the balance of forces

I was talking to “Dr Longley”: yesterday and the conversation, unavoidably, came round to the war. “I was on the fence”, he said, “until the bloody French pushed me off. Now I think that anything that gets rid of Saddam is a good thing; and they can get rid of every other nasty little dictator if they want to.”

I had a small moment of revelation. I too was on the fence until pushed off; but I was pushed off in the other direction, by the neocons. Don’t get me wrong about the French. I grew up in a diplomatic family. My parents spoke French in front of me for years, when they didn’t want to be understood. So I have known almost since I could talk that the chief aim of British foreign policy must always be to find out what the French are up to and stop them. But I am more frightened and more disgusted by Richard Perle than by Jacques Chirac.

It is humiliating to admit that this is how we make our minds up on great matters of state. It’s also realistic. Britain has no independent course and let’s not pretend otherwise. In fact, my question is whether anyone in this country made up their minds by attraction rather than repulsion? Very few, I’d think, and almost none of the opponents of the war.

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4 Responses to the balance of forces

  1. David says:

    Don’t be pushed off the fence by your unease with the company you’ll keep. Did you see Michael Ignatieff’s piece in The Guardian? He talked about the disagreeable company he’s now with – but that can’t be what convinces you, Andrew, can it?

  2. Andrew says:

    I did see the Ignatieff thing, yes. And I regard my position as reasonably bogus at the moment, because when I analyse the situation, I think that winning this war is the least worst way out of the mess. In fact it’s a necessary preliminary to any possible improvement. But I can’t _feel_ in the least gung-ho about it.

    This is partly becasue, as I’ve said before, I am by temperament and upbringing a liberal imperialist. I would like there to be a liberal imperium that would bring food, justice and peace to the Iraqis and everywhere else that needs it. I just don’t think the Americans are up to the job; they might be, of they were interested — was there ever a country that learned skill more quickly — but they don’t have the love of their conquests that imperialists need, and, within the very foreseeable future, they won’t have the money either.

    It would be good for the world if I were proved wrong. I won’t claim that I’d enjoy the experience. But it deosn’t seem an imminent humiliation.

  3. quinn says:

    i started to comment on this post and it got way too long and involved, so i moved it over to my own blog.



  4. Anonymous says:

    Well, I was certainly repelled by Shrub and henchman. (The other day, I called him Shrub to a Californian, and he said, “CAlling him that is an insult to all plants.”)

    But I think it’s not true as a general principle, because there are, absolutely, people who are pulled into political activism by their faith in a particularly politician. NIxon springs to mind…


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