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Hard to disagree with anything Cameron said on Libya today

Posted on 18 March 2011 | 12:03pm

Having devoted many words on this blog to pointing out David Cameron’s failings, it seems fair to point out how well he has done with regard to Libya in the last few days.

It looked highly unlikely a few days ago that the UN would agree to the approach the Prime Minister has just set out in the Commons, not least because of all the signals coming from the US Administration that a no-fly zone was unworkable and/or limited in its potential impact.

But it seems to me the government took a view fairly early on that we had a duty to do more than issue words of condemnation, and he and his team, and President Sarkozy’s and his, have just kept plugging away at the arguments, and have prevailed. Sometimes leaders have to make big calls and take difficult decisions, not always knowing the consequences.

He cannot know the full consequences of the approach he has just set out. But listening to his statement to the Commons, it was hard to disagree with any of it. It was an important moment, and hopefully one that will help herald real change in Libya. Nobody can be certain of that. But we can be certain that without the action agreed at the UN, the chances of Gaddafi getting away with it were a lot higher.

  • Keane Sinead

    You say nothing about you’re beloved Tony and how he sucked up to him

  • As the papers get passed in a secret manner a nudge and a wink as he glanced over it with lustfull greed.


  • Phil

    Well said. As Blair did with interventions in Kosovo, it is right that Britain does more than simply jaw jaw when masses are about to be slaughtered by the despots that govern them. David Cameron has taken a brave step and I hope that the “no-fly zone” succeeds.

  • i have to disagree with this article, cameron has made the wrong decision on libya, we should have abstained like china and germany and others, we cannot keep going on trying to police the world, what are we going to do if this situation happens in saudi arabia or iran, are we going to invade them aswell, well im sure blair and cameron would want us too, but i doubt that the british public who they serve would want them to, i have a dreadful feeling about this libya intervention, it seems like iraq all over again, and i tell you something, if ground troops are sent into libya with cross party support, i will never vote for any of the main parties ever again, libya is not worth a drop of british blood, leave it up to the arab league to sort out the problems in their own parts of the world

  • simon

    I agree. I don’t get any sense of sabre-rattling for party advantage…others will take a different view, no doubt.

  • Gary

    Why not apply the same logic the Ivory Coast, Sudan, Zimbabwe etc?

    We are, yet again, making a foolhardy intervention because of oil. And just like Iraq, it is a badly thought through knee-jerk reaction.

    And how does this square with Bahrain? I don’t guess we’ll see the Saudi tanks being attacked, to protect the “rebels” around what is left of the Pearl Roundabout?

  • Yonks

    Siding with China and Russia, both of which have appalling histories of abuse of their own citizens, and Germany(yet again avoiding everything) is hardly grounds for a disagreeing with Alastair on this. I happen to believe we should keep away when it comes to troops but at this stage, a no-fly zone is a good idea.
    The international community should be ashamed of itself but then again they turn their backs on all sorts of abuses daily across the world.

  • Quinney

    Have we any aircraft left to use enforcing the no fly zone after Cameron and Fox have cut the armed services to the bone?

  • im not saying they havent abused human rights thats not my point, my point is that we should not be doing this, we are not morally supreme, this is camerons pitch for world leadership, same as blair, their is yet to be a prime minister that puts their own people first, this situation is as risky as hell, it could well lead to a ground invasion, just because you impose a no fly zone, it dosent mean gaddafi dosent have vehicles and foot soldiers, you could make a martyr out of him, and it could lead to sectarian violence on a bigger scale, and i suppose you will be the sort of person that will be complaining when british troops are being killed in libya, well it will be because of people like you supporting brutal conflicts like this one, when will we learn, stay out of foreign countries unless we are being threatened ourselves, this should have been left to the libyans themsleves or the arab league of nations if they wanted to intervene, and as i said where does this stop, do we invade zimbabwe? iran? saudi arabia? bahrain? the list go’s on and of course neither you or alastair can answer it, we are already having a totally pointless never ending war in afghanistan, lets stop this one happening before it’s too late, and stop wasting the lives of our brave soldiers in countries that have nothing to do with us

  • Phil

    What a stupid comment. They have been in power for only nine months – armament programmes takes years to implement. So unless they have sold off planes since taking office in June last year the RAF has exactly the same resources at its disposal as it would have had if Labour was still in power.
    This type of cheap party political point-scoring is inappropriate at this time and on this subject.

