HAVING YOUR CAKE AND EATING IT….. The British Way of Democracy

14th SEPTEMBER 2016

It is a maxim of my own that a state may either be a power or a democracy, but not both. For the demands of being a power are totally incompatible with the demands of democracy.

Today a report was issued by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee which was scathing about former Prime Minister David Cameron’s policy on Libya. It has been compared with the Chilcot Report which took vastly longer, cost vastly more, and was barely critical of anyone in the end. This report was far more damning, but in the end what difference does it make? Both reports might as well have been written about the Napoleonic wars. By the time they were written the matters were fait accomplis. They were no longer politics just history.

If such processes serve any purpose it is to persuade the public that democracy is healthy and that our leaders who make war are held to account. Of course what they actually prove is the exact opposite. You see a state which is both a power and a democracy likes to have its cake and eat it. No democratic process will be allowed to block the application of military force and money in the pursuit of power, but afterwards the politicians will all flog themselves with a stick in front of the public to show how ‘accountable’ they are.

At the time this conflict was raging where were these ‘neigh sayers’ who wrote the report? Any plurality of view in parliament was marginalised to the point of ridicule. The fact, as the report points out, that the outcomes of the Libya policy were quite predictable was nowhere to be heard at the time. The mass media were all of one mind and one voice. Experts who could have given a more sceptical or at least less optimistic appraisal of the policy were never seen or heard. The great, open, democratic mass media as always agreed to a ‘man’, agreed with the UK government’s version of Libya.

There was no plurality of view of any significance, no public debate of any significance, and no parliamentary dissent of any significance. What use is democracy if it can’t stop the state embarking on reckless wars which will have disastrous consequences for generations to come? Where is democracy? What use is it when life and death matters are at stake?

In the end the final insult is to be shown that democracy is safe and sound. Years later a report will be written which gives a different view. It will of course be bitterly contested all the same. This is only a delusion of democracy.

As always we are served up the ‘cock up theory of history’. Our leaders were “well intentioned but mistaken in their judgements”. It’s all supposedly forgivable when seeing it from their point of view. They know the public love to think that their leaders and decision makers are blundering fools so this approach always goes down well. No one is ever to blame for anything, just human frailty.

I do not believe the people who determinedly drove through this policy on Libya were fools, I believe they knew exactly what they were doing and that the policy was a success from their perspective. It is easy to see that regime change in Libya was the only concern of the western powers who attacked Libya, for it took just a few days from the death of Qaddafi to the complete winding down of all NATO operations concerning Libya. With conflict still raging on the streets who was ‘protecting civilians’?

The western powers in support of the Sunni Gulf autocracies set out to either overthrow Qaddafi or simply damage Libya to the point where it was so absorbed in its own internal chaos that it would no longer be an actor in international relations. Partly this eliminated yet another secular, radical regime that opposed western power and influence in the region, but more specifically it eliminated one of the two regional allies of Iran. It is not a co-incidence that in the same year, 2011, there was a concerted effort to destabilise Iran’s only other regional ally, Syria by these fantastically wealthy gulf autocracies filling the country with weapons.

The general public in the west may not understand that these policies are paving the road to war with Iran, a war we are expected to fight on behalf of the Sunni Gulf autocracies, but the Russian government does. This is why Putin has put his foot down on Syria. Iran is effectively on the border with Russia via the Caspian basin and Russia does not want to see a ‘NATO’ war with Iran, it deeply affects the nation’s national security. By stopping the rot in Syria they hope to deter this potential conflict. The public should understand that war with Iran will create a high risk of war with Russia.

In a few months there will be a new US president in the White House. All indications are that this will be Hilary Clinton. Knowing the people in her team and the people she associates herself with, there is every reason to believe that her tenure will be one of the worst kind of war mongering ‘Neocon’. My expectation is that she will try her best to make Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney look like ‘tree hugging peaceniks’. What I expect from her: to escalate the war in Syria till the country is completely destroyed, to go to war with Iran, and to push Russia as far as she can to find out how far she has to go to get a war in Europe.

When we are being sold the ‘We have to protect Syrian civilians’, and we are being sold ‘Iran must not be allowed to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East’, and we are being sold ‘Ukraine’s sovereignty is more important than peace’, do I have any optimism there will be a true democratic debate? No. It will all be as before, and we will just have to wait a further decade for another mealy mouthed report to be written while the Middle East and Europe burn. Enjoy your wars, because you’re not capable of stopping them.