The Apollo Project
Liberal Ideas for the 21st Century
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Blair’s mistake came before Iraq – Does Britain need the New American Century?
by Paul Lloyd

There has been much discussion in the media in the wake of the London bombings as to whether the Blair Government’s decision to invade Iraq with the US has made Britain a more likely terror target.

There is no doubt in many people’s minds, including many within the security services’, that this is fundamentally true. Blair’s intransigence in the face of international resistance to the US at the time of the build up ensured that Britain’s ‘head’ was well and truly over the parapet.

But in order to move forward from the situation, we have to understand why Blair committed himself to the Iraq adventure, when the risks in terms of causing Britain’s stock to fall amongst many Muslim countries was obvious to many at the time.

Fundamentally, Blair was committed to this course 11th September 2001. Although, in the aftermath of what has now become known as 9/11, Blair’s ‘shoulder to shoulder’ speech seemed so ‘right’ to many around the world, its consequences for Britain were far from thought out. The speech essentially committed Blair from that point on to steer a foreign policy course that backed America’s every move.

This had not necessarily been the intention in the beginning. The Blair Government had accepted the election of Bush Government in 2000 with good grace and assurances that the Government would work with the US in the same way as it had done when for three glorious years Clinton and Blair had ruled the world with magnanimity. But in reality, Britain’s stance became more studied in the early part of 2001, shying away from the more strident aspects of American foreign policy.

From the moment of that speech Blair, not only committed his Government to the war on terror, but to the rhetoric of the ‘Neo-Cons’ who, although not dominating the Bush regime in the ways that some have reported, were nevertheless hugely influential in foreign and defence policies. Much of this is widely documented, and I do not wish to go over old ground too much. Suffice it to say, that the Neo-Cons had long sought to invade Iraq and had pushed for it to become US policy since 1997.

The driving force behind this agenda was the Project for a New American Century, headed by leading conservatives such as Dick Cheney, Jeb Bush, William Kristol, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz). Although, there are some cursory nods to the ideas of ‘strengthening’ alliances, the broad gist of the PNAC agenda is to exert the primacy of the US in the world through military and economic means.

The adoption of the Neo-Con agenda by Blair, therefore, seems very strange, and why he did commit himself has been the subject of much speculation. Probably the best explanation would be a ‘cock-up’ theory. His speech on September 11th was meant to be just that, fine words that represented our ‘standing together in grief’. But the words were a fantastic hook for the Bush administration. Every time they wanted to push forward their agenda on the back of 9/11, and they needed an ally to do so, they just had to whisper the words ‘shoulder to shoulder’.

Ultimately, I believe this shows the weakness of Blair’s character. He knows in his heart of hearts that that is not what he meant by those words, but he has shown time and time again that he believes that he has to prove his sincerity.

So where does this leave us now? It is obvious that Britain needs to take a step away from the US. To reassess its position in the world, and what is more force the US to reassess its global position. And it is obvious that whilst Blair remains Britain’s Prime Minister we will remain locked into this relationship.

But that doesn’t mean that we should give up. Blair and Bush continue to preach the "War On Terror" in the wake of the London bombings. Terrorist activity should not change foreign policy. But recent events do not back up the case that the Iraq war was a necessary step in making the world safer.

What was really needed was a proper Liberal, internationalist response, based on principles of working through legal, international bodies. This remains the case now, as it did then, and it is never too late for this to happen. What is right for Britain, and the rest of the world, is a Project for a New Global Century – not just an American one.
posted by Apollo Project @ 11:30 am  
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"What is Liberalism?: I should say it means the acknowledgment in practical life of the truth that men are best governed who govern themselves; that the general sense of mankind, if left alone, will make for righteousness; that artificial privileges and restraints upon freedom, so far as they are not required in the interests of the community, are hurtful; and that the laws, while, of course, they cannot equalise conditions, can at least avoid aggravating inequalities, and ought to have for their object the securing to every man the best chance he can have of a good and useful life." C-B.

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