Saturday, March 30, 2002

Sad News

The Queen Mother has died. Requiem aeternam dona ea Domine et lux perpetua luceat ea.
So our Afghan allies are fighting each other. Nice to know.

What's wrong with the Peace Movement

From the Guardian "New US paper aims at Afghan war truth":

A newspaper aimed at providing news of the war in Afghanistan is to be launched this month. Its editors argue that the mainstream media in the US are not providing a full picture of the war and its effects.

So far, so good.

War Times, produced in San Francisco, will make its first bi-weekly appearance on April 12.

San Francisco. Looks worrying.

It will be published in English and Spanish and will be distributed throughout the US.

Distributed, not sold. Worrying sign number 2.

The venture is supported by a number of academics, including Noam Chomsky, labour organisations and anti-war groups.

Oh brother. A free-sheet from Frisco backed by the freak brigade, that's really going to have Foreign Affairs and National Interest quaking in their boots.

When will the antiwar movement stop preaching to itself and start trying to engage with the general population? Even promising ventures like this suddenly start looking stale when you see that it becomes a vehicle for general leftist drivel.

The root problem of the warmongers is that they are prepared to weaken their countries for the sake of either special interests or (in the case of the British sub-species) other countries. In short, they are unpatriotic.

The mainstream peace movement, by aping this lack of patriotism (and being less careful about masking it) moves the issue from one where they can win - the fact that what they argue for is right for Britain - to one where they are bound to lose.

In the 1980s CND had more members than the Labour Party, yet they still lost the debate - because engaging the public became a poor second to mobilising the converted. I must say that as a former Cold Warrior who believes in a Britain nuclear deterrent, I am not too sad about their loss. Things are different now.

The peace movement will only be a credible force when the CND banners are replaced with Union Jacks, and talk of pacifism is replaced with belief in the national interest.
Friday, March 29, 2002

Historical record Alert

The extracts from the John Nott biography is online, although the Telegraph has hidden it quite well. Thanks to Chris Betram for tracking that down. I was going to put up an appeal for this. If you want to read it all you'll have to buy the book.

Here are the excerpted chapters:

We were heading for war...and the Commons blamed me

It was understandable that I should be the scapegoat

I felt no sense of triumph

Margaret had an insatiable urge to gossip

What I really thought of other politicians

Why I walked out on Robin Day

Also this Little Englander perspective from Matthew Parris, is useful.

You're either with us or....

Absolutely bloody disgraceful. France refuses to co-operate with the US if it means that Zacarias Moussaoui gets the death penalty. As a large amount of his activity (and his conversion to the millitant cause) was in London, I hope that the British government does not follow suit.

Trouble Ahead

As we are soon to be the biggest Western power in Afghanistan, this story about Hamid Karzai's inherent instabilility should make for sobering reading. Of course the Angloshperites will see this as a justification for keeping in. Maybe the fact that Karzai and a couple of his advisors speaks passable English means that Afghanistan is apart of the Anglosphere, God knows they've already claimed that India is part of the Anglosphere on similarly flimsy grounds. Of course most of the world's elites claim to be English speakers, so ....

Logical Security

Jim Bennett, high priest of the Anglosphere cult, comes out with an interesting comment on American perfidy during the Falklands War. In Iain Murray's words:

Jim Bennett comments that this was all driven in Haig and Kirkpatrick's minds by cold-war thinking, which necessitated broad but shallow alliances, including Argentina just as much as Britain. As he puts it, the end of the cold war has led to a need for narrower but deeper associations.

Well almost my point. The fact was (or at least strongly pervading opinion was) that Cold War Britain, America and Argentina were all threatened by worldwide Soviet subversion. Now there is no common threat, so should there be a common alliance at all?

The logic of Jim Bennett's analysis would fundamentally undermine the idea which he so passionately espouses. Was it right to make alliances and undertake foreign commitments on the basis of national security? If it was then, should it be the case now? If we make an alliance on the basis of national security with the Americans against the Islamic world (let's be honest here chaps, it's not just Osama) do we increase or decrease our national security.

If we decrease our national security, as the government has admitted for the last few months, isn't it time to reconsider?

Of course, to some British civilian deaths are nothing if it is in the cause of the great English speaking union of peoples. Allow me to dissent.
Thursday, March 28, 2002

We're not alone

There's a certain complacency among British right wing bloggers. We genuinely think we're alone. Every now and again we may ask whether we are the only ones out there and then (quietly mind) congratulate ourselves that no British lefties seem to be able to operate a computer.

Well thanks to the GBlogs Gateway I've spent a couple of irreplacable hours of my life (yes, I took the bloody test) looking through British web logs to see what sort of political slants they had. Were they all right wing true believers who had outsmarted the technophobic lefties? Not a bit of it. Here are the more political logs I came across:

Starting at the newer ones (updated within the last 30 days) I came across Dodgeblog and Junius, a transatlantic libertarian and a pet liberal - two blogs that were already on my radar screen, and on the radar screen of many on my links column.

Two more political ones came up:

Dragonthief - Small l libertarian. Very small l.


Mad musings of me - Sarf London Feminist

To get more of a flavour I started down the alphabet, and more left wing blogs came into view (I'm ignoring Bingo Bowden, to whom I've already linked) :

Andrew's Random Notes - a rather sober look at the news from a technocratic center-left point of view.

abraxas - Far Out London feminist

anthroblog - An anthropological study of blogging in London

Rogi - Lefty ex-pat

blackbeltjones - Internet techie with some (left leaning) politics - New Labour politics meets business savvy.

Bloody Student - Scottish politics student - authoritarian left

Chris Brooke's Weblog - Oxford academic, not a man of the right

concerned (but powerless) - Lib Dem pro-euro telesales guy

The Copydesk - Scottish Republican (not in the American sense)

Not one of these could be said to be right wing, and the majority are not even near the center.

The right do not dominate the British web logging scene, we just think we do because we are totally unaware of that scene. The small world of British right wing blogging is in fact very good at getting traffic from American sites, not a surprise when three of the sites - England's Sword, Dodgeblog and Samizdata are run by Trans Atlantics. Maybe we are not really British bloggers but merely the London outpost of the American scene.

