As James Kirkup says, David Cameron’s
appearance on Sky News this morning was intriguing. In addition to trying to reassure the massing media doubters that the coalition “remains strong” despite its differences, the PM was
keen to discuss the military mission in Libya.
The letter that he authored with Sarkozy and Obama on Friday asserted that regime change was a necessity for
peace. Since then, both Whitehall and the Elysee have insisted that Gaddafi cannot remain.
How then might he go? Plainly, Gaddafi will not abdicate of his own volition. On the other hand, Cameron is adamant that there can be no ‘invasion or occupation’, and he reiterated the
point this morning. Therefore the rebels will have to defeat Gaddafi. And therein is the problem: reports suggest that the rebels are rag-tag of ill-disciplined brigands, except for the jihadist element that fought
against the West in Iraq and Afghanistan. NATO will have to assist the rebels.
Cameron admitted that the allies are talking to the rebels’ political council and he promised that:
“We’re looking at those things and what else we can do to try and help protect civilian life and put in place the UN Security Council Resolution.”
In all likelihood this means that the air campaign will become more aggressive: tactical bombing could be re-introduced to stall Gadaffi’s manoeuvrability and harass his communications. It is
also possible that western governments may provide the rebels with money to buy mercenaries and arms; a blind eye may be turned on the arms embargo to Libya. Western forces may also be on hand in
training and liaison capacities to instil discipline in the rebels.
As Cameron conceded this morning, the very fact that there won’t be an invasion makes this a very awkward operation.