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Libyan mission creep: Labour should back international law, not NATO

The three NATO leaders have now made clear their objective in Libya — and it is regime change and not the more limited objectives set by the UN. Regime change is not a legitimate objective for NATO’s leaders to determine. It is an entirely legitimate aspiration for the Libyan people. It could become a legitimate objective of an international force if it were explicitly approved by the UN, perhaps based on a conclusion of the investigations of the International Criminal Court into crimes committed against civilians in Libya, but such approval is unlikely to be forthcoming anytime soon.

It is absolutely wrong, therefore, for NATO’s leaders to determine that regime change is a pre-condition for peace and the cessation of NATO’s attacks, and Labour should say so. It is helpful that Douglas Alexander, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, has begun to distance Labour from today’s joint article by the NATO leaders, but he and Ed Miliband must go much further.

Douglas Alexander has said:

While of course we think Libya’s future would be better served by Gaddafi going, the right people to choose Libya’s leadership are Libya’s people.”

That position has a diffrent emphasis from the position of NATO’s leaders whose article, as Samira Shackle says in the Staggers:

in calling for Muammar al-Gaddafi to “go and go for good”… draws a line under previous suggestions of an immediate ceasefire and a negotiated exit for Gaddafi, or a divided Libya.”

Cameron, Sarkozy and, unfortunately Obama too, argue that their

vision for the future of Libya has the support of a broad coalition of countries, including many from the Arab world”.

In fact, NATO is itself very divided. Their vision has the support of some NATO countries but some are opposed (such as Germany and Turkey), and others limit their contribution to defensive action only (such as Spain and the Netherlands). As for support from Arab countries, those who have actively assisted have little or no democratic legitimacy themselves — Qatar and the UAE, for example, who buy the acquiescence of their own people with oil revenues and on the backs of immigrant workers granted no civil rights at all, and Jordan whose absolute monarch was forced by mass protests to sack his cabinet but failed to stop the protests.

Many of those Labour MPs who backed the UN resolution did so in spite of deep worries about mission creep. They do not want to slide into another Iraq or Afghanistan. That is exactly what is happening now and Labour must oppose it.


  1. Of course Parliament should be recalled following the decision of David Cameron to join Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy in changing the terms of the war in Libya. I am not sure what they can do in France, but Obama is sailing perilously close to warranting impeachment. Here, the House of Commons should immediately pass a motion of censure, perhaps the traditional reduction of Cameron’s salary by one pound, thereby making his position untenable.

    Meanwhile, what about America’s cluster bombs, which we do in fact know that she has, whereas we know no such thing about Libya? What about the banks that made a killing, so to speak, out of backing their manufacture and sale? If the Libyans really do have them, then where, how and from whom did they obtain them? What about the even more horrific weapons of indiscriminate carnage possessed by all three of the United Kingdom, the United States and the French Republic? And even accepting the highly unlikely proposition that Libya ever had any of those with which to dispense, which other regime can ever be expected to do so after this?

  2. Gary Elsby says:

    It beats me how come Labour MPs have took so long to be concerned.
    Maybe its because the ‘new way of doing things’ would isolate a Socialist with a conscience as a loon.
    Mission creep, crept in when the first Tomahawk missile from a British submarine landed in Gaddafi’s bedroom window.
    Regime change was the aim by death of a Sovereign Leader.
    Cameron would have cheered his death as a success and Miliband would have dared not to clap the demise of a ‘mad dog’.
    The problem now is that Gaddafi is alive, the Libyan people refuse foot-soldiers on the ground and a Civil war is under way.
    Bad Foreign policy planning and mission creep via stealth of mounting deaths.
    This is the worst Labour positioning of all time and yet another nail in the coffin of Miliband.
    Have some guts and stand up to be counted.
    This is easy and Labour is making it look hard.

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