Britain and France are to deploy attack helicopters against Libya in an attempt to break the military stalemate, particularly in the important coastal city of Misrata, security sources have told the Guardian.
In a significant escalation of the conflict, the Apaches – based on HMS Ocean – will join French helicopters in risky operations which reflect deepening frustration among British and French defence chiefs about their continuing inability to protect civilians in Libya.
The decision to deploy the helicopters is a clear recognition that high-level bombing from 15,000 feet cannot protect civilians who continue to be attacked by rocket and mortar shells. It brings the Nato offensive much closer to the ground at a time when Britain and other Nato countries are insisting they have no intention of sending in troops.
Does anyone believe the last bit? The “mission creep” here is incredible. And inevitable. It’s like the ‘stan or Iraq Rebooted – so vaguely defined as to be meaningless. Say what you like about Iraq the first time or the Falklands but they at least had a clarity of purpose. There is no substitute for that in warfare. We’re not even prepared to admit we want Ghadaffi dead or in exile for example. Can you imagine Churchill prevaricating about whether he wanted Hitler’s head on a pike? He’d fetch the pike himself. Can you imagine Dave or Little Nicky Sarcophagus making the sort of decision Harry Truman had to make in ’45? Can you imagine that Clown in Rome? Can you imagine Angela Merkel? Actually, yes I could but wisely the Germans have stayed out of this one. This is a purely Anglo-French caper with the enthusiastic cheer leading of Silvio. God knows what Berlusconi brings to the party – letting refugees drown and his Mama’s pizza recipe mainly. But the drowning of the refugees really is instructive. The entire claimed point of doing this Suez 2.0 is to protect civilians. And why won’t we just stick a Paveway down Ghadaffi’s chimney pot? Because we are apparently allied with the Arab League here and they don’t want to see a fellow Arab potentate blown to buggery because that sort of sets a precedent does it not and most of them have their own local difficulties? But I don’t actually see their air-forces being deployed? Which rather raises the question of in what practical way they are our allies. I could say precisely in what way Australia or Canada or the USA or even the Soviet Union were in the ’40s against Hitler. This is the most vaguely defined conflict in my country’s long history of twatting Johnny Foreigner and it will not turn out well for that very reason. I suspect that is why the Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine and Bundewehr are sitting out this match. Say what you want against the Germans but clarity of purpose is not something they have ever been short of. Indeed they have frequently had rather too much of it.
And this ridiculous adventure has no clarity of purpose. It is entirely political. No sane military man or woman would advocate it. That is of course why we have politicians who these days know less about military matters than small kids who watch the History Channel on Sky.