ANTHONY CHARLES LYNTON BLAIR & THE CHILCOT INQUIRY: A COMMENT
"RT HON TONY BLAIR: Yes. Look, one of the things that you always have to do in this situation you are absolutely right to draw attention to it is A you have to, when you are charged with the responsibility of trying to protect your country and that should be the job of the Prime Minister you have to take an assessment of risk. Now, my assessment of risk prior to September 11 was that Saddam was a menace, that he was a threat, he was a monster, but we would have to try and make best. If you had asked me prior to September 11, did I have any real belief in his good faith. No, I didn't. Did I really think that a new sanctions framework was going to do the trick? No, I didn't. On the other hand, precisely because the consequence of military action is so great, for me the calculus of risk was, "Look, we are just going to have to do the best we can". After September 11, that changed, and that change, incidentally, I still believe is important for us today because it is the reason today, as I say, I do take such a strong line on Iran or any other nation that tries to develop WMD. We cannot afford, in my view look, other people may have different views, but in my view we cannot afford the possibility that nations,
particularly nations that are brutal, rogue states, states that take an attitude that is wholly contrary to our way of life, you cannot afford such states to be allowed to develop or proliferate WMD".
Anthony Blair testimony before the Chilcot Inquiry, 29 January 2010, in www.iraqinquiry.org.uk
"Tony Blair’s testimony to the Iraq inquiry will change few minds. Those hoping to put the former British prime minister in the dock for launching an illegal war will have been confounded. Mr Blair gave a predictably robust defence of his actions. There was, to be sure, the odd concession. Mr Blair now thinks he would not – contrary to a statement he made recently in a television interview – have thought it right to remove Saddam Hussein even had he known there were no weapons of mass destruction. He admitted that he had erroneously denied that military planning was under way at a time when it was. But he was largely unrepentant.
As expected, the question of legality dominated proceedings. But it was always going to be a dead end. Questions of international law are not capable of determination as if they were domestic criminal or civil matters. Of more moment was the grilling Mr Blair received on the process by which he took Britain to war, and whether the planning and execution were adequate. Mr Blair talked a lot about judgment. But it is precisely Mr Blair’s judgment that is at question. The war in Iraq was a Suez-scale foreign policy disaster. This is not just a question of the legality and the non-existent WMD. It is how so many cock-ups were allowed to go unchecked. Mr Blair was unable to lay to rest the impression that he gave George Bush a blank cheque. In the post-conflict phase, Britain clearly accepted responsibilities as co-occupying power without having the power to drive events. The government failed to prepare for the violence that followed. It was scarcely heartening to hear Mr Blair observing that were Britain to find itself involved in a similar military adventure in future, it would be advisable to prepare for the worst".
"Blair Holds his Ground on Iraq." Leader in the Financial Times, 30-31 January 2010 in www.ft.com
"While I have tried hard to be fair to each of the policy options and to make the strongest case for them that I could, there is a strong central argument running through the book: through our own mistakes, the perfidy of others and Saddam's cunning, the United States is left with few good policy options toward Iraq, and increasingly, the option that makes the most sense is for the United States to launch a full-scale invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam, eradicate his weapons of mass destruction, and rebuild Iraq as a prosperous and stable society for the good of the United States, Iraq's own people, and the entire region....The moment we face is reminiscent of another in early 1938. At that time, Britain and France were unquestionably stronger than Nazi Germany....Britain and France almost certainly would have defeated Germany in 1938. By waiting until 1939, France was crushed and Britain came very close to following. In retrospect, there are few who doubt that Britain, France, and the entire world would have been much better off had England and France steeled themselves and resolved on war in 1938."
Kenneth M. Pollack, The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq, 2002.
In his wonderful essay, titled 'In defence of Comrade Zilliacus,' George Orwell states of the ostensible subject of his opus, a notorious British fellow-traveler of the post-1945 period that:
"I do not claim for Mr. Zilliacus that he is honest, but at least he is sincere. We know where he stands, and, he prefers to hit his enemies rather than his friends".
