Shadow Foreign Minister Douglas Alexander has an interesting piece in The Independent today. The following is noteworthy in the context of my present project:
… while Iraq should inform us, it should not paralyse us. So – notwithstanding the difficulty of the decision to once again commit our forces – Labour has steadfastly supported the military action to protect the Libyan people.
The question not answered by the Libyan intervention is exactly how far Iraq should inform the centre-left’s foreign policy? Would Labour have stood steadfastly behind a decision to commit British forces had Russia or China vetoed resolution 1973? Would it have supported an illegal war for humanitarian reasons? The lack of any dissent concerning the interpretation of 1973 – i.e. the argument that NATO went way beyond the UN mandate by pursuing regime change – suggests that it might. In fact Alexander describes 1973 as ‘a clear UN resolution’.
Alexander chooses defense cuts to put political distance between Labour and the ConDems.
In Britain we can be proud of the professionalism, skill and bravery shown by our armed forces personnel over Libya. They have undoubtedly helped to save many civilian lives. But the Libyan mission has been conducted using military capabilities the Government plans to scrap – which is why one of the legacies of Libya should be the reopening of the botched Strategic Defence Review.
This is not just party politics. It is a serious point. One of the emerging themes among recent retrospectives (see Chris Brown at the LSE and NY Times) is that the Libyan operation has opened up serious questions about Europe’s ability to act in situations where the US wants to take a backseat.
As for ‘helping to support Libyan civil society directly’, I’m sure the neo-Gramscian critics of ‘democracy promotion’ will have a field day with that.