Let’s end our involvement in Middle Eastern wars

Time was when we intervened militarily we were defending a trade route to India or seeking to keep open the Suez Canal. Those interventions had mixed outcomes, but at least there was a defined UK purpose for them. Today we intervene because we think we should back some factions in a civil war, or because we do not like the autocrat in charge, without there being any express UK interest in change, and without any guarantee that the replacement will be better than what has gone before.

The Foreign Office seems to believe that we need to operate alongside the US for fear of losing the special relationship. The relationship has always been more special to the UK than to the US. After all, the US did not rush to our side during the 1939-40 crsis, when the future of democratic self government in these islands was directly threatened. It took Pearl Harbour to make us brothers in arms.

Nor did the UK’s sensible refusal to join the Viet Nam War end all military and diplomatic co-operation between the UK and the US thereafter. The US came to accept that Viet Nam was a war too far for us, and in due course for the US as well.

The Foreign Office also seems to think that to keep our place on the UN Security Council we need to be seen to be fighting wars on a regular basis. Yet Russia keeps her seat on the Security Council when she takes a very different view to the majority or to the US view. The only threat to the UK’s seat on the UN is the EU, not our war fighting practices. There has been no diplomatic movement within the UN to set the UK a war fighting target to stay on the top table. Many UN countries would be happy if we joined in fewer wars.

The UK’s stature in world diplomacy would surely rise if we did not automatically back the US, and if we fought fewer wars with greater moral purpose and more obvious military success. The Falklands was a successful campaign in a just cause which was worth fighting. Our Middle Eastern activities are altogether more problematic.

 

PS   There is a move led by Andrew Bridgen MP and Julian Lewis MP to make sure there would be a Parliamentary debate and vote prior to any supply of arms to Syria. There may be around 100 Conservative MPs, and possibly the Labour party, who take this view.

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14 Comments

  1. Robert K
    Posted June 6, 2013 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    I agree.
    Also:
    1) Mr Blair’s government gave the impression that war was an essential component of statesmanship. I hope Mr Cameron does not fall into the same trap, but fear I will be disappointed.
    2) The US support for the Falklands campaign was at best lukewarm. More recently, the Obama administration’s references to “Last Malvinas” and its urgings that the UK should negoatiate a settlement with Argentina hardly imply a special relationship.

  2. JB Summers
    Posted June 6, 2013 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    Well I have to agree with this view, are you john redwood? if so you don’t get your views out as you should because I have had a very different picture of you for years, but I am man enough to admit my mistakes, Britain like all countries should sort out what is going on at home before it tries to tell others how to behave.

  3. lifelogic
    Posted June 6, 2013 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    “The Falklands was a successful campaign in a just cause which was worth fighting. Our Middle Eastern activities are altogether more problematic.”

    Indeed, once the Falklands had been invaded we (and the world) had a duty to evict the invaders (unless we could not do so), anything else would have been an invitation to warmongers everywhere to invade. Fortunately we did, but only just.

    Our Middle Eastern activities are on the other hand almost entirely counter productive.

  4. Simonro
    Posted June 6, 2013 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Perhaps I am being too cynical, but I suspect our involvement in Libya was perfectly justifiable from self interest – a friendly government in charge of a state run oil supply. Yes, I know oil is sold on open markets, but the infrastructure and expertise required to get it to market has to come from somewhere. Both BP and BG had/have operations there.

    Also, if I remember my history lessons correctly, it took Germany declaring war on the USA and sinking a few of their ships for us to become actual brothers in arms, rather than fighting two separate wars, albeit against supposed allies.

    A quick search shows On This Day In History from the BBC: “1941: Germany and Italy declare war on US” http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/december/11/newsid_3532000/3532401.stm

  5. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted June 6, 2013 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Perhaps you could let us know when it is going to be debated . I will if able then watch on television.

  6. Atlas
    Posted June 6, 2013 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    With regard to Foreign Policy: I think some Ministers (and especially their Senior Civil-Servants) should remember the old maxim “Be careful for what you wish” as it often turns out rather different than the rose-tinted glasses expectation.

  7. Richard1
    Posted June 6, 2013 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    If David Cameron looks as though he is going to commit the UK to another Middle East war it will be the duty of Conservative MPs to remove him irrespective of other political considerations.

  8. Martin Adamson
    Posted June 6, 2013 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    The problem is that our involvement in the Middle East stems from the reality that successive governments have made Britain into the safe haven of choice for the terrorism’s financing, banking, logistics, recruitment, transport and arms purchases. Until the Government is willing to deal with that reality we will continue to be sucked in whether we like it or not.

  9. Alte Fritz
    Posted June 6, 2013 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    From Sykes-Picot to the present day, Britain has been ill served in successive governments’ approach to the Middle East. Now, as commented today by Peter Oborne, we are moving towards the same side as Al Quaida.

    There are no attractive governments in the region. Syria provided a safe haven for Iraqi Christians being displaced post 2003 and not protected by the coalition. I do not know what has happened to them, but the fall of Assad will be bad news for any remaining Christians in Syria.

    If Assad falls, just what will we and other countries do (and spend) to build a decent Syria?

    • zorro
      Posted June 6, 2013 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      ‘Now, as commented today by Peter Oborne, we are moving towards the same side as Al Quaida’……

      Exam Question: Has the UK/USA ever been that far away from involvement with Al Qaeda? – Discuss in relation to UK/US foreign policy over the last 25 years (starting in Afghanistan…and then Yugoslavia)……

      zorro

  10. Bert Young
    Posted June 6, 2013 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    I am encouraged to learn of the move by MPs Bridgen and Lewis . The extremely foolish proposition to arm the Syrian “rebels must be turned down in the House . David Cameron has shown little knowledge and common-sense in this matter and must be brought down . There are some wise heads around him whom he ought to turn to for guidance . Fingers crossed .

  11. Graham Hamblin
    Posted June 6, 2013 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    I really do believe that the US of A is pulling Bill Hague’s and David Cameron’s strings.

    We should stay well out of it like Harold Wilson did in Vietnam?

  12. uanime5
    Posted June 6, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    The problem with doing nothing is that you can end up with a new country ruled by fanatics. For example after Russia withdrew from Afghanistan and the US stopped supporting anyone the Taliban was able to control most of the country. After bin Laden gained influence in Afghanistan it caused major problems for the USA.

  13. John Wrake
    Posted June 7, 2013 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Those of us like Mr. Redwood, who have had the benefits of a traditional education and can draw on the wisdom available to those who read and believe in the truth recorded in the Bible, may recall the subject of verse 17 in chapter 26 of the book of Proverbs.

    ” Getting involved in an argument that is none of your business is like going down the street and grabbing a dog by the ears”.

    The force of that statement strikes particularly hard on those who have had experience of the sort of dog one meets in a typical Middle Eastern street, even in modern times!

    Would that our current leaders spent more time reading their Bibles.

    John Wrake

    John Wrake

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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