The French Embassy in the US has a paean to our shared values... rather amusing.
EU DEFENCE POLICY IN TATTERS
The absence of the British Defence Minister, Geoff Hoon, from a routine EU defence ministers' meeting in Greece on Friday and Saturday (He had "more urgent business" to attend to in London, he said) could not have been more symbolic. Nonetheless, the French Defence Minister, Michel Alliot-Marie, tried to pretend that all was well: "Our transient differences," she said, "will not impede our will to make progress with European defence." The only problem with her optimistic statement is that the backbone of European defence is Franco-British co-operation - the one relationship which has soured more than any other within the EU.
At the beginning of April, the EU is to take over from Nato in the running of Macedonia, and supporters of European defence are looking forward to this with glee. (They seem less interested in the actual resolution of the crisis in that country, so keen are they to have their own EU protectorate.) But apparently Macedonia is only the amuse-bouche for other more important military dishes: the EU wants to take over peacekeeping operations in Bosnia as well. There seems, therefore, to be little chance of the situation being resolved there either, now that institutional interests are firmly driving the agenda. The EU already has a police mission in Bosnia & Herzegovina composed of 510 policemen under the command of Javier Solana; it is now looking forward to greater glory.
BERLUSCONI: CONSTITUTION IN DANGER
The Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who supports the US-UK attack on Iraq, has expressed the fear that the chances of the European constitution being signed in Rome in December, as planned, are receding. Although Berlusconi, in a meeting with Gerhard Schroder, has said that he was very attached to the December deadline, because he wanted the new constitution to be signed in Rome. Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the chairman of the Convention which is drawing up the document, admitted on 14th March that the Constitution could probably not be presented to the European Council in Thessaloniki on 20th and 21st June, as planned. He claimed to see no problem in delaying the conclusion of his Convention's work to the end of September; but the risk, in the eyes of the supporters of the constitution, is that any delay now will only snowball.
Giscard thinks there should be a special summit devoted only to the constitution, to be held in October or November; but there might still be disagreements then, especially since the new member states are involved in the process too. Four member states (Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the United Kingdom) have joined six candidate countries (Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Latvia) in asking for a period of reflection between the end of the Convention's work and the beginning of the Inter-governmental Conference that will actually draw up the new treaty.
The EU candidate states do not want the Constitution to be signed before they join on 1st May 2004, by which time the presidency will be held by Ireland. So Berlusconi seems to have lost grip of "his" ceremony in Rome this December. But according to commentators, his support for the British, Danish, Portuguese and Spanish governments on the Iraq crisis has pushed suspicion among EU states to their highest imaginable level. Under the circumstances created by the Iraq crisis, Paris and Berlin are unlikely to accept that foreign policy should be decided by majority vote. But just as disagreements and national reflexes of the European states could not be greater, Giscard is still talking about the "profound unity of European peoples" which he wants to "come to the surface." [Liberation, 18th March 2003]
In the restaurants of London, we are invited to imagine that Levantine waiters will sidle up and sprinkle anthrax on our spaghetti. Out of the doner huts and falafel dens will swarm the tarbooshed hordes, plotting to release their deadly vapours on the Tube.
Worse was to follow when Ann tried to fly to Scotland for a wedding. Now she was told she needed a passport for the plane to Scotland! No ifs, no buts, she needed a passport or photo ID - which she did not have - if she wished to travel within what is still the United Kingdom. Why? "Security."
Something has gone seriously wrong, if we are so obsessed by security that we inhibit the right of a freeborn Batley girl to fly to Scotland. If we are so worried about undesirable aliens within our borders, wouldn't it make more sense to crack down on the freedom of movement of asylum seekers?
After the policeman was killed in Manchester, I discovered that in 2001 there were 2,665 Algerian applications for asylum, of which 2,530 were turned down.
Guess how many were either removed or departed? 125. No doubt many of these are good people, who deserve sympathy. But shouldn't something be done to sort out this abuse of the system, before taking away, from British people, in a hysteria about "security", the basic right to move around their own country?
The head of education at the National Union of Teachers, John Bangs, told Radio 4's Today programme yesterday: "I don't condone young people leaving school, but we have to understand it. These are major events." Equivocation over whether this truancy should be punished is tacitly to politicise education.
