Sorry again for the lack of posts in the past week. Here are some issues from last week.
I argued with the writer Ziauddin Sardar on Sky News about US-UK strategy for Iraq. The most significant feature of President Bush's proposals for increased troop deployments in Iraq seemed to me the implicit but clear repudiation of the Baker-Hamilton proposals. Instead of incremental disengagement allied to diplomatic openings with Iran and Syria, US strategy appears to be to reinforce existing troops and provide security for Iraqis in and around Baghdad. I welcome the rejection of the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group and condemn the criticisms of US strategy by the Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague. Any lasting political resolution of the conflict in Iraq requires that the constitutional government of Iraq have as close as possible a monopoly of the means of violence. It is flatly untrue (though Sardar argued it) that US troops are a cause of violence. There is a great deal of evidence that they are trusted by Iraqis to provide impartial security against rival terrorist groups. A political solution depends on establishing security first, which in turn requires that US and UK forces inflict an unmistakable battlefield defeat on the forces of Baathism and theocratic fanaticism.
Tony Blair's speech on Friday arguing for an interventionist foreign policy was, in my view, excellent. The greatest threat from US policy towards the world is not an excess of intervention but that there is too little of it, too late. There are few issues in international affairs that would not benefit from greater US involvement. In a BBC interview I tried to give some background to the PM's views, in particular citing his Chicago speech of 1999. The belated international response to the aggression of Slobodan Milosevic was a warning of how indifference can encourage atavistic and genocidal forces. In that speech, the PM was already indicating, when George W. Bush was a presidential hopeful advocating traditional conservative realism, the need to confront Saddam Hussein. (Also see an excellent piece by John Rentoul in the Independent on Sunday.)
The Guardian ran a notably hagiographic article about the former CIA officer Philip Agee, who had "blow[n] the whistle on the dirty tactics of his CIA bosses in the 70s". Agee's was a briefly fashionable cause for civil libertarian opinion in 1976, when the Labour Home Secretary, Merlyn Rees, deported him on grounds of national security - entirely justifiably. You wouldn't know this from the Guardian profile, written by Duncan Campbell, but Agee was named in The Mitrokhin Archive, a collection of KGB documents smuggled to the West by the late Vasili Mitrokhin and published under the joint authorship of Mitrokhin and the historian Christopher Andrew in 1999. According to Andrew and Mitrokhin (p. 300):"Agee became in effect the CIA's first defector. In 1973 he approached the KGB residency in Mexico City and offered what the head of the FCD's Counter-Intelligence Directorate, Oleg Kalugin, called 'reams of information about CIA operations'. " Extraordinarily the suspicious KGB resident turned Agee away. According to Kalugin, Agee then went to the Cubans, who welcomed him and willingly shared Agee's information.
Henry Kissinger, George Shultz and others called for "the creation of 'a world without nuclear weapons'", reported the International Herald Tribune. Elder statesmen are prone to calls for worldwide nuclear abolition (the Canberra Commission report of 1996, chaired by Richard Butler, was an earlier exposition of the same theme), but it’s a terrible idea whether it comes from former Senator (and senior Democratic thinker on security) Sam Nunn or Bruce Kent of CND. Even if you disregard the practical difficulties of creating an obtrusive and effective system of verification that nuclear states have disarmed, you're faced with the brute improbability that a world nominally without nuclear weapons would be a safer world. In reality it would be a world in which nuclear weapons would be constantly about to be reinvented, and in which there would be an incentive for states that feared the deployment of clandestine nuclear devices by an adversary to launch a pre-emptive strike. In practice, a system of deterrence and collective security is likely to be far less risky. Worldwide nuclear disarmament requires the utopian prospect of the abolition of the nation state.