March 30, 2011
“It is one of those times when I feel estranged from the country and not comprehending of what we are doing and why everyone is so gung-ho for it all.” Rod Liddle on the Anglo-French/American Libyan intervention Spectator May 26
“One can only gape in stunned amazement at the extent of the idiocy being displayed by the leaders of America, Britain and Europe over the ‘Arab Spring’ – which should surely be renamed ‘the Arab Boomerang’.” Melanie Phillips on Libya in her Spectator blog.
Is this the first time Rod Liddle and Melanie Phillips have agreed so strongly on any subject, ever? I think it just might be. Which gives a pretty fair indication, I think, of how stupid, misguided, wrongheaded, counterproductive and suicidally dumb our current intervention in Libya is. It’s the war which no one outside the political class wants to wage because almost no one outside the political class is so foolish as to imagine any good will come of it.
Here are just ten of the reasons why we shouldn’t be there:
1. We cannot afford it. Liberal interventionism belongs to another era: the era when we imagined we had enough money to prosecute wars. Now our armed forces are so straitened by Cameron’s defence cuts that we don’t even have sufficient trained Typhoon pilots. And as for those bloody silly Storm Shadow missiles at £1 million a pop….
2. The Arabs won’t thank us for it – which kind of defeats the object, given that the sole real point of this misbegotten enterprise was to show the Middle East how lovely and caring we were and sensitive to Islamic feelings. Only once we’d secured the Arab League’s approval did we dare launch the mission. And now, guess what: they’ve decided they think it’s a bad idea after all.
3. We are fighting for Al Qaeda. Not traditionally one of our allies.
4. According to this video from the Cato institute, there are five key questions to be asked before actions of this kind: Is it in the national interest? Is there public support? Have the costs and consequences been considered? Is there are clear military mission? Have we exhausted all available options? The Libya debacle fails on ALL counts.
5. It’s the French’s colonial war, not ours. They sucked us into this. As Jonathan Foreman reports in his superb analysis:
For more than two decades the biggest threat to French dominance of Chad – and other Francophone countries in Central and West Africa has come from Libya. Qaddafi’s forces have battled those of Chad four times since 1978. During the first three invasions, in 1978, 1979 and the winter of 1980-81, the Libyans allied with local rebel forces, supporting their infantry with armored vehicles, artillery and air support. The third invasion resulted in the de facto partition of Chad in 1983 with Libyan forces controlling the country’s northern half, above the 16th parallel.
6. President Obama’s heart obviously isn’t in it and given that US provides the bulk of our military muscle, this doesn’t augur well for a happy outcome.
7. What kind of message does it send out to the Middle East generally? That we’ll only intervene in countries where we have no real strategic interest and which are weak enough to knock about, while leaving the really big nasty regimes – Iran’s, say, or Syria’s – to do what the hell they like. As Melanie Phillips reports in a superb blog post, all we are doing is alienating Middle Eastern moderates through our mixed messages and double standards:
So no air strikes to get rid of Bashar Assad. Of course not. The rule of thumb for western ‘progressives’ is that tyrants can stay in office if they are the mortal enemies of freedom, democracy and human rights and are helping the jihad – in which case it is a ‘war crime’ to get rid of them; the only ones they want to get rid of are those who are resisting the jihad.
Particularly damning is the verdict she quotes of Tariq Alhomayed, editor of Al Sharq al Awsat, on the US’s failure to understand the nuances of Bahrein’s politics (where the Shi’ite protest movement is in fact sponsored by Iran)
How can the U.S. defense secretary say that Bahrain must enact speedy reforms to put an end to Iranian interference… while the Americans are also issuing statements saying that in Yemen, protests are not the solution, and that there must be dialogue? Why must the Bahrain government to act immediately, while the demonstrators in Yemen must to wait? This is wrong, and it raises both suspicion and doubt.
…This is not to mention that that the U.S. is ignoring what is happening in Iran, where the state oppresses its minorities. [As recently as] yesterday, the Iranian opposition has tried to come out and protest in Tehran, only to be repressed, and its key figures have been arrested. This is a perplexing matter indeed, but it clearly tells us something – that is, that Washington does not have a clear picture of what is going on in the region, and that even if it does, it is too weak to act.”
8. Britain, France and the US now run a drastically increased risk of a Lockerbie-style revenge atrocity. Obviously we shouldn’t base our international policy on our fear of being punished for doing the right thing. But, er, being punished for doing the wrong thing?
9. If this goes on much longer, Britain’s beloved former minister Lord Mandelson may run a severe risk of never landing a coveted shooting invitation again with his chum Saif Gaddafi, nor will the London School of Economics be able to go ahead with any plans it may have have had to establish a new School of International Terrorism Support and Apologism, perhaps with someone like Professor Ken Livingstone as its head.
10. If, according to President Obama, Libya was a “looming humanitarian disaster” that would have “stained our conscience”, how come similar rules don’t apply to his biofuels policy which may be responsible for as many as 200,000 Third World deaths per year? Here is a genuine problem (see this paper by Indur Goklany) which could be solved without costly military action and bring about a guaranteed happy outcome.
Increased production of biofuels increases the price of food worldwide by diverting crops and cropland from feeding people to feeding motor vehicles. Higher food prices, in turn, condemn more people to chronic hunger and “absolute poverty” (defined as income less than $1.25 per day). But hunger and poverty are leading causes of premature death and excess disease worldwide. Therefore, higher biofuel production would increase death and disease.
Research by the World Bank indicates that the increase in biofuels production over 2004 levels would push more than 35 million additional people into absolute poverty in 2010 in developing countries. Using statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Indur Goklany estimates that this would lead to at least 192,000 excess deaths per year, plus disease resulting in the loss of 6.7 million disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) per year. These exceed the estimated annual toll of 141,000 deaths and 5.4 million lost DALYs that the World Health Organization attributes to global warming. Thus, developed world policies intended to mitigate global warming probably have increased death and disease in developing countries rather than reducing them. Goklany also notes that death and disease from poverty are a fact, whereas death and disease from global warming are hypothetical.
Thus, the biofuel remedy for global warming may be worse than the disease it purports to alleviate.