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Wednesday, March 12, 2003
The Rumsfeld redemption
Further to my pieces on the way that the Iraq situation would turn out, Tony Blair has been thrown a lifeline from a most unlikely source. Yesterday, it became obvious that Washington is aware of the constraints on the Blair government's freedom of action. Our parliament has not given carte blanche to the government to do as it wishes, particularly in respect of opening hostilities. Donald Rumsfeld's surprise statement yesterday about Blair's problem was an eye-opener:
Their situation is distinctive to their country and they have a government that deals with a parliament in their distinctive way and what will ultimately be decided is unclear as to their role; that is to say, their role in the event a decision is made to use force.Apart from its characteristics that will inevitably qualify it as the Donald Rumsfeld sound bite of the week, the thought of bags, letting and cats out of, spring to mind. Here's the Rumsfeld statement and its context in full.
However, in a hurriedly written statement, in response to a frantic call from Downing St, our favourite fof* said:
In my press briefing today, I was simply pointing out that obtaining a second United Nations security council resolution is important to the United Kingdom and that we are working to achieve it.One can see the lifelines; Tony Blair will only be able to ignore them for so long.
Beside the Rumsfeld redemption, the Commons Public Accounts committee has reiterated that British forces are unprepared, anyway. But the main point is that Britain, as a law-abiding member of the international community, is unlikely to go to war without official UN approval and there is no doubt that a further resolution is necessary: a resolution involving "all necessary means" is needed - "serious consequences" simply will not do. Taken in conjunction with the UN charter, which allows going to war only in certain specified circumstances, Blair is hamstrung. It's not too late to join the doves and grab Donald's 'olive branch'.
There is an interesting editorial "Tony Blair at bay" in The Guardian today that puts a similar argument. I have argued that Blair tried to be a moderating influence on an immoderate US administration. I believe that he knew what sort of regime he was dealing with from the outset. The editorial suggests otherwise:
Another Blair miscalculation concerns the nature of the US leadership. Mr Blair had not met George Bush before the president took office. He had perhaps [ note the "perhaps, though] a poor inkling of what the dawning age of Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz and Perle entailed. He knows better now; we all do. And that is part of today's problem.Do we simply have to sit back and wait for a more multilateral, law-abiding administration to get into the White House?
[* This is a contraction I thought up while writing and I cannot, for the life of me, remember what it stands for. It certainly isn't "follower of fashion". Perhaps Mrs T. can enlighten me. (Ooops, "Comments" feature still undergoing testing...) I never thought I'd have much in common with young Charlton Heston.]
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