Much the same I think can be said of Mr. Anthony Charles Lynton Blair and his critics as it concerns the former's support of the George W. Bush's policy of toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein. Let me be quite clear though: I was from the very first, opposed to the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. The effort and the hazards involved seemed to me to be incommensurate with the potential gains that were supposed to derive from the exercise. Something which posterity has very much proven to be the case: to put it mildly. Regardless of this fact though, the point is that Tovarish Blair, like Tovarish Zilliacus before him, has if nothing else, the courage of his convictions. Unlike his faint-hearted bien pensant critics, Mr. Blair did not change course between 1997 and 2003. If the policy of liberal interventionism and militarist Wilsonianism was correct in Kosovo in 1999, then it was correct for Iraq in 2003. As the wonderful Perry Anderson noted a few years back in the London Review of Books, all of the reasons that 'right-thinking', post-enlightenment cosmopolitan liberal elites contended made the war in Iraq illegitimate and illegal, could similarly be made (and were made by some of us at the time) about the American-lead intervention in Kosovo in 1999. AKA: the war did not have sanction of the United Nations, nor was the war 'legal' in any commonly recognized sense in International Law. And, as for the alleged 'genocide of the Albanian-speaking inhabitants of Kosovo, the numbers involved were by any count, much, much less than the number of Iraqis killed by the Baathist regime in the 1980's and 1990's. The chief difference between the two cases, appears to be that it is one thing to support Muslims in Europe being attacked / oppressed by Slavic Christians, it is another thing entirely to support the overthrow of an horrible regime which happens to be Muslim, and, which oppresses its fellow Muslims. That it would appear is something which could not be countenanced, much less supported. As for the other arguments against Mr. Blair: that he was blind-eyed to the potential problems involved and that he did not truly believe in the supposed weapons of mass destruction being held by the regime in Baghdad. Well as per the first, in Mr. Blair's defence, it could be argued that a good many, highly-intelligent people, people who later on distanced themselves from the whole Iraqi debacle, people like George Packard, Thomas Friedman, Fouad Ajami, Michael Ignatieff, David Rieff, Timothy Garton Ash, Kenneth Pollack, et cetera, et cetera. And, concerning the issue of weapons of mass destruction, it would appear that it wat not merely the Bush and Blair governments who believed in the reality of WMD in Iraq: it appears that almost every serious commentator and intelligence agency of note, believed in the existence of WMD in Hussein's possession.
To conclude, allow me to state once again, that I am not now, nor was at the time of the invasion of Iraq, an adherent of the policy. I thought then, and think now, that the entire policy was misconceived from start to finish and undertaken (in the case of the American Administration) for dubious ends and using dubious rationales. However, in the case of ex-Prime Minister Blair, these variables do not entire matters. Whatever his many other faults, it does appear that he was an sincere adherent to the mis-guided belief that overthrowing the Hussein regime, would make the Near and Middle East a safer place. Just as he thought that intervening in Bosnia and then Kosovo were necessary and good things also.
Say what you will of the man, but, at least he was and is consistent and has the courage of his convictions.
