Do we fight too many wars?


           The UK has arguably fought too many wars. There are limits to how much influence you can have or should want to have  over how government works in distant countries. This period of retrenchment and reconsideration of our role should also be one of reflection on the limits of our power, and the effective limits on what military actions can achieve.

          Over the last thirty years there has been no great principle behind intervention. We intervened in the Balkans,  Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. We did not intervene in North Korea, Zimbabwe, Syria and a host of other dictatorships and civil wars. The cry has gone up that because we cannot intervene everywhere that should not stop us intervening in some cases. I agree. It would still be wise to examine whether we have intervened too often, and whether in some cases the intervention will  not be successful in the longer term.

          I look forward to your thoughts on a war too far. When should we intervene? Should there by some principle behind it?  Should we just intervene when a country is invaded and seeks help, as with the Falklands or Kuwait? Should we intervene where one side in a civil war wants help and we think they have the worthier cause?  Does the UN always get it right, and should we only intervene at their request? Should we initiate more UN interventions, or seek fewer?

          What have we and our allies achieved by Middle Eastern intervention in the last decade? What is the right pace of disengagement?


  1. john miller
    July 29, 2011

    Yes, we do fight too many wars.

    But the deeper rooted problem is that we fight them for the wrong reasons.

    We also fight wars that we can never, ever win.

    Which results in the unedifying sight of Cameron and Clegg, having picked a fight with Gaddafi, leaving poor old Willie pulling silly faces at the bugger over the shoulders of a pack of half-arsed revolutionaries.

    1. APL
      July 29, 2011

      John Miller: ” .. leaving poor old Willie ..”

      Poor old Willie is a busted flush.

    2. lifelogic
      July 30, 2011

      Indeed we should not enter any war unless
      1. We are clearly going to win the war and the post war.
      2. We have to fight to protect vital interests and there is no real alternative.
      3. We have the equipment, forces and the political will and world support to finish the job.
      4. The job when finish will be a very considerably better position than the start position.

      In many of the recent wars we have none or very few of the above. Power just going to Blair’s and Cameron’s heads and thousands of pointless deaths and injuries being the result and with no benefit.

  2. Mick Anderson
    July 29, 2011

    It’s all Mrs Thatchers fault for winning the Falklands war.

    Now, any unpopular PM thinks that a bit of international beligerance is all they need for a few more marks in the ratings, thus missing the point by a couple of light-years.

    Or am I being too cynical….?

    1. rose
      July 29, 2011

      Yes, Mick, you are. The opinion polls had already turned upwards before the Falklands War, as had the economy. It is also lazy to keep on and on repeating the assertions of a hostile commentariate that people only voted for Mrs T for base chauvinistic reasons.

      As for the accidental Libyan war – it looks as if a no-fly zone was intended, as had been originally instituted against Saddam Hussein. Then the Americans unexpectedly ratcheted it up. We have yet to know the real reasons.

      I have always thought the cheapest and simplest way to get the oil was to buy it from the Iraquis in peacetime, as the French were. But perhaps I am naive.

  3. norman
    July 29, 2011

    I think we should always play a part when one country is invaded by another and subjugated against the will of the population there.

    Civil wars are very tricky, I doubt anyone has a ‘right’ answer. We should obviously try and limit slaughter and to provide humanitarian aid to the affected population but how to do that would have to be dealt with on an individual case basis. The problem is these things move so fast that there’s no time for conferences and rational decision making so instead there is always the risk of making things worse, as has happened with Libya, which you could argue we have created a civil war there, especially if you look to the neighbouring countries where everything seems to have calmed down.

    Libya seems to have come off worst of all and that’s the only country we stepped in to help. Time for the ole lessons learnt line yet?

    If a population suffers under a repressive regime, as in North Korea and Zimbabwe, I don’t really think it’s our place to intervene. Obviously it’s tragic for the people there, and if they emerge from under that regime we should help them through trade, engineering help, etc. but we can’t go about taking out regimes that we, subjectively, think are ran by bad eggs.

  4. lifelogic
    July 29, 2011

    Spot on again.

    Too many wars, usually totally pointless, little is ever achieved, terrorism and enemies incubated and vast funds wasted – often with under equipped and resourced forces. We should withdraw as soon as practical from all of them.

    No guarantee that the new country leadership will be any better than that toppled – look at Zimbabwe.

    1. lifelogic
      July 29, 2011

      I see that the NHS is delaying operation in the hope that the patients who paid for it in advance die or go private first. Well what a surprise the whole ethos of the organisation is to deter patients. Pensions & wages for top staff and not being sued are far more important to them. Customers have paid already after all op or no op.

      1. lifelogic
        July 29, 2011

        Should you bump into the economic illiterate, anti-business secretary and could you please tell him that letting shops liquor chocolates without a licence is the right direction but not the sort of deregulation needed.

        We need to get rid or nearly all employment laws, many of the absurd “equality laws” in particular in insurance, about 50% of the over the top and counter productive health and safety nonsense, the agency work proposals and very much else. And all the parasitic departments that run and generate this drivel.

        Liquor chocolates are not really the problem.

        1. Bazman
          July 29, 2011

          Liqueur chocolate story no doubt from the Daily Mail reporting a stupid local story.
          Which employment laws and which health & safety laws specifically? We have heard the ladder one from the Daily Mail. Nearly all 50%? So which ones. Or is this another cutting 50% of the state sweeping statements.
          Everyone self employed with no Health & Safety regulations? No enforced regulations mean no H & S. Period. Who would enforce guarding on machinery to use a simple one? Of course you would also be against anyone suing for damages when injured. I said when. not if, or for being sacked for refusing to work the unguarded machine?
          H & S is not a big problem if you are a desk jockey in the building and metal trades it is a different story with self regulation a sick joke pedalled by fantasists who would like a race to the bottom but are ashamed to say this.

          1. lifelogic
            July 30, 2011

            Actually from the Telegraph report of the pathetic deregulation proposals.

            Simple hire and fire at no cost is best for employees as well and employers because.

            They can take people on with little risk and fire them if they are not able to do the job. Anyone any good can get another job anyway. It makes more jobs available and industry more efficient so more jobs yet again.

            The best protection for any employee is too know he can easily get another job should he want to.

            Much of health and safely and the litigation culture is actually totally counter productive and actually causes increased risks and is also expensive. Diverting money and activity away from productive tasks – which can of itself create more risks and pressure on workers to compete in the world as they clearly must do.

          2. uanime5
            July 30, 2011

            The best advice I’ve hear regarding health and safety is as follows:

            “If you think health and safety is expensive wait until you have an accident”.

            If a company fails to have proper safeguards and as a result an employee is injured so badly that they cannot work then the company should be forced to pay the full cost of looking after them.

          3. Bazman
            July 30, 2011

            Thank You. Your Lordship. We we’re unclear on that point.
            Simple hire and fire at no cost is best for employees as well and employers because. ?

    2. rose
      July 29, 2011

      On Zimbabwe, we all knew Mugabe was the most ruthless and evil of the terrorists in waiting – a deadly mixture of Roman Catholicism and Marxism, backed by the Communist Chinese at their most hostile. I suppose that was why we gave in, and allowed him to pretend that he, and not Bishop Muzorewa, was the people’s choice. Even the Russian backed Nkomo would have been better. In this instance we don’t even know who it is we are letting in.

  5. Paul Flynn
    July 29, 2011

    A question worth asking. Liam Fox recently claimed that only two MPs were asking a similar question. Punching above our weight means dying beyond our responsibilities.

  6. Vigilante teen
    July 29, 2011

    Only a politician could be so complacent. 1 war is a war too many, and yet here you are talking about it like it’s a trip to the shops. We should follow Japan’s lead and turn our ministry of attack into a genuine ministry of defence. The only fight that really needs to happen at the moment is against the American empire that is holding the world hostage economically and militarily. When will we wake up as people and see the enemys of our freedom, values and livelihood are ignorant elite politicians like John redwood. The battle ground is the streets, the Internet and the ballot box, and we the people coul start by fighting for a ‘none of the above’ option on the ballot paper. This is supposed to be a democracy, a choice between to identical parties in all but name and logo colour once every 5 years is just fascism you can vote for. The global economy is collapsing, the worlds resources are being exhausted, over a billion of our fellow human beings go to bed hungry every single day, and the UK has deported all the assets and sectors it needs to be able to sustain itself and it’s people as our currency becomes increasingly worthless. In the midst of all of that this out of touch politician wants to try and spin out some rhetoric about war that he thinks might make him more popular with the sheeple? WAKE UP BRITIAN, BECAUSE MY GENERATION IS NOT TAKING THIS RUBBISH ANY LONGER. EXPECT US

    Reply: I am offering you the opportunity to influence the debate – I do think we have fought too many wars, and think now is a good time to change the minds of the leadign parties about this. I trust your wish to change things is to use democratic and peaceful means.

