Never mind Tony Blair and his denials over Iraq. As our government contemplates its response to the latest crisis in Iraq, now may be the moment for a different Prime Minister to admit to another grave error. Will David Cameron concede that he might have been wrong to have intervened in Libya?
Until recently, the Cameroons and most of the inhabitants of the Westminster village were eager to chalk up the removal of Muammar Gaddafi as a win for Team Dave and the coalition. It was proof – badly needed, after a decade of disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan – that military intervention could work. Western firepower played a key role in ending an odious tyranny, and the Libyans seemed eager for democracy. And no allied lives were lost. Hooray. Remember Sarkozy and Cameron’s cringe-inducing freedom tour of Libya? ‘Colonel Gaddafi said he would hunt you down like rats,’ said Dave, slowly, as if speaking to a child, ‘but you showed the courage of lions.’
That all looks and sounds rather idiotic now – not quite as complacent as George Bush and his ‘Mission Accomplished’ moment, but not far off. As Mary Wakefield put it last month, Libya ‘has become a heartbreaking mess.’ It is a hotbed of extremism and gangsterism. In Benghazi, they have just banned car driving at night in order to stop violence. In April Libya’s parliament was over-run by gunmen. The nation state has become known among security contractors as ‘Scumbag Woodstock’, because it is so rife with jihadist militiamen and armed thugs. Our cover writer this week Daveed Gartenstein-Ross has called the Libya intervention ‘failure disguised as success’. Yet all we hear from our government is an embarrassed silence.