Mr Obama struggles to find a Middle East policy which can work

This week one of my Parliamentary colleagues in a private meeting (not the NTB lunch!) summarised the problems with Mr Obama’s coalition in such scathing terms that quite a few MPs present just laughed in nervous agreement and changed the topic with the Minister present. Many of the MPs who would normally agree with the USA and be willing supporters have grave doubts about the current war.

The first concern many have is where are the boots on the ground to win this war in a timely way? Are the armies of Iraq and the Kurds able to defeat ISIS with just some air support by the west?  How long will it take the west to train and arm the Iraqi forces to ensure victory? What guarantee is there that  rearming the Iraq forces will not lead to more loss of good US equipment to the forces of ISIL?

The second concern is what is the future for the Kurds. If their army is successful in the north will it then hand over to the Iraqi forces, go home, and accept Iraqi rule? How hard will the Kurds push their claim for an independent state?

The third is the role of Turkey. Turkey should be one of the USA’s prime allies in the region, as a member of NATO with substantial ground forces, planes  and airbases. Turkey’s recent  intervention has been against the Kurdistan Workers party. Turkey remains very nervous about helping the Kurds, and ambiguous about the whole coalition strategy.

The fourth is how do you define the ISIL enemy? It may be clear in the areas ISIL has seized in Iraq, though even here identifying and killing or capturing every ISIL soldier is an extremely complex and difficult task as they are embedded in the local community and have taken over many flats and homes. In Syria it is even more complex, with the need to distinguish ISIL fighters  against Assad from so called moderate opposition fighters against Assad. The coalition is not seeking to defeat a field army in uniform willing to come out and fight conventional battles which the west could win.

The fifth is where will the political leadership come from in Iraq to unite the country, offering fair and peaceful government to Sunni, Shia and Kurd that each community accepts? How do more deaths and more destruction of property assist the task of reuniting the country? What does victory look like, and when does politics take over again from war? In Syria where is the political leader or coalition of parties that can take over power and unite that country behind peaceful democratic government?

The sixth is how do you prevent any military success against ISIL merely displacing the centre of their activities? What relationship does ISIL have with some of the armed bands that now roam in Libya? Where else could ISIL forces go for cover and assistance?

The seventh is to learn the lessons from western intervention in Libya. The democratic government there is now cowering in Tobruk, unable to venture into much of the rest of the country and unable to enter the capital city. Successful  military intervention by the west got rid of the dictator, but local politicians were unable to establish their authority and construct a government that works. Do we now know how to get a better outcome in Iraq and Syria?

 

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45 Comments

  1. Peter
    Posted October 18, 2014 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    Obama, in his first foreign policy speech in Cairo decried American Imperialism and trumpeted a smaller American footprint in the world. In the Presidential debates he lampooned Romney’s comments on the threat of Russia as a 1980s foreign policy and for right or wrong drew a red line in Syria that he did not enforce. The threat of power and penalty was thus extinguished. Extremists, malcontents and Putin were thus emboldened. Parts of the world (and Obama) may not like US superpower status but we need it!

    Nato is a busted flush; European countries like Germany don’t pull their weight and Erdogan is more interested in supporting extremists, banishing Attaturk’s secularism and suppressing the only noble collective in this, The Kurd’s. I don’t believe The Kurds want a seperate nation made up of all Kurds; they speak different tounges across borders and dont even share the same alphabets. They do however deserve some various autonomies but realpolitik dictates this won’t happen.

    We in the West are fixated on delivering Western style democracy to an area of the world where it doesn’t work and is unwanted. For years we backed dictators who purged their lands of Islamic extremists and allowed the worship of multiple religions. Mubarak, Hussein and the Assads for all their faults protected thriving Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hazidi etc.. populations. The current Libyan situation is a stain on us and a reminder that after military action must come some kind of solution. In Syria, I would prefer Assad and in Iraq we must not allow Iran to become the power behind the throne. If we again attempt to push W democracy we will get more problems.

    • Anonymous
      Posted October 18, 2014 at 8:09 am | Permalink

      To be fair to Obama: Blair and Bush left made such a ghastly mess of things.

      Dr Redwood describes such a complex and interwoven situation that problems my now be intractable.

      Perhaps letting things run their course and the west learning to deal with the dictators which emerge is the only option.

