David Cameron’s exasperation is understandable. Perhaps, his military leaders went louder than his pitch. Their concern that the expedition in Libya is getting overstretched is well taken.
The reason: what was supposed to be primarily a mission to enforce a no-fly zone over the Libyan skies, to save the people from the embattled dictator’s onslaught, is now blown out of proportion into a perpetual military conflict. This is why the British naval lord and the army chief’s submission that they won’t be able to carry over this adventure post-summer — in the wake of budget cuts and logistical hindrances — is purely a professional concern. Cameron cannot get away by just snubbing his commanders, by saying that ‘you just do the fighting’, and rather should revisit the exigency for which London walked into another uncalled for intervention.
For many of the Brits, it’s a déjà vu phenomenon. Cameron is more or less in Tony Blair’s spotlight, wherein dossiers and intelligence feeds were fudged to make a presentable case for warfare. The wafer-thin difference is the fact that then Britain made it clear that its aim is to dislodge Saddam Hussein, whereas this time around getting Col Muammar Gaddafi is an unannounced agenda. But in both the cases, it seems the military gear went into exhaustion before time, as it lacked the capability and the desired political agenda to dig its heels. The trend of fighting wars thousands of miles away is rapidly turning out to be an improbability — even for the industrialised and military giants. US President Barack Obama’s policy prescription to pull troops out of Afghanistan at the earliest is a case in point. The British prime minister, too, should take a cue from his ally across the Atlantic and get down for a serious brainstorming session with his military personnel.
Cameron can do well by having a tête-à-tête with French President Nicolas Sarkozy whose restlessness to walk into the North African territory for obvious geo-economic consideration had pushed Britain on the brink. Sarkozy apart from yesteryears colonial connections has a perfect political reason to drag his feet, as he vies for re-election in May next year. But the battered British troops who found manning Basra to be an un-preferable and unsustainable mandate, of course, can’t stay put in the marshlands of Libya, if NATO ever decided to roll in ground troops. With the omissions chart getting wider in executing firepower over Tripoli and Benghazi, British commanders logically have a point to get perturbed. It’s time the premier should read between the lines.