Government urged to revive ethical foreign policy
Britain needs a campaign to revive its "ethical" foreign policy to soften the blow to its credibility caused by the Iraq war, says a think tank.
Britain should also have accepted the last-minute offer from George Bush to deploy British troops only in reconstruction work in Iraq, according to a study by the Foreign Policy Centre.
The report is an attempt to restate the battered case for ethical foreign policy in the wake of Iraq and Kosovo, and argues that Labour needs to rework the principles of international intervention.
The report warns that British intelligence must regain its independence.
It states; "After failing to get the second UN resolution, Blair should have had the courage to withdraw the British forces but commit heavily to postwar reconstruction providing the US was willing to make concessions to a more inclusive reconstruction process."
It suggests that Britain has also lost credibility for its claims to uphold ethical commitments to internationalism and and multilateralism.
But, says the report, Britain can recapture its reputation by acting as a "moral entrepreneur" and backing a "worthy cause".
When Labour came to power in 1997, the Foreign Secretary Robin Cook pledged an "ethical dimension" to foriegn policy.
Six-and-half years later, Nicholas Wheeler, from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, and Tim Dunne, from the Exeter University, have tried to judge the government's success in their report, 'Moral Britannia?'
They say the Government has won praise for its intervention in Sierra Leone, setting up the Department for International Development and backing the new International Criminal Court.
But the suspension of sales of Hawk aircraft to Indonesia, which raised fears they would be used for internal repression, came "too late".
"The inescapable conclusion we draw here is that Britain failed to act as an ethical state in its relations with Indonesia because it placed selfish economic advantage prior to human rights concerns," it continues.
The two academics argue that Iraq is a classic of example of where selling arms to authoritarian regimes has come back to haunt governments.
They say the Iraq war showed how the twin foundations of the ethical foreign policy - complying with international rules and trying to improve human rights - can become unstuck.
"The fact that the edifice of the ethical foreign policy was crumbling was graphically illustrated by Robin Cook's departure from government," says the report.
The report suggests Britain could follow Oxfam's suggestion that it campaign for a treaty controlling the spread of small arms.
That would set Britain apart from the US without damaging transatlantic links too much and foster relations with Third World governments and charities, it says.