    • acorn
      Posted October 18, 2014 at 8:22 am | Permalink

      Peter, you just summed up my recent trip to the Emirates. I got the same story quite often from the locals. Some still blame the double crossing British, in the form of the Balfour Declaration. (These guys have long memories, I doubt anyone in the UK, under forty, has a clue who he was.)

      You say. “We in the West are fixated on delivering Western style democracy to an area of the world where it doesn’t work and is unwanted.”

      Got it in one Peter!

      • acorn
        Posted October 18, 2014 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

        While I think of it. All your recent posts are stuff we, basically, have little or no control over. It’s the economy that my street is concerned with. Households with graduates with no work. Some of us old folk, are employing our neighbours kids to do jobs so they can get a bit of cash.

        Elsewhere this week I have been busy posting the following. I don’t hold out much hope with your lot, but I have to try. Here goes.

        The primary economic identity of a sovereign floating FIAT currency economy is:

        (S – I) = (G – T) + (X – M) .

        The three sectoral balances (the terms in brackets) have to sum to zero at all times. (I paraphrase Bill Mitchell).

        The capital letters refer to: Total private saving (S), which is the difference between total private sector spending and disposable income. Total private investment (I). Total government spending (G). Total government taxation revenue (T). Net exports (X – M), where X is exports and M is imports.

        The sectoral balances derived are:

        The private domestic balance (S – I), is positive if in surplus, negative if in deficit. A deficit means the private domestic sector is spending more than its income and vice-versa.

        The Budget balance (G – T), is positive if in deficit, negative if in surplus (as written). A deficit means the “government”, (the Treasury and its Central Bank), THE CURRENCY ISSUER, is adding net financial assets to the non-government private sector THE CURRENCY USER.

        The Current Account balance (X – M), is positive if in surplus, negative if in deficit. A deficit means that the external sector is draining domestic demand (spending). That is, the rest of the world is amassing buckets full of our FIAT currency, selling us mobile phones and 60 inch plasma TVs.

        For the left-hand side of the equation to be positive, (that is, the private domestic sector is running a surplus overall and net saving), then the sum of the government budget deficit and external balances, must be positive (and equal to the left-hand side).

        Should the external sector be in deficit (X T) of, at least, 3 per cent of GDP.

        So you immediately see what is wrong with imposing a balanced budget in an economy that uses a FIAT currency, that is not convertible into anything but more FIAT currency. The current government is using a monetary system which became redundant, when we came off the gold standard with its CONVERTIBLE currencies.

        • acorn
          Posted October 19, 2014 at 7:07 am | Permalink

          CORRECTION. The para starting “Should the external sector …” has a lump missing because a “Less Than” triggers the HTML . It should read: “Should the external sector be in deficit (X less than M) by say, 3 per cent of GDP, then, if the private domestic sector is to net save overall, the government sector would have to be in deficit (G is greater than T), of at least 3 per cent of GDP.”

          Apologies to JR.

    • Horatio McSherry
      Posted October 18, 2014 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      John, what a great article, and Peter, one of the best comments I’ve seen on John’s blog for some time.

      Contrary to what the Government (of all colours) and the media want you to believe, the internet is a fantastic place, and a place that needs its freedom to be fough for vigorously.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted October 20, 2014 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

      If only mine got used! We’ve got to break the dominance of the US somehow.

      Tad

  2. Ian wragg
    Posted October 18, 2014 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Obama is a busted flush. He’s been a complete waste of 7 years. I think we should be worrying about our own shortcomings particularly defence. We don’t have the capability to impose our values on the world and we should but out.
    I see your colleagues on Conhome are saying we are to opt in to the dreaded EAW. Some repatriation of powers. Say one thing and do the opposite.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted October 18, 2014 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      I guess that we won’t know for sure until after 10 pm on November 20th, once the polling stations have closed in Rochester and Strood. Up until then there can be hints that the government has changed its mind and won’t opt back into it, once the ballots have been cast it can tell the truth and it will still have the following week to complete the formalities of opting back in.

      Reply Opting back in is not about UKIP. It is about how many Conservative MPs will vote against any attempt by the government to opt back in, and about the balance of forces within the coalition where Mr Clegg is the main advocate of opting in, but other Conservative Ministers do not wish to do so for obvious reasons of self government and national interest.

