View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Old Diplomats for Terror 

According to this morning's Financial Times (not available online):

More than 50 former diplomats and government officials, representing the most senior foreign policy experts in the 1990s, criticise Mr. Blair for following US policies that were "doomed to failure".

The letter criticises the conduct of the Iraq war, saying it had "made it clear that there was no effective plan for the post-Saddam settlement".

It describes Israel's controversial agreement for a partial withdrawal of Jewish settlements from Palestinian terriroty as "one-sided and illegal."

Oliver Miles, former ambassador to Libya, said on Monday it was Mr. Blair's press conference with George W. Bush, US president, in Washington two weeks ago that spurred him to act. The letter says: "Our dismay at this backward step os heightened by the fact that you yourself seem to have endorsed [the Israeli agreement], abandoning the principles which for nearly four decades have guided international efforts to restore peace in the Holy Land..."

One would think that four decades of abject and worsening failure would be enough to persuade even feckless diplomats from the 90s that something was awry, but evidently not. One might also ask exactly what peace those policies were intending to restore. Evidently the peace that followed the 1956 Sinai Campaign, during which the Arabs fought was was known as the "War of Attrition," mining Israeli farms, sniping at the farmers, and sneaking across the sacred pre-1967 borders to blow up pumping stations and murder children. In fact, by that standard, the international efforts could almost be said to have succeded.

One might also the irony of "diplomats from the 1990s" criticizing the efforts of their successors to clean up their messes. It's one thing to disavow responsibility for Audrey II, quite another to complain that it's not getting enough blood under the current regime.

Many of the former diplomats have extensive experience of the Middle East. The list of signtories included Sir Crispin Tickell, Oliver Miles, Terence Clark, Sir Andrew Green and Sir Bryan Cartledge, respectively former ambassadors to the United Nations, Libya, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and former Soviet Union.

Would it be unduly cruel to suggest that the UN ambassador's name is commensurate with the seriousness due that organization? Yes, it probably would. So I'll have to be content with pointing out that the US Marines achieved more with regards to Libya in roughly three weeks than Mr. Miles did during his entire term, and it was he, not they, who was in Tripoli. Mr. Clark, likewise, even moreso. Either Mr. Green didn't know or didn't want to know about the financing activities of his Saudi hosts. And a fair number of the successor countries to Mr. Cartledge's old posting now have US bases on their soil. This letter was drafted over wine made from extremely sour grapes.

It is the first time such a senior group has spoken out so strongly. In Westminster last night, it was seen by some members of parliament as have echoes of the time 364 economists wrote to Margaret Thatcher in the early 1980s complaining about her free market policies.

Admittedly, in the US, it's more traditional for the diplomatic corps not wait until leaving office to undermine policies they don't like. Still, I was in London in 1987, for the elections following that letter. The loss of Scotland was somewhat offset by the 100-seat majority the Tories won. Now I'm certainly pulling for Michael Howard, assuming that he can get a Heseltine-free party opposed to the EU Constitution. But if this letter echoes the earlier one, it's equally likely that Blair's policy failures will echo Mrs. Thatcher's, and we'll be watching him and Cheri into the second decade of the new century.

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