Unlike Iraq, Libya’s a quagmire because our war aims were defined by liberal-left prejudices
The Iraq war was much better executed than the Libya operation. That’s because George W. Bush knew what needed to be done, and just did it.
On March 17, with impeccable liberal-left credentials, the world passed United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. On that day the name of Libya’s leader was Muammar Gaddafi. Today, more than 5,300 sorties later, the name of Libya’s leader is still Muammar Gaddafi.
Now let’s flip back to events eight years ago. On March 19, 2003 the name of Iraq’s leader was Saddam Hussein. Three weeks later his regime had fallen and he was hiding in a mud hole picking lice out of his hair.
The societal collapse that happened subsequently was a tragedy caused by the selfishness, bigotry and primitive violence of Iraq’s warring factions as well as foreign terror groups drawn in by the magnetic pull of America’s military presence.
But the US-led coalition removed one of the world’s most brutal dictatorships in nothing flat. If Iraqis couldn’t build a secure democracy without years of bloodshed, that was their fault. They were given the chance and they blew it.
Back in Libya, it is perfectly arguable that the end of Gaddafi would plunge that country too into bloody internecine warfare. It’s also perfectly arguable that Libya is a strategic irrelevance, and that if we’re dropping bombs on anybody in the Middle East it should be Bashar al-Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
But that’s not the point, which is that the fetishisation of international law by Messrs Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy means that without a change of course we’ll never know whether the Libyan people were capable of building something which looks like Denmark, or whether the best they can manage is Iraq circa 2005.
The price of getting the hallowed UN resolution past the Russians and the Chinese was that we were forbidden from decapitating the regime or providing direct support to the rebels (not that we have any real clue who they are) via the use of ground forces.
And what that means is that Gaddafi is more likely than not to die in his bed many years from now while his country settles into de facto partition ruled by him and his cronies on one side and by God (but not Obama, Cameron or Sarkozy) knows who on the other.
So it breaks down like this: plant your flag atop the gigantic dunghill known as international law and a dictator lives; pay lip service to said dunghill, get some sort of resolution that just about does the job, but go in there “shock and awe” style with the clear aim of regime change and a dictator dies.
Which world do you want to live in? Muammar Gaddafi knows what sort of international set-up suits him best. The self-loathing West, by contrast, can’t give a straight answer to the question.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that a “stray bomb” winds up landing in his bedroom in the early hours of a morning not too far from now. And actually, I’d bet that our pilots have been told that a court martial is highly unlikely should such an unfortunate “accident” take place. That wouldn’t bother me one bit.
What bothers me is why we have to persist with this whole charade just to please the Guardian and the BBC. If it was right to go in in the first place – and there are strong arguments both for and against that proposition – we should have gone in with war aims designed to achieve a real-world objective.
Instead, the UN route has landed us in a quagmire. And it has done so because the price of multilateralist diplomacy is deference to tyrannical regimes which have no interest whatsoever in the strengthening of global democracy.
Tyrannies thrive on inertia. They love the United Nations because inertia is precisely what it provides for them. And when we tie our strategic objectives to the United Nations it should be no surprise to anyone that inertia is exactly what we have got.
Robin Shepherd is the owner/publisher of The Commentator
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