Is it Just to Bomb Libya?

The Prime Minster has justified his leading role in orchestrating a UN resolution to protect the citizens of Libya, particularly those in the east of the country, from the tyrannical oppression of their dictator, Col Gaddafi.  There seems to be an underlying moral urge on the part of our Prime Minster and his Deputy to stop the blatant outrage that is taking place just south of the Mediterranean. I sympathise.

Historically, we must also remember that Gaddafi part funded the war of aggression by the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland and in the mainland of Great Britain itself, and in some of our overseas territories, killing 3,000 civilians in the period known as the “Troubles”. Responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing also sits squarely at his feet. He is clearly a vile and demented individual who is capable of inflicting pain and destruction on not only his people, but those of many other nations. I will open a bottle of champagne upon the announcement of his death, and that of any of his henchmen associated with so much pain and destruction.

There are many murderous tyrants around the world, and plenty of morally indefensible states, but we are not on a crusade to bomb them all and liberate their people. The communist government in China unleashed untold brutality against their own people, notably in the Tiananmen Square uprisings in 1989. Despite moves toward capitalism, the Chinese people continue to be oppressed. Are we seeking to bomb them? Surely not. They have a population over a billion, and a standing army of over 2 million. Best leave them alone! More recently, in Sri Lanka, 20,000 Tamils were killed in May 2009. And what about the on-going treatment of the people of Zimbabwe? Here we have another tyrant-led country that has prosecuted a war of famine and pestilence against his own people. I am sure you get the picture.

I submit that our leadership shows a selective application of morals. Cameron is very much in the neo-Conservative tradition here.  I feel it would be better for him to be honest and practical, and simply say “with the support of the international community, we have an opportunity to depose a tyrant with a history of aggression towards the UK, with hopefully low costs to ourselves, amidst the chaos of a domestic rebellion”.

You either apply your moral standard universally, or it lacks validity. Why are we not bombing Bahrain? I wouldn’t advocate it, but Cameron should, if he is to be consistent.

Meanwhile, our Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, says he has voiced his support for possible military intervention in Libya, saying that any action would be carried out in order to “uphold international law.”

So Clegg appeals to a higher moral sanction called International Law. This is where the nations of the world, some with very dubious track records, decide what we all should do. I wonder if the UN had passed resolutions saying Northern Ireland should be ceded with immediate effect to the Republic of Ireland against the wishes of the vast majority of the population of both parts of the island, he would unquestionably seek to obey this command from on high. That is hypothetical, but there have in fact been many resolutions against Israel. Should we be as vigorous in enforcing these as we are being with the latest resolution against Libya? I do not think Clegg would go that far.

Clegg is not a true Liberal. The great 19th century Liberals such as Cobden and Bright would have recommended arbitration and free trade for breaking down barriers and opening up countries. That should be the long term policy of all nations interested in freedom. The interdependence that results from global trade provides strong motivation for peace. There is no need for international law or global government.

For the short term, the moral yardstick a liberal must apply is to treat international relations as they treat interpersonal relations: to live and let live, and only use force in response to aggression. Now, Libya certainly has aggressed against us over the years, and a liberal could have supported the bombings of Libya undertaken by the USA with the support of the UK under the Thatcher government in April of 1986. What aggression have they dealt out to us today?

The deputy prime minister, whose Liberal Democrat Party opposed the war in Iraq, said: “this is not Iraq. We are not going to war”. Such cowardice, to hide behind semantics! If bombing the hell out of Libyan air defences, and shooting at tanks and other armoured units is not warfare, I do not know what is. In truth, I do not think Clegg has the stomach for this, and he’s trying to post-rationalise it with appeals to a higher moral authority, and to black out from his mind the uncomfortable reality that he is party to an act of aggression against another state. Bless his Liberal heart and soul; it is all too much for him. More than ever, he must be wondering whether he really wants to be in this Coalition?

Faced with overwhelming western air power, Gaddafi may well resort to guerilla warfare, and send his men into cities for protracted battles, street by street, house by house. The misery that this would inflict upon those cities has not been experienced in Western Europe since WWII.

