Paul Wolfowitz, the intellectual force behind neoconservatism, and possibly America’s next national security adviser, addresses Europe through the pages of Prospect. In conversation with Radek Sikorski, Wolfowitz’s defence of US foreign policy and its ambitious democratisation objectives is mostly couched in diplomatic language. But on occasion his anger bursts through: “It’s astonishing to hear liberals and socialists in Europe… saying that Saddam’s fascist, genocidal dictatorship should have been left alone.”
Wolfowitz is the kind of neocon who can make European liberals squirm. His commitment to humanitarian intervention and the spread of democracy is genuine, and one suspects, if politics permitted, that he would admit to more of the preventable failings of the Iraq venture. But his words will do little to mollify those on left and right who were shocked by the rashly unilateral form of US action in Iraq. He does not begin to explain, at least in this conversation, why 9/11 changed the strategic equation there – beyond making an invasion more acceptable to US public opinion. He also gives little indication of how pressure will be applied to undemocratic but friendly regimes in the middle east such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
The old question thrown up by Wolfowitz’s confident assertions is: who decides when intervention is justified? Short of the arrival of world government, there will never be a simple answer to that question. In practice, the current answer is the US government. But, for good reasons and bad, the rest of the world is not convinced. Robert Skidelsky argues persuasively that when war has again become a policy of choice for the strong, it is the “just war” tradition which can best provide a moral constraint. The just war tradition is more permissive about war than the UN charter – allowing it in self-defence and to protect the innocent – but more scrupulous about the criteria for intervention than Bush’s preventative war doctrine.
On the home front, Andrew Brown considers the academy schools which may turn out to be Tony Blair’s main domestic legacy. Geoff Dench has a new reading of the politics of class in postwar Britain. And Simon Schaffer recalls the time when Newcastle and Glasgow were the most dynamic cities on earth.