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December 31, 2003



An excellent post again. I had the pleasure of meeting Tom Wright when he was at Worcester College, Oxford, as chaplain, and was very impressed with him. His comments in the Independent were disappointing, but then, what isn't disappointing about that paper nowadays?

Eve Garrard

Happy New Year to you too, Oliver, and thankyou for this excellent post. The humanitarian and the defence cases for the Iraq war were both very strong, so none of us need to argue too fiercely about which takes priority. Those of us who think the humanitarian case had the edge can acknowledge the strength of the defence case, and can be very glad indeed that the two considerations coincided here.

Barry Meislin

A most eloquent response to a very perplexing phenomenon.

You masterfully explain precisely why the self-defense argument must take priority over the humanitarian one, even though both are part and parcel of the same project---and I do not at all wish to denigrate the campaign's already huge humanitarian achievements (and even huger potential ones). To the contrary.

However, in a nutshell, one may (and does, in the millions, world-wide) question, even deny---using all kinds of humanistic arguments, the confusion of relative morality (and the strangle-hold that "ethical relativism" has on the west) being what it is---the utter good brought about by the liberation of millions of people from totalitarian oppression. But it is a far different thing to pontificate to the U.S. that it has no right to defend itself---even though those same many millions do that as well, and often from similar motivations.

Thank you, and a happy 2004 to you and all your readers.


"This wasn't primarily a war for humanitarian purposes, though humanitarian ends were served by it and humanitarian people ought thus to have supported it."
Certainly. The most risible part of the anti-war campaign is the claim that "Bush is just as bad as Saddam".

" It wasn't either a war of pre-emption, though our own security justified a pre-emptive strike against a regime whose determination to wage war is a fact of history. "
Precisely. It is astonishing that so many people are blissfully unaware that the regime repeatedly tried to shoot down Allied aircraft in the no-fly zone throughout the period 1991-2003.

"It was a war in defence of the international order of civilised states against the twin threats of apocalyptic terrorism and weapons of mass destruction,"
Also risible is the suggestion that "Bin laden would never work with Saddam"
".. and in furtherance of an effective system of international law in which UN Security Council Resolutions are seen to be implemented by the great powers"
Unfortunately, one consequence of the political manouvering over the "18th resoultion" is that the UN Security Council is now completely discredited. In fact, the Islamic Fundamentalists always saw it as a "kuffar" organisation to be swept away by the followers of the Prophet.

Tim Newman

Another characteristically good article, but there is one line I wish to question:

"I supported Nato's actions in defence of Kosovar Albanians from Serb imperialism."

I supported the Kosovo war, but I don't think I would describe Serbia's actions at the time as imperialism. Their goal was not to secure more land for themselves by stealing it from another country, it was to prevent Kosovo (a recognised part of Serbia) from becoming an independent state. I believe that any country has a right to prevent this from happening, but in this case the Serbs quickly forwent that right by using genocide in order to achieve their aim. However, that does not mean that their original aim was not a legitimate one, and I disagree that it was an imperialistic aim.

Happy New Year.

Don B. Kates

This is by way of a personal communication rather than a comment, though if comment you want, let me say (as an American)that this is a splendid piece marked by the urbane and moderate tone that so often distinguishes English authors from Americans.
Your article was called to my attention by an American history professor who is distributing it to everyone of intellectual stature whom he knows as am I. He wants to know, and so do I, who the hell are you? He just ran across your site by chance. NB: if you wish further information before responding to this you may look up my name on the internet or look at the website my wife established some years ago at donkates.com



Can we depend on you for put-downs on these too?

"Former Tory cabinet minister Douglas Hogg said that on the current facts 'war is not justified' on moral grounds. Public opinion would only accept a war if the need for it was 'overwhelming clear' - that was not the case now, said Mr Hogg." - from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2277932.stm#list

"FORMER Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd yesterday launched a scathing attack on plans to attack Iraq. He warned that a military strike risked turning the Middle East into a 'inexhaustible recruiting ground for terrorism' and would scupper hopes of a deal between Israel and the Palestinians." - from: http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/0104-08.htm

"Lord Healey, the former chancellor and deputy leader of the Labour Party, calls on Tony Blair today to resign if weapons of mass destruction are not found in Iraq." - from: http://www.emjournal.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/june007.html

Peter Bocking

The Archbishop's statement has all the hall marks of a liberal left intellectual's attempt at communicating with the "Street".This inevitably sounds silly,patronising or insulting,quite often all three.
Has the Archbishop lost sight of the Christian belief in redemption,Bush and Blair are rendered unclean by previous actions and can therefore never make attonement for past sins.This view is more akin to the search for the Holy Grail than Christian doctrine.

David Gillies

Hurd, Hogg and Healey. Oh well, now that that titanic triumvirate of statecraft has spoken, the scales have fallen from my eyes. Puhlease. I'm hard-pressed to find anything substantive that any of them have been right about since I was in short trousers. Hogg's the most egregious of the bunch - anyone who wears a hat like that in anything other than an ironic fashion is clearly not to be trusted.



Thanks for that illuminating insight about whether all three of 'em were ever right about anything. However, that presents me with a teensy bit of a problem or two but I feel confident you can help us resolve it all in your usual incisive fashion.

It seems Douglas Hurd believes that it would no bad thing for Britain to join the Euro while Denis Healey thinks that joining the Euro could lead to riots on the streets in Britain and he is on the advisory council of the No Euro campaign.

In my ol' fashion way of thinking they can't both be correct about the Euro but then you probably know of a third way. Speaking personally, the Eurozone economy doesn't seem to be doing too well having both higher unemployment and inflation rates than Britain, tho' it has to be said that hasn't inhibited Tony Blair's enthusiasm for joining and he is bound to be right or he wouldn't have signed up to those sexed-up dossiers on Iraq with all that stuff about weapons of mass destruction could be used in 45 minutes. 'Course, it's a bit strange they've not actually found any WMD in Iraq since the war but then that is rather fortunate in the light of this news report:

"British forces went into battle in the Iraq war without protective equipment against weapons of mass destruction - the very 'threat' used by Tony Blair to justify joining the American-led invasion. Not one single tank or armoured vehicle was fitted with the required filter to guard against chemical and biological attacks. And the entire stock of vapour detection kits, needed after a suspected chemical attack, was found to be unusable. An official audit found that many soldiers were issued with NBC (nuclear, chemical and biological) suits of the wrong size, making them useless, as well as ill-fitting respirators." - from (subscription): http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=472468


Isn't Oliver a big fan of Healey? Will he now denounce him as revisionist, appeasing scum? Will self-righteousness give way to the admission that there was a decent, intellectual case against the war (that does not involve being a revolutionary Marxist!)?

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