The Government’s part in the current events in Libya marks David Cameron as a reluctant cosmopolitan. His intention is that ordinary citizens are able to voice their hopes and protest against the regime of Colonel Gaddafi. The UK Government has sought the backing of NATO and the support of Arab nations. So far, so communitarian. Such a pragmatic approach suggests the Prime Minister believes that the principles of justice are contextual and pragmatic, decided by reaching consensus within and between nations.
But is the Prime Minister becoming more cosmopolitan in the wake of recent developments? The rebel fighters have failed to gain ground in the last few days, and the UK and other countries are discussing providing them with arms. The story of Iman al-Obeidi, who told journalists that she had been raped by fifteen of Colonel Gaddafi’s forces and who has since disappeared, throws down a challenge to moral relativists.
The fact that the UK has only just expelled five Libyan diplomats for holding pro-Gaddafi views indicates that Mr Cameron has taken his time to choose sides in this civil war. Caught between political memories of the idealistic democratic intervention of Iraq and the fearful lack of intervention in Rwanda, his delay is hardly a surprise.