The hypocrisy of the hawks

From Blair to McCain, how can we take these people seriously on Libya and military action?

One of the weirdest features of the Libya crisis has been the re-emergence of T Blair. I was both annoyed and amused to see our former premier -- described by Saif Gaddafi as a "close personal friend" of the Gaddafi family -- penning pieces for the Times and the Sun in recent days, supporting military action against his (former) friends.

Then there's David Cameron's hypocrisy -- as I note in my feature piece in this week's magazine, the current premier has enthusiastically sent British jets to bomb a regime to which his own government last year issued £231m worth of arms exports licences (including the supply of small arms munition, tear gas and sniper rifles). Are we supposed just to forget this? Turn a blind eye?

But British hawks aren't the only hypocrites around. Take the pro-war Republican senator John McCain in the United States. Here's a report from the Associated Press from August 2009:

A delegation of US senators led by John McCain met with Libya's leader yesterday to discuss the possible delivery of non-lethal defence equipment. The visit and Washington's offer of military equipment was another sign of the improving ties between the former long-time adversaries.

"We discussed the possibility of moving ahead with the provision of non-lethal defence equipment to the government of Libya,'' McCain said during a press conference. He gave no details on the kind of military equipment Washington is offering.

So, back then, he was recommending the sale of military equipment to the Gaddafi-run Libya; these days, the same McCain is agitating for a ground war in Libya and the ouster of Gaddafi -- the same Gaddafi he praised in 2009.

In the sarcastic words of the HuffPo's Jason Linkins:

John McCain was in favour of supplying military aid to Gaddafi before he was for supplying military aid to the forces looking to topple Gaddafi.

Is it any wonder, then, why some of us are so suspicious about the motives of the so-called liberal interventionists?

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.