      • Posted October 18, 2014 at 11:55 am | Permalink

        Is there anyone left other than David Cameron who thinks prolonging the coalition until May 2015 is a good idea ?

        Surely we would be better to start introducing some real Conservative measures and challenge Clegg and Miliband to vote against them ?

        Six spring to mind immediately :

        1. Reduce CGT by re-introducing taper relief to a level that starts to bring in more money and frees up property assets that are currently being retained because the CGT liability is too high. This is likely to release thousands of Buy To Let properties onto the market that owners currently can’t sell because when the mortgage is paid off, there would not be enough equity left to pay the very high rate of CGT.

        2. Revise Stamp Duty and remove the bandings which currently distort the property market. This first stage proposal should be revenue neutral but indicate that over the long term, a Conservative Government will reduce the liability at all levels.

        3. Make the Referendum Bill an official government measure

        4. Reintroduce the Boundary Change Bill.

        5. EVEL

        6. Refuse to opt back into the EAW

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted October 18, 2014 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

        Has there been any indication of the date for the Commons vote, when the Tory Home Secretary may have to call upon Labour and LibDem MPs to help crush a rebellion by a small minority of Tory MPs? It wouldn’t be set for the week beginning November 24th, would it? Excuse my cynicism.

  3. oldtimer
    Posted October 18, 2014 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    All very good questions without satisfactory answers. A few weeks back, when you raised questions about the advisability of Western military intervention, I commented that in Iraq it required an inclusive Iraqi government and a coalition of willing neighbours able to put the necessary boots on the ground. For Syria I offered no suggestions, merely asked for answers on a postcard please.

    In the absense of the creation of a workable coalition, or answers to the Syrian question then the better course for the West is to continue to keep its boots off the ground, and let the locals fight it out among themselves and to a standstill. That is usually what happens when one side or another is unable to achieve an unambiguous victory. These several civil wars will probably continue for years on end and there is nothing the USA, let alone any other country, can do to stop it. Gaza and the Palestinian issue is the template. As for the arrogant notion of imposing Western democracy in such situations, that idea is well past its sell by date.

  4. alan jutson
    Posted October 18, 2014 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    The whole area is a mess, has anyone got a sensible so called solution.

    You cannot bomb, kill or force your way into a democracy.

    It has taken so called democratic Countries decades and centuries to evolve their running of a government.
    Do we really expect it to happen overnight elsewhere.

    Something perhaps to be said for a dictatorship, which then slowly evolves into something better.

    I certainly do not have a suggested solution.

  5. Andyvan
    Posted October 18, 2014 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    How about a Middle East policy that doesn’t include financing and supplying terrorist groups, doesn’t support (governments ed) like Saudi Arabia and many others, doesn’t use covert forces to undermine legitimate governments and doesn’t resort to military action at every possible opportunity?
    That would really be a big change for America since they even send troops to deal with Ebola when every other country that wants to help sends doctors.

    • zorro
      Posted October 18, 2014 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      Indeed, these are key points and I intend to challenge some of the assumptions which are currently held about what certain countries espouse but what their policies enact in practice…..

      zorro

    • Tad Davison
      Posted October 18, 2014 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

      Andy,

      Do you recall George W. Bush standing on a US aircraft carrier with a banner in the background proclaiming ‘Mission Accomplished?

      So there we have it. The destabilisation of the middle-east and north Africa was a US policy all along!

      I wonder whose interests are best served by all the wars, criminal acts, and upheaval the US has caused?

      Tad

  6. agricola
    Posted October 18, 2014 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Please do not complain of the length of submissions. Your posting cannot be answered with one liners.

    Your colleagues conclude as do many of us outside the Westminster bubble. Obama is a dithering president, not inspiring much confidence at home or abroad.

    My considered solution is a division of Iraq after the elimination of ISIL, into three parts, Sunni, Shia, and Kurd. I do not see them wishing to revert to Iraq as a single state. After division perhaps they will learn to live alongside each other.

    Frankly I do not understand the attitude of Turkey to the Kurds within their borders. They could learn something from the Scottish referendum. Subjecting Kurds to a rule they do not respect or want only leaves a festering sore to go gangrenous in the future, further distancing themselves from a future in the EU. Here the EU could exert pressure.