    1. Gary
      July 29, 2011

      This post suggests the anger that I have sensed from young people. I think the reason is that these people are the internet generation, they get raw news by cross referencing internet sources. They grew up on it. They have not been conditioned by his-masters-voice, the controlled message of the mainstream media. They also face the prospects of massive tuition debts and few job prospects. They are indeed very angry and fed up with what passes for democracy and accountability. And I don’t blame them.

      I remember Boris Johnson’s proposition to use water canons on these young people the next time they marched in spirited demonstration. These words are a variation of the Sun Queen’s dismissive exhortation that the people should eat cake. We all know how that ended.

      1. rose
        July 29, 2011

        She was Louis XVI’s Queen, not Louis XIV’s, and she didn’t say it. It dates from an earlier time. Rather like Canute, who was making a very different point – about the futility of flattery – she has been misrepresented ever since.

    2. norman
      July 29, 2011

      I have to say, for a teenager, your views are pretty well advanced. I’m sure it took me to at least 30 (although that may have been due to the fact that I was too busy with other leisure activities!) to get to the same place. Although I do think the USA is overall a force more for good than for evil.

      Also, attacking John Redwood is a bit off base – he’s one of the few politicians standing up for freedom in the current batch of politicians. How many other MPs have sites you can visit and who will read, and respond, to your comments? And he consistently votes with his conscience, rather than simply toe the party line.

      1. rose
        July 29, 2011

        And he started on a council estate. Not exactly elite.

        1. rose
          July 29, 2011

          As to the ignorance, you couldn’t get from a council house to being a Fellow of all Souls without knowing more than most of us.

    3. lifelogic
      July 30, 2011

      JR are there any democratic means left which could have any effect. With the parties, government, tax funded government propaganda and the EU having such a hold on the political system. The voter has virtually no power at all.

      If this is not the case then why are we still in the EU, why did we enter these wars, any why are we so badly governed – it is because little true democracy actually now exists. Cast Iron clearly realises this and so tears up all his promises post election doubtless to he will try the same trick at the next election.

      1. uanime5
        July 30, 2011

        Don’t forget about the control big businesses have over the parties they fund and media empires.

    4. Vigilante teen
      July 30, 2011

      Yes I never advocate violence, and I will admit I’m impressed that you actually bothered to reply, so thanks for that. However you reply was rather limited, I would have like to have heard your thoughts on a ‘none of the above’ option on the ballot paper, and how you feel about Americas power and place in the world. Equally, mr redwood, as someone who seems to have played a big role in privitisation and globalisation, what do you have to say about the fact that the UK cannot sustain itself, and if our currency, and world markets more generally, continue to collapse, we will be left in a situation where we don’t have the food, medicine or energy resources to provide or our population.

      To GARY, yes the mainstream media only compounds my anger and frustrations, and the fact that the government is increasingly censoring the Internet is deeply disturbing to me. The Internet should be an unbiased, free place for everyone to share their ideas, as we are doing here. Recently the government met with corporations in closed meetings on the future of Internet and how it will be censored. Groups that stand for people’s freedoms and rights were banned from these meetings, and that worrys me.

      To NORMAN, yes I may have been a liitle premature in my attacks on John redwood, this article was the first I’ve seen from him and the tone to me seemed as casual and complacent as those that the people who send our citizens to their death in wars use, which i find revolting. America is a force for America in the world, which today means the selfish and profiseefing interests of the rich American elite, and for we the people, that can certainly be termed an evil.

      To LIFELOGIC the answer is to tell you family, friends and everyone you meet, the person working on the checkout or delivering the package to your door, why they should be more engaged in politics. Prepare info packs with website links to online documentaries and independent news sites, network with citizen journalists from around the world, as most importantly organise yourselfs to stand together, online and in the streets. Learn how the system works, and use that knowledge to change it, most of all focus on breaking the citizens ignorance, and forcing the media to report the real stories, in depth and unbiasedly.

      Reply: Thank you for your considered responses. I too think the west intervenes militarily too often, and did not myself vote for the Libyan action. I have lobbied strongly for the early return of our troops from Afghanistan. I do not favour a “None of the above” option on the ballot paper. You can achieve that by going to the polling station and spoiling the ballot paper. Better still, help choose a candidate for a party you least dislike,and support them – or put up as an independent if you think you have something special to offer.

      1. Vigilante teen
        July 31, 2011

        No I think seeing a none of the above in percentage terms on the news sends a clearer picture of how the nation really thinks, and shows if they are unhappy with the choices on offer. A spoilt ballot paper is not actually counted, and so the message does not get across that people want a real choice and a real change. Besides, if MP’s truly feel they are representing their constituents well and have their support then why not give people the oppourtunity to state if they do not wish to be represented by the few names on the ballot paper, this is a democracy is it not? I would stand, but I simply can’t corrupt my morals and seek donations from big donors in return for favours, not that a nobody like me would secure them anyway. Without such funds I don’t see how I would even get noticed, so it would be a futile effort and I would feel guilty to ask for donations from people when they will, in the current system end up going to waste. Also don’t you have to pay to stand for election as an mp? Again, whilst I appreciate you bulking out your response, you have still failed to mention your thoughts on how you think were supposed to sutain ourselves, as the economic mess of fiat economics and the clear traps of globalisation become more clear. Look at the Japan Tsunami and the havoc that caused in the global supply chain. What if next time it’s not car parts etc, but food or medicine supply that is affected? Equally shouldn’t we be sustaining our own energy resources instead of relying on going to the wars this blog was originally about to try and control oil supplies, a resource that is limited and is going to run out eventually. Also do you think it’s appropriate that we blindly ravage the worlds resources, risking destroying entire ecosystems instead of investing in renewables which we are going to have to switch to at some point anyway? Not to mention the benefits of free energy and the global warming problem. If you have not responded to these points previously because of any feelings of guilt or hypocrisy because of your seeming involvement in privatisation, or any other awkwardness, please forget it and just answer honestly. Thank you

        Reply: A spoilt ballot paper is counted and recorded as such. What’s more, all candidates and agents study each spoilt ballot paper to see if it is instead a vote for any candidate, so comments/views which spoil the paper are read by the candidates.
        I do not agree we are going to have to switch to all renewables any time soon, and have set out my views on energy policy many times on this site. Globalisation has lifted many millions out of poverty, and increased opportunity and freedom.

        1. Vigilante teen
          August 1, 2011

          No we may not have to switch to renewables anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. It would benefit everyone with lower bills and more secure energy. Besides, if the government uses taxpayers money to invest in clean energy, they could charge small amounts for the energy, making it affordable for people but also then using the funds raised for further investment or for other spending on health and schools etc. The affects of globalisation I see are taking advantage of desperate people in poorer countries to reduce cost to corporations so they can increase their profits. To decimate industry and jobs in other nations so they are dependant on others. The difference between rich and poor has only grown, the only true beneficiaries of globalization seem to be the corporations who fuel it, and who are able to hold our countries hostage due to our dependance on them. The introduction of the IMF and other such organisations to wage a back door economic war on countries without them even relizing it, stealing their national soverignty by putting them in levels of debt from which they can never escape. Looking at some of this countries most important legal and constitutional documents these actions could be called treasonous, and yet our politicians allow it to continue, even encourage it. Also please allow my comment below to be moderated and viewed publicly, it has even been edited but still not posted, which is frustrating to me.

          1. rose
            August 1, 2011

            I would say the bad effects of globalisation on this country have arisen from left/left wing agendas not liberal/right ones.

            By weakening the concepts of nation and hierarchy, elitism, and education, family and tribe, and above all the honourable and powerful place of women in all of that, the left have ensured that successful companies now go abroad for their labour forces, or bring them in here, cheaper, better trained, and better educated, than the products of the postwar cutural revolution.

            By overtaxation and their attacks on heredity, the left have killed philanthropy and responsibility for local concerns. By consistently opposing enterprise, they have ensured only the most selfish and ruthless prevail, as they did with landlords in the sixties and seventies.

            The Prince of Wales remains an anachronistic example of what enlightened and responsible employers and landlords might have been, had the left not destroyed the conditions in which such attitudes multiplied. The environment has been one of the casualities, and social cohesiveness has been the other.

          2. Vigilante teen
            August 1, 2011

            There is no left and right anymore, just lots of selfish people looking out for themselves and lots of good people being taken in by it and doing what they naively believe to be the right thing to do. The cause of globalisation issues is the big corporations and the politicians in various countries that they pay off and work with or the honest politicians that they manipulate because of the power they now have. We privatise everything, then allow major corporations to create near monopolies for themselves, or too much control, as is the real crime that the recent phone hacking scandal has exposed in the case of the media. A few phones being hacked is sad, a media controlled by a few biased figures that then exert power over politicians and police officers is a tradgedy and a betrayal of democracy. Its the attitude of “super rich corporations and business deserve the truth, control and influence but the people don’t” that’s the issue with globalisation. Look at the bilderberg meetings which george osbourne has attended. It’s more an issue with capitalism as a whole though, the idea that money is all that matters and the only measurement of someones worth. I think we are getting to the point where we are going to have to make a choice between democracy and capitalism, and I choose democracy every time. I wasn’t alive during the cold war so I luckily have not been indoctrinated in the ‘capitalism is the only way’ message that got us to this point and keeps us stuck here. I mean I thought we wanted democracy? Does no one see that when you allow few, often foreign, private corporations to control large parts or all of your media, water and food supply, energy supply, communications infrastructure, and medicine production, as well as buying your arms from over seas your clearly going to have politicians that fear getting on the wrong side of them? Even believe it’s a good system because everyone else is playing a long with it and those that don’t are smeared into being anarchists, communists, terrorists, criminals, or some other big scary word that makes you stop using your critical thinking and just makes you shut off to whatever that person says? No I don’t think that’s the system I want to grow old with, that sees me as a resource for increasing their profits and not as a thinking, feeling human being. Worse yet where I’m viewed as a nuisance because I refuse to turn of my brain and just be taken in by lies and propaganda. We need to become much more self sustainable, on n individual and national level, and we need to slap some rules on these big corporations, and certainly not be afraid of them. I’d rather die free and fighting for my beliefs then be a slave to a deeply corrupt system that values money more than human life and dignity. Seriously I’m 18 and I really don’t understand the ridiculous and often dangerous situations past generations have allowed. So many inspiring words I have read from the last generation, and yet many of their actions are disgusting to me, but not nearly as disgusting as the fact that they seem to want to remain ignorant about it, and encourage my generation to do the same.

          3. rose
            August 1, 2011

            You may call it capitalism if you like, but it is trade that human beings engage in, to get the things they need and want. Money is the simplest way to express their wishes, and the most democratic, as it can be saved. Just think, for instance, how a frail old lady would fare in a system of barter up against strong skilled men in their prime.

            In England there was capitalism (in the marxist sense that the owners of the means of production got ever richer while the workers got ever poorer) in one part of the country, Lancashire, in the 1840s. But it never really took off unfettered.

            If there is no left and right here now, only amoral world trade in which we are at a disadvantage, then that is, as I have said above, because of interventions by the left in the past, which took the former morality and safeguarding structures away, as well as leaving us uncompetitive in terms of education and training, and willingness to work.

            You cannot abolish markets, however unfair you think they are, because human beings can’t live on air.

            But I couldn’t agree with you more: we need to become more sustainable, and more self sufficient. We should concentrate more on cleaning up our own country, and less on interfering with and preaching to the rest of the world. We could have had a little gem of a country to live in, and as an example if anyone wanted to follow it. But we decided instead to import a lot of cheap labour and go for growth. Growth based on artificially increasing the population means more GDP but a lower standard of living all round in the end. And I don’t just mean materially speaking.

    5. uanime5
      July 30, 2011

      Japan has a Self-Defence Force because the USA forbid them to have an army after WW2. They’d didn’t freely decide not to have an army.

      1. rose
        July 30, 2011

        The USA set up the modern Japan very wisely, and it has served them well. Never mind who arranged the conditions for it all, we can still learn from it.

  7. Martyn
    July 29, 2011

    The UK should only consider intervention when directly threatened by another country, either physically or economically or when bound to do so under by treaty – a classic example of which was the UK launching ‘Operation Vantage’ to successfully prevent Iraq from invading Kuwait without a shot being fired by either side.
    Under no circumstances should the UK intervene to impose a change of government as in Libya with the probability of creating yet another disastrous situation such as in Kosovo and Serbia.

  8. Sue
    July 29, 2011

    Firstly, what right have we to intervene in so called “dictatorships”, when we obviously don’t live in a democratic country ourselves?

    Secondly, most of these wars in Arab countries are tribally based and we have absolutely no right to take sides.

    Lastly, we should only be going to war to defend ourselves or our colonies (i.e., Falklands).

    We have no business whatsoever in Afghanistan, Libya or Iran.

    Who do we think we are?

  9. Gary
    July 29, 2011

    War is only cost effective if you can plunder resources worth at least as much as the war costs. War is hugely expensive and money has to be created to finance it. This is inflationary unless the war can claim assets at least equal to its cost. This is why kings turned to money lenders(and kept them close), so that they could get loans to wage war. It is why sound money always was eventually spurned. You cannot easily finance war in a non-inflating sound money system.

    This explains why we only wage war on resource rich countries. It also begs the question , who benefits disproportionately from the spoils of war, and are those people the same people who make the decisions to wage war ? If so , is our army then nothing more than a wealth generating tool of these people ?

    Maj-Gen Smedley Butler seemed to think so in his booklet “War is a Racket”.

  10. Darren
    July 29, 2011

    Another fair comment and post. And this is something I have been saying/asking for years… ‘When shouldn’t we get involved?, ‘Why should we get involved?’

    Perhaps the question ought to have been ‘Can we afford to get involved?’

    I still have trouble trying to understand who thought ‘Libya’ was going to be a good idea and that mileage could be made in the short (conflict) terms for long political terms.

    We are already exposed on one ‘front’. So why, in the heat of massive debt, redundancy, cuts to public spending did somebody think it would be a good idea to open up another one?

    This was supposed to be a short mission. Five months later, what has been achieved? We are almost in a situation where British ‘boots will be on the ground’ though this will be denied, Gaddafi is still in place and from all points of view, it is almost stalemate. We are not allowed to ‘remove’ Gaddafi from his post or achieve regime change, but in my mind that was the only real option of achieving any objective in Libya, whatever they were in the first place, Gaddafi had to go.

    So now what? And what of Gaddafi? The rebels want him to leave, but nobody is allowed to ‘remove’ him…

    and where should he go? Who is going to accomodate that menace? Has William Hague really got a grasp of this situation or is he, like so many of the Conservative Government front-benchers just towing the party schpeel?

    It needs a pragmatsist to start to look at some of these instances where, all too often conflict is entered into in the ‘short term’ without consideration to the ‘long term’.

    Haven’t we been in Afghanistan now for the equivalent of both world wars? In itself, that fact should send shivers…

    But at the end of the, when we are Governed by a Government, that is lead by somebody who wants to be everybody’s mate then we can only expect more this…

    Which is a really shame for us. Why have we not helped in the ‘Arab Spring’ countries in the middle-east yet? A case of selective conscience?

    I think there could be a strong case of ‘short-man-syndrome’ here. We were once an empire. Now we aren’t. Some folks, the few in power have forgotten that we are a little piece of rock that sticks out of the North Atlantic. As a nation, we manufacture very little compared to a few years ago and we are in the teeth of a whirlwind of economic upheaval. Yes we have a worldwide reputation of being helpful and accommodating, but they aren’t always enough to win wars. Or conflicts…

    We have our own, home-grown problems here. And if we cannot sort those out then reralistically how are we going to sort out the problems of others overseas? This may appear to be a dim view, but if we go under, then nobody will get any help from us in the future.

  11. Johnny Norfolk
    July 29, 2011

    I am suprised you have to ask that question. Of course we do, and we need to sort our own country out first.

  12. Vigilante teen
    July 29, 2011

    And to add to my last comment, what we have achieved in Iraq is the slaughter of (many-ed) people, mostly innocent children. Why is the rest of the country not sickened by that being done in our name? What did Iraqi children ever do to us? Why are we supporting the US when they are guilty of (such actions-ed) and are engaging in (questionable-ed) drone wars in places like Pakistan, Yemen and MANY other countries. Why are we not examinig all the evidence that (leads some to question whether-ed) 9/11 was a false flag operation? Not to mention the bits of evidence that make 7/7 look like a similar operation? Don’t dismiss this as cazy talk, I just want fair questions asked and answered in an unbiased and open way. Look at the…. contractors that the US gets to do it’s dirty work, totally unacountable, …. organisations being paid tax money to (do things the contributor dislikes), which would be wrong if they were guilty of a crime, but the fact is most of the victims are wholly innocent anyway. Look at how our media doesn’t demand answers to these big questions, will you John redwood look at these comments and answer these questions? I’ll come back with the evidence for my claims, will you back any answers you give with evidence? Is it really the case that an 18 year old like me can be more informed on the truth of these matters than most of the sheeple of this country? For the sake of this citizens sanity, please get involved in a robust, democratic debate, you John raised the issue, are you actually prepared to get into it? I’ll be watching and waiting.