A sort of pacifist jingoism has, lately, replaced real and thoughtful dissent. Just as jingoism is a perversion of the admirable values of patriotism, Stop the War is a perversion of pacifism. Militantly and flatly, the peace jingoists assert that all soldiers are bad, all government untrustworthy, any use of military force motivated by economic agendas. The children of Servicemen should not be made to feel defensive as they watch their schoolmates protest on television. Those children must be rightly proud of their parents. It is the child protest organisers who should be ashamed.
"May your mission be swift and decisive, your courage steady and true, and your conduct in the highest traditions of your service both in waging war and bringing peace," she said.
"My thoughts are with you all, and with your families and friends who wait at home for news and pray for your safe return."
But they [Blair's opponents] won't all come around, because the debate about Iraq in Britain is actually about far more than Iraq. It is about making a choice between two radically different options. Either Britain will become further enmeshed in the world of multilateral institutions, eventually diluting its sovereignty in the European Union; or Britain will continue to have its own foreign policy and a distinct international role. Blair knows this, and said yesterday that the decision to go to war in Iraq "will determine the pattern of politics for the next generation." Putting it more grandly, the British philosopher Roger Scruton has described this as a test of whether Britain will remain a "nation-state" at all.
Odd though it sounds, Blair is asserting his country's independence by siding with George Bush. If he is perceived to fail -- if the war goes badly, if his party votes him out of office -- his career will be at an end, and so will a very old British foreign policy tradition. After such a setback, it's hard to see how any future British prime minister would ever be able to defy European conventional wisdom again. Until now, Blair has always tried to play by the rules of multilateral Europe and to back the United States. Now he knows that he can't have it both ways, and his agony shows on his face.
And so they will fight this fight now in the only way that it can be fought: with the unflinching dedication of true believers, while the Old Europeans cringe on the sidelines.
French President Jacques Chirac has few supporters for his stance. Sixty eight per cent said he was wrong to block UN backing for the threat of force. Just 21 per cent felt that he was right and 11 per cent didn't know.
Mr Chirac also gets most blame for the failure of the international community to work together through the UN. Fifty per cent said it was his fault. Thirty five per cent thought George Bush was responsible and Mr Blair was blamed by just two per cent. The don't know tally was 13 per cent.
In Berlin, a reporter talking to a German official heard that the Schroeder government initially believed Iraq was a one-issue crisis, narrowly confinable to disagreement on the military undertaking and the painful although surmountable problem (in the middle term) of Germany's nonparticipation.
But reacting in fear of isolation, the official suggested, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer's willingness to subordinate Germany to a French view of confrontation with the United States on many wider fronts has brought the government to a position it now finds an awkward fit with Germany's long-term interests, outside the two men's realm of when they ran for re-election on a pacifist platform last September.
In very less specific terms, this notion of things having gone too far appeared to suffuse remarks on Monday by Fischer that American policy was absolutely nonimperial in nature, that the United States was the irreplacable element of global and regional security, that there was no alternative to good trans-Atlantic relationships and that he well understood how the new East European membership of the European Union could have a "very different view" of their security than this or that EU founding member.
For the first time, French publications, reporting on the disarray of political analysts, are now asking: Who are we against, Saddam or Bush? Or: Where was the sense in Chirac's promising a veto of a new UN resolution when such a gesture was not an absolute necessity? And even: How did France manage to reject British revisions to its draft resolution last week hours before Iraq did?
"Have They Gone Overboard?" this week's cover-story in Le Point, a center-right newsmagazine, wondered over a picture of Chirac and Foreign Minister Dominic de Villepin. Its lead editorial's response was mostly yes, noting viperishly that France was rather good at accommodating itself to any detestable status quo. But that hardly signaled some kind of special unease, no more than the middle-ground financial daily La Tribune did in saying Tuesday that France would pay dearly for its gratuitous threat of a veto.
Instead, the notion that a botch may well be at hand for France came in a well-researched article in the current issue of the left-populist magazine Marianne, normally a font of anti-American tweaks and bellows, which analyzed recent French diplomacy under the title, "Visionary Policy or Operetta-Style Gaullism?"
It said France always sought if possible to propel its own policies with a European motor but found that its disagreement these days with many of the EU's members and candidates about the French desire for a Europe defined by its opposition to America eliminated any hope of a common policy.