Any way, tomorrow I'll resume normal service and start obsessing over British foreign policy.
Wednesday, March 27, 2002
British Troops Sent To Afghanistan "Will Inevitably Be Shot By The Americans" Warns Minister

UK Defence Minister Geoff Hoon has told the British public to brace itself and expect casualties in Afghanistan as a result of British soldiers being shot by American troops.

"No government sends its troops to fight alongside the Americans without a great deal of consideration," Mr. Hoon told reporters today. "It is not a decision that is ever taken lightly. We know there will be casualties."

Read the rest here.
From the Guardian, marine commander will veto 'unreasonable orders' from the Americans. Of course being in an international force is such a stable and logical position. Of course the fact that we have no independent air power and are dependent on the Americans should not make us worry at all. Oh no.
Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Brits in space

Iain Murray has highlighted a Telegraph leader on the European Galileo project.

At first it looks like a classic grand projet, with no justification past grandstanding. But this is for once unfair. The Europeans at the moment are relying on American geo-positioning system. Her militaries, what there are of them, rely on this. Therefore Europe's independence from America is compromised by her not being able to control a GPS system.

This is not an argument for Britain being involved, as being dependent on Europe is marginally worse than being dependent on America. The Telegraph worryingly sees a taste for independence being a symptom of grandeur. Isn't this the paper that (rightly) bangs on about Britain losing her sovereignty to Europe?

However Britain should develop her own positioning system - one that is controlled by British technicians on British soil. This is especially acute as our nuclear weapons are actually steered by the American system. So:

1) Only nuclear armed countries can reasonably be called independent in todays world.
2) Britain's nuclear deterrent is controlled by a foreign country.

3) Is Britain independent?

An independent British system would not need a state of the art white elephant, merely a number of cheap sattelites and the launching and supporting capabilities. We're not talking about holidays on Mars here.

Are there any readers who would know how much a bargain basement independent GPS system would cost?

Some More Links

Some more reciprocal links that I left out. Bingo Bowden who seems to have just started linking to me, also Mark Byron and Marxist Magnus, the Stalinist Stationmaster. And how could I possibly forget Charles Tupper Jr, that regular commenter on my posts? Any more let me know.
Monday, March 25, 2002

I told you he was different

Christopeher Montgomery's latest offering "Crown Commonwealth" is, well, rather different from the stuff that I used to say. I must admit I don't really agree with him on the idea that Britain's foreign policy should be at all based on standing up for the commonwealth minus India. Like the related concept of the Anglosphere (or should it be Wasposphere?), it puts sentiment above geographical imperitive. Geography is all.

After all, Australians may speak English and have the queen on their stamps - but they are the other side of the world.

Still, Christopher writes his stuff very, very well. Even worth a visit. Unlike Australia.

Thanks due

Christopher Dawson has nice things to say about this web log:

I've been reading Emmanuel's blog for several months now, and must say that it's by far the most sensible 'Anti-war' site I've found. And to be fair, he talks about other subjects too. And with great wit. I read him, and his contributers, often.

Ah, nice.

Justin Raimondo has also seen fit to direct a good number of surfers over to my site, and you're all welcome. What was interesting is that it is probably the largest influx I've got from a single site since I bid goodbye on my column a couple of months ago. It may not last, but the fixed web sites still seem to be attracting more eyeballs than the web logs.

On the web log front, I'd note the surprising fact that a mention from Natalie Solent can get you a far better boost to your viewing figures than one from Samizdata - even though she gets fewer hits than the unmentionables.

Why is this? Do her readers trust her more than they trust the Chelsea gun nuts? Is it perhaps fewer links a day on Ms Solent's web log? Perhaps its because she's nicer about my offerings, her being a quintessentially nice type of person?

Whatever it is, its an odd phenomenon.

Altitude Sickness

So how great are our mountain marines? Read this and worry.
Sunday, March 24, 2002

Labour Pains

In case you missed it, here's the transcript of the BBC On The Record feature on rebellious Labour MPs and Afghanistan, and a look at what the troops will face in Afghanistan.

And this is the infamous interview with Clare Short last week.


The grey column on your right will show a list of links. Basically they are all the pages that I can find that permanently link to me, and that's the guarantee of quality - if they don't link here, they can't be worth reading. So Glenn Reynolds and Andrew Sullivan, if you want my traffic you'll have to play ball.

If I've missed a site, let me know.

Dying for Tony

Talking of the Sunday papers, Blair's been told to expect 20 Marines to be killed from this latest, unnecesary, mission in Afghanistan - although Blair will get to strut the world stage. Now our First Ego demands human sacrifices.

Of course, if "only" fifteen die it will be judged a victory by the laptop bombadiers of blogdom, but they will still die for a cause which has nothing to do with the British national interest.

We're here because we're here because we're here

Remember how the Turks were going to take over from us in Afghanistan? Only a few months they said, well Straw's just announced that we will be in charge for a long time.

6000 troops by mid April. That's more than the Yanks.

Go an spin no more

The Sunday papers are full of various scoops on the war, and the proposed Sumerian caper, the Guardian reports that Washington is accusing London of exagerating Al-Qaeda's weapons capability. And all these "terror plans for London" we were regaled with - the ones all these journalists "found" lying around "abandoned Al Qaida bases" surely these can't have been manufactured.

Putting us at risk

I know its old news, David Blunkett already admitted as much months ago, but aren't you a bit concerned at the massively increased risk of terrorist attacks, exposed by a Ministry of Defence report:

Police and the emergency services have been secretly trained by the Army for a reprisal attack in the UK by al-Qa'ida terrorists using nuclear, chemical or biological weapons

All as a result of supporting the Americans in an area where we have no interest.

Of course our glorious leaders will have bunkers and first access to the Anthrax vaccine. It's just us plebs who'll have to die off.
Saturday, March 23, 2002

Not at all challenging

So will Blair be faced with a challenge as the Guardian is suggesting? Try this rule:

Under rule 3c 5.4 (b) the rebels would have to engineer a majority in favour of a contest by way of a card vote at the annual conference.

No chance.

Anglosphere in action

Why do we always have to make excuses for the Americans and the IRA? The love affair will not stop, no matter how much we wish it to.