    Reply: I do not find the conspiracy theories about 9/11 and 7/7 credible. I opposed Guantanamo Bay, urged an early end to the conflicts and spoke against the Afghan and Libyan interventions.

    1. Vigilante teen
      July 31, 2011

      Please just accept this comment, why is it still awaiting moderation? You edit it and STILL don’t post it? Do I not count for freedom of speech when I touch on more contraversial issues, despite the fact that they are the ones that most need to be discussed?

      1. rose
        August 1, 2011

        We all get moderated, and many of us get put on one side, especially if we write at length. Mr R has to be very careful about libel on his blog, and he has to find time to go through all the comments. It amazes me how quick he is. I appreciate his keeping the language moderate, and so may you when you get used to the discipline.

  13. Gary
    July 29, 2011

    Of course, war is NEVER cost effective. People die and that is priceless.

  14. oldtimer
    July 29, 2011

    Going to war is justified in defence of our own territory and when called on to participate by reason of a formal alliance (such as NATO). Beyond that it (ie going to war) amounts to interference in the affairs of another country and is an extreme measure. It then requires certain conditions to be satisfied before embarking on such a war.

    These conditions should include:
    (1) broader but vital national interests are threatened;
    (2) the odds on winning are as favourable as they can be in the uncertain circumstances of war – there is no point in going to war if the odds are stacked against you;
    (3) the necessary support of other countries is there, including a UN resolution that authorises and enables the military means needed to conduct the war effectively (unlike the current Libyan example which has served only to make the Anglo-French initiative look foolish).

    These conditions would significantly limit the scope for military interventions. That would be desirable and in keeping with the UK`s reduced economic and military status in the world. Too often in recent years British Prime Ministers, and some MPs, seemed to believe that they a right to poke their noses into, and to pontificate on, the affairs of other countries. At times this looks to me like displacement activity. They would be better employed concentrating on and dealing with the undoubted problems we face here in the UK.

    1. forthurst
      July 29, 2011

      “Going to war is justified in defence of our own territory and when called on to participate by reason of a formal alliance (such as NATO).”

      Did you mean ‘or’? In my recollection NATO was formed as a mutual defence pact to to keep the Bolsheviks out of the one half of Europe having assisted them with our own blood and treasure to occupy the other. The circumstance of needing to invoke the alliance would have been pretty clear. As the Bolsheviks no longer own Russia, who exactly is charged with ‘calling’ us to battle and with whom and under what circumstances? A mutual defence pact it is not.

      1. oldtimer
        July 30, 2011

        I meant “and”. In principle it is possible for the UK to enter into a mutual defence relationship with a country or countries outside the NATO area.

        My recollection of WW2 is that the UK was at war with Germany before the USSR was involved. Indeed the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-agression pact between the USSR and Germany was signed in August 1939 thereby enabling the parties to carve up Poland and the Baltic states. Stalin foolishly believed it would hold.

  15. Julian
    July 29, 2011

    We should intervene where we have a direct interest. e.g. The Taliban in Afghanistan were directly involved in hosting and supporting Al Qaeda, which had just perpetrated the 9/11 attacks. There were good reasons for us to join the US in dealing with that. It’s a different question whether we should stay there now that Al Qaeda has lost what infrastructure it had. I would say no.

    We should probably intervene where a genocide etc. is occurring, and where there aren’t others better suited (e.g. closer) to intervene. This should be under the auspices of the UN. e.g. The Balkans.

    We should not intervene to help other countries achieve democracy. That should come from within and if external help is required, it should be in other ways than by joining the fighting.

    We should not intervene in Iran because we think it might be developing nuclear weapons. Firstly, it is too tempting for politicians to tell us the threat is real when we have no way of knowing. Tony Blair told us there were things he couldn’t tell us about Iraq’s WMDs but that we should just trust him. He obviously was not aware of any evidence that was too sensitive to be divulged. Or if he was, it was more convincing to him than it would have been to anyone else. Also, the main reasons Iran wants nuclear weapons, if it does, is because Israel has them. It is hypocritical of us to prevent Iran from getting them without attempting to get Israel to abandon theirs.

    We should not have intervened in Libya. A dictatorship threatening to brutally crush a rebellion (if that’s was Gaddafi was doing, but how do we know?) is no reason for us to intervene. Insurgencies need to generate their own momentum and support from nearby friends. Most dictatorships suppress their populations and deny basic human rights but people who don’t make trouble, generally live a relatively normal life. It isn’t our responsibility to come to the aid of those who, knowing the risks, upset their dictators.

  16. Andrew Smith
    July 29, 2011

    Kuwait was justified. Arguably we could have destroyed more of Sadam’s power then and checked his arsenals on the ground.

    Balcaks – I suppose we had to stop the genocide but that was the only justification for anyone going in. Did it have to be UK?

    Iraq(2) was a war too far.

    The ability of Sadam to harass his own people had been controlled entirely from the air so an invasion was not needed. The justification given was surely not believed by anyone.

    Afgan may have been justified to reduce the ability of Al Keida to settle and operate, but the terms of the engagement were too woolly for us to judge. We seem to have allowed that one to grow in range without defining why.

    Libya – we should not be involved in such a vague operation that looks like it will evolve like Afgan into a mess. We had no military capability to bring this to a quick conclusion because we have degraded our military hardware and the men were and are busy elsewhere. An Oman type operation with more or less secret supplies and training of simple equipment to the rebels would have been better IF we had the capability of supporting them from offshore carriers – best say nothing more on that.

    The one place you mention where action was justified, because Brits were being killed, was Zimbabwe. The political class didn’t fancy attacking their very own Marxist experiment and they probably hated the whites for being such good farmers and fair employers.

    1. rose
      July 30, 2011

      It was correct not to go into Iraq itself, just as it was correct not to go into Argentina, once the military objectives had been achieved, which in both cases were to repulse the invader. The people in charge then understood these important distinctions, and what a military objective is. (With Blair and Campbell, the military objective, if it ever existed, seemed to change as they went along.) After the original Gulf War of 1990, a lot of civilian onlookers said we should have gone on and destroyed the Iraqi regime while we were about it, but the pounding those columns of wretched conscripted teenagers had taken from the air already, was sickening to our professional forces, and they would probably not have stood for any more, even if it had been a clever thing to do politically – which it clearly wasn’t.

  17. backofanenvelope
    July 29, 2011

    Looking back over the last 30 years I can see only two wars that were legal. The liberation of the Falklands and the liberation of Kuwait. The rest were conducted according to the whims of our rulers.

  18. MickC
    July 29, 2011

    Yes of course we fought too many wars.

    War is only justified where there is national interest at stake. That means immediate, not remote, national interest.

    The liberation of Kuwait was a national interest because our major ally had effectively guaranteed its independence and we were bound to assist them.

    The second Gulf War had no national interest for the UK-who rules middle eastern states is of no interest to us provided they are not actively (rather than verbally-Iran) hostile to us. No matter who rules they still need to sell their oil.

    The Cold War was won without becoming hot. The United States knew how to play that game, as Britain once did.

    When a moral crusade is invoked to garner support for a war, the results are malign. The greatest example is the Second World war which was sold as a moral crusade but resulted in the bankruptcy of the nation and impoverishment of the people, not to mention the vast increase in the power of the state. An absolute calamity.

