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back to article Libya fighting shows just how idiotic the Defence Review was

Recent combat operations by British and allied forces in Libya are beginning to tell us a lot: not so much about the future of Libya, which remains up for grabs, but about the tools one actually needs for fighting real-world wars against real-world enemy armed forces. The vast bulk of our own armed forces are set up, equipped …

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Anonymous Coward

Storm Shadow is, like Lewis, a tool.

>Point three: there was no point at all in mounting the Tornado Storm Shadow missions, which made a negligible contribution to the suppression of Libyan air defences

Speaking as the voice of authority there, any evidence to back that up?

Were Lewis to do a little more digging I suspect he may find that the purpose of Storm Shadow is to hit targets without the sort of collateral damage that the American systems enjoy. You'd only use it in cases where the Tomahawk is too blunt an instrument because it costs more and requires more man hours to configure. But ultimately, when used correctly it's the best piece of kit in the world for it's role.

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this is a title

I believe Lewis was simply trying to say... it wasn't being used properly.

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Anonymous Coward

However...

Lewis is in complete ignorance of the operational details of their use. So he doesn't really have grounds to say that.

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Not the onl point I'd disagree with

Unfortunately I don't have the time or inclination to pull apart the vast amount of things Lewis got wrong point by point. Even taking one or two points apart would take too long.

But there is clearly a vast difference between having a strong opinion on something and actually knowing what you're talking about and I sometime doubt Lewis appreciates the difference.

Now back to some real work, here in the sunny south of Italy...

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He's completly ignorant about defense issues in general

But thats now the point. its shit stiring for entertainment.

His selective fabrications and falsification of numbers actually points to the probability that the whole defense industry and users alike are incompetent fools who should be sacked and replace with nuclear missiles. We don't need a Army or Navy, just a means of nuking anybody who comes within range.

However, I await his tearing apart of the 5 year late, massively over budget F-35 that he has touted in the past as a shining example US goodness that the Canadians are now projecting will cost at least $450million over its life time. If it doesn't get binned for being crap.

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Where's the substance?

I don't expect Lewis to be right about everything. But even if when he's wrong, they're smart questions.

I think he under-rates light armour. He's Navy, so maybe he doesn't get the advantages of being able to use ground vehicles that are armoured enough to protect against machineguns. Artillery firebases scattered across a country don't look so good idea, but the Royal Artillery are the military equivalent of a certain parcels delivery company: if you really want the high-explosive nastiness now, they can deliver, before the RAF can even scramble a jet. The logistic weight comes from providing that ability.

I don't think I'd go to British industry for a new battle tank. The numbers we would need, it would be crazy to design our own. If Challenger II were to need a replacement, I'd be inclined to look to Germany, but feel free to put that opinion down to one too many TV documentaries.

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Five years?

Well the f-35 might well be 5 years late, particularly because of the B variant VTOL version. However even if it were to be 10 years late it would be positively early by comparison to the Eurofighter. Lewis might over step the mark on some item's but the crapness of defence procurement in the MoD and the generally poor judgement of politicos is not often one of them.

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Re: Lewis is a tool

"Speaking as the voice of authority there, any evidence to back that up?"

Well, he presented evidence that at most 4 such missiles were actually used, compared to several hundred other devices. If you want to challenge either figure, feel free, but please don't accuse him of *failing to offer* evidence. It just makes you look illiterate.

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Anonymous Coward

It seems to me. . .

You know, The Register is one of the few places where I, here in the USA, get any insight into British politics and policies, and I have to say that, it seems to me, your government is *much* worse than ours.

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FAIL

Re: It seems to me...

>>your government is *much* worse than ours

The current US government is much better than the last three, the current UK government is just creating policy which is popular, we're in a mess because of climate of house ownership and over stretching credit given out by greedy people (for the last 25 years), neither government have much to work with but at least Obama is thinking ahead, as much as it shames me, the current US government is better than the current UK one.

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Anonymous Coward

No,sorry.

