone or not Ghaddaffi slaughters them.

  29. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted March 13, 2011 at 12:40 am | Permalink

    Suppose that UK supplied arms to the rebels and encouraged the oil companies to pay royalties to the rebels rather than colonel Gaddafi’s government. Would that not work?

    • Alistair Morley
      Posted March 13, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

      Over years, a loss of oil revenue would destroy Ghaddafi via the patronage networks he relies on. Over similar timescales, an effective rebel force might be raised, trained, equipped. There are serious organisational and political hurdles, but its possible.

      Unfortunately Ghaddaffi is no fool. He is looking to wrap this up on a time-scale of weeks, rendering your plan moot. It appears he has sufficient arms, food and money to sustain himself for that long.

  30. Alistair Morley
    Posted March 13, 2011 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Given the large open spaces, the limited operational depth, the shaky logistics and limited mobile air defence of the Libyan armed forces, airpower could probably stop further offensive action against Rebel-held cities without too much difficulty. But this would require active strikes rather than a no fly zone.

    Supporting a rebel offensive would be another kettle of fish. As Mr Redwood indicates, the Ghaddafi loyalists could dig in within urban areas, concealing their heavy equipment or relying on effective human shields of their surrounding population. There may be other ways to play that game, though.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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