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Monday, October 18, 2004
With one bound, he was free...

Tony Bliar is in such bad odour, with his party in particular, for his
cavalier manipulation of the parliamentary process with respect to Iraq, that he needs a big boost. However, it will be difficult to find something big enough to redeem him: sackcloth and ashes may silence some of his more short-sighted, vengeful critics but they would not, in the long term, halt his slide into opprobrium. Indeed, further signs of humility would tend to hasten his downfall. Bliar’s only option is to do something really big and effective to ease himself back into the good books of the party and the nation.

I had been thinking along these lines for many months: it is obvious what he ought to do but it has been less clear how he could do it. Short of finding an immediate formula for World Peace, his one big opportunity would be to help significantly to prevent the re-election of George W. Bush. It had been a terrible mistake to ally himself so overtly with a regime noticeably at odds with Labour’s values. If he could extricate himself from this relationship and, simultaneously kybosh the US Hebrew Gog’s (anag.) Presidency, without directly endorsing Senator Kerry, there might be some hope.

Opportunities to do something of the sort, short of withdrawing British troops from Iraq (‘What price the coalition of the willing, now, eh Dubya?’), have been very few, or even, in practical terms, non-existent. However, one has just presented itself.

We have known for a few days now that US commanders in Iraq have asked for 650 British troops to support their US counterparts.Read more about it here.

We all know (vide Bremer) that initially too few troops on the ground – as opposed to in helicopter gunships in the air – contributed mightily to the outbreak of looting and criminal behaviour when overt hostilities ceased. The subsequent TV pictures we have seen of US troops kicking doors down reveal a poverty of understanding: you don’t win hearts and minds by indiscriminate bombing, shooting and vandalism. British experience in Northern Ireland demonstrated this graphically. And, if you compare British experience in quelling terrorism in Malaya (yes; we won) with US experience in Vietnam (home win; no coconut) you recognise that there are more ways to win than by standing off with massive fire power and then going in with (let’s face it) brutality. If you treat problems as military only, ignoring the political angle, you may ‘win’ by force of arms but you will lose the aftermath for sure unless, somehow, you ensure that you do not alienate the indigenous population. Iraq is already virtually a lost cause. In 100 years’ time, it may come out all right but, for the foreseeable future, it is beyond redemption. What can be regained meanwhile?

Well, the only possible step forward would be to ensure that Europe in general and the UK in particular are not associated with the extraordinarily ill-judged adventure.

Geoff Hoon has addressed the Commons, saying that the request from the US for further troops is a military decision related to the political situation in Iraq. It is not, he emphasised, related to the political situation in the US. Ahah: not much it isn’t. A poke in the eye for the Gog from his ‘friend’ Tony (...a refusal often offends) may be the only way for Bliar to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of the Parliamentary Labour Party, the constituency parties and the electorate at large.

You may not get an opportunity as good as this again. Put your Doc Martens on, Tony and tell the Gog to get stuffed...

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