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[B]lair and Bush do share a deep Christianity. One senior member of the White House to whom I talked recently said that one of the reasons for the close relationship between Bush and Blair is indeed their shared faith.
Leftist opposition to the war in Afghanistan faded in November and December of last year, not only because of the success of the war but also because of the enthusiasm with which so many Afghans greeted that success. The pictures of women showing their smiling faces to the world, of men shaving their beards, of girls in school, of boys playing soccer: all this was no doubt a slap in the face to leftist theories of American imperialism, but also politically disarming. There was (and is) still a lot to worry about: refugees, hunger, minimal law and order. But it was suddenly clear, even to many opponents of the war, that the Taliban regime had been the biggest obstacle to any serious effort to address the looming humanitarian crisis, and it was the American war that removed the obstacle. It looked (almost) like a war of liberation, a humanitarian intervention.
The media and the Left--but I repeat myself--have rewritten history even faster than usual in the past few years: so we are presented with an imaginary world in which the whole world, traumatized by the events of 9-11, was unified behind America when it deposed the Taliban and attacked al Qaeda in Afghanistan but that unity and good will was pointlessly squandered when President Bush undertook the radically different regime change in Iraq. It is helpful then to refer back to Michael Walzer's essay, written right after our the liberation of the Afghan people, and recall that much of the Left had already bailed out back then. Even more, and much of Europe, followed them off the ship in the run-up to Iraq. Indeed, today it seems like you can count the members of the Decent Left on the fingers of your hands: their leading light is certainly Tony Blair, but then you've got Mr. Walzer himself; Christopher Hitchens; Paul Berman; John Lloyd; and William Shawcross, author of the book under consideration. Not a whole lot of prominent liberal voices spring to mind who have remained steadfast in their determination that the U.S. and Britain are on the side of the angels in ending the brutal tyranny of Saddam Hussein and giving Iraq a shot at founding a democratic state, are there?
The situation is actually stark enough that it calls into question whether the Decent Left even is part of the Left anymore, or whether a belief in the universal applicability of liberal democrat values and that the great democracies of the West have a role to play in applying them--by military force when necessary--must be considered fundamentally conservative. At the very least, the venom directed at these good men by their former allies demonstrates that they are no longer welcome on the Left. Here, for example, is a passage from a New Statesman "profile" of Mr. Shawcross:
"I was very influenced by William's reporting," remembers Margaret Drabble, whose novel The Gates of Ivory features a Shawcross-like journalist who travels to Cambodia in search of the truth about that stricken country, only to be destroyed by a reality he had refused to believe. "The Quality of Mercy," she says, "was an important influence on my fiction. Whenever I used to meet William, I always found him engaging, quick-witted and very interesting. I've only met him once since his conversion. It's very depressing what's happened to him."Note the easy assumption that it is no longer "progressive" to advocate the overthrow of a genocidal totalitarian like Saddam Hussein?
At any rate, Mr. Shawcross came to his hatred of such homicidal dictatorships honestly. His father, who's disparaged above, was a Nuremberg prosecutor and the son made his bones in the devastating book, Sideshow, which presented the prosecution brioef against Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon for their role in the destruction of Cambodia. He also covered, and eventually worked with the U.N. on, genocide in places like the Balkans and Rwanda. His concern with the evil that regimes do to their own people certainly seems constant and it is hardly surprising that his determination to see such killing punished and prevented would bring him into opposition to Saddam. So, in August of 2002, even before George Bush's U.N. speech, Mr. Shawcross wrote an essay for The Guardian calling for the removal of Saddam Hussein by military means, Let's take him out: The threat to the world posed by Saddam Hussein's rule of terror is too great to ignore any longer. There is only one solution, military action:
Faced with the ruthless, terrorist nature of the regime, the Iraqi people alone cannot change their government. Only outside intervention can do that. [...] The first and most important thing is to get rid of Saddam's regime. When he falls there will be dancing in the streets of Baghdad, as there was in Kabul when the US drove out the Taliban. The Iraqis will be rid of a monstrous incubus.This is the most straightforward and expansive case to be made for intervention, much like the one that the President made a month later, that Saddam Hussein was an especially vile leader, who stood in violation of UN resolutions, and who could only be removed from power by outside armed forces. Mr. Shawcross, like Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair, held out hope at this point that the world entire might be summoned to do the right thing, but recognized that it might be down to just a few good nations. He did not shy away from that prospect.