The latest person who wishes to misunderstand it is the enormously well intentioned Natalie Solent. She responds to one of my recent articles on the equation of the potato famine with the holocaust:

However, does Mr Goldstein really think that the authors of this course of study have any less hatred for America than for Britain? So long as they are listing an oddly-chosen rag bag of British crimes spanning the last four centuries (to view, try Control F and "British Colonial Policies") then they are full of patriotic anger regarding the treatment of American prisoners in the Revolutionary War. But just wait till next term (semester) when the class does the Indian Wars and see what they say then.

Well, what does the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education actually say on the Indian Wars? Well, not a whole lot really. That is not to say that they weren't listed but that they are listed waaay down the curriculum page:

Review and study genocides and atrocities of the past such as:

African American (slavery)
Native American
Individual communities may choose other areas to study.

So there we are, the Indians are mentioned but between slavery and the Armenian genocide. The Irish get their own billing. An interesting fact is that the blood libel is not just being imposed on the impressionable children of New Jersey, but it is produced by Nebraska and also:

The Illinois, Colorado and Idaho Departments of Education have linked to the Nebraska site, along with the National Archives of the Republic of Ireland, and the Gateway to Educational Materials, (GEM) at Syracuse University.

That's five states, a prestigous university and a neighbouring country. Not bad for an "oddly-chosen rag bag of British crimes". Add to that New York, where:

In 1996, the Governor signed a law making instruction on the mass starvation in Ireland a part of New York State curriculum. New York schools are now required by the Board of Regents to teach courses in patriotism, citizenship and human rights issues, devoting particular attention to the study of genocide, slavery and the Holocaust.

This is not just some sort of leftist inspired post-modernist drivel (although it is that), it is highly dangerous. The Irish Potato famine is becoming the best known "fact" about British history, thanks to an intensive lobbying effort by the Irish-gangster lobby.

We seem to view Irish-American hatred for Britain through rose-tinted spectacles, thinking that they don't really mean it. Look at the Irish in Britain (like - I would hazard a guess - our own Ms Solent), they've managed to see this through British as well as Irish eyes. Yes, they don't like Ian Paisley, but they dislike the IRA more. Even the Irish in the 26 Counties in Rebellion Against the Crown (also known as Eire) the idea of swallowing Ulster, let alone having anything to do with the provos, is entertained only by a minority. If only they knew about Ireland, we reason, they would be more reasonable.

Don't bet on it.

Andrew Dodge has also talked about this matter, where he is admittedly less sanguine about this. However he does share the tendancy to focus on the tenth of the glass that is full rather than the rest that is empty, with this entry on the St Patrick's saga. A number of the firemen in the World Trade Center refused to march in the parade because the marshall is an IRA terrorist.

Isn't the story not the refusal to march, but the honouring of an IRA killer?

A Souring Relationship

Newsweek comments on a Souring Relationship while Time has an opinion poll showing that 56% are against British involvement in Iraq, with 34% for it. Taking out the don't knows that's For 38%, Anti 62%.

Looks like the Guardian poll wasn't a flash in the pan.

Overstretch in action

MoD 'forced to make cuts'. British defences to be weakened to maintain our international commitments.

Who's Kidnapped Conrad?

Britons, Americans and other inhabitants of the Anglosphere - I have some grave news to report. Conrad Black is missing, presumed kidnapped. The only evidence we have for this is the new neglect that is creeping into his flagship publication the Daily Telegraph.

As the "house journal of British Conservatism" the Telegraph would naturally incline to a sensible foreign policy in line with British interests, combining trenchant Euroscepticism with a dislike of fighting wars for the rebel American colonies. Conrad Black rescued the Telegraph from such boring sanity with a dose of a fruit-loop foreign policy, where Britain's interests where all to be sacrificed to America on all important things - and that British imperialism should be reborn in the unimportant areas.

Now we have more and more evidence that the Telegraph is backsliding towards a sensible and realist position. For two days on a row, Wednesday and Thursday there where opinion pieces pouring scorn on a proposed invasion in Iraq. Yesterday this sloppy, patriotic, agenda slipped from the opinion pages into the news pages with such stories as 'Beating Saddam will be no cakewalk' and General warns of unwinnable guerrilla war.

Friends, Conrad would not have allowed this to happen. This can lead to only one conclusion, that he has been kidnapped - possibly by his arch enemy Jean Chretien. If anyone sees Conrad, or his fragrant wife Barbara Amiel, please contact the authorities.

The Anglosphere needs you.

The Fifty-First State Committee

Remiss of me

... for not mentioning that my replacement on on and regular contributor to the comments section (if not the actual web log), Christopher Montgomery was on Newsnight on Thursday. Well done.
Friday, March 22, 2002

Open Government alert

Kudos to Iain Murray for finding the daily Lobby Briefing from the Prime Minister. Almost as important for government watchers as Hansard.

Now if they will only put those cabinet minutes on line...

Lest we forget

A useful quote:

"there are no obvious links between Iraq and the events of 11 September"

From Geoff Hoon on Wedensday's parliamentary debate.

Nick Robinson, however, thinks that this won't happen.
Thursday, March 21, 2002

Oppose for England

So Iain Duncan Smith wants to remodel the Conservative party? The link with Thatcher is seen as a bit old hat, a put-off to the voters. Well let Robert Taft show you the way. This article is about a leading Republican Senator of impecably conservative views (well as impeccable as you will ever get with a fairly succesful elected politician) who started criticising the Second World War within 12 days of its outbreak. This piece is particularly worth quoting:

As a matter of general principle, I believe there can be no doubt that criticism in time of war is essential to the maintenance of any kind of democratic government ... too many people desire to suppress criticism simply because they think that it will give some comfort to the enemy to know that there is such criticism. If that comfort makes the enemy feel better for a few moments, they are welcome to it as far as I am concerned, because the maintenance of the right of criticism in the long run will do the country maintaining it a great deal more good than it will do the enemy, and will prevent mistakes which might otherwise occur.

