Paul Dixon https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/20153/all cached version 08/02/2019 16:56:14 en Honourable deceptions in the choreography of the Northern Ireland Peace Process https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/paul-dixon/honourable-deceptions-in-choreography-of-northern-ireland-peace-process <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In some situations, the end does justify the means. In these anti-political times isn't it useful to remember the positive role political actors can play in making the world a better place?<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-35914818.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-35914818.jpg" alt="lead lead " title="" width="460" height="344" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams reflects on the Good Friday peace negotiations in his office in Leinster House, Dublin, April 8, 2018. Niall Carson/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>The war in Northern Ireland claimed approximately 3,700 lives and, by some estimates, injured 40-50,000 people. The Belfast or Good Friday Agreement, 10 April 1998, is the foundation on which an uneasy peace was established. This peace was achieved using ‘honourable’ deceptions, both large and small. This is the ‘inconvenient truth’ of the peace process.&nbsp;</p> <p>Populists argue that ‘a straight talking honest politics’ is possible. Realists claim that deception and hypocrisy is an inevitable part of politics. What is important is to be able to judge between honourable and dishonourable deceptions.&nbsp;</p> <p>In Northern Ireland, the polarisation of the electorate between nationalists, who favoured Irish unity, and unionists who wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom, made the use of deception particularly important in achieving an accommodation.</p> <p>Labour’s Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mo Mowlam, pointed out that the Good Friday Agreement was deliberately written to be ‘open to multiple interpretations’. This meant that unionists could argue that it ‘secured the Union’ while for Gerry Adams ‘it severely weakened it’.&nbsp;</p> <p>The Belfast Agreement was designed to climax on Good Friday, 10 April 1998. The symbolism of Easter was used to win support for the deal. The final week of negotiations had been carefully choreographed to give ‘wins’ to all the parties supporting the deal to maximise public support.</p> <p>The US Senator, George Mitchell, had been given a position paper by the British and Irish governments. He was asked by the two governments to present this to the Northern Irish parties as his, rather than their, best estimate of where agreement might be achieved.&nbsp;</p> <p>Mitchell realised the paper was too pro-nationalist because of its emphasis on a strong all-Ireland dimension. ‘As I read the document I knew instantly that it would not be acceptable to the unionists.’ But he went ahead with the charade and presented the ‘Mitchell document’ as his own work.</p> <p>The purpose of the paper was, most likely, to create a drama at the beginning of the final week of talks. John Taylor MP, a leading figure in the more moderate Ulster Unionist Party, declared that he would not touch the proposals with a ‘forty-foot bargepole’. Even the centrist Alliance party rejected the proposals.&nbsp;</p> <p>This ‘crisis’ was the cue for the Labour Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and the Irish Taoiseach, (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern to fly in and take the stage for the final days of negotiation. Blair rejected soundbites but nonetheless ‘felt the hand of history on his shoulder’.</p> <h2><strong>The hand of history and decommissioning</strong></h2> <p>The British Prime Minister’s role was to ‘rescue’ the process and reassure unionists that the Union was safe. He rejected ‘Mitchell’s paper’ as too pro-nationalist. The Ulster Unionist Party leader, David Trimble, was handed a unionist victory.&nbsp;</p> <p>Unionists claimed that Blair ‘humiliated’ the Irish Prime Minister. The Irish government claimed Ahern had ‘reached out’ to unionists.</p> <p>Several participants in the talks suspected choreography. Seamus Mallon, of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party, was ‘confident’ that changes to the Mitchell document ‘had been anticipated’. The republican newspaper&nbsp;<em>An Phoblacht</em>&nbsp;reported, ‘The suspicion is that the UUP’s speedy rejection was pre-planned’.</p> <p>The Ulster Unionist Party won their ‘victory’ on the all-Ireland dimension on the Tuesday of Easter week. Negotiations continued, and at 3am on Good Friday morning the nationalist SDLP then won their victory by securing a strong, power-sharing executive.&nbsp;</p> <p>Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, and loyalist paramilitaries secured a ‘victory’ on the release of paramilitary prisoners. Gerry Kelly, from Sinn Fein, approached the loyalists arguing that they should adopt a common front on prisoners, demanding their release within a year.</p> <p>Remarkably, the loyalists argued against one year and insisted on two years. They did so out of concern for the UUP because they believed that David Trimble would not be able to sell an Agreement to the unionist electorate that released all prisoners within a year.