Mideastnews
10 April  2006
Tony Blair's Doctrine
 

 Pro-Active Foreign Policy


By Adel Darwish

In a series of lectures setting out his  Policy to confront threats from Islamic extremism, British Prime Minister Tony Blair left historians and observers wondering whether it was a genuine presentation of a New Labour doctrine to deal with the 21st Century threats or just another Blairite ` positive' spin on something going horribly wrong.
Blair's doctrine boils down to the right of early intervention, or a pre-emptive action, against rogue states and potential enemies, like ' Al-Qaeda'-who else?- to name but one, in order to stop a greater evil that might befall Britain and her allies.
Blair's doctrine is rather hard to define, let alone securing a national consensus at home and  abroad, when compared with historic doctrines.
Unlike Monro's, which was simpler define: `` don't mess about in our backyard'' backed by the right  of pre-emptive intervention,' Blair's is warped in the newspeak of new labour spin, which is hard to interpret, critics suspect.
President Reagan's foreign strategy was clear as he spared no effort or finance to implement. As a result, the free world scored its historic victory for democracy and liberalism over the Soviet totalitarian bloc, without firing in anger. The exception was intervention in Granada in 1983, which, many historians agree, was necessary in setting a precedent as illustrated a willingness by the world's strongest democratic power to deploy force to protect democracy and constitutional legitimacy, and not accepting the intimidating aspects of ' the principles of non intervention in domestic affairs of sovereign nations.' Granada intervention was a direct response to illegitimate military coup ousting a democratically elected government.
This precedent aided former British Prime Minister  Margaret Thatcher almost single handed in August 1990 to persuade America, and the world community, to send troops to liberate Kuwait and uphold international law.  Thatcher's undeclared doctrine, could be argued, dwarfs, in comparison, that of Blair when put to the test.
Blair, in the words of a retired senior British diplomat, wasted an opportunity to  subtly lead the new ' war on Terror' with all its trimming, while letting George W Bush take the credit and be seen in the driving seat; especially that ' Dubya' Bush's intellectual ability are far less impressive than those of his father when he lead the successful first post cold-war armed intervention to restore legitimacy in Kuwait.
 
