§ 11.35 a.m.
§ Debate resumed (according to Order), on the Motion moved yesterday by Lord Henderson: That there be laid before the House Papers relating to the international situation, with special reference to the situation in the Middle East.
§ EARL ATTLEE
My Lords, yesterday the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, made a very complete and admirable speech expounding the position of the Labour Opposition on these matters. He stressed, I think rightly, the need for getting as much agreement as possible. That note was struck again by the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. I do not intend to be controversial this morning. We had an interesting debate last night, illumined particularly, I thought, by speeches of great knowledge from Lord Jellicoe and Lord Lloyd. I cannot pretend to anything like their knowledge of the Middle East, but I have had occasion to consider these matters and should like to offer one or two reflections to the House.
It was obvious that the Middle East was a weak point in the line of the West. When the cold war started, Russia was stopped at Berlin by the Berlin air-lift and in the Far East by Korea; but it was quite obvious that a weak point there in the South was open to her for intrigue. I have no doubt that she took full advantage of it. At the same time, I believe that it is a great mistake to overestimate the extent to which the troubles in the Near East are due to Russian intrigue. We are inclined to think that our friends across the Atlantic are rather apt to overstress Russian intrigue. Our weakness in the Near East was that we had a number of States, most of them fairly backward, with no democracy. After all, there is no democracy in Asia except that which was planted by us, the British, 328 in India, Pakistan, Burma, and the rest. There was no democracy, only semi-feudal States. Inevitably, after the First World War, there were set up undemocratic States, and we depended very largely on what rulers there were in those States. Sometimes we were very fortunate: I think King Abdullah was a very fine statesman. The trouble is that too often in Asia assassination interferes with the best-laid plans, as we have seen again from the assassinations in Iraq. I was inclined to say "Put not your trust in princes", not because we did not trust the princes but because their position was so uncertain. I would also say, "Put not your trust in Colonels or Generals". I think their position is equally uncertain.
However, the position was that we had set up a series of States, and, as has been said, it is in our interest to preserve order in that area. That is true. But beneath this election of semi-despotic States there were very disturbing movements—Pan-Asianism and Pan-Arabianism; and also the impact of sudden and unexpected wealth. I agree that in these circumstances it has been very difficult for any Government in this country to act. They are bound to form alliances with rulers. Yet it may be found that those rulers have not the support of the people of their country. I think we need to be rather careful in this matter. I notice that it has been reiterated in the speeches from the Government Bench that our British interest is peace, tranquillity and stability. That must not be pressed too far, because when one talks about the overthrowing of established States it is often difficult to tell whether that is due to outside propaganda or to the boiling up of the feeling of the people themselves.
It rather reminds one of an historic parallel—the position of Europe in the 1830's. There you had a whole series of States nicely laid out by the Congress of Vienna, and you had bubbling up there liberalism and nationalism. Prince Metternich naturally wanted stability and everything kept the same; yet there was this movement, and I have no doubt that he felt that British propaganda for freedom and nationalism was extremely inconvenient. You might compare that position with the position in, say, Italy. There, quite respectable people were ruling, as in Tuscany; but the fact was that the Italian feeling of nationalism 329 was growing. You might compare Egypt with Piedmont from the point of view of other States. One must not look too closely and imagine that these troubles in the Near East are all due to Russian intrigue. What we have to do, I think, is to keep our minds very flexible and to remember that the frontiers laid down for, let us say, Iraq are not necessarily the right ones. Jordan was a subsequent creation. There again there is the question of whether Jordan is a viable State on its own. Maybe we need to create a greater one. Therefore, I think that when we profess that we need stability, it must be stability with flexibility.
There is one matter on which we must stand firm, and that is on the question of Israel. I believe that, from the point of view of purely British interests, the creation of a national home was a mistake in British policy; but it has been done and we cannot now allow Israel to be swept away. It would be an enormous advantage if we could get the Russians as well as ourselves to recognise that Israel is here and that it has to remain. Undoubtedly, as the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, pointed out, it is the existence of Israel that has been one of the great stimuli of Arab nationalism. But while we say that, we must also remember, as was pointed out on the other side yesterday, that nationalism is often apt to run into imperialism and aggression. Therefore, it should be clearly said to Israel that her State must be confined within certain frontiers and that we can no more support Israeli aggression than we can support Arab attacks on Israel. That is one of the points of stability on which we ought to insist.
The question is, of course: Can we get any agreement with Russia? It is pointed out that our interests do not really clash, but the Middle East may be used as a pawn in the game. I myself should like to see rather more British leading. I am afraid that our American friends do not have the wealth of experience, such as we in this country can command, on the Middle East problems. I am inclined to think that they are not always very wise in their approach to these problems. Take, for instance, the proposal for a Conference. I think it is quite right that it should be under the United Nations, but I am inclined to think that the United States Government have been too insistent 330 on various legal points. In my time I found that there were a great many lawyers in the State Department—I do not think they were awfully good ones.
I do not think that we should have rejected offhand the idea of a meeting in Geneva. Though the United Nations meet in New York, I am not sure that it would not have been a good thing to have borrowed accommodation from one of the other international organisations and met in Geneva. I do not think that the atmosphere in New York is necessarily very good. There is the memory of past controversies. There is a massed Press in America. There is also the fact that New York is one of the greatest Jewish cities in the whole world. I think, there, fore, that it might well have been wise if we had fallen in with the idea of a meeting in Geneva. Also, I do not know how far it is wise to emphasise that the Conference must be at the Security Council. There will be the presence of the Formosa representative instead of a representative of China, and I think that will lead to a good deal of talk about it being something like a hand-picked conference. I must say that this has impressed me. Particularly important is it that the Asiatic countries should be brought in, including India and Pakistan, because this is not just a European problem.
I think that also there is a tendency to go off on smaller points and perhaps lose the main thread. The Times yesterday had a good leading article entitled, "Going Round the Mulberry Bush." I think that there is a little bit of "going round the mulberry bush." I think that we must not take too seriously the abuse that we get in all Russian communications. We must remember that they have not a great deal of manners. I think that we should disregard this abuse. There was a Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, who always used the word "damned" before he said anything about any man or any purpose. Someone once said to him, "Let us just assume that we are all damned to start with." I think that, when dealing with the Russians, we have to assume that we are going to be abused to start with, and not take too much notice. Perhaps the legal department of the State Department is apt to take up these little irrelevant points of abuse. We want to go for the substance.
331 If we can get a conference, I say that we should be very flexible on these matters. We have to remember that if we try to stand pat, let us say, in support of certain States in Asia which the Russians regard as our satellites, we also encourage the Russians to stand firm with regard to their satellites. Therefore, I think that so far as we can we should have a complete disinterestedness in this region. We are interested in oil—so are other countries interested in oil—but there is no reason at all why our political interests should go with our economic interests. Arab nationalism may endure or it may not. In the past there have been great divisions amongst the Arabs, between the Sunites and Husseinites and others. I do not think we ought to encourage these divisions. I should like to see a great Arabia entirely free from pressure from ourselves, the Americans or the Russians. I think it might be a point of stability in the modern world.
I am not going to talk on the matters of Suez, the troops in the Lebanon or the troops in Jordan, but I think they reinforce the need that has been so often expressed for a United Nations force. Years ago, between the wars, I was a strong supporter of Lord Davies, as was Sir Winston Churchill, in his demend for an international force. The events of the past few years have shown abundantly the need for an independent force. I hope that that will be pressed as far as possible by our Government, because I think that these difficulties will always arise where forces are put in to support order and the rule of law but are inevitably connected with the interests of the particular State to which they belong. We meet, my Lords, at an anxious time. We all wish our Government and the Prime Minister success in these negotiations; and the Prime Minister can speak on these matters with far more general support than has been available for many years.
§ 11.52 a.m.
My Lords, I would start by apologising to your Lordships, and particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, for not being able to be in my place yesterday, but I have had the advantage of reading in Hansard the most interesting speeches that have so far been made. It has been pointed out by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord 332 Hailsham, I think rightly, that the delicacy of the international negotiations now continuing makes it very necessary that our criticisms and suggestions in this House even now should be circumspect, and not hypothetical or too specific upon matters whose full implication can, by the nature of political diplomacy, be assessed only by those Governments dealing with those matters at first hand and day to day.
It is in that context that I should like to repeat my conviction that the action taken by Her Majesty's Government recently in the Middle East cannot be condemned in isolation; and although my Party and I do not support the declared policy of Her Majesty's Government in the Middle East so far as it has manifested itself in the past, nor their future policy so far as it can be understood—and I appreciate that it has not yet crystallised or recrystallised for the future—I regard the intervention in Jordan as one immediately based on motives of humanity and of rallying to the physical rather than the political support of human beings in danger of their lives. Whether the political results are judged as good or evil or non-existent is a totally different matter; and these aspects are at the moment very much sub judice. But until I have evidence to the contrary, I am prepared to believe that our response to an urgent call for physical help was made primarily to save the City of Amman from being sacked, to prevent the disruption of Amman airfield and to save from massacre a number of human beings, whatever their political colour and however representative or unrepresentative they may have been as a Government or as a Monarchy.
It is sometimes argued that we have no proof that such a catastrophe would have occurred. To that argument I would reply, first, that the Baghdad Radio made it clear that trouble was brewing and would come to a head; and secondly, that in the event, so far as I know, not a life has been lost, not a shot has been fired, and so far from being aggressors, as some of us think this country was in a military sense at least in the Suez crisis, our intention has been and is purely preventive: to hold a dangerous situation in check—and at the invitation of the Government in power—and to gain breathing space, not to 333 formulate a policy but to enable a constitutional rather than a military solution to be sought. We may, indeed, only have postponed the trouble by our action, but, even so, surely such a postponement is praiseworthy and not blameworthy.
The justification for this examination to-day of the present situation seems to me not to rest on the incidents earlier in this month but upon the degree of responsibility which this country bears for the general situation of unrest in the Arab world. It strikes me as a matter for astonishment that Great Britain, with its immense experience ranging over five or six hundred years of meeting and dealing with peoples of all races and religions, should so confuse what is desirable with what actually exists. By education and by precept we have brought many less advanced peoples to a newer and less primitive outlook, both culturally and politically. But no education will turn the instincts, deep-seated beliefs and psychological trends of a completely different race into Anglo-Saxon channels.
They can be moulded and guided by us and other States of the West into what we believe to be a better, happier and more worth-while way of life, but I think we should never lose sight of the fact that such improvement is only possible, and indeed only justifiable, if the ends are for these peoples' improvement and not directed merely to a build-up of Western ideals or Western advantage. Despite our centuries of experience in this field, I cannot help feeling, like the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, that we have been, to some extent, led aside by the urgent and modern programmes of pro-selytisation of the great nations of Russia and the United States, neither of which countries has the deep and innate knowledge of the slow processes of civilisation, and both of which, I think, assess to-day and to-morrow as having little debt to and little relationship with the centuries of past experience and wisdom.
The Western conception of political States is, I suggest, alien to the peoples of the Middle East, whose inspiration lies in communal religion and communal language and custom far more than in artificial geographical boundaries. Indeed, the integrity of Israel does not lie outside this definition. For this reason, we must, I think, re-assess our approach 334 and not only admit but encourage the natural force of what is held in common—a quality which is currently described as Arab nationalism. As the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, said yesterday, nationalism can be a good quality or a bad one. Where it operates selfishly or hysterically to the detriment of its neighbours, it is obviously bad. But where it operates towards constructive, patriotic development, with good will towards international co-operation, it is a good thing. We should, therefore, encourage and succour this new force and help to steer it into constructive channels. recognising that these millions of Arabs have found a voice that must he acknowledged.