Thanks for commenting on my original post. But I have been following the Global Warming story and environmentalism in general for well over 15 years, and if you think that The Register's reporting on it is "sensationalistic" and "completely and utterly wrong" that can *only* be because you are gullible.

Possibly what you need to do is read some "books", like I do, instead of reading websites that you condemn as "sensationalistic" and "completely and utterly wrong" because, you know, people who waste their time by reading and commenting on websites that they dismiss as "sensationalistic" and "completely and utterly wrong" look like "idiots" with nothing worthwhile to do with their time.

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Noooooooo!

Please don't judge our country by Lewis' ranty opinion-pieces.

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Anonymous Coward

More probably ...

... one should be reading scientific papers.

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FAIL

No worse than Auntie Beeb.

Sensationalist it may be, but no less so that the left wing panic mongers at the BBC.

The BBC's narrow, often inaccurate reporting is at best selective about what they report, or simply ignorant of minor points like the laws of physics.

What the global warming lobby don't like is ANY question that the concept is wrong. The fanaticism is remarkably similar to the church's view of the universe in the middle ages - any dissent and you're a heretic and must burn in hell. The Register does an admirable job of playing devils advocate - after all, who else would do it? Do you trust Panorama? Don't make me laugh.

One thing is certain, at least El Reg is funny - there's little of that on the Beeb these days.

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Go

El Reg Alternative

Ok, I will form an opinion about your country you by reading this, instead:

http://www.bigbrotherwatch.org.uk/

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Stop

Sounds about right

The only thing Lewis got wrong was initially think that the defence review was about the military. He corrects this later when he concludes that the defence review was really to defend the military contractors. And where do ex-politicians find their lucrative non-exec directorships? Go on, guess.

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WTF?

Why

buy F18s when the French would be delighted to sell more-modern, also carrier-ready Rafales?

/runs

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Joke

Fnar fnar!

"/runs"

A jab at the French?

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RE Why

They'd only want to replace the engines with Rolls Royce ones and have BAe Systems "upgrade" the avionics to spread some pork around until the thing cost 5 times the original price (see Apache)

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Well..

Well.. yes. And at the end of this thing we'll have a good idea if the things actually work in combat too.

Of course, a pocket aircraft carrier and some Harriers would also be pretty useful as well. We basically lack any serious force projection capabilities. Sure, the Harrier was ancient and incredibly slow in the air.. but if you're bombing things on the ground or conducting air defence (where the enemy comes to you as in the Falklands) then they would have been useful.

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Grenade

"upgrade the avionics"

The reason we upgrade the avionics when we buy American kit is because the Americans won't sell us the latest avionics. And in many cases British avionics are actually better anyway. Let me recommend something to you. Buy a copy of Jane's. Go to any American aircraft that has been sold to an ally. Look at the version list in Jane's. You will see that the US has special export variants of all its aircraft. Sensible to be honest, we've fought our own technology repeatedly many times in recent history. The General Belgrano was originally an American ship for example. If you want capable aircraft (ones at least as capable as the British made ones they are supposed to replace), then you need to rip out all the avionics. This is why the "purchase price" Lewis often quotes is invalid.

Incidentally, when I was in the RAF, I watched an exercise where a bunch of Tornado F3s slaughtered a bunch of F18s from the USMC in air to air, primarily because of the far better avionics fit. The Tornado F3 would lose everything in 1 on 1 dogfights, but would win virtually everything in 2 on 2 or above fights. This was simply because of improved situational awareness in the F3 resulting from 2 crew instead of 1 and a better avionics fit. Anyone who has any connection with combat aircraft will tell you that the more players you have in a dogfight, the more important avionics and situational awareness in general becomes. This is rather obvious when you think about it. In a 2 vs 2 dogfight, adversaries tend to break off into pairs. Greater situational awareness enables you to switch who you are paired against when it is a distinct advantage to do so.

