Sunday, January 26, 2003
Exit Strategy - 26th January 2003, 15.54

Sometimes, one comes across a new site like and all one can ask is "Why bother?" examining its aims. They call themselves independent, neutral and openminded - in their support for a campaign of social justice and resisting the supposed onslaught of globalisation. A standard transnationalist website, masquerading under a banner of impartiality, and giving some indication as to why the BBC now interprets its charter as an authority to report stories in opposition to the perceived ideological bias of the capitalist press.

On this website, Paul Rogers, Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University and opendemocracy's International Security Editor, constructs a scenario where the United Kingdom government could withdraw from a military commitment to 'regime change' in Iraq without damaging its international standing. Rogers presents a 'worst-case scenario', including the deaths of thousands of civilians, the use of weapons of mass destruction, the environmental damage caused by an inevitable destruction of artesian oil wells around Basra and the expansion of 'second' fronts in Israel and Saudi Arabia. How the Iraqi army, reduced to skeletal structures since 1991 will achieve this, is not explained.

Rogers also states that the United Kingdom government should take account of community relations here in regard to its foreign policy, making a dubious connection between one BNP election and a supposed rise in anti-Islamic feeling amongst the British working class. Inferred alongside this conflict are possible race riots involving Muslim communities from Bangladesh and Pakistan. One could conclude from this that Rogers supports any foreign policy action or stance that might antagonise minority communities in the United Kingdom. Presumably, we should have just handed Ulster back to the Republic of Ireland but, of course, Protestants may have started rioting in Glasgow.

The war may also disable the government's current public spending expansion because of the expenditure required. This weak argument merely displays the political bias of the author and can be dismissed since foreign policy decisions should always be undertaken without being dominated by the domestic needs of the particular party in power at that time. Rogers only cites this argument because he supports the domestic policy. If a Tory government went to war, he would no doubt argue that the expenditure should be diverted to the welfare state.

The process by which a British exit strategy from military commitment could take place is quoted below:

In the event that Washington proceeds towards regime termination in early February by military means, Britain could choose to intervene with support for an EU initiative to bring together high-level Iraqi, US, EU, Russian and regional officials (at cabinet rank) to investigate alternatives including internal Iraqi leadership exile and the establishment of a UN-facilitated process of regime change.

Rogers argues that such an action could be undertaken "That would no doubt precipitate a crisis in Anglo–American relations – but, though grave, it might still be on a far smaller scale than the Euro–American crisis developing alongside.". Thus are the ideological underpinnings of Roger's argument laid bare. The fate of the Iraqis under an "internal Iraqi leadership exile" is clear for all to see - a continuation of the Ba'athist regime with all of the accoutrements of power that cow the population. Where would Saddam go? A nice little holiday villa in Basra, perhaps. Whereas, Britain should detach itself from America and ensure that it is aligned with European foreign policy.

Is this in our national interest? Under Rogers' scenario, the US would probably go ahead anyway: establish bases in Iraq, control most of the oil supply in the Middle East which the EU relies upon and view the relationship with ourselves in a cold light detrimental to our concerns. As an added bonus, we would lose our sovereignty to Europe.

Our forces are now committed to this war and the damage that would be caused to our standing and credibility with the US through a unilateral withdrawal at this late stage of the game outweighs the lack of gains from the only possible alternative that Labour would adopt: closer ties with Europe. The only exit strategy that Britain should now be considering is the one that leads out of Europe.


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