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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, it has been a useful debate. I thank the Minister for being here after getting off a plane at whatever time this morning she got off it. We appreciate that Ministers in the Foreign Office work extremely hard. One of the arguments for having Ministers from the Foreign Office in the Lords is that it cuts down on the amount of constituency business, but it encourages Foreign Secretaries to make Ministers travel even more than would otherwise be the case. We appreciate the Minister's commitment to the Lords, and have very much appreciated the number of useful Foreign Office ministerial and official briefings that we have had; I note that we will have another next week.
I have to comment on the absence of Conservatives in the debate. I have often thought that Conservative attitudes to foreign policy were primarily concerned with Gibraltar and Zimbabwe, but I had not realised that the level of importance that they give to Iraq is so limited. We on these Benches give the Conservatives notice that, after the election, we will ask for a greater share of the resources provided for the Opposition in this Houseone that is rather more proportionate to the contribution that the different opposition parties make to business in this House than to the historic position of the Conservatives, given that too many Conservatives from this House appear to be elsewhere.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, I am terribly sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but does that mean that he acknowledges that the Labour Party will win the election? What he says seems to imply that. I am delighted in his comments.
We are not focusing on the run-up to the war, or its justification or legality; that has been discussed a great deal and will no doubt be discussed again. Our concern here is with the processes of rebuilding and of the return of control from foreign occupation to Iraqi sovereignty. As several noble Lords said, our biggest difficulty is in gaining effective information from the outside. We look forward very much to the Minister's speech, hoping that she will be able to answer a number of our questions.
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The elections were a major step forward, but the delay in forming a government is extremely worrying. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green, that my noble friend Lord Dykes did not say that the elections were a sham. However, he said that the parliament so far had not been able to conduct any substantive business. We welcome the Minister's assessment of how far we have got.
We are also conscious that the period immediately after the invasion saw a number of crucial and dreadful mistakes. We have Larry Diamond to thank for telling us, in detail, in his Foreign Affairs article and others, just how awful those mistakes were. As the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, knows well, Larry Diamond was seconded to the Coalition Provisional Authority as a senior advisor, and became very rapidly disillusioned with the chaos and confusion within the CPA. I remind the Minister that he wrote that it had a policy of "freezing out the Brits".
The destruction of the Iraqi middle class in the chaos of the election, the difficulties of rebuilding a solid middle class when insurgents target all those who shoulder responsibility and criminals target all those with moneywhich means most of those with enterpriseare part of the difficulties we now face. We long to hear more about what the Minister thinks is happening with economic reconstruction. My noble friends have talked about the problems of the dominance of external contractors. Domestic recovery is needed, which will bring domestic employment.
Most of all, of course, we are concerned about the current and future role, and the continuing responsibilities, of foreign forces in Iraq. What is now the relationship between foreign forces and the emerging Iraqi government? Who is now in charge of prisons and prisoners? Under whose rules? What is the British Government's assessment of the capacities of Iraqi forces? Do we have a timetable for withdrawal yet, as others dribble away, disillusioned with American rules of engagement? The noble Baroness, Lady Turner of Camden, is quite right to argue that we have to avoid foreign forces becoming the focus for resistance and disorder, rather than part of the solution in rebuilding order, at all costs.
Many of us continue to have great doubt about the consistency and coherence of American policy, as we listen to and read about the noisy clamour in Washington of competing ideological factions. I agree with the right reverend prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth that we may be happy that Condoleezza Rice is now the Secretary of State. We may be extremely unhappy that John Bolton is now the US ambassador to the United Nations. We are, after all, concerned about the re-establishment of an international order within the context of international lawnot something which John Bolton has ever been able to bring himself to express admiration for.
We are also concerned that disorder in the Middle East should be contained rather than spread. The Trotskyite origins of neo-conservatism are evident in the attractions of permanent revolution, which one
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reads in some of their writings, through overthrowing as many regimes as possible in as many states as possible.
Many of us would love to see a return to democracy in Lebanon and evolution towards a more open society in Syria, and a reduction in the power and influence of the ayatollahs in Iran. We fear, however, the consequences of throwing everything up in the air without concern for what follows. We need the co-operation of neighbouring states in rebuilding a stable and prosperous Iraq, not their hostility.
We are conscious that the costs of Iraq are not only financial and reputational, but also include the distraction of the United States, Britain and our other allies from other international crises: the long and slow process of reconstruction in Afghanistan; the current crisis and potential genocide in Darfur; and the continuing crisis in central Africa, about which our Prime Minister spoke so vigorously in Chicago in 1999, promising that Britain would not again neglect disorder of this sort in central Africa.
I was struck by speech of the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, about democracy. I note that he speaks of the progressive left with approval, even though last week he spoke of the liberal left with disapproval. I assume that the progressive left is not liberal, but perhaps we can discuss that more informally.
The commitment to democracy and nation building which we all share is not just a matter of regime changesomething the best academic literature is quite clear about. It is a long transition, which involves political, institutional, legal, administrative and economic transformation. Social conditions and structures matter. The evidence from Russia and Georgiaa country that I know moderately wellshows that simplistic advice, as the Russians had in 1990 from American social scientists about "just letting it all rip", does not provide the answer and leads to many mistakes. The slow approach which the European Union adopted, with conditionality and targets, looking at the gradual transformation of social and political institutions in Iberia and central and eastern Europe, was a necessary alternative.
I think that those who have written about social structure and structuration would agree that cultural change is part of what one has to go through. I mistrust the dominant current in American social science, which believes that we can impose one size on all. I deeply mistrust the way in which American policy makers have rubbished those who understand the social and tribal structures of the Middle East. Local conditions are extremely important. We have discovered in south-eastern Europe that democratic transitionin Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Macedoniais a long and painful process. We may well be discovering the same in Iraq.
The bishops who have contributed have talked about the wider moral debatenot just about limits on force, but also about obligations to intervene and the responsibility to protect: the sort of questions which the UN high level report has addressed. These
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issues are very sharply in my mind as I struggle to complete my paper for the Archbishop's Council conference in May on just war. They are all questions to which we need to return.
I remind the bishops that part of what we have to argue about is the obligation to use force under some circumstances and the necessity of intervening, rather than limitations on the use of force. I wish Iraq were as simple as Portugal. I fear it may be as complex as Kosovo, but with 12 times the population. I recognise Britain's political and moral responsibility. I suspect that that moral responsibility should now be exercised by moving to withdraw militarily, but to remain engaged in terms of political and educational assistance, and economic and social development.
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