Any way there are a number of good reasons for the Tories to oppose, or at least question, an attack on Iraq:

1) Fighting other countries' wars is unpatriotic.
2) An attack on Iraq is unpopular.
3) It will put clear blue water between the Tory Party and Thatcher.
4) Now the Tories are fully engaged on public services, the war is the only thing the Lib Dems have as a vote getter.
5) If the war goes right, no one will thank Blair. If it goes wrong everyone will blame him. But to whom will they turn?
6) Not only will the Mail back you, but so will the Guardian (!) and even the Telegraph on its present, frankly baffling, form. The Times will hate you, but they already do. The only loss will be the Sun, and they don't really have a mind of their own - as soon as their readers change, they will.

So there's advantages to questioning the Sumerian escapade wherever you look, from high principle to low cunning. Now the only problem is that it will mean Iain has to choose between his country and party on one side, and some over-funded think tanks on Potomac marshland on the other. What will he choose?

I only dread to think.

What's happening to the Telegraph?

Conrad, Conrad, your newspaper is deserting you. Yet another sensible piece, this time by John Casey, saying that a war on Iraq is, well, stupid. The best part is this:

So it comes down to weapons of mass destruction. Do we know that Saddam has rebuilt his armoury of chemical and biological weapons? Several members of the United Nations inspection teams deny this. Few objective observers think Saddam is anywhere near getting nuclear weapons - but he would obviously love to have them.

Does that justify war? One of Aquinas's conditions for a just war is that one's enemy has committed a "fault" - that is, done one an injury. The possession of particular technologies is not in itself a "fault". The question is what Iraq intends to do with them. The notion that it intends to attack America is patently ridiculous. Israel? Israel is one of the most formidable fighting machines in the world, and could pulverise Iraq, using its own weapons of mass destruction if necessary.

That Aquinas bit was what I've been stumbling towards. The warriors will have to prove that they are either a threat or that they have done us an injury. Cheering it on because we have the better weapons or that it will be a "cakewalk" is nothing more than crude barbarism.
Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Top That

My piece on "What to do about Zim? has attracted 18 comments, so far. I think that's a lot. Although only three people have commented so far, I was not one of them.

So, is 18 a record? I doubt it. But please someone point me to the relevant post.

Until then I claim the record. Does this mean I get to meet Norris McWhirter?

Shoulder to Shoulder

You will need a strong stomach to read this one-sided presentation of The Great Irish Famine. Guess who appear as genocidal maniacs.

Now this wouldn't be so bad, America is chock full of bigoted fifth generation Irishmen who produce stuff like this. However look at what it says at the top:

Approved by the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education on September 10th, 1996, for inclusion in the Holocaust and Genocide Curriculum at the secondary level.

That's right folks, many Americans are taught in school that the English deliberately practiced genocide against another nation. That's the Anglosphere for you.

Doing the Splits

Iain Murray indulges in some statistical spinning of heroic proportions on public opinion vis Iraq:

Public opinion is subject to the same argument, and anyway, this Guardian poll shows that silly arguments like Harris' are already splitting public opinion.

35% For. 51% Against. Public opinion is not split, it is against an invasion of Iraq, for now.

A split would be, in my humble opinion, either when neither side has 50% or one side is within 5-10% of the other side. Neither applies here.

Labour and Tory voters, however, can be fairly said to be split.

On a final note, if you take out the don't knows the margin is 41% to 59% - the same margin of victory as Iain Duncan Smith in the Conservative Party - who was said to have won a "resounding" victory. And that's with a higher proportion of don't knows (those who didn't bother to send back their ballot papers).

Where's Conrad

Conrad, your newspaper's getting too sensible. On Monday, first we had John Keegan complaining about Afghanistan causing overstretch, and then we have Robert Harris complaining that a war on Iraq is not going to be a "cakewalk". Please stop it, or else they will think that Conservatism is about the national interest rather than some mythic "Anglosphere".

Well, today's leader on Zimbabwe strikes the correct, batty imperialist note. Phew!

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Now we get a Vietnam

It seems that all the ducks are in line for an invasion of Iraq apart from the people. The who? You know, the voters. The Guardian have a poll purporting to show that the majority of British voters are against a war on Iraq by a margin of 51%-35%. I can't find a detailed breakdown, so you'll have to do with this:

Labour 46% Anti. 43% For
Conservatives 48% Anti. 41% For
Lib Dems 67% Anti. 21% For

The sample was of 1000 adults, leading to a margin of error of about 3%, so only the Labour result is likely to be for the military action.

This doesn't mean a couple of things. This is not against the war in Afghanistan and it probably won't last once our boys are in Iraq.

What is interesting is that the Tory majority is not that narrow (excluding the don't knows it 54%-46%) and that Labour supporters have the lowest proportion of don't knows (5%, compared to 11% and 12%) which may point to a proportion of the answers being "I suppose" types of answers resting on loyalty to the government rather than conviction. So the pro-invasion camp may be (slightly) overstated.

However, if there is a disaster in Iraq (unlikely, but the army aren't so sure) then this could cause mid term discomfort.

What a glorious victory

1700 British troops are to deploy in Afghanistan, making it (together with the Brits already there) the largest foreign deployment since the Gulf War. Now can all those people who say that Afghanistan has been a military success please observe a shame faced silence?

And if you don't I'll ask where Bin Laden is.

The trouble with Thatch

Margaret Thatcher calls for withdrawal from the EU. Except that she doesn't. She calls for a withdrawal from the Common Agricultural Policy, etc,etc - and she actually says that we should hold withdrawal as a backstop. This is a couple of miles behind her private asides (and so semi-public asides, as is the nature of these things). This may be construed as effectively call for a withdrawal.

It is also exactly what Iain Duncan Smith was putting his name to when he was active in CAFE, "Conservatives Against a Federal Europe".

She's actually talking about withdrawal, something for which she should be commended. She also, rarely for an ex-politician, admits that she was wrong at the height of her career - something that supposedly less "arrogant" colleagues constantly refuse to do. Have Nigel Lawson or John Major apologised for their role into forcing us into the Exchange Rate Mechanism, which they both regret privately? Strike two for Mags.

And yet, and yet.

What is her alternative? Free trade must be protected by ... joining another free trade bloc. Or perhaps joining two. One marvels at the naivety. Free trade blocs are bad for free trade. Firstly they swap a national tariff for an international one. Progress of sorts, but the international tariff can itself become a block to further liberalisation. That is the least of the problems.