One thing he did do, unfortunately, is that like Tony Blair he tried to win that wider support by using Saddam's WMD programs as a further justification for removing him:
The new archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has said that it would be immoral and illegal for the British to support an American war against Iraq without UN authority. King Abdullah of Jordan has warned against an attack on Iraq, saying it would open a "Pandora's box" in the Middle East. The prospect of war against Iraq has provided a field day to anti-Americanism. I would argue that, on the contrary, the illegality is all on the side of Saddam Hussein. The real immorality and the greatest danger is to allow this evil man to remain indefinitely in power, scorning the UN and posing a growing threat to the world. Tony Blair is both brave and right to support American demands for a "regime change" in Iraq.The problem is not that this justification is inadequate, nor that we haven't yet found enough WMD to satisfy critics, but that it muddied the waters. A true believer in the U.N., carefully based even this argument in the most rigorous legal case:
The inspectors may find some banned materials, by luck, perseverance and good intelligence - and because Saddam has made cunning tactical concessions. They will never find the bulk of the illegal weapons. But that is not their job. That is to monitor his voluntary disarmament. He is not doing that and he never will. He is in clear breach of resolution 1441 and he always will be. The decision the world faces is: will we let him get away with it again? George Bush and Tony Blair say No. They are right.but it seems undeniable, especially in retrospect, that reliance on the specter of WMD was an unnecessary distraction and was counterproductive for those who believe in a broad right--even obligation--to intervene against evil regimes.
In this book Mr. Shawcross seeks to undo some of the damage by presenting a cogent and thorough history of how the war came about along with a vindication of the rationales that President Bush, Prime Minister Blair, and he himself presented for the war. The task is easier where the President is concerned:
By late summer 2003 no [WMD] had been found in Iraq. Blair's critics on both the right and left began to accuse him of misleading the British public and taking the country to war to counter a threat that did not exist. The problem for Blair was that whereas George Bush had always thought that regime change was a good enough reason for attacking Saddam, Blair had always insisted on the legal cover provided by Iraq's flouting of successive UN resolutions and possession of proscribed weapons of mass destruction.Possession may not be nine tenths of the law, but the lack of possession became the obsession of the war's opponents and did leave proponents, but especially Mr. Blair, in a damn tough spot.
Those proponents and any open-minded reader--assuming such a person still exists on such a divisive issue--will likely be convinced by Mr. Shawcross's reminders of how universal was the belief that the WMD programs were ongoing and the weapons stockpiles still around. But the opponents are probably beyond convincing at this point. They'll certainly catterwaul about his conclusion:
[T]he United States is still the only country that can really change the world for the better.Nevertheless, anyone looking for a brisk and readable history of the politics that brought us to war and followed thereafter will do no better than this tidy little volume.
-AUTHOR SITE: williamshawcross.com
-BOOK SITE: Allies: The U.S. and the World in the Aftermath of the Iraq War by William Shawcross (Public Affairs)
-EXCERPTS: from Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia by William Shawcross
-EXCERPTS: from Deliver Us From Evil by William Shawcross
-LECTURE: AFTER IRAQ: AMERICA AND EUROPE (William Shawcross, 2003 Harkness Lecture, King’s College, London, 27 March 2003)
-ESSAY: Peace is not the answer: Calls to end Iraq's bloodshed are hardly noble when those who would triumph slaughter teachers as children weep. (William Shawcross, October 9, 2005, LA Times)
-ESSAY: They should be ashamed (William Shawcross, June 17, 2003, The Guardian)
-ESSAY: Why this paper is wrong about Bush and Blair's stance on Iraq: Attacks on the premier and the president are ignorant and simplistic (William Shawcross, 09 February 2003, The Independent)
-LECTURE: The US, Britain and Australia In The Age of Terrorism (William Shawcross, 2004 The Sydney Institute Lecture, 28 April 2004)
-ESSAY: WMD did pose a threat (William Shawcross, July 21, 2004, The Guardian)
-ESSAY: The cynicism of the defeatists: William Shawcross rebukes Andrew Gilligan and Rod Liddle for their reflections last week on the war in Iraq (William Shawcross, 4/24/04, The Spectator)
