Editorial from Church & State An Irish History Magazine Third Quarter 2017:
The Irish Government facilitated the destruction of the liberal, secular State of Iraq by American and British military action. It refuelled American war-planes at Shannon. Government spokesman, Martin Mansergh, explained that its policy was determined by a judicious combination of practicality and idealism. The practical consideration was that Irish interests would possibly have suffered slightly from American displeasure if it had not agreed to the use of Shannon in the War. But there was also the idealistic consideration on the American side that a dictator was being overthrown.
The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, called a Middle East expert to Downing Street to discuss Iraq. The expert must have done a fairly good job of explaining the intricate make-up of the Iraqi State because Blair ended the discussion by saying “But Saddam is an Evil Tyrant, isn’t he?”
This journal has never pretended to know what “Evil” is. It seems to be a mind-stopping notion, of theological origin that remains usable in State propaganda, even though religion has been discarded from State affairs—except for special occasions.
The great Protestant Archbishop of Dublin, William King—by far the greatest there has ever been—gave Evil a secular meaning even though he was writing during the high tide of Protestant Ascendancy. He said that Evil was what obstructs the will—what obstructs the will is Evil.
God is wilful. His will knows no superior authority. What he wills is good, and whatever obstructs it is evil. And, since man is made in the image of God, the same is the case with him. Man is a little God. He is intolerant of anything that obstructs his will, and he calls it Evil.
We can understand that. It is perfectly clear. And it is entirely in accordance with the conduct of the interest served by Archbishop King—the interest of the British State which he played an active part in constructing.
The difficulty arises about why Saddam Hussein should have been seen as Evil from the viewpoint of the British State. In what way was the liberal secularisation of Iraq in the British mode obstructive of the British will in the Middle East?
Baathist Iraq was a multi-cultural State. The three major religions, Sunni, Shia and Christian, were drawn into its functioning. The Christian community was flourishing and its representative, Tariq Azziz, was Prime Minister. The mass support of the State was Sunni, but the Shia population was so far from being in latent rebellion (as the Catholic community in Northern Ireland always was) that it took part in the war against the Shia revolutionary State in Iran—a war that was encouraged by the West.
Iraq, hastily thrown together by Britain for divide-and-rule purposes during its war of conquest in Mesopotamia, for use against the general Arab nationalism to which Britain had made promises, was well on the way to becoming a coherent nation-state when Britain decided to destroy it.
Fourteen years later Tony Blair, who had become a billionaire out of it, is still thrashing around in search of a credible statesmanlike reason for why he did it.
Ireland has forgotten it. And it is hoped that, with the destruction of Mosul, Islamic State will be reduced from the status of an actual territorial State to a movement that can be described as terrorist.
The destruction of the Baath State of Iraq by the application of overwhelming military force, combined with the appeal of the invading forces to the elements of Iraqi life that were being curbed by the development of the Baath State, to come out and give popular support to the invasion, led so directly and predictably to the formation of Islamic State, that a strong case can be made that the purpose of the invasion was the replacement of the liberal secular State by a revolutionary Islamist State.
An argument that the invasion had come for an entirely different purpose can only be made on the basis of assumptions that are grossly unrealistic.
If liberal democracy operating in a secular, or non-religious, medium is the necessary ideal of the West (with Britain and the USA at its core), and if the West is compelled to apply itself to realising this ideal in actual government throughout the world, then it is to the point to remind it how its ideal was realised within itself.
The starting point is a secure national state. The sequence of development is nationality, liberalism, and democracy. The British state gained national stability in Britain during the generation after 1688. It was in the first instance assertively Protestant, in Anglican form. It might be said to have become liberal in 1829 with the repeal of the Test Act, which disfranchised the members of all other religions. The process of democratisation began in 1832 with limited middle class enfranchisement and it was not until 1918, three-quarters of a century later, that the electorate became a majority of the adult population. (The state remained nationalist—chauvinist— throughout, though heavily camouflaged.)
Liberal-democratic development of the regime of State that was stabilised in 1715 took over two centuries. And there can be little doubt that this development was assisted by the fact that the State became the controlling force in a world Empire from which it drew great resources with which it alleviated internal conflict.
When the possibility of democratisation began to be discussed as a practical proposition in governing circles in the late 19th century, it was frankly said that it was the Empire that made it practicable.
