Tom Brake MP writes: Do you support military intervention in Libya?

Libya is in crisis. After the removal of the brutal dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has unfortunately disintegrated into a state in little more than name, without the stability and leadership of any government. The country is being held back and fragmented through tribal infighting and most worryingly Daesh has established strongholds around Libya, including the cities of Sirte and Sabratha and even in areas surrounding Benghazi.

It is reported that the vast majority of Daesh fighters based in Libya are not Libyan nationals and the movement does not have roots within the country. Daesh is deeply unpopular with Libyan citizens and they have struggled to motivate and indoctrinate Libyan citizens.

The American military are currently conducting airstrikes on Daesh targets within Libya. The Secretary of State for Defence has personally authorised the use of RAF Lakenheath to allow these airstrikes to be launched from within the United Kingdom. The UK Government has been coy on what role, if any, our military will take to support the US military in their fight against Daesh in Libya, however the likelihood of the UK Government committing to military intervention in Libya is increasing.

In recent weeks, a new Libyan Unity Government has been formed, and this government has the opportunity to ‘invite’ Western allies to support the Libyan Unity Government to cement their control, bring stability to the country and degrade the strongholds Daesh currently hold. This means that any decision to seek support for UK military intervention in Libya could be imminent.

In PMQs last week David Cameron confirmed that if the UK Government was to state the case for military intervention in Libya, it would be subject to a vote in the Commons. I am therefore writing today to gain a perspective from Lib Dem members on this issue. Following the concerns expressed by some members of the lack of discussion with MPs on the party’s decision to support military intervention against Daesh in Syria, I would welcome comments or suggestions ahead of a vote, which could be called in the near future.

* Tom Brake was the Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington from 1997 to 2019.

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  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Mar '16 - 7:00pm

    Dear Tom, thanks for this. I support military intervention against Daesh wherever they are. They need to be treated like common criminals and we don’t debate whether or not to go after criminals, we just do it.

    Having said that, I am not interested in mass bombings. Simply very specific airstrikes.

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Mar '16 - 7:05pm

    I’m not a member by the way, just someone with an interest in the party and a loud mouth.

  • Nom de Plume 23rd Mar '16 - 7:16pm

    Again, unless there is a comprehensive plan it will fail. Daesh can operate in Libya because, following the first, bodged intervention, there were was a collapse of government. From the little I have seen Libyans are living in the consequent state of chaos. How you go from this position to a functional state is an open question. There may well be a Libyan Unity Government, but how much of the country does it control? Has anyone got a long term development plan for the country? Any number of similar questions. By all means bomb Daesh, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that it will solve the problem. The problem is the collapse of the Libyan State.

  • Richard Whelan 23rd Mar '16 - 8:12pm

    To my mind any military action needs clear objectives and a clearly defined exit strategy, otherwise there is a danger of mission creep.

    I would urge you to ask searching questions of the Government before committing the Liberal Democrats to support any form of military action.

    I am not against military action per se, particularly not where Daesh is concerned, but it needs to have clear objectives and an exit strategy before we can support it.

    Richard Whelan

  • Thank you for this, Tom. I would say that Richard makes an excellent point.

    I would say an intervention of this kind requires the use of hard power to achieve immediate gains, followed by the use of soft power to ensure that those gains can be entrenched in the medium to long term. Provision not only of tactical and strategic military objectives, but of adequate soft power to ensure these are achieved for the long term in the aftermath of any military activity, is therefore essential.

    Provided this test is met, I would be supportive of action against Daesh in Libya (or indeed elsewhere).