DREAMING ON THE BOSPHORUS? ISTANBUL NEW FOREIGN POLICY AND THE EU
"The EU, however, will only want to work more with Turkey if it senses that the leadership there is broadly aligned with the objectives of EU foreign policy. Erdogan and his colleagues would have to be more careful about making statements that appear to set Turkish foreign policy apart from western objectives. Today’s Turkey enjoys credibility in the Muslim world. Professions of friendship with Ahmedinejad or a seeming defence of al-Bashir appear unnecessary and counterproductive. Moreover, Turkey would have to supply some evidence that it uses its growing ties with neighbouring countries to pass on tough messages from time to time and stand up for western values. For example, instead of rushing to congratulate Ahmedinejad on his victory in the rigged election of June 2009, Turkey should have insisted that democratic rules be upheld. Regaining momentum Ankara and Brussels need to put some substance into the often-repeated mantra that the country is an ‘asset’ for the EU. If Turkey and the EU miss this opportunity, the consequences for both sides, and for the entire region, might be dire. Without the EU anchor, Turks may feel they have nowhere else to turn but towards their more autocratic neighbours. The reform process in Turkey may founder. Turkey’s neighbours would be less interested in working with Turkey if it was ‘just another Muslim autocracy’. Reformers in the region would lose hope. Hardliners would feel vindicated in their belief that the EU is a Christian club that turned down Turkey because of a clash of civilisations. If the EU and Turkey succeeded in reinforcing their foreign policy co-operation, Turkey would feel more valued and the risk that Turkish foreign policy runs counter to western objectives would be reduced. The experience of Turkish-EU alignment on important international issues – if communicated well – could be used as an argument to win over some sceptics in Western Europe. And it would make some Turks feel less bitter about the EU. It could therefore help to propel the accession negotiations forward".
Katinka Barysch, "Can Turkey Combine EU Accession & regional Leadership?" January 2010, in www.cer.org.uk
"'Then you should say what you mean,' the March Hare went on. 'I do', Alice hastily replied; 'at least--at least I mean what I say--that's the same thing, you know.' 'Not the same thing a bit!' said the Hatter. 'Why, you might just as well as say that 'I see what I eat' is the same thing as 'I eat what I see!'"
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland, 1865.
Katinka Barysch is the Deputy Director of the Centre of European Reform, which is as per Foreign Policy, the 16th best 'Think Tank', in the world, outside the USA (see:www.foreignpolicy.com
). Ergo, she is a member of the European pays legal, one of the European 'great and the good' . Her essay on the London based Think Tank's web site, is of a piece with thinking with the bien pensant attitude vis-`a-vis the Turkish State. One of course employs the word 'thinking' in a pickwickian sense of the word. In point of fact what one sees here, is a species of mental retardation. Rien plus. In point of fact, the reality is that the current AKP government in the Porte, has embarked upon a series of foreign policy moves. Some on the surface at any rate appear to be anti-Western on the rhetorical face of it. Others, such as the recent attempts to achieve a rapprochement with Armenia, much less so. Do these multi-faceted foreign policy gambits mean that Ankara has embarked upon a purely anti-Western foreign policy line? No. Does Ankara's policies mean that it is actively seeking to become a regional hegemon? No. Or at least not any more than in Ankara's previous bouts of foreign policy activism. Such as in the 1950's with the ill-fated Northern Tier project. What Ankara's recent moves in regional diplomacy do mean is that Turkish foreign policy is gravitating more and more to an 'Islamic-friendly' visage. Concretely nothing has changed, nor will much change in Turkish foreign policy. Objectively speaking let us say. However, subjectively speaking, in terms of the tenor of Turkish policy, the tone of said policy, will be more and more in alignment with the constituency of the AKP government. Id. est., an Islamic-friendly / 'good neighbor' foreign policy. A foreign policy, which substantively does not amount to much, but, which on the surface at any rate appears to be more in tune with the wishes of the great, Islamic unwashed, who are the base of support of the AKP government. To read the above trends as something which necessitates that the EU railroad Ankara into its ranks betrays a rather willful disregard of elementary facts. But, then again, perhaps such a mental exercise is part and parcel of being a member of the European bien pensant elite? The question provides its own answer unfortunately.
ISRAEL & HEZBOLLAH OR ANOTHER 'WAR-IN-SIGHT' CRISIS IN THE OFFING?
"Let us say right away....that today Russia is not in a position to back up political threats with arms....but the political evaluation of Russia's military strength will be very different three to four years hence. The recovery of its finances....have put Russia on a course the goal of which, if it can move ahead undisturbed, will be reached in the autumn of 1917. Of whom is Russia most likely to turn the weapon which it will have at its disposal in a few years time? Two years ago there was still some reluctance to say so but now it is admitted openly, even in official military journals, that Russia is arming for war against Germany."
