In the aftermath of Iraq ....
It gives me no pleasure to witness the discomfort of supporters of the war on the right over the issue of the invasion of Iraq. Everything I predicted in early 2003 is coming to pass; civil war, regional de-stabilisation, a Vietnam for our forces, the destruction of Iraq's archeological heritage, a threat to western energy security, millions of refugees. Only the military intervention of Turkey in securing Iraqi Kurdistan is yet lacking.
What I didn't predict was the utter destruction of Iraq's professional and middle classes. They have either fled (as targets of the militias) or been liquidated. Without them, any hope of reconstruction is no more than a vapid dream.
The justification for this debacle - from both left and right - has now changed yet again. "Saddam Hussein was a tyrant...." - yes - ".. and we had to act to remove him from power" - no. It goes on "There is no guarantee that Iraq wouldn't have degenerated into civil war even if we hadn't invaded" - true. There is also no guarantee that it would have done. "What ifs" are the province of fiction writers, not historians.
I'm afraid we should have remembered the cardinal rule of direct intervention - don't. It may be hard, but the old way of letting the tribes / factions / alliances / wings slog it out amongst themselves until they're both too exhausted to continue and then stepping in with humanitarian aid is still probably best. And a hard-nosed bit of discreet assistance with financial aid or military equipment to the side that might offer us some national advantage may be 'unethical' in the eyes of many, but a nation doesn't win international competitive advantage by being nice.
In the end it's all about us; Britain, or England perhaps. Our nation, our culture, our well-being, our identity and our prosperity. Those are all things worth fighting and dying for - as our forebears have done for centuries - and at this critical stage in the 21st century all our resources should be focused on this. I feel in my bones the world's longest peace is starting to falter and come to an end, and we must look to our posts and draw in our horns.
Iraq was a dreadful blunder. Afghanistan is unwinnable. Useful, future historians may say, for testing new weapons, tactics and equipment, for finding future military commanders better at warfighting than hobnobbing with the politicians, but that is all.
There are times when one has to put 'ethics' back in the box for happier times. Or as one commentator remarked of the rapid changes in military command as the second war got serious "The gentlemen are going out and the players are coming in".