Leading article: The humiliating death of an independent British foreign policy


Britain today finds itself more isolated internationally than at any time since the invasion of Iraq. Our official position on the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon is at odds with the European Union, the United Nations and global opinion in general. By refusing to call for a ceasefire we find ourselves with only the United States and Israel itself for company.

We refuse to demand a cessation in hostilities, even though a fair number of our own citizens are in the firing line. We had to get permission from the Israeli military to evacuate thousands of Britons from Beirut this week. We will presumably have to make a similar request to get our remaining stranded citizens out of Tyre, in the heavily bombarded south of Lebanon. How on earth did we get ourselves into such a humiliating position? How did we end up supporting a military operation that is so manifestly against the national interest?

We surely know the answer already. The truth is that Britain no longer has what can be called an independent foreign policy. Our Prime Minister long ago threw his lot in with the Bush administration. And President Bush is adamant that Israel must be given a free hand in Lebanon. It is this - and this alone - that explains our government's refusal to call for a ceasefire. Mr Blair would not dare risk a breach with the White House now, especially considering he is off to Washington next week.

In an echo of the build-up to the Iraq invasion, our leaders are busy coming up with justifications for this perverse stance. Mr Blair claims that the release of Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hizbollah would change British policy. Yet even Israel admits that its operations now have a wider objective. Our Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett desperately claims that the goal of the Israeli operation is to help the Lebanese government to take full control of the country. This is laughable. The Lebanese government has been crippled and the country's infrastructure all but destroyed. Lebanon will be lucky to escape a recurrence of civil war when this is over.

All this is symptomatic of a broader dishonesty from our leaders when it comes to the Middle East at the moment. They make connections only when it suits them. For instance, we have heard much recently about Iran and Syria's support for Hizbollah. But they deny connections when it could be embarrassing. Mrs Beckett was indignant this week when it was suggested to her by an interviewer that the crisis in Lebanon had something to do with the instability radiating out of the catastrophe in Iraq. For the most part, our leaders are reduced to parroting the hopelessly simplistic US line that anyone who opposes US, UK or Israeli policy in the Middle East must be considered an enemy in the great "war on terror".

Meanwhile, the situation on the ground in Lebanon gets worse. After 10 days of Israeli bombardment, more than 330 people have been killed, a third of them children. The UN emergency relief co-ordinator Jan Egeland has warned of a humanitarian disaster in the country in the absence of a truce to allow the distribution of aid. Even leaving aside the unacceptable humanitarian cost, the bombardment is not going to enhance Israel's own security. Hizbollah will be damaged but it is not going to disappear. In the long term it may even be strengthened, as Israel creates more enemies for itself through its collective punishment of the Lebanese people.

Guerrilla armies cannot be bombed into submission. But neither President Bush nor Mr Blair will say as much to the Israeli government. Instead our leaders find themselves acquiescing in the shameful notion that indiscriminate violence by Israel can help to deliver justice in the Middle East.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page


In Sickness and in Health: 'I'm really happy to be alive and to see Rebecca'

Rebecca Armstrong
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine