There’s a precedent for the temporizing that led the major powers to delay a United Nations resolution on the use of force in Libya until the rebels were painted into the tightest of corners by Dictator Disputed Spelling. One Major-General Charles George Gordon was dispatched to the Sudan in 1884 to make precisely the same ineffectual show of concern on the part of Britain toward another African nation.
Back then there was a fanatical Muslim leader, the Mahdi, who led a rebellion that forced British troops to evacuate the Sudan. Prime Minister Gladstone then sent Gordon.
“When the Mahdi floats me down the Nile, the government will assume a pained expression and tell Her Majesty, ‘We sent Gordon, we did the best we could,’ ” says Charlton Heston in the role of Gordon to Ralph Richardson, playing Gladstone, in the 1966 film Khartoum.
Gordon knew that his mission was, as the perfidious Western powers of the present know the Libya resolution is, merely an empty gesture, a conscience-salving sham in the face of human suffering in a neo-colonial outpost valued only for its resources.