Eighty years ago, the conflict in Libya would have been glossed over as a “quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing”. In an age of 24 hour news and of media conscious politicians, we are saturated with images, comment and spin. It is essential to be vigilant about the relationship between the authorised version, what its presentation really tells us and – not least – our own responses to it.
This morning I turned on my radio to a sick sense of deja vu, with the news of war in Libya. Eight years to the day that George Bush announced attacks on Iraq, a stony faced President Obama did the same as he spoke to reporters in Brasilia.
The recent history of western military interventions in the Middle East is hardly encouraging. Yet British PM David Cameron has clearly been itching to begin the bombing in Libya, and US President Obama has also sanctioned armed action - in spite of serious warnings from advisers in and outside the White House.
The military balance of Libya’s domestic conflict is raising debate about external intervention, says Professor Paul Rogers. But the strategy of the Gaddafi regime is also crucial to what happens next. If a long conflict follows, the resulting costs will be measured in human lives; but also in the prospects for deepening the 'Arab spring' that first bloomed in Tunisia and Egypt, the countries on either side of Libya.