Tuesday, February 11, 2003
A Confident Response - 11th January 2003, 20.23

Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary, made a confident speech to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, reiterating the government's case for war with Iraq. His confidence lay with the decisive repudiation of the proposals set out by France over the weekend for a no-fly zone over the country and more 'blue helmets' to police the inspections. Straw revealed that these possibilities had been examined in the preparations for UNSC resolution 1441 and had been found wanting:

As it happens we did examine both of these ideas in the preparations for what became 1441, and there was wide appreciation not just between US/UK but among partners that they were simply not feasible in the absence of complete Iraqi cooperation and not necessary if we had complete Iraqi cooperation. The fact that those proposals are now being aired is significant for one thing only - they represent the clearest admission yet that Iraq is not cooperating.

Blair and Straw are now committed to their course of action and viewed France's intervention as a reheated roadblock. The foreign secretary also repeated the motives of the government for going to war with an appeal to support collective security and dredging the 1930s as the archetypal example of a world ruled by gangsters, rather than law:

If we fail to back our words with deeds, we follow one of the most catastrophic precedents in history. The descent into war in the 1930s is a searing reminder of the dangers of turning a blind eye whilst international law is subverted by the law of the jungle. The League of Nations ultimately failed because its members lacked the courage and foresight to defend its founding principles with force. Good intentions were no match for aggression in Manchuria and Abyssinia.

If the security council were to demonstrate that it was incapable of tackling the new threats of WMD and terrorism, it would risk doing as much damage to the UN as that suffered by the League of Nations when it failed to face up to the challenges of the 1930s.

The irony here is that an idealistic British government attempting to shore up the credibility of the United Nations is supporting actions by the neo-conservative wing of the Republican party that hope the present course of events will spell the downfall of this international institution. Moreover, the comparison between the UN and the League of Nations is wrong. The latter was unable to face up to the challenges of the 1930s because it did not include the most important great power, the United States, and none of its other members had the political will to support its authority. The United Nations has never been considered as a replacement for the League of Nations and acts, in the eyes of the great powers, as a diplomatic convention rather than as the legislature for international relations, although the transnational Left has tried to invest this body with such powers.

Blair and Straw are unintentional revolutionaries in international relations, allied to a state that declaims its sovereign power in order to protect and enhance its security. The United States should hold its British allies on a tight leash, since if their internationalist aims kill the United Nations rather than cure it, they will move down a radical path, inimical to the British and American interest, in order to set up a regional or a global successor, based upon the myths of collective security.


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