I have little doubt that the vast majority of those who demonstrated yesterday against possible war with Iraq, did so for commendable reasons of conscience and principle. I think they are wrong, but that is not the point at the moment: no one who is opposed to war with Iraq gives a fig what I think anyway.
BUT, since the vast majority of anti-war activists come from the left, and there are few publications on earth more closely identified with the principled left than the Guardian, I would hope that they would care what their editors have to say on the matter:
- The moral and political advantages of holding to the current course of action are overwhelming. Legitimacy is fundamental to the values of Western powers. Wherever possible, we make law, not war, and where war is unavoidable, we observe the law in its conduct. The prospects for any successor Iraqi regime will be much rosier if it is seen to have come into being through a UN mandate derived from a very substantial majority of members, rather than bilateral Anglo-American action.
Those who demanded a multilateral route have responsibilities, too. They must recognise that the much-maligned Bush administration has dutifully pursued a multilateral approach over both Iraq and the war in Afghanistan. The world asked America to work through the UN. The UN and its members must now show that its decisions and resolutions can be effective.
Some will still argue that because the world contains other unpleasant dictators, it would be wrong to get rid of this one. We disagree. The recent past contains several examples of military intervention against sovereign states where the outcome, if not ideal, has certainly been much better in humanitarian terms than what went before: Vietnam’s removal of Pol Pot from Cambodia; Nato’s Kosovo campaign, with the subsequent indictment of Slobodan Milosevic; the removal of the Taliban from Afghanistan.
War with Iraq may yet not come, but, conscious of the potentially terrifying responsibility resting with the British Government, we find ourselves supporting the current commitment to a possible use of force. That is not because we have not agonised, as have so many of our readers and those who demonstrated across the country yesterday, about what is right. It is because we believe that, if Saddam does not yield, military action may eventually be the least awful necessity for Iraq, for the Middle East and for the world.
That’s an extremely powerful statement coming from the left – take heed. About the only philosophical argument left is that war is always wrong, and since this is the real world with rocks and guns and very bad people who wish nothing more than to subjugate all of mankind, those who value self-determination are going to have to fight from time to time. This is one of those times.