Gales View - 18th June 2014
Events in the Middle East are moving very fast and there is
always a danger that a column such as this, even when written as late as
possible before publication, may be overtaken by events.
At the time of writing, however, I detect no appetite at all
, amongst those that I represent, for the United Kingdom to once again
listen to Mr. Blair and for Western powers to resort to military power or to
put `boots on the ground` in Iraq.
I do not find that remotely surprising. Very shortly before
the vote on the second Iraq war I recall being summoned, along with some
fifteen other Conservative Members of Parliament who also had grave doubts
about our position, to meet with the then Leader of the Opposition, Iain
Duncan Smith, and the Shadow Foreign Secretary, Michael Ancram, and urged to
support Blair`s government in the division lobby and support the war. The
Leader of the Opposition had been given, we were told, a cast iron assurance
on Privy Council terms”, by Prime Minister Blair, that Iraq not only had
weapons of mass destruction but that those weapons represented a direct threat
to the United Kingdom, possibly being delivered at terrifyingly short notice.
We still await the publication of the Chilcot report into
the Iraq War but many believed at the time that Blair had indicated to
President Bush, during a meeting at Camp David in the United States long before
any vote in the House of Commons, that he could and would deliver UK support
for a US-led invasion of Iraq designed to bring about the downfall of Saddam
Hussein and regime change. By the time that the House had its say UK troops
were effectively already deployed on the starting line and with the added
confirmation of a direct threat to our national security Blair won his vote
with cross-party support and a handsome majority.
It is that same Mr. Blair, the Middle East Peace Envoy”,
who now appears to be once again urging The West to take military action
against Islamist extremists engaged in terror. Outside the Pentagon he is, I
suspect, unlikely to find many allies and his assertion that the West is not in
any way responsible for some of the turmoil of the Middle East sounds more like
an exercise in self-justification ahead of the publication of the Chilcot
report than any meaningful analysis of the situation.
The uprising on the part of the ISIS group of militant
sectarian extremists is hugely dangerous, of course, and really could strike at
the heart of global security, but the idea that a few bombing raids or some
special forces action taken by The West” is likely to do anything other than
inflame an already hostile situation still further is risible. Post Iraq
and the `Arab Spring` I have spent some time in Egypt and in Tunisia, the
latter as an international Election Observer. I also, with some trepidation,
supported the Joint Forces action in Libya and the removal from office of
Colonel Gadaffi. In each of these circumstances a case can be made for
saying that the downfall of military dictators has led not to liberation but to
chaos, anarchy and the imposition of even harsher and less democratic regimes
than those that they have replaced. Only in Tunisia are the embers of the
fire of democracy really still burning.
It is too easy just to say that the transition from
authoritarian regimes to democracy takes time” without giving adequate
consideration to what happens in the vacuum. So just before we listen, once
again, to the siren voices calling for action” I hope that we may pause and
learn the lessons of recent history. It is not enough to do something”. We
have to do the right thing.