  • nigel hunter 23rd Mar '16 - 9:28pm

    How secure and united is the Government? Are all the factions within it in one voice against ISIS AND is this to last. For this to happen we MUST support the country, not like in the past leave it to its own devices Example we told people not to go to Tunisia, this hits the economy and ISIS gets a victory. THIS MUST NOT HAPPEN . Support for the armed forces of the country in training, intelligence and economic support. You do not abandon allies.ISIS wish to destroy western civilisation. We must value our freedom, not be ashamed of who we are. As with the above, selected airstrike,s and SAS actions and sea patrols. Yes I support limited action. If things then get worse after a year or so the full might of force should be used, their ideology and finances must be destroyed. must also be destroyed

  • Tom, I’m very pleased to see your invitation for comment. My thoughts:

    The UK learned *precisely* the wrong lessons from its interventions in Iraq. The country descending into chaos for the simple reason that we were not willing to expend money, time, boots on the ground and more to the rebuilding of the country, yet when we saw that Iraq had become a mess, we decided that we would not intervene in Syria for three years because intervention was bad, tainted, and our subsequent minimal air intervention in Libya was on the basis of “bomb them enough to help them get rid of Gadaffi and then leave them to it”.

    It precisely because of this that Libya, and even more so Syria, have fallen apart and have allowed Daesh to gain large swathes of territory. We learnt the wrong lesson and the result has been two civil wars, a grotesque refugee crisis and thousands of desparate people drowning in the Mediterranean. Given those numbers, I cannot conceive of how a worse situation could possibly have resulted from an earlier starting to UK bombing of Daesh or even from western boots on the ground in either country, with a commitment to *stay* and finish the job properly – in all respects.

    It was three years too late for our action in Syria and probably a good year or more too late if we start action in Libya soon. But better late than never.

    Yes, most regrettably I say that we need direct military intervention in both Syria and Libya. But it *must* be a long-term commitment and accompanied by a strategy to secure and rebuild the country.

  • One more thing: there’s no doubt in my mind that many of the problems in the Middle East are our fault and the fault of our fellow European powers. Almost all of the lines on the map were drawn by us – some of them 100 years ago. In our great stupidity *we* forced together disparate tribes, ethnicities, religions and divided sects of Islam into a number of countries that were, for many decades, rules by strongmen, dictators and monsters.

    It should have been seen as inevitable that the downfall – or the removal, directly facilitated by us – of those strongmen or their successors would lead to the unravelling of the controlled, centralised, dictatorial states that *we* created and the subsequent the civil wars, the sectarian slaughter and genocide that we see happening right on the doorstep of Europe.

    You really couldn’t make it up. But we did. This is the chickens coming home to roost. That means, ultimately, our decisions, first to force disparate peoples together and then create the conditions for them to separate, have been directly responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths.

    That is why it should be seen as our responsibility to atone for this. That, unfortunately may require us to shed our own blood as well as vast sums of money.

  • By and large no. You can’t do it without putting forces on the ground probably for decades and there is no public support for it or guarantee of success. We’ve messed up to badly with the Bush/Blair idea you can have a sort of progressive quasi-imperialism. No one wants us there really and it just putting people in danger for at best very limited results. Not only that it as consequences at home. We’ve ended up with reduced personal liberty, religious tensions and the rise of the far right, as well as mistrust of politicians and dishonesty about our inept military blundering and the role of religion in driving terrorist groups. I think we should give up on the whole fiasco as a bad job gone wrong and learn to live with the failure instead of spending another umpteen years attempting bomb people into democracy.

  • Jonathan Brown 24th Mar '16 - 12:50am

    In principle I’m supportive of intervention IF it is in support of both a reasonably representative Libyan government / coalition AND we have a strategy focussed on pulling Libyans together.

    Fighting ISIS is not an afterthought, but nor is the main issue. ISIS thrives where there is chaos. Our primary strategy must be to end the chaos, and where that requires helping Libyans defeat ISIS we should be prepared to support them. But that is the angle from which we should be considering intervention, NOT ‘should we fight ISIS because they’re bad’. The willingness to intervene may be helpful in actually getting the various Libyan factions to come together. We should be ready to help, if it actually will help.

    I strongly recommend have a read of the International Crisis Group’s reporting on Libya too. It’s pretty grim, but it is focussed on building on what opportunities as may still exist:

  • “It is reported”
    Not good enough for the following reasons-
    1. What is really happening? Clearly a lack of real intelligence is not a basis upon which a military operation can be launched.
    2. It may come as a terrible surprise but in many parts of the world western style democracy is not supported. The break up of Libya was predicted with the removal of Gaddafi and extremists were predicted to set up “emirates”.
    3. Oil. The west has ulterior motives.

