They really can't afford to lose this one. That's why, despite the sparseness of their arguments, the pro war lobby are desperate.
One interesting aspect of the recent debate over British involvement in Afghanistan is the effect it's having in Washington. Britain has been the US's partner in crime in the war on terror and has been so doggedly loyal for so long that there is "some level of anxiety", according to the Financial Times (16 July 2009), about whether it will continue in this role.
An official in Obama's administration said, "It's hard to see our most capable partner struggling in this debate. When it happens in a country like Germany, you think, 'well, that's Germany and they have special difficulties in light of the upcoming [German] elections', but when it happens in London it hits hard." He added: "If we are going to have to backfill European countries that decide to leave, could we sustain that with US public opinion? That's an open question."
Bruce Riedel, an analyst at the Brookings Institution said: "The British are crucial to the Nato mission in Afghanistan. Public opinion here will be affected negatively against the war if our key ally in Helmand starts to look for a path out."If there were any argument that we need to keep on doing what we are doing, it is this. The Americans desperately need the British, as they did in Iraq, for political cover, to convince their own people that the war has wide support. Both Britain and the US are desperate to prosecute the war, fearing that a loss in Afghanistan following the disaster of Iraq would be too much for them to sustain.
Building a troops out campaign over the next few months will make it clear to the Obama administration, and even more importantly to the US population, that they can no longer pretend that they have international support for this war.
A small by product of this campaign would be to scupper Tony Blair's chances of becoming president of the European Union. That this propoosition has even surfaced shows the lack of self recognition let alone contrition among Labour's leading lights, who cheerfully went into the voting lobbies for war in Iraq. The former minister Denis MacShane describes Blair as having the 'standing and authority' for the job. With whom? Obviously with Denis MacShane..anyone else? Oh, Glenys Kinnock.
Haven't they noticed Iraq? Lebanon? Afghanistan? Labour losing a million votes in the 2005 general election, generally attributed to the Iraq war. Not to mention a growth in inequality, privatisation of public services and attacks on working conditions.
Such an appointment, just as when he was appointed the envoy for peace in the Middle East, would be met with a mixture of incredulity, bitterness and disgust, yet another example of criminality being rewarded. What next? Silvio Berlusconi as commissioner for women's equality?
Blair's shamelessness is another form of the political bankruptcy and elitism which makes so many people feel there is something rotten in the state of Britain. The rich and powerful are always rewarded, and carry on oblivious to the plight of those who suffer in war.
Denying Blair this prize would be a prize in itself.
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
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