Back in 2003 I was unconvinced by the case for going into Iraq.
Surely (if Saddam was going to be overthrown) 1991 was the moment - when Bush (the first) had called upon the people of Iraq to overthrow Saddam. Both the Kurds and the Shia had risen - and the West betrayed them (George Herbert let them be defeated - although he did have a pang of conscience when they were being slaughtered and established, much too late, the “no fly zones”), they would never forgive such a betrayal, at least the Shia never would, so doing anthing now was pointless……..
This was not because I thought the war was illegal (I am not intestested in the modern definition of “international law” as I am opposed to such organizations as the United Nations and the modern definition of “international law” is bound up with them) - on the contrary, as there was no formal peace at the end of the 1991 conflict (and Saddam repeatedly broke the ceasefire terms - by fireing upon British and American aircraft) both the United Kingdom Parliament and the U.S. Congress were well within their rights to vote to overthrow Saddam.
For those who say “they did not vote for WAR”, the word was indeed not used - but everyone knew they were voting for armed conflict. Indeed in the British context it is very rare to have Parliament vote before the conflict - normally the Prime Minister of the day acts for the Monarch without needing a formal Parliamentary vote.
Of course in the case of the United States there was already an Act of Congress (passed back in the 1990s) ordering the President to overthrow Saddam Hussain. It was hoped the CIA would do the job - but the CIA (which has never really recovered from its gutting in the early 1970s) repeatedly failed to overthrow Saddam.
Still less did I have any love for the mass murderer Saddam Hussain - on the contrary I always detested the life long socialist, even back in the 1980s when it was fashionable to see him as a shield against the Islamic nuttyness of Iran.
I had no problem with the morality of overthrowing Saddam, or with the legality of doing so (see above), my problem with the 2003 operation was that it seemed to make no sense to me as POLICY.
I thought that war and occupation in Iraq would cost vastly more in terms of money and LIVES than Blair and Bush believed (none of their basic assumptions made any sense to me) and I was totally unclear what “democracy” would produce in place of Saddam.
Some sort of pro Iranian Shia government? Would that be better - or even worse, than Saddam? Or would there be total chaos?
As recently as 1998 the above was the position of the arch limpwristed anti interventionists - Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.
But after the attacks of 9/11 both men seemed to be totally converted to the “DO SOMETHING” school of policy. That the United States should lash out (without any clear plan) on the grounds that the Middle East was so horrible that any intervention must improve it.
The Neocon School did have a plan - “democracy” (as a solution to all problems), but certainly Donald Rumsfeld never really signed on to this position (he could not put his brain to sleep - which is what one has to do in order to accept the neocon position), but he had become convinced that the Status Que (which, I agree with the neocons, was evil) was so bad that any change MUST be for the better…….
On this I was filled with doubt.
However, I was deeply disturbed by the sort of people who also opposed the war.
Not just the Communists (of various different groups some admitting they were Reds, and some trying to cover it up, - although a couple of the smaller Communist factions actually supported the war, the RCP “Living Marxism” crowd I seem to remember… but it is some years ago). But also the anti American (and anti Israel) British ultra nationalists. The blackshirt types - whether Fascists, or more moderate ultra nationalists (some of the Daily Mail crowd) and their friends.
So I took no active part in opposition to the war - and once war had actually started I hoped (like all loyal people) that things would turn out for the best.
On Libya I find myself in a similar position. This time with a socialist dictator (Gaddafi) so extreme he makes Saddam look moderate - indeed Gaddafi is so bad that only a university academic could like him. But just because the regime is terrible does not automatically mean intervention is the correct policy….
The locals do not want an armed intervention on the ground - they keep saying that (to anyone who will listen), they say that an armed intervention would turn into another Iraq, with Islamic radicals comming in from everywhere to fight the “Crusaders” and the locals being slaughtered in the cross fire. It is often forgotten that civilians are STILL being killed in Iraq every day (by bombs and so on) indeed at a worse rate than happened under Saddam.
So my antinterventionist gut instinct would seem to be sound, but………
Yet again I find myself in bad company (so I have doubts).
For example, yesterday I bought a copy of what Nick calls the “Daily Fail”. As a person of part Jewish ancestry I always feel a bit uncomfortable with the Daily Mail (although they have Jewish staff and so on) due to its history. However, it had story on yet more leftist academics (this time from the London School of Economics - Ed Milliband pals) who were in love with Gaddafi and his Islamic Socialism, and I do not like reading pages of a newspaper without actually buying it.
However, when I read the newspaper there were some nasty things in it. For example, an article on why there should be no intervention in Libya, by Max Hastings…….
I despise Max Hastings (for various reasons) - I feel very uncomfortable being on the same side as him, on anything…..
But this was not the worst of it - there was also Mr Andrew Alexander.
Mr Alexander linked Libya to Vietnam - claiming that the Vietnam war was not about Communism, but about “nationalism” (the old bullshit line produced by that moron Robert McNamara - as a cover up for his tactical and strategic blunders) and how evil America “invevitably” lost.
No examination (by the way “examination” does not mean going to a place and farting around as a journalist - it means the application of miliary science) of the military situation (for example the failure to put large scale ground forces into Laos - which allowed the left flank, in the Korean case guarded by sea, to be turned by the Communists, allowing them free use of the network of supply lines called the “Ho Ch Minh” trail, with only air attack, and CIA and tribal raids, to worry about).
If Mr Alexander actually bothered to study (I use the word “study” deliberatly - see above) the Vietnam war he would find that defeat was anything but “inevitable”, the Communist forces did NOT have the support of most civilians (as with the “war was about nationalism” bullshit, - in fact the civilians always tended to run AWAY from what Mr Alexander would call their “nationalist liberators”), and the Communists were not the supermen in combat of popular mythology.
Indeed even 19 year old American conscripts with no experience in jungle warfare were often more than a match for the Communists - one on one, hand to hand, or in marksmanship. The same is true of Australian and other allied troops, and also of the much attacked ordinary soldiers of the ARVN (however hopeless and corrupt their senior officers were), of whom 250,000 died in the war (many times more South Vietnamese soldiers died fighting the Communists than Americans did).
A whole series of strategic blunders (such as the one examined above) and tactical blunders (the endless regulations imposed upon the United States military and allied forces generally - for example the crippling of air power by making air operations a POLITICAL matter, with the best military targets ruled off limits, and all offensive operations banned for periods due to absurd “talks” with the enemy) led to the fall of IndoChina.
To the extermination of a third of the population of Cambodia by the pro Chinese Marxists, and the murder of millions of people in Vietnam (leading to the “Boat People” and so on) by the pro Soviet Marxists (both the P.R.C. and the Soviet Union giving vast support to the Marxist forces in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam).
But, of course, to Mr Alexander none of this happened - the war was about “nationalism” not Communism at all.
But Mr Alexander did not stop there.
He went on (on the same page) to rant on about how Israel was to blame for all the problems in the Middle East. As if, for example, the existance of Israel is responsible for the deeds of Muhammed, or what was written in the Koran (and so on) after his death, or for more than a thousand years of Islamic attacks upon Europe.
I would NOT say that Mr Andrew Alexander is an extremist of the type I have recently had experience of, but I certainly feel very uncomfortable being on the same side as Mr Alexander.
If a man can be so wrong about Vietnam and about Israel and Islam (and Mr Alexander is wrong - about all these matters) - can his judgement be trusted concerning Libya?