The Risks Britain Runs in Libya

The Evening Standard (London, England), August 24, 2011 | Go to article overview

The Risks Britain Runs in Libya


IN 2004 I was one of 52 former diplomats to sign a letter to the then PM strongly critical of many aspects of our government's role in Iraq.

Different in some ways, the Iraq and Libyan situations are similar in others, such as our reckless defiance of the UN Charter. The attack on Iraq was never authorised by the UN Security Council. The initial military intervention in Libya was authorised by UN resolution 1973 but we ignored that resolution's primary demand for an immediate ceasefire, and its requirement that outside military force should be used only to protect civilians. After intervening to protect Benghazi, we brazenly supported the rebels militarily to bring about regime change, contrary to resolution 1973 and international law.

As in Iraq, through our intervention we have assumed a potentially expensive responsibility to help sort out the post-civil war mess, probably including sending ground troops. Any Libyan government we help create will risk being regarded throughout the Middle East as a Western puppet. Even if military intervention for a limited purpose was justified, Britain had no obligation to participate, given our disproportionate role in Afghanistan and our parlous budgetary situation. We can't afford our libraries but apparently we can spend millions on directing bombs at a small country that posed no threat to us.

Sir Brian Barder LET'S avoid too much cynicism: Libya is unlikely to collapse six months after the rebels' victory.

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