  • I would support military action against them. It’s pointless pursuing them in one country while giving them safe haven to operate in other countries.

  • Eddie Sammon 24th Mar '16 - 4:48am

    People should remember the UN resolution too.

    If we receive a request from a state plus we have a general UN resolution then arguably this vote is easier than the 2014 or 2015 ones against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

    I want an exit strategy too, so in future we need UN anti terrorism operations, like the peace keeping ones. Only military operations will take the territory back. Pretty much.

  • I’ed want a clear strategy. Worryingly I can see how there could be one in Syria & Iraq but we chose not to develop one. On that basis I would be highly skepticle of any action. Any action needs a strategy with plenty of contingency planning. Without it I would leave alone, but would be open to changing my mind if the right conditions were met.

  • Extremely reluctant to get drawn in in a unilateral way without any clear objectives or any exit strategy. Would only consider if with UN authority.

    Strange how the folk wanting to reduce the deficit always seem to want to rush in to an open ended commitment such as happened with Afghanistan.. Money would be better spent on domestic security.

  • Jenny Barnes 24th Mar '16 - 8:27am

    No. After all, it worked so well in Iraq and last time in Libya, didn’t it? When in a hole, stop digging. Has it occured to anyone that if ISIS were to be destroyed, something even worse might arise? After all, no-one apparently expected ISIS to arise out of the chaos of post conflict Iraq and the Syrian civil war.

  • @ Joe Otten. “I don’t see there is much choice but to fight them”.

    Can we take it you’re going to volunteer ?

  • Whether it was admitted or not, we sought and gained regime change in Libya (as we did in Iraq and as the coalition wanted to in Syria) and the regime we changed to is patchy in coverage, unstable in nature and has left us and our European allies more at risk than the previous regime (coincidentally enough just like Iraq and Syria). It is a situation that is partially of our making and we therefore bear some responsibility for resolving it.

  • Jenny, actually it is pretty difficult to conceive of anything worse than ISIS, other than perhaps someone trying to resurrect the idea of gas chambes to exterminate totally a race of people (maybe the Yazidis, for example).

    As for “no-one expected…”, blimey, it is now most definitely a given fact that and has been for many years that in any country with a muslim population and social upheaval and/or outright civil war, islamic militants move in. Boko Harem in Nigeria, the taliban in Afghanistan. This narrative has been apparent for many, many years now.

    As for spending money on domestic security, David, that’s a hiding to nowhere. Not only is it no solution to home-grown extremism, but millions and millions of refugees swamping Europe aren’t going to be curtailed by our spending more money on border forces and security, and if your answer is to turn the UK into an island fortress and let the rest of Europe take the flak whilst the Middle East descends into wholesale slaughter, destruction and displacement, that doesn’t seem either a constructive or neighbourly way of going about finding a solution. Syria will still be completely destroyed and millions will either be murdered or drown in the Mediterranean. Ah, but we’ll be all right because we’ve got a nice wall to hide behind.

  • Michael……..”ah, but we’ll be alright”. That’s not what I said.

    It might just surprise you that some of us subscribe to a long liberal tradition of being extremely reluctant to shed blood without very serious reflection. Would you have said what you did to Charles Kennedy when he opposed invading Iraq ?

  • I recall the government promised a quarterly report on our bombing of Syria. They haven’t delivered. No liberal should believe a single word the Tories say about their planned military adventures.

  • Matt (Bristol) 24th Mar '16 - 9:54am

    Military action against Daesh as part of an alliance, where they are militarily organised and fighting as a conventional army and can be fought in such terms for clear gains in territory and internal stability, yes.

    But if it turns into an anti-insurgent/paramilitary policing operation, what then?

    I would also feel that there needs to be a long-term plan – does any alliance going into Libya have an acknowledged Libyan government whom they are backing? Does such a government have democratic legitimacy in the eyes of its own people? Does the putative international alliance have a view on whether Libya should continue as one state?