There were other, more palpable aspects of French policy that caused discomfort among the French. Therese Delpech, a Frenchwoman who is director of strategic affairs at the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission and a commissioner in charge of Iraqi affairs for the UN's control, verification and inspection commission, pointed to a French dilemma if American or British troops were felled by Iraqi chemical or biological arms.
"In a case like that, it will be very difficult (for France) not to participate," she said. "You've got to look (the situation) straight in the eye. If chemical weapons are used against American or British troops, that's really going to be very difficult."
De Villepin referred to the issue Monday, telling a radio interviewer that in those circumstances, France would be alongside what he called "its precious friends." When an American official in Washington was asked if knew of such a contingency, he said no and called the French gesture "meaningless."
In the sense of the French having brazenly overreached, while the Germans were stuck holding on to Chirac's shirttail, that has some of Germany's foreign policy professionals regarding the circumstances with irony and tinges of regret. Whatever Fischer says, theirs is a Germany that could come out of the war with deteriorated relations with America, tarnished ones with an Eastern Europe it did not quickly raise its voice to defend and ties well short of full confidence with France.
For the French, the regrets may not yet be full blown. But what is moldering now is a parallel sense of France's having eaten up all its room for maneuver, and all the potential of its star-turn in the run-up to the war through an excess, in the words of a German official, of the French "prestige imperative."
William Hague stands up - and cannot avoid the temptation to have a go at the leader of the Lib Dems, saying if the Iraqi army "collapses under fire as quickly as his argument, it will be a short war indeed!"
Mr Kennedy picks his nose and turns red.
Mr Hague then compliments Robin Cook on his speech last night, before commenting on Clare Short that he has never seen "a more spectacular failure to resign."
He jokes that Mr Blair has had his revenge on her by forcing her to stay IN the cabinet...Mr Blair laughs.
Under fire from Jon Owen Jones, Mr Hague reveals he would not have supported the US invasion of Grenada - but quotes this as showing that backing for America is not unconditional, but vital at this particular time.
Mr Hague goes on that Saudia Arabia and Kuwait "do not care what happens to Saddam Hussein", revelations he has made travelling to those countries since his resignation as Tory leader. "They will not shed a tear for him" he adds, saying the Israel/Palestinian conflict is far more important to those countries.
But he backs pre-emptive action against "rogue states and sponsors of terrorism."
Mr Hague commends the prime minister's stance, urges colleagues to vote for it, and receives a nod of thanks from Mr Blair.
Public opinion has shifted dramatically towards military action against Iraq, with the anti-war lead in the Guardian/ICM opinion poll narrowing from 23 to only six points in the past month.
This has been accompanied by a recovery in Tony Blair's personal rating, according to results of the March survey, published today.
Women and Liberal Democrat voters remain overwhelmingly opposed to the war, but majority backing for military action is now to be found for the first time among men and among Labour and Conservative voters.
Surprisingly the poll also shows quite good ratings for George Bush with 53% of voters saying they have confidence in him to make the right decisions on Iraq, while 43% have no confidence in him.
The astonishment at his refusal to sack her over her original outburst has now turned into admiration at the way he has completely neutralised her as a political force.
beat off a strong challenge from senior judge Lord Bingham to win the election for the coveted post
"The Case of the Army Truly Stated"... included this demand: "That all Monopolyes be forthwith removed, and no persons whatsoever may be permitted to restrain others from free trade."
"I would love to talk to you guys," he told reporters at Bloemfontein's Goodyear Park on Monday, "but they don't want me to."
When asked who "they" were, he added: "Work it out for yourselves. Work out who doesn't want me to talk about things other than cricket."
When even a Cabinet minister is so ill-prepared to take responsibility for the actions of a government of which she is supposed to be a part, preferring to broadcast her personal objections across the UK media instead of fighting them out with her colleagues, this is not political leadership, but its opposite. It is a self-conscious abdication of responsibility, for the sake of an individual ego.
There's nothing brave or admirable about the likes of Clare Short attacking the government from within. What public life needs are more people prepared to fight, to lead, and to take responsibility, and fewer moral cowards looking to nurse their gripes in public.
