Britain’s military intervention in Libya, ordered by former Prime Minister David Cameron, relied on erroneous assumptions and an incomplete understanding of the country and the situation.
A British parliamentary report last week revealed that Britain’s military intervention in Libya, ordered by former Prime Minister David Cameron, relied on erroneous assumptions and an incomplete understanding of the country and the situation. The Foreign Affairs Committee published the report examining the intervention and subsequent collapse of Libya. It almost echoed sentiments shared by Obama earlier in the year when he said the Libyan intervention was the worst mistake of his presidency. The world should remember how Cameron was against Tony Blair’s interventionist policies yet he fell into the same trap himself. In Cairo in 2011, he said, “I am not a naïve neocon who thinks you can drop democracy out of an aeroplane at 40,000 feet or that, simply by holding an election, you have satisfied the needs of democracy.”
Almost five years after the Libyan intervention led by France and Britain, the country is stuck in a state of anarchy which has fuelled conflicts across Africa. Experts have also said Isis and al-Qaeda have been strengthened as a result. Marty Reardon, Senior Vice President of The Soufan Group, an American based security consultancy said the state of Libya has contributed to the rise of well-armed militant groups in Tunisia, Algeria, Niger, Chad, Sudan and Egypt. He said, “Continued fighting in Libya created safe havens for fighters and seemingly unending supplies of weapons for Islamist movements in neighbouring countries and the region at large.”
The attacks on Libya ending with the killing of Gaddafi left a power vacuum in the region and the NATO powers could not be bothered to be involved in the post-Gaddafi phase as their goal had been accomplished. Another expert, Dr Amir Kamel, an educator at King’s College in London also said, “The removal of Gaddafi created an environment where any actor could benefit.” Chatham House’s International Law Programme associate fellow, Elham Saudi said there are reportedly 150 militias operating in Tripoli alone. The parliamentary report comes five years after then Prime Minister David Cameron and then French President Nicolas Sarkozy were cheered by huge crowds in Benghazi’s Liberty Square in 2011. The two leaders had said, “Your friends in Britain and France will stand with you as you build your country and build your democracy for the future.” It has all been seen to be hot air.
Analyst Riccardo Fabiani of the Eurasia Group rightfully acknowledged, “One of the biggest mistakes that France and Britain made during the Libyan intervention was, first of all, to refuse to establish any dialogue, any real possibility of a compromise with the Gaddafi regime. So they changed the rules of engagement from protecting civilians to overthrowing the Gaddafi regime.” He added, “No one should be surprised when the country after that collapsed into chaos.”
The parliamentary report equally accused the government of Britain of selectively taking elements of Muammar Gaddafi’s rhetoric at face value and failing to identify militant Islamist extremists in the rebellion. It said, “The UK’s intervention in Libya was reactive and did not comprise action in pursuit of a strategic objective. This meant that a limited intervention to protect civilians drifted into a policy of regime change by military means.” Instead of trying to use political intervention, the UK and France were too eager to use force in Libya. David Cameron stands accused of having had a “decisive role” in the whole fiasco. Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Crispin Blunt told Al Jazeera, “It’s plainly part of [Cameron’s] legacy. We looked at how he chaired the National Security Council and [we found] there was no pause to assess.”
This is especially true considering that when Benghazi was secured, the NATO forces did not pause military action to seek a deal to protect civilians but instead “focused exclusively on military intervention”.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the British government has defended itself saying, “The decision to intervene was an international one, called for by the Arab League and authorised by the United Nations Security Council. Muammar Gaddafi was unpredictable, and he had the means and motivation to carry out his threats. His actions could not be ignored, and required decisive and collective international action. Throughout the campaign we stayed within the United Nations mandate to protect civilians.”
On the 17th of March 2011, Colonel Gaddafi warned Benghazi residents that his forces were coming that night. He had said, “We are coming tonight. You will come out from inside. Prepare yourselves from tonight. We will find you in your closets.” The statement became the basis of the West’s intervention in Libya without any further interrogation of the facts as to whether Gaddafi was militarily in a position to launch the attacks or it was simply rhetoric.
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