Simply put free trade areas morph into embryonic governments, and have from the beginning of time. The United States was partly sold as a free trade agreement. The zollverein (which translates along the lines of uniting the tolls - excuse my poor German) was the forerunner of the German Empire. Of course we also have the glorious European Union, which as anyone who remembers the 1975 referendum will tell you was sold as"just a free trade zone".

Just a free trade zone? No such thing.

There is simply no guarantee that NAFTA will not develop into the same type of monster as the EU. Of course it has had a standing start, but in fact there are fewer obstacles to unity than the EU faces, everyone - at least outside southern Mexico - speaks English - and a totally dominant power means that petty rivalries will have less potential to obstruct the grand projet.

And then there is America. She describes the relationship with America as the "essential" relationship for Britain. To an extent she's right, although Germany's relationship with America is pretty essential, as is South Korea's, as is even Iraq's. America is quite simply the temporary hegemon of the world, and so everyone has to be nice to it.

But a "special relationship"? Tell that to the Americans. I would hazard a guess that we are jostling with the Germans and Canadians for fourth place behind Japan, Israel and Mexico (not necesarily in that order). In the Olympic special relations event we can't even make it on the podium. When an American sees Israel on the news he will often see a Western country with its back against the wall and perhaps a vital tool for the second coming of Christ, when he sees Britain he sees a royal divorce or a particularly raucous Prime Minister's Question Time.

Of course an argument, to which I subscribe, is that we should play kissy-kissy with America because the British simply do not think that they can go it alone in the world - and so need some alternative form of enslavement to go to. Then we can leave America once we have left Europe.

However, there is no harm in helping the British see that they don't need to be tied into any permanent alliance, european or anglosphere.

Take to your tents, O Israel Albion.
Monday, March 18, 2002


Christopher Montgomery has written another piece, this time on the Falklands. I'm surprised he didn't mention Reagan's "pieces of real estate" speech.

Top UK Minister to Quit if Iraq Attacked

...says Oh, and Clare Short as well. Is this the start of a revolt, as Iain Murray is predicting?

Hardly. Short is always resigning on matters of principle. As long as Tony's popular he won't be replaced. And as long as the present system continues the left will stay within Labour.
Sunday, March 17, 2002

It's not on the battlefield...

The government is getting nervy about the consequances of our "shoulder to shoulder" following of America. The Home Office is warning of riots in Britain if Iraq is invaded and the government is sockpiling the smallpox vaccine. Civil Servants are a notoriously pessimistic breed, but it does point to the fact that Britain's unintelligent 100% support for America is drastically increasing the risk to the civilian population of truly horrendous terrorism.

And what do we get in return? Not even a concession on steel tarrifs.
Saturday, March 16, 2002

Europe in action

Britain caves in on Euro army, despite fierce Ministry of Defence opposition. All in return for the "liberalisation of the french energy market".

No doubt some British power companies who have been generous contributors to Labour coffers will benefit, but the national interest?

Has this man no shame?

Gerald Kaufman plays party politics with Israel. Not British politics, however:

Mr Kaufman, MP for Manchester Gorton, accused former Labour prime minister Shimon Peres, now Israel's foreign minister, of "humiliating" himself by being involved in Sharon's government.

So is Kaufman criticising Israel or is he merely bashing Likud and the Labourites in coalition with it?

Zim Watch

Two pieces of sense in, of all places, the Guardian letters page. Ignoring the first (barking) letter, the other two say that this election is no different from Kenya's or Nigeria's (both Anglophone countries friendly to the West) and that if Mugabe has polarised the country, that must mean that there is an opposite pole to the urban pro-Western opposition.

Meanwhile Mugabe clamps down on the press (the opposition supporting Daily News doesn't seem to have published since Thursday). Unions have also been harrassed (they are the cradle of the MDC).

The commonwealth will meet on Tuesday to decide what to do about Zim. Neither side is likely to move, despite increasingly less veiled threats of a cut off of bribes, sorry aid. The commonwealth observer group has condemned the election.

Nigeria and South Africa push for a coalition government. This is roughly what Tsvangarai had also proposed before the count, even if they are spurning the idea now - as is Zanu. Zambia is getting jitters, even when they are congratulating Mugabe. Meanwhile Jacob Zuma, South Africa's deputy president has both called for an "inclusive" government, while at the same time congratulating Mugabe. It is not just whoever's responsible for Mbeki's e-mail who seems confused.

The real key to this will be what the African governments do. Zanu is cracking up, and Zimbabwe's neighbours are jumpy about both the economic disruption that could spread from Zimbabwe and the precedent that any intervention would set regarding African sovereignty.

This will probably be the last Zim Watch, unless Britain starts talking seriously about military intervention. An African intervention will be none of our business, as would any non-intervention.

Obsessive Blog Watch

Patrick Crozier has launched a web log on UK Transport. Like Airstrip One it has a narrow focus and is written from an unashamadly biased view.

If you have any interest as to why your trains are not running on time or why the roads always seem to be dug up, visit this web log.
Thursday, March 14, 2002

What to do about Zim?

I've been accused of obsessing about Zimbabwe, what has this got to do with the national interest?

All you have to say is "stay out, Britain". How long does that take? I suggest the EU and the War on Terror ought to be occupying you far more than the predictable reversion to savagery of a land which ceased to be a Crown Colony in the 1920s. As a Little Englander (none smaller) I worry far more about being Eurofederalised or vaporised by WW3 than about having a few thousand pink-gin drinkers in shorts dumped on our doorstep.

So why Zimbabwe? It's definately not under-reported, at least it dominates the headlines. However there seems to be a certain lack of perspective. How bad is Mugabe compared to his neighbours? Is Morgan Tsvangarai really a secular saint? What does it have to do with us?

Firstly Mugabe is bad, and he did steal the election. However (partly because of the preceding administration) Zimbabwe has never been a one party state, unlike many of its neighbours - and unlike the present class pet Uganda. It has a robust opposition press and opposition organisations. And Mugabe will be dead soon.

Tsvangarai has been caught on video at least discussing Mugabe's violent replacement, even if he does seem to have been set up. The man is no Gandhi.

And on our strategic interest? None. And there is none in the Congo (where Zimbabwe's troops are maintaining the present regime).

That was why I was reporting on Zimbabwe, and will probably continue. The place needs some perspective.