I see no justification for this war.

However as it has started, I hope this act of aggression by the UK and its allies is swift and decisive. Having committed to intervention, I hope our fighting men have freedom of action to finish this conflict quickly as possible. Failing this, I hope we are brave enough to extract ourselves very quickly, if it turns out that the rebellion does not have the strength to overthrow the regime.

My thoughts are now with all the people involved in this conflict, and I pray for peace.

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10 replies on “Is it Just to Bomb Libya?”
  1. says: John Spiers

    Here is the problem: like almost all of the bad guys, USA armed, promoted, protected and directed these guys. Gaddaffi’s ability to crush opposition was made in USA. A couple of weeks ago he was our ally in the war on terror. So when a bad guy comes a-cropper do we let him use our supplies to destroy his own people?

    I am pretty sure USA is advising both sides of the fight, in an effort to pick a winner who offers the best deal to USA (If not, I want my tax-money back!)

    We ought to either destroy what malware we gave Gaddafi, or promise to to so for anything he employs… but otherwise stay out of the equation, and let the chips fall where they may. Of course this is not what will happen, yet another despot will see he can get a better deal from China than USA.

    The big new convention centers in China all feature a Mosque and Halal restaurants. An excellent place for a Christian to find respite at crowded trade shows.

  2. says: Victor


    Last time i’ve seen the photos from Libya, the Soviet weapons were used both by the rebels and by the mercenaries.


    Yes, bombing the Chinese is not a feasible option, but it has to be taken into account in the same way as the option to bomb the Soviet Union.

    Intervention in Libya is justified, and if it helps promoting freedom there, it will help to promote freedom in China as well.

  3. says: John Spiers

    Yes, the USA moves the weapons of choice to all players… and given there is no Soviet Union, you can be pretty sure it is not a player today… Next, it is not ak47s that make the difference, it is intel… and USA sells that, along with China.

    Whereas the Soviet Union failed at oppressing it people, the USA is still yet to fail at it. The problem is USA is fielding 3rd stringers in military and politics, while the Chinese field first stringers. We are outclassed, and the world sees it. But hey, our banks are the best funded.

  4. says: Peter Wraith

    “..the moral yardstick a liberal must apply is to treat international relations as they treat interpersonal relations: to live and let live, and only use force in response to aggression”.

    “I see no justification for this war”.

    Exactly so, and very well said. Unfortunately, like Blair before him, Cameron just couldn’t wait to get out what few remaining toys are left to him and start playing – it’s the health of the State after all.


    “Yes, bombing the Chinese is not a feasible option…..”

    No s**t Sherlock, you don’t say!!

    “…but it has to be taken into account in the same way as the option to bomb the Soviet Union”.

    Why for God’s sake – especially as some economic and political indicators appear to suggest that it is at least a possibility that we will pass the Chinese going in the opposite direction on the freedom – totalitarian highway in the not too distant future? Indeed, I can’t help wondering if your Chinese equivalent is not at this very moment debating online the wisdom of a pre-emptive bombing strike on the UK in order to protect the civilian population from further egregious assaults on their civil liberties and the concomitant advance toward a police State which have very evidently been gathering pace over recent years.

    Also, do you not consider it in the least bit interesting, not to say odd, that Western governments generally have so suddenly turned against a number of tyrants that they have worked for so long to keep in place or, alternatively, done nothing whatsoever to remove? Whatever is up, my guess is that the reality has precious little to do with any ideas of advancing ‘freedom & democracy’. If it’s a simple choice between ‘our’ moral principle manifesting itself as a rush to assist an oppressed people, as you appear to believe, or rank duplicity, with vested interest successfully masquerading as said moral principle, I know which way I’d bet.


    “….the USA is still yet to fail at it”.