-ESSAY: The scourge of anti-semitism spreads its venom (William Shawcross, December 14, 2003, The Observer)
-ESSAY: The UN murderers must never be allowed to achieve their aim (William Shawcross, 26/08/2003, Daily Telegraph)
-ESSAY: Hard Jobs Require U.S. Power (William Shawcross, April 20, 2003, LA Times)
-ESSAY: Pax Americana: Europeans are hypocritical, isolationist and deluded in their attempts to hobble the greatest power on earth (William Shawcross, 4/12/03, The Spectator)
-ESSAY: Baghdad Day: "April 9 is not just spring, it is for Iraqis eternal spring." (WILLIAM SHAWCROSS, April 10, 2003, Wall Street Journal)
-ESSAY: Why Saddam will never disarm: the Iraqi leader is prepared to go to any lengths to hold on to his deadly weapons (William Shawcross, February 23, 2003, The Observer)
-ESSAY: Let's take him out : The threat to the world posed by Saddam Hussein's rule of terror is too great to ignore any longer. There is only one solution military action (William Shawcross, August 1, 2002, Guardian)
-DIGESTED READ: Queen and Country by William Shawcross: Condensed in the style of the original (June 8, 2002, The Guardian)
-ESSAY: Stop this racism (William Shawcross, September 17, 2001, The Guardian)
-ESSAY: Send in the mercenaries if our troops won't fight: think the unthinkable in Sierra Leone (William Shawcross, May 10, 2000, The Guardian)
-REVIEW: of PREVENTIVE DIPLOMACY: Stopping Wars Before They Start Edited by Kevin M. Cahill (William Shawcross, NY ?Times Book Review)
-ARCHIVES: The New York Review of Books: William Shawcross
-PROFILE: William Shawcross (Contemporary Writers)
-PROFILE: NS Man of the year - William Shawcross (Jason Cowley, 15th December 2003, New Statesman)
-PROFILE: William the conqueror: As a radical young writer, he took on the US establishment over Vietnam. Now he counts American hawks as friends and has been appointed biographer to the Queen Mother. What will he do with the House of Windsor's secrets? (Ed Vulliamy, July 13, 2003, The Observer)
-ARTICLE: £1m advance for Queen Mother's biography (Mark Oliver, August 15, 2003, The Guardian)
-ESSAY: America Unlimited: The Radical Sources of the Bush Doctrine (Karl E. Meyer, Spring 2004, World Policy Journal)
-ESSAY: Bush and Blair have lit a fire which could consume them: The Iraqi uprising will drive home the forgotten lessons of empire (Seumas Milne, April 8, 2004, The Guardian)
-REVIEW: of Allies (Ronald D. Asmus, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW: of Allies (James Traub, NY Times)
-REVIEW: of Allies (Ronald Radosh, New York Post)
-REVIEW: of Allies (Philip Gordon, Foreign Affairs)
-REVIEW: of Allies (Ed Vulliamy, Observer)
-REVIEW: of Allies (John J. Miller, National Review)
-REVIEW: of Allies (Paul Rogers, The Independent)
-REVIEW: of Allies (Gary Brown, Online Opinion)
-REVIEW: of Allies (Mark Easterbrook, MSN Xtra)
-REVIEW: of Deliver Us From Evil: Peacekeepers, Warlords, and a World of Endless Conflict by William Shawcross (Max Boot, Foreign Affairs)
-REVIEW: of Deliver Us from Evil (Jack F. Matlock Jr., NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW: of Deliver Us From Evil: Peacekeepers, Warlords, and a World of Endless Conflict by William Shawcross (Jonathan Steele, The Guardian)
-REVIEW: of Deliver Us From Evil: Peacekeepers, Warlords, and a World of Endless Conflict by William Shawcross (Peter Beaumont, The Observer)
-REVIEW: of Deliver Us from Evil (Donald P. Kommers, America)
-REVIEW: of Deliver Us from Evil (Robert Kagan, Commentary)
-REVIEW: of The Quality of Mercy: Cambodia, Holocaust, and Modern Conscience by William Shawcross (Donald S. Zagoria, Foreign Affairs)
-REVIEW: of Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia by William Shawcross (Gaddis Smith, Foreign Affairs)
-OBIT: Lord Shawcross dies at 101 (Michael White, July 11 2003, The Guasrdian)
Book-related and General Links:
Neither a Realist Nor a Liberal, W. Is a Liberator: Saddam finally hit upon a president who knows how to beat him (LAWRENCE F. KAPLAN AND WILLIAM KRISTOL, January 29, 2003, Wall Street Journal)
-ESSAY: The Cost of 'Stop the War'...Why I'm not going wobbly on Iraq. (Tony Blair, 2/17/03, Wall Street Journal)
-PROFILE: The Prime Minister: A trampled Tony Blair stands up. (Anthony Lane, 2003-03-31, The New Yorker)
Not too great. Just too greatly liked: a review of Blair By Anthony Seldon (The Economist)
ROAD TO WAR
-ESSAY: Stumbling Into War (James P. Rubin, September/October 2003, Foreign Affairs)
-ESSAY: Rebuilding the Atlantic Alliance (Ronald D. Asmus, September/October 2003, Foreign Affairs)
I hope Mr. Shawcross and you are in the truth and I'm wrong, but what I see now is that the war in Irak hasn't brought any relief to the irakian people nor represented a victory against islamic terrorism. Maybe time will make your opinions as the right ones...
- César Álvarez
- Oct-18-2004, 11:48