Now that Libya has proven such a failure four years after the West deposed Qaddafi, and as thousands of migrants depart its shores to drown in the Mediterranean, it’s becoming a political liability for the leaders who, well, broke the country. Labour’s David Milliband attacked Prime Minister David Cameron in a speech today—not for backing the military campaign, but for failing to figure out what came next. From a pre-released transcript:
In Libya, Labour supported military action to avoid the slaughter Gaddafi threatened in Benghazi. But since the action, the failure of post-conflict planning has become obvious. David Cameron was wrong to assume that Libya’s political culture and institutions could be left to evolve and transform on their own. The tragedy is that this could have been anticipated. It should have been avoided. And Britain could have played its part in ensuring the international community stood by the people of Libya in practice rather than standing behind the unfounded hopes of potential progress only in principle.
Whether Libya’s failure was avoidable after Qaddafi fell is debatable at best (our own Adam Garfinkle has argued all along that it was both inevitable and predictable). This Western-made disaster will, however, keep cropping up in politics as more migrants flee through the wide-open door to Europe, which will keep struggling to rescue and absorb them. Expect echoes of such convenient recriminations to reach the United States as well; Hillary Clinton owns the Libya campaign, as her Republican opponents will be sure to crow.
In the meantime, how much of a boost will these accusations give Milliband, who consistently polls behind his own party in popularity? For more coverage of the UK’s election season, see Richard Aldous’s weekly column here at the AI. For the most recent, go here.