But just as Russia, with its large element of Asiatic territory and Asiatic mentality, is regarded by the United States as lacking in comprehension of the basic ideology of the Western Powers because it has an Oriental as well as an Occidental make-up, so Arabia is apt to be wrongly judged because it also has inherently different conceptions, standards and mentalities. Colonel Nasser typifies to many of us an unprincipled demagogue. But he represents something which the non-Arab world cannot or will not understand: he is the present and temporary focus of Arab aspirations which are held by good Arabs and bad Arabs alike. We deplore his methods and his political morals, but to the Arabs he is not a Hitler: he is to them a Garibaldi, a George Washington, a Winston Churchill. Much as we disapprove of his methods I think we must remember that.
Our task, therefore, is to try to ensure that this new and great upsurge of Arab consciousness is guided into democracy and not into Communistic dictatorship; for in the Arab experience the impetus of to-day may go in either direction. True democratic representation by free election must be the Middle Eastern goal which we aim to achieve by all legitimate means, for the safeguarding of human welfare in Arabia and, indeed, for World peace. To this end we must do all in our power to co-ordinate such altruistic and benevolent elements as, I am positive, do exist in British, American and Russian policies. Oil, I suggest, is in a sense a hallucination. It is, for a few more decades to come, a passing richness in dollars and 335 strategic strength which may cause temporary affluence or temporary poverty in international prosperity or international influence. But situated as we are to-day, in a world where a snap of the finger may cause the nuclear destruction of all that exists and ever has existed, surely oil is a consideration of despicable insignificance; that is, comparatively. We are concerned in these desperate days with humanity: its survival or its extinction.
So I come to the pressure of Russian influence in the Middle East or, for that matter, in South East Asia, Australasia, South America, Western Europe or the United States. As one of the two greatest nations in the world to-day, Russia already exists actually or potentially, almost everywhere. It is living in the 17th or 18th century to pontificate about whether Russia shall or shall not be allowed to appear in this or that quarter of the globe. Great Britain, for all its lost supremacy and dominance, counts for a very great deal wherever human life exists. So does America and so does Russia.
Russia is in the Middle East; and we have the task—which I pray may soon be a pleasant and rewarding task—of co-operating and co-ordinating with this great Power whose ideology, for mental, racial, historical and physiological reasons, will always be different from our own. But just as we can live in a world where scientific knowledge remains still largely hidden from us and in the unknown, probably antipathetic to many of our most cherished presuppositions and prejudices, so, surely, we can accept Russian conceptions and predispositions (as, in a far easier degree, we accept other foreign but more understandable diver-gencies) as tenable concepts, however remote or antagonistic they may seem at the present stage of civilisation, compared with our own well-thought-out and deeply-believed-in first principles. We must, therefore, live together without compromising or sacrificing our first principles. But I see no justification in the broader horizon for maintaining—as I am afraid we do so childishly in home politics—that because we consider we have a good reason for thinking we are right, it follows that everyone who does not see eye to eye with us is necessarily wrong. That is superficial politics, but I think it is basically blasphemy.
336 Finally, one practical point which I believe was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, yesterday. We in this country have a great heritage. Because of that proud and admirable background in our minds and our lives, we assume, without arrogance, as it might seem to be, but because we seem to expect others to take an objective assessment which in fact they do not do, that this benevolence and the altruism in our national policies are patent and apparent. They are not; and every time that our good intentions are queried or discounted we take mortal offence. We live now, unfortunately, in a world of advertisement. It is no longer enough that justice should be done and be seen to be done; it must be advertised and publicised and underlined and emphasised and put beyond the possibility of question or of denigration.
Our competitors in this regrettably competitive world spend millions upon millions of pounds in establishing the merits of their aims, but more especially in describing the villainy of their adversaries' aims through the little box in every primitive village which relays to countless millions their radio propaganda. I do not advocate the distorted vilification of our adversaries, but I do urge the Government once again to step up the miserable allocation of an infinitesimal sum spent on foreign broadcast information to a generous support of wholesale dissemination of what we do stand for: the appreciation of truth, the knowledge that the Western civilised world works for co-operation and not for strife; and that one pound spent on permanent enlightenment is worth thousands of pounds spent on instruments of destruction and death.
I believe that this country of ours—and because of its background this country alone—has in its power now the possibility of averting world war by concentrating in the widest and, indeed, in the most lavish way, on the spreading of good tidings of good intentions, so as to counter the threats and the blackmail which spring from suspicion and fear on every side.
§ 12.6 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
My Lords. I am obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, for being so kind as to allow 337 me to intervene for a few moments at this juncture. If I may say so to the noble Lord the Leader of the Liberal Party, we know we are a great country. We know all that. But it really will not help the present situation we are in—a thorough mess—by repeating these little echoes of self-praise. I know a little poem beginning "Little Jack Horner" which covers a great part of his peroration.
I do not think I was talking about self-praise at all. Whatever we may think of ourselves, we cannot expect other people to think the same.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
What I was saying is—and it is not only to the noble. Lord—that it does not help the situation to-day to comfort ourselves that we are a great country. We know all about that. If we are going to do any good we must recognise that we are in a great mess, and what we want to find out is whether there is any possible way out. The question that has been in my mind as a member of the Opposition—of which I am proud indeed—when listening to the speech of my noble friend Lord Henderson (and I may remind the House that many years ago he was my Parliamentary Private Secretary) and the noble Earl, who was our Prime Minister, is, when is this Conference going to start? We had a meeting yesterday when Mr. Dulles was here and something was discussed. Where is Mr. Dulles now? I believe he is in Washington. When are we going to hear about some positive steps being taken? That is why I am impatient with a very old personal friend, Lord Rea. I want to know how we are going to get out of this mess in the Middle East.
What I was saying is that we must forget ourselves what has been said, however true it may be, and get on with things.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
Then we are entirely agreed. His clarion call did not reach my ears. What we should like to know from the Government is when this Conference is going to start, and where. The thing is getting very foggy. General De Gaulle has put forward a plan of his own, and maybe it is right. He is certainly going to play a personal part in world politics. But when is Mr. Khrushchev going to see Mr. Dulles? That is what we want to know. No amount of platitude affords any answer.
338 As I am not a statesman, but an ordinary member of Parliament, I am going to ask one or two questions, as I am entitled to do. Will the Minister who is going to speak give us a little more information about what happened yesterday at the meeting of the Baghdad Powers? I think in clerical language you say the Baghdad Powers in partibus. It is everywhere except in Baghdad. What is the attitude of the United States to the recognition of Iraq? Yesterday I did not think much was discussed that required cross-examination. To-day there is a great deal of news which requires to be explained. At the Baghdad Pact meeting did we advocate that we should send a joint message to Baghdad to say that the Iraqi Government would be recognised? We had a remarkable speech yesterday from the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and there were letters in The Times from Mr. Ionides, who knows a great deal about the country. They said, "If you are going to do it, do it now." I do not know what you would make of the Baghdad Pact if the new Government of Iraq joined; but we really ought to know what is the position, first of all, of Iraq in relation to the Baghdad Pact.
The second question is, what is implied by this liaison of Mr. Dulles and the Baghdad Powers. It is not at all clear. He is not a full member of the Pact, because he cannot make a treaty without the assent of the Senate. Does it mean that as the Baghdadis have defaulted, the Americans have undertaken to send in troops if necessary? Because the whole thing is based on military apprehension, which I believe is fading and was never as much justified as people thought. All that has been done is that America has come along and given a sort of half promise in accordance with their policy of brinkmanship. We do not know what the attitude of the members is to Baghdad. If you do not go with Baghdad, Baghdad may go with Russia; you do not know; they will certainly not maintain the position in relation to the West which was the mainspring of Nuri Pasha's policy.
There is another question in relation to the Baghdad Pact. One nation is forbidden to join it—the Jews; they are not allowed in. They would be glad to give assurances of peace in the Middle East but they are not allowed in because there 339 is a veto. People who come in must have unanimous support. We are now building up something which is making more difficult the position of Israel. If my noble friend Lord Attlee will forgive me, I would recall this. I was the Member for St. George's East and he was the Member for Limehouse. We both knew what the Russian persecution of the Jews meant. We both saw it. I saw it in my youth. I represented St. George's East down by the docks and I used to see these poor creatures coming with their little bundles, getting work anywhere they could for any wage. It was tragic. So far from thinking it is a mistake—I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Strang, that it is an embarrassment—I say it is one of the glories of our policy that Mr. Balfour founded a National Home for the Jews. It has made all the difference in the world to every Jew in the world; he can stand up now with a country of his own.
On this same question of the Baghdad Pact, may I ask the Government whether it is intended that Jordan should come into the Pact? The noble Earl, Lord Gosford, will no doubt be able to give me some particulars about that. We tried to get Jordan in, with disastrous results, very nearly upsetting King Hussein, when General Templer the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, visited him and it got around that they were going to join. It nearly cost King Hussein his throne at that moment. Is it intended that Jordan should come in?
I do not know about the Lebanon; I should perhaps just leave it aside. What any sensible person might have guessed is of course happening; everyone in the Lebanon are joining together against the man who gets the support of America. That is obvious. President Chamoun is finding himself isolated with the Marines. Everybody else, the Leader of the Opposition, the head of the Army, are all uniting against them. What will come out of that I do not know. In the United States, as far as one can judge from the Press, there is by no means unanimity in favour of this adventure. We have said we approve it and taken the responsibility and we may have penalties to pay; I do not know. But we are not actually engaged.
But what about Jordan? That is a question that is very important. Are we 340 meeting the expenses of the Jordan Government? The Bedouin have not got much money; the Western bank people are hostile. Are we re-subsidising Jordan in the way that we did years ago to the tune of between£15 million and£20 million?
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
That is one point. The other, which is important, is this. This House is rising in a few days. Suppose the situation goes sour in Jordan. There are a great many people there, probably the majority, who do not want this dynasty, this King. Suppose there is a row: are we going to put it down ad interim? We want to get out, but we want to get out when our duties are taken over. What exactly are we going to ask the United Nations to do to replace our forces in Jordan? I do not know in the least. We went in out of a feeling of loyalty to a Hashemite dynasty who placed their destinies in our hands and now are faced with assassination and ruin. Some day it will be worth while having a discussion about that. I remember the people very well—Sir Mark Sykes, Colonel Lawrence and the rest. We allied ourselves with Hashemites and we were wrong. Now they are in this tragic position. In the meantime, within a few weeks someone has to settle who is going to pay the expenses in Jordan and on what terms we shall hand over, if we can, the occupation to the United Nations Forces.
Finally, there is the other question that no one has spoken about, and that is the South—the Gulf Protectorates, Kuwait and Bahrein, and Saudi Arabia. Suppose that the same sort of revolt comes there against autocratic dynasties. Suppose it is an internal revolt of Arabs, as I believe these things are in the main, not inspired from outside. What do we do? Something was said by the noble Earl, Lord Home, yesterday about our responsibilities. Do we say that if there is an internal revolt, say in Kuwait, we have Treaty duties to perform to maintain the ruler with armed force? It may be that we shall have to do it; I do not know. I would be against it. But we want to know exactly what our obligations are, and how we propose to fulfil them. After all, it is all dead matter in the North, but in the South there are the 341 Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the Aden Protectorate. I would draw the attention of noble Lords to this fact: that we are surrounded in the Middle East by countries we do not recognise. We do not recognise Iraq; we do not recognise Egypt; we have no diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia. Those are points which make us wish it were possible for the House to meet from time to time in order to receive the information that is always so readily available from the Minister in charge. Those are the only questions I have to ask, and if some answer can be vouchsafed to some of them I shall be very grateful. I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, for allowing me to intervene.
