I did not vote for the Libyan motion when the action was first discussed in the Commons because I was worried about how we could ensure a good outcome. I wondered why Libya and not elsewhere in the Middle East, and why the UK when other countries were closer and had the military means to enforce any UN resolution. Events in Syria reinforce the question of what is special about Libya that warrants military intervention from outside.
Today NATO seems to define success as being the end of Gaddafi’s tenure in office. Action from the air has been successful in lifting the external threat to Libya’s second city, as allied planes were able to destroy tanks and other heavy equipment on the way to attack the city. It is far more difficult to do the same at Misrata, where the Libyan government forces are already inside the town and are fighting house to house. The UN Resolution allows action to protect civilian lives, making it hazardous to attack government forces in urban areas where NATO could kill civilians near to the government forces.
Goverrnment Ministers and senior mililtary are well aware that they must stay within the terms of the UN Resolution. If the aim is now different to that of the Resolution, the correct thing to do is to go back to the UN and seek to persuade it to change the Resolution to allow NATO to do what it thinks now needs doing. If the UN declines, the UK could then with honour cut back its commitment. If the UN wants its forces to do more, it could identify forces closer to Libya from other UN members that might like to take the action forward. A Resolution backing regime change would be the safest legal base for military action to remove Gaddafi.