We asked diplomat, soldier and peer Paddy Ashdown for his Take Of The Week.
In a strange way, peace-making post-conflict reconstructions have been a leitmotif of my life.
As a Royal Marine, I was involved in Aden, Malaya and Belfast. As a politician, I was very much involved in trying to get an
end to the Bosnian war. As High Representative in Sarajevo and Bosnia, I had to actually put it into practice.
I've come back with some very clear ideas about how this should be done, how we go on making the same mistakes again and
again and again, how we keep getting burned fingers in the consequences, and how other people get broken lives.
I happen to be favour of removing Saddam Hussein by force, but what is very clear is that we've snatched a peace-making
defeat out of the jaws of a military victory.
We no longer control events in Iraq
We've made every mistake it is possible to make. This has been a copybook example of how not to do post-conflict
Bush particularly, and Blair as well, have simply misunderstood or miscalculated what was necessary to build peace after
The result is that we have now reached the situation where we no longer control events in Iraq; events control us.
That probably applies to the process of our own withdrawal as well, so we have to decide what we can now do in order to get
Neither disembowelled nor dismembered
The most important thing in Iraq now is to hold the unitary nature of the country to make sure that it isn't disembowelled or
dismembered. That's why what's happening now is so important and so threatening.
Is there a civil war going on at present? Frankly, pretty close to it. Is it technically a civil war? Probably not quite, but
it's far more than an insurgency.
It will become a civil war unless we are able to find a political solution that not only the people of Iraq can buy into, but
also their neighbours.
Imposing democracy at the point of a bayonet
President Bush has made this into a sort of crusade for democracy, as though you could take the democratic institutions of
Midwest America and impose them at the point of a bayonet on a Middle Eastern Islamic country. You can't. They're different.
I don't even think that it's legitimate to intervene for democracy. You intervene for good governments to give people a
choice and the rule of law. It's then up to them to choose a democracy.
Democracy is the consequence of your intervention; it's not the primary aim, and we have to learn that lesson.
A decade of deep, deep instability
We need to start talking about the post-Iraq world and one of my fears is that that world will say "never
again" to intervention.
Wrong reaction. Just because we've done it wrong in Iraq doesn't mean that we don't know how to do it right. And we're not
going to have to do this less in the future; we're going to have to do it more.
Why? Because we're moving into a decade of deep, deep instability and huge shifts in the patterns of world power.
I don't think - regrettably - that the era of great wars has passed. But our capacity to be able to control the little events
of instability, and to intervene where we have to in order to protect the peace may well help us to avoid the greater event
of a major conflict which may be down the track.
So we may have to do this more. But we must learn how to do it right.
Get in touch
To respond, to suggest other guests, or just to say hello, do feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or using the form below.
Disclaimer: The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all emails will be published.