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Mr. Andrew Tyrie (Chichester) (Con): To my surprise, I agree with the hon. Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn) on a good number of things. Although we agree that the United States is mistaken, one of the basic differences between us is that he sees the need to construct justice as the essential building block for securing peace, whereas I see order as even more important than justice. Without order there can be no justice. It is what the United States is doing to make the world a more disorderly place that has led me to oppose American foreign policy so strongly. That is mainly what I want to talk about, but first I shall say a few words about Ukraine.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) described as a great success the fact that Ukraine was at least looking towards the west, partly because of European Union enlargement, but it could equally well be described as an appalling failure that the EU dragged its feet for 15 years before getting around to enlargement. What would have been the effect on Ukraine if Poland had been a member 10 years ago? I think that Ukrainian policy and its history would have been fundamentally different had the neighbouring country watched Poland integrate with the EU. The foot-dragging on enlargement was one of the great scandals of our continent.
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My second point about Ukraine is to reinforce how what is going on there is part of a wider attempt to reverse aspects of the collapse of the Soviet Union. What we are seeing is not a reconstruction of Soviet totalitarianism, but it is still the creation of a pernicious soft dictatorship by a former KGB officer. In 1946, Churchill talked about an iron curtain falling from Stettin to Trieste. Perhaps it is not fanciful to suggest that a more modest form of curtain is falling from Murmansk to Odessa, at least if Ukrainian attempts at peaceful street revolution fail over the next few days.
It is not just the rigged elections and the intimidation in Ukraine. Behind that is President Putin's active support for such tactics. Domestically, he is taking powers to control the judiciary. He is crushing democracy in the provinces by removing elections for provincial governors, confiscating assets and eroding property rights. Free speech is being suppressed in parts of Russia and, in the name of anti-terrorist measures, we now have a sanction for the widespread and systematic use of torture, particularly in Dagestan and Chechnya.
When Churchill made his speech in 1946, he wanted to shake America away from drifting towards isolationism, but he was also attacking an equally dangerous utopian internationalism that was gripping parts of the United States. Isolationists in the United States were arguing that the US should use its nuclear monopoly to impose values on the rest of the world, while idealists and Wilsonians wanted to share nuclear weapons with Russia. They said openly that the Russians should be given this technology immediately because that would be the price for getting them into an active, working UN Security Council. Both of those extreme policies were, in a sense, mistaken. It was not until George Kennan mapped out what became the foreign policy that we had for the following 50 years, which we have only recently discarded, that American foreign policy stabilised.
In a famous telegram that he sent from Moscow, George Kennan made three points, which I think are still pertinent, that had huge influence throughout the west, especially in Washington. First, he said that we must look dispassionately at both the nature of the Soviet threat and the limits to it, and that we must not get panicky about it. Secondly, he said that we must respond to that threat not by trying to take it head on, but by military containment. Thirdly, he said that even if the Soviet Union was trying to overthrow the whole of the state systemin that sense, a revolutionary powerwe must engage with it actively and try to get it to play a part in the international community.
Today, United States foreign policy is again in flux. We desperately need common sense like that of George Kennan 50 years ago. With the end of the cold war, some in the US have argued that military preponderance can underpin a new form of muscular isolationism. The idealists have been hard at it too, arguing that forcemy right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe referred to thiscan be used to spread democracy and that a democratic world will necessarily be a peaceful one. They argue that the great enduring problems of international relations and conflict between states can somehow finally be solved by spreading democracy.
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Part of the great illusion that has always existed in American policy is that absolute security can be achieved. We live in an age of relative security and have done so since the invention of nuclear weapons. Nothing that America will do can change that.
In the late 1940s, America listened to Kennan, Acheson, Churchill and others. It rejected the isolationists and the idealists. The great danger that I see is that America is now locked into a policy that will take us into extremely dangerous waters. It is looking for a permanent fix to the problems of international relations.
The mainstream of foreign policy opinion in Washington has been set aside. It might be thought that what is happening in America is representative of opinion in Washington, but it is not. The overwhelming majority of Democrats oppose it, and a large chunk of the Republican party vigorously opposes George W. Bush's foreign policy. A small group has taken over. It has captured a President, and that President has captured our Prime Minister.
Both the Prime Minister and the President seem to have convinced themselves that it is not only morally right to try to export democracy at the barrel of a gun, but that that will in itself necessarily make the world more peaceful. That is nothing more than a pernicious delusion. Of course we should do everything that we can to encourage democracy, but any political system, even democracy imposed by others, will often make our military action appear to be not liberation, but occupation.
I regret to say that British policy seems to have surrendered to the simplicity of the idea that everything can be solved if only we can impose our own values on others. We are witnessing and actively participating in a mixture of the ruthless application of force, exemplified by Rumsfeld, and a misplaced messianic idealism that comes from Wolfowitz and others. That is what has taken us into Iraq, and it is what has led us to participate in the absurdity, as I mentioned a short while ago in an intervention, of flattening and depopulating a city in the name of democracy.
Mrs. Mahon : The hon. Gentleman was in the Chamber when I asked the Secretary of State whether we could have a report and a full debate in the House on exactly what has happened in Falluja. Does he agree that merely saying that the city was emptied is nonsensical? Certainly many people left, but there must have been thousands who remained and suffered the onslaught of the mightiest military machine in the world. Is it not time that we had a debate about what happened to civilians and what might happen if the Americans try to flatten another city that resists the occupation?
I sympathised with the Secretary of State when he said that there was a group of hardened terrorists in the city who somehow would prevent any form of democracy from being developed in Falluja. However, I question whether the policy which we recently embarked on and implemented was the best way of dealing with the situation. That is why I agree with the hon. Lady: it would be helpful if we could have a proper and full debate, preceded by a full investigation by, at the very least, a Select Committee that was given the opportunity to see all the available papers, including confidential papers.
