What comes after the Chilcot Report?

The long wait for the publishing of the Chilcot Report has many similarities to the long awaited release of Guns N’ Roses “Chinese Democracy” album. Much like the album the report is long awaited and much delayed. Also like this album the report will almost certainly deliver below expectations and disappoint many.

Our party made much of our opposition to the Iraq War, and well we should have. The war was not remotely mandated by a UN Security Council resolution, nor was a solid case for acting against Saddam’s Iraq established. It seems painfully obvious years later that Tony Blair basically loaned our forces to the USA while he was influenced by the height of emotions that struck him (and much of the West) in the turbulent aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Unlike many other western leaders though Tony Blair took his pledge of support as a total and unquestioning bond, almost akin to a blood oath.

While it is important to learn these truths it is even more important to consider carefully how or if we should militarily intervene in the future. I firmly believe that our party needs to provide a more honest and rigorous analysis of such questions than the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn.

Jeremy Corbyn and his ideological allies would have us believe that all military intervention directed by the West is undesirable. This is a gross simplification of a complicated reality. Iraq of course was a fiasco, that has already been established. But timely British intervention has saved lives in Kosovo (an effort opposed by Corbyn) and Sierra Leone to name but a few examples. Jeremy Corbyn is trapped in an ideological prism that makes no room for compromise or sober reflection. We as a party more to the centre than Labour need to be much more clever and forthright with regards to such problems.

When Liberal Prime Minister David Lloyd George was faced on the table with a choice between having to afford guns or butter, but not both, he did what any liberal who is worth their salt should do; he threw over the table and found a way to get both. The time has come for the Liberal Democrats to be more bold on matters of Foreign Policy and Defense matters. With regards to both matters we need to be a lot more explicit in what we see as our strategic interests and main threats. With regards to the latter we can push for the National Security Council to be given a more significant role in government, than it has now.

We should use our vote on Syria as a watershed to show that the Liberal Democrats are not a mere protest party or a pacifist party, but one that knows that in an imperfect world the use of physical force is sometimes necessary. Such measures need to happen in the defense of our allies (eg NATO Article 5) and also for our obligations to the Genocide Convention. But such action should always be thoroughly thought out and those who abuse the power to carry it through should face timely justice.

* Zachary Barker is a Lib Dem activist in Bristol.

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  • How ironic….a platform advocating what would have become a bigger catastrophe than the 2003 Iraq invasion, by advocating ‘military action’ against the Syrian government.

    Or have I misunderstood what you’re suggesting- were you suggesting to bomb the Syrian govt in Sept 2013, or ISIS in Syria in 2015? Please clarify.

  • Thomas H-J
    Bomb the Sunni Muslims in eastern Syria in 2015 surely. The tribal and sectarian nature of the place still fails to be fully understood. Politics isn’t tea and cupcakes in the Middle East.

  • Zachary Barker 7th Jul '16 - 7:26pm

    “How ironic….a platform advocating what would have become a bigger catastrophe than the 2003 Iraq invasion, by advocating ‘military action’ against the Syrian government.”

    I was referring to the vote where we approved action against IS. As far as I know I did not mention the Syrian Government directly. Dealing with IS comes first. Honestly I am not sure what we should do about the Syrian Government, but I am not in favour of attacking them too. Syria under the current government is bad. Syria under IS is worse.

  • Zachary, Thank you for the clarification.

    I was worried that you might have been advocating attacking the Syrian govt, like tony Blair, and sadly, some our party advocate.

    Manfarang: It’s true than some eastern syrian sunnis may support Isis, though reports (?or propaganda?) from raqqa seem to suggest that in Syria ISIS is mostly a calling of foreign jihadists, with them having privileges over the civilian sunni population (No Druze or Alawites- straight to death, ahead of Christians there!) Some sectarian aspects of middle Eastern politics are slightly overdone by our political class and media- considering how our establishment sadly tend to favour sectarian middle eastern societies (as being more ‘democratic’) over more cosmopolitan ones.
    A substantial proportion of Sunni and secular syrians support, or peacefully oppose the govt within Syrian govt society- the army couldn’t function without that.

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