Deeper Still and Deeper

Following the Egyptian upheavals, our post of February 21st expressed the hope that Britain’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, would keep Britain out of deeper Middle East entanglements.

Unhappily it is not to be.  While President Obama has been very careful to define the limits of US involvement in Libya, both Hague and his boss, Prime Minister David Cameron, have entered into competition with President Sarkozy of France in vilifying Gaddafi and have taken the lead in trying to force him to surrender power to an as-yet undefined collection of rebels against his rule.

Quite why Libya has suddenly been singled out for such vituperation and now bombing by NATO countries (principally USA, Britain and France, with small contributions by Denmark, the Netherlands, and the small Gulf State Qatar) is not clear, given the long list of regimes, headed by President Mugabe in Zimbabwe, which have abused their citizens over a long period, in the latter’s case systematically reducing his citizens to penury and actual starvation on occasion.  In this context a comparison of Libya with other countries on the economic and poverty front is instructive.

Libya’s economic performance

In 2008, Libya generated average gross national income per person of 9,030 US dollars, with 7.4% of its population estimated to be below the poverty line ($1 per day).  Among Libya’s Muslim neighbours in North Africa and the Middle East, the following comparable figures are obtained for 2008:  Egypt $1,650 (20% poverty level); Syria $1,750 (12% poverty level); Algeria $3,700 (25% poverty level); Turkey $8,300.

Looking further afield we find in Asia in 2007 much hyped India on $950 (poverty level 25%); Pakistan $860 (poverty level 24%); China $2,600 (poverty level 8%).  In Africa we have Nigeria $930; Zimbabwe $340 (poverty level 68%).  In Europe we have Ukraine $2,560 (37% poverty level); Romania $6,390, Poland $9,850; Bulgaria $4,580.  For more general comparisons: the United Kingdom was on $40,660; Switzerland $60,800 (highest of all industrial countries); USA $46,200.

Sanctions on Libya lifted in 2003

Certainly Colonel Gaddafi’s Libya has greatly outraged the US over the 1988 Lockerbie bombing (as has the release by the Scottish government of Libyan citizen Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the one person convicted of this, the worst atrocity on UK soil).  Western sanctions for this, and more generally the harbouring and support of terrorist groups, were lifted in 2003 after Colonel Gaddafi renounced the development of weapons of mass destruction and promised to allow UN nuclear weapons inspection to verify this state of affairs (which seems to have been carried out).  Moreover Gaddafi’s regime has shown itself to be no friend of Al-Qaeda, although there is some evidence that members of this terrorist network are present among the “rebel” groups in Benghazi.

Here it is worth noting that Libya is historically two countries: Cyrenaica in the East with profoundly Greek and Byzantine origins, and Tripolitania, Colonel Gaddafi’s heartland in the West, with equally profound Roman links.  So in siding so conspicuously with the Benghazi rebels in Cyrenaica, Britain and NATO are risking involvement in what may turn out to be in part a tribally-based civil war.  Clearly also, avoiding this tragedy by allowing the country to split into its two historic parts is imperilled by such one-sidedness.

BBC’s John Humphrys’s interview with NATO Secretary General, Anders Rasmussen, Monday 28th March

John Humphrys tried to extract from Mr Rasmussen an acknowledgement that if the rebels were judged to have attacked the civilian population in some way, NATO would bomb them too.  After intoning four times the mantra that NATO’s mission under UNSC Resolution 1973 was to protect civilians “no more, no less”, Rasmussen did finally concede that NATO could attack the rebels if they appeared to threaten civilian lives (although he thought this was very unlikely).  But he refused to speculate on how civilian protection could be done by air in the built-up areas of Sirte, Misratah and Tripoli itself, which towns almost certainly contain many civilian supporters of the Gaddafi regime.

The UK Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, on the other hand in his TV interview on Sunday had no such inhibitions, repeatedly referring to Colonel Gaddafi’s “raining death and destruction on his own people” as justifying continuing bombing when clearly people can see that this is exactly what NATO has done already to Libyan army personnel, tanks, self-propelled guns, and supply trucks on the open highways between the towns and around the air defence sites in the towns themselves.  (The Times of 29 March has a credible report by its correspondent, Deborah Haynes, of at least one bomb on a suburb of Sirte which has killed civilians.)

Certainly this Libyan adventure has been providential for the RAF as it struggles to justify its very existence in the face of the British Government’s preference for spending a large part of £7.5 billion on people pushing paper in the various aid agencies (see post of March 13: Realities of British Foreign Aid), rather than maintaining credible armed forces.  (The carrier Ark Royal appeared for sale on eBay while Fox was giving his interview.)

British Prime Minister Cameron needs to attend to his proper business

Before he takes Britain even deeper into the mire of other countries’ affairs, one would have thought for a British Prime Minister a more pressing concern is the fact that the police are incapable of keeping order in his own capital city, London.  Following the G20 riots in 2009, student protest riots last year and the TUC march with its attendant anarchist outrages on Saturday, three measures require Cameron’s urgent attention: first of all, following her feeble bleat that the police cannot be expected to guarantee public order in central London on the day of the Royal Wedding (29th April), replacement of the female assistant metropolitan police commissioner, who is currently in charge of public order protection, by a manly figure determined to ensure that the thugs are kept out.  Secondly Mr Cameron should remove female police officers from crowd control duties as they are quite incapable of dealing with the violent six foot anarchist thugs who can be expected.  Thirdly he should pass whatever law may be needed to remove Brian Hawes’s disgusting protest camp from Parliament Square, where all the world’s cameras will be trained as Prince William and his bride emerge from Westminster Abbey.  Allowing Hawes’s squalid mess to remain will add further millions to those who believe Britain is in irrevocable decadent decline.


Whatever Libyan administration succeeds Colonel Gaddafi’s (if that happens as Cameron and Sarkozy so obviously wish it to happen) it will have a job on its hands to resurrect an economy from the chaos and destruction inflicted on it by Western bombing, though not as bad as the damage inflicted on the British economy by Western banking.

It is to be hoped that the ordinary Libyan will feel that this destruction will have been worth it, unlike the ordinary Briton whose view of bankers is unprintable.

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One Response to “Deeper Still and Deeper”

  1. Adrian Ekins-Daukes Adrian Ekins-Daukes says:

    Many loyal Conservative voters are finding their loyalty stretched to the limit by the Government’s activities in Libya and the Foreign Secretary William Hague’s bombast makes it even worse.

    Muslims view the killing of Muslims in Tripoli as further pursuing Tony Blair’s liberal imperialism, under the guise of “help”. That help, if it is to be given, should be the responsibility of other Arab countries to whom we have been selling the necessary weaponry for decades. Our Government was elected to put the economy right, not to engage in Blairite military adventures.

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