Tuesday, 22 March 2011

He wasn't everybody's favourite Defence Secretary ...

Some of my friends will be surprised that I choose today to portray on my blog the Rt. Hon. Bob Ainsworth, M.P. He wasn't everybody's favourite Defence Secretary, but in yesterday's six-hour House of Commons debate on Libya, he was one of those who managed to distinguish themselves by speaking loudly and clearly about their doubts and their worries for the future.

Mr Ainsworth said: “It is relatively easy to support things on day one, but it is relatively difficult to support them on month three. There was a huge majority in favour of the Iraq war. We can all see that there were some grave difficulties with becoming involved [in Iraq]. But many of those who can see them now could not see them on the day.”

We British are effectively at war again - following Iraq (where I supported the removal of Saddam Hussein, though the campaign went pear-shaped shortly afterwwards) and Afghanistan (where little has been achieved after ten years of conflict and 360 British lives lost). I believe that our present leaders have taken leave of their senses in Libya. David Cameron claims world-wide support for 'action.' But Germany isn't with us. Neither is Russia, nor China, nor India, nor Brazil. Even the U.S. was reluctant. Wouldn’t it be better to extricate our armed forces, affected like us all by ‘the ConDem cuts,’ from one serious conflict (Afghanistan) before embarking on yet another (Libya), at a time when an area of the world where we British have strong interests and residual moral responsibilities is crying out for attention? I refer, of course, to Zimbabwe (or as some of us still call that beloved but benighted country, Rhodesia).

Mr Ainsworth and others are right to be worried. What worries me with regard to Libya is what is to replace Gaddafi. Who are these Libyan 'rebels'? Do we know anything of the people on whose side we are at war? And what if what Gaddafi says is true, namely, that al-Qaeda is waiting in the wings? We may rue the day we became involved in what is, essentially, the business of the Libyans.

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