Cook warns of gulf between West and Islam
In his first major interview since he resigned, Robin Cook has warned of the risk of a gulf between the West and the Islamic world, and that the war against terrorism will not be won unless the international war against poverty is also victorious.
Speaking to The Observer in the upstairs drawing room of 1 Carlton Gardens, London, Robin Cook, the first person to resign from Tony Blair's Cabinet on a point of principle, said that he believes he is seeing a crisis in the world order.
ìAmerica is a hyper-power, it can afford to go it alone,î Cook said. ìBritain is not a superpower. It is not in our interests to contribute to a weakening and a sidelining of international bodies like the Security Council. The Security Council and the system of world order governed by rules has been badly damaged.î
Cook questions the legitimacy of the war with Iraq, arguing that with more time for inspectors it could have been avoided.
ìThere is a suspicion that the speed with which this has moved has been dictated by American military preparations rather than by the needs of Britain's diplomatic campaign. That is why it has been so difficult for Tony to mobilise public opinion and indeed international opinionî he said.
Now that Cook has been released from Cabinet responsibility, he can say what he believes. It is his conviction that Britain must heal the wounds with Europe, particularly France and Germany, for any chance of creating a balance.
Britain was bounced into a conflict in Iraq because of an American military imperative. The Bush administration does not share the values of Britain or Europe, he said. If Britain does not find a way to say no to the US then the concept of international solidarity is dead.
Cook believes the world is dealing with a new reality of 'pre-emptive diplomacy', the new American doctrine held by Bush and his inner circle. The policy he says is clear. America will act whenever and wherever it believes that the target threatens US interests. And the biggest threat is the support for international terrorism. Any rogue state is now a legitimate target.
Within this doctrine is the argument that, if affairs are left to international institutions such as the UN, there is a greater chance of prevarication and diplomatic stalemate. America wants to act, and quickly. Every day that a dictator is left in power, runs the argument of the American conservatives, is another day when the very fabric of America is at stake. America will act - with a coalition of the willing if necessary. On its own if not. Impatience runs through the thinking.
ìThe events of 11 September created an entirely new sense, not only in America but around the world, of the priority and urgency of dealing with international terrorism,î Cook said. 'It had a particularly powerful effect on American society because they are not accustomed to war coming to them.î
The ìextraordinarily rich and powerfully diverseî international coalition that emerged following 11th September 2001 has now been shattered ìon the altar of pre-emptive diplomacy.î America has long planned to attack Iraq and splits in the UN, Nato and in the European Union were a price worth paying.
ìWe are heading for a very serious risk of a big gulf between the Western and Islamic world. That seems to me to have thrown away a powerful asset for the US which relates to its number one security concern.î
Of Bush's Axis of Evil speech, when he named Iraq, Iran and North Korea as the enemies of the free world, Cook says that 'whoever wrote it' was ignorant of the realities.
ìThe immediate effect of the speech was to achieve a major reverse for the reformers in Iran,î he said, pointing out that the ayatollahs used the speech to attack America and democratic forces at home. ìIf we are going to have a multilateral system we've all got to have ownership of what the priorities are going to be.î
ìWe need to engage in an international community that can bring to international forums and state with clarity the type of European values that are certainly not shared by many of those in the Bush administration,î he said.
ìFirstly a respect for multilateral protocols, secondly if we are going to achieve a world governed by rules then we need to respect international process. There are two other European themes: a respect for global environmentalism and that the priorities of the international community reflect the massive priority of tackling poverty.î
ìWe are not going to win the international war against terrorism unless we also win the international war against poverty.î