Leading article: Of words and deeds

Share

Actions, not words, are what the Government is anxious to emphasise on the war in Lebanon. John Hutton, the Work and Pensions Secretary, who had the unenviable task yesterday of claiming that the Cabinet was united behind the Prime Minister's line, declared that "the Prime Minister... is trying to bring this process of violence... to an end, but do it in a way that isn't just about words. The words are the easy bit." Earlier in the week, in an ill-tempered radio interview, the Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, made the same point. On Thursday, the Prime Minister responded to questions about why he had not called for an unconditional ceasefire by declaring that "unless you get an agreement that... is going to hold, then all we are doing is expressing a view. We are not actually getting the job done."

Strange that a man whose trademark is his engaging fluency should set so little store by words. And of course, if he had called for an immediate ceasefire at the outset of the crisis rather than now, "provided it is on both sides", it would at least have demonstrated to the Arab world that Britain preserved a critical detachment from the policy of the US, and we would now enjoy rather more credibility as peacebrokers.

But let us do as the Prime Minister says, and judge him by his deeds rather than his words. And in doing so, we do not seek to diminish the value of his activities towards the proposed Security Council resolution that was announced yesterday. That resolution is indeed indispensable for achieving the international consensus that can ultimately deliver an end to the conflict. But this week, the Prime Minister has been saying a good deal else about the Middle East. It is worth considering whether what Mr Blair does actually matches what Mr Blair says.

In his speech to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, he said that we - the US and Britain - must "change dramatically the focus of our policy" in the region. He spoke about "an arc of extremism now stretching across the Middle East... to defeat it, we will need an alliance of moderation". The struggle, he maintained, was "between Reactionary Islam and Moderate, Mainstream Islam... about global values". Thus, the US and Britain are engaged in a struggle for pluralism, democracy and open markets against those in the Muslim world who favour sectarian separatism and dictatorship.

If this be indeed the choice, we know which side we should be on. But is this war of values actually compatible with the actions of the US and Britain in the Middle East? In Iraq, their first and last resort has been to use force to overthrow dictatorship. Neither is it true that the repulsive regime of Saddam Hussein fitted Mr Blair's template of Reactionary Islam - in those terms it was rather more moderate than many Islamic governments.

And how, crucially, does this apply to Lebanon? The conflict there may be between Israel and Hizbollah - and ultimately between Israel and Hizbollah's backers, Iran and Syria - but it is being fought out largely in the territory of a democratic state that is by no means wholly Islamic.

Lebanon is - or rather, was - the kind of polity the Prime Minister favours, a democracy where Christianity, Islam and Judaism co-exist, open to global markets. It had recently rid itself of the Syrians, and its economy, however debt-ridden, was relatively robust.

Now, its government looks like a cipher in the real struggle between the militants of Hizbollah and Israel. The one result of the aggressive Israeli response to Hizbollah - backed by the US and Britain - has been to achieve a consensus between Shia Muslims, Christians and Druze, against the devastation wreaked by Israel on Lebanese civilians, infrastructure and economy.

There is a lesson in all this. With Mr Blair, pay attention to what he does, not what he says. They don't always square up.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: SEO Specialist

£21000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an e...

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: personality is so much more important than policies

John Rentoul
Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella, with her boyfriend, fellow vlogger Alfie Deyes  

If children are obese then blame food manufacturers, not Zoella

Jane Merrick
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat