July 12, 2007

Paddy Ashdown

Lord Ashdown is an interesting figure within British politics- former soldier, diplomat and Liberal Democrat leader, not to mention an international civil servant as High Representative in Bosnia, interviewed here. He has recently written a book about peacekeeping particularly in the context of his acheivements in Bosnia. His views are fascinating as someone who has been shelled by the Serbian army, involved both in fighting and in negotiating in the Middle East. Ashdown's views on Iraq are worth hearing- his view is that the maximum that we can obtain in Iraq is the preservation of Iraqi territorial integrity- that we have failed in Iraq to achieve the political ends that we designated when we set out to do. He compares the situation in Afghanistan to the situation of Somalia before Black Hawk went down. We are putting less resources than ever before and have a disunited command and are in his word failing- and that failure is not inevitable but likely. His gloomy prognostications include problems in Pakistan- with a possible regional civil war in the Muslim world.

Lord Ashdown rightly showers the American administration with scorn- attempting to create an American democracy in Iraq has failed completely. President Bush and Vice President Cheney may stand accountable for thousands if not millions alive at the bar of history, if indeed there are historians left to chronicle it. But lets not either let Europeans off the hook- the unwillingness of European powers to commit proper forces to Afghanistan or allow them to fight has weakened the western alliance and weakened NATO- the Europeans have betrayed the cause by their pusalliminity, whereas America has failed the cause by their folly. Europe needs to take more of a role- Germany, France, Italy and the UK need to beef up armies and military expenditure particularly for Afghanistan. The United States needs to work out that sending only 7 people speaking Arabic to its embassy in Iraq was folly- that having too few troops on the ground was a mistake that you can't do occupation on the cheap especially if you hope to rebuild a country and that losing control of the security situation at the start is something you must not do- Jay Garner was right the Americans had too few troops and disbanded the Iraqi army too soon.

All in all Lord Ashdown leaves copious evidence to document the fact that both sides of the Western alliance still live in the 1990s- the Americans trying to remake the world without knowing about it, the Europeans still failing to spend enough money. Both sides of the Atlantic need to do a lot more- we must learn from Afghanistan and Iraq- if the world is not to get more dangerous.


Lord Straf-Ruhr said...

...attempting to create an American democracy in Iraq has failed completely...

Natch but the real policy is succeeding admirably, thank you very much and much dosh will be had by all before it's all over.

Gabriel said...

Attempts to estabilish a world-police force with the actual technology, manpower and costs is a fool's errand. Europeans are trying to play smart by keeping away from the fuss US is doing in the Middle East, however they just fall in a Catch-22 situation: you won't move in the risk to spread more powder to furnace, but if you don't do a thing, the situation won't fix by itself either. Europe just have to lose from US recklessness in world's most unstable region after Africa, to the point to think if it's still worth keeping such an ally.

Relations with US should become normalized, the age of "friend or foe" is gone, the Cold War is past, no need to follow them in every petty war waving the tail to their every wish. The actual US administration is like a spoiled kid, a bully one, who keeps crying if no one runs to his aid when he cut his little finger by beating a younger kid.

No, this have gone too far. We need to stop encouraging this kind of childish behaviour even if it means they're going to turn their noses from us for a while.