For a long time I have been unhappy about NATO – which was a highly successful mutual defence pact which kept the peace of Europe for 50 years and never attacked anybody – being continually called upon to take offensive action as the world’s policemen and then becoming the butt of criticism whenever the action they took did not work out. Secondly, so far as I am concerned, the conflict and upheaval in the Middle East is a conflict between Arabs who are, understandably, very protective of their territorial integrity and I believe strongly that the neighbouring Arab states should be accepting their responsibilities and leading the action to safeguard Libyan citizens and not just standing on the sidelines shouting support.
The Arab League initially, so it was said, gave support to the Resolution passed at the UN but as soon as military activities commenced their support became less certain and it required a hastily arranged visit from the Secretary General of the UN to the Leader of the Arab League to get them to reconfirm their support. I wonder what will happen when a rocket or bomb misses its military target and hits civilians, as will almost certainly happen in Libya, as it does in any other conflict. When it does happen will the Arab League and Arab countries be fully supportive of the military action taken? The problem without becoming embroiled in internal conflict is where does it end? We have recently seen the Yemeni Government shoot down dozens of protestors. Do we intervene there? Why didn’t we intervene when Robert Mugabe was butchering this own people because they would not vote for him? What about the ethnic cleansing in Rwanda – should we have intervened there? The final point I would reiterate is that there is a responsibility on the Arab states to take a lead in whatever action is taken to safeguard Libyan citizens. British aircraft are leaving bases in this country and flying hundreds of miles to North Africa while countries around Libya have some highly sophisticated aircraft of their own. For example Egypt has 238 ground attack aircraft; Saudi Arabia 161ground attack aircraft; United Arab Emirates 142 Mirage Fighters: Algeria 118 ground attack aircraft; Jordan 49 ground attack aircraft and Kuwait 39 Hornet fighters. As you will see there is, therefore, more than enough aircraft to police a ‘no fly zone’ on Libya’s own doorstep and, I say again, the Arab states have to accept their responsibilities and if, in doing so, they ask for our assistance then I have no problem in principle about the United Kingdom providing it.