§ 12.18 p.m.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
My Lords, I, of course, am not going to attempt to answer for Her Majesty's Government some of the questions which the noble Viscount has posed, but I suggest that if there were any attempt to answer them I personally should be absolutely dismayed. The meeting of the Baghdad Pact Powers assembled for the first time in London yesterday, and I should say that if there were an answer to some of those questions to-day it could only mean that the answer had been taken in a spirit of utter irresponsibility. The only point on which I disagreed with the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, in that fine speech of his yesterday, was when he said that we should recognise the new Government of Iraq immediately. I imagine that we are going to recognise that Government fairly soon, but I do not see any need for haste in the matter. We have to remember that there is the declared intention to try all those who were in any way associated with the late regime in Iraq, and I suggest that it would not be quite proper to recognise overnight a Government which holds over the world that kind of threat.
As to whether Jordan is going to come into the Baghdad Pact or not, I would remind the noble Viscount that now that Iraq is in a most ambiguous position in regard to the Pact it assumes the nature of that original Northern Tier presentation on which Mr. Dulles was so enthusiastic. Therefore there is possibly now some reason to believe that at some future date Israel may be invited to join.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
May I ask the noble Lord a question? Does he 342 agree with King Hussein when he says that his business is to restore the authority of Baghdad?
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
I would most certainly say that advice given him to attempt to restore the position in Iraq would not be in his interest.
It seemed to me that yesterday there was so much construction packed into the debate that there is little, in a positive way, for somebody like myself to add. I would therefore concentrate upon trying to remove one or two misconceptions, as I see them, in regard to our general thinking about the Middle East—a dangerous tendency which has emerged, both in public and in Parliament, to over-simplify with clichés what are in fact extremely complicated problems. I would take as the basis the four principles which were set out in another place in a recent debate, and to which the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, referred yesterday—principles which were regarded as the formula for Utopian progress. If I diagnose rather than prescribe it is only because quite a number of prescriptions were provided yesterday.
I recognise, just as much as any noble Lord opposite, certain facts about the Middle East. I recognise the fact of Arab nationalism. I think that is a movement within its own right. I would agree with Lord Attlee, who I think said words to the effect that these days the Soviet follows Arab nationalism rather than leads it. I recognise that there is a new, coming generation of Arabs who sense frustration and who look to Colonel Nasser as the focus of their hopes. I recognise the anomalies of the Middle East—of corruption in high places, of the need for land reform and so on.
It is only when we come to review our own part in all these matters that I find myself in disagreement with many of your Lordships. Therefore I should like to set out the kind of fashionable argument that is current these days: first of all, that we have divided to rule; that the Baghdad Pact in particular was a division to rule; that the Pact was a provocation to the Soviet without providing any compensating military security; that we cannot ensure the flow of oil by more military adventures; that we now have to obtain oil by long-term commercial methods—to "put oil on a normal commercial basis", is the phrase used—that we 343 should not use outmoded imperialism in the process and finally, that we have no long-term policy and we cannot solve long-term problems by short-term methods. Those are the charges and sometimes those are the actual words used. I often wonder whether the use of words of that sort is damaging, because the British public might well be excused for having a picture in their minds of British soldiers with fixed bayonets standing over unwilling Arabs and forcing them to pump the oil through the pipes.
I consider that we have made two grave errors of judgment in the Middle East since 1917. I do not propose to dwell on them to-day. All I want to do is to dispose of, as I see them, some self-inflicted wounds which we have inflicted upon ourselves, to say a word as to how I believe the present confusion has arisen, and to have a look at the future. Not unnaturally, when we surrendered the Iraq Mandate in 1932 we slipped into a certain pattern of thought. In Iraq we left behind good friends in charge—friends that we had trusted in the First World War, and, perhaps optimistically, we thought that those friends would continue indefinitely in control. Perhaps, too, we failed to notice what was happening elsewhere in the Middle East—for instance, in Syria and the Lebanon, where the fact that the French had lingered on long after we had left Iraq in itself fed anti-Western sentiment. Egypt we thought we knew. What we could not know was that thirteen years after we had handed over in Iraq, Egypt would be slipping into the leadership of the Arab world. How could we know that?
In 1916, when we were busy planning for Arab independence after the war, Egypt had never been included in the area in which that independence was to be recognised. In those days Egypt was never regarded as an Arab country, and I think that that was the kind of view taken by many Arabs themselves. It may be that latterly the motives of that Arab leadership in Egypt, which were to my mind quite unscrupulous, have been diluted with the urge for reform. But I would submit that their better instincts have always been blurred and distorted, and remain so to-day, by anti-Western and anti-colonial obsessions.
344 If that be true, what now becomes of this accusation of dividing to rule? Was our support of the Arab League, when it was first thought of between the years 1942 and 1945, when it emerged, a division? Was our unification of Iraq after the First World War out of the three entirely separate Turkish vilayets of Mosul, Basra, and Baghdad, a division? Was our presentation of Iraq in 1932 to the League of Nations as an independent sovereign State, a dividing to rule? The truth is, in fact, that as the gulf between Colonel Nasser and Nuri widened we continued to support old friends rather than ally ourselves to the one man who, on a mere count of heads, could command the greatest following in the Middle East. That may have been a misjudgment but it certainly was not dividing to rule. When one speaks of dividing to rule, one surely conveys an intention, and I would submit that it is less than fair to ourselves to say deliberately that we ever set out to divide the Middle East.
Then I come to the charge that we have no long-term policy and that therefore short-term remedies are ineffective. I sometimes wonder if a long-term policy is either necessary or desirable. I sometimes wonder if that conveys the conception of a rigid, inflexible kind of policy posed all over one big area. Then I would regard it as wrong. I think that what, more accurately we should have in our minds are long-term principles. In any case, I would regard it as a contradiction of logic to argue that because there is no clear-cut long-term policy it is therefore wrong to take short-term measures to remedy short-term situations.
Our action in Jordan the other day was just such a case. We had to take a short-term decision to deal with a sudden and desperate short-term situation. I do not like the argument that because King Hussein had turned sour on us about eighteen months ago we should therefore have refused him his help in his hour of danger. I think the happier view is to believe that it was General Glubb's tolerance, understanding and dignity at the time which has to-day brought its reward in King Hussein now discovering the value of true friendship. But in any case I submit that we have an obligation to King Hussein, remembering that it was 345 we who set his family on its feet and that it was we who used his family to help us win the First World War.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
My Lords, had it not been for the standard of revolt raised under Sherif Hussein of Mecca—King Hussein's great-grandfather—it could well be argued that the ports on the eastern bank of the Red Sea would have remained in Turkish hands, and it is doubtful whether in these circumstances, so far as the Middle East is concerned, we should have won the First World War. We are therefore under a particular obligation to King Hussein. I am not going into the nature of the problem. I would agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, that we have set ourselves a very difficult problem to solve, but whereas I was certainly unhappy over the American entry into the Lebanon, we had no doubt whatsoever where our duty lay when the young King appealed to us under Article 51 on the evening of July 16.
Now I would turn to the particular aspect of the charge of "divide and rule" which concerns the Baghdad Pact. How easily people forget their history! To-day that is presented as a Western imposition thrust on the Middle East, dividing countries that would naturally have come together in harmony. I would recall that in 1957 it was Mr. Dulles who was going round the Middle East concentrating on the Northern Tier conception and getting together all those States which lay on or near Soviet frontiers in some kind of mutual security system. That was followed, in February, 1954, almost simultaneously by American aid to Pakistan and the treaty of friendship between Pakistan and Turkey. I believe I am correct in saying at that time we were actually resisting the Northern Tier conception. In October, 1954—the same year—Nuri happened to visit Turkey at a time when the Pakistan military mission were there. He made it quite clear that sooner or later his country would come into this Northern Tier conception; so that in the following year, 1955, Iraq signed her treaty with Turkey. That was in February. The British signature did not follow until April, 1955, when we took the opportunity to end the existing Treaty with Iraq, because it certainly 346 had a certain hang-over from the old mandatory days.
My Lords, I have repeated that list of dates only to refute the suggestion that the Baghdad Pact was a British imposition, but I should like to take this opportunity to say a word about out general attitude to these pacts, because it is essentially a matter of long-term policy in the Middle East. Surely we never impose a pact on anybody, at any time or in any place. If we like a pact, obviously we encourage it but we never thrust a pact on anyone. If Turkey, Iran and Pakistan to-day wish to continue in some form of mutual understanding with each other for their self-defence, and also wish for our assistance, are we to refuse that assistance? And if Iraq of yesterday wished to build up a system around that Northern Tier based on Baghdad, were we to have refused it? My own view is that these pacts have a psychological value which goes far beyond their military value; but on the day when a pact is not required by those countries concerned, on the spot, it is certainly not for a country outside the area, such as ourselves, to thrust a pact upon them.
But, as I see it, there is a far wider principle involved. So far as the Middle East is concerned, the argument has run like this; that because doubts were expressed as to the degree of popular support which the Government of Nuri could command, we were in some way propping up an unwanted and authoritarian-imposed régime. That kind of charge is frequently made and I welcome the chance to dispose of it. Apart from the fact that the Government of Nuri happened to be friendly, it was also the officially accredited Government of the country. Do noble Lords really argue that because that Government was not popular we should not have dealt with it? Do they go further and say that because it was out of step with President Nasser and the "coffee shop vote" we should have removed it? It is so easy to come out with these clichés about "propping up" unwanted Governments, but frankly I have yet to understand what alternatives these critics have in mind.
If we are expected to approve only the style of a Government which conforms to our own standard of a free election, there would certainly be few Governments 347 left in the Middle East to-day to recognise. It has seemed to me that we are asked to support an authoritarian Government when it happens to have a nationalist Communist flavour but not to support it when it appears to have a feudal background. In any case, I suggest that, to be quite consistent, when and if we meet Mr. Khrushchev in a conference we should remind him that there are at least half a dozen Governments in Eastern Europe to-day which, in our view, are just as much harsh impositions as any in the Middle East. At the same time, we might take up with Mr. Khrushchev the question of his somewhat extravagant assessment of the oil trade and his constant references to these "wicked oil barons".
On July 20, Mr. Khrushchev wrote to the Prime Minister saying:They"—the Middle East countries—want only one thing: that this problem "—of oil supplies to the West—be solved on an equal and mutually advantageous commercial basis.That is exactly how it is solved—on a mutually advantageous commercial basis. Mr. Khrushchev was supported in the other place in almost identical terms. What are the facts? The oil companies first recognise that oil in the ground belongs to the national Governments concerned. Secondly, every agreement which has been negotiated since 1950 has been freely negotiated with the Ruler or Government concerned; and thirdly, all those agreements have subsequently been followed by modifications in favour of those Governments, without any pressure whatsoever from a Western Government. There we have a commercial flexible arrangement.