    The solution to ISIL is troops on the ground in Iraq, and siege tactics where they are embedded. denial of movement where they are not. Follow this with a war crime trial with sentencing by the Iraqis themselves. Troops need to come from NATO and particularly Turkey, USA, France and the UK. The force needs to be highly air mobile and devastating in firepower backed with air to ground airpower.

    As to Syria, the answer lies in cooperation with Putin. His long term interests are much as our own. We need to offer Assad a way out, like retirement elsewhere. An offer he cannot refuse. Between Putin and the West we need a blueprint for a stable Syria and the elimination of ISIL I do not know enough of the politics of division in Syria to know whether they could resolve their differences and create a united country.

    Your fifth question I answer in para. 3.

    Lets not go beyond Iraq and Syria in seeking ISIL or in selling the democratic concept. It is alien to most Arab thinking. They seem to respect power. In fact in the Middle East it only exists in Israel. Turn Iraq and Syria into shinning examples of conflict resolution and maybe others will wish to follow so reducing ISIL’s appeal.

    You have asked all the right questions, do you have a set of solutions, having been at the sharp end for more time than most of us.

    Reply I have a solution for the UK which is to stay out of this.

    • Posted October 18, 2014 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      I agree with your analysis and proposals . The tribal Arab wars have , and will always remain , no matter what the outside intervention . Our dependence on oil has always coloured relationships with the West resulting in short term forms of aggression that have not led to one iota of progress in the region . There is absolutely no evidence that we have anything to gain by entering into this mess .

    • agricola
      Posted October 18, 2014 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      Problem is with 500 plus jihadistas from the UK already engaged and seemingly free to return with their evil philosophy, I would say we are already involved. Better we help destroy them in Iraq than have them loose in the UK plotting mayhem.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted October 18, 2014 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

      Rely to reply:

      I’d go along with that John, but is your beloved leader listening? He seems to want to bow and scrape to everything the US proposes, and look where the neo-cons and liberal interventionists have got us thus far.

      I keep saying it, and surprisingly, it seems some in the Tory party are starting to listen. They need a new leader with a new direction. I’ve had some really interesting e-mails this past week from Tory MPs following the vote on the recognition of Palestine as an independent state, and Cameron is looking ever more like an isolated war monger!

      Tad

  7. Alan
    Posted October 18, 2014 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Mr Obama may not be trying to achieve military victory in the Middle East. He may be trying to achieve his stated objective, which is military disengagement from the Middle East. However he has suffered a setback: American citizens have been publicly murdered and the Iraqi state, that many Americans lost their lives in establishing, looked like being overthrown. American politics force him to make some response to these actions.

    Perhaps he is dealing with that as best he can. He is using aircraft, where he is very unlikely to suffer American casualties and in the end will quite likely destroy or seriously damage the Islamic State. He will not be able to establish any form of peace or good government in the area, but he seems to have accepted that that cannot be done by American force.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted October 18, 2014 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

      Ah but consider this Alan, forget how many brave and patriotic people lost their lives in laces like Iraq, and think instead how much money the US corporations made. Only then can we start to see the bigger picture. Little wonder the neo-cons and the liberal interventionists like Blair and Cameron want more of it.

      Tad

  8. Bill
    Posted October 18, 2014 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Whatever we do, we should ensure that the UK is not infected by ISIL. In other words, we should control what we can control.

    I was alarmed to read that the National Union of Students will not condemn ISIL for fear of being accused of Islamophobia. This indicates not only the pusillanimity of the NUS but the power of certain kinds of political correctness.

    • Mondeo Man
      Posted October 18, 2014 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

      Bill – There are, in fact, a number of groups which it is difficult/impossible to criticise in this country. To specify ‘hate’ crime is to elevate one person’s grievance over another’s. (All crime is hate inspired.)

      This is not democracy.

      Publish the wrong book, draw the wrong cartoon, say the wrong thing and not only will your life be at risk but so will your liberty.

      Some minorities are more equal than the majority and have been made so over almost entirely fictional accounts of racism by whites in this country. It is a complete and utter travesty.

  9. Richard
    Posted October 18, 2014 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    US policy should simply be to attain stability and peace in the region.

