A place in Cameron’s ‘War Cabinet’? No thanks….
This is what Nick Clegg should be saying to David Cameron’s proposed creation of a ‘War Cabinet’ but we all know, sadly, it is not what he will say. Cameron explains the proposals thus;
On his “war cabinet” plan, Mr Cameron said opposition leaders would be able to “offer their advice and insights”.
“When a nation is at war, it needs to pull together. I am determined that with a Conservative government, it will,”
Note the totally ridiculous (though probably largely unconscious) equation with both World War I & II. Of course, the ‘war on terror’ is nothing like these two global conflicts (though that doesn’t rule out the possibility it will cause one); Britain is not in any immediate territorial danger of ‘conquest’ by the enemy (partially because that is not the primary aim of the terrorist groups) so the necessity of such a thing can only stem from Cameron’s desire to appear inclusive and in this situation the weakness of the case for us still being in Afghanistan.
Margaret Thatcher was less giving in the case of the Falklands War because she was confident of public support and had no particular need to project an image of cuddly ‘inclusiveity’. However, this is Cameron’s dilemma because it is one glaring area where the Conservatives promise no change whatsoever; instead they want to continue the hellish and pointless entanglement at full-throttle. So, to enhance the illusion something is being done they invent a ‘War Cabinet’ and the Liberal Democrats legitimise their ideas with a fresh gloss. What makes the idea worse is that Clegg has no way of saying no because Cameron can legitimately say the whole thing was his idea in the first place. It is hard for us to distance ourselves from the Conservatives when we initially suggest the unwholesome ideas they incorporate into their vision for change.
One imagines Clegg is deluded enough to think he could conduct the symphony orchestra of Cameron’s military strategy, however, this will clearly not be the case. Cameron says that opposition leaders will be ‘listened to’ and then most likely completely ignored. Also, it is not much of an improvement on the current Privy Council arrangements as Ben Bradshaw rightly points out.
Clegg’s participation would hardly bring a voice of realism to the proceedings in any case; most of his pronouncements on Afghanistan are frankly blinded by his continuing fidelity to the idea that ‘regime-change’ flavoured interventionism works in this context when it has patently failed in both Afghanistan and Iraq; the latter allowing Iran to gain power and possibly nuclear weapons and the former destabilising, possibly terminally a nuclear power in Pakistan. In fact, it is precisely this that has given such impetus to terrorism and is making the ‘war on terror’ one that in the long-run the West can only lose and never win (it will lose through the loss of its primacy in the world to China and Russia at least and maybe even more catastrophically in other ways).
Instead of providing a radical critique (like he does on issues like Israel and Gaza) Clegg’s line is one of apology after apology for what is and in his eyes must always be so. Hardly the ‘Fresh Start’ he wants to promise now is it….?