Everything comes to him who waits. In this case, the ethical foreign policy we voted for a decade ago. In an article in yesterday’s Guardian, Foreign Secretary David Miliband explains that the so-called ‘war on terror’ is a solecism. Use of this phrase has the unfortunate effect of disposing us to invade other countries when it would be wiser, and slightly more legal, to talk to them.
It is always heartening to learn one has new readers. In this case, I am encouraged enough to continue writing this column.
Still, one has to wonder. Are there no consequences to this change of view? Miliband is right to point to the poisonous effect of the phrase on our thinking. (What is it about American rigour with the word war? War on terror, war on drugs, war on poverty: may policy and program only be used for initiatives with goals?)
But we didn’t just talk about a “war on terror”, we invaded Iraq. If the invasion was based on a mistake, then the invasion itself was a mistake. Or in the plain, straightforward language we should now prefer, wrong. And wrong in specific ways, at that: a crime under British and international law. A war crime, to be precise. Mr Blair adroitly spotted this before the invasion, and briefed a legal team to analyse what case he might later be facing. So in its new-found clarity will the FO now be assisting the Metropolitan Police investigation of Blair and Goldsmith for war crimes?
Or did we all just want to ‘move on’?