Most of the woollier anti-war activists are Platonists. But their ethically empty rhetoric, if applied to Nazi Germany, would go like this: "Hitler is no worse than Churchill. Look at Gallipoli, look at the way he shot the miners. How do we know Hitler means what he says about the Jews? Anyway we shall have to wait until he does something to them. And in the meantime, let's leave it to the League of Nations."
What at first appears to be a high-minded stance against using force against Saddam Hussein is in reality a recipe for raising children to be the sort of ethical eunuchs and moral neutrals who will lack the character to fight the good fight in any field.
One difficulty in assessing the legality of a war is the lack of clear principles. A quick scan of the literature shows no consensus on how the UN Charter is to be interpreted. Nevertheless, there are arguments to justify the legality of war on Saddam. The first is textual. Although Resolution 1441 would not appear to authorise war, it has to be read against the background of resolutions passed during and after the first Gulf War. The UN Secretary-General (among others) has used these to justify the use of force against Iraq after ceasefire violations in the past 13 years, strong evidence that further explicit measures are unnecessary.
M Chirac's actions are better explained by his historic links with Saddam, whether building the nuclear reactor at Osirak or selling arms, and the satisfaction of infuriating the Anglo-Saxons to the sound of domestic and international applause. The result has been to blow apart the United Nations Security Council, Nato and the European Union, and severely to undermine Mr Blair, the most pro-European British prime minister since Edward Heath.
M Chirac does not seem to care. But once Saddam has been removed from power, M Chirac will find himself isolated and diminished. What we have witnessed over the past few weeks is the reckless indulgence of debased Gaullism.
First, a growing number of Labour MPs now see the prime issue as one of Tony Blair's survival.
He has won them two elections and they are unwilling to give up on him just yet.
"This is no longer about Iraq, it's about supporting Tony," is being heard in the corridors just now.
Second, the tough behaviour of France is seen by some MPs as intransigent and unreasonable.
Third, MPs report a clear class and gender split, with men and working class supporters likelier to favour war than middle class and female members.
It is often MPs with university backgrounds and more affluent constituencies who are the most hostile to the war.
But it was M Chirac’s insistence on Monday night that he would veto any UN resolution, however framed, that most helped Mr Blair. This allowed the Prime Minister to portray himself as the one desperate to follow the UN route, while the French President acted as a wrecker. M Chirac’s behaviour gave those MPs who had impaled themselves on a second resolution an excuse to get off the hook.
The PLP [Parliamentary Labour Party -- ed.] meeting was, by all accounts, an electrifying occasion. Diana Organ, an MP who rebelled in the last Iraq debate, made a passionate speech supporting the Prime Minister and lambasting his opponents. She was followed by colleague after colleague making the same points. Tam Dalyell, one of the most vocal opponents of Mr Blair, sat shaking with rage and eventually stormed out. And Ms Abbott was slated by a fellow Leftie, Lynne Jones, as the two women left, for making a stupid tactical error in trying to undermine the Labour leader at this most delicate of times.
Each year of containment is a new Gulf War.
Saddam Hussein is 65; containing him for another 10 years condemns at least another 360,000 Iraqis to death. Of these, 240,000 will be children under 5.
Those are the low-end estimates. Believe UNICEF and 10 more years kills 600,000 Iraqi babies and altogether almost 1 million Iraqis.
Ever since U.N.-mandated sanctions took effect, Iraqi propaganda has blamed the United States for deliberately murdering Iraqi babies to further U.S. foreign policy goals.
The sanctions exist only because Saddam Hussein has refused for 12 years to honor the terms of a cease-fire he himself signed. In any case, the United Nations and the United States allow Iraq to sell enough oil each month to meet the basic needs of Iraqi civilians. Hussein diverts these resources. Hussein murders the babies.
But containment enables the slaughter. Containment kills.
They have added to a growing feeling amongst those who support action that the sooner it comes the better.
The longer the diplomatic process continues, the more damage is being done - to international relations, to the UN, and to Tony Blair's standing.
None of the key countries are about to change their positions, despite the prime minister's predictions that things may change once cards have to be put on the table.
And if the prime minister believes he will emerge victorious at home after a short, clean, successful war - with or without the UN's backing - then he might as well get on with it.
Mr Blair can claim he has done what his dissenters want by pursuing the UN route to the last.
