The niceties of international law ensure that Cameron, Obama and Sarkozy must demand regime change ('The bombing continues until Gaddafi goes', The Times, 15 April 2011) in a half-hearted and contradictory manner. They state a that their duty under UNSCR 1973 is to protect civilians "but not to remove Gaddafi by force" then assert that "so long as Gaddafi is in power, Nato and its coalition partners must maintain their operations." Given their belief that Gaddafi is responsible for "terrible horrors", has "rained down" shells on "defenceless civilians", is perpetrating a "medieval siege" of Misrata and is responsible for "disappearances and abuses", surely regime change is exactly what is required to achieve the aim of protecting civilians?
No doubt the leaders fear that more intensive military action will provoke a domestic and regional backlash akin to that over Iraq. Yet if the UN cannot explicitly sanction regime change under current circumstances, the international community's options will remain woefully constrained and many more civilians will die. Gaddafi has learnt form Saddam in the 1990s, that air power and sanctions alone cannot budge a determined and barbarous dictator. Tony Blair and George Bush were far less explicit about regime change ahead of the Iraq War, but had the strength of their convictions in deploying deploy ground troops. Now we shall discover whether international law or doing the doing the right thing by the civilians of Libya takes precedence.