  19. Mr Leslie Smith
    July 29, 2011

    We should not invervene – period. Only when our Country is attacked or about to be so, when British lives are at risk should we ever consider military action. Iraq had a million people in the UK protesting in the streets, only to be ignored by Blair. Is this truly a democracy? If you and your fellow politicians at Westminster were risking the lives of your own loved one’s abroad, you all might think again. Violent War is an outdated means of “politics by other means” and should be set aside for strict defence only( similar to Japan) You do not see the French of the Germans leaping into these foreign wars so easily. The present folly in Libya seems to have no exit strategy as our blood, sweat and tears pour away in Afganistan too. Iraq was a turning point for the British People – never trust politicians who are in power, ever again. ( J Redwood excepted)

  20. English Pensioner
    July 29, 2011

    No one seems to ask “If we intervene, what is our objective and what can we achieve?”
    I think there is a clear case for giving assistance when a country has been invaded as there is a clear objective of throwing the invaders out, and thus by these standards the Falklands and Kuwait were acceptable.
    But what was our objective in invading Iraq? Maybe the invasion was justified if it was generally believed that they had weapons which they were proposing to use to attack us, or our allies. But having dealt with the original (non) problem, why did we stay and try and impose a western style democracy on the country?
    Afghanistan is even worse; our objective (presumably) of destroying the Taliban is unlikely ever to be achieved, and even if it were, I am unable to see how this is any advantage to this country. Far better to have used the money to have beefed up our border controls and security.
    I do however believe we had a moral obligation to interfere in Zimbabwe; it was an ex-colony and it was largely political correctness in this country which has allowed Mugabe to wreck a prosperous country and commit genocide by starving whole sections of the population.
    As for Libya, what is the point? Replacing Gadaffi will only result ion another, probably equally nasty, corrupt dictator in due course; you simply can’t impose democracy on countries which are some 500 years behind us in outlook, but which unfortunately have modern weapons.
    Why can’t we be like we be like Switzerland (or even Ireland) and simply keep out of wars. If we want to show an interest in world problems, well Australia and Canada wouldn’t be bad examples to emulate with their minimal involvement! We should put our own security at home and protection of this country as our first priority.

  21. javelin
    July 29, 2011

    What is war? War seems to be changing – post nuclear. War was traditionally tribal, then armies went against each other and got bigger, then we had the cold war. Now super powers in regional conflicts. But really war is about a struggle. It’s about necessary needs – whether safety or resources and the fight for those needs.

    But look at the cold war it wasn’t men on the ground with guns that won the war, it was about money in the bank. The USSR was a socio-economic model that bankrupted itself. I see FEW economic and politicial differences between socialism in Europe and the West world bankrupting itself and the Soviet Union doing the same. The exact same process of bankrupty is being faced now by us as the Soviets faced. A cack-handed attempt at empire building. Big Government that dominated the economy and social engineering on a grand scale.

    The ONLY real difference was that the West and East were rattling their sabres then. But, today, the nuclear weapons and potential for complete destruction ARE still there.

    What is important to understand that if the Cold War was almost identical then we are still in a war. But I use the word war to mean struggle for needs. We are stuggling against the BRIC and Arab countries for our needs.

    We need the oil from the Arab countries. We buy cheap goods and services from the BRIC countries.

    The EU is the new USSR and the USSR imploded economically as a consequence of its ideology. Poor economics is just as damaging as poor military strategy. So what is important is to understand the ideology behind the self-bankrupting process and tackle that. For me the EVIL in the evil empire is that we have lost touch with economic production and personal responsiblity and focused on consumption and social rights and political correctness. Politicians are 100% to blame for this.

    It is not important to fight wars. It is important to be successful and let the other countries use us as a role model for their success. Who wants to reform their country into a Western democracy when it appears that the Western democratic political model ends up with politicans spending too much and bankrupting the country.

    My personal take on the Arab wars is that Islam has an effect on economics because they don’t lend money because of the ban on interest. So this nobbles their economic growth and explains why the Arab world is not full of factories. Sure they can pull oil out the ground. But you would have thought they would invest it in their own countries. But they don’t. They lend it to the West or build houses. Banks need to discover how to foster growth in the Arab world or they will forever be envious and verbally attacking the West for coming to get the oil the west needs for their ideology of consumption.

    To reduce the number of wars you fight, you need to see fighting and economic management as fullfilling the same need. War is economics, economics is war. Becoming successful economically is the same as being successful on the battlefield.

    1. uanime5
      July 30, 2011

      Actually most Arab countries do have banks that lend money, they just don’t charge interest for religious regions.

      Most Arab nations aren’t full of factories because the Ottoman Empire didn’t have an industrial revolution. Also the West didn’t outsource production to the Middle East.

      The problem with oil is that the wealth is used to fund the lifestyle of the ruling elite, rather than develop the economy. Many oil rich countries are dictatorships.

      1. rose
        July 30, 2011

        It sometimes feels a bit like that here, with the financial services class growing ever richer, and the people not listened to by government.

    2. Gordon Neale
      July 31, 2011

      “For me the EVIL in the evil empire is that we have lost touch with economic production and personal responsiblity and focused on consumption and social rights and political correctness. Politicians are 100% to blame for this.”

      The academics who influence politicians are more to blame than the politicians themselves. Academia is the creator of the orthodoxy of political correctness. The indoctrination starts at primary school level. Ethical war-mongers Clinton, Blair, and Cameron are all doctrinaire Oxford PPE graduates. Thatcher (also an Oxford graduate) trashed the manufacturing industries and promoted the “greed is good” consumer culture under the influence of advisers who were academics, such as Milton Friedman… (and John Redwood?).

      What we need now, to get us out of this mess, is a severe dose of common sense heterodox non-academic, not orthodox academic, wisdom.

  22. EJT
    July 29, 2011

    British forces are being remodeled as part of an EU military. It’s what Blair signed up to in St. Malo. And it’s evident from the abandonment of key capabilities that we would require to operate independently N. Africa and the ME are the EU’s near-abroad. It will involve itself there periodically to demonstrate its power. Parliament exercised minimal scrutiny of a weak, sound-bite level case made for involvement in Libya.

    Can we please stop pretending that things are otherwise ? Then, as a people, we can make an honest decision whether we wish to be part of this (the EU) or not.

  23. Brian Hargreaves
    July 29, 2011

    We should only intervene if our security is in danger.

  24. Martin Adamson
    July 29, 2011

    I think you missed out the obvious one, which your colleagues neglected to ask 5 months ago – “Can we win?”

  25. rose
    July 29, 2011

    Falklands and Kuwait, yes. Clearcut casus belli each time, and point necessarily and successfully made. The rest, no.

    It all went wrong when the wrong people got into power because of that idiotic maxim “Time for a change”, and concocted their crass concept “An ethical foreign policy.” They got away with it to begin with because Clinton was in on it too, and the BBC/CNN axis is always pro Democrat. Having squared the press etc over Kosovo, Campbell thought he could play the same trick again – but he forgot that you can’t get CNN or the BBC to support a Republican President. Even if the British partner is a socialist.

    I should like a little attention paid to the wrongheadedness of the Kosovan war, and some examination of its legacy. To find it, one has to go to the more remote corners of cyberspace, and occasionally RT, but even there it is very sketchy. If Campbell, Clinton, and Blair hadn’t got away with Kosovo, the other follies would not have ensued.

    1. rose
      July 29, 2011

      PS I have deliberately left Bosnia as a grey area, from the time of the grey men.

  26. MajorFrustration
    July 29, 2011

    Historically it does appear that when our ego tripping politicians insert our troops between two warring factions it seem by this action we make oursleves the common enemy – Israel 1940s – Cyprus 1950s – Ireland 1980s. Perhaps we should try the ploy of leaving the combatants to fight themselves to a standstill.
    We have spread oursleves too thinly and no longer have the resouces to act as a policing nation, after all we have enough problems at home for the time being.

  27. Matt
    July 29, 2011

    If a war is worth taking on then it must be worth throwing everything into it.

    You don’t put down timelines – imagine if when we’d gone into Afghanistan, we’d stated that come what may, we were leaving by date x – it would have been regarded as stupid, but now that we’re in it this is exactly what we are doing. (Difference is everyone is looking for the exit door)

    Afghanistan seems to be pointless; here we are wishing that we hadn’t piled in, now we’re calling time. A slow retreat to save face, a haste to hand over the reins to the Kabul regime, though everyone knows that the possibility of this working must be remote.

    Libya- an outsider just looking at our actions must wonder – first our PM pays homage to their leader on Libyan soil, after all he’s given up his delinquent past, the colonel is now our friend.

    Trade deals are forthcoming, the Lockerbie bomber released.

    Then we join forces with a band of Benghazi rebels to overthrow “The evil tyrant”
    No guarantee that the rebels will still be our best friends after the summer holidays.

    The poor colonel must be confused. Maybe he has posted on the side of his tent that old Arab saying “Better to be an enemy of the British than their friend….”

    As the Libyan campaign isn’t concluded within four months the UK government starts to backtrack – The dictator must be overthrown, but if there’s nice little retirement tent somewhere. He can stay on.

    A downside in all of this is the lack of trust that the electorate will have in the political class when the next war is called.

    Then there’s Iraq, Northern Ireland..

  28. James Matthews
    July 29, 2011

    I don’t really know the answers to those questions, The Falklands and Kuwait interventions seem to me to have been entirely right, Iraq and Afghanistan, though badly planned and executed politically, may yet turn out to have been so.
    What does seem clear is that you shouldn’t get into wars half-heartedly. Government and population must be prepared to pay the moral, human and financial prices necessary to win. Most of our post war actions have been half-hearted, with, since the late nineteen fifties, governments being freed from the necessity of taking public opinion with them by the luxury of a wholly professional army. It does not seem to have been a recipe for success.