And he can claim that the French insistence it would veto a second resolution under any circumstances is the "unreasonable veto" he has previously said he would ignore.
Meanwhile, his defence secretary Geoff Hoon has signalled that Britain is ready to play the 1441 card - by declaring the original UN resolution gives countries the right to take action against Saddam without further permission.
This is surely the end of the diplomatic game.
And few in Westminster now believe Britain will not be at war within days.
John Reid, the Labour chairman, described talk of moves to replace Mr Blair as the work of a few "usual suspects". They would be heavily outnumbered on the National Executive Committee which would have to approve any special conference by a majority vote. But Mr Reid confirmed that Labour dissidents were plotting against Mr Blair.
"There are a small number of people who, given the choice between getting Saddam Hussein or Tony Blair to lose their job always seem to choose Tony Blair."
Yesterday Mr Blair also met union leaders, most of whom are strongly opposed to war without a second resolution, at Downing Street to discuss Iraq. Their members' votes will be crucial in determining whether the party holds a leadership contest, and its eventual result if one were to take place.
I agree with about 3/4th of what Xavier says, or rather, I would if he substituted "Anglosphere Wilsonian/Gladstonians" for "Anglosphere". That is to say, the attitudes he attributes primarily to the Anglosphere as a whole mostly are found among those
who fit Walter Russell Mead's closely related categories of "Wilsonian" (in the US) and "Gladstonian" (in the UK) as set forth in his
interesting book Special Providence.
I consider myself an "Anglosphere Jeffersonian", to slightly amend Mead's typology. That is to say, I believe that Anglosphere liberty (Jefferson would have said American liberty, but he's clear on its English roots) comes from the specific historical experience of the Anglosphere and cannot be transplanted wholesale into other cultures. Unlike Wilsonians, I don't believe in crusades to bring liberty to unlike cultures, although I do support expeditions to smash specific tyrannies that pose a problem to us.
However, as Jefferson said, we can wish other nations well in their own pursuit of liberty, and strive to serve as an example to them, primarily by improving our own institutions. Once you understand how the Anglosphere became rich and free, you can start to
think about how other culture areas that are currently neither, or not enough so, can start moving their own cultures in that direction. Catalan constitutionalists are right to look back to their own medieval parliaments and try to imagine them brought forward in time, rather than just copying the British Parliament or the American Congress. As I've said elsewhere, what France really needs to do is go back in time and undo the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes and the St. Bartholemew's Day Massacre.
On the other hand, it's also important to not let this understanding be an excuse for other cultures to never reform themselves. Latin culture as it exists today is less adaptive to modern industrial society and globalized commerce , and even if they don't adopt our
institutions, they do need to adapt somehow. And some of our institutions may in fact be the only effective adaptation.
However, this gets into the whole issue of what is a "better" or "more successful" culture. If we're discussing this in sociological or anthropological terms, we really can only think about what is more adaptive to the times and conditions in which it is referenced. A moral discussion is in the realm of ethics and philosophy and requires a different discussion. In basic biological terms, a culture is
adaptive to the extent that it reproduces itself and prevents its extinction or absorption by other cultures. Latin American civilization has clearly been successful in the former sense over the past five centuries, and has clearly been successful in the latter sense for most of the same time period.
However, since at least the 1650s, areas of Latin American civilization have become detached from the Hispanosphere and have been absorbed into the Anglosphere and to a lesser extent into the Francosphere. Although in areas like the Mexican-American borderlands, a vigorous hybrid culture has emerged, its very hybrid nature assigns itself to the Anglosphere rather than the
Hispanosphere: as Claudio Véliz points out in The Gothic Fox in the New World (must reading for any discussion of this topic!) "Spanglish" and other hybrid culture forms violate the fundamental Hispanosphere characteristic of uniformity as ideal.
Today, the nations of the Hispanosphere find the problems of feeding, housing, employing, and governing their populations less tractable than do those of the Anglosphere. In fact, millions stream yearly from the former to the latter to take advantage of the
Anglosphere's ability to take on more. Similarly, the United States is constrained from directly dominating the states of the Hispanosphere militarily primarily because of its own internal nature as a maritime commercial republic. If it were a real empire, and
actually practiced a "blood for oil" politics, it would have annexed the oil lands of Mexico and Venezuela long ago.
