Belfast Telegraph

There are no easy solutions for Libya

Events have moved swiftly in Libya and elsewhere since the imposition by the UN Security Council of a no-fly zone, and the use of air strikes against Colonel Gaddafi's forces have raised the stakes even higher. As the crisis develops there is no knowing the outcome.

The UN resolution, which mandates action against Gaddafi, was never going to lead to a simple outcome. However, the UN mandate went much further than a no-fly zone. It sanctions "all necessary measures", short of ground invasion, to protect Libyan citizens in rebel-held territory from the murderous onslaught of Gaddafi and his supporters.

Air strikes against military installations were bound to lead to human casualties, and to create doubts among some members of the Arab League. It was one thing to approve of the creation of a "no-fly zone" but quite another to experience the deaths of fellow Arabs and injuries to others.

The Libyan intervention has imponderable military consequences, and modern warfare is so swift and brutal that more deaths and injuries are highly likely. Once begun, a military mission runs largely on its own momentum.

Britain, France, America and their allies also face major political challenges. The point of the UN resolution was to protect Libyan citizens and contain Gaddafi and his supporters. However this is a far cry from the regime change which the Prime Minister and others seem to favour, and such a political development would be seen as a rudimentary intervention in the internal affairs of Libya. Supposing this happens, and Gaddafi goes sooner or later, what would be the nature of the new regime?

On the other hand, if Gaddafi honours his recently announced second ceasefire and holds onto his territory, this will create a bitterly divided Libya, posing further serious challenges to the coalition. Clearly there are no simple solutions. In the meantime the British public, many of whom still feel utterly betrayed over Iraq, are right to remain apprehensive and sceptical about the outcome in Libya.

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