  29. Freeborn John
    July 29, 2011

    There has been a reduction in the number of aggressive states attacking their neighbours these last 50 years such that the traditional self-defence rationale for ‘just’ war has been on the wane. This is almost certainly due to the spread of democracy with voters curbing the instincts of those inclined to enter politics to reshape the world. Only North Korea remains today as a bellicose state with a leadership impervious to the popular will, but fortunately it is also a relatively weak state where the prospect of likely military defeat acts as deterrent . Of your examples only Kuwait and the Falklands could be classified as an example of taking action to reverse the aggressive invasion of one state by another.

    Indeed if anything, it has been the Anglo-Americans who have more recently over-stepped the bounds of a just war, and in the case of Iraq attacked a state which was not at the time tacking another, nor committing Rwanda-style genocide against its own people (though Sadaam Hussein had 10 years before attacked the Marsh Arabs while the West turned a blind eye). The lesson from Iraq and Afghanistan is I think is that we (the Anglo-Americans) reacted over emotionally after the September 11 attacks, and were motivated by a primitive revenge motive when entering Afghanistan in pursuit of Bin Laden. We then (with the benefit of hinsight) made a yet more serious error with George W Bush being perhaps the first American president to act as a belligerent in starting an unjust war against Iraq and the UK government following an American leadership which had for the first time in that nation’s history lost its moral compass.

    If the traditional recourses to just war have been on the decline, there has been a countervailing trend with the rise of ‘liberal intervention’ motivated by the desire to protect a people not from another state, but from their own government when it has turned the power of the state to protect the politicians from the own population. If all states were democracies, then the interests of a government and people should be aligned, so hopefully as the democratic nation-state continues to spread in North Africa and elsewhere one will see this motivation towards intervention decline. Rwanda is the classic example that liberal intervention is required when the alternative is the loss of large numbers of lives. Zimbabwe is my opinion is an example of bad and even brutal government but not genocidal government. Libya is a difficult one to call; Gadaffi made clear he would attack his own people, but one feels that Sarkozy and possibly William Hague have used this as a pretext for seeking regime change. The difficulty is that the only long-term sustainable way to prevent a dictator like Gadaffi from using state power to protect himself from an uprising by his people is regime change. I feel he should be told that democracy must be introduced into Libya and he can run for office in free and fair elections overseen by outside observers. If he wins a popular mandate then we should exit.

    I don’t think the UN always gets it right. The problem again is insufficient numbers of democracies among its members. But in some cases even prominent democracies have too often put their narrow advantage ahead of what is right, and ‘sold’ their votes or even vetoes or even pursued policies like ‘Oil for Food’ which hint at corruption. What the UN does bring is a degree (all be it imperfect) of legitimacy which the Great Powers acting unilaterally or in small coalitions could not. However what the Great Powers on the UNSC bring and which is essential is the only thing on Earth – overwhelming military power – which in the final analysis is capable of deterring a Hitler like leader of a major power. For this second reason the world does need the UNSC and the lesson of the League of Nations is it needs a small core of veto-holidng countries. If the UK wants to be one of those countries, then it needs both the military capability and global responsibility to use it wisely both to reverse acts of aggression like the invasion of Kuwait and to intervene in the internal affairs of a rogue-state to prevent government-backed genocides of its own citizens as in Rwanda.

  30. Anne Palmer
    July 29, 2011

    Do we fight too many Wars? Winston Churchill would have given you a great answer to that question. The main Wars or fights we should and must undertake is when such as the Falkland Island are invaded. It is not shall we, or can we afford it. it is our DUTY to go to their aid.

    Defence of our Country is THE MOST IMPORTANT JOB ANY BRITISH GOVERNMENT TO DO-if our present Government can no longer do that, they should stand down and let some-one else govern.. Just look at what the Coalition Government is doing to our defence. Yes, we are told that we haven’t even enough money left to “firm up” support for our own troops, in fact, we can’t even afford to pay nor keep our own troops so numbers are being cut to almost the size of a Scout Troop.

    If it is being down-sized to fit in with the EU how will our British forces reconcile that with their Oaths of Allegiance to the British Crown? Or more to the point how will it fit in with the Loyal and true Oaths of Allegiance made by those MP’s who might wish to see EU Forces which includes the Brits? See the laws on treason.

    I still find it difficult to understand when we are so ‘broke’ many are losing their jobs, they homes etc, we have enough money to throw away on a foreign organisation to govern this Country while we are still foolishly pay two, full to the Brim Houses in Parliament-all of YOU keeping your jobs as if YOU ALL were still governing our Country according to its long-standing Common law Constitution. Perhaps it is time for one or the other to go, don’t you think? You see, this Coalition Government is only implementing EU Legislation-the Localism Bill, the HS2 etc-so what should the people do? They cannot go along accepting governance direct by foreigners can we-that is treason- that is why the European Communities Act 1972 came into being so that UK Governments could transpose EU laws into the UK.

    Repudiate all EU Treaties-free this Country and there will be plenty of money for our Defence then.

  31. Javelin
    July 29, 2011

    I know this is off topic but please read this bit of research from Tullett Prebon

    It vindicates everything said on this site.

    Thinking the unthinkable – might there be no way out for Britain?
    Project armageddon – the final report

    It is very realistic about UK PLC …

    “The reality is that the cupboard is
    bare where macroeconomic policy is
    concerned. Massive stimulus, totalling
    £590bn and equivalent to 40% of GDP,
    has been tried, and has failed to deliver
    any growth at all. Interest rates are
    already at rock-bottom. Fiscal stimulus
    looks impossible with Britain boxed in
    to a high-debt, low-growth trap”

    The reality, moreover, is that published
    numbers very materially understate
    true indebtedness (fig. 1). For a start,
    public debt on the stricter Maastricht
    Treaty definition (on which the debts
    of Eurozone members such as Greece
    and Ireland are judged) is already £1.11
    trillion, or 75% of GDP. And, according
    to the ONS, debt including the effects
    of financial sector interventions now
    stands at £2.24 trillion (147% of GDP).

    But if, as we strongly suspect, there is
    not, then this may be the end of the
    road, and there really may be no way
    out for Britain.
    Dr Tim Morgan
    Global Head of Research
    Tullett Prebon plc

  32. Kal Kahm
    July 29, 2011

    “What have we and our allies achieved by Middle Eastern intervention in the last decade? What is the right pace of disengagement?”

    Nothing and immediately. Illegality and immorality are wrong and should be stopped instantly.None of these countrys threatened Britain in any way amd starting wars merely to further political ends is evil.

  33. Stephen
    July 29, 2011

    Each instance you mention had its own particular characterisics. The next potential intervention we consider, may be like one of these or may raise different characteristics all of its own. I am doubtful how helpful the past is as a guide to the future, but to follow you train of thought…

    You also have to balance the cost (both human, financial and diplomatic) against the benefit. With hindsight Iraq (no WMD) is the most questionable and Kuwait (a ‘quick’ war against a foreign invader) and the Balkans (too close to home for massacres and concentration camps) the least. Dealing with Al Qaeda training base in Afghanistan started off as a reasonable basis for intervention, but as the war has dragged on with little obvious signs of progress, it has become more questionable. I am doubtful of the value of our presence prior to the arrival of the US marines in Helmand.

    In looking at the cost vs the benefit of intervention, it is not just about whether or not we intervene it is also about how capable we are of doing so successfully. Both Iraq and Afghanistan look to have been badly managed and Libya increasingly so.

    Yes you can say we should intervene less, but it may still be better at times to do so and I do worry that the point is being missed that we need to be far better at it to keep the interventions shorter and less costly, when it is needed.

  34. Robert George
    July 29, 2011

    We should defend ourselves and tailor our foreign policy to what we are capable of defending. Anything more than that is a foolish pretence.

    If we limited our foreign policy and our defence capabilities to our 200 mile economic zone that would reflect the reality we live in.

    We fought bravely for the Falklands but it needs another brave leader to recognize that it is now in Britain’s interest to give them up along with the other sentimental attachments to a long lost empire.

  35. Robbo
    July 29, 2011

    “There are limits to how much influence you can have or should want to have over how government works in distant countries.”

    As an individual there are ethical ways to influence how government works in distant countries – eg discourse, argument, publications. There are also unethical ways – eg bribery, violence, deception. Additional methods are available to governments, including trade sanctions, diplomacy, treaties, and use of transnational bodies such as EU, UN, IMF, World Bank, IPCC etc. Some of these can be used ethically as well as unethically.

