Sunday, April 26, 2015

This Week's Golden Bullshitter Award

Surprising as it may seem, I'm afraid that the Golden Bullshitter award from this week's election campaign must go to Ed Miliband for his speech "The Libya Disaster is Totally David Cameron's Fault and Definitely Not Mine".

The short version of his point is that because the Prime Minister and the leaders of allied nations didn't commit a billion Ponies of Democracy to Tripoli following the fall of Gaddafi's regime, the current catastrophic state of affairs there is largely their fault.

While this contains elements of truth it is, to put it mildly, a politically convenient reading of the situation.  A more accurate one would go like this:

March 2011 - Presented with Colonel Gaddafi's attempts to brutally crush an uprising in eastern Libya,  Parliament takes a major gamble on deposing the Gaddafi regime in the hope that what follows it will be better, for Libyans and for everyone else.  Ed Miliband votes in favour of this gamble and supports it throughout.

From the start, the UK Government is aware that the British public are very wary of attacking the Libyan regime, fearing a repeat of the Iraq War debacle.  For public relations reasons, the operation is thus proclaimed to be all about enforcing a "No-Fly Zone" to "protect civilians". 

Privately however, it's understood that the Libyan campaign will be a straightforward regime change operation, with Nato providing close air support for the Libyan rebels.  Ed knows this full well, and continues to back it.

It's already clear at this point that the Libyan rebels Nato is supporting include a worrying number of crazy Jihadists.  Acknowledging this would be politically inconvenient however, and so Britain ignores it, gambling that after the war ends, any new government will be able to deal effectively with whatever threat these crazy Jihadists may pose.  Ed is fully aware of this, and says nothing about it in the hope that the gamble will pay off.

The war drags on until a sudden regime collapse hands victory to the rebels.  In Sirte, Nato forces are now providing air support for the Libyan rebels as they engage in precisely the kind of artillery bombardment of civilian areas and close-quarters, house-to-house fighting that the operation was theoretically intended to prevent.  Ed has nothing negative to say at this point, either.

Meanwhile, rebel forces have spent months engaged in activities that would certainly be described as "ethnic cleansing", "war crimes" and "persecution of minorities", if they weren't being perpetrated by the people that the UK were supporting.  Not so much as a tut from the Parliamentary Labour Party.

And then the war ends, with the new Libyan government greeting half-hearted offers of "support" with a polite "thanks, but no thanks".  Chaos soon ensues as the UK Government's gamble of a better, non-Jihadist government fails spectularly, with the Jihadists recruiting from former rebel fighters to form the core of the faction now calling itself Islamic State in Libya.

Which brings us bang up to date, with Ed Miliband this week denouncing David Cameron for taking precisely the same gamble on a Jihadi-free democratic Libya that Ed himself did, on the thin pretext that Ed would've mopped up afterwards a little bit more thoroughly.

Frankly, this contention should be greeted with precisely the same level of credulity as previous claims that the Iraq War would've all been fine, if we'd spent a few billion more on it or invaded on a Sunday instead.

Ed and Dave both gambled on Libya and lost.  Whether you thought the initial gamble was a good or bad idea, the only thing left to do now is to accept that the results of that rash bet are now streaming across the Mediterranean on hundreds of rickety boats, and to take responsibility for the consequences of your actions.

What Ed did this week was a bit of calculated political theatre, and he got away with it because everyone who might otherwise criticise him for it would have to admit that they too were nuts-deep in the Libya disaster...  And those people are still far too enamoured of their own nonsense to contemplate anything so damaging as admitting that they might have been wrong.

Still, that doesn't stop Ed's speech being solid gold-plated political bullshit, and so this week's Golden Bullshitter Award goes to him.

Well done, sir! 


Anonymous said...

Well of course you're absolutely right about Ed's total bullshit on the matter.

But I do think you're wrong to cast the current chaos in Libya as "jihadist v. non-jihadist". As so often in the Middle East, the conflicts are fundamentally tribal, with religion as a convenient flag.

And that's always been a hard call. Leaders like Tito, Gaddafi, Al-Assad and yes even Saddam Hussein maintained local stability by way of brutal and appalling suppression which we're right to deplore.

But what's the alternative? Regime change and the possibility of chaos? These are very hard calls to make, and I'm disinclined to claim the benefit of hindsight.

flyingrodent said...

I do think you're wrong to cast the current chaos in Libya as "jihadist v. non-jihadist". As so often in the Middle East, the conflicts are fundamentally tribal, with religion as a convenient flag.

A black flag, in this case. But point taken.

These are very hard calls to make, and I'm disinclined to claim the benefit of hindsight.

I said "Don't do it you madmen, you'll make it even worse" at the time, quite stridently. Some folk agreed but mostly the response was "What could possibly be worse?".

A failed state full of Jihadists, like Iraq would be worse. And it is.

Still, I'm not blaming Ed for supporting the government here, although I thought he was wrong to do so at the time. I am blaming him for bullshitting about it in a weak attack on Cameron, though.