Sunday, 20 March 2011

Opposition to intervention in Libya

I've always had quite a low opinion of David Cameron, but he never evoked quite the revulsion I used to feel with Blair and Brown. Until yesterday.

The case for military intervention in Libya is far from clear, but Cameron lectured us in sanctimonious tones about the and the need to "enforce the will" of the United Nations, and how we "cannot allow the slaughter of civilians to continue".

I wonder if he feels the same way about the slaughter of civilians in Tibet, Somalia, Yemen, Sri Lanka, and countless other places.

I wonder if he feels the need to enforce the will of the UN as expressed in "Resolution 38/69 on Israeli nuclear armament". There are many more where that came from.

The truth is that slaughtering civilians and flouting the UN constitute neither necessary nor sufficient conditions for military intervention.

Amusingly, my searches on UN resolutions turned up this story about Eritrea. Resolution 1907 (2009) was adopted "by a vote of 13 in favour to 1 against (Libya), with 1 abstention (China)". Libya? A CNN article from 2007 explains:

Four years after renouncing terrorism and abandoning its WMD programs, Libya Tuesday won a two-year term on the U.N. Security Council.

The U.N. General Assembly approved Tripoli's candidacy for a spot on the 15-member council with 178 votes.

In May 2006, the United States restored full diplomatic relations with Libya and removed it from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, where it had been for 27 years.

Daniel Hannan has consistently opposed intervention:
there have been three moments in my lifetime when, under all the norms of international relations, a case could have been made for military intervention against the Tripoli regime: the murder of Yvonne Fletcher; the Lockerbie atrocity; and the revelation that Gaddafi had been supplying arms to the IRA. As far as I can remember, there was almost no demand for an armed strike on any of those occasions; indeed, Margaret Thatcher came in for a great deal of criticism for allowing US bombers to fly from RAF bases in retaliation for Libyan state terrorism. Yet many of the same people who criticised her are now beating their chests and demanding action. Have we reached the point where military action is thought to be justified only when there isn’t any national interest at stake?
Back on the 3rd of March, Hannan provided 6 reasons not to intervene in Libya. Yesterday, Jeffrey Miron provided his own list:
1. We do not know if intervention will change the outcome;

2. We do not know if a government established by the rebels will be an improvement;

3. We do not how long or how expensive the “appropriate” intervention will turn out to be.

4. We do not know how the rebels will regard foreign “aggression” or how Khaddafi will spin our intervention to his advantage.
Norman Tebbit has also opposed intervention. On the 10th of March, he wrote:
In order to decide what to do in Libya, the first question we have to ask is what is in the British national interest. What is in the interests of Libya is the second question.
It is in our interest that there should be a stable government in Libya. That can only be achieved if the change of government is undertaken by the Libyan people. The more outsiders intervene, the more likely it is that whatever regime succeeds Gaddafi will be seen as one imposed by the West.

So, for the moment I would be cautious about a no-fly zone. It is bound to lead to attacks on radar and anti-aircraft facilities on the ground, and if Colonel Gaddafi has any sense he will make sure that this would cause civilian casualties, which would not be in the best interests of the Libyan people
And sure enough, recent events prompted Tom Paine to ask whether we've seen "the fastest mission creep in history":
Libya: Col Gaddafi told to leave now or face the bombers - Telegraph.

Hang on. I thought the idea (already ill-advised in my view) was that we were authorised by the UN to enforce a no-fly zone to protect civilians from military attacks. Now it's regime change already! Perhaps he really is the "heir to Blair" after all?
Last Wednesday, responding to comments on his previous articles, Lord Tebbit wrote:

On Libya, jastar thought it not unreasonable to arm the rebels but, as the locksmith said, Gaddafi armed the rebel IRA/SinnFein, whom he called freedom fighters, and conormac reminded us that the West armed the Taliban, which seemed a good idea at the time, as they say. Of course many of us would share rogerandout’s puzzlement that Islam has not sorted it all out.

Anyone who has read my previous post on the subject will know that I struggle to decide how a libertarian government should approach countries like Libya.

Our current approach, however, is highly questionable.

No comments:

Post a Comment