Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Thinking for Britain?

If governments want to avoid unwarranted accusations of cover-ups and conspiracies then they should come clean immediately in those areas where the public has good reason to be suspicious. When governments go to war they should expect to be called to account, especially when events have not turned out as expected. But there is a lesson in this for critics as well. The processes of decision-making are always fascinating and often illuminating. But attempts to prove that policies were shaped by hidden agendas tend to be futile and distracting, interfering with the development of credible critiques and neglecting the wealth of material that is readily accessible. Reading the record usually gets you closer to the truth than digging for scandal (Lawrence Freedman, The unbelievable truth, FT 28 July).

Terrorism is not a reasonable response to anger about aspects of foreign policy and an about-turn in foreign policy is not a reasonable response to terrorism. Better to discourage the idea that societies can be coerced by this means, and to envelop terrorist campaigns in an aura of failure and futility. This is why great care needs to be taken with the “Iraq made us a target” argument. The Iraq war is rightly criticised for its flimsy rationale and the incompetence of the occupation. But the policy challenge now is to help make things better for the Iraqi people rather than to get the bombers off our backs, just as stability in Afghanistan or a solution to the Arab-Israeli dispute are worthy objectives for the people caught up in the current conflicts rather than just a means of our own self-protection
(Lawrence Freedman: A reversal in Iraq will not protect us from terrorists, FT 3 August).

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