Friday, 18 March 2011

A Brighter Outlook

What a difference a day can make! This morning the sun is shining and as I was standing outside on the terrace I heard a cuckoo, a UN resolution has just been passed authorising intervention in Libya and in Japan a nuclear disaster is looking marginally less likely.

Of course, while all this is good news there are still many questions to ask and decisions to take. I have not yet heard a clear statement of the objectives of the military intervention in Libya. Are we looking at George Bush Senior’s strategy of stopping short or George Bush Junior’s regime change? Is the new coalition hoping that Gaddafi is so weak that he will be abandoned by his close supporters and overthrown without the need for land troops, or will it be content just to have prevented a massacre in Benghazi? How do you continue to prevent Gaddafi from taking reprisals without ground troops? As well as military installations do you target high profile targets in Tripoli like the television station and Gaddafi’s palace? Do you provide the rebels with heavy weapons and training so that they can defend themselves?

When Nato intervened in Serbia they bombed government buildings and the television station in Belgrade. Before the two wars in Iraq, buildings in the centre of Baghdad were attacked and there were many civilian casualties. At the moment it’s not even obvious who‘s taking the lead in the intervention although it’s clear that France and the UK were the most vocal in calling for it to happen. I am glad that I don’t have the task of balancing all of the military, political and humanitarian issues involved in these decisions.

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In Japan the toll of dead and missing is steadily rising and at present it seems likely that more than 15,000 people have died. It is notable that in reacting to this disaster the Japanese nation as a whole has been remarkably stoic and dignified. In the West we tend to have lost sight of the extent of the tragedy whilst we have all been gripped by the prospect of a nuclear event on a scale greater than Chernobyl. I hope I am not being unduly optimistic, but fortunately this is now looking less likely.

I would like to express my profound sympathy for the people in Japan who have lost loved ones, family and friends. I can’t begin to imagine the grief that they must be feeling.


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