There is no reason out of self interest to go there - and there is no coherant human rights motive to go into there that would not necesitate invasion of half of Africa and Asia.
Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Zim Watch

Mugabe won. Stop sniggering in the back. South Africa seem to have backed it though.

What should we do? It was clearly rigged, although pretty much as badly as many other African countries, and the place has not been British for thrity seven years. Any proponents for intervention are going to have to make a damn good case.

One good thing from the proposed Iraq invasion is that we are unlikely to be sending in troops.
Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Zim Watch

Counting's started and voting's stopped. There's been some disturbances with police clearing away queues from the polling booths. Welshman Ncube, the MDC official has been officially charged with treason, after an attempted evacuation of MDC officials (to start a government in exile?).

While the rest of the world thinks that Mugabe has fixed the election, this bit from the London Times is interesting:

On Sunday afternoon, the official said, Mr Mugabe’s advisers told him he had lost the presidential election. Mr Mugabe’s reaction was simple. We need to find more votes.

However this shows one thing that the news does seem to be missing, the upper echelons of the state are looking beyond Mugabe.
Monday, March 11, 2002

Zim Watch

I should first point you to Christopher Montgomery's column, which is on this subject, in which he claims this column is "a compendious source of scepticism about Zimbabwe". I do not share Mr Montgomery's enthusiasm for empire, but the little Englanders and the die hards have to put forward a common front against the raging Atlantic and those beyond Calais.

The polling has entered a third day in Harare and the turnout is good, although not all polling stations are aware of this, although the government seems to have dropped their appeal against the court ordered openings.

Tsvangirai calls for restraint after the arrest of a clos ally, Welshman Ncube (great name). The MDC are also warning about poll fraud.

Courts have ordered the police to move against a Zanu camp.

An interesting story, getting little play in the west is the arrest of MDC "members" of a Zanu "millitant" (the terms come from the opposition supporting Daily News). There are MDC gangs and thugs, although they seem to be a defensive reaction - on the whole.

According to the Guardian, Mugabe is in trouble even in the countryside, although the Telegraph say they are not turning out at all.

The surprisingly peaceful elections (trust me, I'm surprised - so far) are helping the Rand.

The Zimbabwean ambassador to Nigeria has dismissed the idea that there would be any irregularity "We don't use Florida type". Ouch.

Zim Watch

You've probably heard, but voting's been extended in Harare. There have been some incidents, but fewer than feared. I will update more later.
Sunday, March 10, 2002
OK, I know this isn't about British foreign policy, but I am amazed that none of the more home-based British web logs have noticed the Observer calling for an end to the NHS.

Zim Watch - Preliminary

From the Telegraph:

- TWO Brits and two Americans have been arrested in eastern Zimbabwe for carrying illegal radio equipment
- The MDC have gone to court to seek an extension to the presidential elections. The government claim there is no legal basis for this. Ruling is tonight.
- The BBC have an interesting talk board that shows that while the queues are still on in Harare, the even more anti-Mugabe citizens of Bulawayo are only waiting an hour to vote. Only an hour! Well its progress of sorts.

What's it got to do with us?

According to the Observer:

America has asked Britain to draw up plans for 25,000 of this country's troops to join a US task force to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

It's certainly not in our interests to do this, the missiles can't get to us. Where's the pro quo for our quid?

They almost get it

A couple of comments from my comments.

I'm not sure whether I'm the "John Bull" that David Carr refers to in Samizdata (you'll have to scroll down, as the direct link doesn't work. However the comments are addressed to those of us who say that this steel tarrif shows us anything about the way in which America thinks of us. Mr Carr says, not quite jokingly, that Bush was doing us a favour with all that cheap steel coming our way. Don't complain, he says.

But that's not really the point, is it. If America was at all grateful for all the support that we've been showing and the greatly increased risk that British subjects (but not our rulers) have been subjected to, wouldn't they have cut us a bit of slack?

The fact is that they didn't do it to hurt us, but that the American administration does not care what Britain thinks or feels. We may think that our shoulder to shoulder attitude would be reciprocated, but it's not been when it really mattered.

Iain Murray also tries to play Pangloss, this time a bit more subtly. Look, don't worry, he says, we have this wonderful security relationship with the Americans. Trade and security are different things, on security we are tied in with the Americans and on trade we are with the Americans.

But still the point came that when it was time to walk the walk, the Americans were not there. It's really nice to see your prime minister praised in front of Congress, but when it came to something that may affect a couple of our actual workers they forgot about us. Now, it may be said that they didn't even consider Britain's position so they cannot be blamed - but that's the point, isn't it.

Britain has a choice, we can either follow our own interests or follow other's - either America or Europe - in the hope that they will remember us when we really need to be helped out. The point is, if they let us down on something small like this, how can we guarantee that they will help us when something big blows up.

Ourselves alone.

Trading Blows

Natalie Solent says that we should have some outrage over the free trade decision because it is:

wilfully keeping the poor of the world from making an honest living just to buy the temporary favour of voters in marginal states

Let's sidestep the fact that the poor of the world have got other honest ways to make a living, if less well renumerated than churning out steel. Growing cassava ain't fun but its not criminal either. I don't even want to get into the argument that the "voters in marginal states" are supposed to be listened to in a, erm, democracy. Let's also dodge around the idea that as a sovereign state America has the right to act in what it perceives to be its own interests (no, I don't perceive this to be in America's interests, but I'm not America). The last point is the reason why I can't get worked up about this.

Let's instead look at Mrs Solent's views on free trade. To repeat, the decision is bad because it's:

wilfully keeping the poor of the world from making an honest living just to buy the temporary favour of voters in marginal states

Now while I admire Mrs Solent's concern for the teeming masses, I think that her defence of free trade is dangerous. Why? Because it misses the real benefits of free trade.

The objection is two fold. The first is the treatment of the Holy Orthodoxy of Free Trade as a welfare programme for the Third World, a government sized Tradecraft. That is simply a secondary effect. Free trade benefits the consumers in the free trading country. If the difference is between getting your children into college and some poor blighter getting off a farm in Mali, where would you vote? If the whole free trade thing is sold as primarily benefiting poorer countries don't be surprised if it all goes rotten when the economy turns down.

