Yesterday, Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt went to Chatham House to explain the UK’s Libya policy. It was a mildly painful experience. A particular gem: “Where we will end up nobody quite knows.”
Well-spoken Lindsey Hilsum easily skewered UK policy, talking of the “indecent haste” of the ICC investigation and raising the ICC’s proposal to focus on a political deal. Sir Richard Dalton, an ex-mandarin, remarked that the “tone of optimism of the minister needs to be questioned further.”
Burt got a lot better during the Q&A, but the event did not make for a particularly compelling argument for what the UK is doing, which is a shame, not least because Alistair Burt can do better. More so as Libya policy may be in better shape now than it has been for weeks. At the risk of being hoisted by my own petard, I think Colonel Gaddafi will be gone before 2011 turns into 2012. There is a slow accretion of strength for the Free Libyans, which will only continue.
How the Libyan dictator will go remains unclear, and more can certainly be done to hasten his departure. After having spoken to experts at the UN, I’m concerned that the sanctions are not yet as comprehensive as they need to be. A number of targets inside Colonel Gaddafi’s rump state, like the Central Bank, have apparently been spared for fear of the consequences of sanctions, including elsewhere in Africa.