</p> <p>Decommissioning had already become they key bone of contention in the peace process. Unionists argued that the IRA should at least start decommissioning to demonstrate their sincerity in entering the democratic process. It was undemocratic, they argued, for republicans to use the threat of violence to extort concessions from the other non-violent parties. The IRA claimed that decommissioning was a humiliating demand for surrender.</p> <p>The UUP rejected the Agreement’s wording on decommissioning because it did not provide strong enough assurances. At the last moment Tony Blair provided a ‘side letter’ to the UUP on decommissioning. John Taylor MP, the Unionist deputy leader, was seen as a unionist hardliner. When he declared that he was now satisfied on decommissioning, this was thought to have reassured some wavering UUP sceptics.</p> <p>Close observers of the peace process have suggested that Taylor played the role of a ‘shill’ or plant. Taylor plays the role of a sceptic who, after the side-letter, ‘buys into’ the deal and this encourages others to overcome their scepticism. This is a charade because all along Taylor was going to endorse the deal because he was allied to David Trimble, the UUP leader.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Theatrical skills</strong></h2> <p>Not all in the UUP were sold on the Agreement. Jeffrey Donaldson MP walked out of the negotiations because he did not believe that the wording on decommissioning was strong enough. He later joined the DUP, which opposed the GFA in 1998, but signed up to a similar deal at St Andrews in 2006.</p> <p>David Trimble later accepted that he had not got strong enough wording in the Agreement on decommissioning. But the alternative to accepting the GFA was for him to walk away from a deal that stood the best chance of bringing peace to Northern Ireland since the violence began in the late sixties.&nbsp;</p> <p>In the Referendum campaign to endorse the Agreement, when it looked like decommissioning was not required, unionist opinion shifted towards a ‘No’ vote. Tony Blair used ‘hand written’ pledges and implied that the GFA required more than decommissioning. This was an ‘honourable deception’. The Prime Minister had good reason to believe that without this deceit the Referendum would fail, and this risked a return to a war.</p> <p>On 22 May 1998 ‘Yes’ won the Referendum on the Agreement. A few weeks later legislation was introduced at Westminster that resulted in the first release of paramilitary prisoners in September 1998. In December 1999, Sinn Fein took their seats in the powersharing executive. The IRA did not begin decommissioning until 23 October 2001, in the wake of 9/11.&nbsp;</p> <p>Political actors used their ‘theatrical skills’ to achieve peace in Northern Ireland. Deceptions both large and small were perpetrated. Hypocrisy was used by actors to present different faces to different audiences. Many of these deceptions were ‘honourable’ because, in some situations, the end does justify the means. In these anti-political times it is useful to remember the positive role political actors can play in making the world a better place.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-35914817.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-35914817.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="587" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Gerry Adam's copy of the Good Friday peace accord. Niall Carson/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/robin-wilson/left-should-think-more-carefully-before-defending-good-friday-agreement">The left should think more carefully before defending the Good Friday Agreement</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ireland </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Northern Ireland </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk EU Northern Ireland Ireland UK Conflict Democracy and government Ideas International politics Northern Ireland Paul Dixon Mon, 09 Apr 2018 14:52:13 +0000 Paul Dixon 117134 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Jo Cox MP: the compassionate road to war https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-dix/jo-cox-mp-compassionate-road-to-war <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 13.3333px;">Jo Cox MP was the embodiment of humanitarianism, but does that make her politics - specifically her stance on intervention in Syria - beyond criticism?&nbsp;</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/512px-London_anti-war_protest_banners.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/512px-London_anti-war_protest_banners.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="614" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Stop The War march is September 2002 in London. Wikimedia/William M Connelley. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Jo Cox’s tragically brief career as a Labour MP was cut short by Thomas Mair who, inspired by a far-right ideology, murdered her just over a year ago on 16 June 2016. The Labour MP left behind a husband and two young children aged four and five. During the trial, the MP for Batley and Spen was described by the judge as generous of spirit which was “evident in the selfless concern she had for others even when facing a violent death”. Brendan Cox described his wife as being driven “by a very powerful sense of empathy and so when she would meet people who had a problem, she would be committed to dealing with that problem no matter how difficult or seemingly unsolvable”.