    My own view is that a great deal of outside intervention is unethical – that is to say governments do things which would be judged unethical if done by individuals – and also unproductive or counter-productive. You have to wonder whether some of the failing states in the world would actually sort themselves out if they were not subject to a barrage of money and associated pressure to do this or refrain from doing that.

    So, to reply to the OP. Yes, too many wars. Wars to defend the country´s territory (which includes the Falklands) are definitely OK. Wars to support other countries in defending their territory have to be looked at on a cost benefit basis, so WW1 = No, WW2 = No, Korea = No, Iraq1 (Kuwait) = just about Yes, Kosovo= maybe. Wars for other reasons (Afghanistan, Libya) = No.

    The other advantage of this policy would be that our armed forces could focus on purpose, rather than having to be ready to do more or less anything, anywhere, anytime, which is ruinously costly in equipment, manpower, training, etc. as well as tying up a lot of manpower and brain power which could otherwise be doing something productive.

  36. libertarian
    July 29, 2011

    Yes, very much so.

  37. John Slinger
    July 29, 2011

    Interesting article. For an interesting article about liberal interventionism after Iraq, in a new pamphlet – Pragmatic Radicalism: Ideas from Labour’s New Generation – please see here Yes, this is a ‘Labour’ (although not party-sanctioned) pamphlet, but I for one am interested in broadening debates beyond narrow party lines, especially on something as important as intervention.

  38. Neil Craig
    July 29, 2011

    International Law is clear on the matter. Soverign nations are sovereign and, except possiblyto prevent genocide, attacking them is a war crime.

    Kuwait is soverign in International Law and the Falklands are under British sovereignty so defencing them was right. Afghanistan was a response to an attack on the USA’s sovereignty and so was moral, though whether there is any point in still being there years later is questionable.

    The war against Yugoslavia was fought despite our guarantee in the Helsinki treaty, to respect Yugoslav sovereignty and was wrong on that basis. The same applies to Libya.

    If we don’t respect the rule of law or our treaty obligations we cannot hope others will, nor that any other country is going to trust any other treaty promises we make. We are effectively saying that force not law is the final arbiter.

    “William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
    Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
    William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
    Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!” – A Man for All Seasons

    I do not think Britain could stand upright in the sort of world EU style government which is the only alternative to soverignty.

    There is also the fact that Britain currently faces zero conventional military threats. Peace is not lightly to be thrown away.

    Finally if we are going to go off bombing Johnny Foreigner so that Prime Ministers can pose in front of pictures of city bombing we should be very careful that we are not on the Devil’s side. Certainly in the Yugoslav wars we were continously on the side of (questionable characters-ed) (the Croatian & Bosnian Moslem leaders and some members of the KLA) publicly engaged in (unpleasant violence-ed). British politicians who do that are not in any way better than (the)foreigners (they support-ed). It would re-establish our credentiials for integrity and be very much in the national interest if we brought British politicians against whom there is a clear case for (illegal acts-ed), to trial before telling the rest of the world what to do.

  39. Norman Dee
    July 29, 2011

    Like our presence in Europe, “WE” are not involved, nobody asks “US” . There are wars we should be in and those we shouldn’t, Tony Blair and George Bush fabricated the Iraq war, that was a no. Something had to be done, but the revenge mission that Blair allowed us to be conned into was wrong. Afghanistan would be a not unreasonable war if our men were not fighting and dying for a corrupt Kabul that will stab us in the back the minute the money stops. Zimbabwe is somewhere we should be, as for Sierra Leone, however any action there will mean fighting the rest of the corrupt OAS which will be another disaster.
    North Korea and Iran with potential Nuclear status are a world wide problem, that will fall to the same people to sort out while the rest of the world moans about it
    We are primates we attack and kill our own species nothings ever going to stop that, control is the best we can hope for.

  40. Bernard Otway
    July 29, 2011

    I would say that in my opinion I think our people in the Foreign Office ,based on 28 years observing them in Africa don’t know their A from their elbow,consequently the advice available to the PM of the day and cabinet PLUS MP’s is not good enough to make decisions on.Additionally our idea of Democracy only fits a very few countries ,and in fact in my opinion,we are not even democratic ourselves,except for the 5 week run up to a GE,after which
    parliament ignores what we want ie the EU issue,capital punishment and too many more to mention,I think we have an elected dictatorship,so to want to foist our so called democracy onto all and sundry is Arrogant.On this basis we should stay out of conflicts
    and only talk,in the hope we might be listened to,in Africa I have watched the Chinese run rings around our people because of the stupid diplomats,the Chinese are HARD HARD HARD but no one calls them (bad things -ed),as they would not dare,our people COWER in fear of this word being used,and as for the “C” word [Colonialism] they run away in abject TERROR. Yet China has actually recolonised Africa under it’s own terms,let hard arsed business types and particularly EXPATS like me with 28 years experience ON THE GROUND 24 hours a day 365 days a year give the advice. As I have said before my stepchild was the main witness in the biggest Post Apartheid trial involving politicians
    NO ONE has my knowledge in the FO I repeat NO ONE.

    1. Winston's Black Dog
      July 29, 2011

      The role of the Foreign Office is to help foreigners isn’t it?

      It doesn’t seem to be too bothered about British people from where I’m standing.

  41. forthurst
    July 29, 2011

    “What have we and our allies achieved by Middle Eastern intervention in the last decade?” Strengthened Israel by weakening its ‘enemies’ and the odd thing is that it is never part of the ‘coalition of the willing’, at least not officially.

    One might imagine that the component of the PPE course relating to Moral Philosophy now incorporates the concept of ‘doublethink’ to justify our extraordinary concern for the ‘Human Rights’ of some of the most rebarbative individuals whilst present in this country, who apparently cannot be deported despite being a present threat to us as well as being wanted for crimes and the conspiracy to commit crimes in their own countries, but were they to be in their own country, we would have no qualms about killing them or entirely innocent members of the civilian population with absolutely no judicial procedure to establish their individual or collective guilt (if the latter could ever exist).

    We invaded Afghanistan on the basis of assertions about the ‘guilt’ of Osama bin Laden for being the 9/11 mastermind whom the Taliban would not hand over without clear evidence of his guilt which of course, as it did not exist, was not forthcoming. Since then it has transpired that (someone else named-ed) was in fact the mastermind but it took him …. waterboarding to jog his memory on that score. As far as I recall, we in this country abandoned torture for achieving self-incriminatory confessions in Mediaeval times, but now we have no qualms about handing over individuals to the USA knowing (that there are concerns about their treatment etc-ed) the US in Guantanamo or subject to more life threatening techniques by one of their surrogates elsewhere.

    We created a failed state in the Balkans by partioning it from Serbia on the basis of lies and it looks like we will be doing the same in Libya at the very most; meanwhile, the Afghanistan war is ongoing and we are facing the prospect of a Russian style exit.

    Instead of spending a large part of his time discussing ‘current affairs’ with the Murdoch organisation, perhaps Cameron should sort out a few of his dilemmas with his erstwhile professor of Moral Philosphy? Failing that he might find someone else who could give him guidance on what is the ‘British Interest’ so that he can distinguish it from crawling up the backside of some disgusting big or little country. .

  42. Electro-Kevin
    July 29, 2011

    We should only ever intervene when it is in our national interest. Whether a war is in national interest ought to be subject to rigorous tests and intense parliamentary scrutiny – unless it is in response to an imminent and direct threat.

    We don’t elect leaders to fight wars on behalf of other peoples on matters of pure conscience nor to bolster their personal standing.

    Alas it isn’t like this and so phone-hacking causes far more uproar in Parliament than the infinitely more sinister and wicked ‘dodgy’ dossier.

  43. lojolondon
    July 29, 2011

    The price of engagement is very high. Even the ‘winners’ never thank us, we always have a black mark against our name. And it is hypocritical to only attach where you think you can win easily and profit from oil, like Iran, Afghanistan etc. The answer is to turn a blind eye – as we do in Korea, Cambodia, China, Zimbabwe etc.

  44. Barry Reed
    July 29, 2011

    Yes we do fight too many wars, and one has been an illegal war that has cost us dearly in both monetary terms and lives?
    We were the led into a war in Afghanistan which we should never have gone into, if we are there for a hundred years the outcome will be the same, the Taliban will take over once more, the MOD do not even know how much it is costing the UK, and if we do start leaving in 2015 our troops will be in even more danger, unless we pull them all out!
    We should have defended the Faulkland Isles, but I feel sure more could have been done to protect them from being invaded in the first place!
    Regarding the Aircraft Carriers, it would appear no one in the MOD has any idea, we have now decided we need steam catapults, have we changed our mind on the Joint Strike VTOL aircraft.
    At present we are in great danger of not being able to protect ourselves for the next ten years, we should have at least kept the Harriers and one Aircraft Carrier, and kept out of a Civil War in Libya

  45. Jamess
    July 29, 2011

    It is worth going back to the christian doctrine of Just War. Which means that Falklands was right, but probably every war waged by Britain in my life time was wrong.

