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William Hague vs the French military

A couple of weeks ago in a radio interview, William Hague defended the UK intervention in Libya, with reference to Mali:

Well we were involved, if you recall, in saving lives in Libya, not in…..Ghadaffi was overthrown by his own people, and I think actually if we hadn’t been doing that, because what we did, really, shortened the Libyan conflict, these problems would have been even greater. If the conflict had gone on for longer there would have been an even greater flow of weapons and an even greater opportunity for extremists to take hold in Libya. So while the Libyan situation may well have contributed to what’s happened in Mali, I think that the action that the Western world took in Libya, if anything, mitigated that.

It’s worth comparing that with what French military strategists are now saying about the Libyan intervention.  According to Isabelle Lasserre in Le Figaro ($):

Des stratèges militaires considèrent que l’intervention au Mali est une conséquence directe de la guerre en Libye, qui, parce qu’elle a fait l’économie de troupes au sol, n’a pas été menée à son terme. Avec la chute de Kadhafi, l’ordre politique s’est effondré sans être remplacé par une nouvelle autorité digne de ce nom. Les mercenaires touaregs qui combattaient aux côtés de Kadhafi ont rejoint leur Mali d’origine. La Libye est devenue un arsenal à ciel ouvert pillé par les groupes armés du Sahel. Aujourd’hui, Benghazi a été évacué de tous ses ressortissants étrangers. Quant au sud du pays, il est devenu, selon le même haut responsable français, « une nouvelle région de déstabilisation ». Et, pour Paris, « un vrai sujet de préoccupation ».

[Military strategists are of the view that the intervention in Mali is a direct consequence of the war in Libya which, because this was conducted with few ground troops, was not carried through to completion.  With the fall of Khadaf, political order collapsed without being replaced by any authority worthy of the name.  The Tuareg mercenaries who had fought for Khadafi went home to Mail.  Libya became an open-air arsenal pillaged by the armed groups of the Sahel.  Today, Benghazi is totally clear of its foreign nationals.  As for the south of the country, it has become, according to the same senior French source, "a new region of instability.  And, for Paris, a real subject of preoccupation.]

So, for Hague, the swift end to the war brought about by Western  bombing indicates success.  For French military experts, now involved in picking up the pieces in Mali, it’s the very opposite.  I know who I believe.

And so it goes on.

French intervention in Mali means that jihadists are now in southern Libya itself,  with calls starting for further international intervention there (see same article above), while recent reports suggested up to 200 heavily armed vehicles have crossed Niger and Chad and are now in Darfur, Western Sudan.  Unintended consequence maybe, but no less real for the people of Darfur.

Of course I empathise with James Bloodworth’s humanitarian instincts over Mali, just as I empathised with Carl’s over Libya.   Sadly, it doesn’t mean they are right (though, to be fair to James, he is probably more right than Carl was).

For a wider discussion of how the Left might get to grips with the intractable problem of humanitarianism vs. the problems with interventionism see my recent essay here.

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