David Cameron exposes US reluctance to back 2011 Libya campaign

An upcoming book written by former UK prime minister David Cameron reveals Barack Obama’s lack of enthusiasm for the military intervention in Libya

Former UK prime minister David Cameron has described Barack Obama’s hesitancy about backing the NATO-led military intervention in Libya in 2011.

In the highly anticipated book, Mr Cameron hones in on the then US president’s reluctance to back the mission, describing the president as “unenthusiastic and matter-of-fact” after the US agreed to support the mission “for the first week” leaving Britain and France “on our own” after that.

According to Mr Cameron’s retelling of the weeks and days leading up to the beginning of the military campaign in Libya, it took 10 days for Mr Obama to be persuaded to commit US support.

“I had the distinct feeling that the world’s great superpower was dithering while Benghazi was about to burn,” Mr Cameron says, writing that he “found it hard to get a phone conversation” with the president.

Similar reluctance was encountered among European nations, who Mr Cameron says were “in a peacenik mood”.

“The Germans didn’t really want to get involved,” and Mr Cameron writes that several Southern European countries were preoccupied with migration.

Mr Cameron also describes the UK’s own hesitancy to being part of military action against Libya.

The former prime minister describes the long shadow cast over the British foreign policy establishment by the Iraq war, conceding that “every intervention is seen through the prism of its failures”.

Comparing his situation with that of Tony Blair during the run up to the Iraq War, Mr Cameron writes: “We were in coalition with an anti-war party. Would I face my own walkouts?

But according to Mr Cameron, “To do nothing in these circumstances was not a neutral act.”

“It was to facilitate murder,” he adds.

Mr Cameron describes how US backing for the success of the campaign: “We needed America’s military might, from air power to intelligence.”

Finally, on March 20, the NATO-led bombardment of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s forces began, with US support.

“I’ve never known relief like it,” Mr Cameron says of the beginning of air strikes in support of Libya’s rebels, “Benghazi was saved, and a Srebrenica-style slaughter averted.”