I wrote an article in early 2003, before troops from America and Britain entered Iraq, explaining why the democracy project was naive. (See it here — I wrote the “No” section). Hugh Fitzgerald has tirelessly and brilliantly explained here at Jihad Watch why the democracy project is doomed and is not our best defense against the global jihad. (See, to take just two of many examples, here and here.) This position is not on the radar screen in Washington, where a Manichaean dualism still prevails: you’re either with Bush and ready to “stay the course” and not “cut and run,” or you’re a Cindy Sheehan-style appeaser.
But now General Sir Richard Dannatt, the new head of the British Army, has come closer than anyone ever has to articulating the positions we have long espoused here. He suggests that the Iraqi democracy project is “naive,” and not only that: also we have done here now for years, he speaks about the weakness of relativist multiculturalism in the face of the jihadist threat, and the need for the West to recover its own cultural and spiritual resources before it’s too late.
It is breathtaking to see a public figure speaking this way. General Dannatt for Prime Minister!
The incumbent Blair, meanwhile, says he agrees with every word, which will come as news to many. “Blair devastated as Army chief savages his approach to Iraq,” by Colin Brown, Terri Judd and Andrew Buncombe in The Independent, with thanks to Jihad Watch Board Vice President Hugh Fitzgerald:
The devastating assessment by General Sir Richard Dannatt, the chief of the general staff, infuriated ministers and caused alarm in Washington….
Last night the Prime Minister tried to minimise the damage, saying he had agreed with General Dannatt’s later remarks in a series of “clarifying” interviews. Mr Blair said: “I have to say, I’ve read his transcript of his interview on the radio this morning, and I agree with every word of it.”…
[Dannatt] also suggested that the Government’s aim of creating a liberal democracy in Iraq was “naive” and should be scaled down. Britain had “effectively kicked the door in” when troops entered in 2003, he added.
“Whatever consent we may have had in the first place, may have turned to tolerance and has largely turned to intolerance,” he said. “I don’t say that the difficulties we are experiencing round the world are caused by our presence in Iraq but undoubtedly our presence in Iraq exacerbates them.”
He said the effects of the conflict could be felt in Britain, where there was a “moral compass spinning” and the Islamist threat had to be faced up to.
Spinning furiously in Washington:
White House officials made a series of calls to clarify the comments. President George Bush’s spokesman, Tony Snow, said: “We did call [Downing Street] and say, what did he say? We’ve received transcripts, especially of this morning’s interviews.
“What he said is that the comment was taken out of context, and his general point was that when your work is done, you hand over authority to the Iraqis.”
He added: “His general argument is, number one, there’s no difference between him and the Blair government or between the Brits and the United States. Number two, this is not an injunction to leave, that somehow everything is getting worse.”
And General Dannatt has distinguished his position from that of the Sheehan-type appeasers:
General Dannatt earlier issued a clarifying statement, saying Britain would stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the Americans adding: “I’m a soldier. We don’t do surrender. We don’t pull down white flags.”…
And here, from the Daily Mail (thanks to the Constantinopolitan Irredentist) is the original interview, “Sir Richard Dannatt : A very honest General.” Some salient portions:
Further, he questions the validity of our continued presence in Iraq and is concerned by the decline in Christian values in Britain that has allowed Islamic extremism to flourish….
“The original intention was that we put in place a liberal democracy that was an exemplar for the region, was pro-West and might have a beneficial effect on the balance within the Middle East.
“That was the hope. Whether that was a sensible or naÃ¯ve hope, history will judge. I don’t think we are going to do that. I think we should aim for a lower ambition.”
Sir Richard adds, strongly, that we should “get ourselves out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems”. “We are in a Muslim country and Muslims’ views of foreigners in their country are quite clear. “As a foreigner, you can be welcomed by being invited into a country, but we weren’t invited, certainly by those in Iraq at the time. Let’s face it, the military campaign we fought in 2003 effectively kicked the door in.
“That is a fact. I don’t say that the difficulties we are experiencing around the world are caused by our presence in Iraq, but undoubtedly our presence in Iraq exacerbates them.”
He contrasts this with the situation in Afghanistan, where we remain at the invitation of President Hamid Karzai’s government.
“There is a clear distinction between our status and position in Iraq and in Afghanistan, which is why I have much more optimism that we can get it right in Afghanistan.”…
“We can’t wish the Islamist challenge to our society away and I believe that the Army, both in Iraq and Afghanistan and probably wherever we go next, is fighting the foreign dimension of the challenge to our accepted way of life.
“We need to face up to the Islamist threat, to those who act in the name of Islam and in a perverted way try to impose Islam by force on societies that do not wish it. In the Cold War, the threats to this country were about armies rolling in. Threats now are not territorial but to the values of our country.
“In the Army we place a lot of store by the values we espouse. What I would hate is for the Army to be maintaining a set of values that were not reflected in our society at large “” courage, loyalty, integrity, respect for others; these are critical things.
“I think it is important as an Army entrusted with using lethal force that we do maintain high values and that there is a moral dimension to that and a spiritual dimension.
“When I see the Islamist threat I hope it doesn’t make undue progress because there is a moral and spiritual vacuum in this country. Our society has always been embedded in Christian values; once you have pulled the anchor up there is a danger that our society moves with the prevailing wind. “There is an element of the moral compass spinning. I am responsible for the Army, to make sure that its moral compass is well aligned and that we live by what we believe in.
“It is said we live in a post-Christian society. I think that is a great shame. The Judaic-Christian tradition has underpinned British society. It underpins the British Army.” I ask what this means for Muslim soldiers and their allegiance.
“These are British Muslims who are also British soldiers. If they are prepared to take the Queen’s shilling they will go wherever the mission requires them to go.”