Less is more: Libya

Rory Stewart on the outcome in Libya has this to say as his conclusion of an article on Libya

Libya is still very fragile. If there is peace, it is not because of the new government, it is because the criminals and spoilers are staying at home. Policing is largely coming from ‘local committees’: groups of armed men from neighbourhoods, from very young to very old, some connected to mosques, many not. Committees may not disarm, there may be fights between tribes. Islamists may become more powerful. There will be incompetence and corruption and human rights abuses. And a powerful international lobby will urge the West to ‘solve these problems’: to send thousands of consultants under the slogans of ‘state-building’ and ‘capacity-building’, or even to send our troops for ‘stabilisation’. That we must resist. There is a real limit to how much the West knows about Libya, still less to how much we can do to fix fundamental structural problems if they emerge. Meanwhile, Libya is not a threat to its people or its neighbours. Too many Western ‘advisers’ risk making things worse: making the government appear like a foreign puppet; stirring Islamist resentment; raising expectations we cannot meet. We would soon be trapped by our guilt at lost lives, and deter Libyans from taking responsibility for their own future – to their detriment and ours. In Libya, as in much of the world, when it comes to foreign involvement: less is more.

Less is more: Libya.

Rory Stewart: Afghanistan is not a threat to us?

In this talk for TED the Tory MP Rory Stewart attacks all of the arguments for staying in Afghanistan. It’s time to end the war, he says.

Well worth listening to. His destruction of the “This year is decisive” approach in Afghanistan is both entertaining but in many ways an extremely sad reflection on the poor progress we have made in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan- The Places In Between – Rory Stewart

The videos from a speech Rory Stewart gave on Afghanistan on November 13, 2008 at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. A great background on Afghanistan. The Q and A show he has a great understanding of the Afghan and Iraqi people. His views will cause some interest.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6 Q and A

Part 7 Q and A

Part 8 Q and A

BBC Two Programmes – The Legacy of Lawrence of Arabia, Episode 2

The Legacy of Lawrence of Arabia

A reminder that the second of two programs by Rory Stewart on the Legacy of Lawrence of Arabia is on tonight on BBC2 at 19:00 or catch it on iPlayer. Last weeks episode was very good and very watchable. Mr Stewart seems to a man going places.

In the First World War, T E Lawrence helped to unite feuding Arab tribes into a formidable guerrilla army which helped to topple the Ottoman Empire. But today Lawrence has an extraordinary new relevance. His experiences of defeating a foreign military occupation, and of leading an insurgency, have led to him being held up as the man who cracked fighting in the Middle East.

Harvard Professor Rory Stewart is a former soldier, diplomat and governor of two Iraqi provinces. Rory has spent many years living and working in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has been fascinated with Lawrence since his childhood. In these two films, he examines the legacy of Britain’s First World War campaign in the Middle East, and draws parallels with British and American interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan today.

But for Rory, Lawrence’s story has a much darker message than is normally portrayed – Lawrence might have won his war in the desert and been hailed a warrior hero, but the politics that followed fatally undermined his success.

Lawrence had aimed, he said, ‘to write his will across the skies’ and build a new independent Arab nation, but in these two films Rory Stewart shows how Lawrence felt his dream ended in catastrophe and shame.

Drawing a comparison between Lawrence’s experience and today, Rory explains how Lawrence came to the conclusion that foreign military interventions in the Middle East are fundamentally unworkable. He concludes, ‘Looking at Iraq and Afghanistan today I believe very strongly that Lawrence’s message would not have been do it better, do it more sensitively, but don’t do it at all.’.

BBC – BBC Two Programmes – The Legacy of Lawrence of Arabia, Episode 2.

The Legacy of Lawrence of Arabia: Episode 1

After a recommendation, can I also recommend you have a watch of this programme shown on BBC2 on Saturday 16th January. It is available via BBC  iPlayer

This is Rory Stewart’s take on the legacy of Lawrence of Arabia and how its has affected the current state of play in the Middle East.

Some absolute gems in it, especially when he speaks the retired American officer Lt Col John A Nagl  about the U.S Army/Marine corps Counterinsurgeny Field Manual as he casually notes it has been downloaded 1.2 million times, found on Taleban fighters, but he just needs to get American Officers to read it!

BBC iPlayer – The Legacy of Lawrence of Arabia: Episode 1.

Afghanistan: What Could Work – Rory Stewart

A very lucid and useful article on Afghanistan from   Rory Stewart. Why it is in the New York review of Books I am uncertain.

Some interesting quotes and passages such as, taking about Obama

This was not, as they might have imagined, because he was lurching between two contradictory doctrines of increase and withdrawal, but because the rest of his speech argued for a radically different strategy—a call strategy—which is about neither surge nor exit but about a much-reduced and longer-term presence in the country. The President did not make this explicit. But this will almost certainly be the long-term strategy of the US and its allies. And he has with remarkable courage and scrupulousness articulated the premises that lead to this conclusion.

and next A PBS journalist interviewed President Karzai:

Margaret Warner: “The UN did reluctantly withdraw about two thirds of its foreign staff…. What impact is that likely to have?”

Hamid Karzai: No impact. No impact.

Margaret Warner: So you don’t care if they return?

Hamid Karzai: They may or may not return. Afghanistan won’t notice it. We wish them well wherever they are.

and next on the limits in Afghanistan

I felt as though I had come to hear a fifteenth-century scholastic and found myself suddenly encountering Erasmus: someone not quite free of the peculiarities of the old way, and therefore haunted by its elisions, omissions, and contradictions; but already anticipating a reformation. Obama’s central—and revolutionary—claim is that our responsibility, our means, and our interests are finite in Afghanistan. As he says, “we can’t simply afford to ignore the price of these wars.” Instead of pursuing an Afghan policy for existential reasons—doing “whatever it takes” and “whatever it costs”—we should accept that there is a limit on what we can do. And we don’t have a moral obligation to do what we cannot do.

And one final quote

A more realistic, affordable, and therefore sustainable presence would not make Afghanistan stable or predictable. It would be merely a small if necessary part of an Afghan political strategy. The US and its allies would only moderate, influence, and fund a strategy shaped and led by Afghans themselves. The aim would be to knit together different Afghan interests and allegiances sensitively enough to avoid alienating independent local groups, consistently enough to regain their trust, and robustly enough to restore the security and justice that Afghans demand and deserve from a national government.

I’ll leave the rest to you but a very good article from someone who knows the area and the people very well.

Afghanistan: What Could Work – The New York Review of Books.