It used to be dictators that started foreign wars to distract from their domestic difficulties. But what we just saw in the Commons was sabre-rattling of a high order by David Cameron.
Making an urgent statement to the Commons on the situation in Libya the Prime Minister punted the notion of enforcing a military no-fly zone over the country to prevent Gaddafi firing on his own citizens in the liberated towns and cities along the Mediterranean coast.
Instead of an examination of the British failures of the last week, turned around only by the intervention of the Special Forces to evacuate oil workers, Cameron threw the focus onto flash-bang military solutions.
Right now this looks like chaff to cover for the mistakes of the evacuation. There is precious little detail on what this no-fly zone would cover, what international agreements are needed to establish it and exactly what role Britain would have in enforcing it, given that we have few fighter jets to fly and no aircraft carrier to fly them off. There is Cyprus, I suppose, but that is almost at the other end of the Mediterranean, and can't be towed any closer.
Initiating military action would be a first for this Prime Minister - remember he inherited the other conflicts we are involved in - and there was no clear statement of why it would be striclty in Britain's strategic interest to take sides in a potential civil war in Libya.
There is a case for doing it, it's called the doctrine of liberal intervention, and he may be inheriting that policy from Tony Blair too. The no-fly zone idea was proposed by the French last week, and taken up by David Owen here in the UK. He was probably accused of grandstanding on the issue.
YouGov/Times – CON 43, LAB 25, LD 11, UKIP 10
3 hours ago