    This will entail :

    1) Stopping the attempt to enforce western style democracy upon a region where its very strong religious beliefs make this impossible.

    2) Allowing the existing states to break up into their natural tribal/religious regions.

  10. Stephen Berry
    Posted October 18, 2014 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    JR: “Many of the MPs who would normally agree with the USA and be willing supporters have grave doubts about the current war.

    The foot soldiers are already losing confidence in their general are they? I wonder why? Could it be that since invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, the bombings of Libya and Iraq/Syria, it’s not easy to point to a single foreign policy success by the various U.S-led Western coalitions in the Middle East? Libya is only the latest country where the dictator is overthrown by the West and the Islamists run into the void.

    And this is even before we start to talk about the slow disintegration of the Ukraine after the Western inspired coup earlier this year. US, and therefore present British foreign policy, reminds me of that old Hollies song, ‘King Midas in reverse’ – “All he touches turns to dust.”

    Time for MPs to call a halt. Time for MPs to take a cold hard look at where British interests really are. They were brave on Syria but then lapsed.

    Don’t forget that this would be popular. Obama got elected on the back of a promise to bring the boys back home. He has now ordered the bombing of seven countries, rather more than the much maligned ‘Dubya’. That Nobel Peace prize certainly put a spring in his step!

  11. Sam
    Posted October 18, 2014 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    I am convinced by Daniel Hannan’s analysis that Obama is no friend of the Anglosphere. He has a 6th form politicians approach to world affairs; I suspect he and Ed Miliband would get on very well.

    I also think that, if its traditions of defending freedom against tyranny are worth anything, the West must get behind the Kurds and take up their right to self determination. We should be bold enough to proceed regardless of any protests from the incrementally more Islamist Turkey, which has proven itself to be a worthless ally. It may be that Kurdistan would offer Israel company as a rare liberal democracy in the region.

    I recommend the following article, which focuses on the double-standards underlying the left’s approach to the Kurds:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/war-with-isis-why-should-anyone-have-faith-in-the-left-if-it-continues-to-sit-on-the-fence-when-it-comes-to-supporting-the-kurds-9799274.html

  12. Atlas
    Posted October 18, 2014 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    John, your description makes me think of the scientific discipline Chaos Theory; in that the outcome is going to strongly depend on slight changes in the evolving situation (‘sensitive dependence on intial conditions’ in the jargon).

  13. formula57
    Posted October 18, 2014 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    You say ” I have a solution for the UK which is to stay out of this.” and you are of course quite right!

    There may be or may become activities with regard to ME politics that the UK can usefully play (whilst serving its own interests) but clowning around in ill-judged military engagements largely only to show solidarity with dangerous US foreign policy is folly and easily seen to be. Let us hope we do not reap what we sow.

  14. Denis Cooper
    Posted October 18, 2014 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    It’s essential that the Islamic State is destroyed before it can further expand its territory and resources and so the power it can exert in the region and project worldwide.

    • Anonymous
      Posted October 18, 2014 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

      Elevate IS to a proper state and it can be bombed as a proper state. Population and all.

      War is horrible but cannot be waged as it has been – Northern Ireland style in the ME. ‘Terrorists’ using the general population as a human shield.

      Let them stand as soldiers – and die like them.

      In war European populations had to suffer as much as the troops. ‘Clean’ war fails.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted October 19, 2014 at 11:21 am | Permalink

        Those leading the Islamic State have declared it to be a state, and it has most of the attributes of a state. It has its own territory within which it imposes its laws and levies taxes; it has its own armed forces to defend and expand its territory and control its population. It may be a disorderly and disorganised state without an unchallenged central state authority having yet been established, but basically the most important thing it still lacks is recognition as a state by other states.

        I hesitate to involve myself in a prolonged and ultimately sterile argument by risking the “compare and contrast” exercise which immediately springs to mind, but the state of Israel also came into existence simply through a declaration made by its leaders, on May 14th 1948:

        http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/foreignpolicy/peace/guide/pages/declaration%20of%20establishment%20of%20state%20of%20israel.aspx

        but with the differences that the UN General Assembly had previously voted in support of that happening when the British mandate expired, and the new state of Israel quickly gained widespread, although by no means universal, recognition as a state by existing states.

