European politicians and electors alike are gripped by the political and social revoutions engulfing the Middle East and not least by the bloody resistance of some autocracies to change. This is a generational revolution of young and educatedd populations pressing for a dignified space in the world and of an educated proletariat denied work and democratic rights. As I have written before, it is in France and Great Britain, the former colonial powers , where excitement and the call for international intervention to help dissidents is the strongest. Elsewhere in Europe and in the USA there is caution, concern and a desire not to be involved militarily.
Think of it. Arguably democratic change should be welcomed. It is demonstrable that trade and peace is safeguarded ibest in democratic societies. It is therefore easy to argue that not only are democratic rights good in themselves, and even that they are universal rights, but that they will guarantee peace, tranquility and prosperity in Europe itself. Of course we know nothing about these unknown revolutionaries who wish to sweep autocracies aside. Perhaps it would not work out the way we suppose. When the Communist stone was turned over in Eastern Europe we discovered nationalism and zenophobia. When these Middle Eastern sand dunes are disturbed might we find militant Islamists and anti-semites anxious for the annihilation of Israel. We just don’t know.
We do know something. These revolutions were born in the Middle East and they belong there. The citizens of these countries own them. Personally I wish them well. But should we intervene militarily to seek to impose democratic changes upon autocratic regimes? There is a growing consensus in the West that we should and that we should attempt to own these democratic changes and influence them in our own democratic interests. That in embracing them we should own them. This desire to own territories with which we trade and in which we invest for the economic and commercial advantages that ownership would bring has a name: Colonialism. Are we in France and Germany wrapping ourselves in a new flag? Are we not advocating a New Colonialism? Have we not had enough of it: not only our own colonial adventures but those of Germany, the Soviet Union and the USA?
The two major policy objectives for British foreign policy in the Middle East are to deal with the threat that Iran poses for the region and to us directly and to secure an Arab Israeli settlement of what is known now as the Palestinian question. Would military intervention in Libya help to achieve these objectives? I think not.
Personally, I am in favour of a little illegal arms trafficking in tanks, artillery and planes to help the dissidents. It is something best kept quiet. I doubt very much whether Ghaddafi’s armies would much like to recieve back what they are giving. I do not think sounding the drum or urging the UN Security Council do what they surely do not wish to do will do the trick for Benghazi. And then good luck to them. Now remind me. Where are we on the Palestine-Israel talks and what next with Iran?