</p> <p>Jo Cox was the embodiment of humanitarianism, having worked for several NGOs, most notably Oxfam but also Save the Children and the National Society for the Protection of Children. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, paid tribute to the Labour MP’s “deep commitment to humanity”. This humanitarianism, her compassionate character and appalling murder seem to place Jo Cox’s politics beyond criticism. But on how to intervene in Syria, are they?</p><h2>Military intervention in Syria</h2><p>Labour and Conservative hawks have invoked Jo Cox’s memory to generate support for western military intervention in Syria and beyond. These powerful political interests, allied to Syrian rebels, use claims of genocide, human rights abuses and humanitarian crisis as trumps to win political debate and delegitimise opposition to war.</p> <p>The most notable aspect of Jo Cox’s tragically short parliamentary career was her outspoken stance for escalating war in support of the so-called 'moderate rebels' in Syria. From the Blairite wing of the Labour party, she worked with neoconservatives and other Conservative hawks to use claims of genocide to support taking humanitarian intervention on the side of the moderate rebels by establishing safe havens, the delivery of humanitarian aid to rebel areas and support for the White Helmets.</p> <p>At the time of her death, Jo Cox was working on a report with the Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat (former principal adviser to the Chief of Defence Staff). This has been posthumously published by the Conservative think tank Policy Exchange as&nbsp;<a href="https://policyexchange.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Intervention-01-17_v8.pdf"><em>The Cost of Doing Nothing</em></a><em>: The price of inaction in the face of mass atrocities</em>&nbsp;(January 2017). In this report, the Labour MP Alison McGovern, chair of Progress, the Blairite think tank, and Tugendhat argue in support of military intervention: “a commitment by all parties to move in this direction would be a fitting legacy for our tireless, brave and humanitarian colleague, Jo Cox”.&nbsp;</p> <p>The report was due to be published on the day of the Chilcot inquiry on 6 July 2016, to counter growing British scepticism about foreign military interventions. The preface of the report was written by Dean Godson, director of Policy Exchange and a prominent British neoconservative. Professor John Bew, a founding member of the neoconservative Henry Jackson Society, also contributed. This organisation, established in 2005, is the leading think tank in support of military intervention. It also has a history of demonising Muslims.</p> <p>Conservative hawks tend to emphasise less altruistic motivations for military intervention and can be more explicit about the implications of establishing supposedly humanitarian initiatives such as safe havens. Michael Weiss, director of communications for the Henry Jackson Society, argued in&nbsp;<a href="http://www.henryjacksonsociety.org/cms/harriercollectionitems/SyriaIntervention.pdf"><em>Intervention in Syria</em></a>, published in December 2011, for the establishment of a safe area which should “not only be used as a base for home-grown rebel military operations but as a political and communications hub for the Syrian opposition.” Weiss added: “Its role should be tantamount to the one played by Benghazi in helping the Libyan Transitional National Council topple the Gaddafi regime.”</p> <p>While Tugendhat favoured human rights and humanitarian military intervention, he was&nbsp;<a href="https://policyexchange.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/clearing-the-fog-of-law.pdf">critical of the human rights laws</a>&nbsp;that constrained the actions of British soldiers, stating that “judicial imperialism should urgently be reversed.”</p> <p>Imperialism and humanitarianism have a close historical association, imperialism was often justified as a humanitarian or “civilising” act.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/26/friend-jo-cox-would-never-want-britain-withdraw-world-must/">Tugendhat stated</a>&nbsp;that he and Cox wanted to elevate the role of the military as a force that can “change lives for the better”. He added: “‘We wanted to show that Britain’s history of intervention, military and otherwise, is common to both our political traditions and has been an integral part of our foreign and national security policy for over two hundred years.”</p><h2>War or humanitarian intervention?</h2> <p>In the post-Cold War period&nbsp;<a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13642987.2017.1314644?journalCode=fjhr20">war has become reinvented as “humanitarian intervention”</a>&nbsp;to make it more palatable to sceptical western public opinion including the leftwing. During the nineties, leftists who had opposed the Vietnam War, the US interventions in Central America, and the nuclear arms race were seduced by human rights and humanitarian arguments for war. Kosovo in 1999 was depicted as the first “humanitarian war” and a model for future military interventions.