Then there's another, more insiduous, fallacy - that free trade is good for producers. Not entirely true. Free trade is good for those producers who can expand their markets, because other countries are lowering their trade barriers. Its also good for some producers who use plenty of raw material, because they are acting as consumers. However this will be balanced out for other producers, to take a random example American steel makers, who are now facing far fiercer competition. They will, on the whole lose market share, and a good proportion will go out of business entirely. This will have a knock on effect with workers, who are for these purposes "producers".

For argument's sake lets say that this balances out, some producers benefit, some producers lose out. What then is the purpose of free trade for anyone who is not an a priori libertarian?

Well its the consumers. They will benefit unconditionally from free trade, as the wider choice means prices fall and quality increases. They would benefit from unilateral free trade as much as world free trade, but that's another argument for another time.

In the free trade equation producers break even, but consumers win big. As we are almost all both consumers and producers (or dependent on the breadwinner/producer) then we come out ahead on free trade.

So the attack of the free traders should not be on behalf of the poor third world producers, or the world trading system, or even the home producers. The attack should be on the fact that American consumers are being robbed on behalf of a tiny if vocal minority of producers.

Of course I'm not an American consumer, so I'm not going to get outraged. Thanks.

Zim Watch

Day 2 of voting and its still a bit chaotic.

Alexander Downer, the Australian foreign minister, is predicting violence if the MDC don't win. Australia is one of the bigger backers of the MDC. He's also predicting violence from Zanu if they lose, so its a win-win situation.

Thank God there's been little violence so far. In fact things have been remarkably quiet, unless there's stuff going on in the countryside that we're not hearing. MDC polling officials seem to be in some trouble, though.

Both the MDC and the American embassy (!) have called for an extension of voting beyond today, something which the justice minister seems to be considering

The former Zanu Justice Minister (and a current Zanu MP) has called for Mugabe to stand down. Eddison Zvobgo, has actually been a rebel MP for some time - so it's not as big as it sounds, but it does underscore the fact that Zanu is starting to come apart of its own accord, whether or not Mugabe wins. Tsvangarai is aware of this and is offering a home to moderate Zanu officials.
Saturday, March 09, 2002

Zim Watch

Preliminary report. Polling seems quiet, with "just" extremely long queues and a large amount of rejections, but only one violent incident - from either side. There has been once incident where a frustrated crowd clashed with the police. There is some quite extraordinary officiousness being reported. Mugabe's predicting a big win and one of his ministers is caliming that the army is on full alert.

In the event of surprising military developments

A supposed US 'nuclear hit list' has been leaked listing the events that nuclear weapons should be used "in the event of surprising military developments". This includes Arab-Israeli conflict, a war between China and Taiwan and an attack by North Korea on the South.

Steeling for a fight

OK, bad joke. A bit like the steel tarrif.

Anyway, the steel tarrifs have ignited the fury of Nick Denton (and here, here, here, here, here and here; I forgot, here as well). Well he's worked up about it.

Where's the outrage, he asks.

In fact this post started as an e-mail to him about the outrage, or lack of it. But once again from my terribly obsessive viewpoint, I was going to go into the British foreign policy angle.

Now the steel tarrif itself has little bearing on Britain, we export a miniscule amount and we will benefit when all this steel that can't be sold to the US comes on our market. However, it does illustrate the central fallacy of British foreign policy - that if we stay slavishly loyal to America, they will look after us when the time comes. Well, in a way the time did come, and British steel was tarrifed like everyone else. But I repeat myself, I've said this already.

However some comment on this from the British "blogging" community, which is overwhelmingly pro American Natalie Solent records others reactions, although not sure of her own apart from outrage at Bush's departure from the Holy Orthodoxy of Free Trade (HOFT). Any way she does predict outrage on my behalf, not realising I don't do outrage. Detached cynicism is my affection.

And the other Anglosphere believers, what do they say on this? Now Samizdata haven't been silent on the breach of HOFT, but the British angle is curiously omited. What does this tell us about the Anglo American relationship? How, if it all should Britain react? For a British blog they seem far more comfortable commenting on American rather than British issues?

The two transplanted Anglo-Americans - Andrew Dodge and Iain Murray - who write web logs, register their disapproval. Andrew Dodge, an American in London, says that British steel workers are right to be up in arms, but little more on what we should do. Shelter them? Retalliate for them? Just sit on our hands? And from Iain Murray, a Brit in Washington, we get just a hawk, spit. Public Interest links to an article by Michael Brown, who used to be a Tory MP for a steel town, which defends this decision. It's all the EU's fault, he says. A quote:

Last year, in a prescient book, Stars and Strife, the former Tory cabinet minister John Redwood warned of the coming trade wars between Europe and the US, predicting that the list of disputes would grow – in spite of World Trade Organisation negotiations. Britain, he forecast, would often be caught in the crossfire, and he suggested that we would, sooner or later, begin to appreciate the benefits of a direct bilateral trade relationship with the North Atlantic Free Trade Area (Nafta).

I only did that because I like it when someone says something nice about John Redwood.

Any way the best quote comes from the Left. Larry Elliot of the Guardian, who in an otherwise so-so article comes out with this:

If Mr Lamy has every reason to feel let down, then so too does Tony Blair, who has found that providing full-throated backing for the US in its fight against terrorism counts for nothing when set against the interests of powerful vested interests in America. The prime minister is like the faithful family retainer who, after years of service, asks for a day off to see a sick relative, and is greeted with utter disdain.

Not a great metaphor, but it somehow captures the spirit.

Any way there is an honourable mention among British bloggers, and that must go to the new boy Iain Dale who actually deals with the issue of the British reaction to all of this:

Nice when your closest ally kicks you in the teeth isn't it?

Any other commentary from a British point of view, please put it in the comments section.

Zim Watch

It's started and the turnout looks high.

The opposition Daily News lead story is optimistic for their side, saying that there are more urban voters than rural voters. The fact that there are more urban voters shows that Mugabe's tactics at intimidating voters has not been as thorough as the West imagines. Of course the MDC line is that they are so popular that any Mugabe win has to be vote rigging, but it is interesting that they are recognising their weakness in the countryside - almost entirely due to the land issue (the rural thuggery has probably cost Mugabe support everywhere). In the cities the MDC are popular. Any way the opposition are going to challenge a Mugabe win.

