Thursday, October 19, 2006

War remorse

Norm has said that he now regrets having supported the war in Iraq. Given that his support derived from his disgust at Saddam's treatment of his own people, and given the scale of the violence that is still occurring, his decision is entirely understandable. I don't think anyone anticipated that, 3 years later, people would be dying in these numbers. Before the war, the Robert Fisks prophesied the rising of the Arab street against the infidel, but that is not what has happened. Rather than a populace on the march beloved of Left-wing mythology, the Arab Street has merely become a place where Arabs kill other Arabs (except that stretch of the Arab Street that has moved to Europe where it is acting to type).

I don't regret supporting the war. It's not that I'm cheered by what is happening is Iraq. Anything but. It's rather that the reasons that weighed with me are as compelling now as they were then. The US and the UK did not invade Iraq for the sake of Iraqi lives, but for the sake of their own people (and, indirectly, of most others, too).

As I saw it then, and still do, there were 3 main motivations.

1. Remove Saddam's regime, which was uncontrollable and would remain an incalculable risk for some time to come. The sanctions had only strengthened his hold over (most of) the country, and this country was sitting on one of the largest reserves of petroleum that remain. Sanctions wouldn't bring him down; relaxing them would only have the effect of strengthening him further as well as giving him more money to play his games with. For his own strategic reasons, which had nothing to do with any caliphate but his own, he had given support to terrorists and might well do so again.

2. Establish another base from which to exercise some control over the Middle East. To those who ask why it should be us who control the Middle East, I reply, who else? Look at the alternatives. The area is important for one reason only: petroleum, a resource that has value only because our technology makes it so and that is found, mined and refined only by means of our technology. If the regimes of the Middle East were headed by and built upon an electorate of sensible people, then there would not be a problem. They are not, and there is. Since the entire world economy is based on petroleum, it is in everyone's interest (though above all ours) that its supply not be threatened or be used as a weapon against us.

3. Try to kick-start a process of normalisation, or modernisation of the political culture of the area by erecting a working nation playing a normal part in the world economy. This is the much-maligned neo-con project of spreading democracy. Idealistic, sure. Foolish, possibly. However, though the means we have used are questionable, the end is not. At some point, for their own sakes, the nations of the Middle East have got to throw off the motley of victimhood and start producing things the world wants thus giving their people something to live for that is not self-immolation.

Is all of the above imperialistic? Of a sort. But if not us, then who? The option of everyone sitting like a new reception class in a friendship circle has never been available and never will be. So, again I ask, if not us, who? Of course, 'us' really means the Americans. We Europeans do not really cut too fine a figure - great at giving money to those that press the right buttons (including Iraqi kidnappers); not bad at the rhetoric of peace if the pieces of eight are not greasy enough; not so good at actually doing something such as defend ourselves. But that is beside the point.

We're not doing too well in Iraq for many reasons. We'll be doing a lot worse if we leave.

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