As your Lordships know, there are in general two ways of raising and extracting oil and selling it. Either one can turn to local private enterprise or the local Government or that local Government can go outside and call in an independent commercial organization which is fully equipped to deal with all the very difficult technical tasks involved. As to that first method, where the local Government or local private enterprise take on the job, I state only the obvious truth in saying that it requires a fully developed economy and a broad industrial basis such as can be found only in the United 348 States, and that such conditions just do not exist in the Middle East. In looking for oil and selling it successfully, one has to be prepared not only to spend vast sums of money in finding it but also in looking for it and not finding it. It is only by some kind of fifty-fifty profit-sharing arrangement that such companies can find the enormous sums of money necessary for the development of the oil trade and for future exploration. In fact, the Government of the country are saved the whole responsibility of having to raise any capital whatsoever; and I can imagine no more logical system. It would, of course, be too much to expect Mr. Khrushchev at a Security Council meeting to understand an argument of this kind, but I believe that we should all stand behind the Prime Minister if and when oil is discussed, because if these principles are not supported Middle East oil countries are not going to continue dealing in the Middle East; and in the long run the ones who will suffer most will be the Middle East countries themselves.
As to the wider concept of an Economic Commission for the Middle East, which has been proposed, there is already, of course, the outline of a plan put forward by Middle East industrialists by which 5 per cent. of profits from companies and oil countries would be set aside for Middle East development. That kind of plan is perfectly logical and perfectly workable, but if we are to extend that, and say that there must be one economic plan for the whole of the Middle East by which oil-wealthy countries have to give to oil-poverty countries, then we shall destroy in the process that unity which we are seeking. After all, the whole conception of one country giving its surplus to another is one which we found it extremely difficult to implement in our own country or in our own area of Western Europe; and if we are going to force such an Economic Commission on the Middle East we are doomed to failure. I personally see no reason why the West should wish to force an Economic Commission on the Middle East, any more than to force a strategic pact or a political settlement of any kind.
In conclusion, I wish only to draw attention to an old principle by which we have always stood: that we should stand by our friends in the Middle East rather at the expense of those who are 349 not going to be quite so friendly. But it seems to me that sometimes our friends may be in difficulty in making up their own minds. Sometimes it may not be entirely to their advantage to continue to want to stand by us. I am thinking particularly of the State of a future Jordan; perhaps, too, of the sheikhdoms of the Middle East in the Persian Gulf. If a Ruler of a State is in doubt as to his future relationship, I think it is only fair to us that he should be encouraged to say so. The one thing I regard as dangerous is to continue in ambiguity.
Personally—and this may perhaps disturb the noble Marquess who spoke yesterday—I feel that we should be wise in a political sense to withdraw from certain areas in the Middle East for some time to come. We have, it is true, certain clear-cut obligations in a certain contracted area. We should state those obligations and state that we shall stand by those obligations when challenged at all times. But in the rest of the Middle East it seems to me that we might be wise in a political sense to create, so far as we are concerned, as and when possible, a political vacuum. We should then be left with a perfectly straightforward, normal, unimaginative commercial relationship. I think that in the process we should find that the Middle East would then have to turn and face its own problems and fight them; and there would, I believe in that kind of process be a curious shake-up of loyalties. It is interesting to reflect what would in those circumstances remain of so-called Arab unity. I believe that in the process we would find that we should once more be sought again as friends, rather than always having to plough on in the unrewarding process of searching for them. I submit, my Lords, that to be sought as a friend is proof of the wisdom of a policy.
§ 12.44 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, I shall not follow the noble Lord who has just spoken, on to his own ground—the Arab world and the Moslem world, which he knows so well and about which he is such an authority; for another reason I shall not follow him, because I do not think that this debate at this stage is an occasion for an historical survey of our relations with those Powers. What I should like to say, as shortly as I can, is a few words about 350 a subject that has been touched on by almost every speaker in almost every debate on the United Nations over the last two years, and that is the United Nations Permanent Force. It is a coincidence, my Lords, that almost exactly a year ago I was making a similar speech, then also as a substitute for my noble friend Lord Pakenham, who this time has been striken with influenza and is unable to be here to-day.
When an accepted principle is referred to continually by politicians I think there is a dancer in the constant repetition if nothing follows. It becomes a sort of conventional noise made in the course of a speech to assert your support of the principle of a United Nations armed force. Not only in the debate a year ago but since then many noble Lords and many Government speakers, both in this and another place, have said that in principle they are entirely in favour of a United Nations Permanent Force. Even as recently as June, a few weeks ago, the Minister of Defence, in a speech in another place, outlined quite a detailed series of ideas on a United Nations armed force; and the Foreign Secretary on July 2 confirmed that. There was a book published only a few months ago in which Mr. Clark and Professor Sohn worked out: a scheme for a force under world authority of something like 400,000 men, costing£3,500 million a year. When that is set against the present world armed force of 20 million men, costing something like£40,000 million a year, we get an idea of the incentive that lies before us for an agreement to set up a world force.
But, my Lords, most of these suggestions and references are to a paramount force, a force that would be powerful enough to take on the armed forces of a nation, presumably the strongest nation. We know that the Foreign Secretary on June 10 said:The starting point would have to be a general agreement for the prevention of war.That straight away, I think, puts the idea rather beyond the immediate horizon—some might say a very long way beyond. But surely there is something that could be done as a first step towards the ultimate ideal of the rule of law in the world, and that is a light force capable of dealing with cases of this new disease we have been hearing about, which has been 351 talked about only lately—namely, indirect aggression ". This sort of trouble that the Middle Eastern countries have been suffering from and complaining of is exactly the kind of threat that this light force, similar to the United Nations Emergency Force set up after Suez, is capable of dealing with. It is not intended to fight other armies; it is meant to guard and patrol and to be a token of the interest of the rest of the world in the dispute.
I should like to remind noble Lords of what this scheme is. Not only has it been worked out in this country by the Commission last year over which my noble friend Lord Pakenham was chairman, but only last week I saw that the State Department in Washington came out very plainly in favour of some such scheme.The State Department".we read in a message in the Manchester Guardian last Saturday,
has given its approval to the establishment of a permanent international police force under the auspices of the United Nations".Then some detail is given of the proposals. The proposals that were worked out in this country were for a force of something like 20,000 men, armed only lightly, made mobile by its own transport and with its own bases. But the essential feature of the scheme was that such a force would enter a country only at the invitation of that country. It would in no sense be designed to coerce any country that was resisting the United Nations.
When it comes to the details of such a scheme, there is, of course, an enormous amount of work still to be done on the composition of it, the organisation of it—whether it should be national contingents or individual enlistment, and so on. But such a scheme was surely just what was wanted two weeks ago, to avoid the necessity of the United States and the United Kingdom sending troops into those Middle Eastern countries. Threats by individuals and small bands infiltrating across frontiers, small consignments of arms, and so on, are exactly the kind of thing that possibly a small observer force, such as that which is in Lebanon now, is not capable of stopping, but which an armed force of several thousands would undoubtedly be able to stop.
352 The scheme is there. It has been worked out. The Secretary-General of the United Nations is himself conducting an inquiry in the United Nations, a report of which is expected to be put before the General Assembly in a few months' time. Meanwhile, what are Her Majesty's Government doing? Surely we are entitled to look to them for a lead and to expect that they should express themselves not just in favour of the principle but in favour of definite steps being taken, and being taken as soon as possible.
§ 12.54 p.m.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I deem it a particular privilege to speak in any debate on a Motion set down by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson. I know what a constant and untiring champion he is of causes that I have very much at heart, and I have learned to value his guidance in those causes. In the course of what I have to say to-day I may from time to time veer away from his opinions, but I hope that in conclusion I shall not be far from the point where he has set up his standard in this debate. I should like to follow the noble Earl who has just spoken rather later in my speech, and follow him by agreeing with a great deal of what he has said. Yesterday the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, wisely, I am sure, urged restraint upon the remaining speakers in the debate, and urged the importance of finding the largest available measure of agreement across the floor. I would not say that his advice has been strictly or universally observed by the Benches behind him, or even on the Bench beside him. But in response I shall restrict myself to the differences which he himself described in the same speech. This, of course, entails stockpiling a good deal of ammunition which may well be obsolescent by the time of our next encounter.
At this point I should like to say that although I have heard many tributes to the restraint displayed by leaders of the Opposition during these days, I feel that at least as much should be said for that of the Government spokesmen in this crisis. Of course, restraint is admirable from the Opposition, too, but, to misquote an historic phrase, "They have plenty to be restrained about." Sophocles said that "Heaven will ne'er help those 353 who dare not act", and on that basis the Opposition, in these past days, have made it pretty clear that they are not seeking much help from Heaven. More clearly than ever before, I think, the two main Parties have classified themselves in the face of international problems and emergencies, as the Participators and the Onlookers—those who favour one rôle or the other for their country.
My Lords, because Britain is led to-day by a Tory Government, Britain has played an active and valuable part in meeting this emergency and keeping it under control. Here I must declare a prejudice, because I am one of those who think that this country has an active and positive part to play in world affairs. Fortunately, from my point of view, the country as a whole believes that, too. The Gallup Polls show a healthy prejudice in favour of action and of the Government which took it; 54 per cent. approval and only 28 per cent. against. I see that the New Statesman explains this readily enough; it is quite simply the Tories plus the ignorant versus Labour plus the educated. That seems to be an unflattering picture of the country, I should have thought, but I have noticed that noble Lords opposite are inclined to support that diagnosis. It will be interesting to see if their Party is ready to approach the next General Election with the battlecry of "Ignorant vermin".
The Opposition offer reasons for their cult of inaction at this time. Three of those reasons—the three most lucid—are that action will excite both Soviet Russia and Arab nationalism; that it places British troops in jeopardy; and that anyway it is none of our business because there was no proven attack across a frontier. I should like to deal with the last of these to begin with, because I think it is the most dangerous. In this very interesting publication, the N.A.T.O. Letter of last month, there is an analysis of Soviet techniques, listing in all twelve separate methods employed for overthrowing such rôgimes as show determined "sales resistance" to Communist doctrine. Only one of these is concerned with physical armed invasion across a frontier. The Soviet Government know by now that a combination of some of the others is far more effective. And it will be entirely effective if these eleven other methods are to be regarded as 354 perfectly fair tactics with which we have no right to interfere.
In this connection it was remarkable to find how many supporters of the Party opposite invoked the example of the Spanish war to brace their argument. I should have thought that it was the very last example they would choose, recalling their attitude at that time. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, invoked it in this House last week, and as always I listened with the closest attention to what he said There are few occasions when I feel like challenging the noble Earl, but when he starts talking about Spain he provides such an occasion. In September of 1939 I passed my twentieth birthday under sentence of death in Barcelona, because I knew a little too much for my health. I am happy to think that the noble Earl was never brought to such a situation in Spain. But one or more of his colleagues in another place have implied quite clearly that because King Feisal and King Hussein and President Chamoun could supposedly not count upon their respective armies, they were fit to be overthrown. When I heard that, I thought, "Well, what price Generalisimo Franco now!"
If I may bring the analogy a little nearer home at the price of making it far more fanciful, I would ask the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, to picture our own country some years ago, in the period of his own Administration. I should like to take one of the gloomier periods—for instance, in the middle of the third financial crisis of 1951. If at that time a group of Commando officers had decided to overthrow the Government and turn the noble Earl out of Downing Street (I certainly cannot imagine them slitting his throat and dragging his body up Whitehall), would he and his Ministers have shrugged their shoulders and murmured soulfully, "Since we cannot count on the Army we are not fit to rule!" A successful military putsch creates dangers far outside the country where it is carried out. It encourages elements in other countries with similar urges to plan along similar lines. I have heard from a very dependable source that such an effect is already apparent, even in Germany. And if one successful putsch is dangerous, then a whole chain of them, unchallenged, might well be disastrous. They have not gone unchallenged or unprevented, and for that 355 I believe that the world as a whole is deeply beholden to the Governments of Great Britain and the United States.
