Monday, 22 August 2011

David Cameron was proved right on Libya - now he must win the peace too

Historians may well conclude it was more luck than judgement that allowed David Cameron to pull off the gamble that helped prevent the massacre of Benghazi and played a large role in aiding the defeat of Colonel Gaddafi.
It’s no wonder the imminent overthrow of the Libyan dictator had the Prime Minister rush back to the capital from his holiday a lot faster than when the recent riots set Tottenham and elsewhere a-blaze.
With the Government’s economic policy mired in zero growth and U-turns the order of the day, Cameron’s veneer of competence was being rapidly chipped away and he needed some good news. It’s come from an unexpected quarter.
The PM was thin on foreign affairs when he entered Downing Street to head the Coalition last year. It didn’t seem to matter because he promised voters the new government wouldn’t be following in New Labour’s interventionist footsteps.
Along comes the Arab Spring and he and his foreign secretary William Hague surprise everyone – their party, the military, Nato, President Obama, and the United Nations - by pressing hard for a no-fly zone to help defend the Libyan rebels.
I’ve no doubt they feared a humanitarian catastrophe in Benghazi but I wonder how much they genuinely believed a no-fly zone was possible given it required unequivocal United Nations backing.
Whatever the truth, with France’s President Sarkozy on board UN Resolution 1973 was passed by the Security Council supporting intervention short of invasion by ground forces.
Perhaps Cameron believed Gaddafi would be swept from power with the same ease that ended hated regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. This was not to be but happily it looks as though after six bitter months the tyrant's end is nigh.
Cameron can now go to the autumn Tory Party conference with an international success under his belt rather than having to defend what looked like becoming an open-ended, expensive, and ill-conceived adventure in the Middle East.
The Prime Minister isn’t home and dry yet. If the rebels turn on each other and bloodshed continues, Cameron would carry a share of the blame even though the fate of the Libyan people must be in their own hands.
Whether fairly or not the Prime Minister would be accused of repeating the mistakes the Allies made in Iraq in having no plans for the country after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Meanwhile I hope in healing its wounds Britain gets its fair share of the reconstruction work in Libya in light of the cost of bringing down Gaddafi to our Exchequer.


  1. A well argued piece which considers various implications of the 'intervention' in Libya.

  2. Nato saved a massacre in Benghazi. Meanwhile hundreds are lying dead on hospital beds in Tripoli. As to the cost of the war the new potential Libyan government has probably already done the deal to pay for help with the war in quid pro quo barrels of oil.

  3. I thought, GC, you might like to refer back to your piece of 15/12/2010. "John Pilger-the war you don't see ...".


What do you think? GC