    1. Conrad Jones (Cheam)
      July 30, 2011

      I would argue that the Falklands – which I remember well; could have been avoided if the Royal Navy hadn’t been ordered to withdraw it’s presence which resulted in an opportunity for the Argentinian Regime to attack.

  46. Andrew
    July 29, 2011

    Beware of the expression “…distant countries..”, –you will know of Chamberlain’s expression re the Nazi demands of Czechoslovakia before the Munich debacle “…faraway country of which we know little .. etc”.

    Afghanistan was geographically distant maybe until 9/11.

    When do we intervene ? Surely when homeland freedoms and democratic principles are genuinely under threat.

    1. rose
      August 1, 2011

      Enoch Powell said you cannot defend values, only territory. That is where we have gone wrong.

  47. cosmic
    July 29, 2011

    In the case of the 2nd Iraq War, we had a PM telling lies and subverting the intelligence services, for motives which appeared to be self-aggrandisement. The thinking went no further than, “Shock and Awe, ridding the world of a terrible tyrant, tanks advancing into Baghdad over a carpet of thrown roses, everyone lives happily ever after”. No thought was given to what would come after.

    What I see lacking is any attempt to assess these military actions in the normal way any risky, costly venture would be approached by anyone with any sense, and questions asked.

    What’s the objective? How likely is it to be achieved? What would it look like? Is it worth having?

    What’s the probability of failure? What are the consequences of failure?

    Do we have the money, ships and men to direct to this end? Are there better ways the investment could be made?

    I see none of these questions being asked, and too much of PMs posturing and sabre rattling.

    The recent Libyan adventure is a clear example.

  48. Winston's Black Dog
    July 29, 2011

    As Richard North states on his excellent EU Referendum Site Regime Change Starts At Home.

    Who are we, seriously, to moralise about the undemocratic nature of countries like Libya and Iraq when we are governed by an undemocratic or, as Peter Mandelson (I believe) would say, post democratic EU? Even if there is a way of justifying Libya and Iraq why not Zimbabwe, as others here have said, where a minority part of the population has also been abused by a totalitarian regime?

    In short sheer bloody hypocrisy by all three main political parties and the lives of young men have been needlessly sacrificed so Blair and Cameron, in particular, can have vanity photo opportunities and play “THE BIG SERIOUS STATESMAN.”

    An even greater hypocrisy and irony is that Cameron is doing his utmost to make the UK totally EU dependent by removing its sovereign capacity to defend itself (all in the interests of being a “good European” and paving the way to an EU Army of course) whilst simultaneously exposing us to external threats presumably so the EU can justify removing yet more civil liberties.

    Doubtless this will not be published just like my post on the NHS thread.

    The only wars we should engage in are those where we or our colonies are directly under attack eg The Falklands.

  49. Mr Leslie Smith
    July 29, 2011

    Our Government should finally learn the hard lesson that in life, you do not change the hearts and minds of others. You can only ever hope to truly change yourself.

  50. Conrad Jones (Cheam)
    July 30, 2011

    Defence spending should be what it says on the tin, spending to DEFEND our sovereignty and our borders.

    What we are actively involved in now is offensive spending, spending money to attack Countries that have not threatened our borders and have not aggressively attacked our people. This is War spending.

    When Germany bombed our Cities and threatened to invade our soveriegn territory, we were justified in an all out fight to the death to defend ourselves. Death or Victory was not unreasonable. For those War mongerers and Bankers out there who would disagree, ask yourself this question – would YOU lay down YOUR life, YOUR Son’s life or YOUR Daughter’s life in the attack on Libya? This is – afterall – a violent act, and act of desperation and an act which results in the death of yourself or others. I would not. Libya has not attacked my Country and has not harmed any of my Countrymen. I do not pretend to understand Libyan Culture nor the Libyan Government, but I do find it strange that there have been rumours of Al Qaeda amongst the Rebels – why are we defending Al Qaeda? They are the enemy – or have people forgotten 9/11 already?

    Is the threat of a Libyan led North African Currency backed by Gold, possibly leading to an epidemic of other Oil Producing Nations fleeing the Dollar for their own Gold backed currency in exchange for Oil thereby causing a US Dollar (Petrodollar) collapse leading to econimic chaos in the United States and the rest of the World justification for the sacrifice of human life, extension of what would have been a short lived Civil unrest in Libya. If so, then why don’t the Political Leaders state this?

    Getting involved in so many invasions of other people’s sovereign Nations devalues our own principles and reduces the likelihood that when we are really threatened by a Country, that we will be incapable of responding as who will believe our Politicians then.

  51. Mark
    July 30, 2011

    We had causus belli with Libya 25 years ago and more when they were financing, supplying and training terrorists operating in the UK and developing unpleasant weapons. Despite the murder of Yvonne Fletcher, and perhaps because of military realism following the Falklands, the most we could do was to provide Reagan with a base to bomb Gaddafi.

    There was a reasonable excuse to go into Afghanistan in hot pursuit of al Qaeda after 9/11 in which 67 Britons were killed, but probably not long after Tora Bora there was no further point in being there, the objective of flushing them out of the country having been met even if pinning down bin Laden had failed.

    It remains a mystery that governments continue to allow large levels of immigration from areas of the world that supply terrorists who attack us in our own country – a tactic that would surely have been considered quite mad if we had allowed similar immigration from say Russia during the Cold War.

    Waging war on moral grounds rather than in response to attacks on Britons is a luxury that we can ill afford.

  52. sm
    July 30, 2011

    Democracy – should decide if a war should be fought or more likely continued – the role of parliament should be to act as a check on the executive. Particularly if we are not facing an immediate, present and existential threat.

    We may have failed in this respect , and we should ensure this is fixed.

    We need to match our political demands to our military reality and political will to actually allow the military to do it or refuse to do it if it is not possible. We should not over-commit and under resource.
    I still remember shocking articles on lack of helicopters etc -(things which could be bought off the shelf from the US or other allies). How many lives would that have saved? Not to mention avoidable firefights.

    I forsee a role for nation building but really tactical and operational nation building should be handed to the locals to achieve. When we are gone they will be there.

    We need to think more about defense of our borders and who is allowed to reside here. We should reconcile our lack of control on these with our national security.

    In short get back our representative democracy and take it from there.

  53. APL
    July 30, 2011

    JR: “Do fight too many wars.”

    Is the Pope Catholic?

    1. Robert Taggart
      August 1, 2011

      In answer to your question – yes, aye !
      Just a thought… was it not our country’s wars (and subsequent victories) over ‘Rome’ (and their henchmen of that time – the Spanish) that gave us our insatiable appetite to take on others further afield ? (beyond Scotland, Ireland, France.)

  54. Robert Taggart
    August 1, 2011

    We fight too many wars. We have too many military commitments.
    We join too many world quangos. We have too many world commitments.
    ‘We’ = the political class on this island.
    Question. The Palace of Westminster – our country’s finest building, but, it was built in an age of imperial dominance and was an act of architectural bravado. Does this building have an unhealthy effect on the mindset of its ‘inhabitants’ ? !

  55. Quietzapple
    August 1, 2011

    It’s a smaller world, John.

    After the second Iraq War we avoided wars vs N Korea and Libya over wmds because we wouldn’t stand for Saddam’s nonsense and Kim and Gaddafi whose threat was not clear decided to negotiate after their fashions. I doubt future WMD junkies will take the lesson of Iraq as clearly as Libya did: Cameron’s fault and becoming more grievious by the day.

    In 1964 or so I advocated liberation of Tibet. Those who do so now are mad.

    Action against Zimbabwe’s dictator as he was would not have been supported by neighbouring countries just as action against Smith would have been opposed by south Africa.

    Afghanistan is no longer the venemous source of terrorism here it once was: the UK is in the low thirties when it comes to deaths from terrorism/000,000 praise The Lord and principally Blair and Brown who listened to their civil servants and military for no thanks.

    I’m glad that Robin Cook brought in an ethical element to Uk foreign policy: glad it did not exclude wise opposition to islamo fascism: glad that as Blair told Chilcott and I told C I F some gets previously that Saddam’s ambitions were not left to serve Al Queda’s purposes.

    Much might have been much worse.

    Our British dead did not die in vain.

    We have been more circumspect than in imagined.

    As Kant wrote: Thou Shalt.

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