I joined the Liberal Democrats in 2002, like so many people politicised by the build up to an illegal and wholly unjustified war in Iraq.
That misguided military intervention has loomed large over every subsequent discourse on the Middle East and our engagement in it. It’s a particularly salient point of reference for us as Liberal Democrats, as those of us involved at the time will remember, opposing Iraq was not a popular position. We were called appeasers, and worse, by people who had swallowed whole the dodgy dossiers and their phantom 45-minute claims.
Almost everyone, except Blair himself, now acknowledges that the war was a huge and costly mistake, and in turn that the Liberal Democrats, led by Charles Kennedy, were right to oppose it. It was and still is a defining position for our party.
However, I fear that this one position, taken over thirteen years ago, has come to exert a disproportionate influence over our view of the world in 2015. I’ve read with interest the various pieces that have been written over the last few days regarding our potential intervention in Syria, and whether the Lib Dems should support it. There are strong arguments on both sides made by honest and principled people, however it is clear that some of the arguments made against military action don’t stand up to even the mildest scrutiny, and are based more on a sense that as Liberal Democrats we should be “against this sort of thing” rather than any understanding of how this situation may differ from the past.