Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The NeoCons haven't gone away - but events have shown how lethally wrong they were.

There is only one good thing to have come out of the misbegotten adventures of Afghanistan and Iraq - the defeat of the Neocons. That hundreds of thousands of innocent people had to die to achieve that outcome is beyond scandalous - but those strident voices whilst not silent are thankfully back in the margins again. 

The idea that the West, and especially America and Britain, has a moral duty of care to the abused and disadvantaged living under dictatorship is a decent one of course. Indeed the United Nations was established on this very premise. But to extend that duty beyond diplomacy and aid and institute military action as the Neocons wanted? That, at least, is now off the table - or should be.

To invade Afghanistan to track down the perpetrators of 9/11 on the face of it had a strong whiff of legitimacy to it. Such a heinous crime should surely not go unpunished. But to do it so incompetently - the men in the caves were never going to be defeated by a conventional  Army and Air Force - that's another matter. And then to pursue not Bin Laden, but regime  change - the overthrow of the Taliban - what conceivable justification was there for this? It not only turned out badly - the Taliban are just waiting for the right moment to retake the country when allied forces depart - it led to the shedding of all too many young lives.

The Iraq War had little support outside the White House and Blair's Number 10. Not from the UN. Not from Europe. Not from most of the American or British public either. But the NeoCons were supportive of course, hardly surprisingly as it was their idea! Regime change was the goal and the Mission was accomplished when Saddam was swinging from the end of a rope and his statues had been destroyed. Except that it wasn't of course. The Neocons and their NeoCon President and British accomplice had the military power to change the regime - but neither the wit nor the resources to establish anything stable in its place. "Après moi, le déluge" - and how. 

That Iraq was riddled with deadly Sunni / Shiite rivalries was hardly a secret but the NeoCons either didn't understand that or didn't think it mattered! Iraq would have changed in time and the West could have helped achieve this by supporting those Iraqi democrats who wanted to achieve that in a non religiously motivated way. Saddam's regime , whilst predominantly Sunni in a Shia country, was broadly secular and in that respect it was surely a model of a modern Islamic State. But no matter the NeoCons wanted Saddam's blood and the Shia's who wanted him out agreed. Why did Saudi Arabia not support the overthrow of Saddam? They, like Saddam, are Sunni Moslems. 

The NeoCons are not gone - they are well financed and have powerful backers especially in the Republican Party. And they pop up from time to time with their "Something must be done" hand-wringing. They wanted more action in Libya, in Syria and even Iran. And some are now calling for strong intervention by the West in Iraq again. When will they ever learn? 

Well the flowers have gone. As have the soldiers - gone to graveyards, everyone. Let's not send any more.


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