Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Campbell's Superior Answer for Iraq

Ming Campbell's 'rehabilitation' as leader of the Lib Dems(after so short a time in office this seems a strange word to use) continues with his powerful article in the Guardian today. Some criticsare saying Ming is focusing on foreign affairs because he lacks any touch on domestic issues; but even if this is so, this charter for bringing some order to the devastation is to be welcomed, if only through the absence of realistic thinking by the government.

Ming points out that there has not been a debate on Iraq since July 2004 and before that March 2003. The government seems to be deliberately keeping th topic under wraps for fear of the punishing criticism it's likely to receive. He rightly suggests that after the implosion of unilateralism US style, echoed by usasole supporting cast, a multilateral approach is the only way out. Anything mooted by the US-UK will seem tainted from the outset and will not command Iraqi support. He proposes starting with a 'regional contact group' to ensure contiguous powers are onside in future moves. 60 per cent of Iraqis think the UN should lead future moves to achieve peace in this benighted country and so, whatever John Bolton might think, it is the UN which should take the lead.

Campbell adds other steps on training and professionalizing Iraqi security staff, ending the detention of suspects on the present indefinite basis and planning a withdrawal of occupying forces on a phased timetable. This sounds a much more hopeful prospectus for progress in Iraq than anything the government has so far come up with. Whatever touch New Labour had with foreign affairs- as it seemed to have when Cook was in charge- appears to have disappeared. The government is desperately in need of a new strategy; Ming Campbell's reformulated approach merits serious consideration. And whilst at it, Margaret Beckett should read the corruscating critique of policy in Afghanistan by Simon Jenkins in the same issue. No question The Guardian's columnists are currently the best among the quality dailies.

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