Why we must send Gaddafi the way of Saddam
Clumsy wording. He received a swift response that it isn’t inconceivable at all. And, of course, it isn’t. In fact, it is entirely conceivable, for we are talking here about political expediency, not moral imperatives.
His Grace then tweeted that it would be a moral outrage if, having spurred on the protesters to risk life and limb from the comfort of our armchairs, we then sat idly by as Gaddafi took his bloody revenge upon them. Moral outrage it would be. But the UK’s foreign policy has not been ethical since Tony Blair declared it to be so. Having found no WMD in Iraq, the removal of Saddam was still a righteous pursuit, Mr Blair told us, considering what he was doing to the Shi’a majority and the Kurdish minority. So we intervened. As we did in Sierra Leone and Kosovo. And let’s not forget Afghanistan. Good grief, if Blair were still in power, we’d probably be at war with Syria and Iran by now as well.
The revolutions sweeping the Middle East have been upstaged by the appalling devastation in Japan. Under the cloak of earthquake, flood and nuclear fire, Gaddafi is able to move against his own people in ways the West would never have tolerated in Tunisia and Egypt. Our resolve was fixed because our attention was focused: Ben Ali had to go, for his people demanded political reform; Mubarak had to go, for his people demanded political reform. And our Prime Minister spurred the protestors on, as did many of us.
But neither Ben Ali nor Mubarak carried their military forces: in both cases, the generals remained neutral between their presidents and their peoples. In Libya, by contrast, Gaddafi retains the support of his military machine and is now using it to crush the democrats. Tyrants cannot abide those who challenge their absolute power: those Libyan people who agitated for democracy are enemies of the state; enemies of the people’s republic; traitors to Islam for colluding with the West and desiring the political system of the Great Satan. For Gaddafi and his supporters, to cleanse the earth of their stench is a righteous and noble pursuit. And each day we do nothing, hundreds die. And as Japan suffers further quakes, Gaddafi will kill thousands. And as nuclear reactors melt down, he will kill tens of thousands.
And by the time our news cycle has reverted to David Beckham’s tattoo, the birth of his first daughter or his attendance at the Royal wedding, Gaddafi will be victorious. He will once again be in charge of his state, ruler of all he surveys, impregnable and omnipotent. And so he will wreak his revenge upon us, just as he has done in the past by arming the IRA or blowing up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie. Rogue states do not conform; they cannot integrate, compromise or comply with UN resolutions. If they could, they would not be rogue.
When David Cameron says time is of the essence, and he is right. His instincts on this foreign policy issue point in the same direction as a moral compass. Every day that passes, pro-democracy Libyans are being captured, tortured and murdered. Every hour is an hour in which the Strong Man re-arms and his forces re-group. Britain and France want to impose a no-fly zone to assist the revolutionaries; Germany and the US do not. This civil war is an internal matter for Libya: Gaddafi may be a demon, but better the devil you know. There is no unity of purpose; no common EU foreign policy; no unified strategic interest. Instead, we have a cacophony of individual nation states all bleating their opinions while the innocents are bombed by gun-ships and butchered by barbarians.
With each passing day of procrastination, it becomes evident that the West is not overly concerned with the struggle of ordinary people who want to be rid of the yoke of slavery, tyranny and corruption. We dither, and say we’ll only help them on the path to freedom if bombs and bullets are put aside. That’s big of us. If we had an aircraft carrier with a few aircraft, we might be able to do something. But we are now a third-rate military power, more concerned with international development than with defence of the realm.
The Just War was a Christian formulation; its precepts have permeated international law. The early Christian attitude of abstention was difficult to sustain after Christianity became the established religion of the Roman Empire and thinkers such as Augustine turned to the idea that waging war was a legitimate exercise of the authority of rulers. As the ruler does not bear the sword for nothing – that is, he may justly punish the wrongdoing of his subjects – so, likewise, war is just when it is waged to effect retribution against those who do evil.
In 1991, the West stood by as Saddam Hussein crushed an uprising against him: thousands were tortured and executed, often without trial, invariably without mercy. Overthrowing a dictator is a risky business, especially when you can’t count on those you thought were friends. If it was right and just to rid the world of Saddam – or temporarily suspend opposition to the death penalty while Islamic justice took its course – a fortiori it must be right and just to rid the world of Gaddafi – or at least facilitate his capture in order that Libyan justice can take its course. It is surely a greater evil to leave Gaddafi in power than to depose him, which constitutes the jus ad bellum criteria. He is an aggressor against Western civilisation and a murderer of his own people.
How many Hitlers must we regret not terminating?