is no small achievement to persuade the British people
to march peacefully in their hundreds of thousands, and
the organisers of Saturday's anti-war rally deserve congratulations.
Some of the marchers, of course, were serial demonstrators
- CND veterans, hard-Left agitators, Muslim activists
- and many seemed to be more concerned about Palestine
the usual suspects could not have accounted for numbers
on this scale. It seems statistically likely that, as
Armando Iannucci predicted in these pages last week, several
Daily Telegraph readers, too, took to the streets. The
marchers, by any measure, have earned the right to be
us, then, do precisely this. Let us imagine that the protesters
get their way. Suppose that Tony Blair decides it would
be morally wrong - or electorally unwise - to commit British
troops to a war that lacks home support; that other world
leaders, observing the rallies in their own capitals,
make the same calculation; and that George Bush, seeing
the international coalition fall away, and worried about
the enthusiasm of American voters, backs down. What would
happen then? Who would be the winners and who the losers?
biggest winner would obviously be Saddam Hussein. His
position, both in Iraq and across the Arab world, would
become virtually unassailable. Having seen off both the
United Nations and the United States, he would understandably
feel that no force could stand in his way.
which reason, the biggest losers would be Iraqi dissidents,
a category that now effectively includes the entire Kurdish
and Shi'ite populations - in other words, a majority of
Saddam's subjects. On them would fall the vindictive wrath
of a tyrant who regards them as agents of a foreign power,
and who would no longer have cause to fear that power.
UN weapons inspectors would also be immediate losers.
After repeatedly being denied access to sensitive areas,
they eventually left Iraq in despair four years ago. The
only thing that persuaded Saddam to readmit them was the
obvious readiness of the Americans and British to invade
away that pressure and even the grudging and partial acceptance
that Baghdad has offered UN officials would vanish. Secure
in the knowledge that he would not be attacked, Saddam
would soon exclude the inspectors again and return to
building up his illegal arsenals.
victory would not be confined to Iraq. Across the Middle
East, strongmen would be heartened, reformers weakened.
Since the Gulf War, Saddam has appeared isolated, a relic
from a more brutal era. Were he successfully to face down
the West, however, things would look very different. Any
sense that there was an inexorable movement towards freedom
and democracy in the Islamic world would evaporate. What
Tony Blair might call "the forces of conservatism"
in the Middle East would have won.
the balance of power would be tilted on every continent.
Dictators from Harare to Ashkhabad would feel that little
bit freer to oppress their peoples. This may appear to
be of little direct concern to the West (although it ought
to concern the marchers, who claim to be passionately
interested in the welfare of the Third World).
some of these states have the capacity to threaten us,
either directly or indirectly. What possible lesson could
Kim Jong-il draw from an American climbdown, except that
he will be able to build up his nuclear programme unmolested?
North Korea would be a winner, Israel would be a loser.
A state that has already fired missiles at Israeli cities,
and which is the chief sponsor of terrorism against Israeli
civilians, would have won itself time to manufacture deadlier
poisons. One of the arguments against striking at Saddam
is that, even if he has chemical and biological weapons,
he poses no immediate threat to the United Kingdom.
argument is almost certainly wrong; but even if it were
true, there can be no doubt that he does pose an immediate
threat to Israel. Those on Saturday's march who think
of themselves as internationalists might usefully ask
whether it is right to stand by and risk the second holocaust
that would result from Iraq acquiring the ability to rain
death at a distance.
reality, of course, some of the marchers might secretly
- or not so secretly - support the destruction of the
Jewish state. But, even from their point of view, it is
hard to see what is gained from keeping Saddam in power.
"Freedom for Palestine," proclaimed their banners.
But there is not the remotest prospect of Israelis agreeing
to create a Palestinian state while Saddam is on their
horizon, paying suicide bombers and brewing new poison
Israel and Palestine would number among the losers, so
would the United States. Again, many of the marchers might
heartily applaud such an outcome. But it is worth standing
back and asking who, in the absence of America and her
allies, would uphold the law among nations.
and again, when tyrants threaten world peace, it has been
the free English-speaking peoples - the "Anglosphere",
in the current phrase - who have acted to check them.
Sometimes this has involved a major conflagration - the
First and Second World Wars, the Korean War - sometimes
it has been more localised, as in the Gulf War, or the
recent Afghan campaign. The alternative to this hegemony
of law-based, free nations is not rule by the UN, or by
some benign international co-operative.
nothing else, the current crisis has demonstrated that,
without Anglo-Saxon readiness to deploy proportionate
force, the UN would devolve into League of Nations-style
feebleness. Monsters of the Saddam mould might curb their
misbehaviour because they fear America; they do not fear
other winner must be reckoned: an Anglo-Saxon climbdown
would be a delicious victory for France and Germany. The
way of doing business in the world would change. To Old
Europe, the American approach to international relations
is crude and simplistic. But what EU diplomats think of
as subtlety might equally be called compromised morality.
"constructive engagement" and "targeted
sanctions" actually mean is that Europeans are reluctant
to crack down on regimes that attack their neighbours.
A world in which America withdrew into herself and the
old Continent took over her role would be a dirtier and
more dangerous one.
the victory of Old Europe would be a catastrophe for Mr
Blair. Instead of bestriding the Atlantic, he would have
left Britain simultaneously distrusted in Washington and
Brussels. (This would be especially true if, somehow,
America were to go to war without Britain.) Domestically,
too, Mr Blair would be terribly weakened, and the Labour
Left conversely rampant.
stronger, Blair weaker; dictators jubilant, democrats
despondent; more weapons, fewer inspections - is this
really what hundreds of thousands were marching for? One
of the ethical arguments used against the war, especially
by churchmen, is that ends do not justify means, and that
removing a tyrant does not warrant killing innocent people.
this argument has a flip-side, namely that it is not enough
to be well-intentioned if you have not worked out the
results of your actions. Opponents of the war have a duty
to think through the consequences of a Western retreat
in the face of terror. There is little sign that they
have done so.