Xavier is right in that liberty and prosperity, when they come to Latin America, (as they will, I believe) will probably be constructed from Latin American roots, and will be based only indirectly on the example of the Anglosphere. Because strong civil societies all share certain characteristics, a successful Latin American strong civil society would inevitably seem more "yanquificado" to today's Latin
Americans, although tomorrow's Hispanosphereans will find their society perfectly natural and will have no trouble distinguishing it from Gringolandia. In this they will be no different from today's Japanese, who find their cultural artifacts such as beer, Prussian-style school uniforms, or trains to be completely Japanese.
Xavier's problems with people in the Anglosphere stem, ironically, from a lack of a proper understanding of the Anglosphere by its own people, and the facile universalism that has become popular here. A real Anglospherist cannot be a cultural imperialist: rather, an understanding of the roots of our own strong civil society teaches the lesson that strong civil society cannot be imposed by pure imitation of forms from another culture. For one thing, it's too easy to import one cultural institution without being understanding that you must also import the other institutions that counterbalance it. Otherwise, it becomes a form of cargo cult: instead of building the
outward forms of control towers from bamboo, you construct parliament houses with noble architecture, but the actions of those inside no more resemble those of legislators in an authentically constitutional government than the actions of cargo cultists can actually guide an airplane in to a landing.
“W” and “Tone” may continue to use the same brand of toothpaste. But America’s need and wish to consult No 10 on matters of importance will be gone in a world in which the G7 has been replaced by a G3 (the EU, US, Japan), for the sensible reason that one need not discuss international monetary policy with countries that don’t have their own money. Eventually, Britain and France will be pressured to surrender their Security Council seats to the EU’s chosen representative.
It is, of course, for Blair and Britain to decide whether the costs of deeper integration are exceeded by the benefits. But it is for America to say how it will deal with Britain under the alternative scenarios available to the UK. As an American in love with your country, and an admirer of your Prime Minister’s willingness to pay a steep political price for his moral principles, I can only hope that Britain understands the situation it faces.
Blair once saw only one path open to Britain — further integration into Europe in the hope of becoming Europe’s man in America. The world has changed: he can no longer have Brussels and Washington, too. He will have to choose between the new European constitution, which weds him to the Franco-German axis, and the alternative that strengthens and enlarges the historic special relationship with America, while at the same time solidifying Britain’s role as the leader of “New Europe”. That would involve what politicians dread — a U-turn. But a driver who has negotiated the twists and turns of foreign policy as skilfully as has Blair surely knows that when headed in the wrong direction it is better to execute a U-turn than to continue on a hiding to nowhere.
What the UK and USA are planning to do is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. I feel like tearing up my British passport. If the issue goes to a vote in the House of Commons, and gets passed with Tory votes, then I will probably tear up my party membership card - if there are any active Labour or Conservative party types out there, kick your MP, get him to vote against. We cannot permit this ABHORRENCE to go ahead.
First, the concept of Iraq being a threat is just plain nonsense.
Second, the justification is that Iraq is not complying with UN Resolution 1441. This rests on the assumption that Iraq has lots of WMD and isn't admitting it. But in fact, we have failed to prove that Iraq does have lots of WMD and is hiding them. Yes, some WMD are 'unaccounted for', but 'unaccounted for' does not, as Blix has pointed out, mean that they actually exist. We have not proven that they exist - indeed we have given no solid evidence that they do. Any evidence we have provided has turned out to be false. So we have no proof of non-compliance. Blix again was quite clear on that - he needs months not to disarm Iraq but to tell if it is complying or not. In short, we can't tell right now whether it is or isn't.
The argument therefore comes down to 'trust us, we know he isn't complying, we know it'. But I don't trust Bush and Blair on this one, and I don't believe that they actually have proof, because if they did, they would have told people by now, and would have got the inspectors to dig the stuff up. THE PROOF IS CLEARLY LACKING.
Third, the basis of peace and international order is the prohibition against aggressive war - enshrined in the Kellogg-Brian Pact, the Protocols of the Nuremburg Tribunal, the UN Charter, various resolutions of the UN General Assembly etc. It is fundamental to the maintainance of peace and order, and not some arbitrary rule dreamt up in the mid-20th century, but the product of centuries of experience. And we wish to tear it up, with all the consequences that implies - just because it happens to suit us on this occasion.
