The Great Withdrawal

Did the log-jam break on Wednesday 21st February? That was the day that Tony Blair, who dared not go to the House of Commons to debate the Iraq war several weeks earlier, shouldered the Defence Secretary aside to announce that British troops were to begin leaving Iraq. Next day we were told that 1000 extra troops were going to Afghanistan. Did he forget to tell the Commons the day before?

Then the Independent reported that five other states are considering making an exit from Iraq, adding to 17 who have already left. The shrinking grand coalition may be in response to the Bush defeat in last November’s mid-term elections.  Now, all presidential appointments are vetted by the Democratic majority: their resolutions are often supported by Republican members of Congress. The United Statesunipolar world seems to be coming to an end.

The ‘surge’ of some 20,000 troops that the US government is sending to Baghdad is widely regarded as a ‘last ditch’ action. Although no one can predict that the occupiers will soon begin to pull out altogether and an attack on Iran cannot be ruled out, a multipolar world is reappearing, not least because of the need to co-operate against global warming.

Proposals by the Bush government are likely to be voted down by the opposition, which, after six years of a Bush majority, now has the power to do so. Even the ‘extra-parliamentary’ orders – such as the decision to create the Guantanamo prison camp by presidential decree – are going to be rare or non-existent. President Bush now faces some 21 months of weakness before he retires. The world will take note and act accordingly.

Labour or Tory: who will in the next election?

There can be no safe prediction of who will win the next general election. Even the likely date, which must be by mid 2010, is far from clear. After a new Labour leader is ‘elected’ to replace Tony Blair there will be a new cabinet, in order to give it the stamp of the leader. This means a change of course, a chance to drop unpopular policies and show that the Labour party is ready to respond to criticism. It may even be necessary for the new leader (even if Gordon Brown) to call an election to confirm his acceptability to the electorate and - even more important – to the media. Has the New Labour reign ended? Will the new Cabinet feel it necessary to advertise its willingness to change policies and bring democracy back to the Labour Party? In the aftermath of the great decline caused by the retirement antics of the present prime minister, who nobody trusts, the government will be seen to have been greatly weakened. An election called to confirm support for the new leader would probably give Labour a further  reduced majority.

The significance, therefore, of current events is that both allies, the US and the UK have been seriously weakened. They are less likely to take unilateral action, such as undertaking another illegal war, because that would reveal just how politically weak they are. A valuable side effect of all this is that the United Nations could have a new lease of life. It might even be able to reassert the principles of the UN Charter and International Law.                Jim Addington