In his Daily Telegraph article today, Boris has summed up what most of us are thinking. It is wrong to stand idly by as a megalomaniac dictator slaughters the innocent, but intervention is fraught with risk. We have been here before and here we are again.
Boris says: “So here we go again. The Tomahawks are streaming across the night skies. RAF jets are once again piling in behind the Americans and the bodies of yet more Arab soldiers are lying beside their shattered air defence systems. The best we can say of this venture is that it is the lesser of two evils – or so it seems at the moment.
Of course it is a good idea to try to rid the world of Gaddafi, a crazed dictator who was behind the murder of Yvonne Fletcher, the Lockerbie passengers and many others. We cannot sit idly by, as Hillary Clinton put it, while this lunatic massacres his own people, and, frankly, we can be proud of the way our own government has handled the matter”
Of David Cameron, Boris says: “The Prime Minister has been straight, he has been clear, and he has achieved a considerable diplomatic coup in obtaining a UN resolution in favour of a no-fly zone. People sometimes forget that UN authorisation was not only withheld during the war in Iraq; there was no UN resolution that formally permitted the Clinton-Blair bombing of Serbia and Kosovo. This action is just about as legal and justified as it gets.”
But with the lessons of Iraq so fresh in our minds, Boris is filled with apprehension, as is, I am sure, our government. Boris says that that it would be insane, also illegal, to send in ground troops. President Obama has already has dismissed that possibility, as did William Hague as reported by SKY TV this morning.
Boris says: “So we must hope that we can succeed, with air power alone, to help the rebels to topple Gaddafi; and if and when we do, we will have a separate set of problems. Who are they, these rebels? What kind of democracy do we hope will bloom in the desert soil, after decades in which political parties have been banned? This is an area that has had no history of political pluralism for thousands of years, not even under the Carthaginians. Look at what has just happened in Egypt. The Facebook revolutionaries have got rid of Hosni Mubarak, widely seen as the frontman for the generals; and they have installed – er – the generals.”
Boris goes on to say: “beware of the law of unintended consequences, and to minimise those risks we should lay down some basic conditions for success in Libya. The first and most important is that we do not repeat the appalling mistakes of Iraq. We must not lie or misrepresent what we are doing. We must not glory in Call Of Duty-style Pentagon footage of Western weapons being used to blitz Gaddafi’s forces. We must not talk of “victory” or “mission accomplished”. We cannot allow Gaddafi or anyone else to present this as a crusade.
The Iraq war was not only a disaster for the many tens of thousands who died in Iraq. I am afraid our actions gave a point and a force to the poisonous rhetoric of Islamist agitators in London and around the world. We would be mad to make that mistake again.”
Boris’s article makes me wish he was in charge of the communication regarding the war. Read the rest of his fascinating article here.