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I support the UN no-fly zone and the early intervention to take out Gaddafi’s machinery for the mass slaughter of hundreds of thousands of near-defenceless civilians without apology. The world could not stand by as Gaddafi used air power, tanks and soldiers to inflict wholesale massacre on those fighting for a peaceful, democratic future for Libya. UN resolution 1973, which sanctions the use of “all necessary measures” to protect civilians, needs to destroy Gaddafi’s military assets. We need to take out the tiger’s teeth.
I appreciate that some members of the Arab League fear that this could turn into a western invasion—some sort of neo-colonial crusade—but they and we need to remember that the authorisation of this resolution is specific and does not include that sort of invasion. We should work hand in hand with the Arab League with sensitivity to recent history. I also appreciate that we need an endgame in mind and a means to deliver that end game, but it is necessary to disarm that despot, who is intent on mass murder, even if we simply withdraw after that. If we did not have an endgame, but stopped the mass murder and then withdrew—not something that I would advocate—that would be better than simply standing aside and doing nothing, saying, “We don’t have an endgame, so let them die.”
The ultimate endgame would, of course, lead to a Libya at peace with itself, with a new constitutional settlement involving and embracing all its communities. However, that settlement must emerge over time from within, informed by Libyans at home and abroad. I certainly take the view that we parliamentarians should consult our Libyan constituents and communities, the Arab nations and the Arab League about our actions and about the shape of a Libyan future that embraces different communities—different ethnically, racially, and by gender—now, rather than later. Let us remember, however, that a United Nations resolution does not sanction ground forces delivering regime change, and certainly western ground troops would play into Gaddafi’s hands; their use would be seen as a grab for oil and as neo-colonialism.
We have talked this evening about United Nations action leading to stalemate. What would happen then? I have consulted quite closely a large Libyan community in Swansea, and they—or some of them, at least—are calling for an Arab-led peacekeeping force, probably spearheaded by the Egyptian army and the Turkish under a United Nations flag, after the disarming process to maintain the peace and oversee a transition. Obviously, that would need a further United Nations resolution, but it is something that we need to bear in mind when looking to the future.
Members have asked how we can justify intervention in Libya but not Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and other places with repressive regimes. This is not a completely satisfactory answer, but the fact is that one has to do what one can. There are certain things beyond our limitations. As has been said many times already, if we cannot do everything, it does not mean that we should not do anything. I believe that the action reflects the United Nations at its best, working together, gradually stepping forward in history. It is a step towards building a unified world based on a fundamental respect for humanity, and a future that we all share. I simply say: let us step forward together, with care, to share that future.