The Sketch: Hague sends out a warning – but is anyone listening?

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The Independent Online

The great thing about a moral fog is it's suddenly obvious you don't know where you are. Everyone knows you don't know whether you're flying blind or sitting on the runway. Nowhere is this fog thicker than in the Middle East – and yet in the debate on the subject the Foreign Secretary refused to take advantage of this useful intelligence, and started making foggy demands.

First, he wanted everyone to stop provoking or intimidating each other. Policemen shooting citizens in the head on the street. Has to stop. Totally unacceptable, you know. Like Iran. So, he called for calm. No more fighting and shooting, no torturing and executing, purging and shelling was out – and instead, they had to set about building civil institutions, an independent judiciary and a free press.

He may have been following some covert plan, but William Hague didn't actually seem engaged in reality. Far from seeing through the fog, he couldn't see the fog. He said that all parties should "come together in a credible fashion". "If we can achieve peace in the Middle East," he said – and I defy you to finish that sentence without swearing.

He warned Libyans "thinking about committing crimes" that "the reach of international justice would be long". No one laughed. I did, but no one down there did. The Libyan high command don't seem to be listening. They had "ignored the call for an immediate end to the violence". Inexcusable of them. Extraordinary behaviour.

We don't know where this Arab uprising came from and we don't know where it's going. If someone shot the Archduke of Saudi Arabia would that cause peace, democracy and gender equality in the region – or would it cause World War Three? Would it unleash Islamic fundamentalism? Would Israel bomb Iran, or might it be the other way round? And would we be able to sell them the bombs?

The shadow Foreign Secretary (and I'll give you £500 if you can name him without looking it up) rattled off a list of things he required to happen over there – an end to Jewish settlements and gender equality in Arabia sort of thing. Then he said: "We will stand shoulder to shoulder with the Government if they can bring others in the region to this point of view." In translation: if they can do 115 impossible things before Easter we want some of the credit.



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