        We could of course take the leaders of the Islamic State at their word for some purposes, for example to charge British citizens who betray their country by transferring their allegiance to the purported Islamic State with the offence of treason, previously a capital offence but now reduced to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment – one of those “benefits” of the European Convention, specifically the 1983 Protocol No 6 which came into force in 1998, followed by the 2002 Protocol No 13 which the UK signed and then implemented in 2004 – while still refusing to formally recognise the Islamic State as being a state.

  15. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted October 18, 2014 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Would that we could read the notables of ISIS as with this blog we read their opponents.But of course we cannot. Their views are wiped out at “1000 per week” from the internet according to our police, by our police. The Russians too have now started taking-out such views from the internet.

    Aside from the policy of annihilating free speech which the US, UK, EU and now Russia communistically and dictatorially share. Well…

    Having no internet and not going “viral” on Twitter did not stop the battle of the Somme, oddly.
    Perhaps a redirection of our Forces away from armchair-computer-seat adversarialism may go some way to putting the first boot on the ground albeit a policeman’s boot thus giving a part solution to the problem.

    Better still, as there does not seem to be intense interactive discussions by ISIS ( from what I hear whispered ) to problems of Scotland’s devolution, internal EU antagonisms, UK regionalism, funding for the NHS as perhaps they view such questions as completely “someone else’s problems ” ( not that I could possibly have read this opinion of theirs, anywhere ) maybe we should follow their unseen, unread, unheard, and unrepresented view and mind our own business.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted October 18, 2014 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

      Where they burn books, they, eventually burn people. – Heinrich Heine

      Clearly, the government is so paranoid that we might come to the wrong conclusions, they believe it is necessary to remove certain things from the internet. They fail to take account of our inalienable right to make up our own mind as befits a free and equal society. How else would we know the difference between right and wrong, good and evil?

      I see a steady, incessant, and almost unnoticed erosion of our liberties. It isn’t sufficient merely to have mouthpieces like the BBC put their own slant on everything, anything contrary to what they want us to know, is now being suppressed.

      These are indeed dangerous times.

      Tad

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted October 19, 2014 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      You go down to your local High Street and find that there’s a bloke there handing out leaflets which not only call for people to be murdered but offer detailed advice on the best ways to kill as many as possible.

      So what do you do?

      Call the police and point out that incitement to murder is a criminal offence and the bloke should be arrested and charged? Well, maybe the police will tell you to mind your own business, or you will be the one that they arrest.

      That would be the natural product of your apparent belief in an unqualified right to freedom of expression, and of course it is just what happened to a passer-by back in February 2006 when a group of Muslims were holding up placards calling for the beheading of those who insult Allah; and it took an MP, David Davis, to point out the blatant criminality of incitement to murder under a longstanding, 19th century, Act of Parliament and demand action by the police and CPS.

      Leaflets handed out in the High Street, the same content disseminated through the internet; there is no difference in principle, only in the technical means that are being employed to incite murder; there are of course useful idiots who will object to the state interfering with what they see as the inalienable right of a citizen to incite murder – for them it’s something else that merits a free and open debate, whether we should allow innocent people to be slaughtered in our midst – and no doubt those useful idiots will hold to that view right up to when their own throats are cut or they themselves are blown to fragments.

  16. zorro
    Posted October 18, 2014 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    John, an interesting post but I would like to challenge some of the widely held assumptions and the prism through which these conflicts are viewed. Firstly, I believe that your colleagues arms right to be concerned about our involvement in the ME.

    The Iraqi army was trained by the US (army and contractors) for nearly 10 years. What does that tell you about their capability to perform and what has happened in practice? I think why did it take that long and why are they seemingly so useless in defeating in open ground a non-standing army (ISIS in your description). I think between the lines you know what I am suggesting….. How can this non-standing army conquer and control such a huge swathe of territory. I am afraid that just does not happen in practice with the (comparably) small numbers of troops they have. The CIA seems to have a good handle on where these volunteers come from (the ‘hornet’s nest’ strategy)…. Shame that they don’t seem to be able to locate hostages or the video sites even though there are plenty of clues available.

    As I have said previously, there has been a plan to split Iraq on sectarian lines for some time and ISIS seem to be a useful tool to achieve this aim. The Kurds will have their self governing statelet one way or another and Israel and the US are at one with this aim. The Turks have been very involved with the ISIS operation from the start and have nothing to fear from it. It will keep the Kurds occupied.

    As I mentioned there is no way that a non-standing army can conquer that amount of territory and hold it without air support…. It’s ridiculous. The US has the firepower to wipe out anything with a black flag that moves and they would not be able to move in the open ground of the ME, so let’s nip that one in the bud straight away. Funnily enough, they seem to have mistaken the black flags for Kurdish flags on occasions it seems. There is no effective moderate opposition to Assad, as a lot of ISIS were in this ‘moderate’ opposition before going over lock, stock, and barrel.

    Does the US want a quick victory in the ME or peace? Why assume it does? Who has been talking about 30 years wars? Does the U.S. prefer to deal/bribe warring factions or deal with nationalist governments. They certainly didn’t want to deal with Assad or Ghaddafi….. I wonder why? We know that ISIS has Chechen and Libyan fighters and they have been spawned from the success of US policy in possibly achieving those aims…. I told you that I intended to challenge assumptions.

    zorro

  17. Posted October 18, 2014 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    We need to defend when and where we can and not have the burden of restructure.In a democracy this should happen naturally and we must leave them alone following defence tactics to do just this: create a democracy .

    Whilst action has its consequences , so does omission, yet we cannot be responsible for every one.

  18. Martyn G
    Posted October 18, 2014 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Caught out in the open it is relatively easy to identify ISIL combatants, but where they have seized ground in Iraq and embedded themselves into local communities – let alone in Syria where the so called moderate opposition fighters against Assad look exactly like ISIS combatants – they become chameleon-like and impossible to reliably identify. And no matter how many ISIS fighters are killed, there will always be replacements from around the world and I cannot conceive of there being a conventional armed forces resolution to ISIS.
    You ask, how long will it take the west to train and arm the Iraqi forces to ensure victory with no guarantee that that would not lead to further loss of US/UK armaments to the forces of ISIL? That is difficult to say 2-3 years would be a reasonable guess to train and amass a force great enough to quell ISIS, so nothing much is likely to seriously blunt the ISIS situation with troops on the ground for some time to come.
    If the Kurdish army is successful in the north, will it hand over to the Iraqi forces and go home and accept Iraqi rule and how hard will they push their claim for an independent state? Unlikely and unknown I suspect, especially as it is impossible to identify any real political leadership in Iraq capable of uniting the country with a fair and peaceful government to Sunni, Shia and Kurd that they all accept.
    Turkey’s role in this thus far has been disgraceful – ready enough to call on NATO for support when they are under threat but deliberately unfaithful when it comes to fulfilling their own responsibilities to NATO. No help there, then. The lessons of history are clear – our intervention in Iraq and Libya removed a dictatorship which, for all its faults and cruelty kept those countries relatively stable after which they descended into chaos and even greater cruelty and persecution of minorities. We must at all costs keep out of this chaotic and highly dangerous mess as best we can and watch from the sidelines whilst making all possible political and diplomatic efforts to help resolve what looks increasingly like an impossible situation that has the potential to explode onto the world stage at some point.
    What if, for example, a Muslim state with nuclear capability (and I can think of one in particular) decided to side with ISIS? Fantasy? Not really, perhaps, but that would certainly kick-start WW3.

  19. Mark B
    Posted October 18, 2014 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Good afternoon.

    You cannot offer democracy to a people who do not want it. Leave them alone to sort out their own own problems.

  20. Peter
    Posted October 18, 2014 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    I have a solution for the international problem: burn Davey’s windmills and FRACK, FRACK, FRACK. Then we can stay out.

    For the threat at home: Eradicate progressivism in the education system and media and teach mono-culturalism not multiculturalism. Britain is culturally and economically something to be proud of thats why so many people want to come here. Allowing, indeed encouraging, them to create micro versions of the ‘division 2’ nations they come from is illogical in so many ways and breeds not dissipates intolerance.

  21. forthurst
    Posted October 18, 2014 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    “The seventh is to learn the lessons from western intervention in Libya.”