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Re: "upgrade the avionics"

"...we've fought our own technology repeatedly many times in recent history. The General Belgrano was originally an American ship for example."

There are loads of better examples of Argentina having British kit, of course. Like Argentina having various missile systems and thus being able to formulate strategies to avoid getting shot down by the very same kit, although it didn't necessarily do them much good, forcing them to fly dangerously low and not have their bombs work properly.

Great post, though. Doesn't help Lewis ram home his point, of course, but still very informative.

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Anonymous Coward

Rafales good, but vectored thrust Typhoons maybe better

Eurofighter are now developing a navalised Typhoon using Vectored thrust to overcome the angle of attack issue (can't see the flight deck on approach). This may well work out as a far cheaper and better option to the F-35's, commonality with the land based aircraft would make it viable.

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Grenade

Yes, but then you'd end up with the french military policy!

You know, don't invade iraq, do buy the same machine guns for all the branches of the military, do use the same airplane for the air force and the marine, do have an navy with polyvalent helicopter carriers, etc.. Much better to blindly copy the americans and introduce excessive competition and outsourcing to slow everythig down and leak money for no observable advantage...

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RE Upgrade the avionics

Ooh touchy, and I'm sure I was being satirical about the Rafale not the Hornet, I'm not sure even the American export people could stop the French exporting whatever electronics they like. Though having read my contract with a certain American Corporation I wouldn't put it past them to try.

Still if you want to argue situational awareness why is the Typhoon a single seater? If we're going to have to rip out and replace the avionics on the F35 once we buy it then I imagine we'll be only able to afford one or two, I imagine that'll make the carriers only slightly less of a laughing stock.

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They have export versions

and yes they no doubt have inferior electronics compared to the original. However, that's far from demonstrating that

A) The best alternative Britain can produce will actually be superior even on a theoretical basis.

If A can be demonstrated, then

B) Alternative will actually be superior once you factor in reliability. Reliability is the bane of many recent British weapons. The SA80 is famous. Sea Dart and Sea Wolf weren't exactly hugely reliable in the Falklands. If the Tornado ADV suite is superior, we may also remember how much trouble it took to get it to a minimally acceptable standard. I've seen at least one 90s article in the Naval Review of British officers lamenting that NATO (i.e. mostly US) kit, regardless of its theoretical merits or demerits versus British, work more reliably...

and then

C) Repeat B, factor in massive developmental cost. Even the fact that part of the money may be circulated into the British economy (which will be more a bump in the recorded GDP count rather than a real improvement in the People's lives) will likely not compensate for the massive cost gap.

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history of navalising land based aircraft

There isn't a single good marine aircraft that has been a navalisation of a land based type. They can't deal with the addition of weight and landing impacts. All of the good dual service machines have been navy first and then used by land based forces. If you start trying to navalise the Eurofighter it'll loose it's commonality with the land based version very quickily in order to beef it up for carrier landing, it'll also take another 15 years to get it built as the existing production lines will need to be modified to deal with the heavier parts for the undercarriage and fuselage/wingroots.

(for bad navalisations sea things like the SeaFire too fragile broke on landing all the time, Sea Hurricane too heavy and slow as a result of being beefed up enough, F-111k never got built since they realised what it would cost). The only exception to this is the SeaHarrier, which had the advantage of having exactly the same landing profile as it's land based stable mate, but it still needed new engines to not get rotted by the salt spray.

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Stop

This article doesn't add up.

So your arguement for keeping Harriers and Carriers, is that the Tornado's have to fly from Italy and back?

So keeping these two fleets is cheaper than flying a few sorties from a few hundred miles away? Get real.

So we have troops polshing tanks? Well then lets sack them as they clearly have no use. Ahh but you'd complain about that as well no doubt.

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Read the article

The point is that you don't just pop down to the petrol station when the Tornadoes fly to Libya, you have to buy and staff and maintain the refueling fleet. This is not free. In fact, it's bloody expensive. Keeping a ship that you've *already paid for* floating is pretty easy in comparison.

