Is it in Britain's interest to invade Iraq?

I've changed my mind ? I supported the first Gulf War to liberate Kuwait, but now I think I was wrong

Share

I want to debate entirely in terms of British interests the rights and wrongs of going to war with Iraq. Yes, I mean a wholly selfish appraisal of the advantages and disadvantages of our troops, our aircraft and naval units, our tanks, and our money being used in this enterprise. For these purposes, I don't wish even a shred of morality or sentimentality to enter into the argument; let us concentrate solely on what suits or does not the inhabitants of these islands.

I want to debate entirely in terms of British interests the rights and wrongs of going to war with Iraq. Yes, I mean a wholly selfish appraisal of the advantages and disadvantages of our troops, our aircraft and naval units, our tanks, and our money being used in this enterprise. For these purposes, I don't wish even a shred of morality or sentimentality to enter into the argument; let us concentrate solely on what suits or does not the inhabitants of these islands.

The primary reason for launching an attack on another country is self-defence. British defence chiefs feel this strongly: for it to be right to attack, aggression has to be present from the opposite direction. What, precisely, would we be defending ourselves against? As we are not expecting military attack on the United Kingdom or its possessions, what other forms of aggression would we be countering?

Two possibilities are apparent. The first is that, if unchecked, Iraq would again invade one of its neighbours and this would be against our interests. Given the earlier attacks on Iran and Kuwait, this must be considered likely. But I have changed my mind about the significance of this scenario. I supported the first Gulf War to liberate Kuwait, but I now think that I was wrong to do so.

The border between the two countries was arbitrarily placed there by the British 80 years ago. The conflict was a purely regional one, far from our shores. Its outcome had no implications, either favourable or unfavourable for us. Neither government had any democratic legitimacy. Oil would be pumped anyway because the Middle East has no other major source of revenue. In fact, the Western involvement in the conflict led to oil-extraction facilities being destroyed and a toxic fire storm. It was therefore counter-productive in the short term. And Kuwait still has the same type of government.

I don't believe that we have received any lasting value from the loss of lives and the expenditure of considerable resources, nor would we do so in the similar circumstances in the future.

The second possibility under the heading of other forms of aggression is that Saddam Hussein is financing terrorist groups; supplying them and training them with the objective of carrying out attacks in this country, as well as in others. Whether they belonged to the al-Qa'ida network or not would scarcely matter. This is a plausible threat that must be considered. Unfortunately, the Government's assertions on this subject are worthless because they are largely tendentious and inaccurate.

People have to rely on their common sense, on leaked intelligence assessments and on the work of media correspondents in the field. And common sense alone tells us that, even if Iraq were rendered incapable of sponsoring terrorist attacks on the West, other groups and other countries hostile to the hawkish British and Americans would thereby redouble their efforts. In practice, I believe an allied attack on Iraq would increase the risk of terrorist activity within Britain rather than diminish it.

After considerations of self-defence comes the second-order issue of international security. The creation of an international framework of law governing the behaviour of nations would be a great blessing. It is undoubtedly in our interests that United Nations resolutions are enforced – provided that such action does not compromise our ability to defend ourselves. That is why I call it a second-order consideration.

However, Saddam has flouted 116 UN resolutions in 12 years. He has violated the resolutions which ended the first Gulf War. He is likely to be in breach of resolution 1441 which demands that he gives up all weapons of mass destruction. Hence the Prime Minister's repeated message that, if we show weakness now, no one will believe us in the future. Likewise, David Owen states: "This war, if it comes, will be about asserting the authority of the UN Charter."

To which it can be added that this war, if it comes, will be because the United States and Britain, at least, have lost faith in the current policy of containing Iraq as a response to Saddam's defiance. Undoubtedly, containment has many disadvantages. Despite over-flights by American and British warplanes, despite substantially reduced oil revenues, despite periodic visits by UN inspectors, it allows Saddam – albeit with great difficulty – to work at acquiring weapons of mass destruction. At the same time, containment inflicts great suffering on Iraqi citizens by depriving them of medical facilities.

This is a genuinely difficult choice. Containment to enforce the UN resolutions on the one hand, which is what France and Germany continue to argue for, or invasion as an act of liberation which America and Britain support. Both policies cost lives, only the timing differs. The second also, as I have noted, increases the possibility of terrorist attacks within Britain. Furthermore, it represents American revenge for 11 September, which is not our business, and it demands from the US a commitment which it has repeatedly walked away from since General Douglas MacArthur left Japan in the early 1950s: nation-building.

Taking account of all these factors, I believe that a prudent reading of British interests would favour a continuation of containment, not war.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Women are working in some of the lowest-paid sectors such as cleaning, catering and caring  

Women's wages have gone backwards. Labour would give women the pay they deserve

Gloria de Piero
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker