LibLink: Paddy Ashdown – It is time for Europe to back a no-fly zone in Libya

In the Financial Times, Paddy Ashdown (former High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina and former Leader of the Liberal Democrats) calls for a no-fly zone in Libya:

It is difficult not to feel a wearisome sense of déjà vu watching European leaders on Friday saying something needed to be done in Libya, but failing completely to say what.

Libya is not our backyard. But what happens there and in the other countries of the Maghreb matters to us Europeans very much. If those who have overturned dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt (and hopefully Libya) in this “Arab spring” can create effective, broadly secular democratic republics on the model of Turkey, Europe’s crucial relationship with its southern (and oil-providing) neighbours will be fundamentally altered to the advantage of both. If they fail, then dictatorships will inevitably follow – and very likely extremist Islamist ones. The nature of our neighbourhood is being decided on the dusty streets of Libya’s towns and that matters to us very much indeed.

But now, again, time is not on our side. The indiscriminate use of overwhelming force against his people by Muammer Gaddafi – in flagrant contravention of his international obligation to protect them – is now having an effect. To do nothing is to acquiesce to the crushing of a people, which will almost certainly be accompanied – if it has not been already – by horrors that amount to crimes against humanity. So what should we do? What can we do?

Read on to see what Paddy proposes for the long term in Libya – and his call for a no-fly zone right away, to ensure that Libya’s people even have a long term to look forward to.

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  • Without a UN resolution this will be an illegal act, at least that was the logic used over Iraq. Make no bones about it,a no fly zone done properly would consist of strikes againt air defences and the potential downing of aircraft over their own air space. People will die.

    I have great respect for Paddy, we both wore the same cap badge but the neither the EU or Nato can act without the UN. Or if they do and it is supported by the Lib Dems it makes them appear hypocritical. My own view is that the security council is defunct and needs replacing. Are we really relying on China (let’s face it the champions of violently putting down protest) to support a no fly zone to make it legal.

  • People calling for a NFZ need to explain why Afghanistan’s Karzai is allowed to bomb his insurgents from the air, using US and UK manpower and weaponry, Yet Gaddafi is not. While they are at it, maybe they can explain why no NFZ was called for during days of aerial bombardment of Fullujah, and for that matter Gaza.

  • Western politicians should keep their noses out of other peoples’ countries. And armchair generals who demand that some country be bombed because of the impressions they’ve formed from 30 seconds of TV news footage should be ignored.

  • Stuart Mitchell 14th Mar '11 - 6:54pm

    Lib Dems can’t possibly support military intervention without a security council resolution… can they?

  • I think this a tricky one for the party and probably why there has not been much comment.

    If we support the NFZ here on humanitarian grounds then why Libya and not some of the other countries that have used airpower for repressive means. Will it make much material difference as the Colonel seems to be winning at the moment and the only practical way to continuing the suppoort for the rebels would be for arms – I have also seem some requests for the assisssination of the Colonel. I am not convinced over the nature of these rebels – there is the risk we will be used by others to further their own goals. There is clearly some popular uprising in Libya but to what extent and by whom is less clear to me

    As said above a NFZ is not just flying around – it means removing air defences and that is not a trivial matter.

    The LD are aginst military intervention apart form very specific circumstances – have we had an official position set out by Clegg or one of the other senior ministers?

  • @Rob Blackie
    Whilst I would love to be able to agree with you, I don’t see this as a humanitarian intervention. There are two groups of armed people fighting each other. It is almost certain in my mind that should he win Gaddafi would resport to large scale repression. But that is not currently the case, if it were that easy there would already be forces on the ground. We are talking about putting troops into place to seperate factions, but coming to the aid of one side in what is shaping up to be a civil war.

    Cameron has even mooted arming the rebels. At this point, whatever our sympathies, they have no legitimate mandate other than our feeling they have are supported by the majority. This is not yet at the level of Sudan’s oppression of the South, Israel’s actions in the Palestinian Territories or indeed the repression of Tibet by a permanent member of the security council. We cannot have two sets of rules or the other side can claim a precedent has been set and that they were acting legally.

    It all goes back to the UN being toothless and controlled by some of the worst abusers of Human Rights in recent history…

  • Andrew Wimble 15th Mar '11 - 10:13am

    THings are moving fast in Libya. We either need to take action, such as a no fly zone, now or we need to stop talking about action and admit that the rebels are on their own.

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