Wednesday, 16 March 2011

What to Do About Libya

I am getting really sick and tired of all the rhetoric about Libya.

The West's response to the burgeoning civil war has been roundly criticised here, here, here, and in every second comment on Twitter.

'We should do something,' say the critics. 'Innocent people are dying.'

Yes, they are. Gaddafi is a brutal, murderous tyrant who will tolerate no opposition to his total control of the country. And it is truly an outrage that he is committing such terrible atrocities against largely defenceless people.

 A murderous shit if ever there was one.

But what does that mean? That 'do something'?

There's been talk of a no-fly zone. Sounds nice, doesn't it? The UN just says, 'no planes are allowed to fly over Libya', and it happens.

Wrong. Gaddafi will continue to use his planes. And we will have to shoot them down. The Libyans will retaliate. Lives will be lost.

It will not end the war - Gaddafi's forces have superior ground-based weapons as well. Do we send in troops to counter that? That's 'doing something'. We'll be stopping the murderous tyrant and help effect regime change.

Yes, we will. But it will come at a cost. Don't think, even for a moment, that we won't suffer casualties - and don't think that all the nations of the earth will support us. It will be America, Britain, and perhaps a few other members of NATO that contribute.

So, to all the righteous who think that we should 'do something', I await your continued calls to 'do something' when we start bringing home 18-year-olds in coffins draped in Union flags, and you see their crying families. Wives and children bereft of husbands and fathers. Parents bearing witness to the broken bodies of their children.

This is what 'doing something' means.

Of course, it's easy to hide this harbinger - this visceral, primal image which we have seen too many times with the repatriation of soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan - behind the easy comfortable euphemisms of 'doing something' and 'no-fly zones', or even 'intervention'. But they all mean one thing: war. And the cold, hard reality of war is this: if we get involved, it will mean that people we know, people we love, our sons, our fathers, our nephews, our friends, will die.

Is that a price that we are prepared to pay?