Letter from London Tuesday: Libya Up-Date: Fourth Day of Operations

The British House of Commons debated on Monday the intervention in Libya.  Prime Minister David Cameron’s opening speech noted that it is better to take the risks of action than the risks of inaction. The debate took over six hours in which many questions were asked and some were answered. It was a good demonstration of democracy in action. There was not much disagreement, but those opposed had a chance to air their views and they did. In the end only 13 members voted against action and 557 for. Concerns were raised abut the intervention, especially its duration and end point.

Ed Miliband, leader of the opposition, agreed to the motion before the House and said the decision was right and should be made in the House. He hoped for debate in the future.  Miliband noted the butchery a good reason, a just cause, with a feasible mission and has international support.

Miliband raised a number of issues but asked need for maximize changes of success. He noted the background for this debate, including people being killed and other horrors.  He also cited that Gaddafi said there would be no mercy.

In the House of Commons and in the European media there are questions about the future of Libya’s development and future government after the conflict is over. Questions came up on humanitarian aid, and how and when it would be provided.

Cameron said humanitarian aid was being provided by Britain and they were providing help from the Red Cross for the refugees, but he was looking to the UN for unfitted access to Libya. The future of Libya should be up to its people, Cameron said in the debate.  It is up to the Libyan people.  But he added no decent future for Libya with Gaddafi in power.

On Tuesday afternoon, European time, air strikes continue after overnight actions. An American plane went down in Libya due to mechanical problems and both crew members are safe.

There are questions being asked about how the coalition forces can really protect civilian population against Gaddafi attacks in urban areas or where civilians are located.  It seems that these forces are on the attack in a number of cities. Among the most dire conditions are in Misrata where Gaddafi forces are killing without restraint. In one TV report here a doctor in the city via phone reported numerous causalities and water, power and food scarcity. Regime tanks are on the streets and bombardments are aimed at residents and homes. But the restraints on bombardments where civilians are located are having the effect of not protecting them from the brutality of Gaddafi.  When asked about protecting Misrata Adm. Locklear, the Joint Task Force commander, passed on the question and it appeared he had no answer to how to protect these people in that city.

On the other side, voices for more “restraint” are coming from Turkey, China, Russia, Germany, Algeria (who says the action has been “disproportionate”), and others.  Also some of the British media seem to be jumping on criticism of the current Libyan strategy and saying it is both ineffective and not protecting civilians at the same time emphasizing the need for limits and restraint and need for others to take the lead.

With all of this it is likely that either Britain or France will take command from America or have it transferred to NATO. As of this moment there seems no agreement in NATO due to Turkey, Germany and perhaps the French for different reasons.  America clearly would like to get rid of the front role.            

As each day goes by both military accomplishments increase while also the complexity of the situation increases. Also, divisions among the coalition parties and also of other nations and public opinion are causing a raise of voices questioning these activities.  Part of the doubt is that coalition forces are not doing enough namely on the question of protecting civilians, helping rebel forces and getting rid of Gaddafi.

Many of these questions need to be addressed and especially how one gets to a peaceful resolution of this crisis with the least amount of shed blood.

Some comments:

The UN 1973 Resolution is a breakthrough and hope others will take notice.  There were questions about other humanitarian actions in other countries.  Success outcome is an end of killing of citizens.

Questions of why action was also not taken in other countries where governments were killing protesters and civilian and if the response was so selective.

Others are asking how the international community can help the next Libyan government be democratic.

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