</p> <p>The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was also justified as a “humanitarian intervention”. The disastrous consequences of that invasion and the exposure of the deceptions and calculations behind the war undermined “humanitarian” justifications for war. Some humanitarian organisations, most notably <em>Médecins Sans Frontières</em> (MSF), became critical of the way powerful western states were using human rights and humanitarianism to justify war and imperialism.</p> <p>In Afghanistan, NATO used humanitarian aid as part of a counterinsurgency strategy and propaganda to win the hearts and minds of the local population. The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, notoriously described NGOs as “a force multiplier for us, such an important part of our combat team”. Humanitarian NGOs signed <a href="https://www.icvanetwork.org/system/files/versions/Afghanistan-A%20Call%20for%20Security%20%28Joint%20NGO%20Letter%29.pdf">Afghanistan: A Call for Security</a> described as a&nbsp;<a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=wnBjDgAAQBAJ&amp;pg=PT25&amp;lpg=PT25&amp;dq=Afghanistan:+A+Call+for+Security%E2%80%99+described+as+a+%E2%80%98gung-ho%E2%80%99+docum&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=sr6IWk2it7&amp;sig=wJYLj7qcdef3azyDpOcSjgvCd9k&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwjH7Y6eu77UAhWpI8AKHVgpBX4Q6AEINDAC#v=onepage&amp;q=Afghanistan%3A%20A%20Call%20for%20Security’%20described%20as%20a%20‘gung-ho’%20docum&amp;f=false">“gung-ho” document</a>&nbsp;demanding more ”robust” NATO military action.</p> <p>The intensification of Britain’s involvement in the “good war” in Afghanistan after 2006 was supposed to restore the reputation of the military after the “bad war” in Iraq.&nbsp;<a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Qb23aL0zfkEC&amp;pg=PA235&amp;lpg=PA235&amp;dq=in+practice,+we+ended+up+killing+a+lot+of+people,+destroying+lots+of+bazaars+and+mosques.+We+absolutely+knew+it+was+not+what+we+were+there+to+do,+and+would+not+be+helpful&amp;sourc">General David Richards</a>, who was head of the British armed forces, reflected on the war in Afghanistan: “in practice, we ended up killing a lot of people, destroying lots of bazaars and mosques. We absolutely knew it was not what we were there to do, and would not be helpful”.</p> <p>British public opinion defied cross-party support for the “good war” in Afghanistan and consistently opposed intervention from the start of the escalation of the war in 2006. The public’s reluctance to suffer casualties joined with no-win outcomes to explain why deception and humanitarian arguments had to be deployed to reduce public misgivings.</p><h2>The example of Libya</h2> <p>There is considerable evidence to suggest that deception was used to justify and extend NATO’s intervention in Libya 2011. Advocates of humanitarian intervention claimed that President Gaddafi’s forces, which were advancing on the rebels in Benghazi, would commit genocide against civilians – another Srebrenica – unless NATO aircraft intervened. In 2017,&nbsp;<a href="https://policyexchange.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Intervention-01-17_v8.pdf">McGovern and Tugendhat</a>&nbsp;argued that the Libyan intervention “almost certainly saved tens of thousands from slaughter by Gaddafi and the current level of violence is nowhere near the genocide he threatened to unleash”. The House of Commons supported military intervention on 21 March 2011 by a vote of 557 MPs to 13 (the latter included Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell).</p> <p>The&nbsp;<a href="https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmfaff/119/119.pdf">House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) report on Libya, in September 2016</a>, found that Gaddafi’s threat to civilians was “overstated”. This claim is backed up by academic research that suggests the regime was trying to negotiate and targeted rebels rather than civilians. The FAC argued, ”by the summer of 2011, the limited intervention to protect civilians had drifted into an opportunist policy of regime change. That policy was not underpinned by a strategy to support and shape post-Gaddafi Libya.”&nbsp;<a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17502977.2015.1137391">Jack Holland and Mike Aaronson</a>&nbsp;have argued that “the UK’s political objective may well have been the removal of Gaddafi, but it was not astute to openly articulate it as such.” President Obama was to describe post-intervention Libya as a “shit show”.</p> <p>The Russians and Chinese argue that NATO’s deception on Libya is why they are reluctant to support similar humanitarian action in Syria. The chaotic consequences of “humanitarian intervention” in Libya have underlined the ineffectiveness of military action already apparent in Iraq and Afghanistan.</p> <p>During her parliamentary career Jo Cox was a co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group Friends of Syria that urged stronger “humanitarian military” action in support of moderate rebels and against the Assad regime. Humanitarians often claim to be “non-political” or “above politics”. After all, who can be against “humanitarianism”, saving “civilians” and opposing "genocide”? The key question is: who defines what these terms mean and what are their implications for policy? Compassion has too often been a cover for escalating war.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">&nbsp;After all, who can be against "humanitarianism", saving "civilians" and opposing "genocide"?