MPs are getting their first chance to debate Britain’s involvement in Libya this afternoon and already there is concern being expressed about the strength of the coalition against Gaddafi and what the ‘end game’ of our involvement will be.
What is clear from listening to MPs in the debate is that while almost all broadly support idea of intervention – that support is shallow and could disappear quickly if events on the ground (or the air) start going wrong.
It is worth asking what the reaction of MPs and the public will be if an airstrike goes wrong and a significant number of civilians die at the hands of the coalition rather than Gaddafi.
Even within the Government there is private concern that while ministers and officials have “thought about” the consequences of military action in Libya they have not “thought it through”. Events of the ground have simply not allowed the time for such considered debate.
One organization illustrates this point neatly. The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) is a group of radical Islamists aligned with al-Qaeda who are based in and around Bengazi and form part of the internal opposition to the Gaddafi regime. They tried to assassinate him in 2005 and their members have been involved in the eastern uprising.
LIFG is a proscribed terrorist group as in the UK – after it emerged that they were big suppliers of suicide bombers in Iraq.
Now we’re on the same side.
Cameron may say there is no decent future for Libya with Gaddafi still in power – but it is far from clear there is a decent future for Libya if he is removed. Or a future that the West would want.