Responding to Bob
As Bob Briant mentions in his comment on a post below, Stephen Pollard
was gracious enough to post Bob's reasoning for his accusations that Stephen, erm, misses the point on Iraq. I thought I'd give my replies to Bob's points, one by one:
There are several reasons why some of us are reluctant to endorse a commitment to war against Iraq while fully acknowledging the repugnance of Saddam's regime in Iraq:
(1) A war could easily end up killing many thousands of people - an entirely credible possibility given this report by a mainstream American TV network of the war plan: CBS news link.
This is more an objection against war in general than an objection to this war in particular. It's a principled objection, but one that the vast majority of people don't accept. Historically, and even now, we accept that war, which involves the deaths of many, is sometimes acceptable if it provides a greater good. In this case, the polls clearly show that the British people do accept that war may be justifiable, so the pacifist argument falls.
As for the objection to the war plans, I am somewhat skeptical that the actual plans are being broadcast on CBS news. People might remember how the actual course of the First Gulf War took us by surprise. But let us take CBS at its word, and assume that this is indeed the plan. The munitions are precision guided. I'm sure all Brits remember John Simpson's awe at how a cruise missile he saw during the First Gulf War seemed to be following traffic directions (I think he was surprised it didn't stop for a red light, indicating a left turn). In the decade since, technology has increased remarkably. That is why the Afghan conflict saw so very few civilian casualties (the figure of 4000 is a grossly inflated piece of propaganda, as you'll see from my analysis here
). The only reason why there could be large numbers of civilian casualties is if Saddam himself uses them as shields, which is recognized as a war crime under the traditional rules and international law.
So I don't think this argument holds water on either ground.
(2) Absent broad international support, the US and UK don't otherwise have a mission from providence to intervene in the affairs of a country with a regime they disapprove of. Many of us bought into Tony Blair's doctrine when he said in a speech to the Chicago Economic Club on 22 April 1999: "If we want a world ruled by law and by international co-operation then we have to support the UN as its central pillar." - at page 10 on this Newshour site.
Leaving aside the philosophical justifications for pre-emptive action and the legitimacy or otherwise of international organizations, I believe it is actually precisely this point that makes Blair so adamant in his desire for action. The US and UK have been working within
the established framework. The UN has objectives that msut guide its actions. It has passed 17 resolutions that Saddam has flouted. If you are a supporter of the UN and you do not wish ot to go the way of the League of Nations, then you must agree that there will come a point when the UN must act, or fail in its mission. The US and UK believe that that point is fast approaching. Otherwise the UN will have degenerated into a talking-shop whose only effect is to ensure cruel dictators stay in power.
(3) As we learned from experience of more than 30 years in Northern Ireland, state sponsorship is not essential for terrorist networks to survive. Private donations and the proceeds of crime can sustain a network for decades. A regretable fact of nature is that very nasty weapons can be made outside government facilities from accessible materials - like the bomb in Oklahoma City in 1995 made from agricultural fertiliser or the sarin nerve gas attack in the Tokyo subway that same year: BBC News link.
An important point, but in this case an irrelevant distraction. If we want to reduce the amount of terrorism in the world, we have to get rid of state sponsorship. Then we can devote our resources to preventing independent outrages. Bob seems to want the argument to go as follows:
Blair: "Iraq sponsors terrorism"
Bob: "Ah, but Timothy McVeigh didn't have state support"*
Blair: "Oh, all right then, we won't do anything..."
This just doesn't work.
* Unless, of course, you consider what The Junk Yard Blog
has to say on the subject worth further investigation.
(4) To all appearances, Tony Blair appears very reluctant to put a substantive motion to our Parliament approving military action. So far, he has depended on the Royal prerogative for his authority.
We had a vote last week that gave us the "sense of Parliament," to use an American expression. It passed 350-200. Blair does not have to do this. Under what remains of our Separation of Powers, the power to declare war remains with the Executive, not with the Legislature. He has relied on the Royal Prerogative precisely because that is the only place where the power lies. Now there may be general arguments that this is a bad thing, but that has nothing to do with the Iraq crisis. Reluctance to avoid votes in Parliament on matters involving the Royal Prerogative has sound constitutional thinking behind it.
(5) Do you really buy into: The Project For the New American Century with its stated aim: "to shape a new century favourable to American principles and interests" ? - see here.
Leaving aside the fact that no-one ever said we did, let's look at the PNAC
directly rather than what the Grauniad says about it. PNAC says it believes "that American leadership is good both for America and for the world; that such leadership requires military strength, diplomatic energy and commitment to moral principle; and that too few political leaders today are making the case for global leadership." All three statements seem unobjectionable to me. Isolationists on both sides of the Atlantic will tremble at the thought, but this seems a perfectly reasonable expression of the position of a nation the world continually
looks to for help.
American principles involve freedom, democracy and civil rights for women and minorities. American interests involve a world free from terror, peace (yes!) and free trade. These are just a few examples. So just what the devil is the matter with believing a strong America is good for the world? You don't say, Bob. As you point out, you're persuaded by rational argument, so it might be nice if you advance some on this point rather than asking an ostentatious rhetorical question.
Anyway, I hope Bob will respond to this and that Stephen might add his comments too.