Editorial for the launch of The Henry Jackson Society

By HJS

Henry ‘Scoop’ Jackson – a household name in US politics until the late 1970s – has been much in the news lately.

He is now generally associated with the development of ‘neo-conservatism’. This is indeed a very important part of his legacy, but the Jacksonian tradition is a much broader one. ‘Scoop’ was not only a ferocious opponent of compromise with the Soviet Union, but also a champion of Eastern European dissidents, of the Israeli Labour Party, a pioneering conservationist, a committed trade unionist who refused to cross the picket line, and an early supporter of the civil rights movement and sanctions against the South African apartheid regime. His legacy therefore encompasses Tony Blair’s doctrine of ‘international community’ and humanitarian intervention as much as George W. Bush’s programme for the democratic reconstruction of the Middle East. It encompasses as much of New Labour – and even old Labour – as of the new Republican Right. Recognising and celebrating this fact, The Henry Jackson Society seeks to promote a politics which is clear about the universal nature of human rights and democratic aspirations, subscribes to a progressive geopolitics through a forward strategy for freedom, and which is supportive of the market economy but sceptical of corporate interests where these conflict with our fundamental values.

The democratic transformation of the Middle East is the great challenge facing us today. We do not pretend that the outcome of the great project begun in Iraq is certain, though we are much more hopeful than many. We recognise that many mistakes have been made in its execution. We do not think Israel is perfect, and we cannot claim that western policies in the region have always been above reproach. But we do contend that decades of ‘realist’ policies have failed to deliver either liberal democracy in the Middle East or security for ourselves. And we refuse to accept that there is anything unusual, sinister or hypocritical about supporting the removal of the region’s most appalling abuser of human rights and its most dangerous dictator – Saddam Hussein. Indeed, along with the former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, he was the only man singled out by name in Tony Blair’s famous ‘Chicago Speech’ of April 1999. His removal had rightly been a long-term aim of the US and British governments. It has opened up an unprecedented opportunity for democratic change across the region. First of all, through the example of elections in Iraq which have inspired Arabs in the Lebanon and across the region. Secondly, through the presence of massive coalition military force, which has effectively deterred Syrian military intervention in the Lebanon.

These policies come at a price, which is being paid daily by our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and by the Iraqi security forces. It is also being paid by Iraqi civilians, and the millions of Iraqis who have braved murder and intimidation to cast their ballots in the historic election of 30th January, and take control of their own destinies. It is for this reason that we include a counter on our website on The Cost of Military Intervention. We believe that the price is only worth paying if the increase in all our security proves enduring.

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