Beyond Old Empire Fantasies

One of the central arguments put by the global anti-war movement of 2003 was simply this: bombing Iraq will only create more terrorists, and threaten to engulf the entire region in a quagmire of conflict. Back then, of course, we also knew that this being carried out under the guise of the ‘war on terror’ was always a lie. A form of weaponised propaganda that would allow a US led war for oil, geopolitical dominance and the implementation of the Project for a New American Century. ‘Full spectrum dominance’ was the order of the day, channeled through a White House run by hawkish military expansionists, fully backed by the UK.

The brutal reality for what all this meant on the ground is at this point so devastating as to be incalculable. I tried my best to summarise the impact of the Iraq war here on the publication of the Chilcott inquiry. If this was a ‘war on terror’ then has been the amongst the most spectacular military failures in history.

This may be most vivid in the Iraqi city of Mosul. It has been under the most bloody ISIS insurrection, after a decade of war on occupation, after a decade of sanctions. The city now lies in ruins – a ghost town. The Independent reported this week that in the region of 40,000 civilians perished in the battle to take the besieged city from ISIS.

Iraq is the site of war crime after war crime. And it had absolutely zero to do with 9/11 – the pretext used to stoke the population of the US and U.K. in to supporting the war. The lies and disinformation were interwoven into the idea of a never ending war on terrorism, that would be used to advance military objectives in the interests of imperialism, while dividing and and taking away the civil liberties of the domestic population.

It’s now clear that the whole strategy failed, even in their own terms. Iraq was meant to be a quick war, as part of a range of actions taken to secure global hegemony. A stepping stone onto other shock and awe invasions. Now, we have Trump. The years of demonising Muslims has come to the fore, alongside an ever increasing security state, more repressive than defensive. Thus the Bush doctrine has taken us to a point where the US President talks brazenly in terms of Muslim bans. This is uncharted territory.

Indeed, a new Pentagon study concludes that the post World War 2 order may be collapsing, and with it the primacy of US power. They offer the same ‘solutions’ you are used to: more surveillance, more military expansion and more propaganda. The report states that the authority of the US is in decline and that his takes place at the same time as a broader destabilisation in the world system.

The notion of US power in decline is a debate, with key thinkers in global strategy have different views. But one thing is certain – the world is changing, and is subject to volatility and various forms of unpredictable conflict, and a serious weakening of the 1990s neoliberal order.

Britain is also in a period of decline – but we can say it is even sharper. An American vassal, it is now a rudderless state desperately trying to hold on to the coat-tails of US President Donald Trump. This is not a stable situation, but one full of danger as the British State seeks to show itself as a major power. Indeed, the newly elected chairman on the UK foreign affairs committee replacing Crispin Blunt (with Michael Goves blessing) supports the Saudis in Yemen, regrets the nuclear deal with Iran, and opposed UN condemnation of West Bank settlements.

It’s time to stop relying on the same old empire fantasists in the British establishment to design our foreign policy, whether it be on Brexit or on the Middle East. It is in this context that a group of academics and researchers have been brought together to form a think tank dedicated to articulating a radical new foreign policy. This work takes on a wide range of issues, not just the recent wars. Based in Scotland, New Foreign Policy will organise lectures, conferences, reports and media putting forward a humane, anti-imperialist, pro-social justice foreign policy. This will require developing an entirely new foreign policy with new thinkers leading the way, with their ideas backed by research and evidence and used to institutionalise a radical alternative to the legacy of failure and exploitation left behind by the foreign policy establishment.

The first event brings together a range of academics, researchers and campaigners to dissect the failure of the ‘war on terror’. By exposing hypocrisies and examining the legacy of this war, the expert speakers will set out a new path. And, as the backlash against Muslims grows as a result of more than a decade of demonisation hard wired into the foreign policy imperatives of Anglo-American imperialism, we will discuss how this can be tackled. From Prevent, to media propaganda, to the far-right and the state the event is designed to leave no stone unturned.

Themes include: war, counterterrorism and the state, islamaphobia, civil rights and political freedom, media, propaganda, social movements, ISIS and the far-right. Each plenary will be addressed by an expert panel of speakers, including Human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar, sociologist Professor David Miller, Smina Akhtar, an expert on the UK Government’s counter-extremist Prevent strategy, Narzanin Massoumi, a leading researcher and author of a book on Muslim women, leading theorist on movements of the far-right, Neil Davidson and author Tom Mills.

The time for a new foreign policy passed a long time ago. Indeed, hundreds of years. But at the same time, there is now, as Tony Blair infamously said, a period in which the world is in flux. In that flux we must build strength and capacity for the ideas that our rulers have sought to subordinate for their own agendas, buried in drive to war, selling the weapons of war, and empire building. You can be part of this unique event, by joining the discussion on August 5th. Tickets, full speakers biographies and session titles can be found here.

Comments (9)

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  1. IJM says:

    Have a read about Gladio. Still going on. Truly shocking, the US and their warmongering friends will not stop until they control all the world’s resources. Or until we are all dead.

  2. jack elliot says:


    The brutal reality of a desire for a ‘Full spectrum dominance’ could only end in tears.

    Especially if we consider a comparison from this excellent artice with the Roman Empire


  3. Willie says:

    What was it about all political careers ending in failure.

    Same logic applies to world powers. And no, humanitarian Vivian bombing by the USAF or the RAF in some oil rich country does not normally engender appreciation by the communities bombed

  4. Pogliaghi says:

    Old Empire sounds like a brand of Lidl gin.

  5. A Truly Concerned Troll says:

    Sounds good. And I liked the tone of the article. But it’s hard to see how this new think tank could in any way be impactful or change anything.

    The US & UK are aware of how politically weak they are in foreign policy, as much as we all are. All they have is brute force. Every problem is a nail when all you have is hammers. And, remember, these guys are in the hammer selling business.

    The carnage and instability of the Middle East shouldn’t be described as a failure — at least, not for them.

    In the past they used arms deals and war to win influence and control. Now they influence and control to win arms deals and war, which used to be a means, is an end in itself.

    Dark and strange times. I think they want a big war and a fresh start.

    I’ll probably go to some of these events though. Thanks.

  6. Mach1 says:

    This is a positive idea. There has been a huge drift away from discussion of foreign policy issues in the UK and Scottish context since the Thatcher era, when ultra vires regulation of all manner of bodies in civil society from student associations to trade unions, deliberately sought to prevent any attempt to resource progressive developments anywhere in the world. This failure to speak about foreign policy fed into the growing, and naked, racism which now permeates political discussion on such economically important issues as immigration. A failure by the Labour party in particular to counter this, having found itself on the wrong side of the argument on the Iraq War, meant that xenophobic attitudes and general ignorance of UK and Scottish foreign policy have spread.

    Much good can come from once more addressing the issues surrounding foreign policy, such as the continued support for Saudi Arabia as the kingdom fights a genocidal war in Yemen. The issue of mass migration from the Middle East and North Africa also cannot be understood without examining British interventions. Similarly, the failure to address key issues, such as the absence of any meaningful peace process in Israel/Palestine, cannot be ignored.

    More worryingly, it is clear that the Trump administration is developing its own maverick interpretation of US foreign policy in the Middle East, one in which Iran is demonised in preparation for harsher action which could include a military intervention. A distinctly Scotland-based perspective might serve to provide real opposition to any future military adventure being sanctioned by the Westminster parliament.

    It is difficult, at this time of Brexit and a Putin-friendly White House, not to despair. Any forum that promotes dialogue can also bring forward ideas about positive engagement in a bid to defuse the various foreign policy powderkegs being stockpiled by Trump and his international collaborators.

    1. tartanfever says:

      ‘It is difficult, at this time of Brexit and a Putin-friendly White House. not to despair’

      Yeah, God forbid the US and Russians may actually get along. Jesus wept.

    2. A Truly Concerned Troll says:

      “at this time of Brexit and a Putin-friendly White House”

      Would you prefer Hillary was in and antagonistic towards Russia? I wouldn’t. Her proposals for Syria had she won and implemented them could have resulted in Armageddon. If there’s one silver lining with Trump it’s that he might be more cooperative with Russia… not that we have any real evidence of that.

  7. Mach1 says:

    I would have preferred Hillary and multilateral talks to resolve conflicts. The failure of so many US voters to be able to recognise the vast differences between Clinton and Trump is at the root of the democratic malaise in the US which now threatens catastrophe.
    Yes, Clinton’s rhetoric played to the gallery, but she was likely to be a progressive president particularly in domestic policy arenas such as healthcare.

    Putin is a genuine menace, as his policy towards Ukraine, Syria, and any number of other places reveals.

    How anyone can prefer Trump to Clinton, and Putin’s shadowy influence to multilateralism is truly baffling. Most people have no argument with The Russians, The Chinese, The Americans or whoever. We are talking about potentially catastrophic democratic failure which has delivered into the hotseats men with little regard for anybody apart from themselves, their families and their cronies.

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