[The following are excerpts from an interesting long article published today on the ConservativeHome website by John Baron MP:]
Three years on, it is clear the West’s Libyan intervention has been a disaster. A vicious civil war, growing civilian casualties and refugees, and warring tribal and religious groups have gone largely unnoticed in Britain. Things are so bad that the Libyan Parliament is now taking refuge in a Greek car ferry in Tobruk’s famous harbour. As with most of our interventions over the last decade, it was never meant to turn out like this. As we once again contemplate intervention in Iraq and Syria, Libya offers chastening lessons. (...)
We were told that Western intervention would avert an humanitarian catastrophe and prevent genocide in Benghazi – ironically now where the Islamists are arguably at their strongest. At the time of the vote, many of us in Parliament pointed out that not enough thought had been given to the challenges post-Gaddafi, to the various tribal and religious factions that would surface, and the knock-on effects beyond Libya’s borders. Some of us pointed to regional allies, who were more than capable of exercising control of the skies over Benghazi – after all, the West had been selling them tens of billions of pounds of kit for this very purpose.
Some of us also suspected the real motive was one of regime change. US anger following the Scottish release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was palpable. In February 2011, when the Foreign Affairs Select Committee met our American counterparts in Washington, the only topic they wished to discuss was not Afghanistan or Iraq, but the decision to release the Lockerbie bomber. We would not have been alone in picking up the negative vibes.
However, whatever the West’s motives, UN Security Council Resolution 1973 authorised the protection of civilians ‘by all means necessary’ other than a ‘foreign occupying force’. On the strength of this wording, and reassurances from London, Paris and Washington that regime change was not the objective, Russia and China did not use their Security Council vetoes. (...)
If regime change was the objective, then perhaps Libya post-Gaddafi was never really going to be a concern. However, if one accepts the West’s declared motive, then once again it has been found wanting.
A lack of rigorous assessment as to the difficulty of removing Gaddafi; of post-Gaddafi planning; of understanding the various components and parties in theatre, and of the consequences, both in the vast swathes of territory in the south of the country and beyond Libya’s borders – these were just some of the errors committed: a lack of local knowledge perhaps being the common denominator. Years of cuts to the FCO budget, and the consequent dilution of skills, was a factor.
Libya is a good example of how not to intervene. Knocking the door down is always going to be the easy part. The post-intervention planning was once again the Achilles’ heel. As the West once again stands poised to intervene in Iraq and Syria, such lessons must be heeded. The consequences of getting it wrong there could be much greater.