Libya: When is a quagmire not a quagmire?

Gaddafi is starting to ridicule the West. And after the killing of General Abdel Fattah Younes, frankly, we are starting to look ridiculous.

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Libya's rebels: Anyone know who they are?
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The Commentator
On 30 July 2011 10:04

If, the day after we publish this article, Colonel Gaddafi is forced from power as the people of Libya rise up as one to usher in a new era of liberal democracy we accept that we’ll have egg all over our faces. But bring it on. If we’re wrong about Libya, we’d be delighted. The trouble is, it’s increasingly looking as though we’re right.

Here’s what we’ve been saying all along.

First, Libya is a strategically irrelevant backwater. We should probably have kept our powder dry for more important possible interventions in the region – Syria and Iran for example.

Second, if we were going to go in to Libya we needed to strike hard, fast and effectively: kill Gaddafi, and then get out. But since we chose to bow down to the Guardian and the BBC and gain cover from “international law”, the comprises necessary at the United Nations for the passing of resolution 1973 meant we were disallowed from using ground troops – the only way of ensuring a quick and effective resolution to the conflict. Limited as we are to air strikes and off shore missile attacks, we could be stuck in this mess for years.

Third, we have no real clue who the rebels are, and no good grounds for believing that even if they can overcome Gaddafi they’d inaugurate a regime that was significantly better from either a strategic point of view or in terms of its commitment to western-style liberal democracy.

Barely was the proverbial ink dry after Britain’s recognition (following France’s and America’s) of the National Transitional Council as the legitimate Libyan government on Wednesday than  a former government minister who defected to the rebels, General Abdel Fattah Younes, was gunned down by what appear to be members of a faction within the rebel leadership.

No one can verify what exactly went on. Gaddafi’s people called it “a nice slap to the face of the British” and say al Qaeda – the largest rebel faction, they argue – was responsible. Britain and the allies aren’t sure who did it. Whatever the truth, the confusion itself underlines that we don’t really know what we’re doing.

In sum, we’re caught in a quagmire. And it gives us no pleasure at all to say that we’ve been warning about this right from the start.

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