Blair lost a great deal of his credibility with Britain's political class, first by going to war on what is now universally accepted as a false claim of  weapons of mass destruction WMDs, and later refusing to apologies for it. This was in the back of people's minds as Blair tried to sell them us a second-hand doctrine of pre-emptive intervention, resprayed as ` active foreign policy of engagement not isolation' which he says cannot be achieved without a strong alliance; at a time when a war of words is heating up between Iran and the Bush Administration. The latter is insisting on ` regime change' in Teheran. The so called Iranian opposition in the west, some posing as journalists in London always raising public questions designed to demonise the regime in Teheran. They have their own agenda or work for the old regime or manipulated by regional powers. Their role resembles that of Iraqi opposition figures like Ahmed Chalabi when mislead the Pentagon by supplying the bulk of what it turned to be false evidence on the alleged Iraq WMDs and on the abilities and the size of opposition groups inside Iraq.
Early last month media reports exposed two diplomats from Niger embassy behind the forged documents on the alleged supply of uranium to Iraq, which was used as evidence by former US Secretary of State Colin Powel before the UN.
The Democrats in the US are warning against President Bush's  cow boy-like gun hoe policy' after leaked reports of the pentagon plans to use tactical nuclear bombs against Iran's Uranium enrichment sites as one of several options, according to veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker last month.
And although the left in Britain and in Europe in general often ignore many realities on the ground in their analysis of Foreign Policy, editorials in the Guardian and The Independent, seem to agree with those in the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail in their scepticism of Blair's argument. Not only they point the holes in his logic, but also to the miserable failure of American policy as controlled by the Neo-Cons to whom New labour is grovelling, instead of correcting Washington course as lady Thatcher once did.
The timing of Blair's foreign policy offensive aroused  suspicion as his defence secretary Dr John Reid gave a lecture at the Royal United Services Institute pushing for redefining the familiar terms in national and international law to recognise  new realities in the  a-symmetrical war between democratic states and stateless international terrorists.
Many question  whether Blair doctrine could work as an alternative to America's policy in the region, which became a defacto New Labour foreign policy marked by failures from Jericho to Basra.
The US secretary of State Condoleezza Rice admitted, during her last month visit to Iraq that early mistakes by America in Iraq, including the 2003 disastrous decision to disband the Iraqi army, lead to the current crisis pushing Iraq to a civil war; although she stopped short of admitting to the continuous errors by the Americans both in Iraq and in the war against terror in general.
While problems in Iraq resulting from the lack of a coherent American strategy is outside Blair's control, he is not distancing UK policy from that of America and he dose nothing to help his friend in the White House correcting his disastrous course; or, if he did, no one has notice. 
On the same day of Blair's first lecture in March, President Bush gave a speech also highlighting this doctrine of war on terror and the need for a pre-emptive action; however this again was used by the left and anti-American trends to undermine the message Blair tried to convey. For it was his alliance with President Bush that dented his credibility among the by large left wing media in Britain.
However there is a more powerful than seems argument on Blair's side regarding the need to follow active strategy in confronting terrorism and take the war to terrorists when they are found, instead of the left supported Europe inactive passive attitude to an existentialist threats, while UK traditional policy is co-operation with allies and regional friends. Blair was right, liberals and democracy promoters in the region say, in embarking on strategy of working with Middle Eastern allies and liberals in Muslim nations to find a formula to confront Islamic fundamentalist extremism and their re-interpretation of Islam to justify terrorism.
Interestingly, Blair's assertion that we are not witnessing ` a clash of civilisations' but it is the war of civilisation against barbarism and terrorism was met with a louder applause in the Middle East and among Muslims columnists than what it generated in UK media, which automatically view Blair's ideas with scepticism.
Despite populist views selectively presented by Arab media, if you look at a wide range of Arabic papers you find more  columns and editorials  sympathetic to the doctrine of Active strategy read ` intervention' to topple dangerous despots and dictatorial regimes like that of ` the Baath' than you find in UK press.  
 
