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Not trusting the US or the UK to take a long term view :response to Ajami's view

Reader comment on item: After Saddam? Remaking the Mideast

Submitted by elaine bousfield (United Kingdom), Feb 11, 2003 at 10:40

I am from the UK and I do not pretend to have an in-depth knowledge of foreign affairs, but I do have a concern about issues to do with war and peace and I do care about people suffering. I was a member of the British Labour Party for 15 years and quite active at a grass roots level until the demands of work and children intervened. I am only telling you this so you can place me in some context.

When the Labour party won the election after 18 years of Conservative rule, they promised to deliver a foriegn policy driven by respect for and commitment to human rights. I do believe this should be the fundamental cornerstone of any foreign policy and it seems to me that in order to progress along these lines you do need to take a long term view of the world and not just succumb to measures that are short term fixes or merely cement the interests of the West.

A long term plan to ensure Peace and Democracy in the world would not have included arming Saddam Hussein or ignoring the attacks made by his regime against the Kurds - I worked with Kurdish refugees over 15 years ago who had been tortured and abused by Saddam's regime; it would not have included ignoring the abuses inflicted on women and girls made by the Taliban nor would it have included ignoring the terrible human rights abuses made by Duarte in El Salvador and Somoza in Nicaragua and it certainly would not have included Ronald Reagan's attack on Nicaragua once Somoza had gone.

I am not on a rant here. What I am saying is that the road to democracy and prosperity surely asks us to actively and consistently support the indigenous forces that campaign for democratic change no matter how apparently small and underfunded they are, EVEN if the regime they oppose is willing to respect western economic interests and EVEN if greater democracy won in a region may ask us in the west to pay a fairer price for the coffee we drink or the oil we consume.

I am conscious of sounding anti-western and I am not. There is much I am proud of, including women's rights, our democratic systems and the right we have to speak out against our governments. Those rights did not come easily and involved a lot of pain and in some cases bloodshed and I am all for supporting others who want these rights. I also realise that these are my cultural biases.

My comment on the article is how hopeful are you that the US and the UK are REALLY willing to take this long term view? I do have little faith in George Bush and see no evidence that he would want to be involved in a long term, life-time public project to free the world of despots and build structures that enable democratic culture just because of the history of the political party he represents. I have slightly more faith in Blair but wonder whether he too will have the courage to place long term goals above quick but often deadly short term solutions.

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