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Mote and beam

Posted by Richard Thursday, January 11, 2007

Brits set to criticise the US war effort in Iraq, or presuming to offer advice on the prosecution of the war, should at least be conscious of the efforts of their own countrymen, and the strategies of their own government – their relative weaknesses and own failures.

That injunction should apply in spades to Conservative opposition spokesman William Hague who has been quick off the mark to express concern at president Bush's decision to order more than 20,000 additional US troops to be deployed in Iraq, telling the president that the "emphasis must be on training Iraqi army".

We learn also that the great strategist Hague, while welcoming the fact that "new thinking has taken place in Washington", remains "sceptical that sending additional troops will achieve the desired results" and is concerned that “the introduction of yet more foreign soldiers into the Iraqi capital could risk refuelling the insurgency. Declares Hague:

We would like to have seen a package modelled more closely on the Baker-Hamilton recommendations, giving even greater importance to accelerating the training and equipping of the Iraqi Army, and establishing an International Support Group of members of the UN Security Council and other nations to help the Iraqi government.
The man then resurrects something we had all but forgotten, with him saying, "Additionally, we would have like to have seen an emphasis on the urgent need to find a way of re-starting the Middle East Peace Process."

This endorsement of the "linkage" between fighting the insurrection in Iraq and peace in the Middle East in general (code for the Israeli question) was a particularly crass move when Hague first did it, but with Gaza on the brink of civil war and the Palestinian Authority in disarray, any idea of such linkage – always fatuous – is going absolutely nowhere. That Hague returns to it so easily demonstrates merely the stunning prescience of Proverbs 26:11 - it is almost as if the authors had the shadow foreign secretary in mind.

But to demonstrate just quite how lacklustre is this man, having been so presumptuous as to offer advice to the president of the United States also expresses a hope that "substantial number of British troops can be withdrawn from Basra in the course of the current year."

In full conformity with Proverbs 26:11, he then reminds us that his Party would continue to press the Government to establish a full-scale inquiry into the Iraq conflict adding, almost as an afterthought that:

The most vital step now is for the Iraqi government to push forward internal reconciliation and the build-up of its own effective armed forces, so that they can take genuine control of their own affairs… Our troops are working very hard there but they may have reached the limit of what they can do. The emphasis must be on training Iraqi troops so that they can take over as soon as possible.
Actually, Mr Hague, the most vital step – for the British – is to re-impose law and order on the streets of Basra, where central government has limited reach and the writ of the militias now runs, where British troops venture at their peril and where British bases are subject to daily mortar attacks.

When we have sorted that out Mr Hague - and your Party has sorted out what it stands for, perhaps you will be in a position to offer advice to the Americans. In the meantime, since we're being biblical, what was that about mote and beam?

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