Sunday, May 28, 2006


Blair's intervention policy right but has self destructed over Iraq

Two recent articles, one by Martin Kettle and the other by Andrew Rawnsley, address the subject of Blair's foreign policy. The speech delivered by Blair on Thursday morning was the third in series on this topic- the first in London earlier in the year and the second to the Australian parliament- which sought to rehabilitate the notion of the value based interventionist approach, first mooted in Chicago in 1999. Rawnsley argues that Blair was right to challenge the 'malign inactivity' of the 'realist' approach which denied the right of one state to interfere in the politics of another(though 'realist' theorists would argue with this analysis).

Blair's heightened sense of what is morally right led him to intervene in Sierra Leone to prevent more atrocities and he succeeded; led him to intervene in Kosovo to prevent more atrocities, and he succeeded; led him, after 9-11 to intervene in Afghanistan, where the jury is still very much out; and led him, in his curious solidarity with George Bush, to intervene in Iraq, where most of the juries sitting seem to have already reported not just a failure but one of cataclysmic proportions.

Kettle points out that much of what passes between the two politicians now will count for little: 'Two men with their backs to the wall and time running out.' Which is a pity from one point of view. Both have managed to deal their policy of benign intervention to alleviate or prevent suffering a near fatal blow by their Iraq adventure. We read and see so much of the strong trampling on the weak and feel impotent despair that they cannot be countered, through some external agency, with the force denied their victims.

Blair called in his speech for a reformed United Nations with the capacity to do just this. Ironically, it has been his own disastrous one -intervention- too- many which has probably forced American presidents for maybe the next decade into isolationist caution. The bloodstained streets of Baghdad are now paved with Blair's good intentions and the tragedy is that as a result, thousands more will suffer in the future, while we are forced to stand impotently by.

Indeed. The jury is also still out between cock ups and straightforward dishonesty being the reasons... maybe they did believe there were WMD. but would anyone reasonable? no way.

what do you teach at uni by the way? I'm wading my way through Blitz 'til Blair right now...
Don't teach in Govt Dept at present, though have quite a bit to do with the staff. Use email link if you want to discuss anything. Taken a peek at your blog-it's good stuff and nice to know there are Lbaour activists among the student population.
Skip - your analysis (like lots of others) seems to me to overlook one rather important detail. The war in Iraq was inevitable, GWB had made what passes for his mind up. The timing was inevitable, dictated by the weather and the American election cycle. Our choice was whether to join it or not. We were certainly not (as you perhaps imply) alone in deciding that joining was the 'least worst' option.

But you're probably right, this war has put back the cause of benign intervention by a decade or so. Awfully bad luck for anyone living under a tyrant as no one on the right, left or centre of politics seems to have any other bright ideas.....
Don't believe the war was inevitable though seems like there were lots of advisers around GWB who wanted it. If things had gone differently with UN I don't think it would have got to a shooting war; also not sure he would have pushed it if on his own totally withour TB.
We'll have to agree to disagree on this one! I'm certain that GWB would have pushed on regardless; I believe he had had the invasion date 'pencilled in' even before his (debateable) victory in 2000. But, without a parallel universe or two in which to test various scenarios, we'll never know.......
Perhaps "pencilled in" is too strong. Bush may have had a vague notion that Iraq needed dealing with, but surely it took 9/11 to compound these feelings.
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