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Playing by the Rules
Publication date: 2004-08-09

Tony Blair has come to accept that "those who play by the rules succeed, those who do not - fail".

He said this with reference to the need to curb "anti-social behaviour" in Britain. But the maxim "those who play by the rules succeed, those who do not - fail" is true not only in relation to alcohol-fueled criminal behaviour of British youngsters. It is equally applicable to all the areas of human activity, and especially so to government. And Tony Blair's own experience confirms that.

The main cause of Tony Blair's current problems is his failure to "play by the rules" in his decision to get involved in the American war against Iraq.

Instead of setting down clear rules for use of military force against countries, which would be based on sound, universally applicable principles, and then using military force in accordance with these rules, he chose to justify a war by political arguments, which were factually and logically flawed.

This failure to "play by the rules" has caused deaths of tens of thousands of people and destruction of property on a large scale.

The present violence in Iraq is also the result of the failure to play by the rules. Because the American occupation of Iraq is not the result of an orderly lawful enforcement of International Law, but of lawless politics by a group of lawless nation states, the present government, regardless of their intentions, is "tainted" with the lawlessness of the war which brought them to power. They are seen as a foreign-occupier-imposed government, and this diminishes their authority in the eyes of many Iraqis while legitimizing resistance against them. To overcome these consequences of the lawless war is extremely difficult, and the instability is likely to continue as long as the foreign occupation prevails in any form.

It is also the failure to play by the rules that will make any trial of Saddam Hussain lack legitimacy. No matter how impeccably just the trial itself will be, the fact that Saddam Hussain will be tried for acts which other heads of state are allowed to commit with impunity will make that trial a mockery of justice. Can there be one set of rules for Saddam Hussain and another set of rules for a George Bush, or a Tony Blair?

Another example of the problems caused by the failure to play by the rules is the current "crisis" in Sudan. Some are calling for international intervention to resolve the crisis. But, how fit for such task are those who fail to intervene in other "crises", like those in Palestine or Chechnya. Can there be one set of rules for Sudan and another set of rules for Russia or Israel?

Nevertheless, the War on Terror, in spite of all its lawlessness, has had some positive effects. The acceptance by Tony Blair of the need to play by the rules is certainly a positive development. The next step is to start laying down the rules for governments and for the governments to start learning to play by the rules.


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