Despite the tragic misadventure in Iraq under Tony Blair, it did not take Prime Minister, David Cameron, long to repeat similar mistakes in joining the US and France in the aerial intervention in Libya. A report by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee closely echoes the widespread criticism of the blundering war that ousted Saddam Hussein less than a decade earlier. It was found that the 2011 intervention on alleged humanitarian grounds to prevent civilian massacre in Benghazi by Qaddafi “was not supported by the available evidence” and drifted into an unannounced goal of regime change and shirked its moral responsibility to help reconstruct the country.
Other parallels include the fact that both countries drifted into a virtual full-scale civil war. “The possibility that militant extremist groups would attempt to benefit from the rebellion should not have been the preserve of hindsight. Libyan connections with transnational militant extremist groups were known before 2011, because many Libyans had participated in the Iraq insurgency and in Afghanistan with al-Qaeda,” the latest MPs’ report said.
“No evidence” was seen that the UK carried out a proper analysis of the nature of the rebellion, according to the damning findings. “It may be that the UK Government was unable to analyse the nature of the rebellion in Libya due to incomplete intelligence and insufficient institutional insight and that it was caught up in events as they developed. It could not verify the actual threat to civilians posed by the Gaddafi regime; it selectively took elements of Muammar Gaddafi’s rhetoric at face value; and it failed to identify the militant Islamist extremist element in the rebellion. UK strategy was founded on erroneous assumptions and an incomplete understanding of the evidence.”
If history does not judge Blair kindly at all, Cameron’s folly will fare no better following his escape from Parliament this month so soon after he resigned as Prime Minister over the EU Brexit mess that he instigated. It is another nail in the political reputation of the former Conservative premier, whose legacy is rapidly becoming as atrocious as his Labour counterpart. Both have left Parliament under a dark cloud without any accountability.
With UK policy in Syria yet to receive similar criticism, particularly poignant are the unforeseen consequences of the West’s military escapades in Muslim countries that have made the “war” against terrorism so odious. Tragically it leaves Britain without any moral backing to preach about international principles and values.