Monday, August 09, 2004
This is the law, not a war

One of the overarching themes of the warbloggers has been the essential differences between the Bush and Clinton administrations. These differences form the ideological basis of the 'war on terror'. Their criticisms of the Clinton administration focus on the policy of viewing terrorism as a law enforcement problem and often lists the missed opportunities where military force may have prevented 9/11. Their support for Bush stems initially from his willingness to use military resources hand-in-hand with intelligence and law enforcement techniques to root out Al-Qaeda: a strategy that has so far been more successful than its Clintonian counterpart.

One of their misconceptions is that the Blair government has signed up to the same ideological precepts as Bush. Support from Britain for the first incursion into Afghanistan was never in doubt, given the Taliban support for Al Qeada. Who would have stopped the United States, enraged by atrocity, when the sensible move was to step quietly out of the way. However, Blair's support for the Iraq war was never motivated by Saddam Hussein's terrorist links. This was an incidental detail compared to Iraq's unceasing search for weapons of mass destruction, temporarily curbed by sanctions, and more importantly, poverty. Blair may even have invoked the rhetoric of the 'war on terror' but Britain's Iraqi campaign was ultimately defined by his willingness to project a muscular foreign policy, shaped by his own moral preconceptions.

Despite the appearance of unity fostered by Iraq, Britain's approach to the threat of Al Qaeda mirrors its European counterparts, and Tony's good friend, Bubba. The terrorists are still viewed as a law enforcement problem, which need to be monitored and dealt with through the intelligence agencies, Special Branch and a permanent anti-terrorist law (to be repealed as soon as Al Qaeda is defeated???). This provides an explanation for Blunkett's outspoken admonishment of the United States:

"In the United States there is often high-profile commentary followed, as in the current case by detailed scrutiny, with the potential risk of ridicule," writes Mr Blunkett in The Observer.
"Is it really the job of a senior cabinet minister in charge of counter-terrorism? To feed the media? To increase concern? Of course not. This is arrant nonsense." The remarks follow those made yesterday in which Mr Blunkett drew a contrast between "alerting people to a specific threat and alarming people unnecessarily"

This is the difference between a government that wishes to remind its population they are permanently under threat from terrorist opponents responsible for numerous atrocities; and a government that does not perceive itself to be at war and therefore views such warnings as an unnecessary embellishment.

The most important consequence of this ideological divide between Britain and the United States lies in the reception given to a Democrat win. Reports from the Democratic Convention showed a martial candidate, who had actually abandoned the hawkish doctrine of pre-emption expressed by the Bushites. Mouthing war on terror, Kerry is retracting the potential aggression inherent in Bush's stance, a position that Blair, damaged by his own foreign adventures, would no doubt find agreeable. Whoever is in the White House next year, the British government has deployed military and intelligence resources that can find common ground with Bushism or Kerryism. It is a triumph of Clinton's triangulation.

(23.03, 9th April 2004)


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