A new approach to intervening in foreign countries will be set out by Labour as the shadow Defence Secretary, Jim Murphy, accuses David Cameron of failing to learn the lessons from Tony Blair’s mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ten years after the Iraq War, Labour will attempt to further distance itself from a conflict which alienated many voters by warning against the “ideological” crusade against al-Qa’ida favoured by Mr Blair and Mr Cameron.
The party will say that Mr Cameron risks repeating Mr Blair’s errors in Mali, where 350 British personnel are supporting the French military operation.
After criticism that it has few policies, Labour is finally starting to show its hand. Ed Miliband will make a major speech on Thursday as he defines what his “One Nation Labour” slogan would mean for economic policy. He is expected to put squeezed living standards at the top of his agenda, arguing that low and middle-income earners have “never had it so bad”.
Mr Miliband will echo Barack Obama by saying that growth must come “from the middle out” rather than trickle down from those lucky enough to be at the top.
Meanwhile, Labour’s new thinking on foreign policy will be spelt out today by Mr Murphy. He will say the party cannot turn its back on military action abroad, but will propose earlier, “preventative intervention” through Nato to train other forces in regions where troublespots emerge.
In his speech, the Blairite Mr Murphy will say: “Some of the political language applied in response to recent events [in Mali] has suggested a continuation of the 9/11 world and in turn the strategy then deployed. The Prime Minister’s declaration of a ‘generational struggle’ over-simplifies the nature of the threat and compounds rather than learns the lessons from the past. He called for an ‘intelligent’ response; the real intelligent response is to adapt to developments ourselves.”
The shadow Defence Secretary will also argue: “While Iraq and Afghanistan have been painful and rightly controversial, we cannot hide from the fact that threats overseas may necessitate the use of military force. A belief that we have responsibility beyond our borders is not, as some would have it, ideological, but an essential response to the world in which we live. Our nation should be haunted by the isolationist reticence of Douglas Hurd over Bosnia and the tragedy we witnessed in Rwanda.”
Calling for the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan to be learnt, Mr Murphy will say: “Al- Qa’ida was presented as a coherent entity. While truer in the past, it is now a looser franchise. A search for simplicity led to solutions which paid insufficient regard to the complexity of local circumstance. An almost primitive understanding of the Afghan population, culture and geography prior to Nato intervention severely undermined international attempts to work with proxies and our political strategy was in its conception insufficiently representative...
“Mali shows neither we nor our allies have fully applied these lessons. Mali is a failure in foresight. Mali has been on the critical list for a long time yet action has been rushed with shifting objectives.”