Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Where Does Gordon Brown Land On Iraq War?

Ian Davidson, adviser to the European Policy Centre in Brussels, [source: SF Gate] asks who Gordon Brown is - and wonders, as many of us do, where he will land on the controversial issue of the Iraq war. Will Brown continue on Blair's path and be a limpet-redux or will he be his own man and face the bitter reality to which Tony Blair would never admit - that Blair's decision to stand too close to a very naive and manipulative, hyperfocused Washington DC administration resulted in a disaster for not only Great Britain, but also for the Middle East? Blair may feel self-satisfaction in making up for his great mistake in his new task as envoy to the Middle East, but he's left Gordon Brown with a dilemma. Brown must be grateful in a public way for Blair handing him this leadership opportunity, but at the same time, he must decide what that means in terms of the future of his own leadership and the value of his own nation's trust. The eyes of the British people - and the world - are on Gordon Brown. Personally, I pray for him to make the wisest decisions for his nation's future and international reputation.

The worst part of Blair's legacy, of course, is the war in Iraq. Many people predicted, and everyone can now see, that the decision to invade was a disastrous error; that it is having catastrophic consequences, not just for Iraq but also for the Middle East generally; and that it has seriously damaged the moral standing of the United States and Britain. The most critical issue facing Brown is whether he chooses to distance himself from Blair's self-satisfied and delusional claim that the invasion of Iraq was "the right thing to do."

Britain has already reduced its forces in southern Iraq and is on course to reduce them still further as it hands over "security" to the Iraqi police and military. In reality, of course, the civil and guerrilla war under way in the rest of Iraq means that any security in the south can only be a temporary illusion. The choice facing Brown is whether to cling silently to the existing policy, in the futile hope that the problem will go away, or explicitly recognize Britain's share in the disaster.

This is partly a question of what to do now in Iraq, but it is also a question of Britain's relationship with the United States. With hindsight, it is clear that Britain's participation in the Iraq war was driven solely by Blair's determination to stick, limpet-like, to Washington.

Brown believes, and has said, that Britain must always be close friends with America, and obviously that is the right thing to believe and say. But is he prepared to make clear that there is a difference between being close friends and going into an illegal and disastrous war just to please George W. Bush?

So far, there is no indication that he will. While he has publicly regretted the errors in British intelligence about Saddam Hussein, that is merely a way of shifting the blame from the government to the intelligence services. But it was not the intelligence services that decided to go to war. It was Tony Blair, with the support of Gordon Brown.


In a recent Guardian article we see a plea for Brown to set his nation on a clearer path regarding the Iraq War:

Gordon Brown's new government has to find a form of words that acknowledges Britain's role in creating - unintentionally - the conditions for instability, civil war and mayhem. It has to find not just the will to disengage over time (such a will already exists) but the language to convince listeners that this is now the government's settled purpose. Such an approach would not extirpate the terrorist cause in Britain, but it would be a start in altering the conditions in which terrorists recruit. It would also be morally and historically right.


Brown told Parliament today Britain will set up a new National Security Council to send out "a clear message" of vigilance. Brown said the new group would regularly publish a national security strategy, setting out potential threats. The group would guarantee "at all times we will be vigilant and we will never yield," he said. [see AP report, Baltimore Sun]