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What’s the Exit Strategy, Dave?

Overnight he was transformed from Mr Bean to Stalin. In the same way that Thatcher had her Falklands, Cameron had his Libya. But then it didn’t go according to plan. At the first site of a cruise missile, Gaddafi didn’t throw down his weapons and put his hands in the air. Nor did he try to surrender to the F16s that were circling above him at 30,000 feet. He didn’t rush down to the beach and swim out into the Mediterranean in search of a British Polaris submarine, so that he could beg to be taken prisoner. No. He just sat tight and waited for it to pass.

The professional soldiers who deserted Gaddafi’s army to join the Rebels have since disappeared. The news is that they disappeared even before the aerial bombing, and they haven’t come back since. If that’s the case, then there is no reasonable prospect of the rebels winning.

It’s not a question of arming them. The remaining volunteers are amateurs. What’s the point of having the equipment if you don’t know how to use it? From what we’ve seen on television, these people don’t even know how to follow orders. If we wanted to arm them we’d also have to supply them with six months of training.

So now we’re asking the question that Cameron doesn’t seem to have asked himself. What’s the exit strategy, Dave?

Overnight, he’s been transformed back to being Mr Bean again. The same contradictory, risk-taking, and foolishly uber-confident politician, who we’ve been getting increasingly frustrated with over this last year. But the difference is that now he’s exporting his dangerous tendency to incompetence to rest of the world.

Now we’ve got a situation where Gaddafi’s forces cannot advance anywhere, because there is no cover in the desert between the cities, while the Rebels can’t advance because they aren’t an army. So a stale mate situation has developed, causing the country to grind to a halt. Food is short, water is short, and medicine is short. We’ve turned a minor revolt into a humanitarian disaster. If you happen to have any spare medical supplies can you please check off against this list and post them to Misrata?

I could understand this action if we were dealing with the Gaddafi of 20 years ago, exporting terror and shooting police officers in London, but we’re not. He’s seen the error of his ways and reformed. We accepted this and established relations way back in 2004.

The way that people speak, you’d think he was a modern day version of Saddam Hussein, but the very fact that the rebellion caught his regime so off-guard seems to suggest that he wasn’t running the country with a rod of steel. I’m not saying he’s popular or even competent. I am saying that he was napping when the revolt broke out.

To believe that the uprising was motivated by a desire to establish democracy may well be wishful thinking. In the New York Times, Thomas L. Freidman makes the distinction between countries such as Tunisia and Egypt that have a strong national identity, and those such as Iraq, Bahrain and Libya, with colonial imposed borders containing rival tribes. Is it a genuine fight for democracy or a tribal fight for power?

Overnight he was transformed from Mr Bean to Stalin. In the same way that Thatcher had her Falklands, Cameron had his Libya. But then it didn’t go according to plan.

The fact that Gaddafi is not Saddam Hussein explains why we are not willing to enter a ground war. He’s not dangerous enough for us to risk our own young men. But if we’re not willing to go in on the ground then why on earth did we start bombing? Why did we start something we can’t finish? What’s the exit strategy, Dave?

Colin Powell once said that if you break it, you pay for it. It’s beginning to look like we broke it, AGAIN!

Like I said over at LabourList, the age-old habit of Arab countries to blame the west as the cause of all their suffering, will have a substantive ring of truth about it, if this business doesn’t turn good, pretty soon.

Let’s hope it does turn out well. Not for Cameron’s sake; I don’t care about him. But for the people of Libya who would like to be rid of an aging dictator, whatever their motives. Rather than helping them, it’s beginning to look like we’ve just made their lives a whole lot more miserable.

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