Kolnische Zeitung, "Der Kommende Kreig mit Russland," 2 March 1914.
"An American source says that Syria allowed Hezbollah operatives to train within its territory in the use of advanced SA2 anti-aircraft missile batteries, the Kuwaiti daily Al Rai reported Sunday.
In an interview, the senior U.S. official warned that if Syria supplies Hezbollah with this type of missile, Israel will bomb Damascus and a war will likely ensue.
According to the official, Israel has warned Syria not to allow the transfer of the SA2 missiles into the hands of Hezbollah, and views the transfer of such missiles as the crossing of a red line.
He added that he did not believe that a war would break out soon, unless one of the sides violated the undeclared agreement not to cross the red lines defined by both sides.
The Second Lebanon War, waged in 2006 between Israel and Hezbollah, turned southern Lebanon into a territory not unlike the Golan Heights, in that it does not enjoy the absence of conflict but rather a fragile cease-fire, the official said.
Since the war ended, the international intelligence community and the United Nations have been closely monitoring the smuggling of weapons from Syria to Hezbollah, but the ongoing smuggling has not yet crossed the so call red lines.
The official added that Israel's top priority at this point is to prevent Hezbollah from obtaining the SA2 missiles, which are controlled from a remote command center. The official stressed that if Syria turns these weapons over to Hezbollah, Israel will not hesitate to strike Syria, including the capital Damascus".
Jack Khoury, "US Official: Arming of Hezbollah could spark Israeli-Syrian War," 17 January 2010 in www.haaretz.com
As every student of pre-Great War diplomatic history knows, one of the defining moments in the prelude to that conflict was the newspaper war in the late Winter and early Spring of 1914, between the German and Russian official and semi-official presses. In which the coming conflict between (to use the terminology of the time) 'Germandom versus Slavdom', was highlighted for all to see. The article in the Kolnische Zeitung, a mouthpiece of the Wilhelmstrasse since the days of Furst von Bismarck, being the opening salvo of both the coming newspaper and real wars. It is with this background in mind, that I would like to emphasize the importance of what appears to be a semi-inspired piece in the (admittedly) left-wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Sunday. And, while I for one do not believe that the 'source' for the article was in fact American (I am sure that the entire American establishment, other than some neo-conservative lunatics, would be horrified by the prospect of another Israeli-Lebanon War), I do believe that there was an Israeli 'source' behind the article. And, that there is a current, perhaps a predominate tendency in the Netanyahu government, which would indeed be willing to take the steps cited in the article. Nay, would probably welcome, such a conflict, in order to (as they might put it) to wipe away the 'debacle' of the 2006 conflict with Hezbollah. And, that the only way to do so is to administer a 'crushing defeat' to Hezbollah and any allies it might have (including perhaps Persia) among the regional powers. Syria being of course the only other possible candidate for that role. The Syrian regime being of course a much, much weaker target for Israeli attacks then say Persia.
Will the above scenario outlined in the article come true? One presumes that one of the purposes of the gentleman who inspired it is to pre-empt such a scenario by in effect 'warning off', Syria from heavily arming Hezbollah in the first place. If the Syrian regime does indeed refrain from acting in this way, and, in effect crossing a perceived 'red line' then the article has served its purpose. One indeed hopes so. Still we shall see, will we not?
AN AFGHAN UPDATE: A MINI-TET OFFENSIVE BY THE TALIBAN?
"Our predecessors had entered into in innocence, convinced that the cruel civil war represented the cutting edge of some global design. In four years of struggle they had been unable to develop a strategy to achieve victory - and for all one can know now such a strategy was not attainable. They had done enough to produce a major commitment of American power and credibility, but not enough to bring it to a conclusion. In the last year of the Johnson Administration the Communists had launched a massive countrywide offensive. Few students of the subject question today that it was massively defeated. But its scale and sacrifice turned it into a psychological victory....Public support was ebbing for a war we would not win but also seemed unable to end."
Henry Alfred Kissinger, White House Years, 1979, pp. 226-227.