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Tactics

Ever heard of operational flexibility?!

Only Harriers on Libya's doorstep could make time critical interdictions, or react quickly to unfolding events, can run many more sorties etc. Hell they could construct a forward base in Libya for the Harriers if the wanted to.

Whilst the Tornados are spending most of their time in transit as there is no nearby friendly base.

As for troops polishing tanks, if there were no tanks, they would be given a rifle and thrown into the front line, and not having to pay for the tank means money for an extra helicopter or more troops - that's the argument here; whether the tanks should be scrapped is a matter of opinion. They certainly get munched by air power and it's the troops holding the line - tanks or not.

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point one: buying the Eurofighter remains a stupid idea on our part

Yes, against an enemy like Libya. But the world has lots of countries, and many of them *aren't* like Libya.

What should we do, design our defence strategy and budget against our easiest enemy?

I'll reserve judgement on the Eurofighter when its used against a more technologically advanced enemy, thanks.

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Grenade

@andy

Kinda think the same thing, after all if the reason why the Eurofighter is pointless is because it's so much better than Libyan jets, two generations ahead, what if it was one generation ahead, is that still pointless? how about if it was the same generation? if a jet pointless unless it's a fair fight? surely the point of war weaponry is two fold, both as a response to agression, but also (perhaps more importantly) a deterrent.

I completely accept that it's overpriced and (volume wise) under-delivered, but if it wasn't there would we be thinking that the libyan jets were more of a threat.

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RE @Andy

I think the real problem here is that it is over specialised being a pure air superiority fighter. Which is fine if all you care about is air defence or have sufficient funds to be able to support multiple types of specialised types. However with ever increasing costs and tightening funds operating a single multirole type is more efficient. Giving Typhoon multirole capability makes theoretical sense here but is going to take a long time and inflate the costs even more.

Note that the US Navy have taken the same view and retired their F14 air superiority and A6 attack aircraft in favour of the F18. Hornet or Rafael would be a good choice for the UK as both are designed for carrier operations so pilot training and posting could be further streamlined and both are designed for long over water operations which is important for UK air defence. Ultimately it is all about how many capabilities you are getting for your money.

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Quite right

We may end up with an enemy equipped with something like Flankers or similar; a lack of a combat capable fighter'd look a little...well...short-sighted. And no, 1970s vintage F-18s wouldn't do.

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RE Quite right

The F-18E first flew in 1995 so not really 1970s vintage and really should have been given a new designation as it is a hugely upgraded design rather an upgrade to the existing airframe.

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At the risk of universal obloquy...

... could I ask why the UK felt the need to launch an unprovoked aggressive war against a nation that is doing us no harm, and probably has never done us any harm? (Since the Lockerbie bombing was most likely carried out at the instigation of Iran in retaliation for the shooting down of Iran Air flight 655).

We are suddenly being told that Qadafi is a monster who is "killing his own people" - but actually you will find that most governments do that when those people launch an armed rebellion intended to overthrow the government. (Even the sainted Abraham Lincoln started an extremely damaging and bloody war when the southern states tried to secede from the USA). Try overthrowing the British government by force and see how long it takes before you encounter armed police, then the Army, and finally (if you last that long) air strikes.

And of course there are inconvenient facts such as that when Qadafi took over, Libya was one of the poorest countries in Africa - whereas now it is one of the richest (and by that I mean measured by its average standard of living).

Perhaps you believe that it is time the Libyans had a democratic government, so they could determine their own fate? Well, we have a democratic government, yet it ignored the will of the people when it went to war on Iraq; and indeed it attacked Libya the day before asking the House of Commons how it felt about the matter. I think that speaks for itself.

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Fair points

But two wrongs don't make a right, and doing something good for the wrong reasons doesn't make it bad either.

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Hmm

"Well, we have a democratic government, yet it ignored the will of the people when it went to war on Iraq; and indeed it attacked Libya the day before asking the House of Commons how it felt about the matter. I think that speaks for itself."