Is a State—or a country—that is not Imperialist, but is subject to Imperialist economic exploitation, and which is subject to the vagaries of Imperialist policy, even after the formal Empires have been dismantled, likely to take more or less time to reproduce the development that took two centuries, under very favourable conditions, in Britain?
Can a liberal democracy, that took two hundred years to develop, and which, with its Imperial reach, imposes on another country the obligation to undergo liberal-democratic development—can it allow that other country to develop at the snail’s pace that it did itself? The evidence suggests that it cannot.
The question then is whether a powerful democratic State can have a democratic foreign policy? And even: What is a democratic foreign policy?
Is a democratic foreign policy just the foreign policy of a democratic State? Or is it a policy that cultivates democracy in other countries.
Suppose a powerful State with an Empire, which it exploited profusely in the interest of its domestic population, and suppose the domestic development of democracy in that state—in other words, look at Britain. Is it reasonable to expect that democratised Britain, whose relationship with the world remains what it was made by the Empire, will conduct a foreign policy which undermines its economic interest?
It was the first democratic British Government that overruled the will of the democracy in Ireland in 1918, and put in the Black and Tans to help it to change its mind.
But that wasn’t a real democracy? Well, if real democracy is to be invoked against actual democracy all the time, then democracy becomes a will-o-the-wisp.
British democracy had its first Socialist Government in 1945. It was elected in the wave of euphoria generated by victory the in Anti-Fascist War. One of the first things it did was make war on the Malayan Independence movement, which was led by the Malayan Anti-Fascists who had made war on Japan.
The war was fought by methods that might reasonably be described as Fascist. Racism was fostered in Malaya to assist the War. And the War was not called a war but an Emergency so that it would not be subject to International Law on war that, supposedly, had just been established by the Nuremberg Trials of the Germans. And the reason for this, which almost everyone agreed with, was that Britain just had to have Malayan tin and rubber.
And as the post-War world began in the late forties, so it has continued.
Meyrick Booth, who was probably the writer of the Meyrick Cramb articles in Connolly’s Workers’ Republic, suggested in the 1930s that the idea of democratic foreign policy should be discarded. We gave some extracts from his argument some years ago as being worthy of consideration. And it must be said that the course of events in the last few years has not refuted them.
The Great Powers of the democratic world obliterated a viable liberal-secular State in Iraq fourteen years ago. They did the same in Libya six years ago. They are currently trying to do the same in Syria.
Islamic State, with Sharia Law and the Caliphate, emerged as the viable alternative to the Baath State which the leading democracies destroyed. Those democracies now seem to be on the brink of destroying Islamic State as a territorial entity. They are using a concocted Iraqi Government as a facade. But does anybody doubt that, if the conflict was left to work itself out between what calls itself the Iraqi Government and Islamic State, the territory of Iraq would become the base area for for Islamic State in a restoration of the Caliphate.
These events naturally have repercussions in the Muslim population of Britain, which has greatly increased because of them. Melanie Phillips,a Zionist who says her primary allegiance is to Israel, propagated the idea of Londonistan a few years ago, when the Muslim population was smaller and less provoked than it is now, demands that Islam must undergo a Reformation. She says that General Sissi, who runs his own special brand of democracy in Egypt, agrees with her.
An Islamic Reformation! Perish the thought! What did the Reformation of Christianity lead to? A fanatical Puritanism with a zeal to remake the world in its image.
But, unfortunately, the Islamic Reformation has already happened
Islam, more capable than Christianity of being easy-going and tolerant, maintained for centuries what now seems an idyllic era of peace and harmony in the Middle East under Ottoman rule, was thoroughly radicalised and fundamentalised and financed by he United States in Northern Pakistan for the purpose of making war on the regime in Kabul that was doing in Afghanistan, with Russian support, what Saddam did in Iraq chiefly through internal development.
When America invaded Afghanistan to suppress the forces which it had cultivated as jihadis against Communists, Richard Pearl was asked if it hadn’t made a mistake in radicalising and militarising Islam. Wasn’t it now making war on its own creature? Pearl brushed that criticism aside, and said that the US would in every particular situation do whatever served its purpose of the movement there.
The leading democracy of the world gave Islam its Reformation. And it has taken root.
I agree with your points, fantastic post.