Gadaffi, our murderous hen, remains in splendid isolation. But it still produces eggs which has so far guaranteed its survival and the associated right to spend hours looking threateningly through the wire at the nearby Columbian Black Tails and to show considerable animosity to whoever ventures into the run to feed or clean. Like its infamous namesake it is loathed by all but at least we are not courting financial disaster by attempting to dethrone or reform it. Mind you, neither are we allocating it a large wad of Olympic Games tickets, as in the case of the real life monster.
Defending his decision to change tack on the NHS, David Cameron said that, when he became prime minister, he vowed not to stick with decisions that subsquently proved wrong. He would do well to adopt a similar approach to both the defence cuts and that strange adventure in Libya, before it is too late. Instead he is probably carving waxen images of Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, the First Sea Lord, who announced over the weekend that we cannot sustain our action in Libya for much longer given that our only aircraft carrier is being sold on ebay, and the Harrier jump jets sold off to the Americans for £34 million after more than £1 billion pounds had been spent on them over the past decade.
Instead the giovernment has trumpeted the fact that we have despatched our four Apache helicopters. Apart from making us an international laughing stock, the plan is not working. The Apaches are struggling to fulfil the type of combat role for which the Harriers were suited and to date only two sorties have been flown since they are required to fire from over the sea for fear of being shot down. Meantime we have now spent almost £100 million on missiles, an amount that would have funded a lot of nurses or police officers at home.
At the time of the Defence Review, and its resulting cuts, much was made of the fact that we would not be undertaking any more missions overseas. So why are we becoming more and more involved in Libya? And why Libya? It can reasonably be argued that the situation in Syria is equally horrendous and there are more serious strategic impilcations there for the West. The answer provided is that we are merely implementing the United Nations’ resolution regarding saving civilian lives. But we, and the French, have gone far beyond that remit.
Indeed a senior Defence spokesman warned yesterday that there is no prospect of “a military victory’ unless we further escalate the bombing. Surely the mission was not about victory or regime change, but that is exactly what it has become. We are rearranging the concrete in Tripoli and we are causing Gadaffi to become ever more entrenched. Worse still we are causing the death of civilians. Last Friday saw the Apaches carry out their first attack on the Misrata front. Once they had departed, Gadaffis’s forces hit back with an unprecedented barrage of thousands of Russian-made Grad rockets. Rebel units, which comprise excitable civilians with popguns, suffered 31 deaths and 120 serious injuries.
Tensions are mounting within NATO. The Americans have effectively distanced themselves from the whole affair and over half of the other members have refused to contribute militarily. Together with the French we are bearing the burden and all the signs are that we are being drawn ever further into a civil war. The risk is that government and rebel forces will become more radicalised and will perpetrate war crimes. The risk of the conflict spilling over into Tunisia grows by the week, and the exodus of nearly 1 million people fleeing to neighbouring states is but a foretaste of what is to come.
Of course every decent man or woman has enormous sympathy for the oppressed in Libya, Syria and the rest. But unless we intensify the bombing even more – and thus increase the risk of horrendous civilian deaths - the stalemate will continue. If we do there is little doubt that Gadaffi’s support will crumble. But how do we then ensure that good government takes over?
David Cameron has a choice. He can intensify the mission and spend billions in doing so, plus conduct a fresh review of our Defence budget. Or he can order a policy of air strikes only when Gadffi’s forces are massing for an attack.
As things stand we are no longer in a position to play the role of world policeman or to guarantee the defence of the realm. Like the decisions on the NHS, Forests, Benefit payment ceilings, Sentencing and the rest this was a thoroughly bad and ill thought-out decision.
On Libya at least one suspects that most people would not view a U-turn with disdain. We are too fond of entering into wars that we cannot win and, at a time when police are being withdrawn from our streets, it is sheer madness.
The only consolation is that Andrew Lansley is not in charge at the Ministry of Defence for had he been, we would probably be heading into World War 3 by now!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; FOOTBALL WIT; “Football is a game with 22 players, two linesmen and 20,000 referees”….Bob Monkhouse “If history repeats itself I think we can expect the same thing again”….Terry Venables “We didn’t underestimate them, they were just a bit better than we thought”….Bobby Robson “I don’t think we’ll go down. But then again, the captain of the Titanic said the same”…..Neville Southall “The score is Ipswich 0 Liverpool 2. If it stays that way you’ve got to fancy Liverpool to win”……Peter Jones “They say football is a game of two halves. Not for me, I regularly down eight pints whilst watching a live game on Sky”….Adrian Bond “The problem at Wimbledon is that the club has suffered a loss of complacency”….Joe Kinnear “The Koreans were quicker in terms of speed”……Mark Lawrenson “The England football team – brilliant on paper, shit on grass”…..Arthur Smith “David Icke says he’s here to save the world. Well he saved buggar all when he played in goal for Coventry”……Jasper Carrott “It’s not fair to say that Lee Bowyer is racist; he’d stamp on anyone’s head”……Rodney Marsh
NEW EGGHEADS QUIZ TOMORROW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Dear Reader You will see that the number of hits has now passed the 500,000 mark. My dream is to reach the magic million. If you enjoy joining me each day could you recommend the site to your friends. Many many thanks! D, Albert and all.