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Friday, March 18, 2011 

A giant leap into the dark part 2.

It turns out then that Gaddafi isn't a lunatic, as very very few leaders who've managed to hang on to power for 40 years are. Deluded and with a shaky grip on reality certainly, but not mad. Declaring an immediate ceasefire is in fact an incredibly shrewd move, and straight out of the Saddam Hussein authored playing for time book of frustrating and dividing an otherwise fairly united international community. At the moment it isn't clear whether or not the ceasefire is being observed, as there are reports of Gaddafi's forces still moving towards Benghazi, perhaps looking to gain as much ground as possible before the no fly zone is implemented. It seems doubtful however that having announced a ceasefire the regime would immediately tempt an overwhelming military response.

Quite what Obama is doing putting doing a series of "non-negotiable terms" which goes well beyond what was agreed in UN Security Council Resolution 1973 is anyone's guess. All it demands is that an immediate ceasefire is put in place; it certainly doesn't call for Gaddafi's forces to withdraw from Ajdabiya, Misrata and Zawiya. If it's an attempt to carve out some more territory for a potential state which could at some point secede, then the National Transitional Council certainly hasn't been informed: they understandably want to go on fighting. That in itself poses a problem for us, in that the UN resolution doesn't distinguish between the two sides in demanding the ceasefire. Indeed, potentially the resolution could be used against the rebels, if they then themselves go on the offensive and begin wide-scale attacks that threaten civilians.

As Craig Murray sets out and Obama recognised, the resolution also doesn't even begin to authorise us intervening to help the rebels overthrow Gaddafi. This is despite our glorious leaders repeatedly calling for him to go, and could well end up leaving us in a similar position to that in Iraq in 1991. Neither side at the moment seems likely to be willing to negotiate, and it's also apparent that Gaddafi has the cards firmly stacked in his favour. He controls the oil ports and the majority of the country, with the rebels hanging on to the east for dear life. Whether a state made up just of the territory the rebels hold would be viable is dubious; instead, we could well find ourselves protecting an autonomous but not independent statelet, bearing more than a resemblance to the Kurdish north of Iraq prior to 2003, indefinitely providing an overwatch capability.

All this just goes to show that however good the intentions behind an intervention are, from the moment we involve ourselves military we effectively take ownership of the situation. It's incredibly weak for David Cameron to state that it was "not in our national interest for this man to lead a pariah state on the southern banks of Europe with all the problems that that could entail" when that was exactly what the situation was until we ourselves helped to bring Gaddafi in from the cold, and it's also asking for trouble when he says unequivocally that we will at no point bring in ground forces or stage an occupation. It's fast approaching 10 years since we went into Afghanistan, with no plan whatsoever for what would come after we helped overthrow the Taliban. Having broken a state, we've had to attempt to rebuild it. History doesn't repeat, despite Marx's pithy formulation: we just never seem to learn the necessary lessons.

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