Speaking yesterday in the Lords debate on Syria, Paddy Ashdown made the following speech:
I hope that today marks a watershed not just for the people of Syria but in our battle to remove the scourge and terror of ISIL and in the foreign policy of Her Majesty’s Government. In the last 10 years, since shock and awe, we have been obsessed by high explosives as our singular instrument of foreign policy. We have forgotten again and again and again the old dictum of Clausewitz that war is an extension of diplomacy by other means. So in Afghanistan we relied on high explosives: we did not build the relationships with the neighbours that we should have built, we did not build that diplomatic context, and we lost. In Iraq, we did the same. And we lost. In Libya, when it came to constructing the peace, we did the same. And we lost. And for the last three years we have been doing exactly the same. And we were losing. Maybe we will now give ourselves a chance to turn that around and make success.
From these Benches we unequivocally condemn atrocities perpetrated by ISIL, be they in Paris, Ankara, Sharm el-Sheikh, Tunisia or Beirut, or indeed the day-in, day-out victimisation of people in the Middle East. We have also recognised that in defeating an enemy like ISIL the use of military force will be necessary, and indeed we have supported air strikes in Iraq. But the use of lethal force should never be used simply as a gesture—not even a symbolic gesture. It has to have effect. And to have effect, it must surely be part of a wider strategy, not least on the diplomatic front. So the challenge is not whether the Government have made a case to justify bombing but whether they have a strategy to bring stability to the region and lay the foundations for a peaceful future for Syria.
Probably nothing is more important than the Government’s primary responsibility of security of the realm and its citizens. The Prime Minister acknowledges that in his Statement. Clearly, we do not have the evidence, nor would it be appropriate to share that evidence publicly, and therefore we must accept the judgement of the Prime Minster in responding to perhaps one of the most serious calls that has been made on him. However, it would be interesting to know whether this is a matter that the Intelligence and Security Committee will be able to look at.
There is also reference in the Statement to the legal basis. Having worked closely as a law officer with the present Attorney-General, I know that his judgement would be made with considerable rigorous legal diligence and bringing to bear his considerable personal and professional integrity. I do not call for the publication of law officers’ advice; that is not something that, as a former officer, I would readily do. However, the noble Baroness will remember that before the House debated chemical weapon use by the Syrian regime and a possible UK government response, and before we debated last year the position on military action in Iraq against ISIL, the Government published on each occasion a statement setting out the Government’s legal position. If it is felt possible to elaborate on what was said in the Statement by a similar note, I think that we would find that very helpful.
Foreign Affairs Spokesperson William Wallace recently made a speech to the 2015 Weatherhead Center for International Affairs Conference. In his speech he discussed the Future of the Special Relationship:
The US-UK special relationship was born in the Second World War, and grew to maturity in the first decade of the Cold War. It was a military partnership, in which the UK was America’s junior but nevertheless valuable ally, with bases and forces that extended to the Red Sea, the Arab/Persian Gulf and Singapore. It was also an intelligence partnership – built by working together through the Second World War, and maintained and developed in the decades that followed. On both sides it was underpinned by emotion and rhetoric, by shared memories of the war in Europe and by constructed images – myths – of shared history and values.
The personal ties weakened as the generation of British and Americans who had worked and fought together during the war passed on. The value of the partnership to the USA diminished as decolonisation shrank Britain’s global reach, and the strain of military spending on the British economy reduced the size of its armed forces.
Liberal Democrat Peer and Co-chair of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom (BPCIF), Lord Carlile, writes for Politics Home about the Iran nuclear talks in Brussels later this month:
On June 25, the member countries of the European Union will participate in a summit in Brussels. It is expected to be the scene of some energetic debate between the UK on the one hand and France and Germany on the other, regarding the future of the EU.
It is coincidental but significant that the meeting will take place so close to the deadline for the Iran nuclear talks, which are set to conclude on June 30. The UK, France, and Germany are collectively representing the interests of the European Union in those negotiations, alongside the US, with the additional participation of two relatively pro-Iranian powers, Russia and China.
Doubtless the EU will find time in the margins to discuss Iran.
Given the global importance of the Iran nuclear issue, it is important that whatever political disagreements occur between the EU3, as they are called, they do not present the Iranians with an opportunity to seize on them for their own advantage. Tehran has already had more than enough advantage in the talks, dealing as it is with soft negotiating positions and concessions on the part of the US. The regime in Tehran can smell weakness, and if there is any sense that the European powers are divided, the P5+1’s leverage risk to diminish still further.
In a letter to the Financial Times, Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesperson William Wallace has written:
“Sir, Your call for UK prime minister David Cameron to “make the case for strong defence capabilities” (editorial, June 2) does not spell out the link between the pursuit of a semi-detached relationship with continental Europe and the shrinkage of the UK’s military ambitions.”
The Chinese philosopher Sun Tze said “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” In the Ukraine crisis, Putin is playing strategy. The West is playing tactics.
The West lost the greatest strategic opportunity of recent times when we reacted to the collapse of the Soviet Union, not with a long term plan to bring Russia in from the cold, but by treating Russia to a blast of Washington triumphalism and superiority. Instead of opening the doors to a strategic partnership to Moscow, we sent young men still wet behind the ears from Harvard business school to privatize their industries, and teach them the Western way of doing things. The result was a bonanza of corruption, the humiliation of the Yeltsin years and a clumsy attempt to enlarge our “Cold war victory” by seeking to expand NATO and Europe right up to the Russian border. There was always going to be a consequence of this folly and its name is Vladimir Putin.