Foreign Secretary William Hague could legitimately argue that Britain is not putting "boots on the ground" in Libya, as the 10 military advisers being dispatched to Benghazi will be wearing shoes, along with civilian clothes.
To sceptics who warn of “mission creep” that will look like a piece of sophistry.
They will recall that it was the increase in the number of military advisers to the South Vietnamese that led to all-out war; that a similar process happened when the US intervened in Somalia. Then there was Iraq where mission has never truly been accomplished and the still running sore of Afghanistan.
Yet, in the real world of foreign policy, decisions are often about the lesser of two evils. The military capacity of the rebels was overestimated.
Air strikes alone are clearly not enough to achieve even the limited objective of protecting civilians. At least 300 are thought to have perished in Misrata alone in three weeks. The longer the war drags on, the graver the humanitarian crisis.
Something has to be done. That is probably the conclusion of frantic diplomatic discussions in recent days.
Britain has already supplied body armour and intelligence and communications equipment. Ten officers providing logistical training but strictly barred from active participation in military operations, might just be deemed compatible with UN Resolution 1973, with a little stretching.
The same may apply to a humanitarian corridor to get help into the desperate city of Misrata.
In both cases, it is important that such actions are not viewed as the first phase of a military deployment, which would be illegal under international law without a fresh UN resolution. Better co-ordination on the ground could increase the effectiveness of Nato airpower.
Perceptions are important. Resolution 1973 was passed after a frantic cry for help from the Arab League. Where are the Arab states now, with the honourable exceptions of the UEA and Qatar, which has offered to pay to train the rebels?
After two western invasions of Muslim countries in a decade, it is important for both the perceptions of the Muslim world and public opinion at home, that the Libyan situation does not mutate into a third.
Meanwhile all 192 members of the UN General Assembly should remember that they have a “responsibility to protect” civilians when their own government attacks them.
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