To deal with the Opposition's other objections to action: so far as the exciting of Soviet Russia is concerned, I believe that what really excited Russia, what made the plotters in the Kremlin rub their hands and toss back the vodka with expectant glee, was the prospect of an effortless and undisputed victory in the Middle East. From that point of view they may find the speeches of the Party opposite still fairly exciting. There is an unhealthy eagerness among some political speakers and writers in this country for Russia to call the tune, if not all the time, at least most of the time. If this eagerness were to be rewarded or to affect a Government in power in this country, Mr. Khrushchev would soon have us all dancing the Gopak, to make up sufficiently richly for the humiliation once inflicted on him by Marshal Stalin.
In this connection, one of the greatest surprises to me of yesterday's debate was to hear the most superbly outspoken Member of your Lordships' House, the least-mealy-mouthed, whose candour I have had so often cause to admire, urging my noble friend and leader to be mealy-mouthed with the Russians—I refer to the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough. In a verbal exchange I am perfectly certain that he would be more than a match for Mr. Khrushchev, and I should hate to think that, were they to meet, his talents in that capacity would be concealed or confined. I suspect that they would not. Yet he admonished my noble friend for stating simply that we were able to recognise the Russian tactics within U.N.O. I do not think that he said the assessment of those tactics was inaccurate in any way—he just said that we should not mention it aloud. I am certain that any Government so inhibited would win only the contempt of our antagonists and the mistrust of our friends.
As regards the excitement caused among Arab countries, I wonder whether noble Lords opposite would concede that we may have caused some very favourable excitement among our friends, by showing that they can count on our help in time of trouble. There seems to be an argument that Arab nationalism is good 356 if it is led by our enemies and bad if it is led by our friends. That is an argument that I am totally unable to follow or to accept. I find it surprising that speakers opposite have resorted to racecourse terminology in describing this crisis. We have heard it said, and I thought it did them little credit in any case, that we have backed the wrong horse.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
My Lords, that sentence was Lord Salisbury's—the great Lord Salisbury. That is what he said about the Crimean War.
LORD ST. OSWALD
I am not speaking about the Crimean War this morning. I should hate to mislead the noble Viscount on that matter. We have heard it from the Party of noble Lords opposite that we have backed the wrong horse, and I rather fancy that the noble Viscount mentioned it himself in the course of the morning. What they mean is not that we have backed the wrong horse, but that we have not exhorted our jockeys to the dirty tactics employed by the other runners, if I may follow the metaphor to that extent.
We are told continually that we must come to terms with Arab nationalism. The clear lesson of recent events is that there are forces determined that we shall not come to terms with Arab nationalism, except on terms set down by dictatorship, either Russia's or Nasser's, or a blend of both. There are those in this country who are ready to derogate, even to condemn, the overthrown or threatened rôgimes on the simple transparent argument that they were loyal to us, plus fastidious references to feudalism.
We have heard tributes to Nuri es-Said and to his administration from those far better qualified than I, notably from my noble friend, Lord Birdwood, who spoke a moment ago, and from my noble friend of many years standing, Lord Jellicoe, in his outstanding maiden speech yesterday, which was as fine as his friends could have expected—and I can hardly pay a higher compliment than that. If, as I understand, there is to be a memorial service for Nuri Said in London in the next few days, I hope that as many as possible of your Lordships will make plain by your presence that we deeply valued the part that he played for Arab nationalism. And on 357 this whole question we cannot too often remind ourselves that the only way in which a man or a nation can win true friends is by setting an example of loyalty. I have been told of an incident, when Marshal Tito was being urged by a British negotiator to place his trust in Britain. He replied, "How can I, after the way you behaved to Mihailovic? "
I should like to touch briefly on the very sincere objection that springs from anxiety ebout the situation of our troops in Jordan. I have been a soldier, and I know that sometimes soldiers have reason to curse the politicians. But I simply do not believe that this is such a time. They are spoken of as cut off, but that is hardly factually or geopolitically true. Can anyone really imagine the Israelis falling upon them from behind? I think that they must feel considerably less cut off than the men of the 27th Infantry Brigade, in the autumn of 1950, in the Pusan perimeter in Korea. I can imagine the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, feeling grave anxiety at that time, and I can sympathise if they are apt to compare the two situations. Frankly, I do not believe that this situation, from a military point of view, is in any degree so critical as were those weeks. And, in case for a moment it should be suspected that I am mentioning the Pusan perimeter as an occasion when soldiers were entitled to curse the politicians, may I say that nothing is further from my intentions.
Two factors, I am certain, are of the utmost importance to the morale of our troops in Jordan. First, to feel that the country is with them, whatever may be thought of the political decision that took them there. I think that that has been made clear by speakers from all Parties—I have not heard of any expatriate Norwegians visiting the area this time!The second is to feel a sense of solidarity with the Americans, to feel that we and our troops are not in this alone. And here the comments have not been so fortunate. The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, has been openly critical in this debate of American policy and action. The other day I listened to a Labour Member of another place giving the Government some advice of such a fantastic nature 358 that I must, with the permission of the House, repeat it verbatim.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
My Lords, it is not a question of the permission of the House. It is a Standing Order that noble Lords must not discuss intercamerally.
LORD ST. OSWALD
I shall bow to the noble Viscount's interpretation. There is another objection to action, which I have not mentioned, coming from those who simply think that we should not poach on U.N.O.'s preserves. But I have never been able to see what advantage lay in pretending that U.N.O. is capable of a speed of action which is quite patently beyond the limits of its organisational effort, even if unanimity of view were providing the stimulus. I think that one of the greatest liabilities under which we labour is this modern myth that U.N.O. must be regarded as effective in spheres where it is either impotent or essentially sluggish in its present form. I am all for a change in that form, to make it effective instead of mythical. My noble friend and Leader called it yesterday, "Our duty to make U.N.O. work", and I do not think he meant a passive duty based on pious hope. I relish the idea of a U.N.O. emergency force, and I hope that it may be developed. Here I am entirely behind the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and the noble Earl, Lord Lucan. But for the present we had better face the fact that sacrificing a white bull in front of the statue of Jupiter would be as effective in practice as calling on U.N.O. to solve an immediate international crisis of any importance.
On this question, I listened with interest to a most measured and sympathetic speech by Mr. Shinwell in another place in which he introduced one unusual phrase (if the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, will permit me to quote one phrase) when he said that we must "prop up the United Nations". This is no doubt a worthy ambition. But it is the devil's own job to prop up an octopus at any time, and especially if its object at the time is to bury its head in the sand. It has been frequently and somewhat smugly laid down by the Party opposite that the whole question of Iraq and Jordan should have been handed over to the Security Council and left in their hands. It has, in fact, been in their 359 hands since July 15, a period of two weeks. They are still deliberating, with a number of resolutions already in limbo, and no agreement even in sight. Bringing an open intelligence to bear, what do we think would have happened to Jordan in the meantime? I ask this because, paraphrasing so many of the kindlier speeches of Labour spokesmen during this crisis, what I find they are really saying, in essence, is this: "No one could be more regretful than I about the hideous deaths of Nuri es-Said and the Royal Family in Iraq, but what really upsets me is that we have stopped the same thing happening in Jordan."
And when I hear these plentiful words of advice from the Labour Party on how to deal with the Russians, when I hear the echo of that exotic slogan of the 'forties, "Left will speak to Left", I am reminded of the rueful remark of a confederate warrior after the American Civil War: "We could have whipped the whole Union Army with cornstalks, only they wouldn't fight with cornstalks!" But under the present leadership we are not depending on cornstalks. We are approaching a Summit Conference, with all the opportunities stressed by noble Lords in this debate, and I take heart from the fact that our senior representative at that Conference will be a man of world stature, whose prestige was never higher, and upon whom we and our Allies can count for firm judgment and firm decisions. He will not go as an apologist for our action in Jordan. He will go fortified by the fact that such action was taken in time, and that, as a consequence, Jordan and other small countries of the Middle East are still free to name their desires. I hope and believe that, face to face with the Russian leader, he will secure as many concessions as he grants. I hope the discussion will be wide, search-in; and realistic. Above all, I hope it will be made clear that standing by our friends is endemic to our national character, and that this loyalty provides the root and branch of our policy and makes us what we are as men.
§ 1.15 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, when we adjourned at lunch-time yesterday I was under some apprehension that when it came for me to make my speech, and even more when the noble and learned 360 Viscount on the Woolsack was going to reply, there would be little left for either of us to say. Whether it was the effect of the lunch, or whatever the cause may have been, it turned out in fact that after lunch we departed from the rather peaceful and bipartisan atmosphere in which we had conducted our discussions in the morning. Then, as the House will remember, the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord President of the Council, quoted with approval the statement of the Prime Minister about the careful balance of advantages and disadvantages in which the Government had acted, and added words of his own which I feel are so appropriate that I should like to remind the House of them. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 211 (No. 100), col. 257]:It is not a question here of legality or gravity, but a question of carefully balanced arguments, of decisions that were taken with the greatest reluctance and the greatest sense of responsibility. Rightly or wrongly, we came to the conclusion that the dangers of inaction were probably greater than the dangers of action, and although we could not foresee all the consequences of action, we had to admit that we could not foresee the consequences of inaction either.The spirit of the Prime Minister's remarks on July 16, and the spirit of the remarks of the Lord President of the Council which I have just quoted, are very different from the spirit of the speeches of the noble Lord who has just addressed the House, the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, and others. I should have liked to deal with the question in the former spirit and to state my view about the intervention both of the United States and ourselves in Lebanon and Jordan. But the speeches made yesterday afternoon and to-day have rather turned this from a bipartisan debate into very much a partisan one. But for those speeches, I should have been prepared to let the matter of whether we were right or wrong rest on the statement of my noble friend Lord Henderson, but I think it is now necessary to re-state the point of view of my noble friends and myself and of our colleagues in another place. I hope that I shall do so, nevertheless, in the spirit of the statements of the Prime Minister and the Lord President of the Council, because I realise that it is not an easy question, and it had to be decided, as they said, on a balance of arguments one way and the other.
361 One of the difficulties that we all feel in considering this question and forming a judgment on it is that we are not in a position to get at the true facts of the situation. There are so many facts that are in dispute to which we have not a clear answer. For instance, is it true that Lebanon and Jordan were ruled by an autocracy in opposition to the majority of their peoples? How far are the results in Iraq and the trends in Lebanon and Jordan inspired, organised and equipped from outside; or hew far are they movements which are indigenous to the people of those respective countries? Is the trouble due to nationalism—that is, the desire for Arab unity—and the disappearance of the so-called artificial boundaries created after the First World War? How far are Nasser and Egypt regarded by the rebels as leaders of a greater Arabia, or how far are they regarded with suspicion and as, to quote the noble Lord, Lord Rea, "unprincipled demagogues"? What is the evidence which the Government say they have, but have not adequately disclosed, of the threat against the Governments of Lebanon and Jordan? There are many other questions of that kind which we ought to have answered clearly before we can be in a position to give a definite answer to the problems which concern us.
