In an earlier post, I raised alarms about the British conservatives’ abandonment of Thatcherism on the domestic front. This afternoon, I attended a talk on the party’s approach to national security matters featuring Dr. Liam Fox, a Tory member of parliament who is the shadow Defence Secretary, set to take over should the Tories return to power, which seems increasingly likely.
On the one hand, Fox said he expected a continued British presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, and said any withdrawal from Iraq should be conditions based. But, he also distanced himself from some of the idealism of the Bush and Blair administrations, especially when it came to democratization. He said that it may not have been the strategy that failed in Iraq, but the fact that expectations were set too high, and there wasn’t a realistic timescale for how long it would take to create a stable democracy. Democracy could not be achieved overnight, Fox said, and it’s a lot more complicated than just holding elections.
Fox was intentionally vague when it came to Iran, saying only that all options should be on the table. He said that there can be no accepting an Iranian nuclear weapon for three primary reasons: the dangers posed by a regime that has threatened to wipe a neighboring country off the map, the regime’s sponsorship and export of terrorism, and the fact that if it went nuclear, it would set off a nuclear arms race among all nations in one of the most unstable regions in the world.
A Tory government, Fox vowed, would be tougher on the European Union, which signed an agreement in Lisbon that would create a standing army that would duplicate, and perhaps compete for troops with NATO, and compromise British sovereignty.
He also noted other threats, specifically signaling out the dangers posed by a “re-emerging” Russia.
Former Army spokesman Crispian Cuss talked about the financial challenges Britain faced in funding its military, given their robust social spending, and Douglas Murray, director of the Centre for Social Cohesion (which conducted the survey I mentioned yesterday on Islam on British campuses), warned about the dangers of Muslim radicalization in Britain. Murray said that the Tories decision to name Sayeeda Warsi to their shadow cabinet is a troubling indication that the party doesn’t understand the threat. Warsi, who is Muslim, has attacked Murray for using the term “Islamist terrorism” objecting not only to the “Islamist” part, but to the use of the word “terrorism” as well. Murray said she has also refused to condemn the killing of British troops in Iraq by Iranian-backed terrorists. Nile Gardiner has written about Warsi in the past, noting that, among other things, she welcomed the election of Hamas in 2006.