Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

An unjust war

From Mr Stephen Plowden

Sir: Peter Hain (`No Hain, no gain', 12 January) reproaches the `pacifist opt-out Left' for `not eating humble pie for how wrong they have been proved' over Afghanistan. As a non-pacifist opposed to this particular war, I am glad that it turned out to be much shorter than the government warned us to expect, but it was still an unjust war. The cause was just, but the means were neither necessary nor proportionate.

The coalition's primary objective was to bring to justice the people who planned the atrocities of 11 September, and it is highly probable, though not conclusively proved, that bin Laden and al-Qa'eda were implicated. But this objective, though important, was not urgent, and should not have been pursued by means that were certain to lead to many innocent deaths and great suffering. If the police were trying to catch a serial murderer, we would not permit them to adopt such means, and the same principle applies here. This objective should have been pursued by diplomatic means and by limited covert operations, even if that meant taking a long time. The irony is that if George Bush and Tony Blair had taken this path, instead of brusquely rejecting the Taleban's offer in mid-October to discuss extraditing bin Laden to a third country, he might well have been taken by now.

An objective that was both important and urgent was to prevent further atrocities. But that objective did not require the invasion of Afghanistan. Action in Afghanistan is irrelevant in the short term. It is possible that there are more atrocities in the pipeline, but wherever they may have been planned, they cannot be launched from Afghanistan. They can be prevented, if at all, only by police and security operations of the kind now being under-taken with considerable success in the countries from which or on which the terrorists may launch their attacks. In the longer term, it is true that al-Qa'eda has suffered a serious setback by the loss of its headquarters and the destruction of its training camps. But if, as we are told, it is now established in 60 countries, that setback is unlikely to be fatal. And even if al-Qa'eda does go under, there will be more fanatics to take its place, who will have learnt from the coalition's example to match violence with violence.

Stephen Plowden

London NWI

Resilient rainbow nation

From Mr Adam R. Fleming

Sir: Andrew Kenny's recent article about South Africa (`Black people aren't animals', 29 December) made depressing reading. But it was ever thus. Since coming to the country in 1991 1 have found it interesting to observe the tide of gloom from the press. The lowest point was listening to the wails of a BBC commentator before the election of Nelson Mandela: `I'm standing here in Soweto, in a country on the brink of revolution.'

He was right. The transformation of the country since has been truly revolutionary. Despite a continued depression in South Africa's main commodity markets, economic empowerment has taken off. The once empty roads of Johannesburg are now gridlocked with traffic, each street corner bustles with previously forbidden hawkers, and brand-new townships sprout with electricity cables that previously graced only white suburban developments.

As an employer of more than 50,000 goldminers, we have daily interaction with labour in one of the world's toughest industries. Thanks to a strong mining union with an understanding of capitalism that Aslef would do well to embrace, we have been able to survive the worst depression in goldmining this century. Through that rationalisation process, we have emerged the stronger; with the weak rand we are now re-employing many of those made redundant, as our costs have fallen to some of the lowest in the world, much of this courtesy of our workforce and their union. No one can deny many of the points Mr Kenny makes. Part of government's lot is to shoulder criticism, and no doubt the Mbeki regime has some things to answer for. …

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