  • Anon Party Member 24th Mar '16 - 10:04am

    This is a great initiative and it’s great to be consulted!

    Can we have an email address or webform to provide longer/more detailed comments?

    In brief, any plan to intervene in Libya needs to consider the many different forces present in the country. Not just Da’esh, but also the various groups that rose up in Cyrenaica, the conflict between the Misrata and Zintan militias in Tripolitania, and the Tuareg and Tebu (mainly) around Sabha. A plan to defeat Da’esh that doesn’t do anything about the conflicts between all those groups will just remove one actor but leave the basic security vacuum in place, which will only lead to other groups re-establishing themselves.

    Any plan also needs to be long term (minimum 5 years) and include peacekeeping – this was the single biggest problem with the previous intervention, which basically succeeded initially but then failed to create the security conditions to disband the militias, form an army and police, and move towards a constitutional consensus among the key groups – essentially because the international community didn’t want to pay for a prolonged commitment. Notwithstanding the recent peacekeeping scandals in CAR and others, peacekeeping where there is a genuine plan to move towards exit remains a very cost-effective intervention.

    If you’re not doing both those things then it’s not a good idea.

  • David, you did effectively say “we’ll be all right” because you appear to suggest that spending money on domestic security would be better than getting involved in anything, and I don’t think anyone was seriously suggesting *unilateral* action with no strategic forethought. What’s more, any intervention, as I said earlier, needs to be followed by long-term commitment. The world is too small a place for us to rely on domestic security. It will achieve nothing if the world around us is descending into chaos. I’ve reflected on this pretty seriously for years and reckon not intervening is clearly worse than intervening and I’d like someone to demonstrate how our not intervening in Syria for the first three years of the civil war has led to be a better result for Syrians, for us and for the world as a whole, than had we intervented earlier before Daesh was such a force to be reckoned with.

    As for the 2nd Iraq war, I’m rather with the late General Norman Schwarzkopf who, I believe, was on record has having thought it stupid not to depose Saddam Hussein in 1993 in the first place once our tanks were not far from the gates of Baghdad. This rather makes irrelevant the question of whether I’m with Charles Kennedy on the 2nd Iraq war. I repeat: the lesson one should learn from making a hash of an intervention is not that one shouldn’t intervene ever again but that one should do it properly and follow through with all that is necessary. That means money, and when it comes to preventing genocide and securing not just someone elses’s security but our own too, I don’t think it appropriate to mention the deficit. I’m also not sure why you seemed eager to equate those “wanting to reduce the deficit” with “those who espouse open-ended commitment”.

  • Christopher Haigh 24th Mar '16 - 11:03am

    Thanks for bringing this information about events in Libya out to us Tom. It would great to think that given the character of the Libyan people being opposed to IS, that Libya could be converted into a modern liberal EU style country with stable and good political framework, free from rule by despots and theocrats, and a happy population.

  • Christopher Haigh 24th Mar '16 - 11:07am

    Should say to end my comment having a happy population-not being free from one !

  • Jenny barnes 24th Mar '16 - 11:43am

    Michael – the afghani taliban were supported by the USA as proxy opposition to the Russian invasion/ regime. They didn’t just appear. Other militant groups have real grievances too. It’s not mad islamists : the religion is an organising principle, not the reason for their opposition to US/UK neo imperialism. While the situation in the ME is clearly chaotic, I’m unconvinced that military intervention would be either disinterested or effective. Oil might have some relevance. Still no.

  • Neil Sandison 24th Mar '16 - 11:47am

    Thanks for this Tom but I think there is a fundamental question to ask .What do the Arab nations want to achieve should we intervene ? Are they giving a commitment to bring forward an Arab trading union for example and to end religious based politics They collectively at the moment look very much like Europe looked in the 17th and 18th Century with different wings of Christianity fighting for supremacy leading to centuries of wars between the different factions. Can Islam come together and fight the real enemy in their midst IS and stabilise their region .It should be an economic power house just like the EU ,USA, China and the Pacific Rim but it will not progress whilst this in fight continues. So whats the deal with the Arab states for our intervention in Lybia what are they putting on the table for the Western Allies involvement.