You've not really understood representative government or the split between the executive and the legislative, have you?

Look, I marched against the attack on Iraq, not because I disagreed with removing a lunatic dictator but because I believe in international law (as a concept, anyway) and anyway I thought the idea of lots of american soldiers waging aggresive war in the middle east wasn't terribly bright (if I'd known they'd seriously half ass it I'd have shouted that bit louder).

But from what I've seen so far the events in Libya are remarkable first and foremost for the fact that, in the face of Gaddafi's open threat to kill one million people for having the temerity to maybe want to have a say in who rules them, the countries of the world actually got themselves sufficiently sorted out to go through the correct channels under international law to take solid steps to defend these people. Your argument seems to suggest that there is no legitimate way to replace a dictatorship by force - I suggest you might have a different opinion if you had lived through one (or had a tiny iota of empathy).

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Flame

Excuse me?

"a nation that is doing us no harm, and probably has never done us any harm?"

Gadhafi has been a nut-job of the highest order for decades. Where do you think the IRA got it's weapons from? Where were their training camps? He was the laughing stock of the Arab world for years, banging on about Arab unity and a single Arab state (With him in charge, naturally), until he finally got bored of that and started banging on about African unity instead, where his oil-wealth could buy him some more attention. If the Western world operated to a consistent standard of morality, we'd have done something about him years ago, instead of appeasing him to get access to Libya's oil and reduce our dependance on the Gulf region and Russia , following the debacle that was Iraq.

He is hated and feared by the vast majority of his own people and has stayed in power for years as a result his expertise in playing off one tribe against another and keeping his regular army so depleted that it could never launch a coup like the one that brought him to power. He has funded terrorist groups and civil wars all over Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

We in the West might have an appalling double-standard about which dictatorial regimes we overthrow and which we do business with, but don't delude yourself that he was in any way a good thing for Libya.

</flame>

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good points tom

"could I ask why the UK felt the need to launch an unprovoked aggressive war against a nation that is doing us no harm?"

Good points , but was it the UK or the UN or both that felt the need?

I know the USA are in there as well chucking missiles about, as usual. Is this a vouluntry thing or are all UN nations obliged to contribute?

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Unhappy

And of course

These IRA weapons were often funded by the USA.....

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A continuation of "moral" wars.....

You have a good point, but this is only a continuation of the past 20 (or so) years of "moral intervention". This argument has been used to justify both Iraq wars and Serbia/Kosovo since none of these had much chance of "threatening" the UK, however a decision was taken that the rest of the world should step in to prevent dictators being really really nasty to their people.

Of course, determination of who is a "dictator" and what "being really really nasty" means are up for grabs, but let's remember that this kind of thing does happen and - at some point - there is a moral imperative to intervene as human beings.

I read a good article the other day (I'll post an update if I can find it again) discussing this point and the hazard you can run in giving disaffected groups an incentive to provoke violence just so you can get the international community to intervene. It is not a simple issue at at all and while we can all sit on the sidelines and criticize, governments have to make relatively simple decisions - intervene or not.

And you can bet that whatever they decide (and whatever the outcome), these governments will be pilloried for whatever decision they come to. As an interesting exercise, think what we would be saying now if we hadn't intervened in Libya? Or Iraq, or Serbia/Kosovo? Would the world be all sweetness and light? What about Bosnia, Rwanda, Congo and Zimbabwe - should we (the rest of the world) have intervened there?

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Linux

Ignoring inconvenient facts...

> ... could I ask why the UK felt the need

> to launch an unprovoked aggressive

> war against a nation

You might want to ask the Arab League about that since they actually asked for it. You are overlooking the UN resolution too. At the very least, the other major powers gave their implicit approval for this.

This is not the usual unilateral nonsense.

Your moral indignation would come off better if you weren't a liar.

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@bolccg

"...Gaddafi's open threat to kill one million people..."

Oh, were you thinking of this?

