A few hours ago President Obama gave a considered and intelligent speech on the situation in Libya. Although I do not necessarily agree with everything he said, he showed he understood the limitations and the rights and wrongs of intervening in a civil war.
The main thrust of his speech was pointing out what “Bomber Harris” taught us more than 60 years ago, that you cannot fulfill regime change with air power alone, and that in order to facilitate this an “Iraq” scenario would need to ensue. That is “boots on the ground”. A Full transcript is available here.
Yesterday, we heard that Nato was putting the emphasis on intelligence on the rebel forces and what they want and believe in. Not a bad thing you might say, but why was this intelligence not gathered weeks ago?
What is fundamentally flawed is the idea that we should be arming the rebels when we have no idea who they are or what they want. Arming one side of a civil war is tantamount to ensuring a generation of death and misery.
The air strikes have done a lot of good. Prevented the massacre of some towns and cities and prevented the destruction of water supplies of Benghazi. The limits of this action both within a political alliance and militarily can however easily be seen.
Unless the army and militias of the Gaddafi regime turn against him, this conflict will run and run. What is remarkable though is how little there “appears” to have been civilian casualties. Either the Libyan propaganda machine is not working or the evidence of mass civilian casualties hardly exists.
This is remarkable because rarely does the rhetoric of allied bombing meet the reality of death and destruction of the innocent. Perhaps the precarious nature of the alliance is the reason for the careful execution of allied bombing raids.
Obama has called this conflict absolutely right other than the arming the rebels. He understands that the US has no appetite for another middle eastern war, and that no one has control over “what will happen next”. Gaddafi, like many leaders in the region including those in the Arab League supporting this action, are truly despicable murderers, yet we have no idea what will replace this regime.
The UN is right to consider the lives of the innocent, but not to decide the fate of the country in which it intervenes. It is up to the Libyan people to decide what happens next.