In September 2011, after the ousting of Muammar Gadafy, Young Dave pitched up in the Libyan city of Benghazi. The decades of repressive dictatorship were over. All would now be well. “It is great to be in free Libya … Col Gaddafi said he would hunt you down like rats, but you showed the courage of lions” said Cameron, his message tailored perhaps more for domestic consumption than the reality on the ground.
Fiddling while somewhere a long way south of Rome burns
No-one who heard his address to the Libyan people can have doubted his commitment to their country: “Your friends in Britain and France will stand with you as you build your country and build your democracy for the future” he told. But that was then, and this is now: when did the UK “stand with” Libya over the three and a half years since Cameron’s declaration in Benghazi? What support did we give them?
The answer appears for all the world to be, sadly, so little that is has not registered. Only a few days after Dave’s visit, Human Rights Investigations warned “the Libyan conflict is far from over, hundreds, perhaps thousands of African migrant workers are currently in detention in Tripoli or fearing for their lives in refugee camps”. There were instances of ethnic cleansing. There was clear evidence of lynchings.
How they left ...
If Cameron was concerned about such details, it did not show as he told the Commons “Britain could not stand by as Qadhafi slaughtered his people … Nor could we allow a failed pariah state festering on Europe’s southern border, with the potential to threaten our own security … We will not let up until the job is done”. Well, he did let up: there is now a failed state, and the boat loads of refugees stand testament to that.
And it is not as if there had been no warning: “As Libya celebrates a year of freedom, evidence grows of its disintegration” told the Guardian on the first anniversary of the country’s liberation. Torture, illegal detention, rule by possibly hundreds of militia groups, absence of Government credibility, all were highlighted. By the following year, things had become much worse: Libya was “On the brink of [the] abyss”.
... and where too many of them ended up
Solomon Dersso told that “The deterioration of the political and security situation in Libya has been worsening throughout the year, stoking fears that the country risks total anarchy and civil war”. By April last year, there was effectively no recognised Government. And this is the country from where all those refugees set sail for Italy - or anywhere else they can make landfall away from the upheaval of North Africa and the Middle East.
What has Dave done? Well, he’s posed for a photo with Katie Hopkins, whose position on the region and the consequences of its unrest is all too clear. Otherwise he has done absolutely sweet Fanny Adams. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Not a sausage. Bugger all. The thought enters that Cameron went to Benghazi for an image-building photo-op, without bothering to think through the consequences of our intervention.
And that’s not good enough. Something to consider when you cast your vote next month.
I'm glad that someone has picked up on this.
Before the intervention in Libya Cameron and Hague said that one of the lessons from the invasion of Iraq was that western troops should not get involved on the ground. I don't know where they got this idea from. The lesson that they should have learnt from the invasion of Iraq is that "regime change" is very, very difficult and that a failed "regime change" can create a failed state that terrorist will take advantage of (which is supposedly what we're trying to involve). Whether you have western troops on the ground or not, building a new regime and building new institutions is very difficult and the risks of failure are high. There are plenty of people in FCO and DfID (and academia) who could have told them this but they weren't listening.
Regrettably, a comment left for moderation has had to be blocked as the commenter could not refrain from (a) being abusive, and (b) telling me to "look over there".
All comments are welcome that address the points made in the post, and that are constructive, even if they disagree diametrically with my view.
"Something to consider when you cast your vote next month."
Yes and no. As Septic Isle points out, none of the parties has much idea about foreign policy. " That despite 5 years of utter lunacy on the foreign policy front none of the parties want to suggest a better way forward, and in fact two of them want to stir the pot even further goes to show just how limited our politics has become and is likely to remain."
There is a constant pressure from various quarters to "intervene" yet none of the parties understands the difference between "humanitarian interventions" and "regime change" and none of them appears to understand that "regime change" involves the very difficult process of building a state and its institutions and while you're doing that terrorists are likely to take advantage of the vacuum that has been created.
And Chilcot's report has been delayed again while the guilty parties have another opportunity to bring in more tangential issues.
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