  • If it’s just a case (as with Syria) of a handful of RAF planes conducting air strikes in order to be seen to be doing something, without any strategy for actually defeating Daesh on the ground, and without a credible and internationally supported long term plan to actually make Libya a better, safer, more stable country in the future, then no.

    Has David Cameron found another 70,000 “moderate” fighters down the back of the sofa?

  • Geoffrey Payne 24th Mar '16 - 1:24pm

    The conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have many differences between them, but there are some very important lessons we should learn from all 3.
    All 3 countries are in chaos because when we implemented regime change we also destroyed their states. Every time we claim we have learnt the lessons from the previous conflict and every time we make the same mistake. And these mistakes have been disastrous.
    It is no use imagining that the problem was that we did not try hard enough, we should have put in more troops. Putting in more troops simply makes it harder to take them out again. How long were we in Afghanistan for?
    What we need for any chance of success is a significant force that is popular in the country and broadly supports our liberal values. We can push on an opening door but there is no point if the door is firmly shut.
    So if we are going to intervene in Libya we need to ask who are we backing and do they have widespread support? It is pointless intervening without local support and as far as I can tell we have none in Libya. In fact we have none in the Middle East nor in North Africa. That is the scale of the disaster of western foreign policy in the region for the past 20 years.
    There are some problems in the world that are insoluble, but we still need to have an approach to dealing with them. To quote from Rory Stewart MP, we are not morally obliged to do what we can’t deliver. I do not see any military options in Libya we can embark upon that will do more good than harm, so I think we should leave Libya alone.

  • Conor McGovern 24th Mar '16 - 1:57pm


  • Ron Stafford 24th Mar '16 - 5:26pm

    “After the removal of the brutal dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has unfortunately disintegrated into a state in little more than name, without the stability and leadership of any government…”

    “Unfortunately disintegrated!!!” – well, were we not part of the government that authorised this regime change? Did we ensure an agreed viable exit plan was in place? Oops no. So, should we be surprised when an ‘ocean going’ shambles develops? Oops no. Bit like Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria perhaps?

    Until this country has its military forces rebuilt, has a proper plan in place (Geoffery Payne explains that in an above post), and we recognise that some aspects, like resolving Sunni versus Shia, are beyond our control we would be well advised to keep our powder dry.

    Our current Air Force might be a Wing, possibly even approaching a Group, but it is not what the Air Force should be; our Navy, in my lifetime, had more frigates than it has ships now; and the Army, best not get me started! (Yes, I have worn a uniform, proudly, and wear the medals.)

    Tom, I know you cannot fix these military problems but until we have all the beans in a row, and we currently do not, my recommendation is no.

  • The British Empire is no more. Its final end was the Hands Up in Hongkong in 1997.
    The notion a few soldiers can be sent to quell the natives are long over.
    Southern Afghanistan is back in Taliban control and in southern Iraq those in the American military talk of the British having been “defeated”.
    Efforts to bring peace and stability to Libya must be made through the UN.

  • Nom de Plume 25th Mar '16 - 6:38am

    @ Jenny & others

    Da’esh is different from other militias. It is a terrorist organization with a totalitarian ideology and an expansionist policy. Historically, those have been very unpleasant.

  • Nom de Plume
    Years ago Thailand faced a Communist threat. The Thai Army would go into suspect areas on anti-communist sweeps. Bodies would then be seen floating down rivers and houses burnt. The result was there were more communists in those areas after than before. Eventually there was a change in strategy and tactics.
    Blindly hitting out won’t do it.

  • Nom de Plume 25th Mar '16 - 8:36am

    @ Manfarang

    If the above article is correct, Da’esh is not welcome in Libya. Bombing it will not increase its support.

  • Nom de Plume
    As I said, “it is reported” The above article may not be completely correct.

  • A Social Liberal 25th Mar '16 - 2:40pm


    You may be right, the reports may not be accurate. We have to trust our intelligence sources rather than the media. I know it might be difficult for some, given their past association with the Blair government. However, they are our best hope for good intelligence and are usually on the ball.

