Another Socialist Dictator Bites the Dust
It has been great to watch the rapid collapse of the Gaddafi regime in Libya. For many months the rebel forces seemed to make little progress as the fortunes of both sides ebbed and flowed. The rebels seemed secure in Benghazi and Gaddafi secure in Tripoli but things have changed rapidly in the last week. There have been suggestions that the allied air forces have better coordinated their actions with the rebels on the ground, who in turn have been aided by foreign military “advisors”.
Gaddafi took power in a military coup in 1969 and has outlasted almost all other heads of state, making him the longest serving Arab leader. After eliminating all opposition he proceeded to hand out the considerable riches of Libya to family members and supporters. He also aided and funded numerous overseas wars and terrorist groups, including the IRA. In 1970 he expelled all remaining Italians (the former Colonial power) from Libya and in 1971 declared the Arab Socialist Union as Libya’s sole political party until 1977 when the country’s formal name was changed to the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya . In the 1990’s Gaddafi began introducing Sharia Law into Libya with harsh punishments for any found to have committed theft, adultery or homosexual acts. In 1995 as a response to the PLO commencing peace talks with Israel, Gaddafi expelled over 30,000 Palestinians who had been living in the country.
Libya’s centrally planned economy is hugely dependent on oil revenues, which comprise over 50% of GDP. Libya has the 10th largest proven oil reserves of any country in the world and a relatively small population of around 6.5m people. This wealth has largely been squandered on grandiose projects and foreign conflicts. It is Libya’s great opportunity now if a democracy can be founded that the wealth can fund education and development for the mass of its people. Without being seen to interfere too much the West must provide whatever support the new Libyan government needs to maintain security and restart its economy after thev lengthy civil war. The UK will be well placed to help improve the efficiency of the petrochemical sector and to reconstruct its armed forces.
Many on the left criticised David Cameron when he provided the leadership which led to action by the international community in Libya. Even the USA under Obama has all too often sounded luke warm over action to protect civilians in Libya. I was interested to re-read what I wrote about this in March this year. I had one regular reader of this blog contact me to tell me how wrong I was and that Cameron’s “adventure” in Libya would all end in disaster. With the backing of the UN and with carefully bounded military engagement the UK and France avoided many of the problems encountered by Bush and Blair in Iraq. There has also be a serious attempt to assist the Libyan Transitional National Council with planning for a post-Gaddafi Libya.
David Cameron has every right to feel pleased and justified over his stance on Libya but I hope he takes a few moments to reflect that none of it would have been possible without the combat aircraft of the RAF, the warships of the Royal Navy and the Army special forces and advisors to the rebels. The Government should reconsider its cuts to the size and capacity of the Armed Forces as a matter of urgency. A relatively small amount of additional money would protect capabilities which will otherwise be lost to the UK.
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