"No one stars a war - or rather none one in his senses ought to do so - without first being clear in his own mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it. The former is its political purpose; the latter its operational objective. This is the governing principle which will sets its course, prescribe the scale of means and effort which is required, and make its influence felt throughout down to the smallest operational detail."
Karl von Clausewitz, Vom Kreige, edited and translated by Sir Michael Howard & Peter Paret, 1976, p. 579.
The attack on Sunday by the Taliban in Kabul (see below for a Stratfor, 'red alert' for a full and immediate report) was most definitely not a rehash of the Tet Offensive of course. Not by any means whatsoever. Nor however does it merely seem a rehash of another random Taliban attack. It most definitely seems to be a military action on a much larger and more co-ordinated scale, showing a level of both preparation and skill, as well as pre-positioning of men and supplies in what would seem to be on the surface, the most secure urban space in all of Afghanistan, to a higher and more sophisticated degree then previously in this war. At the very least, for now, the attack seems to indicate to this non-military observer / professional (id est., like ninety-nine percent [99%] of all commentators on Afghanistan in the Anglophone press and media), is that any plans by the American Administration and their allies in NATO to spend anno domini 2010 'building up,' forces, taking the fight to the Taliban in Helmand Province and elsewhere, and do one years of training of Afghan forces and, then by say mid-2011, to commence, 'building-down', said forces seems to betray an ignorance of the very facts which Sunday's attack shows is, clearly staring us in the face. The eighteen month action plan that Washington signed-off on in mid-December of last year, is a completely fanciful, if not Utopian project. There is the possibility of turning the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, with something approaching the numbers that Washington is providing to its ground-commander in Kabul, General McChrystal (30,000-35,000) with say three to five years of commitment to the same. To expect a successful turn-around of the situation before then, is a complete fantasy. The hunger these days for 'successful exit strategies', notwithstanding.
Red Alert Update: Taliban Assault on Kabul January 18, 2010 0827 GMT
The Taliban attack in Kabul is reportedly winding down. The assault began around 9:35 a.m. local time Jan. 18 (the day the new Cabinet was being sworn in) when reports of rocket fire and explosions were heard in the Afghan capital near several government buildings.
Just 23 minutes later, reports emerged that the Taliban had claimed the attack in a message to the Afghan Islamic Press. In the claim, Taliban spokesman Zabihollah Mojahed said 20 suicide assailants were attacking the Presidential Palace, the Central Bank and the Ministries of Finance, Justice and Mines and Industries. The Serena Hotel, the Defense Ministry and Afghan Telecom had also reportedly come under attack.
A little after noon local time, militants began to lay siege on two major shopping centers, including a mall called the Grand Afghan Shopping Center near the Justice Ministry. Eyewitnesses reported militants carrying rocket-propelled grenades had entered the second and third floors of the mall. A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) reportedly detonated outside one of the shopping centers killing several security forces.
Around the same time, reports emerged that militants who had earlier breached the southern gate of the presidential palace had entered the building where a swearing-in ceremony for Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s Cabinet was scheduled to take place. The Afghan government denied any breach of the palace had taken place. Several minutes later, another blast was heard outside the Cinema Pamir in an area far from the other attacks, about 1 kilometer away from the Serena hotel.
The size of this attack (if it involved 20 assailants as the Taliban have claimed) is more than twice as large as the Feb. 11, 2009, attack in Kabul, which involved a team of eight attackers. While a complete and concise assessment of what has been struck is still being compiled, it does appear that the Justice Ministry (the main target of the February 2009 attack) was again hit hard and there are reports of a substantial fire burning inside the building. It is unclear if the fire was started by a rocket attack or assailants who had succeeded in penetrating the building’s security.
STRATFOR sources are reporting that the Taliban may have used suicide vehicle bombs and artillery rockets in addition to the suicide bombers on foot and armed gunmen. If so, this is a new wrinkle. We have seen VBIEDS and artillery rockets employed by the Taliban in Kabul, but not in coordination with an armed assault. www.stratfor.com
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