Tuesday, 19 April 2011

(Unpublished) letter to The Times on Libya and the perils of viewing international law as the arbiter of what is 'right'

Sir,


Excluding ground troops and denying regime change as the aim gave Western leaders regional and UN blessing to confer legitimacy on their actions. However, it achieved this at great cost, especially for Libyan civilians. The inability of the world's most powerful military powers and alliance to tackle a tinpot dictator like Gaddafi as he massacres his own people and threatens, as Cameron says, a "bloodbath", ('Britain to meet UN as Libyans run out of food and clean water', The Times, 18 April 2011) is a shocking indictment of Western power and the international political system. Libyan civilians will suffer through our weakness and risk aversion. Choosing NOT to take a more robust military course is not automatically 'right' just because it conforms with the views of the Security Council, as the countless dead of Rwanda, Bosnia, DRC, Sudan and other nations show. Gaddafi now knows that he will not face an invasion force. Yet again, it seems a dictator may take on the international community and win.


Yours faithfully,

John Slinger

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Letter to The Times on Cameron, Sarkozy and Obama's denial then demand for regime change (NOT PUBLISHED)

Sir,

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.

Yours faithfully,

John Slinger

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The Times publishes my letter on Clegg's fig leaf social mobility reforms

We must stop the educational structures in which the wealth of parents determines the life chances of their children

Sir,

Nick Clegg’s social mobility strategy (“Work experience for all, not just the well-connected, urges Nick Clegg”, thetimes.co.uk, April 5) shows us what happens when good intentions come up against ossified structures of privilege and social immobility in Britain. If we are serious about social mobility then we must bring to an end the educational structures in which the wealth of parents determines the life chances of their children.
Opening up internships is welcome, but it is nothing more than a fig leaf covering up the pernicious influence of privilege that prevents us from unlocking the potential of all children and becoming a true meritocracy.

John Slinger

Rugby