"Gaddafi's army will kill half a million, warn Libyan rebels"

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/12/gaddafi-army-kill-half-million

Half a million, and actually it was his enemies who said that. I think you'll agree that's slightly different. If I said you wanted to eat all the babies in England, would that justify other people in killing you to prevent it happening? If you are really interested in the facts, try starting with these short and digestible pieces:

http://www.counterpunch.org/johnstone03242011.html

http://www.counterpunch.org/mountain03232011.html

In particular, let me commend to your attention this undisputed fact:

"In April 1986 US warplanes struck Tripoli at 2 am. They bombed the Gaddafi family residence, wounding several of his family members and killing his 15 month old daughter".

Killing innocent civilians, eh? She would have been 26 now.

"Your argument seems to suggest that there is no legitimate way to replace a dictatorship by force - I suggest you might have a different opinion if you had lived through one (or had a tiny iota of empathy)".

You're right: I do think there is no legitimate way to overthrow a government. It can only be done by violence, usually, and violence is intrinsically illegitimate. Of course you will disagree if you live in a Hollywood universe where the white hats always triumph and the black hats bite the dust. Trust me, reality isn't like that at all. Even the USA, with its cherished and inspiring Declaration of Independence, had to admit that the principle of self-determination didn't apply when citizens of the USA itself wanted to break away and set up their own nation. It crushed them ruthlessly at the cost of at least 620,000 lives.

Dictators vary dramatically. I have in fact lived under Juan Peron, Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, Marcelo Caetano, and Habib Bourguiba. My parents spent quite a lot of time in Germany in the 1930s, and told me what it was like living under the Nazi regime. So yes, I have lived under dictators - and the news is that it's a lot like living under a democracy. Only sometimes, as in the case of Salazar, there is a bit more sensible and consistent long-term planning.

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@JEDIDIAH

"You might want to ask the Arab League about that since they actually asked for it. You are overlooking the UN resolution too. At the very least, the other major powers gave their implicit approval for this".

It doesn't matter how many national governments support an illegal war. It is still illegal, under principles laid down at Nuremberg in 1945. As a matter of fact most of the Arab League dislikes Qadafi, which is a point in his favour. They ostracised him because he told the truth too often. By the way, do you know how many of the Arab League nations have democratic governments today? I suggest you find out.

I would point out that the Arab League stressed that even they wanted only a no-fly zone: they did not support any other violent intervention such as destroying government buildings, tanks, or personnel. They specifically ruled out the occupation by foreign troops of a single inch of Libyan soil.

"Your moral indignation would come off better if you weren't a liar".

That is an offensive personal remark, which you have not justified in any way. Please state clearly what part of my previous post you consider a lie, and give some evidence for your statement. Otherwise I shall assume you are merely engaging in empty abuse. It does not make a favourable impression that you choose to hide behind a nickname while doing so.

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Ah-hem

I think that you should probably do a bit of background reading on Mr. Gadaffi. I'm certainly glad that the son-of-a-bitch whose cheerfully supplied weapons and funds to pretty much every terrorist organisation going is getting a bit of payback.

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Then you're surely...

... duty bound to object to this inerventionist folly into Libyan affairs.

After all the UN Charter makes interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation illegal.

Or does the "international law" argument only count when it suits you ?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @JEDIDIAH

"As a matter of fact most of the Arab League dislikes Qadafi, which is a point in his favour."

The enemy of your enemy, eh? The reason why various powers are so interested in "meddling" is that Gaddafi (or however you choose to do the transliteration of his name) has rubbed virtually everyone up the wrong way, and he isn't really a nice bloke in an objective sense, either.

As it stands, the UN signed off on this excursion, and the very fact that China and Russia have gone along with it, despite the inevitable fears of those nations that the US will somehow undermine their business interests in Libya, says quite a bit about how little time they have for the Libyan regime.

Is it right to intervene in another nation's internal affairs? Ask Kofi Annan or Bill Clinton about Rwanda some time.

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