Fourth, because Iraq is not a real threat to us, any use of force would be disproportionate. People will die. And there is no need for it. None at all. Now, quite probably the war will be short and victorious, and the deaths will be minimal. But there don't need to be any. It just isn't necessary.
I could go on and on. Isn't it interesting, for instance, that every military officer I have spoken to thinks that this operation sucks? Not only that but they tell me that everybody they know in the armed forces thinks that it sucks too. So we are asking them to kill people and risk their lives for something they don't believe in, and which they know the public doesn't support. How can we justify that?
I despair. I really do. I have rarely felt so gloomy, and I take it extremely personally. It is an insult to the very heart of what I believe in.
The key to the problem rests on your 3rd point. The international law we are talking about was framed in a different era. Then, there was the simple disincentive towards a smaller power attacking a larger one on the obvious grounds that a larger power would retaliate with all its might. Now, however, we live in a different era. Sept 11 showed that, as Mr Collard put it, an "impromptu air force" could wreak severe havoc on the civilian population of a country that, at the time international law was written, could feel safe by virtue of distance from and military superiority over its enemies. It is the nature of modern warfare that a country that is unable to wage aggressive war against its enemy might develop weapons of mass destruction and convey them to a third party who would then utilise them against the innocent country. International law is plainly lacking in describing what a country might do if it believes there is such a credible threat against it. One might compare the situation to the state of the law when wives were not allowed to allege rape against their husbands or some similar analogy. Merely because the law is as stated does not make it just. Democracies should not be required to suffer harm against them before they act (I should add that I find it ridiculous that Blair's government is considering abolishing the ancient defense of provocation in murder trials just at a time when it becomes relevant in international law). International law as it currently stands equates democracies and tyrannies. To this extent, international law needs changing. With any luck, this crisis will hasten such a change.
Second, when it comes to Iraq's supposed innocence: see here. Even the Inspectors have found this:
"The decision by Dr Blix to declassify the internal report marks the first time the UN has made public its suspicions about Iraq’s banned weapons programmes, rather than what it has been able to actually confirm. “Unmovic has credible information that the total quantity of biological warfare agent in bombs, warheads and in bulk at the time of the Gulf War was 7,000 litres more than declared by Iraq. This additional agent was most likely all anthrax,” it says.
The report says there is “credible information” indicating that 21,000 litres of biological warfare agent, including some 10,000 litres of anthrax, was stored in bulk at locations around the country during the war and was never destroyed."
This somewhat contradicts your assertions. This is UNMOVIC speaking, not the US or UK.
We must further consider, a consideration that is wholly absent from your analysis, the state of affairs within Iraq itself and the suffering going on there as a result of our idiotic refusal to finish the Gulf War. Consider Anne Clwyd's testimony here.
"I'd seen museums in Rwanda, Cambodia and on the Holocaust, but nothing prepared me for this," she says.
"The museum has been set up in the old torture centre, where thousands died. They've kept the cells with the bullet holes, and pictures drawn by children imprisoned there - images of birds and aeroplanes scratched into the walls with blood. The guards said they didn't imprison anyone younger than 11 but they forged their birth certificates."
Former prisoners showed her around. On the walls were hundreds of photographs of piles of clothing, mass graves and skulls. "Saddam's regime is like the Khmer Rouge and the Nazis; they are obsessed by documenting everything they've done. There are lots of photographs of prisoners just before they were executed, grinning at the cameras. The guards tickled them before they died to make them laugh."
The day she opened the museum it was snowing, grey and icy. "Hundreds of relatives of the dead and the victims queued up to watch and to tell me their stories. An old Kurdish woman shoved a piece of plastic at me; inside were two photographs of her husband and two missing sons. She wanted to know how they died. One old man showed me a photograph of 15 of his family. He was the only survivor. 'Why was I meant to survive?' he said."
