Sunday, March 20, 2011

Something is missing

Don't get me wrong: I shall not be shedding any tears about Gaddafi when and if he is finally forced into a retirement home for overthrown dictators and kleptocrats, possibly on the Riviera. The man is as nasty a piece of works as ever dressed up in ludicrous costumes while organizing terrorist attacks and stealing vast amounts of money from his people. Undoubtedly, the war he has unleashed on his own people is horrendous. So yes, let's get rid of him. Except that there are many others who are the same and do the same: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, Zimbabwe, to name but a few. So which ones are we going to discipline and on what basis?

What is missing from this whole issue is the concept we must not mention: national interest. Our national interest. Is it in this country's interest to go into Libya, suppose we might have to go in, which we all hope will not happen? What do we get out of it that we would not get out of enforcing a no-fly zone over Yemen? And if, as I was and am firmly convinced, it is in our interest to support our greatest ally, the United States (and would be in our interest to support other Anglospheric countries), is it really in our interest to support France who has, clearly reverted to her nineteenth century persona?

Possibly the answer to those questions would be yes and some explanation as to why Libya and French interests are of importance. But we need to discuss them as we ought to have discussed the national interest behind the invasion of Iraq instead of that ridiculous performance over the dossiers. Until we have some clarity about what our foreign policy is or ought to be and what Britain's role in the world is or ought to be no discussion of defence and security can take place.


  1. Hmmm, Helen; that is the price for a state funded helicopter ride to the south of France. C'est la vie

  2. Whilst it's true there is ongoing violence in Bahrain, Yemen, etc. - there has been nothing on the same scale as the unrest in Libya (with a death toll likely to be in the thousands). Certainly, outright civil war hasn't broken out anywhere else. The question is, should we have allowed Gaddafi to crush the rebels, as he was poised to do? Morally, I think we had an obligation to step in and prevent a massacre.

    If you must, here's a potential national interest angle: meaningful engagement with Gaddafi after the bloodbath would have been impossible. Libya would have been transformed into a pariah state on Europe's borders. Even Italy would have been forced to cut ties. China and Russia, however, would have far less qualms and could easily have sucked up all the business abandoned by the West. Basically - we threw our lot in behind the rebels early on. If they had lost, we'd be in a very hard place.

  3. Any country that is a member of the European Union has proved that it has no national interest.

    More specifically, Chris Booker wrote in 2008: "Because Zimbabwe is included in the 28 areas of 'common foreign policy' we have ceded to the EU, we can do nothing except in conjunction with our EU colleagues."

    Can any europhiles commenting in this thread please make plain whom they mean when referring to "we"? Your beloved EU and Cathy Ashton's terrific new external "action" service? Or the UK? You must appreciate the confusion you cause.

  4. There appears to be no EU common policy on Libya, Clarence. So that's out of the discussion zone, so to speak.

    As to the horrors of the Gaddafi regime, they are, indeed, just that. As the horrors of the Yemeni crack-down, Syrian crack-down, not to mention Zimbabwe. Of course, those are not on the news. I still think that we need some better reason for going into a country than just nasty pictures on TV. Maybe the reason exists but it should be tied to our national interest. Is supporting France that?

  5. You are right, of course, and anyone who has been paying attention can add the names of yet more countries. I'll believe that what the biens pensants invariably call "the international community" has both ideals and teeth when the unpleasant regimes which are seriously inconvenienced are large and powerful. Russia, anyone? China?