Tuesday, 1 February 2011


Steve Richards in the Independent offers a useful consideration of the Iraq Inquiry and the lessons it might hold for the situation in Egypt.

Most importantly, he concludes with a note about 'imperialist swagger', the assumption clearly held by one of our recent Prime Ministers that one can go in and change a country for the better by bombing its citizens to freedom.

The situation in Egypt is fascinating so far because this is a developed country with a long history and quite simply no one knows what is going to happen. Even the legendary Robert Fisk was wrong when he said he thought the whole revolution - let's call it that out of a cherished hope that it will turn out to be so - would fail because of Mubarak's power. Fisk wrote a weighty tome on the Middle East - 1300 pages of doom and gloom which I waded through a few years ago. His conclusion was stark, simple and it should be written on the moon for every leader to see every night as they go to bed. To paraphrase the great journo rather crudely, the lesson is that foreigners should butt out and let the Egyptians, Algerians, Tunisians - whoever - deal with their own problems.

There will be trouble, there will be bloodshed, there will be problems but it is a fair bet that those problems will be less than a couple of hundred thousand tons of American ordnance and a slapdash, shamefully unplanned occupation can offer.

Egypt is on the edge but it is for Egyptians to decide what happens. They've done brilliantly so far. I want my government to stand on one side and offer support to the decision made by Egyptians, not empire builders in countries with pretty abysmal recent records in intervention.

The other startling conclusion Fisk made in his book was that pretty much every international trouble spot across the world has its origin in a single year: 1918. The end of the First World War and the start of a conference at which European 'statesmen' decided the fate of the world. Well, let's reflect on how that turned out for Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Ireland, Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, even Germany, for whom the settlement led directly to the rise of a madman who plunged the world into darkness.

Just as Tony Blair's gravestone should bear the single, damning word - 'Iraq', so politicians minded to 'help' the Egyptians should have a single date handed to them on a piece of paper - 1918.

Egypt goes back thousands of years. How many other countries can say that? Let's trust them to make the right decisions for themselves.

[NB: Fiskophile pedants who shared a similar trawl through those 1300 pages, please don't pick my simplistic summation apart. Go for a walk or de-scale the kettle: it will be more rewarding.]

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