Mrs Clwyd was asked to cut the ribbon. "I could feel my voice breaking. I've given thousands of speeches but I couldn't speak. I started walking round the room, trying to compose myself, but when a Kurdish TV cameraman asked me how I felt, I burst into tears. As I stood in that museum, I just thought: 'Why didn't we carry on to Baghdad? Why did we let this keep happening for another 12 years?' "
The next day, Mrs Clwyd says, she felt embarrassed. "The Kurds were so composed. I hadn't even suffered and I was sobbing. I went to the market with a Kurdish friend. Suddenly, all the shopkeepers were coming to offer me gifts. One explained: 'We saw you crying on TV last night. Thank you. My mother cried for the first time in 10 years when she saw you. She finally felt she could grieve for her lost husband and brother. Soon, my whole street was crying'."
She also went to the new UN refugee camp. "It's like every wretched camp in the world, only even muddier and colder than Kosovo, and as haunting as Rwanda. They have no fuel, and no possessions. Many once lived quite affluent lives in the towns. Most had less than 24 hours to flee their homes after one of Saddam's ethnic purges."
If you consider leaving this regime in place a benefit to humanity, then there's something seriously wrong. Yes, there are other bad regimes around the world, but, let's face it, Zimbabwe doesn't have 10,000 litres of anthrax and links to Islamic terrorist organizations. North Korea is a comletely different kettle of fish thanks to geography and the unfortunate fact that bilateral negotiation failed completely there.
As to your point about us "tearing up international law just because it suiys us on this occasion," Walter Russell Mead provides a little perspective here. One pertinent section:
"The sad truth is, the Security Council doesn't count for much when nations contemplate war. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, since 1945 there have been 26 international wars, with total deaths estimated at 3.5 million. Only three of those wars had Security Council authorization, including the recent conflict in Afghanistan; the largest, the 1950-53 Korean conflict, was only a U.N. operation because Josef Stalin was in a snit and had ordered his Soviet representative to boycott council meetings. . . .
The United States may be a diplomatic cowboy, but we aren't riding the only horse on the range. Every permanent member of the U.N. Security Council has undertaken at least one war without the council's permission or endorsement. . . .
The plain if slightly sad fact is that from the day the U.N. Security Council first met in 1946, no great power has ever stayed out of a war because the council voted against it, and no great military power ever got into a war because the Security Council ordered it to."
I think I've said enough. The idea that the threat of military action, which even Villepin admitted had helped in the progress made so far, is WRONG WRONG WRONG is itself plainly wrong. The issue is far more complicated than the black and white terms in which you state it.
There is a crisis in the international order caused by changing circumstances. Clinging to a compromise come to in 1648 is plainly anachronistic. I am grateful that even Tony Blair realizes this is true.
a) your assertion that international law needs changing because threats have changed and we can't afford to sit back and allow WMD to proliferate etc., is based on a false assumption that countries like Iraq really pose an incredibly great danger to us. I simply don't believe it. I just don't. Because a) in the case of Iraq if it does have WMD, it doesn't have means of delivery (and in any case it probably doesn't have them in huge quantities), b) 'rogue states' are not irrational, and can be contained/deterred, c) BW and CW are not WMD any more than conventional weapons are - there is a huge hype about these things which their true potential does not justify, d) you ignore the elemental nature of war - its tendency to escalate, get out of control, etc. etc. I don't accept arguments that now we have to power to limit and control it. Prohibiting war remains an absolute priority.
b) the humanitarian argument is irrelevant to this case. The USA/UK are not acting out of concern for the Iraqi people. After all, we have said that if Saddam does what we demand (which in fact he may not be able to do - but that's by the by), we will leave him alone. In other words, we are quite willing to let the Iraqi people suffer under him, as long as we feel safe. So, this has nothing to do with helping the Iraqis and relieving their suffering. It has everything to do with the irrational fears of our leaders about the safety of
their own people. Besides, if our leaders really want to relieve suffering why don't they spend the money they are about to spend on this war doing some real positive good helping people in places such as Africa. That would really demonstrate their humanitarianism.
The humanitarian argument is just an excuse pulled up to justify something being done for entirely selfish reasons.
I remain convinced at heart that this war is WRONG. I am personally affronted by it. I was brought up firmly to believe that war is justified only in self-defence. It was what made being a soldier an honourable profession. Now, everything we believed in is being torn up. As one military officer told me, 'I joined the military to defend my country, not to go around attacking people'. I feel exactly the same.
War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse.