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Blog Posted in avatar   Aidan Phillips's Blog

We could win this war in a week - but would it be worth the cost?

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By Aidan Phillips
Posted Apr 25, 2011 in World
In June 1967, Israel launched a preemptive strike against Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt, an attack they claimed was a necessary defensive action. The degree to which this is true is debatable, but it is what happened next which matters. Within the space of 6 days, the Israeli military forces crushed their opponents on all sides, capturing the Golan Heights from Syria, occupying the West Bank and East Jerusalem and pushing the Egyptian forces straight across the Sinai Peninsula and back to the Suez Canal. In less than a week, they had tripled their occupied territory, extending their borders by 380km on all sides and had more than one million Arabs under direct control. In short, they proved how effective a modernized military force can be against other unadvanced nations, even if such counter co-operative force outnumbered them staggeringly. They proved it's ease; they proved it's potential. It's this proof that we must look to today as the conflict in Libya rages on, and our politicians sit back and contemplate where to go from here.
Now you can't take everything the media says as gospel, such knowledge that we've all grown accustomed to. Institutional ideology and moral beliefs will always have an effect upon the perspective shown, the slant on the story, the positivity and the negativity. But when news channels and papers as of late are constantly telling us that the conflict has reached a stalemate, then its hard to deny such claims. Because they're just too plausible.
On one side we have armed militia, who are gradually becoming more organized and co-operated (emphasis on the word 'gradually'), and who are supported by the air strikes and air support of modernized nations. On the other, we have a trained and professional army, bolstered by hired mercenaries and dedicated to the protection of their leader. The result? God knows. Because quite frankly, all these figures point to is a war that, if current conditions maintain, is going to last a hell of a long time.
The rebels don't have the ability or arms to rapidly advance into the Western half of the country, but at the same time Gaddafi's forces cannot penetrate further as they'll simply be blown to smithereens by UN artillery and bombs. If I were a bookmaker, Id have trouble working out the odds for this match. No one has a clear advantage; and in that case, war can only ensue until one is shown.
So where does that leave us? Well everyone's agreed that Gaddafi is a naughty man and has to go - congratulations UN on taking two weeks to work that one out - but to what degree do we want him off his throne, and how far are we willing to go knock him off? After Iraq and Afghanistan, public and media opinion is solidly against the use of ground forces, least we become embroiled in another endless Middle-Eastern war, which is fair enough. We don't want our boys being killed or our taxes being spent on yet another sand dune conflict; understood. But what are our other options? Are we really taking the right course of action at the moment?
Because the fact of the matter is, this war could be won in less than week. If Britain, France, America and all other willing UN nations collaborated militarily and landed a sizeable force in Eastern Libya, alongside the rebels we could crush Gaddafi with ease. Israel proved it in 1967; the First Gulf War proved it in an even more similar context in 1991. With our combined far superior firepower and weaponry, alongside organized and modernized ground forces, it's almost inevitable that a UN force could sweep along the Libyan coast and capture Tripoli and the like as fast as the Israeli's captured the Sinai Peninsula. Heck, an amphibious force could probably take the city in two days. This is the advantage that is needed to shift the balance significantly and end this war shortly. The possibility is there; but is it the best option?
The major downsides are obviously a loss of life and massive short term expenditure, but let's put these into context. We have no idea how long this conflict will ensue, and the current stalemate makes this even harder to comprehend. As such, our intervention as it is may prove to be more costly in the long run than a single concentrated attack in the short. As for the soldiers; well, Libyan rebels are dying more by the day. We have no idea how many service men and women we would lose in a ground force attack. Is it worth putting them at risk to overthrow Gaddafi and help the rebel forces? Do we support them that much - do we want to oust Gaddafi to that degree? Are we that supportive of foreign democracy, or would we just prefer it as the best option? That's a question which can only be answered individually.
Because ultimately, I do not know the answer. But what I do know is this; we have thrown ourselves into a conflict which no one knows how long it will last. We are militarily tied with other modernized nations against a technologically inferior foe. It is a conflict that potentially could be won in less than a week. Are the costs worth the swift benefits?
Politicians, make your choice

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