British Diplomacy and War in the Desert Liberating Libya

  • Published

British Diplomacy and War in the Desert Liberating Libya by Rupert Wieloch. Casemate, 2021, 288 pp. 

Author Rupert Wieloch presents British Diplomacy and War in the Desert Liberating Libya as a history book. The book showcases British campaigns in the history of Libya, along with forgotten heroes and service medal recipients during skirmishes and wartime.

The author also mentions a few prominent Libyan figures, although he does not go into as much detail as he does with the British military and civilian members. The chronological flow of the book is done fairly well, but it can throw a reader into a bit of confusion with such passages as “there were white slaves in North Africa,” as well as offshoot characters who deviate from the theme and premise the author tries to convey.   

A main premise is the look at historical British roles during the different stages of modern-day Libya. The beginning touches briefly on pre-Islamic Libya, then shifts the focus into the Islamic spread to the Berbers and different tribes within Libya. This is only a brief mention as if to give some background into the reasons the author believes was the leading cause of turmoil when the British started their Imperialist campaign throughout the region.

The primary focus summarized in the final chapter of the book is “It is in no one’s best interests if it (Libya) is abandoned by the West or taken over by another ruthless dictator” (224). This abandonment and continual occupation of Libya of the West seems to be a common theme throughout the book. It seems to convey the feeling that the West is the “saving grace” for Libya and other parts of the world. This is somewhat misleading however, as most of the issues, even according to this book, comes from the military occupations the West brought to Libya.

One of the strong points of this book is in highlighting many of the forgotten campaigns and skirmishes of British soldiers and war heroes. It gives a brief but concise mention of them throughout the book. Still, at times it does seemsvery random and quickly placed, which can disrupt the flow and shift the focus away from what is happening at the time period that is being discussed. Another strong point is the use of pictures and maps that give the reader a good sense of what some of the British officers were looking at when drawing their lines. The only downside here is that it requires the reader to be somewhat well-versed in map reading and know the area fairly well.      

When it comes to credibility, Wieloch has the proper credentials for piecing together the elements of history necessary for the creation of this book. According to the back cover page, Wieloch was a member of the Middle East peace process. He was an appointed senior British military commander in Libya during the final days of Libya’s authoritarian ruler, Colonel Muammar al-Gadhafi. He was also responsible for hunting down war criminals and trying to reconstruct Libya. Today he is a commentator for Sky News.

In my opinion, Liberating Libya would not be a strongly recommended read for Air & Space Power Journal’s audience. If one was conducting research into British occupation and campaigns throughout North Africa and the way that it structured Libya today, it would be a good quick guide as to how these events occurred. But this book was not written for the common reader, and one needs a background in political studies and the history of North Africa and British rule to understand and validate the author’s claims and arguments.

Technical Sergeant Michael A. Dawson, USAF

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."