  • It’s a straightforward NO from me on this one Tom under any circumstances and the answer is given with gratitude for the question being asked.

  • An ethical foreign policy would contain the principle: “Don’t drop bombs on foreign lands.”

  • Eddie Sammon 25th Mar '16 - 6:45pm

    Some people who just think bombs are bad seem to think that soldiers aren’t civilians.

    We’ve got a right to proportionate self-defence and should use our technology advantage.

    If we rule out bombing altogether we will just look like we think an ISIS life is as valuable as an innocent life. We should look out for conscripts, but ISIS leaders need to be targeted with military strikes.

  • Tough on ISIL, Tough on the causes of ISIL, like Afghanistan and Iraq invasions. Just because we can bomb doesn’t mean that letting ISIL burn out under its own inhumanity to its “citizens” wouldn’t be more effective with less collateral damage.

  • Dear Tom,

    The competence of the Conservative administration has again this week proved more than questionable. While the Government may well be being straight with us, I don’t doubt Mr Cameron and Co’s ability to produce fiction akin to the dodgy dossier/ September dossier which Alastair Campbell famously sexed up.

    While Daesh behaviour is abhorrent, do not fall for the politician’s syllogism of just being seen to do something. Nuance and detail must be the LibDems watchwords. Whatever operations might be required must feed into a credible long term strategic plan to resolve the conflict and restore peace, not just short term tactical advantages.

    Mr Blair didn’t concern himself with details with such disregard he alongside Mr Bush were the midwifed of Daesh. While we await the outcome of the Chilcot Inquiry report it is clear many mistakes were made that shouldn’t of happened and shouldn’t be repeated. It is my wish that we limit wherever possible our involvement to constructive rather than destrutive interventions in the Middle East. I understand because of the depravity of Daesh that one may feel compelled to action. I do not envy you this decision, or its consequences, or indeed the inheritance of the consequences of Labour’s illegal Iraq war that cause you to be considering this decision, now.

  • Will Wilshere 26th Mar '16 - 1:28am

    Thanks for asking Tom.

    I’m currently a first year War and Security Student at the University of Hull and we discussed the Libyan intervention briefly actually. The big point against it my lecturer came up with was it was a “Do something” strategy. There was a problem, and we (UK government) felt we had to do something about it. That was the base idea. And a plan to do “something” was constructed around that, this is what my lecturers friends in the Civil Service stated.

    I’m pro-military intervention, but I think if there were to be one there would have to be a clear strategy needed for Libya, far more so than I felt was needed when it came to backing strikes in Syria. What would the intervention seek to achieve? How would it happen? Would there be a LONG TERM commitment to this action (as of course we all saw what happened with a short term intervention in Libya last time)? How would it take place and would it be effective? How much of the support would to go actively assisting the state building efforts, apart from just attacking their opponents and hoping they’d do the rest. If an intervention were to take place, it can’t be an “easy” one where we sit back and throw aircraft at it and hope for the best, we’d have to commit a large ammount to it otherwise the situation will be unlikely to improve, or if it did the stability would be fragile at best.

    Intervention is necessary, but it would need to be well thought through and with a clear set of goals to be seen as well.

  • Eddie
    The soldiers are SAS.
    No amount of bombs and soldiers are any good if you don’t have the hearts
    and minds of the people. Westerners are not much liked in that part of the world.

  • Jayne Mansfield 26th Mar '16 - 8:53am

    @ Eddie Sammon,
    I don’t think an ISIS life is as valuable as an innocent life. We make choices and there are consequences.

  • David Cooper 26th Mar '16 - 10:53am

    No. Stop wasting taxpayer’s money on pointless military adventures. Leave them alone and let a new strongman emerge who will knock a few heads together and stabilize things once again.

  • If we drop a bomb on Libya, we will kill someone’s auntie and create a Jihadi Jim. Radicalisation starts as impotent rage at injustice. We need to stop creating the justification for revenge.

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Mar '16 - 1:26pm

    Thanks people, but even if ISIS had no reason to want revenge against us they would still want as large a territory as possible, so they need to be fought by someone and I don’t see why we shouldnt support those doing the fighting.