    If the dollar were to go ‘pop’ you would likely not have too long to wait to see such a failure. My only observation in this respect is that the Americans do seem very, very keen to ensure that oil remains priced in dollars. First Saddam, now Gaddafi, and on-going sabre rattling in the direction of Ahmadinejad in Iran. All three, I believe, either seriously considered (Saddam) or have publically stated (Gaddafi / Ahmadinejad) that they are at least considering pricing their oil in something other than dollars in the future. Is such talk dangerous, or an irrelevant coincidence?

  5. says: Tim Lucas

    @Peter Wraith.

    Perhaps you’re right and this is all about oil. Actually, if it were, in some ways I’d feel more comfortable that the government was attempting to operate in its perception of what is the national interest, morally repugnant though it is.

    However, another potential explanation, which makes me more uneasy, is that Cameron, far from having the interest of his electorate at heart, simply has his own.

    Cuts beginning to bite, polls beginning to slip, interest rates will need to rise next year and unemployment is still high…I can just imagine the whispered urgings.
    “You don’t come across as tough enough, Sire”.
    “A nice bit of bombing (from a safe distance – we don’t want any casualities on the telly) should put that right”
    “That’ll unite the people behind their leader – just make sure we don’t lose”.

    Salerno explored this nicely in this article:

    If this is even part of the motivation – which I suspect it is, then shame on you David Cameron.

  6. says: Peter Wraith


    “You don’t come across as tough enough, Sire”.

    A very good, if somewhat depressing point, which would certainly go a long way to explain British involvement.

    With regard to the situation being all about oil though, I don’t think I have made myself sufficiently clear. Though mindful of the ‘Carter Doctrine’ – (“An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force”) -I am more inclined to believe that it is the parlous position of the dollar itself rather than oil per se that is the primary motivator. If the U.S. dollar loses ‘reserve’ status, the U.S. is surely in very serious trouble, and hence they are likely to fight tooth and nail to prevent, or at worst delay as far as is possible, such an eventuality, using any means at their disposal.

  7. says: Ian Brit

    During the Egypt revolution The White Spokesman said these words. “this administration has been working behind the scenes for the past 3 years ” – paraphrase “to this end”. tacit admission that Obamas Aministration was behind the Egypt Uprising , and probably that of Tunisia and Libya too. Immediately afterwards Prime Minister Camoron and William Vague Foreign Sec were seen in Egypt – along with leading Arms Dealers!! Gaddafi is quite right ! This is about Oil and Arms , yet again !! Not long ago Gaddafi was announced as the good guy. This was no uprising by the people this was organised by USA and certain British interests to sell Arms
    and get Oil. BP has long been after all the Oil in Libya.
    How is is that Camoron calls Student Protests here , Criminal when just some glass gets broken by describes Protests in Egypt, and Libya with bricks , bottles, Assault Rifles and RPGs as “peaceful “?? Obviously , Students should have protested with AK47s and Rocket Propelled Grenades.
    Only a month ago were were being told that Student Grants had to be cut, Public Services Cut and Benefits Cut because the Country could NOT afford it ! No find this was all a LIE. These people are Liars . Actually it was idealogically driven. This the Rich exterminating the Poor so they can kepp more of their money. Now we see plainly how they make their money. Inciting Rebellions and Revolutions within other countries so they can get a good lower price for the Oil, Drive up the Oil price due to the Conflict and boost Arms Sales !!

  8. says: Tim Lucas


    “I am more inclined to believe that it is the parlous position of the dollar itself rather than oil per se that is the primary motivator”.

    Oh I see. Well yes – perhaps you’re right – dollar reserve status is key for the US being able to pay for its continued domestic follies on the never never.

  9. says: Current

    Regardless of the precise motivation for this war I can see one outcome that is quite possible and nobody seems to be discussing…

    The countries that have attacked Libya may end up doing such a good job of destroying Libya’s military that no Libyan government is capable of defending itself on the ground. That could lead to Libya being invaded by one of it’s neighbouring states. Or, it could lead to one of the neighbouring states controlling it by proxy through funding militia groups.

    It’s likely that the CIA and western intelligence agencies have had a hand in starting the trouble in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt. But we’re not going to find out for certain if they did or not anytime soon.

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