No one knows for certain what the world will look like in detail in three years’ time, but the challenges that we will face are already reasonably clear and it is necessary for the Conservative party to spell out its strategy and analysis. Put simply, we will need a foreign policy that is Conservative and not neo-Conservative, principled but not ideological, and rooted in the real world of cultural diversity and competing interests.
But the Conservative party needs to part company with Blair in three crucial respects. First, there must be a clear recognition that the invasion of Iraq was a serious mistake that has helped the terrorists. It has also made Iran the power in the Gulf. While the government may be in denial, there is no need for the Conservative party to be. That does not mean, however, that British troops should be withdrawn from Iraq. It is essential that they remain there as long as their presence might help the Iraqis.
Secondly, Conservatives should not accept Blair’s simplistic belief that all Muslim terrorism is part of a single plot. Conservatives are rightly suspicious of a Manichaean division of the world into good and bad; terrorist and freedom-loving. The war in Chechnya, for example, is between Chechen nationalists and Russian nationalists, not between terror and freedom. The same applies to Kashmir.
The Israeliâ€“Palestinian issue is also much more than a battle against Hamas and Hezbollah terrorism. As Yitzhak Rabin, a former general, realised, it will require a political not a military solution. Ignoring the complexity of terrorism does little to resolve the problems.
Thirdly, Conservatives should reject a philosophy of pre-emptive wars (or, as Blair prefers to call it, liberal interventionism) fought by ‘coalitions of the willing’. The alternative is not, as he implies, a policy of appeasement, nor one of indifference. War should only be initiated either if we are attacked, as with the Falklands, or if we have a treaty obligation, as with Poland in 1939. The only other circumstance where war should be acceptable for Conservatives is when there is a serious threat to the international community and no other remedy is available. This would normally require the approval of the UN Security Council, but we cannot always allow the single veto of China or Russia to prevent action supported by the rest. It was Aneurin Bevan who remarked that the one thing worse than my country right or wrong is ‘the United Nations right or wrong’.
The absence of UN approval should, however, require not a coalition of the willing but a ‘coalition of the relevant’. Estonia and the other minor states that the United States assembled for the Iraq war enhanced neither its legitimacy nor its acceptability. If, however, as with the Gulf war, neighbouring countries such as Egypt and Turkey had been part of the coalition, it would have demonstrated that Saddam was seen by his potential victims as a threat.
So a Conservative government should not offer unconditional support to the United States, but be willing to support military action when necessary, either under UN auspices or when a coalition of relevant countries believes that there is a grave threat that needs to be countered. ~Malcolm Rifkind, The Spectator
This is a quality article expressing a rational foreign policy view and a wise emphasis on the British interest, which may not always be the American interest. It offers some mild encouragement that the Tories still retain some granule of collective common sense (in spite of selecting Cameron as leader). Unfortunately I fear that Sir Malcolm will have a rather hard time convincing the party leaders to follow this path.
Under David “Look at My Nice Bicycle!” Cameron the Tories will have none of this sort of sensible thinking on foreign policy. Ever since Hague the bungler was in charge of the party there has been an increasing Republicanisation of the Tories that must make its older members rather ill, especially considering that Red Republicanism is not quite the sort of American export they experienced when Reagan was in office, and with this has gone not only an idiotic embrace of “compassionate conservatism” (also Hague’s doing) but increasingly neoconservative foreign policy positions as well. When 70% of Britons opposed entry into the Iraq war, the Tories under Michael Howard were, if anything, more ineffectual and gutless under the new manager than they had been under the unremarkable nebbishes who had preceded him. Tory skepticism was, like its American cousin, pushed to the backbenches and told to shut up. So much for Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. Sir Malcolm offers a credible alternative to the neocon/New Labour glop that Americans and Britons alike have been forced to accept. Mr. Cameron ought to stop riding his bicycle for a moment and listen up.