    What’s the long term vision? Only defend governments in Europe? Why? That’s not internationalist.


  • David Cooper 27th Mar '16 - 12:10am

    @Eddie Sammon “That’s not internationalist”

    Internationalist seems to have become a synonym for meddling. Meddling costs the taxpayer money, so best not to meddle.

  • If you are calling for bombs to be dropped on foreign lands – which is judicial murder without trial, at a distance – why are you not calling for the death penalty for planning (and carrying out, if they survive) terrorist acts in this country – which is judicial murder with trial and no innocent bystanders?

  • I predict the next post will be Eddie trying to incite a twatterspat.

  • IS is a terrorist group unlike most in the last 100 years in that it appears to have no negotiable demands and no ‘moderate’ leadership which could be engaged with diplomatically. Those who do not support their ideology have no choice but to try to defeat them. Bombing may be one part of a strategy, but it should not have the focus that it is being given. More important are:
    – cutting off their sources of funding, which requires international co-operation and a willingness to impose sanctions against countries who supply finance/buy oil etc.
    – disrupting supplies of arms, transport, technical equipment etc. to territory controlled by IS, which also requires international co-operation.
    – conducting cyber warfare on their communications systems.
    – intelligence gathering and sharing (this is supposed to be one of the reasons why we are better off in the EU, which I believe we are, but in practical terms it appears as though there is a long way to go before this can be legitimately claimed as an actual benefit).
    – serious practical help for countries which want to combat IS in regions where they are active.
    – support of whatever sort is required for local Moslem communities in Europe to combat the radicalisation of their young people.
    And so on. A lot of this is slow, difficult, and requires much more co-operation between governments and government organisations than has been exhibited so far. It is work that has to be done out of the glare of television cameras. Drone strikes and bombing give Western electorates a warm feeling that “something is being done” to combat the IS menace, but please don’t let us delude ourselves that they are a major part of the solution.

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Mar '16 - 3:00pm

    Ian Leeds, the difference is we can’t send the police around to arrest ISIS leaders so we have to find other ways to stop them.

    A strange comment from you about predicting my next post will be trying to incite a Twitter spat. Not everyone reads and comments on LDV so sometimes you have to take the debate elsewhere.

  • Richard Underhill 27th Mar '16 - 4:53pm

    Nom de Plume 23rd Mar ’16 – 7:16pm “The problem is the collapse of the Libyan State.”
    Libya under Gadaffi and Sons was not a state, it had a unique form of governance which lacked most of the building blocks of a state.
    Remember also the deal that Berlusconi did with Gadaffi, imprisoning illegal immigrants indefinitely to deter others and refusing to deport them back to their home countries.
    The Times has reported that British commandos are there now, without the explicit approval of the UK’s House of Commons.

  • Jonathan Ferguson 27th Mar '16 - 9:56pm

    Yet another intervention would be extremely unwise. War is not self-sustaining; it is sustained by a series of decisions. Further interference in the internal affairs of sovereign nations would merely be imperialism by another name; no unity government can represent all the citizens of its nation.

    The history of humanitarian interventionism is a history of self-interest, dishonesty and badly cloaked partisanship. Daesh would not even exist if it were not for such corrupt and self-serving ideologies.

    The chain of disastrous and self-serving interventions has to be cut off, and sooner rather than later. Humanitarian interventionism is a tool of the mighty to oppress the weak; it can bring nothing but disaster, except to the powerful, who know well how to benefit from it.

    The White Man’s Burden belongs back in the 19th century with anti-‘sodomy’ laws, blasphemy laws and the right of men to treat women as their own property. It is a barbarous relic of our neanderthal ancestors, and everyone in this world, save a privileged few, would be immensely better of without it.

    The Washington government want us to participate in their headlong plunge into this white-supremacist imperialist morass; let’s be smart, and have the attitude Harold Wilson, not Tony Blair and Anthony Eden.

