Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Lord Hurd and Thoughts on the War in Iraq

Pictured above: Lord Hurd and Southampton Conservatives at the Blue Keys Hotel in Northlands Road.

Lord Hurd delivered a speech yesterday to Conservative Party members, at the Blue Keys Hotel in Northlands Road, before speaking again to members of the public at the Nuffield Theatre at Southampton University.

I won't go into too much detail about what he said, as Matt Dean covers this extensively in a posting on his blog earlier today.

Lord Hurd talked a great deal about British politicians that he had worked with and world leaders he had met as Foreign Secretary. It was extremely interesting to hear all of the human stories and insights into the personalities of famous statesmen, stories you would never normally hear.

Foreign Affairs

I was particularly keen to hear his views on foreign affairs. Lord Hurd was a diplomat before entering into politics, serving in Peking, New York and Rome. He served in the Cabinet during a period of remarkable change across the world. He dealt with the collapse of communism, the reunification of Germany, the first Gulf War in 1991, the Maastrict treaty and the hand over of Hong Kong

I was interested to hear his views of Britain's role in the world today and his thoughts on the situation we find ourselves in, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Iraq in particular, is in a dreadful situation today and I was keen to hear Lord Hurd's assessment of the situation, as he was one of those arguing against military intervention.

As Prime Minister, Tony Blair has backed the United States to the hilt, supporting their foreign policy adventures at every stage, committing thousands of British troops to conflicts abroad.

Lord Hurd explained that firstly you go to war to protect yourself from foreign aggression. Secondly you will wage war to support your allies if they are attacked. Intervening in countries which are not directly threatening you or your allies is another matter entirely.

Saddam Hussein was an evil and brutal dictator, obsessed with increasing his own power. However, Lord Hurd argued that he was not mad. He would not have been so foolish to attack the West, when it would undoubtedly have meant his certain annihilation.

Hurd argued that in foreign affairs you will often adopt double standards, intervening in some circumstances but refraining from doing so in others.

He says that you "do good where you can" but you always know that when you go to war, civilians are doing to be killed.

Ultimately it is a judgement call. As Lord Hurd said we must bring our frail judgment to bear on the situation and take what we feel is the best decision.

In Iraq we have removed a bloodthirsty dictator. However the situation there now is arguably far worse than it was before. Even under Saddam you didn't have the daily death toll which we now see. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands have been killed in Iraq since the invasion.

It is further estimated that hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent on the military and reconstruction effort in Iraq. The economy however is shattered and the country possibly on the bring of civil war.

Whatever the arguments were at the beginning for going to war, in hindsight it has been a foreign policy disaster.

Blair has blindly followed the United States in a way that previous British Prime Ministers never did. In the past the British have influenced US foreign policy, being a staunch ally but a constructive critic where it was needed. We entered this conflict with absolutely no idea of what we would do once the war was over. Rebuilding the country and the economy and establishing a new government and the rule of law were after thoughts.

One thing Lord Hurd said, that I agree with, is that we should not again intervene militarily in another country when half the British people do not support it. It is not fair to our servicemen and servicewomen.

The world is looking ever more dangerous by the day. North Korea has exploded a nuclear bomb and Iran are hell bent on developing nuclear weapons. The world today needs politicians like Lord Hurd, who can show wisdom and moderation as well as resolve. Sadly today our leaders do not show such qualities.

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