In the absence of reliable answers, we each have to make up our minds on the best evidence that is available, such as reports from Press observers on the spot, articles from well-informed people and speeches from such persons as the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, who made such an outstanding maiden speech yesterday. On the basis of that evidence we have to make up our minds. In the spirit of the Prime Minister's statement, I and my friends have tried to make up our minds on the very difficult problems which beset us. I have come to the conclusion that on balance we were not justified in intervening. I am not going to state my case in the demagogic spirit in which the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, made his speech, because I do not believe ex hypothesi that people who have come to a different conclusion from myself are villains.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, the noble Lord must allow me. I never suggested that. I think that when he reads my speech in Hansard he will find that there was nothing in it which 362 suggested that there was villainy involved in opposing this decision.
§ LORD SILKIN
I did not think the noble Lord said it, but I thought that was the implication of every word he uttered. I do not take that view. I believe that the Government have a very difficult task indeed, and I accept the fact that they came to a decision sincerely and honestly, using their judgment as best they could in these difficult circumstances.
I should like to go through the reasons given by the Government at various times in this House and in another place for their intervention, and I will try to do so as briefly as possible, because most of the arguments are well known by now. First, it was stated—I do not think with great vigour or energy—that American and British lives were endangered. I should not think that they are in very grave danger now with 20,000 American troops in the Lebanon and 2,500 American citizens, nor in Jordan, where I believe the number of our forces exceeds the British population. But I do not think that that was ever seriously maintained. The British and American citizens were never in serious danger of their lives, and I do not think it has been suggested that they needed the help of these vast forces for that purpose.
Next it is said that we were required to intervene as a matter of honour and morality. That was pressed by a great many speakers in this debate to-day—by the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, and by the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald—and yesterday by a great number of speakers. I accept that that is the main reason for our intervention. It is not for me to say whether the Americans were justified in intervening in Lebanon on the ground of honour and morality, but I doubt very much whether honour and morality required them to intervene, and still less whether we were required to support them on those grounds. But I can say a word about our own action in Jordan. When anybody is in trouble and asks for help, it is a natural human intinct to go to his help; but it is not an inevitable instinct. One does not automatically go to the help of everybody who is in trouble, and one is not even under an obligation to do so in honour or morality. In the last resort, it depends upon the circumstances of the 363 particular case, and so one has to look at the circumstances of this case.
I do not wish to enlarge on the point, because the case was put so adequately by my noble friend Lord Attlee on the occasion of the Adjournment Debate that I am content to rest on that. It was, briefly, that Jordan had actually expelled our forces who were there to help them. More, they had refused even to accept our help. We were giving them a grant of£10 million a year, and they actually refused to accept any more money. Therefore I cannot see that the claims of friendship, honour or morality would have induced us to intervene. Then, there was the danger of doing nothing while one small independent nation after another was undermined and destroyed. Which are these nations who are being undermined and destroyed? I do not think we have had any examples of that, and it depends upon what one means by being "undermined and destroyed". What has happened is that minority Governments, autocratic Governments, have made way for more popular Governments. If you call that being undermined and destroyed, that may have well happened in Iraq. But to suggest that they have been undermined and destroyed at any rate from outside—and that is the implication; that they have been undermined and destroyed from outside—is quite contrary to the evidence of the United Nations observers and of independent members of the Press. It may be that the Government have additional evidence of undermining and destruction, but so far the evidence they have produced is singularly unconvincing.
The Foreign Secretary in another place gave the evidence, and he disclosed that there were four instances in 1956 when Egyptian individuals had been discovered with arms, one in Lebanon, one in Jordan, one in Ethiopia and one in Iraq. He gave two instances of what happened in 1957, one in Jordan and one in Iraq. In 1958 there were no instances. If that is the evidence that is being produced to justify the claim that there has been intervention from outside with the object of undermining one State after another, I must confess that that is not evidence which would be regarded as satisfactory in any court of law or by any tribunal.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
My Lords, is the noble Lord referring to physical intervention or to subversive intervention?
§ LORD SILKIN
I am referring to intervention of all kinds and the justification which was given by the Foreign Secretary in another place. Those were the cases he quoted.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
The noble Earl, the Leader of the House, quoted two very telling examples yesterday of intervention over the radio. Of course, that was only two out of hundreds. May I quote one example of what happened last year in Iraq over the radio? The Iraqis were advised to rise against their rulers and throw their heads to the hungry dogs. That is exactly what has happened.
§ LORD SILKIN
I am much obliged, and I am sorry to have given the noble Lord an opportunity of making a second speech.
§ LORD SILKIN
I was going to refer to the radio. There was one instance quoted by the Foreign Secretary of incitement by radio. But even the statement of the noble Lord is a very long way from this "destruction of one State after another justifying intervention". Finally we were told—and I accept it—that we have a vital interest in oil. Of course, there is no oil in the Lebanon or in Jordan. The oil is in Iraq, and we are not intervening in Iraq. I should have thought that the effect of our intervention would have been to endanger our oil supplies rather than secure them. After all, the effect of intervention in Suez—I do not mean to touch unduly on a sore point—was that our oil supplies were endangered and suspended for quite a long time. The natural effect of our intervention here might well have been to endanger our oil supplies rather than give them any greater security. What we have done is to give the impression that we are trying to bolster up Governments that are friendly to the West but unpopular in their own countries, and that is a very dangerous impression to give throughout the Middle East.
I thought it right just to summarise the views which we hold. I do it in all diffidence, and I am not going to pretend that we on this side are 100 per cent.
365 convinced that we are right, any more than the Prime Minister and the Lord President are 100 per cent. convinced that they are right. But it was for reasons of this kind, not accepting the case for intervention—and, after all, the case for intervention has to be made out—that I thought it right to state our views. I would summarise by saying that, in my opinion, our action has been of doubtful legality, of even more doubtful wisdom, quite uncalled for and dangerous.
Now I want to turn to the future. There has been a greater measure of agreement in this debate on what we should do in the future than on what we have done in the past. We all agree in this country that there should be a Summit Conference—it least, I hope we do. At any rate in this House there has been no dissension in the course of the two days.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR COMMONWEALTH RELATIONS (THE EARL of HOME)
Does the noble Lord mean the Summit we originally talked about or the Summit on the Middle East?
§ LORD SILKIN
I mean on the Middle East. I take it we all agree we want it held as soon as possible. We think it right that it should be held, if possible, within the framework of the United Nations, provided that the inherent difficulties can be overcome. The noble Earl may remember that when the announcement was first made my first reaction was that there were inherent difficulties in this procedure, and it looks as if those apprehensions have to some extent been realised. I have never myself thought that the kind of discussions that we held were of paramount importance. I agree very much with my noble friend, Lord Attlee, that it is an open question whether this is the best form of discussion, and certainly whether New York is the best place in which to hold it. I very much regret that we should have got ourselves bogged down in a mass of technicalities and detail as to the exact procedure to be adopted rather than getting down to the actual conference itself.
Possibly there has been some confusion about the term "within the framework of the United Nations". When I say that I believe that a conference within the framework is preferable, I mean not the introductory machinery—that is, getting the various members of the Security 366 Council to agree among themselves as to the kind of conference; I had not that in mind—but the machinery for actually holding the conference under Articles 28 and 31 of the United Nations Charter. How the conference is actually summoned, I think is far less important. I want to say frankly that I believe that the Prime Minister and the Government are genuinely and sincerely in favour of such a conference, and I think that if left to himself the Prime Minister would not be difficult about the kind of talks we have, whether they were held in Geneva or New York, in Moscow or in London. In that respect I think the Prime Minister is in almost complete agreement with Mr. Khrushchev as to the holding of a conference.
I realise the difficulty is that the United States is reluctant to hold a conference at all and is obviously seeking a way of preventing it, and our other ally, France, is somewhat lukewarm. It is for this country—and I am not minimising the difficulties—to try to prevail upon our two Allies to hold these talks at the earliest possible moment in conditions where they are likely to be successful. Yesterday we rather pressed the Government to announce the date of the conference before the Recess. I am not at all sure that to-day I would repeat that request, because it would be, I should imagine, somewhat unrealistic. I feel that we are now departing for the Recess leaving the matter at large and without any opportunity for Parliament to express its views in the day-to-day changing circumstances, and I should like a definite positive assurance that the noble Earl, the Leader of the House, and the Government will not hesitate to summon Parliament again, at whatever time it may be and whatever inconvenience to noble Lords and Members of Parliament, if it should become necessary and if they are called upon to make important decisions.
I remember that we were called back two years ago in connection with Suez. It was very inconvenient to a great many of us; I had to come back from Spain. But we all came back and we had no complaint against the Government. In fact, we were grateful that they had called us back to enable Parliament to express its opinion about the situation. I believe that the position to-day is even graver than it was two years ago. Therefore, I hope we can have a definite assurance 367 that there will be no hesitation in calling Parliament back.
Let us hope that there will be a conference of some kind. I hope it will be helpful and flexible and not rigid. I use the term "flexible"' not in a platitudinous sense, but because I think it is necessary that we should apply our minds to flexibility. We must not assume, for instance, that all the right is on our side and all the wrong on the other. After all, there are many countries and many citizens in our own country, maybe only 28 per cent. as the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, said—the foolish 28 per cent. if you like, or the ignorant—who take the view that our action has been wrong.
LORD ST. OSWALD
That is exactly the opposite of what I said. I was quoting the New Statesman, and they said 54 per cent. were foolish and 28 per cent. were educated. I am not sure of the figures. I am sorry to interrupt, but I must correct that.
§ LORD SILKIN
All right; the wise 28 per cent, take the view that the Government action was wrong. At any rate, an appreciable number of people in all countries and an appreciable number of countries think that we were wrong. Therefore, I hope that we shall not assume in the beginning that we are the only people who have been right over this question and that everyone else is wrong. I am glad it was assumed throughout the debate that Russia wants peace as much as we do, and that she has a legitimate interest in the Middle East. I hope we can assume that, but I would ask noble Lords to bear in mind the statement which Mr. Dulles made before leaving this country last night—namely, that one of his reasons for not welcoming a conference at all was that he challenged Russia's interest in the Middle East. I do not want to argue that at this stage. Of course she has an interest, if only because the Middle East adjoins her own territory—just as we should be interested in what goes on—
LORD ST. OSWALD
Would the noble Lord say any greater than the interest we have in Central and Eastern Europe?
§ LORD SILKIN
Of course, the noble Lord disagrees. At any rate, I think that that has been generally accepted in this debate.
I promised the noble Earl the Leader of the House that I would refer to one or two remarks that he made yesterday in the course of the debate which I thought were somewhat ill-advised. He seemed to suggest that his idea of talks is to bring about a change of will on the part of the Russians so as to preserve the status quo in the Lebanon and Jordan—and, incidentally, so did the noble Lord, Lord Strang—and that unless there was this change of will, as he put it, on the part of the Soviet Union, these talks would be unsuccessful. He said that so far it is Russia that has prevented peaceful solutions. In a later part of his speech he said that the Soviet Union could relieve us of this new type of aggression, assuming that the Soviet Union was responsible for this type of aggression. But that is exactly what has not been established and what a great many people deny.