  • Sorry Tom Brake, looks like you’ve missed the boat. King Abdullah of Jordan told the US congress in January that British forces have been operating in Libya, and forces had “helped build up a mechanised battalion in southern Syria….to combat Bashar al-Assad’s army”.
    It appears that the UK Government won’t tell its parliament what it’s already doing in Libya, while US lawmakers are informed. One might ask if the PM is ignoring our parliament and using slippery language by already undertaking British intervention in Libya while suggesting (but not quite saying) he wouldn’t without a vote.

    Also, how comfortable do you feel about British forces being sent into Syria to fight against that govt, go against international law, and our own parliament’s will already expressed on the matter?
    Others on here have already written well on why the question on taking action against Daesh in Libya is a slippery one- the answer looks seductively simple: Kill really nasty baddies or you’re a hand-wringing pacifist!
    But I hope you focus on holding the government to account on its existing neglect of parliamentary scrutiny, such as ignoring the Foreign Affairs scrutiny committee on British forces engagements while foreign lawmakers are kept informed.

  • “Remember the rights of the savage, as we call him. Remember that the happiness of his humble home, remember that the sanctity of life in the hill villages of Afghanistan, among the winter snows, is as inviolable in the eye of Almighty God, as can be your own.”
    William E. Gladstone

  • Mr D Brooks 28th Mar '16 - 7:31pm

    So Gaddafi was a brutal dictator yet there was security, electricity, water, education, a health service…. The list can go on and on for what he and his dictatorship provided for the people of Libya.

    The British Government with all it’s morals decided to take out the one man who was holding the Country together for reasons I still cannot see the benefit of. Having now destroyed this Country with it’s mighty might we are now asked by those who should be culpable for the bloodshed in Libya, whether or not we should kill more in the name of World Safety.

    I think the simple answer is no we should not as we have no right to make the same mistakes twice in one Country.

  • I would support our intervention in Libya in order to confront IS providing it was carefully targeted, avoiding civilian casualties, as the UK at least seems to have been able to achieve in Iraq & Syria. The lesson to be learned from Syria shows that we are damned wether we intervene or not. We therefore should ensure that peace is restored to Libya.

  • John Deeks & Joe Otten: Almost nobody (*except US Republican candidates) ever says they will bomb by really badly targeting to maximise civilian hits.
    It’s part of every nation’s propaganda: We are good guys who only target baddies, the other bad countries who bomb are indiscriminate.
    When it comes to this stuff, much of our media are usually happy bang this drum e.g. “Barrel bombs” (Remember Chris Morris’s satire “Brass Eye”on the power of media upon the political class and media pundits? ) which are, err, bombs dropped out of a plane, are spoken of as if they were a previously unknown horror weapon that apparently only kill innocents, where as our ‘precision” bombs have other adjectives to sell them as attractive and are so apparently clever that they miss innocent people- only the guilty are vapourised!
    Our media know this is true when they don’t go on the ground to find out (‘How can they?’) because they are told by our govt/”friendly” govts.
    The only times when there may be a justification for bombing might be when it is a tool for a medium-term tactic for a sensible longer term strategy. But we have been lumbered with (a) a broadly pathetic western political establishment who blindly follow a spectacularly rotten policy set by the US state dept 15 years ago (under Paul Wolfowitz & Donald Rumsfeld) to force violent change in 7 countries (via invasion or covert operation for funding jihadist sunni groups including in Syria, Lebanon and Libya.

  • Please do take the trouble to watch this old interview from 2007 with the former US General Wesley Clarke.
    (U S Plan- Destroy 7 countries in 5 years)
    He gives very good advice too, that is as relevant and true today.

  • Jonathan Coulter 31st Mar '16 - 9:26am

    The foregoing discussion highlights the risks of intervention, particularly where there is a lack of appetite for long-term nation building. It also brings back to a point I made in my recent paper on the Israel/Palestine. Should we be contemplating interventions into complex and/or high-risk theaters like Syria and Libya while we fail to act in another theater where the issues are relatively straight forward and we can affect things without undertaking military action? Military intervention can be a cop-out for politicians who are afraid of facing up to hard political choices in the diplomatic sphere. You can find my paper on

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