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I shall describe shortly just how wrong I think that British policy is and then, in the final part of my remarks, outline what I think an alternative foreign policy might be. I think that we have, quite simply, the wrong foreign policy. I agree with the hon. Member for Islington, North that it is making the world a less safe place. It is making Britain less secure, and it is costing the lives of our soldiers and of thousands of others. Far from suppressing terrorism, it is creating the conditions that encourage it. It has also disturbed the regional balance of power in the middle east, and that will be to our cost.
It is a curious irony that the west may shortly be faced either with offering indefinite security guarantees to Iraq and other parts of the middle east, or with the consequences of not doing so, with an increasing Iranian regional preponderance. The potential regional power in the middle east is Iran.
As I have said in this place on numerous occasions, the twin pillars of what could be called the Bush-Blair doctrineregime change and pre-emptive actioncorrode the very basis of stability. Who decides which regime should be changed? The regionally strong, such as Russia and China, will exploit the situationRussia is already doing so in the Caucasus and elsewhere. The weaker countries will find ways of defending themselves with whatever measures they can use, including trying to obtain a nuclear deterrent. That is exactly what is going on now. The doctrine provides a massive incentive for the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
The military intervention in Iraq was not the first to be justified on the grounds of the new policy, but it is the biggest. Many people agree that the Iraq expedition has gone wrong. Many say that that is perhaps because we disbanded the Iraqi army, or because not enough troops were sent in at the beginning, or because the border had not been properly policed.
All those are second-order arguments. Our problem is that it is the policy that led us to go in at the beginning and which we articulated to justify what we did that is causing our difficulties now. It is the blunder of trying to rewrite foreign policy from scratch. It is the blunder of tearing up multilateral foreign policy agreements that we had for decades with allies, which have made the west ascendant for half a century. It is these blunders that are frightening others and leading them to try to obtain nuclear weapons. It is these blunders that are empowering others to intimidate their neighbours.
Above all, these are dreadful blunders because they have eroded the sense of trust that has existed between our electoratesparticularly the British electorateand our leaders. If the Prime Minister comes before the House next week and says, "The House must take action; I cannot explain the detail of the threat to us but we must take military action, believe me", I do not think that the country would go with him. This country is weaker and more vulnerable as a consequence and we have paid a huge price for that.
The scale of this mistake in the long term could be measured in decades. I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe about what happened in Suez. That united Arab nationalism with other forms of extremism. What is happening now is
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uniting Arab nationalism with Muslim fundamentalism. Suez aroused anti-western sentiment, divided the west and eventually exposed a Prime Minister as having lied to the House, which is why, 50 years ago, a Prime Minister resigned and why a furious debate is still taking place as a consequence of the Butler report.
I also agree with my right hon. and learned Friend that we must stay with the US now that we are in Iraq. But at the same time we must contest vigorously and remorselessly the foreign policy that brought about that calamitythe foreign policy which, even now, is causing us to be detested by many of those we most need around the world if we are to suppress terrorism.
I said we had the wrong foreign policy; let me end by outlining what might be a better one. What are the basic building blocks that might make us more secure? First, we must recognise that stability and order in the world must be based on the common-sense principle of non-interference in other countries. That means rejecting pre-emption and regime change. There is a place for humanitarian intervention, but only when an overwhelming majority of the international community supports it. The alternative is anarchyany country deciding to make a humanitarian intervention in an attempt to further its own interests, justifying it on the grounds of the need for that humanitarian intervention.
A second basic principle is that we must make it clear that we will use force primarily for our defence, not for the export of our values. That is the best means, in the long run, of enhancing our security.
Thirdly, we must encourage the United States to have a higher regard for international law. It seems not to have occurred to the American Administration that there is a contradiction between pressurising countries to sign and keep international agreements to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, and America's own revocation of its treaties and agreements. A couple of years ago America withdrew from the anti-ballistic missile treaty. It has not ratified the comprehensive test ban treaty. It withdrew from negotiations to renew and bolster the biological weapons convention. I could go on. Yet America is putting enormous pressure on Iran, Libya and others to sign and adhere to agreements limiting those countries' access to the same technology. The contradiction should be screaming at the United States. If the Americans want the agreements, which they are getting those countries to sign, to have any durability, they must recognise that they too must have greater respect for international law.
The fourth and axiomatic part of our foreign policy must be to do now what we can to reconstruct the damaged western alliance. Our security depends heavily on sticking together. It is by sticking together that the west effectively won the cold war.
Fifthly, we must not allow anything that we say or do, including what I have said today, to be mistaken for crude anti-Americanism. I am an out-and-out Atlanticist. Our security is intimately and inexorably bound up with the United States. They share most of our values, and we must stick together. It does not follow, however, that because America has taken a particular course of action, we must stay silent in every case and hope we can obtain influence by the back door. We know from Sir Christopher Meyer and other
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ambassadors' records of what takes place between the Prime Minister and George Bush that our influence is extremely limited. We must be prepared to speak up publicly.
Finallythere are many other points that I could make, but I shall end herewe must recognise the limits of military power in the face of the type of threat that we now face, and educate our electorates accordingly. Terrorism will not be suppressed entirely, and probably not even mainly, by military means. Inasmuch as there is a battle, as many others have said, it is a battle for the hearts and minds of moderates, particularly moderate Muslim opinion. We must never lose sight of that.
The American Administration's foreign policy, to which we have so closely bound ourselves, is a radical and dangerous departure. It is a profoundly destabilising and un-Conservative foreign policy. The sooner we have the courage as a country to say so, the better.
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