Jun 192011

Guest post by Trixy

We’re still fighting in Libya, still racking up the costs, still insisting we’re doing it to protect civilians and not for regime change. No, definitely not regime change, because that’s what Tony Blair did, the war monger, and this coalition is nothing like him, right?

Well, one thing’s for sure, and that’s that neither of them have or had a legal mandate from the United Nations Security Council to invade another country. Blair and his team may insist that they did, but for those of us who can, and who chose to, read the documents from the Security Council at that time, we know he was pulling a fast one. The US Ambassador John Negroponte insisted that UNSCRs 687 and 1441 were sufficient for war, and yet the Council were told by others that the latter was ‘not a smoking gun,’ and another resolution would be required before military action could legally occur.

UNSCR 1973 was for the protection of civilians and to maintain peace and security in the region. The latter is the reason that force can be used, under Chapter VII articles in the UN Charter. So is the bombing and killing of Gaddafi necessary to achieve this, without capture and a trial? Airstrikes destroy in a way that a crack team of soldiers performing a raid don’t. Sophisticated missiles can target but not so well as an SA80 MkII or an M16. So will Gaddafi find himself the victim of yet another airstrike in the name of supporting a group of his opponents whom we know nothing about, with whom senior figures in the Ministry of Defence are nervous of being involved? Will Gaddafi’s final moments be as a non-speaking extra in Pirates of the Caribbean: ‘The Naughty Dictator’ as his body is dumped into Davy Jones’ locker?

The details of what is going on and what will happen are being discussed in COBRA and the bowels of the MoD.

And what we’re hearing about now is Syria.

Hague has ruled out military action, yet the UK and France last week presented a draft UN resolution condemning Syria’s suppression of protests. China and Russia fear, understandably given recent history, that this is the first step towards yet more international intervention by the men in Disruptive Pattern Material. And certainly the calls for the end to violence must ring hollow in the ears of not only the Syrians, who see another group of civilians appearing worthy of ‘protection,’ but also those relatives of the victims of the Srebrenica massacre who had heard such platitudes before.

For whilst Mladic faces trial for genocide, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity after 16 years of evading discovery, we are reminded of what peacekeeping forces not only allowed, but were forced to allow to happen. And we should remind ourselves of why the murder of 8000 Muslim men and boys occurred in this ‘safe area.’

The answer comes down to our rules of engagement, which did not permit the use of weapons to protect civilians. And Mladic and his men knew that, and thus made a mockery of any ‘peacekeeping’ which UN forces were supposed to be undertaking.

So what I am expecting from William Hague, if he does go back on his promise of no military intervention (something few would be surprised about if he did, I suspect), is fewer words and more action. It’s a tough call for the international community not to look like hypocrites, and if we know one thing about politicians, it’s that they value their reputations/egos very highly.

What we need, if we are going to shoulder the cost of more troop deployments and continue to view ourselves as being in the company of World Policemen, is more permissive rules of engagement. Otherwise Hague, Cameron and their successors are simply offering false hopes and empty posturing to a scared population. And we are wasting our money.

Of course, given MoD cuts, farcical procurement policy, and the ongoing war in Afghanistan, whether we should be getting involved in Syria is a question for another day. But another day soon.

  5 Responses to “Rules of engagement”

  1. Rather like foreign aid, anyone who favours the policy of intervention in Libya can become directly involved, anyone who does not, need not become involved nor pay for anything.

    Thus if you are some sabre rattling fool, simply hop a flight to Egypt and join the rebels (as many Brits did in the Spanish civil war), but don’t bravely send others for your convictions and don’t expect others to pay for them. Lastly don’t be surprised if Libya start arming Jihadis in the UK and you start seeing bombs going off again.

    • This is a really really good point. The IOM run regular services into Benghazi and Misurata to extract civilians. I’m sure you’d be able to take the ferry the other way.

      So is the bombing and killing of Gaddafi necessary to achieve [the protection of civilians, peace and order], without capture and a trial?

      I would go much further than that and ask whether indeed Gaddafi’s removal (through whatever means) is conducive to the protection of civilians and the maintainance of peace and order, or whether the removal of an unpleasant but savvy and charismatic leader will result in internecine and tribal violence as the removal of Saddam did in Iraq and the removal of Mubarak did in Egypt.

      Lets be honest here: NATO intervened because Gaddafi was going to win. His army was going to overrun Benghazi and his secret police was going to drag the rebel leaders off to dank little cells, torture them until they confess, and then execute them. If there is anyone whom the NATO intervention most effectively protected, it’s those guys.

      That’s tens, possibly hundreds of people. A thousand, max.

      Do you know how many people have died in Libya since our intervention?

      Eleven thousand. 11 000.

      Srebrenica killed only eight thousand. Congratulations, high scorer, enter your initials.

      In what world can this be called “the protection of civilians” let alone “maintainance of peace and order” ?

      • I think we make a mistake when we assume, or even hope, that the purpose of any kind of armed intervention is to protect civilians, peace, and order. I’m having trouble thinking of a single instance of such that has accomplished such goals. National self-defence against the threat of invasion and conquest sometimes has that effect, but even then only in the long run.

        Most of the time, when we stick our long noses in and try to “help”, we end up making things worse. This outcome is so prevalent and so well-documented by now that I can only assume we intervene these days with the definite purpose of making things worse.

  2. You may be interested to check out my predictions at the start of this folly. Never has being right felt so awful.

  3. One more thought: the irony of Libyan rebels marching for freedom under the banner of the previous British puppet regime, with close air support from British warplanes, has been lost on most of the media.

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