Fraser Nelson

Libya: mission accomplished?

Libya: mission accomplished?
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If David Cameron breaks his holidays yet again, you'll know it's because he expects Gaddafi to be a goner pretty soon. It's been a busy old night in Tripoli, with Twitter reports suggesting that Gaddafi is already dead. Mind you, William Hague et al have learned to treat Twitter reports with a mountain of salt. Let there be no doubt: Cameron pushed for the Libyan intervention, averting what looked certain to be a massacre in Benghazi. The Prime Minister took a principled stand. In so doing, he reminded the world that the West can still intervene when it so chooses and will not stand by to watch slaughter. This was a decisive moment. Averting a Benghazi massacre was in itself a victory. The no-fly zone could have continued for years, as it did in northern Iraq, and been a success in itself. The mission was not to oust Gaddafi, although it quickly turned into this.

I suspect that whatever happens next, neither Cameron nor Obama will want responsibility for a post-Gaddafi Libya. Scarred by Afghanistan and Iraq, they are more likely to ask their Arab allies to oversee Tripoli. And what would that mean? A smooth transition to democracy? As our subscribers will know, John R Bradley has been sending stunning and sobering reports to The Spectator on how Islamists brilliantly exploit chaos to rise to the top. It happened in Tunisia, it's happening in Egypt and I'd be surprised (and delighted) if it didn't happen in Libya. So, if our PM does come back from his new Enterprise Zone of Newquay  tonight, he'd best have a long think before declaring "mission accomplished". As Bush learned in Iraq, getting rid of the bad guy is just the end of the beginning.