However reports that the official inquiry into London 7/7 bombing found no links between the four suicide bombers and al-Qaeda, made it more difficult at home to accept Blair's strategy as an effective defence against an enemy that doesn't exist in a recognisable shape or in a geographical location.
Blair has set up a false dichotomy between democracy and terrorism, the left wing commentators argue, as he tried to persuade the world that the two are polar opposites. In reality, the two are different sorts of things. Terrorism, according to some definitions, has been, on occasion, an unavoidable rout to democracy, as in the case of South Africa. Terrorism is what is apt to occur when normal political dialogue collapses between an oppressor and those who resist him. This confusion could lead to a disastrous policy in the region, especially in dealing with the newly elected Hamas lead Palestinian Authority. Under American pressure, the trend is to punish - the by largely unsophisticated - Palestinian electorate for making a mistake in the ballot box - given the fact that their media hardly presented a learned debate on the economic consequences of voting for a meaningless slogan ' Islam is the solution'- instead of applying subtle diplomacy to drive a wedge between moderate Muslims in the PA and  jihadists extremists in order to isolate the latter.
Although Blair was right, in his second speech in Canberra, as his critics  admit to the reality that no major problem in the world can be solved without America, commentators on the right said he was wrong to pretend that the way President Bush tries to solve the world's problems should always be supported.
Like always, Bush's policy in the Middle East is an obvious illustration. As too often, Blair conflates and over-simplifies to make his political points. Blair, rightly, criticises anti Americanism, which is often misleads the European left in its analysis of world affairs resulting in  passive inaction, a senior European diplomat said.
But Blair also must realise that anti-Bushism is not the same thing as the anti-Americanism, neither here in UK, nor in Europe or the Middle East itself, many point.
Early last month, Downing Street (and the Foreign Office) where just about the only quarters in London in denial about what appears to be a modern type of civil war in Iraq, the same way the British establishment was in denial about the civil war in Northern Ireland lasting two decades. There is no single event in history of civil wars, or a point that historian can underscore as ` the date a civil war has started' but Iraqi politicians, who are supported in their office by the Americans said so.
 One of the US most staunch allies in the region, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt said so in a TV interview triggering response and commentaries in UK and European media.
During the same week, MP Anne Clwyed, a staunch ally of Blair and supporter of the war ( to unseat Saddam  not over WMDs) exposed the scandal of hundreds of Iraqis lost jail maze.
Perhaps President Mubarak was not too subtle, but he was giving a megaphone analysis of the consequences of the current American policy.
Our Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was quick to contradict the Egyptian leader, although the latter earned the wrath of most Arab Media (again letting their Anti Americanism fog their judgment of political events), when he warned of ` Iran's influence over a large section of Shia politicians in Iraq', which the main drive of Anglo-American strategy in Iraq is to confront, although the last time it was declared, was by Sir Geoffrey Howe in the House of Commons 14 years ago.
The late Palestinian leaders Yasser Arafat once told me of  Khomeini's reaction - during their first meeting in post Shah Teheran in 1979- to his suggestion to end the lexicographic dispute  over naming Persian/Arab Gulf, by calling it just ' The Gulf'. Enraged Khomenini jumped and shouted at Arafat for daring to rename the ` Persian' Gulf.
Middle East experts agree that Iranian influence in Iraq, lies at the heart of many Iraqi politicians' ( including some moderate Shia) distrust of Ibrahim al-Jaafry and rejecting him as a prime minister - in addition to his weakness as a leader in a nation used to be ruled by tough despots since 1958. 
According to official military statistics, 182 of  best of Iraqi fighter pilots, and 416 senior military officers had  been assassinated by January 2006 leading to 836 pilots fleeing to neighbouring Arab countries. Many of the killings had been blamed on militias from the Shia Badr Brigade as punishment for  fighting against the Islamic Republic during Saddam's 1980-1988 war with Iran. An eye for an eye and your lower jaw for a tooth, has always been a non-negotiable part of the late Imam Ayatollah Khomeini's rigid code of justice.
Again, instead of a clear sharply defined strategy in association with regional allies, to contain Iran's threats and ambitions, Blair-Bush embark on a spin designed to scare the world of Iran's WMDs, this time nuclear weapons.
As expected, Arab nationalists and Islamists, bring Israeli nuclear weapons  into the equation - knowing that anti-Israeli feeling in the region is the pivot of the Anti-American sea-saw of public opinion.
What also makes critics suspicious of a possible Blair-Bush hidden agenda, is the similarity between the content Blair's last two lectures and that he delivered in the united States in Easter 2002,  just under a year before the invasion of Iraq, which makes it look suspiciously another preparation for a joint adventure within a year or two .
Talk to Britain's respected pollsters and they will give you some interesting figures- only varying a point or two. About 20% of people in Britain dislike Americans, 40% dislike America, 60% dislike the American government, and 80% dislike George Bush.
Blair, however acts as if critics of his association with President Bush's ill-advised foreign policy, belong to the hard core 20% who dislike Americans, when in reality they are likely to belong to the 60%- 80% who  dislike  Bush.
The most important single challenge in international relations today is for America to play a leading role more effectively by applying a correct strategy. Instead of following Lady Thatcher's example of helping Washington achieving this important goal through subtly and effectively using British skills to re-adjust the faulty compass of  Americas foreign policy navigators,  Blair pretends that his opponents are anti-American, insisting on ignoring them as a `minority' he discounts when following Bush into what might be another costly misadventure.
 

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