In another part of his speech he said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 211 (No. 200), col. 292.]:Certainly we are prepared to go and talk with the Russians and to hope that they now have a change of mind.I do not want to be mealy-mouthed in talking to the Russians—certainly, they are the last people who are discreet in their language; but it seemed to me that the noble Earl, who is always so careful in what he says, was displaying an attitude of mind as regards these talks which did not augur too well for their success. That is why my noble Leader and I feel that we should make some comment, and why we feel that it is necessary to stress the desirability of flexibility in our talks. It was the noble Lord, Lord Henderson who said yesterday that talks can succeed only if the result is acceptable to all concerned. I should cordially agree with that and add, also, by trying to understand, even if we do not accept, the Soviet point of view. As to what kind of agreement might be aimed at, I think it is interesting that this is the only time, I imagine, in their political lives that both Lord Salisbury and Mr. Bevan have agreed upon 369 the terms of a general agreement that might be aimed at, and there has been no dissent from those principles which my noble friend Lord Henderson summarised yesterday from either the Lord President, when he spoke, or from the noble Earl the Leader of the House.
I imagine that, generally speaking, the Government are in favour of an attempt being made to work out a solution on the basis of those four principles. Of course that might well be our objective, and I quite understand that we cannot enter into discussions completely committed in every detail to achieving what we think is the right result. For one thing, we may not even have our own Allies completely with us—there may be differences of opinion, and we have to cater for that. I can assure the noble and learned Viscount who is going to reply that I, for one, recognise our difficulty in having to negotiate with our two Allies who, quite naturally, do not always see eye to eye with us but that it is necessary for us to present a united front and put forward a common case. I think there is general agreement upon what we wait to aim at.
I would say only this in addition: that whatever the result of these talks, per. manent peace as opposed to a temporary standstill arrangement in the Middle East can be secured only if a number of conditions are satisfied: if the legitimate aspirations of Arab nationalism are met, and if the economic difficulties of all the countries in the Middle East can be overcome so that all countries, and peoples of all countries, participate in the prosperity which oil is able to bring to some of them. The noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, seemed to think that that was an impossible thing to attain: that no Arab country possessing wealth would be prepared to contribute to the welfare of its brethren—and one assumes that they are brethren. I see no reason why that should be regarded as impossible. After all, we and the United States, with other countries, are in fact contributing to the underdeveloped countries—possibly not enough, but we recognise an obligation to people who are not necessarily our brethren. If the Arab aspirations are true and they really believe that all Arabs are one people, it is not too much to expect that: the wealthier of them will help the less-well-off.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for allowing me to interrupt. I had not meant to convey in any way that perhaps this was an impossibility. All I meant to convey was that it should not in any way be imposed on them; that the desire to create this fair division of wealth through the Middle East must come from the countries themselves concerned.
§ LORD SILKIN
At last I find myself in some measure of agreement with the noble Lord. I do not agree that anything that is imposed in these discussions can ever be satisfactory. Then we must find a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Whatever the history of the matter may be—whether we were wise or not or right or not in creating a home for the Jews in Palestine—I think it is one of the greatest acts of statesmanship that this country has ever embarked upon, and the name of Lord Balfour will be for ever remembered for his association with that great act of statesmanship. But I recognise that there may be differences of opinion about it—and perfectly legitimate and sincere ones. The fact remains, however, that there are close upon two million people who are in the main refugees from persecution in other countries and who have settled in that land partly as a result of the encouragement which they have been given by us. In my view we have a sacred obligation to see that the State of Israel is allowed to live arid continue; and there can be no hope of permanent peace in the Middle East unless that problem is solved.
The term "intractable" has been used. This is an intractable problem, but I hope that its intractability will not prevent us from doing everything we can. I recognise that this is not entirely a matter of economics and that one of the difficulties is the question of the refugees. I am convinced that Israel would be prepared to play its full part in helping to deal with the question of refugees if the Arab nations were prepared to do so as well. I would say, also, that if it is intended to bring in those nations in the Middle East who have an interest in that area, then Israel should be brought in as well, for she has a live, vital and legitimate interest there to-day.
Then there is the question of recognition and understanding of the interests 371 of the Soviet Union in the Middle East. I believe we must accept that if we are going to argue about whether or not the Soviet Union has a legitimate interest there we shall get bogged down without any hope of a solution. If a solution can be found as a result of these talks, which we still hope will take place, it is possible that that may mark the beginning of a new era; that the removal of misunderstanding and mistrust will herald the peaceful world for which we all long; and that mankind will at long last enjoy the blessings which science and invention have placed at his disposal but which he is at present using for purposes of mutual destruction. I pray that all of us will have the patience and the wisdom to take advantage of this opportunity.
§ 1.53 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT KILMUIR)
My Lords, as I understand it the object of a debate on foreign affairs in a situation like the present is for everyone, irrespective of preconceptions, to try to get the facts in true perspective; and the purpose of a winding-up to such a debate should be rather to inform as to facts which are still doubtful and which can be answered, and also as to the mental attitude of Her Majesty's Government, to which so much importance has been attached during the last two days. As I understood him, the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, in that first speech which has won universal praise, especially drew our attention to the duality of indirect aggression. He stressed the danger of its two facets: first, actions directed at the integrity of another State, and secondly, the reactions in defence to them; and the noble Lord asked us to consider the definition of "indirect aggression" and the position of the United Nations in that regard.
I believe it is important (and this may be some answer to the noble Lord) that we should start to consider how far the United Nations has already gone in that direction. The noble Lord will agree with me that we have first to look at the Charter as a whole and then to consider, in addition, the two resolutions to which reference has already been made—the resolutions of the General Assembly of 1949 and 1950. I believe the noble Lord will agree with me that it is not uninteresting to remember the names of 372 those two resolutions. That of 1949 was termed the "Essentials of Peace Resolution", and it called upon States:To refrain from any threats or acts direct or indirect aimed at impairing the freedom, independence or integrity of any State or at fomenting civil strife.The resolution of 1950 was significantly called the "Peace Through Deeds Resolution" and it first condemned:intervention of a State in the internal affairs of another State for the purpose of changing its legally established Government by the threat or use of force",and solemnly reaffirmed that:Whatever weapons used, any aggression, whether committed openly or by fomenting civil strife in the interests of a foreign Power, or otherwise, is the gravest of all crimes against peace and security throughout the world.These are grave words, and in taking them to heart Her Majesty's Government have surely tried to work in accordance with the spirit of the Charter as illumined by the subsequent resolutions of the General Assembly. That is what I ask your Lordships to give Her Majesty's Government the credit for doing.
The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, rightly said that this was not a new problem. Thanks to the inspiration of the noble Lord's speech I have refreshed my memory on certain points, and what is also interesting is that one of the earliest complainants about this form of aggression was the Soviet Union herself. Professor Waldock, in his well-known article on the use of force in International Law, reminds us that one example of aggression was:The incursion into the territory of one State of armed bands acting for a political purpose.That was included, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, will now remember, in the Soviet Union's enumerative list of cases of aggression as long ago as 1933. We need not go into the facts, but he and I remember them very well, and I am sure that we discussed them at the time with our Russian friends; I certainly did.
The Professor's next example was that contained in the 1950 resolution to which I have already referred:fomenting civil strife in the interests of a foreign Power.I venture to give the House one more quotation because I believe that this is 373 the essence of the matter. It is in reference not to any thoughts of mine but to the International Law Commission of the United Nations, and it runs as follows:The Commission thus recognised that a definition, of aggression simply in terms of the use or threat of armed force would be inadequate. Aggression in the modern world is achieved through indirect and concealed uses of force. This was perhaps inevitable as soon as the law began unmistakably to condemn any resort to war or armed force.In other words, he is driven, unless he is to go flat-footed against the whole of world opinion, to take this course; and the only point I am adding to what the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, says is that the United Nations and its members have to recognise the point perhaps more clearly than the noble Lord indicated by what he said. My Lords, I venture Ito add two things with, believe me, the utmost solemnity and objectivity. The first is that the list enumerated by the Soviet Union reflects the fact that they, in their opinion, like everyone else, have suffered from this form of aggression. There is a very good old Spanish proverb:To-day to me; to-morrow to thee.And the second point is, as I have already tried to indicate, that its concealment and vice is that it must disguise itself as internal revolution.
I come to the second facet of the noble Lord's worry on this point. Of course, self-defence against this form of aggression, as against any form of aggression, must fulfil the conditions that there must be an instant and overwhelming need and the force must be proportionate to that need; and the right of defence exists only in the face of imminent attack. The same tests apply (I think this is beyond controversy) to collective defence as to individual defence. There is another point on which we must keep our minds clear—and again I do not think 'that 'the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, will find this controversial at all; it is not intended to be. Quite different considerations apply to the sending of troops into territory of another State at the request of the Government of that other State, which is a situation which can occur in an infinite variety of ways. As noble Lords will remember, it was the Government under the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, that invited American troops to come to this country. We can, taking that as one end of the scale, go down an infinite variety of 374 occasions, in which different considerations apply.
But I want to say this—and again I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, will not think that I am being controversial: I am sure he will agree that it would be wrong for the Government spokesman to leave the point which he made unanswered; indeed, I think he invited me to answer it. He dealt with the statement made by my right honourable and learned friend the Foreign Secretary in another place, and I think it is only right (I am sorry to inflict it on noble Lords, but the matter has been challenged) that we should have the record clearly in front of us. My right honourable and learned friend said [OFFICIAL REPORT Commons, Vol. 591 (No. 143), col. 1253]:The technique is the smuggling of arms and explosives, the infiltration of agents, a virulent propaganda campaign, incitement to insurrection and assassination and, finally, the plot against the lives of the constitutional leaders.Nobody has ever denied that there has been a virulent propaganda campaign. Nobody has said that it is even untypical when we find the quotations made by my noble friend the Leader of the House calling for blood of Chamoun. That has been the method of the campaign, a campaign whose propaganda is always expressed in these terms. My right honourable and learned friend went on to give specific instances. He said [col. 1254]:Sometimes the plots are found out and frustrated in time. I have a list of them. There was one in January, 1956, resulting in the Egyptian military attachébeing expelled from Iraq. In November, 1956, the Libyan Government demanded the immediate recall of the Egyptian military attaché.In that case there was the discovery of explosives. In November, 1956, in the Lebanon, a vehicle filled with arms was seized. A vehicle full of high explosives was found in the house of the chauffeur to the Egyptian military attaché.In Ethiopia, in November, 1956, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested the immediate recall of the Egyptian military attaché.In March, 1956, the Egyptian Consul-General in Jerusalem was expelled for the same sort of reason. In Saudi Arabia, in.1957, the Egyptian military mission was expelled; arms were found coming from it. In June, 1957, in Jordan again there was expulsion on the grounds of this technique of subversion.My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, denigrates the evidential value. Surely the one constant factor that stands out in all these instances is the presence and activity of the Egyptian military 375 attachéin every country in which it is sought that this sort of thing should happen. That is the general position. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, knows me far too well to think that I would make a debating point in a debate like this. I ask him to reconsider—and I know that he will, because he is a fair-minded man—whether, when you get a string of episodes with that common factor, that is not evidence of systematic conduct.
Now I come to the particular, and that is the issue that faced my colleagues and myself on the night of July 16. Believe me, I do not think that any one of us would say that the language of my noble and learned friend the Lord President in any way underestimated the gravity of the decision which lay in front of us on that occasion. But, my Lords, we had first of all from Jordan itself evidence that there was a triple attack designed from the West bank, from the North and in Amman itself. That was corroborated from our own sources, which I cannot specify further, because that is not the custom of a Government of any Party. It was also corroborated by the announcement on Baghdad Radio to which reference bas been made in this debate. What was corroborated was that these things were going to happen the next morning. We had been asked for help not only by the King but also by the Government of Jordan. My Lords, on all that I have said—and I do not mind which test you apply—we were legally entitled to answer that request.