&nbsp;</p> <p>Jo Cox allied with Andrew Mitchell – former Conservative International Development Secretary and Libya hawk – <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/11/british-forces-ethical-solution-syria-humanitarian-crisis">to argue that Syria</a>&nbsp;was a case of genocide by comparing it to Bosnia and Rwanda. They presented war as a Manichaean struggle between the evil dictator Assad who is perpetrating a genocide on the Syrian people and the moderate rebels: ”<a href="https://policyexchange.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Intervention-01-17_v8.pdf">never again can we let innocents suffer as they did in the Holocaust. Never again</a>”. Innocents are depicted as always the victims of Assad and not of the rebels – but the rebels have also carried out atrocities.</p> <p>The humanitarian proposal of a “safe haven” was effectively a call for the escalation of NATO’s military involvement in Syria and risked a military confrontation with Russia. For&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/11/british-forces-ethical-solution-syria-humanitarian-crisis">Cox and Mitchell</a>, a military component was part of an ethical response, but what was critical was “that the protection of civilians must be at the centre of the mission”. Safe havens should be created to offer sanctuary from both Assad and ISIS. They argued that “preventing the regime from killing civilians, and signalling intent to Russia, is far more likely to compel the regime to the negotiating table than anything currently being done or mooted”. International law should be broken by ignoring Russia’s and China’s veto on UN action.</p><h2>A "successful" invasion?</h2> <p>So in December 2015 Jo Cox refused to support British involvement in the bombing of Syria because she thought this military action did not go far enough in support of moderate rebel groups. She opposed an “ISIS first” strategy because it would alienate “moderate rebels”. Although Jo Cox thought the invasion of Iraq was Labour’s “darkest hour”, she argued that this was because there was ”<a href="http://www.jocox.org.uk/2016/05/25/newspaper-column-time-to-enforce-syrias-ceasefire-to-save-lives/">no follow up strategy</a>”, suggesting that such invasions could be successful. Elsewhere she argued that she opposed the Iraq war because “the risk to civilian lives was too high, and their protection was never the central objective”. Kosovo and Sierra Leone were successes, she argued, because ”civilian protection was key”.</p> <p>Jo Cox took a hard line in favour of Syrian peace negotiations aiming at the removal of Assad and a rebel victory rather than a diplomatic compromise that might end the violence. Western intransigence can encourage rebels to hold out on negotiations in hope of a Libyan-style NATO military solution. In&nbsp;<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/12140058/We-must-not-let-America-sell-out-the-Syrian-rebels-to-Putin-and-Assad.html">February 2016, Jo Cox and the German Green Party MP, Omid Nouripour</a>, rejected US negotiations with Russia of a peace settlement in Syria in favour of a “much more muscular” European response. They added: “the US seems intent on a peace settlement that will be dangerously unbalanced. Such is the determination to secure [a] deal at any cost that they are prepared to offer far too many concessions to Assad and their Russian allies. This undermines the Syrian opposition, who feel betrayed by the international community. It also diminishes the chance for a sustainable peace and relegates the protection of civilians virtually out of the conference room. If we don’t stand up for them, nobody will”.</p> <p>Jo Cox’s advocacy for the White Helmets in Syria follows from this convergence between humanitarianism and arguments to escalate the war on the side of 'moderate rebels' for war. She nominated the White Helmets for the Nobel Peace Prize for their rescue work in Syria and one third of her memorial fund is to be donated to them. The White Helmets appear to be a humanitarian organisation that is above politics and prepared to help Syrian people in distress regardless of their politics. Max Blumenthal, however, has uncovered evidence that the White Helmets are aligned to rebel groups. They were founded by a former British Army officer and are financially backed by western governments.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.alternet.org/grayzone-project/how-white-helmets-became-international-heroes-while-pushing-us-military">The White Helmets leadership is “driven by a pro-interventionist agenda conceived by the Western governments and the public relations groups that back them”</a>. The British government has, reportedly, been involved in&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/03/how-britain-funds-the-propaganda-war-against-isis-in-syria">propaganda campaigns</a>&nbsp;in support of “moderate rebel" groups.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The key criticism of the Labour and Conservative hawks' proposals is that their humanitarian arguments are misleading.