Tuesday, October 09, 2007

All quiet on the leadership front as our troops die in faraway lands

Simon Jenkins has a little fun at the expense of the vile doctrine of 'liberal interventionism' or 'humanitarian war':

Amid the past week’s political sound and fury, one subject slid unnoticed under the platform. Britain is at war. Its soldiers are fighting and dying in two distant lands. Foreign policy, once the stuff of national debate, is consigned to cliché and platitude.

With casualties mounting in Iraq and Afghanistan, politicians dare not mention it, let alone disagree. The prime minister declared to his party conference in Bournemouth that “the message should go out to anyone facing persecution anywhere from Burma to Zimbabwe . . . we will not rest”. Britain will defend the oppressed anywhere in the world. Unfortunately Britain is doing nothing in Burma or Zimbabwe, while the message from Iraq and Afghanistan is that Britain chooses bad wars at America’s behest in which it gets beaten.

All the airbrushing in the world will not remove the greatest legacy that Tony Blair left his successors, that of “liberal interventionism”. Never articulated except in a confused speech in Chicago in 1999, it asserted Britain’s right to meddle in any country to which it took offence, under the rubric of “humanitarian just war”.

Nothing that Brown and his foreign secretary, David Miliband, said at their party conference indicated a change of direction. Nor did they say anything to which David Cameron and his shadow foreign secretary, William Hague, could risk taking exception. Blair’s wars, unprovoked by any threat to Britain, passed uncontested at the conferences, though the polls say they are highly unpopular.

In Brown’s case, Iraq has heavily qualified his core support within the Labour party. He went to Washington on taking office and received firm instructions not to quit Basra. Last week, in choosing to stay at the airbase (while pretending to “withdraw” troops), he disagreed with his generals and obeyed the White House. Brown has to engineer a retreat from Iraq to the beat of an American drum.

In Afghanistan British policy has detached itself from reality. Brown wants to “defeat the Taliban” and eradicate the poppy crop. He cannot do either. Indeed his supposed ally in Kabul, Hamid Karzai, is negotiating with the Taliban and has a government stuffed with drug lords.

For his part Cameron has been trapped into avoiding the government’s most vulnerable flank, its subservience to Washington.

In spite of the disasters of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, we can only expect that this will continue until imperialism, militarism and colonialism is completely rooted out of the UK. The UK and its armed forces may have to be dismantled for this to happen.

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