I am sorry to think that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has doubts about the legality, but, with great respect to him, I have not found it seriously argued. I have read very carefully the debates in another place, and of course I have seen the Press. Then the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, says: "Even if the legality is all right, what about the wisdom?" He asked: "What are the countries in which you expected further trouble?" My Lords, what we believed would have happened if these countries of Lebanon and Jordan had gone was that there would have been a general flare-up in the Middle East. There would have been the Lebanon, Jordan, Bahrein, Kuwait, and the Trucial Sheikhdoms. There would have been an immense danger of trouble in 376 every one of them. That is what I believed, after giving the matter the most careful consideration that I could. On the night of July 16 I was convinced that there was, on the sternest test, an overwhelming need, and it was because I was convinced of the existence of that overwhelming need that I was a party to the decision which my colleagues made.
Now, my Lords, there is another aspect of this which I would ask the noble Lord to remember, because I consider it is important. Before I come to that, may I just thank the noble Lord, Lord Rea, for the sympathy which he showed in his speech with the decision which I have attempted to describe. But it is vitally important to remember that both the United States, in the Lebanon, and we ourselves, in Jordan, went in on the basis that we should retire as soon as the United Nations could ensure its integrity. We reported our action at once to the Security Council. If I may use a famous phrase of Sir John Moore in quite different circumstances, we went in "bridle in hand", ready to go as soon as there were the forces available to take our place. On this point, I have listened with great interest to the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, on his view on the creation of a United Nations force. He was good enough to say that my colleagues had already expressed sympathy for the idea, but I shall certainly bring the conception that he favours to the attention of my right honourable friends the Minister of Defence arid the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; and if I may give my own reaction, I think that is a matter which it would be most profitable to discuss.
I come to the other point that has been made. It has been said that the justification of intervention and the readiness for our forces to be replaced by the United Nations forces did not disclose a medium-term policy. I appreciate the view of my noble friend Lord Birdwood that it is sometimes a mistake to place yourself in the armed framework of a long-term policy, but I think the real criticism that has been made is that our action did not disclose a medium-term policy, and that is the point with which I want to deal. Of course, our problem was to guarantee to Lebanon and Jordan their right to independence against whatever threats were planned from outside. But what had we in mind? This is 377 obviously a delicate problem, and I hope that the House will agree that I am doing right if I put it in the words of my right honourable and learned friend the Foreign Secretary, because I do not think I can usefully add to them. But they are very important with regard to the future of Lebanon. What he said was [OFFICIAL REPORT, COMMONS, Vol. 592 (No. 147), col. 228]:With regard to the longer term view—for the action taken in the Lebanon is surely emergency action—I think that the Committee "—he was speaking of another place—is familiar with the special historic position of the Lebanon since the massacre of 1860. It has been a semi-autonomous régime, even under the Ottoman Empire and the Christian Governor, and the delicate balance has been preserved between Christian and Moslem. I believe that the Lebanon's position in the future can be safeguarded by some special international status under the United Nations' auspices which would preserve both the traditional detachment of the Lebanon and the delicate balance between the religious groups in the country. Such a position would have to be achieved, of course, with the consent of the people of the Lebanon themselves. I think that this status would be very much in their own interests, but I am not formulating proposals. I am simply indicating a way along which I believe progress might be made.My Lords, I think that that statement is entirely within the spirit of what was said by Mr. Aneurin Bevan in another place, and by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson yesterday.
Jordan represents a different problem. It is, like the Lebanon, small and weak; but, unlike the Lebanon, it is economically unviable and has only a tenuous outlet to the West. Its people are of the same race and religion, and share many of the same feelings as their Arab neighbours. Here again I should not like to go further than the Foreign Secretary's speech. He said:The object of these consultations with other Governments and in the United Nations would be to work out proposals under which assistance could be given by the United Nations to the Government of Jordan to ensure the preservation of Jordan's territorial integrity and political independence "—in other words, that we ought to share in a joint plan. In answer to the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Stansgate, I should like to say that we have never received a request from Jordan to become a member of the Baghdad Pact, and have no reason to believe that she will make one.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
But the noble and learned Lord Chancellor will remember that I referred to an official visit by General Templer urging that.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Yes. I am sorry; I did not intend to mislead the noble Viscount. I was referring to the present time. I was not questioning his past history: I was taking the position to-day.
The noble and gallant Viscount also asked about the Sheikdoms of the Gulf which were independent States under British protection. They present a different case. They are too valuable economically and strategically, and yet too small in size, to be able to maintain their integrity unaided. The present arrangements are of long standing and we have no reason to suppose that there is any particular desire of those concerned—namely, the Governments and the peoples of the Sheikdorns—to alter them. I do not think that the noble Viscount would expect me to deal with hypothetical questions on the basis that there will be a change of opinion. I would remind the noble Viscount of a remark of Sheridan about the Government of which he was a member. He said that he had heard of many Governments hitting their heads against brick walls but few except his own had built the brick walls to hit their heads against. I have adopted Sheridan's position in this regard.
The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, directed our attention, and there has been general acquiescence, to the four propositions of Mr. Aneurin Bevan: first, the great Powers to agree not to seek military allies or foster blocs in the Middle East; secondly, to guarantee against alteration of existing frontiers without consent; thirdly, willingness to facilitate amalgamation or federation; and fourthly, an economic commission under U.N.O. I want to say only one or two words on this matter, because the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, will remember that my right honourable friend Commander Noble dealt with these points in another place. I want to say this—and again I would ask noble Lords to consider it objectively. The Baghdad Pact is an institution which came about because of threats to the participants in it; and we believe that, as such, it serves a useful purpose. The noble Viscount, 379 Lord Stansgate, asked me whether discussions had taken place about the position of Iraq under its present authorities. Discussions did take place. I am not in a position to divulge them, because, as the noble Viscount will understand, they have still to be discussed with members of the Commonwealth and other Powers. I did not want him to think that I was ignoring that question.
The other question he asked me was about the position of the United States with regard to the Pact. If your Lordships read The Times as well as the noble and gallant Viscount does (unless he has changed a great deal since we were in another place together), you will have seen the following declaration:Article 1 of the Pact of Mutual Co-operation signed at Baghdad on February 24, 1955, provides that the parties will co-operate for their security and defence and that such measures as they agree to take to give effect to this co-operation may form the subject of special agreements. Similarly, the United States, in the interest of world peace and pursuant to existing Congressional authorisation "—I am meeting the point raised about treaty-making powers—agrees to co-operate with the nations making this declaration for their security and defence and will promptly enter into agreements designed to give effect to this co-operation.I think that meets the noble Viscount's fear. Of course it is up to the present Iraqi authorities to decide whether they will join the Pact.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
My Lords, I think that this might be a convenient moment for the noble and learned Viscount to tell us what will happen to our personnel and material in Iraq.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, all one can say is that since the burning of the Embassy, for which the Government have apologised and expressed desire to pay compensation, there has been no further action of which I know. The position so far as our personnel is concerned is that they are now safe. The noble Viscount knows that I have been sitting on the Woolsack all the morning, and I do not know whether there is any late news; but that was the position as I knew it this morning, and I have no reason to suppose that it has changed.
I am sorry to detain your Lordships but a number of points have been raised. 380 With regard to the point that the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, raised about guaranteeing of frontiers, I will say only that that is a difficult matter. It has to be done by agreement and many things have to be taken into account. I think that he regarded this more as an objective than as a cut-and-dried matter of policy and programme. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, was right in saying that the Prime Minister and the Government are anxious that there should be a conference on Middle Eastern questions under the anspices of the United Nations at which heads of Government will be present. We still think that the Security Council is the right forum—for the following reasons. Governments, under Articles 28 and 31, can be represented by their heads. Secondly, procedure is flexible within the Charter. Thirdly, there is the full possibility of private meetings; and fourthly the settlement of any question can be kept within the United Nations framework. Fifthly, it is an organisation with a continuity of effort which can carry on from the conference and also provide the basis for further meetings, should they occur. I very much hope that we shall not get into our minds the idea, which I think is completely out-of-date, that we ought to have one meeting and that that is the end of everything. I like to contemplate further meetings in future.
I was asked about timing. Here again I want to be perfectly frank with the House, and I hope that the House will understand exactly my attitude of mind. I was disappointed with the most recent reply from Mr. Khrushchev, and so were my colleagues, because we had thought that he had gone further in accepting the United Nations framework than appeared from this latest communication. But we are going to press on for the meeting. Of course we shall consult the Commonwealth and our Allies. Noble Lords opposite would be the first to criticise if we did not. We shall press on, and I hope that we shall be able to give a progress report, not merely in the official meaning of the term, but a report of progress, before the House rises for the Summer Recess. I shall certainly bear in mind, and so will all my colleagues, what the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said about the recall of the House. I think that this is a matter which every Government must approach with a grave 381 sense of its responsibility and of the fact that it owes its existence to Parliament, and therefore whenever there is doubt of any important matter it should lean over towards Parliament. That is a view that I have expressed.
May I say this, in my last words? The independence and integrity of small nations are things that are worth preserving in themselves. As the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, said this morning, racialism is no excuse for imperialism even if it calls itself nationalism. That is a great truth which we must remember. We must remember that small and medium-sized nations behave just as great nations do; and we must consider that we have got to try to find some method by which all nations may be brought into better relations. I think, with the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, that we want to make yet another effort to express not only our disapproval of concealed and indirect aggression but our renunciation of it; and that this should also be a matter for which we should aim at general consent.
When I was a boy, in international situations in those days there used to be references in the Press to the Foreign Minister of Ruritania "waving a torch over the powder barrel", which was then the Balkans. We ought to pause and think seriously that what we are considering to-day is literally the torch being waved over the oil barrel of the world It is wrong to talk about oil in any denigrating way. Oil can make all the difference to the lives of these people living in great poverty and turn them towards the hope of better things. And what is wrong with the conception of oil as the sinews of the life of our own country and of the peoples of the West? Surely it is of the utmost importance that these benefits to both sides should always be in our minds.
We want these things: that is, the removal of a danger to a great material 382 asset by a strengthened United Nations. I am not for a moment going to ask your Lordships to agree to every mental step. Of course we shall, please God, keep our individual approaches for the health of this country and its politics—but I do ask your Lordships to agree in this: let us try to take this new step to peace through the action of a strengthened United Nations. This is a high purpose for the United Kingdom and the United States of America and our Allies. It is surely a purpose high enough and beneficial enough to command the co-operation of all the nations of the world.
§ 2.34 p.m.
§ LORD HENDERSON
My Lords, I rise to ask leave to withdraw the Motion, but before doing so I should like to say that I think in all parts of the House there is general agreement that this debate has been worth while and extremely useful. I should have liked an opportunity of discussing some of the things which the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has said in his reply. I am grateful to him for the full reply he gave to me on indirect aggression. I must admit that I had overlooked the two resolutions to which he has referred; but possibly we can come back to that matter on another occasion. I am also grateful to the Lord Chancellor for saying that before we rise at the end of this week there will be a statement by Her Majesty's Government as regards the Conference. If there is one thing that I feel I must press before sitting down it is that we are most anxious to know that a date has been actually fixed, because the situation in a Parliamentary sense will be very different next week, when the House will have risen. We hope that the Government will be able to announce a date for the Conference before we rise on Friday. With those few remarks, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.