    The lesson of Libya is that the policy of destabilising and breaking up secular ME states can be accomplished successfully by a combination of aerial bombardment and the arming and training of insurgents. It is not clear that this neocon policy has been changed in response to ISIS. It is clear that ISIS is entirely the product of Western meddling and and that of its ME allies; that ISIS should now be the enemy requires an adjustment in thinking not entirely supported by the previous and current behaviours of its operatives, although that change has been assisted greatly by its relaunch as an entirely new force (like New Labour) complete with ceremonial black flags, black uniforms and ‘beheadings’. Of course, when the ceremonial regalia is put back in the closet, it becomes less clear how ISIS can be detectable from the air.

    The policy of continual war against the terrorist du jour will eventually exhaust the patience of Western voters and the sooner the better, preferably before the neocons in the US State dept manage to initiate a conflagration that envelops the lands occupied by our armchair generals who would then find that killing may not be such fun when they become the potential victims, as is this case in Eastern Ukraine and has been the case in many of the bleeding chunks of the erstwhile Ottoman empire since the neocons floated like sewerage to the top of US foreign policy formation.

  22. Posted October 18, 2014 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    Apparently within Iraq, that is the part from Baghdad southwards, Shia militia are wresting control from the regular Iraqi army and are attacking Sunni communities. The number and size of shared Shia and Sunni communities are in rapid decline. My newspaper says that this is inhibiting the new Iraqi Prime Minister in his attempts to form a broad coalition of Shias, Sunnis and Kurds. You can say that again.

    A Sunni Caliphate and the redrawing of Colonial boundaries now seem inevitable. The only remaining question is whether the Caliphate will be Jihadist (orthodox) or reasonable (heretical). I’m not at all sure that any kind of western military intervention will be helpful – and it isn’t our quarrel.

  23. stred
    Posted October 19, 2014 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    Somewhat off subject, I thought you may like to bring the following up regarding equality and diversity. Yesterday, I had to visit a megastore and, having been delayed waiting for our purchase to arrive, visited the Gents- only to find that there wasn’t one and I had to join a queue with five ladies. The toilets had been reassigned as monosex, with no urinals. A cleaning lady kindly suggested I could use the unused baby changing room, a mistake I will never repeat.

    I mentioned this over dinner with my bird, who works at a university, and my son. She told us that, amongst other things to do during her 12 hour days, the senior staff had been to a diversity training day. There they had been told that in the future the Gents will have to be banned and only monosex toilets will be allowed. The urinal and quick pee will be a thing of the past.

    The reason for this is, believe it or not, that Transgender toilet users must not feel unequal. But why can’t an ex bloke use the Ladies and an ex blokess use the Gents, we asked. Is it because the blokes and blokesses would spot them and be nasty to them? No. The point is that everyone should be exactly equal and that everyone should use the same sort of receptacle.

    My son thought this was going to be very expensive, considering that there a few transgender persons in proportion to the whole. I pointed out that the Gents always has a WC, which ex females without the necessary bits could use. Also that the Ladies in the queue had told me that they did not like sharing with men, who often use the facilities inaccurately. But all of this does not count.

    I assumed that this lunacy had come from some management guru at the university. This was also wrong. It is apparently government policy, direct from a ministry. Could you please let use know who is involved and whether your leader approves of the banning of the quick pee?

    When I woke early, I wondered whether I had been dreaming, but it is actually true.

    • alan jutson
      Posted October 19, 2014 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      Stred

      Me thinks if this so called policy is real, then many people will perhaps be making all sorts of accusations (true and false) in the future about spying, voyers, invasion of privacy etc, etc, etc.

      Seems to me if this so called policy is true, it will cause far more problems for far more people, than for the few who are complaining about the present arrangements.

      • stred
        Posted October 20, 2014 at 9:25 am | Permalink

        The shock at the prospect of living in a country with no Gents has triggered my memory. About 27 years ago I went to a pre-childbirth training evening, imagining that the men would be told about supporting their wives through the process. It turned out to be a practice session for breathing and stretching while lying on the floor with legs apart- but the men had to do this too! The woman leading the session came over as a feminist hardliner who took her instructions from a Virago handbook. My then wife had some of their books on the bedside table and I had become concerned at the pictures of lesbians on the cover and contents.

        My guess is that the Civil Service has many hardline feminists with a common purpose of taking away any natural or other advantages that men have. They should not be allowed to do so without the electorate agreeing to it.

  • 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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