</p> <p>The key criticism of the Labour and Conservative hawks' proposals is that their humanitarian arguments are misleading. Proposals for no fly zones, safe havens, humanitarian corridors, humanitarian access seem so “reasonable” and “non-political” that they conceal the highly politicised nature of asking NATO to take one side in a civil war, and the threat of escalation. </p> <p>In 2012, the head of the US military, General Martin Dempsey, estimated that at least&nbsp;<a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books?redir_esc=y&amp;id=c3jsDAAAQBAJ&amp;q=dempsey+70%2C000#v=snippet&amp;q=dempsey%2070%2C000&amp;f=false">70,000 US servicemen</a>&nbsp;would be required to impose a no-fly zone over Syria. Some experts have estimated that about 200,000 troops – and perhaps several times that number – would be needed for 'peace enforcement' in Syria or 300-500,000 for a full-scale invasion. The consequences of deeper military involvement became even more serious after September 2015 when Russian aircrafts were deployed to Syria, raising the prospect of a wider war.</p> <p>President Obama opposed the imposition of a no-fly zone in Syria because it was an act of war that would involve attacking the Syrian air force and destroying its air defences, sophisticated defences designed to protect the country from the Israeli air force. Hillary Clinton, a key US Liberal hawk and then-Secretary of State, admitted privately that to achieve a no-fly zone “<a href="https://theintercept.com/2016/10/10/in-secret-goldman-sachs-speech-hillary-clinton-admitted-no-fly-zone-would-kill-a-lot-of-syrians/">you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians</a>” because air defence systems were located in civilian areas. Protecting some civilians means that other civilians will die.</p> <p>The former UK Foreign Secretary and military interventionist, William Hague, opposed the creation of safe havens which was&nbsp;<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/11929820/Safe-havens-for-beleaguered-Syrians-would-be-a-dangerous-distraction.html">“impractical at best dangerous at worst”</a>. He argued that “in Syria's fluid battlefields, massive ground forces would be needed to defend any “safe” area from terrorist infiltration and short-range bombardment. The most thoughtful advocates of this policy, such as my old colleague Andrew Mitchell and Labour MP Jo Cox, recognise this. Yet no one can say which country will provide the tens of thousands of troops that would be necessary, and be ready to reinforce them if necessary.”</p> <h2>Siding with the "moderate" rebels</h2><p>The west did take the side of moderate rebels early on in the Syrian war. In August 2011, after five months of the Syrian uprising, President Obama called for the removal of Assad and a transition to democracy. Together with its allies, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, the west armed the opposition to Assad. At first they provided non-lethal aid to the Syrian rebels, but from at least 2012 the US was directly involved in training and arming Syrian rebels. The US spent millions of dollars and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/sep/16/us-military-syrian-isis-fighters">failed to create a force of ‘pro-western moderate rebels”</a>. In August 2012, the US&nbsp;<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/syria-crisis-the-west-wrings-its-hands-in-horror-but-it-was-our-folly-that-helped-create-this-a6677621.html">Defence Intelligence Agency</a>, the Pentagon’s intelligence arm, reported that “Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood and AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq, later ISIS] are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria”. It is believed that weapons supplied by the west and its allies to 'moderate' groups have been seized by more hard-line groups, such as the Al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra.</p> <p>Syrian rebels have an incentive to provoke state repression in order to generate support for NATO military intervention which can be used to defeat Assad. The danger of local forces allying with western llberal hawks and neoconservatives to bring about military intervention was apparent during the Iraq invasion 2003. Iraqi exiles provided suspect intelligence on weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and assured neoconservatives and liberal hawks that an invasion would be easy and popular.</p> <p>The hawks claimed that the Syrian (and Libyan) uprisings were popular, democratic revolutions which made victory inevitable over President Assad. This encouraged the west to demand his removal from power, to arm rebels and miss opportunities for negotiations that might lead to accommodation. Only with the rise of ISIS and the deeper involvement of Russia has pragmatism won out over 'wishful thinking'.