  • marymot

    I agree that Mr Cameron sounds statesmanlike in his comments today and at the same time gets a chance to denigrate Mr Blair and the invasion of Iraq with which I believe he and his party were complicit.
    I also agree that Col Gaddafi was a pariah because of is actions.However after Mr Mandela welcomed him into the group of African Leaders and Britain and America relaxed their attitude towards him he did seem to change. I am now told that he is the ‘baddie’ in all this but no-one is telling me who the ‘goodie’ is because in Lybia he does not seem to be isolated.
    I truly hope a civil war is not the outcome.

  • Rob1_3_5

    Of course he didnt. Firstly because that was in the past, and secondly, because the whole argument holds no water.

    What else did you expect them to do regarding Gaddaffi?
    As friends, you can try to convince him to do the right thing (unacceptable given your statement.)
    As enemies you can force him to do to the right thing (again, unacceptable so it seems)
    What else is left? Have no relationship and simply let him go on doing whatever he wants? Including, as he was doing, attempting to build nuclear weapons?

    At the end of the day, all Tony Blair did was take the least unpalatable option that was open to him. Yes, it didnt produce the ideal result, but it was far better than any of the alternatives.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t want to see Gaddafi massacre his own people but, frankly, what is the difference between this and the situation in Bahrain? We do not oppose Saudi Arabia or Iran and yet the human rights abuses there are equally horrendous and go unchallenged.

    I suppose it’s interesting to see whether the developed world has an appetite for interventions of this kind after the debacle of Iraq but, just like Blair, Cameron’s nearest and dearest won’t be in the firing line. I think the British are tired of sending their own people to die in the wars of others.

  • As a Tory Blog nice to see you being fair about the success of PM Cameron when it comes to Libya, your man TB has gone very quiet, WHY?

  • Marymot

    Libya! (doh!)

  • Royal

    Agreeing with what Cameron said today is one thing, is it the right move?–thats an absolutely different issue. Initiating a no-fly zone is a tactic; what about the ends? Did Cameron identify an end state? UK/France/US haven’t learned much from the last 10 years in Iraq/Afghanistan. Having ‘no plan’ is not a plan.

  • Yonks

    Tell you what Harry, we’ll all just take a deep breathe and go and bury our heads in the sand whilst the world sorts itself out.

  • Ehtch

    It’s funny though that Dave C is unable to take the same common sense approach to the people of his own country. Quite peculiar it is – maybe it has something to do with our history, or social class status quo protection, or something like that…

  • Olli Issakainen

    Is war a legitimate instrument of policy?
    Before 9/11 there was an agreement that a progressive foreign policy should move beyond narrow realism by accepting wider humanitarian obligations. There was a willingness to act on the universal human rights by using military force.
    International law was seen as providing possiblity to overlook absolute inviolabilty of state sovereignty.
    The disintegration of Yugoslavia in 1990s showed the need for a new doctrine of humanitarian intervention. The intervention in Kosovo had no formal authorisation.
    But values of the UN charter could be upheld even if it meant bypassing its institutions. The veto system could not be more important than the prevention of crimes against humanity.
    The problem with the Iraq war was that the neoconservatives were motivated by the selective and self-interested pursuit of their own geopolitical goals instead of the universal and disinterested pursuit of justice.
    Their ideological project started from the proposition that the American model represents the ideal. The Iraq war discredited the concept of humanitarian intervention.
    Superpowers act out of self-interest, not morality. Superpower does not have moral imperatives. It has strategic imperatives. As Paul Wolfowitz has said, the US needed a base for its troops removed from Saudi Arabia in the region.
    Retaining troops in the Middle East permits the US to control oil supplies.
    The historian Niall Ferguson wrote that democracy would not work in the Arab world. It is no use to force western values to people who do not want them.
    Britain should nowadays act as a world policeman only if its own vital national interests are at stake.
    Rebels in Libya are not innocent bystanders – they are trying to overthrow the government by using violence. There could be terrorist reprisals in Britain.
    Do we know the objectives of the rebels?
    The outcome in Libya is uncertain. If things go wrong, the media will blame David Cameron whom it is now praising.
    Libya will divert Mr Cameron´s attention from domestic agenda.
    Is the endgame in Libya containment or regime change?
    Steve Richards wrote in the Independent that the lesson of Iraq is not to embark on military venture without absolute clarity about objectives and how they will be achieved.

