Looking at the Sun and Daily Star newspapers on Thursday, 31 March 2011, one could be forgiven for being totally unaware of any conflict taking place in Libya. For any news on the current war, the Sun managed an article on page 13. The Daily star was bereft of any comment on the topic.
Although it may be quite correct to point out that neither paper is purchased for in-depth editorials, it could indicate that the British public neither care particularly about the events unfolding in Libya nor, more importantly, understand the principles at stake and the reason(s) for Britain's fairly prominent role in the affair.
The Sun has rarely, if ever, been shy in the past in giving strong backing and conspicuous footage to any conflict in which our Armed Forces are playing a leading role, whether or not it supports the government line. Indeed, it has been on occasion rather jingoistic with its headlines and the slant of its coverage.
This should give the Government's behind-the-scenes advisers, at least some pause for thought. After all, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, has spent a deal of political capital on Libya, confronting the issue almost as aggressively as the French President, Mr Sarkozy. Both men have adopted a hard line tack that implies regime change, somewhat at odds with the Resolution passed by the UN. That line of approach works best with strong public backing and a quick fait accompli - both of which seem a little less likely as each day passes.
The efforts of the British Prime Minister and French President in garnering support for the rebel movement in Libya, were crucial in getting Resolution 1973 passed by the Security Council of the UN on 17 March 2011 and in persuading a rather reluctant United States, to give its full military support.
In the face of deep Government cutbacks in Britain that will mean most people facing falling real living standards, coupled with a Defence Review that weakened the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force markedly, it appears likely that, once again, without that United States military backing, the war against Libya would not have proceeded.
From the start of hostilities against Colonel Qaddafi's forces, the strains within the NATO Alliance have been plain with Germany abstaining in the UN vote and Turkey, with the largest armed forces in the Alliance after the USA, acting as a restraining member opposed to the belligerence of France and Britain.
There is some confusion over the legality of targeting Colonel Qaddafi under the UN's terms. Regime change is very clearly not permitted and Qaddafi is the regime. To depose, never mind kill, the Libyan Head of State is illegal under Resolution 1973.
One presumes that Britain and France want such an event to happen citing Colonel Qaddafi's role as a Commander-in-Chief. Neither country however has stated this view publicly, though a tomahawk missile from a British submarine hit Colonel Qaddafi's HQ early in the campaign. A rose is a rose by any other name!
Each of the main Allied combatants has admitted publicly that they have no exit strategy. After Iraq and continuing with the current situation in Afghanistan, that hardly endears this new Muslim cause to the public and wide media coverage in the UK this Sunday, 03 April 2011, highlighted the fact that there is less support for the campaign in Libya than there was for Iraq at the same stage in the conflict.
In a poll conducted for the BBC on 30-31 March 2011, by ICM, 38 per cent said they thought that what the UK and its allies were doing in Libya was right, whilst 35 per cent said it was the wrong decision.
What the Allied Forces do not want to see is for the rebel/"Free Libya" forces' campaign to stall and so make a swift and positive outcome that less likely. After taking a severe pounding due to precision Allied air bombardment, Colonel Qaddafi's forces have regrouped and changed tactics to fight in a similar fashion to the rebels, but much more effectively through better discipline, arms and organisation. It is painfully obvious that by themselves, the rebel forces are most unlikely to defeat the Libyan Government forces.
This change in fighting by Qaddafi's forces has done much to negate Allied air cover and strike capability without also killing rebel forces and/or "civilians", in the broad manner that that word is being interpreted.
For all that, it is certain that Qaddafi can't win, the forces against him are too great. On Sunday 03 April 2011, his envoy, Abdelati Obeidi flew to Athens - not to defect - on what looks like a peace mission and talks with and through Greek Prime Minister Papandreou. Currently, three Greek military bases are being used to support the no-fly zone but Greece has refused to give any further support to the Allied campaign.
Back in Britain, the Government needs to bolster its support for the actions it is taking in Libya. It needs to do much more to assure the public that the Libyan opposition is viable and credible - for a start, who are they? Whether for or against the Libyan campaign, the public want some guarantee that Libya will not descend into the chaos and murderous mayhem that took hold of Iraq after the "winning" of the Second Gulf War.