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David's Mental Meanderings
18th March 2003

This originally started as one of my Daily Diversions -- entries in the weblog on my website. Since most of you probably haven't discovered them yet, or may have purposely steered clear, and because this became too long as I was writing it, I have emerged from house-move hiatus. If you are wondering how I have time for this with everything else that is happening domestically, rest assured, so does Mrs Holford.

I thought I had said all I needed to say about the inevitable war. I was wrong. Again, this isn't going to sway anyone, and everyone who responded quite immediately to the last instalment is invited to respond again. I always enjoy hearing from those with whom I agree and disagree.

As I stated in my most recent Meandering, I do not like a lot of the people with whom I am opposing the imminent military action against Iraq. One of those people would be Robin Cook. Politically and morally we have little in common.

Mr Cook is the former Foreign Secretary. Until yesterday he was the Leader of the House of Commons, a role similar to the Majority Leader of the US House or Senate, setting the timetable for the Government's legislative agenda. He was demoted from Foreign Secretary after he last caused embarrassment to the Government when he divorced his wife to marry his secretary, with whom he had been having a long-term adulterous relationship.

I admire that Mr Cook has become the first person to resign from the Blair cabinet for personal convictions, rather than potential criminal convictions. I watched his resignation speech in the House of Commons last night. It was low-key and not rabble-rousing in content, but it elicited a very rare standing ovation.

In expounding upon UN resolutions, he noted that the impatience with Saddam after waiting 12 years for compliance pales when compared to the 30 years that Israel has flaunted its non-compliance with Resolution 242, requiring withdrawal from occupied territory. This is the clearest example of how the UN is a tool of convenience.

Resolution 1441 concerning Iraq is sufficient to justify war against Iraq, because Iraq is only an erstwhile ally of the United States. If relations between the US and Iran were still at the ebb of the late 1970s and early 1980s, Saddam would still be a US and UK ally, supplied with all the weapons he could stockpile. Remember that when Saddam was a US ally, he was still gassing and torturing his own people. We just didn't care, because he was useful for American interests.

Likewise 242 lies dormant, because Israel is an American ally. I'm not suggesting that Israel shouldn't be an ally. I'm not anti-Israel. Neither am I pro-Israel. I'm only suggesting that what's good for the enemy goose should be good for the allied gander.

Mr Cook's speech was not the only one I watch last night. Thanks to BBC News 24 coverage on BBC1, I was able to see the ultimatum speech by President Bush. It was very good as well.

W makes a good case for the new doctrine of pre-emptive attack. Given the realities of weapons of mass destruction in the 21st century, it may become enshrined in international law. If it does, this is a development comparable in significance to the Peace of Westphalia which ended the Thirty Years' War in 1648, the Congress of Vienna in 1815, or the founding the United Nations. The difference is that this is a single nation imposing upon all other nations the Law of Nations itself.

While declaring that it is within the authority of the United States as a sovereign power to act unilaterally, this new doctrine undermines the very concept of sovereignty. Countries are allowed to be sovereign, as long as they conform to the internal governmental structure and foreign policy demands of the United States.

I agree with the President that the Iraqi people are deserving of greater freedom. I agree that they suffer under Saddam Hussein. The issue is whether the United States possesses the authority to grant that freedom from oppression. George Bush made an emotional argument that tugs at the heart strings. We all want to do good and rescue the suffering. But emotional arguments should not be the basis of international law.

I have never been a fan of the United Nations. I particularly abhor most of the social policies which it attempts to impose. I think the US has been correct in refusing to fund many of these, particular during Republican administrations. Even on the political side, the structure of the UN is flawed. It didn't do a good job of reflecting the realities of 1945, not to mention 2003. Otherwise France wouldn't have a permanent veto. (I may be opposed to the war, but I love the outpouring of French jokes.)

However, if the authority of the UN in international law for resorting to military force against rogue states has been accepted by the member nations, then it should not be bypassed when it is inconvenient. If the breach of Resolutions 1441 or 687 or any of the others are sufficient to spark war, then why bother with the aborted attempted at a "second resolution"? And if all the foregoing resolutions are so powerful, then why haven't the nations that resolved them in the first place come onside? Sure the French have good economic reasons for thwarting the war, but all the other countries aren't doing massive business with Saddam's regime. The US Ambassador to the UN admitted that had there been a vote on a second resolution, it would have been very close.

I know that it disappoints my liberal readers, but my opposition to the war does not mean that I am anti-Bush. I think Bush has made a number of mistakes. I think the whole Homeland Security Department idea is bad. In the name of preserving American freedom, it has encroached unbelievably on civil liberties. (For those who don't know, civil liberties are not solely the preserve of the ACLU.) It is extraordinary that a conservative Republican has increased the size of the federal government to an unprecedented level and plunged the federal budget from surplus to deficit overnight.

I do consider myself a true conservative. For those who are in the political know, I haven't bothered to distinguish whether I should be a neo-conservative or paleo-conservative, or whatever school in which I'm suppose to fit. I suppose I've been over here too long to put so fine a point on it. And yes, I am a compassionate conservative - a term that worked for W, but didn't work for William Hague in the UK. I don't want to see suffering, even by Iraqis.

But because I am a conservative, I don't think that law should be created overnight or that international law should be created unilaterally. Nor do I think the ends justify the means. US foreign policy is bordering on situational ethics, not the rule of law.

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