  • Dave Simons

    I recommend Tony Blair’s article in today’s ‘Times’, page 27. Whether or not you agree with him he does at least give a detailed and persuasive argument against complete non-intervention, and he even mentions the apparently unmentionable – Israel. Also of course he justifies trying to build bridges with Gadaffi a few years ago.

  • Kev

    If this were about oil we’d have done nothing. Western energy companies have successfully established themselves in Libya – after all most of the UK nationals who had to be evacuated from Libya were oil workers. The UK has been accused of cosying up to Gaddafi to get oil and now we’re taking action against Gaddafi it’s because of oil!

    There’s a brutal repression happening a few hundred miles off the European coast, and we’re in a position to do something about it. It would be crass and despicable not to act as well as stupidly short sighted: a continuing humanitarian crisis in Libya would cause wider stability and mass migration.

  • Quinney

    Why is the Ark Royal not on patrol in the Med then? Scrapped. Where are the Harriers? Retired. Why have the tories cut the Tornado (which will fly the no fly zone) squadrons in half? Why are the Typhoons (air superiority) being cannibalised for spare parrts/ Why have the Sentinels and Nimrod R1s (intelligence) suddenly been reprieved? The ship in that area HMS Cumberland was on its way to be scrapped.
    Yes, armament programmes do take years to implement but scrapping off the defence assets of this country do not.
    I thought you tory clowns might have learned the lessons of the Falklands, clearly you have not.

  • Phil

    What makes you think I am a Tory? Once again you are more interested in political point scoring than a successful conclusion to this issue.

  • Ehtch

    Why did Tornadoes have to fly from RAF Marham, Norfolk, being refuelled by VC10 tankers mid-air? I would have thought they would be in RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.

    Sounds a waste of fuel to me.

  • Dave Simons

    There is more to Quinney’s list of evidence than cheap, political point scoring. We are in a situation in many ways comparable to early 1982. In 1981 the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher was very unpopular – mass unemployment, recession, riots in the streets, looting – and of course we happy peasants were exhorted to take a day off work and enjoy the spectacle of a Royal wedding. Towards the end of 1981 John Nott, the Defence Minister, announced defence cuts in the South Atlantic which gave a green light to tinpot fascists in Argentina to make a grab at the Malvinas/Falklands. ‘Tory clowns’ indeed seem not to have learned lessons from that period.
    For me the danger is that they are now learning fast. The Falklands war caused a major sea change in UK politics and life. Thatcher’s popularity was ensured for two more terms. I can envisage a nightmare scenario where the strikes against Gaddafi’s regime enhance Cameron’s standing – not Clegg’s, he’s out of it – and prepare the groundwork for an early election, which the Tories might win. This might happen after the coming local elections and the AV referendum when some of Cameron’s backbenchers decide that the Coalition has outstayed its welcome and it’s time to make the grab for power that they were denied last May. I think we should be very wary of saying, ‘Hard to disagree with anything Cameron said on Libya today’. The Coalition’s been bad enough but pure unadulterated Toryism in the present economic climate makes me shudder.