Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Think Biafra, not Vietnam

As we predicted, Dave is ratcheting-up the UK's involvement in Libya. We've now actually taken sides in what is a private civil war, and committed military assistance on the ground to the insurgents. As predicted, William Hague has obtained legal advice that this is all within the terms of Resolution 1973. And perhaps the potent words 'Military Advisors' have triggered the Telegraph, Mail and Guardian all to warn of a Vietnam-like mission creep. 

Nonsense. Vietnam was a proxy war between the US and China. The West was terrified of the post-Dien Bien Phu south falling to the Communists. Eisenhower left Kennedy some 900 advisers in place in 1961; by 1967, when the war began in earnest, the US had some 18,000 troops in place. By 1973 there were over half a million. Libya is never going to be another Vietnam for the simple reason that Gaddafi has no backers. 

No, think rather Biafra. When the Igbo in the East of Nigeria attempted to secede from the Yoruba dominated West in 1968, the Nigerian government, after a faltering start, had the means and organisation to crush the revolt fairly rapidly. Until, of course, the West's sympathy for the Igbo insurgents led it to intervene with supplies, medical aid and even arms, not to say implicit support for the ex-British Army mercenaries fighting for the insurgents. Although the end result was always going to be the same, with Nigeria crushing the revolt, our misplaced intervention cost an estimated 180,000 lives that could have been spared had we stayed out of it. 

CMD might just wish to reflect on the cost in Libyan lives of his political principles. 


Barnacle Bill said...

If Gaddafi looks like being the winner in this civil war you never know from where he might gather covert backing.
The Chinese might look to extend northwards their influence in Africa.

On my blog I use the expression "Libyan civil war" all the time to remind my readers I believe it is just that, something we should not have stuck our noses into.

Anonymous said...

I thought we had already established that Cameron has no principles whatsoever.

SimonF said...

Even if we win the war, we demonstrated in Iraq and Afghanistan that we have no idea how to win the peace.

We should also remember our own path to liberal democracy was long and bloody and leave the Libyans to figure this out for themselves.

Anonymous said...

Your argument is flawed. The Biafran war was about the oil-rich entrepreneurial Christian Igbo versus the militaristic impoverished Muslim Hausa and Fulani (ie North vs South-east Nigeria).

And it involved the shameful tacit Western (ie British and American) support for the North in the crushing of the independence movement in Biafra. Why? Because oil was at stake, and it seemed like the Biafrans might take the industry over for themselves and cut BP and Shell out.

The only parallel you might draw is that intervention (or lack of it) always seems to be about who will best secure the oil for Western interests.

Andrew Zalotocky said...

I'm thinking Suez Crisis. Overconfident Tory toff rushes to confront Arab dictator and only succeeds in showing the world just how much Britain's power has declined. We don't have enough aircraft to achieve anything decisive through airpower alone, and in any case the RAF is likely to start running low on missiles and spare parts in an embarrassingly short time. There's no chance that Cameron would risk sending in regular troops, and the special operations types are all needed in Afghanistan.

So it will turn into a huge national humiliation, and Britain's standing in the world will slip down another notch. What's more, if Gaddafi survives he will almost certainly order terrorist attacks on British targets, both as revenge and as a show of strength. Dave is looking dangerously out of his depth here.

Delphius1 said...

As the different opinions and viewpoints just on this comment thread show, the results of our adventure in Libya are no means certain.

I thought we went to war with only one aim: a decisive victory. To do otherwise is foolish and costly in no more precious a commodity than human lives.

As in Iraq and Afghanistan, if the only thing we can attain in Libya is an uneasy compromise or a never-ending campaign that has no benefit, we shouldn't be there at all.