When the first earlier Iraq war was being pumped up in the press, we were told that the war would be easily affordable, that it would pay for itself, that our troops would be welcomed as liberators, that we could bring democracy to the Middle East by invading Iraq and toppling its government. I remember vividly Condoleezza Rice being quoted as accusing anyone who didn’t think democracy would work in Baghdad being no different than people who opposed civil rights in Birmingham, Alabama.
It was insane. Even if Hussein really had possessed WMD, the plan for how to deal with Iraq was a work of fiction. Plainly, the real strategy was to commit us to the war no matter what fairy tale had to be constructed to motivate us. Then we would be forced to deal with the mess once it was too late.
I was intrigued last night (as well as gratified) to see that Matt Drudge linked this piece by Patrick Coburn: “On the eve of yet another war in Iraq, is the UK’s strategy any more coherent than in 2003?”
Britain is set to join the air campaign against Isis in Iraq, but, going by David Cameron’s speech to the UN General Assembly, the Government has no more idea of what it is getting into in this war than Tony Blair did in 2003.
Mr Cameron says that there should be “no rushing to join a conflict without a clear plan”, but he should keep in mind the warning of the American boxer Mike Tyson that “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”.
The Prime Minister says that lessons have been learned from British military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan but it is telling that he did not mention intervention in Libya for which he himself was responsible.
In fact, there is a much closer parallel between Britain joining an air war in Libya in 2011 than Mr Blair’s earlier misadventures which Mr Cameron was happy to highlight.
In Libya, what was sold to the public as a humanitarian bid by Nato forces to protect the people of Benghazi from Muammar Gaddafi, rapidly escalated into a successful effort to overthrow the Libyan leader. The result three years on is that Libya is in permanent chaos with predatory militias reducing their country to ruins as they fight each other for power.
Note that Obama has also admitted that he ordered our intervention in Libya without having any plan for what would happen in the country once Gaddafi was killed. Is there any indication that he has any clearer plan for Iraq?