</p> <p>The military interventionists argue that the Bosnian and Rwandan genocides were the result of the failure of western intervention. This involves the assumption that the simple application of military force will be successful. The key example of success is Kosovo where exaggerated claims of genocide were used to legitimise a humanitarian war in which NATO bombed from 15,000 feet, killed about 500 civilians without any NATO deaths. The effectiveness of military force is undermined by the subsequent failures in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Both Iraq and Libya involved the use of deception to justify military intervention. </p> <p>Jo Cox’s compassion is not in question: but the consequences of so-called humanitarian military intervention can be catastrophic. These arguments demonise and criminalise the participants in war with the clear implication that, rather than negotiate, these wars should be fought until the enemy is defeated, which is when ‘justice’ can be imposed. After the invasion of Iraq, David Kennedy, an academic lawyer and human rights activist, wrote in&nbsp;<em>The Dark Sides of Virtue</em>&nbsp;(2004):</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">The generation which built the human rights movement focused its attention on the ways in which evil people in evil societies could be identified and restrained. More acute now is how good people, well-intentioned people in good societies, can go wrong, can entrench, support, the very things they have learned to denounce.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay/fascist-terrorism">We need to talk about fascist terrorism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/kate-ferguson/5-principles-for-responsible-internationalist-policy-on-syria">5 principles for a responsible internationalist policy on Syria</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/mary-kaldor/what-to-do-about-syrias-new-war">What to do about Syria&#039;s new war?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? North-Africa West-Asia uk Paul Dixon Thu, 29 Jun 2017 08:30:32 +0000 Paul Dixon 111986 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Is Corbyn’s Thatcherite idealism the Labour party’s salvation? https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/paul-dixon/is-corbyn%E2%80%99s-thatcherite-idealism-labour-party%E2%80%99s-salvation <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Corbynite portrayal of Thatcher’s ‘Fundi’ rise to power is inexact.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557839/Thatcher piece.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Flickr/ quixotic54. Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557839/Thatcher piece.jpg" alt="" title="Flickr/ quixotic54. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="297" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flickr/ Quixotic54. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>Margaret Thatcher has emerged as the model for Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘Idealist’ bid to be leader of the Labour party. George Monbiot,&nbsp;</span><em>The Guardian</em><span>&nbsp;columnist and supporter of the Green party, endorsed Ian Sinclair’s championing of Thatcher’s Idealism as an example of what can be achieved by an unpopular but principled politician who stands for ‘core values’. This is contrasted with the ‘Blairite Realism’ of ‘spin’ and the pursuit of votes.</span></p> <p>In the eighties, the German Green Party divided. The ‘Realos’ were realists who were prepared to compromise in order to enter coalition and achieve power. The ‘Fundis’ were ‘Fundamentalists’ who preferred ideological purity to compromise.</p> <p>Corbynites present a dichotomy between the unwavering ‘Fundis’, who ‘signpost’ the way to the ‘promised land’, and the Liz Kendall ‘Realos’ who are the ‘weathervane’ and will follow the people there. In reality there is a spectrum of possible combinations of Idealisms and Realisms from the old ‘soft left’, the Brownites, the ‘traditional social democratic right’ to the Blairites.</p> <p>Fundis believe politics is a morality tale and, therefore, that the future is predictable: a principled and honest politics will reap its just reward. Idealism is not only right but, conveniently, also electorally effective.</p> <p>Is Margaret Thatcher a credible precedent for a ‘Fundi’ to win control of a political party and win a British general election?</p><p><span>The Corbynites based their arguments on the biographies of Thatcher by John Campbell (2001) and Charles Moore (2013). Monbiot summarises: ‘Divisive, hated by the press, perceived by her own party as an extremist, she was widely dismissed as unelectable. The Tory establishment, convinced that the party could win only from the centre, did everything it could to stop her.’</span></p> <p>This Corbynite portrayal of Thatcher’s ‘Fundi’ rise to power is inaccurate. Both Campbell and Moore portray Thatcher more as a ‘Realistic Idealist’ who concealed her private views and publicly pursued moderate policies to maintain party unity and appeal to the electorate.</p> <p>Thatcher was not the eternal party rebel like Corbyn. As Education Secretary (1970-74) she did not resign but acquiesced ‘in changes which she later so decisively repudiated’ (Moore 2014: 233). This included the doubling of pupils in comprehensive schools between 1970-74 (Campbell 2001: 227).</p> <p>In 1975, the ‘hard right’ of the Conservative party did have a credible chance of defeating Heath and producing the next Conservative leader. The ‘New Right’, free market policies of Thatcher had, to some extent, already been adopted by Heath in the ‘Selsdon Man’ policies of 1970, although he famously ‘turned’ when challenged by the trade unions.</p> <p>The obvious candidate of the ‘hard right’, Enoch Powell, had left the Conservative party after telling the electorate to vote Labour over Europe. Keith Joseph emerged as the right’s candidate but his campaign self-destructed after he was too honest in sharing his unpolished thoughts about the reproductive habits of the lower classes. When Edward du Cann also failed to stand, Thatcher became the ‘hard right’s’ standard-bearer in the election.