Tax payers in Britain must have a big heart—and be extremely magnanimous too—to look on while their government wastes so much of their resources on fighting a cause in Libya that can be resolved through less costly means than the military campaign that Britain has committed itself to.
The cost to Britain of the military operations in Libya has reached £100m, according to the BBC. This is just Britain’s share of what the International Coalition has borne so far. No one knows yet how much the entire campaign has cost so far; but Britain seems to be paying a huge price already. This cost has resulted from the operations of some 23 RAF aircraft and two Royal Navy warships that Britain has committed to “Operation Ellamy,” the Ministry of Defence’s codename for the operations in Libya.
In addition, Britain’s top military experts are in Benghazi to help the Benghazi-based National Transitional Council of the rebel leadership organize itself in every way possible to counteract the pro-Gaddafi forces, gather intelligence, and prepare itself to assume political control over Libya. By playing this multi-faceted role in Libya, Britain will definitely bear a huge cost.
This cost is not surprising but difficult to justify or accept, especially when it is abundantly clear that it could have been avoided. Using diplomatic and political means to handle the Libyan crisis is a better and less costly approach; but Britain’s David Cameron and the other partners in the International Coalition think otherwise and remain fixated on only the expensive military option.
Three issues arising from this revelation by the BBC should leave us in no doubt about the futility of this involvement of the West in the internal affairs of Libya without any room be made for any other solution to the crisis apart from their dogged determination to devastate Libya with military strength.
HIGH COST OF THE MILITARY CAMPAIGN
The cost of the military operations to the British tax payers comes up as the first troubling issue. In two months alone, it is pegged at £100m, contrary to what the British tax payers had been prepared for. As reported by the BBC, when the military strikes against Gaddafi’s forces began on 19 March, Chancellor George Osborne said the cost of British involvement in Libya would be “modest” when compared to Afghanistan. At the time, he estimated it would cost “in the order of tens of millions of pounds, not hundreds of millions.” Two months after this claim, the reality on the ground reveals otherwise.
This cost isn’t the final count because the campaign is still in progress and Gaddafi remains the Libyan leader; his government is still in place; and the International Coalition’s campaign is nowhere near its highest point or end. What more won’t the British tax payer prepare for? The BBC quoted the Ministry of Defence as saying that it is too early to provide exact figures, and Mr. Osborne as saying that additional costs of the military campaign would be met by Treasury reserves. The British tax payer will have to brace up for more unpleasant surprises.
Questions—big and small—may arise concerning what exactly Britain stands to gain from this campaign or how it will recoup what is being spent on this “Gaddafi-must-go” military escapade. Of course, Libya’s oil is beckoning and may be expropriated to replenish the British Treasury, especially if the Benghazi-based rebels are helped to install themselves in office to pay back. Mortgaging Libyan oil for this purpose will be the best option to choose; but it will all depend on the outcome of this campaign to create the enabling environment from which the partners in the International Coalition can benefit.
A BOOST FOR BRITAIN’S INTERNATIONAL IMAGE?
By involving itself in this campaign to initially solve a “humanitarian crisis,” Britain has enhanced its image and given the indication that it is ready to help solve problems at the international level, especially the kind that has aroused so much indignation because of the brutality with which Gaddafi sought to suppress the mid-February uprising against his regime. This is the second issue. On the surface, Britain’s image seems to be boosted thereby. What is problematic, however, is the limited approach being adopted to resolve the Libyan crisis.
By insisting on only the military option, the campaign doesn’t seem to be solving the problem. Instead, it is compounding it and creating the unfavourable impression that Cameron and the other linchpins orchestrating the NATO bombardments are myopic. From a far-away perspective, then, Britain’s image isn’t being boosted at all.
Coupled with this issue is the tissue of outright lies that undergird the Libyan campaign. We all know that the International Coalition rushed into Libya to solve “humanitarian problems”; but the constant bombardment of Libyan territories that were not involved in the fighting or where no humanitarian problem existed belies that intention. The ulterior motive is plain to all who can assess the extent to which the International Coalition devastated Libyan infrastructure before handing over the baton of wanton demolition to NATO.
And there is no let up, even when the rebels have re-taken Misrata and are in full control over areas in east Libya that they regard as their stronghold. Or even when there is no major humanitarian crisis to warrant the persistent bombardments of anything considered as pro-Gaddafi. There is every indication that NATO’s indiscriminate demolition will not end soon. As reported by the BBC, the British Defence Secretary Liam Fox said on Monday that the NATO bombing strikes would not end until Gaddafi stopped “slaughtering” his own people. Where is this slaughtering taking place now in Libya?
Yet, the bombardment continues. On Monday, British forces hit facilities in Tripoli thought to play a key role in Gaddafi’s rule in Libya, the Ministry of Defence announced. It said that the attack hit intelligence agency buildings and a base of Gaddafi’s “executive protection force.” In hitting these targets, what is NATO achieving by way of the UN Security Council Resolution 1973 which explicitly called for action “to protect Libyan civilians”?
POLITICAL IMMATURITY OF DAVID CAMERON
The third issue deals directly with David Cameron’s own political stature. This being the first major challenge for him in global politics, he seems not to know how to stand out from the crowd and comes across as politically immature. He has already created the impression that just like the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, he is at the beck and call of the United States.
And that comes with a heavy price for him to pay. We can tell from the electoral losses made in the recent elections in Scotland, etc. by the junior partner (Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats) in his government that the electorate have pressing needs to satisfy beyond Britain’s involvement in the Libyan crisis.
Let’s be blunt here to say that Cameron’s rise to power is an accident of politics, considering the circumstances in which his Conservative Party (in lieu of Gordon Brown’s Labour Party) got together with Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats to form a coalition government—something that hadn’t happened in British politics for decades. These circumstances are all still fresh in our memories. The leader of such a government is expected to do what will strengthen his country and solve the problems that made the electorate reject Gordon Brown and his Labour Party, not what will lead to a wanton dissipation of resources as we’ve seen so far in this wasteful campaign in Libya.
By pushing Britain into this campaign in Libya and grossly defending everything about it—including justifying the NATO murder of Gaddafi’s youngest son and three grandchildren—Cameron is steadily portraying the political immaturity that will be his undoing in the long run.
I am being brazen here and will continue to be so until I get enough proof that something to the contrary is being done to resolve the Libyan crisis without compounding problems. Wasting so much just because “Gaddafi must go” may end up being Cameron’s headache sooner than later. If he wants to improve his own political fortunes and create goodwill for Britain, he mustn’t do so through a mere military campaign. There are better options, which he (just like the other politically immature leaders of the US and France) seems not to be interested in using to resolve the Libyan crisis.
As the campaign prolongs and the cost rises, the British tax payers will not be expected to remain silent. It is not difficult to guess that when agitations begin, the reality will dawn on Cameron that he may be the Prime Minister with enormous powers, but the electorate won’t sit down unconcerned for him to waste the country’s resources on a campaign that has no tangible benefit for them. Cameron needs to do a serious re-appraisal of issues to prevent any head-butting with the voters who are still grappling with the problems that he had boasted of solving if voted into office. Libya is not one of those problems.
By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor