After Iraq we must not let the pendulum swing towards knee-jerk isolationism

In a piece for the Times Red Box, Tom Tugendhat warns against a knee-jerk isolationist reading of the Chilcot Report.

A former soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan, Tugendhat argues that the lessons of Chilcot must be looked at in the wider context of other interventions –  Kosovo and Sierra Leone –  as well as conflicts with limited or no intervention such as with Rwanda and Srebrenica.

Tugendhat goes on to discuss his work with the late Jo Cox MP on a report for Policy Exchange’s new Britain in the World unit.

“In April I began working on the implications of Chilcot in a paper with my colleague, the late Labour MP for Batley and Spen, Jo Cox. We asked ourselves how the UK should respond to what we knew would be harsh criticism of the actions of our then government. Both of us opposed the Iraq War, me because I thought it a strategic error and without cause. I won’t speak for Jo but her focus on protection of civilians was clearly an element of her decision to oppose military action.

But neither of us thought the correct response to Chilcot was to never act again. We have all witnessed the suffering in Syria and we were convinced that there is a place for the UK to act according to the principles of the responsibility to protect. I also know that Jo’s experiences in Bosnia and Rwanda where the UK and international community had sat back while hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed was formative in her thinking.

Our paper was drafted to question the role intervention was to have in future British foreign policy. The report was due to be published under the auspices of a new project on Britain in the World at the think tank Policy Exchange. Its working title was A Few Words on Non-Intervention, borrowed from an essay that John Stuart Mill wrote in 1859, in which he said it was time that “some rule or criterion whereby the justifiableness of intervening in the affairs of other countries, and (what is sometimes fully as questionable) the justifiableness of refraining from intervention, may be brought to a definite and rational test.”

You can read the full piece on The Times.

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