</p> <p>Thatcher did not come from nowhere and was not risking her neck: ‘It unquestionably took personal courage for Mrs. Thatcher to put her head above the parapet; but the strictly political risk was fairly small’ (Campbell 2001: 284). Thatcher’s ‘unique’ contribution to British politics, according to Moore, was ‘the art of the impossible’ (Moore 2013: 321) but this did recognize that there were constraints on and consequences for political action.&nbsp;</p> <p>As Leader of the Opposition, Thatcher’s idealism was combined with cautious realism. She needed to retain party unity, reach out to the electorate while encouraging her more radical allies within the party to prepare the ground for change. Campbell argues she fought on a ‘vague prospectus that gave only the broadest hint of her true ambition.’ She spoke with two voices ‘one clear, didactic and evangelical, the other cautious, moderate and conventional – displaying a confusing mixture of confidence and caution. Right up to May 1979 no colleague or commentator could be sure who the real Margaret Thatcher was’ (Campbell 2001: 364-65).</p> <p>Campbell describes Thatcher as a ‘principled opportunist’ (Campbell 2001: 369). Both biographers agree that while she privately opposed an incomes policy she publicly supported it to maintain party unity and because it was perceived to be popular among the public. Charles Moore bluntly states: ‘The difference between what Mrs. Thatcher felt could be said in public and in private was marked’ (Moore 2013: 357). Her heart was in taking on the unions, but her head was with those ‘who argued that a fuzzier, more cautious approach was electorally necessary’ (Moore 2013: 363).</p> <p>George Monbiot argues, politicians reinforce the values they espouse: ‘The harder you try to win by adopting your opponent’s values, the more you legitimise and promote them, making your task… more difficult.’ Thatcher may have reinforced incomes policy but she made use of the ‘Winter of Discontent’ 1978-79 and her subsequent election victory to destroy that policy and deal a withering blow to the trade unions.</p> <p>Margaret Thatcher’s ‘spin doctors’, ‘… offered a rather unusual combination of attitudes – a belief in the black arts of advertising and the most modern methods of image-management with a serious ideological commitment to radical Conservatism’ (Moore 2014 384). She communicated by ‘constructing an image of the type of person she was, with attitudes, sympathies and instincts which could be guessed at when they could not prudently be spelled out’ (Campbell 2001: 401). She sold the public ‘a wide repertoire of carefully contrived images which made Wilson in turn look as amateurish as Macmillan’ (Campbell 2001: 401, 402).</p><p>Thatcher’s victory in 1979 was not a foregone conclusion. Although she moderated Conservative policies ‘she still came across as dangerously extreme’: ‘Six months before she became Prime Minister those who had warned that she was too suburban, strident, right-wing, and inexperience to win seemed very likely to be vindicated.’ (Campbell 2001: 319) The Conservative leader had the advantage of powerful backers in industry and the City. There was a network of think-tanks to promote the Thatcher revolution. The Conservatives enjoyed the support of major newspapers who had over 70% of the circulation at the 1979 general election (<a href="http://www.democraticaudit.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Media-graph1.png">http://www.democraticaudit.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Media-graph1.png</a>.)&nbsp;</p> <p>The Corbynite distortion of Thatcher’s record is indicative of the ‘Fundis’ failure to face reality. This is why ‘Fundi’ Green and socialist parties are notable for their lack of electoral success in Britain. In 1971, the Chicago activist, Saul Alinsky, published&nbsp;<em>Rules for Radicals</em>:&nbsp;</p> <p>‘… I start from where the world is, as it is, not as I would like it to be. That we accept the world as it is does not in any sense weaken our desire to change it into what we believe it should be – it is necessary to begin where the world is if we are going to change it to what we think it should be.’</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/ian-sinclair/what-jeremy-corbyn-supporters-can-learn-from-margaret-thatcher">What Jeremy Corbyn supporters can learn from Margaret Thatcher</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/joe-guinan-thomas-m-hanna/dont-believe-corbyn-bashers-economic-case-against-public-owners">Don&#039;t believe the Corbyn bashers - the economic case against public ownership is mostly fantasy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Paul Dixon Thu, 17 Sep 2015 23:11:11 +0000 Paul Dixon 96023 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Paul Dixon https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/paul-dixon <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Paul Dixon </div> </div> </div> <p>Professor Paul Dixon is an Honorary Visiting Fellow at Birkbeck College, University of London and author&nbsp;<em>of Performing the Northern Ireland Peace Process: In Defence of Politics</em>&nbsp;(Palgrave 2018 forthcoming).</p> Paul Dixon Tue, 15 Sep 2015 21:11:20 +0000 Paul Dixon 96027 at https://www.opendemocracy.net