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Entering the first month of the year and already two major disasters have hit very close to home. Although I  do not know anyone that has died in either Haiti or the Ethiopian airline crash it appears many of my friends did. When disaster strikes nearby it always of course makes it more real. I just cannot image what living in Baghdad is like as yet another bomb explodes and kills 18 people. Disaster continues day in and day out. When will it stop?

Foreign policy by Britain and the US is still mired in confusion, bias and prejudice. It is plain to see that the policy towards the Middle East is fundamentally flawed yet it continues unchanged year after year, disaster after disaster. No it’s not just America’s fault but Administrations come and go; US and British foreign policy in the region stays the same. Who would support US and Britain’s foreign policy in the region at the moment, except for expansionist Zionists and the evangelical right? If you are out there please step forward, would love to hear from you. No really. I want to “get it”.

My previous pessimism regarding Obama and the Middle East strategy is only confirmed by people like Stephan Walt calling for Obama’s Mid East envoy Mitchell to resign:

If Mideast special envoy George Mitchell wants to end his career with his reputation intact, it is time for him to resign.

Walt is very clear and insightful (as usual) as to where it has all gone wrong:

Which advisors told Obama and Mitchell to proceed as they did, raising expectations sky-high in the Cairo speech, publicly insisting on a settlement freeze, and then engaging in a humiliating retreat? Did they ever ask themselves what they would do if Netanyahu dug in his heels, as anyone with a triple-digit IQ should have expected? And if Obama now realizes how badly they screwed up, why do the people who recommended this approach still have their jobs?

The objective was admirably clear from the start — “two states for two peoples” what was missing was a clear strategy for getting there and the political will to push it through.

Clear thinking…if only. Who has a clue what Obama or Brown’s foreign policy strategy is. I can only see policies that are unplanned, reactionary and weak. That will in the end lead to a tide of unplanned decisions creating a whirlpool of disaster.

In Britain at the moment the argument continues as to wether the Iraq war was legal or not. Security council resolution 1441 that passed unanimously by the security council is at the centre of the debate. Did it allow a pre-emptive strike or not? I am not a lawyer but I wonder how much does it matter if it was legal or not. What really matters is why such an obviously disasters occupation was allowed to go ahead regardless of the legal implications. Why is there not a foreign policy enquiry being carried out that analysis why Britain, and the US as well, has continually screwed up and misunderstood this region. The reason of course is that they don’t want to upset the people they support in the region that keep the oil flowing. But there is another way.

I do believe the West can have oil without creating the kind of misguided policies that are in existence today. I don’t believe in a utopia where everyone will be getting along fine after decades of conflict. But the support of the kind of brutal regimes and equally brutal capitalistic models that we would never accept in our own societies does not have to occur. Why are we not looking seriously at ways to create more sensible foreign policies towards Saudi, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and of course Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Israel-Palestine?

Instead the Chilcot inquiry is chugging along, deepening everyones pessimism about the democratic system and foreign policy. There are few sane Kantians left now.

There are some great websites that are painstakingly following the events of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq invasion. And there are even people out there supporting Tony Blair who is due to give his testament soon. This blog that is passionatley for Blair and his invasion makes your stomach turn, here are some wonderful quotes from the blog to get your blood boiling:

THE NUMBER OF DEAD IS NO REASON TO DECRY THE INVASION

The last one makes me want to hit my head on my desk several times. Instead I think of Ghandi and breath:

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?

Bin Laden is back with a new tape. Surprised?

So are commentators calling for an invasion of Iran, worryingly by people who should know better. Surprised?

Everyone is predicting a Hezbollah-Israeli war, which will be the war to end all wars. Surprised?

If there was a firm US policy that matches action with words and is more responsive to the justifiable grievances of the region, I personally believe that Bin Laden would be reduced, Hezbollah-Israel tension would be reduced and those calling for war would be marginalised. Instead all three remain on the front line.

A politician that has actually seen active combat, set up his own organisation, is a Harvard professor and likes talking to ordinary people is the image that Rory Stewart has carefully constructed (see this great profile by the Guardian as well). He likes to call himself the “walking politician”. He walked some 5,000 miles through Afghanistan, Iran, India….Brad Pitt has apparently bought the movie rights to his life and he is creating a sensation in the various magazines in the US (a profile in the National Geographic, articles in the NYRB and a profile in the or THE New Yorker). Now Stewart is bringing the show home. Standing as a Conservative MP in Bracknell and the Border.  Arise “Rory the Tory”.

Almost everyone in Britain (including myself) is gulping it down. I never thought I would want to see an Etonian educated Tory get elected or someone Craig Murray the activist and former British Ambassador has described as: “the crusading neo-Conservative Rory Stewart.”

This however, is where the crux lies for the Tories. Stewart is going to attract a lot of attention for the party and may even win votes from unlikely quarters. But he is no doubt a sword with two very sharp sides and my guess is that “Rory the Tory” may not roll so easily off the tongue for the conservative elite when they get into power.

Stewart is a big intellect there is not doubt about that. His articles on Afghanistan in the London Review of Books and more recently the New York Review of Books have been devastatingly insightful and visionary. I am gutted I cannot see his profile of T E Lawrence which from the reviews was a sensation. His critique of the current strategy in Afghanistan is masterful and his solutions refreshingly sensible sticking closely to common sense and the art of the possible:

The US and its NATO allies would be able to survive withdrawal from Afghanistan but it would be damaging to their reputations. While we cannot write a blank check to Afghans, we would like to prevent their country from falling into civil war, which would probably result in tens of thousands of deaths. It makes sense to stay, if we can maintain a realistic, affordable, and legitimate presence in Afghanistan and do some good.

As others have noticed Stewart is remarkably humble in his foreign policy outlook for one who is so ambitious.

If allowed to have any say in foreign policy issues “Rory the Tory” could drastically change the Britain does this most tricky of dark arts. Imagine a British Foreign Minister that said things like this:”… we should trust Iraqis and Afghans more; that they were much more competent than we acknowledged.”

But Foreign Minister to be William Hague will surely not appreciate the smooth talking Stewart one bit…nor for that matter will Cameron either. “Rory the Tory” will do his upmost to force himself onto the Tory stage and is already subtly showing the sort of pressure he is going to apply:

“I wanted to help change the culture of government. So I put my name forward, after the expenses scandal, when David Cameron said he was prepared to have candidates who, like me, had never been involved in politics before.”

Cameron maybe more fearful of Stewart than he is of Brown. Quotes like that must keep Cameron up at night…especially when none of Stewart’s foreign policy positions line up with the Tories at all! Not even close…the hilarious question on Newsnight when Stewart was asked straight up how he will line up his views with the party he bluntly said he did not know! For a man that likes to walk as much as he does though something tells me he knows where exactly where he is going! Revolution did I hear?

I would describe Stewart as almost a classical realist, with a sprinkle of  liberalism, E. H. Carr comes to mind. That should makes Tories shudder. Surely this is an accident waiting to happen for the Tories? A battle between Stewart and Cameron/Hauge is surely an inevitability?

At last Britain has the possibility of having a foreign policy and I for one am going to enjoy the political bloodbath that Stewart will no doubt create trying to achieve it.

P.S.

Stewart is obviously loving being the centre of attention and is already slipping into the old political paths where reality and rhetoric run alongside each other.

Rhetoric = “I applied for Penrith and the Border in part because I found it the most beautiful place in England.” (especially love the cheeky “in part”)

Reality = Penrith and the Border is one of the safest conservative seats in the country and I am almost guaranteed to get elected.