Nick Clegg: Learning the lesson of Iraq, planning the peace

Nick Clegg has given a speech on the Arab Spring today at the British Council. He also included a passage on last night’s dramatic events in Libya:

The advances made by the Free Libya Forces in Tripoli would have been unthinkable just a few months ago. Unimaginable, even, for the generations of young Libyans who have never known a world without Qadhafi. Now, that world is within their reach. The momentum for change is breathtaking and, for the cynics who said change wasn’t possible, who had written off the Libyan uprising, written off the Arab Spring, clearly, they were wrong. The movement for freedom hasn’t been stamped out. It’s alive and kicking, and it’s here to stay.

So today I want to be absolutely clear: The UK stands shoulder to shoulder with the millions of citizens across the Arab world, who are looking to open up their societies, looking for a better life.

Nick goes on to describe the three ways that the UK will support the Arab Spring:

  • supporting Libya as it moves to a stable, prosperous future
  • using our influence to create a new international partnership with the region better at encouraging reform
  • providing practical help to nations in transition

Nick gives the background to the uprisings: “Youth. Technology. A lack of opportunity and inclusion. Factors which have collided to create citizens who want more, who know more, who aspire to more, but who are denied it at every turn.” He points out that it was young people who ignited the Arab Spring:

Traditional political groups only joined later on. We shouldn’t be surprised by that. Two thirds of the region’s population are under 24. They are better educated than their parents, healthier, more connected to the global community, more exposed to modern consumerism, and, with it, a sense of personal choice. They know they have a right to be heard. They know they deserve jobs and opportunities. And – most importantly – they now know that change is possible.

He sums up:

Across North Africa and the Middle East, the UK will continue to support the will of the people. We believe in their self-determination, we share their values. And we know that reform is the route to stability and prosperity there and that, in turn, helps jobs and security here.

The UK took a lead in mobilising international support for action to help secure change in Libya and we will continue to stand up for the aspirations of citizens across the Arab world. We are helping forge a new, more effective international partnership with the region and we will continue to provide practical help to states in transition.

We’ll need to keep our approach under continual review. The situation is fast-changing. But one thing I can say with certainty: to every citizen in this part of the world demanding greater freedom, to every young man and women in search of a better life, to every society determined to open itself up, the path to political freedom and economic opportunity is long, but you are on the right side of history. The UK stands with you.

You can read the full speech at the Deputy Prime Minister’s website.

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This entry was posted in News and Speeches.


  • Daniel Henry 22nd Aug '11 - 3:03pm

    So far it looks like Britain took the right action on Libya. I guess it all depends on how successful the new government is.

    Fingers crossed…

  • @Daniel Henry:

    Or if there is a new government any time soon. Libya could still descend into civil war if, once Gaddafi is gone, they cannot agree on what they want. I worry about certain elements in the rebels: there have been credible reports of al-Qaeda types and other Islamists in the rebels. I also worry about Western Corporations waiting to suck Libya dry and receive favourable contracts just like in Iraq.

    I also worry about the cost. Right now LibDems in gov’t are telling the sick and disabled there is no more money for them, but plenty of money to send planes to Libya..

  • @Daniel Henry
    “So far it looks like Britain took the right action on Libya.”

    Really? Looks no different to Iraq to me. Supplying arms to rebels to overthrow a regime is surely not something LibDems should be supporting. Or does it make it OK because it was the Coalition government that did it?

  • Daniel Henry 23rd Aug '11 - 1:08pm

    Nice article.
    I particularly liked Nick’s quote where he described the Iraq war as “liberal vigilantism gone wrong”

  • Paul McKeown 23rd Aug '11 - 11:49pm

    Well said, NC. Let’s get the peace right this time. The EU has to really open with its Euro/Med initiatives. Trade deals should only be the first of dozens of doors opened for any country on the Mediterranean which involves all of its citizens in a genuine democracy.

  • Daniel Henry 24th Aug '11 - 11:00pm

    @ Squeedle
    You’re right that it could still go horribly wrong. We’re being told that the mistakes from Iraq have been learnt but it’s still a difficult job.

    Like I said, fingers crossed…

    @ BB
    The differences between Iraq and Libya are:
    1) We made sure that we had the support of the international community this time and are working WITH the rest of the world in upholding international law rather than in defiance of it.

    2) Iraq had problems but it was stable until we tore things up. Libya was already split into civil war, that one side had started by murdering peaceful protestors. We just spared the weaker side from being victimized and butchered.

    3) The Lib Dems were in favour of Kosovo, Seirra Leone and Afghanistan. We believe that international law needs to be upheld where possible and human rights protected. Paddy Ashdown was calling for intervention in Kosovo long before Blair decided to get involved.

    We’ve never been totally against intervention.

  • I am no supporter of Qadhafi but I thought that we obtained the United Nations resolution to protect the inhabitants of Bengazi from being wiped out in a bloodbath by Qadhafi, not to be sent to Tripoli and killed in a bloodbath there.

  • Well, Daniel, Paddy has recommended military intervention in numerous places over the years. This doesn’t necessarily make it right. Nor, of course, is he always and invariably wrong!

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