The government is warning the MDC off any poll protests - which if conducted during polling hours in Britain would be illegal under the Representation of the People Act.

Polling rules are still in flux, even Mugabe doesn't know where to vote. IDs are still allegedly being confiscated, and urban polling stations seem to be on a go slow.

That wonderful specimen of humanity, Grace Mugabe (Mugabe's young, pretty and spendthrift wife) has called MDC supporters "cats and dogs". No jokes about reigning in Zimbabwe soon. Zim's version of Nye Bevan?

An interesting analysis of the two different parties' positions is here, although it does not really focus on the issues of foreign investment and that war in the Congo. Human Rights Watch conveniently puts out a denunciation of land reform on election eve.

A potentially interesting area is a BBC talk board "Have you voted". Nothing much posted there, but keep going back, it may change. Unfortunately the BBC heavily edit their talk boards, and they are (understandably, considering their treatment) anti-Mugabe. I don't think that this will mean that they will censor posts, just the suspicion that they could. Any other talk boards, etc, that deal with this, please note them in the comments.

This feature has been noted by Rantberg and Natalie Solent. Gee thanks.
Friday, March 08, 2002

Trouble Ahead

Blair is facing a cabinet revolt on Iraq. But let's be serious, as long as there's no conceivable alternative - he'll get his own way.

Just go away

The IMF are telling us to put VAT on food and children's clothes in order for us to balance our public services. Now here’s an idea, why don’t we save on our subscription to the IMF.

Zim Watch

One day to go and Mugabe is playing silly buggers about releasing irrelevant details such as who's allowed to vote and where they can vote. The Supreme Court has agreed with the government that some voters are not allowed to vote, namely dual citizens. But all is well says the (Government controlled) election commission.

The army has been called out, while Mugabe has indicated that he would welcome a coup if he lost and what's left of the middle class prepare to run for the border. MDC activists are (reported to have been) forced into hiding while other MDC activists and 40 opposition polling agents have been released from custody.

So the MDC is entirely a domestic operation? Think again, its backed with oodles of foreign money according to the opposition supporting Business Day.
Thursday, March 07, 2002

You can now subscribe

Subscribe to this web log. Put your e-mail address in the box at the bottom, and you will get daily updates.
Wednesday, March 06, 2002
I've been mentioned by Marxist Magnus who says that my Zim Watch continues to be interesting. Thanks.

Trade wars and us

So what about this trade war that Bush seems intent on launching?

The first thing that should be noted is that this is a poke in the eye for all believers in the "Anglosphere", the belief that the English speaking nations share a community of interest. What happened to British, Australian or New Zealand steel makers? Any exemptions? Nope.

Anyway, the Anglosphere is not on the table at the moment - even if it does distract otherwise promising conservative thinkers. What is on the table, indeed seems to be the only option on the menu, is the idea that it is in our long term interests to subliminate all our interests in a bid to cosy up with America - in the idea that America would "remember her friends".

Well chaps, don't they seem to be a tad forgetful?

Anyway what should we do now that perfidious Washington has acted?

Firstly if we really are free traders, we should simply ignore this. Free trade was never really much of a boon for producers anyway, it's the wider choice that reaches consumers (leading to higher quality and lower prices) that's the boon. Is the US tarrif going to change this for the British? No. In fact in the short term it should be a boon to us as some of the steel that can't be sold in America will come to us at cheaper rates. This will mean cheaper cars and buildings. Sure, America's hurting herself, but that's her problem, not ours.

So no trade wars.

Another temptation that we shouldn't give in to is rushing into Europe's embrace. If we were not members of the European Union would the Steel industry be in better or worse shape? Think pollution directives, health and safety regulations and employee rights. The European Union has done far more to bludgeon industry of all weights than this shortsighted and hopefully temporary tarrif.

Zim Watch

The opposition have vowed to fight against a Mugabe win, at the moment through the courts. The opinion polls look bleak for Mugabe.

Rather chillingly Mugabe says that his biggest regret was extending the hand of reconciliation to "die-hard racists", read whites. Mugabe has over-ruled the Supreme Court on election rules, the MDC say they will challenge this.

Soldiers have complained about being forced to vote for Mugabe, while some in the higher echelons of the armed foreces have been making overtures towards the opposition.

Mugabe is slammed by former ally Jesse Jackson, while he is defended by his opponent in the Congo, Museveni. If the Americans should be able to rely on any sub-Saharan African government, it should be the aid dependent military foes of Mugabe in Uganda. So this is not good news for the West.

The UN have condemned the use of electoral bullying.

South Africa is mobilising troops.

Bring back the stupid party

Christopher Montgomery has put out an excellent article on "the nature of Conservative opposition to the Euro", calling for less thinking and more bloody minded opposition.

Big Blog News

I really don't like referring to other web logs, it makes us sound like the sort of self-referential nerds that the rest of the world suspects us to be. However this web log needs to be mentioned, Iain Dale of Politicos bookshop has started his own web log. This is quite a big deal as Mr Dale is rather a big deal. Politicos is a specialist political bookshop (and rumoured cafe, but that's never open) in Westminster which is part of the Conservative political circuit in London, along with the Red Lion and the IEA. OK, I'm rather boring.

Anyway Mr Dale, due to the nature of his work is privy to plenty of political gossip, and his column is worth checking and re-checking.

And, Iain, about that stuff on all this referring stuff, you can put me on your links page. I mean I was only joking about the self referential nerds.
Tuesday, March 05, 2002
I know he's not British, but Charley Reese has a very good column on Afghanistan pointing out that we ain't won yet.

Zim Watch

The commonwealth have failed to act, with even some of the model pupils in Africa strongly objecting to the role of the British media. The MDC is furious.

The MDC are being harrased (and torture is being alleged), although the vitriol unleashed at other opposition candidates may either point to frayed nerves or a national political culture which doesn't auger well if either MDC or Zanu win.

According to the Herald (the government mouthpiece - so be aware) the South African monitors have given the process a fairly clean bill of health.

Some interesting stuff on diamonds, and a Kenyan editorial on land ownership. If you think this is all about democratic accountability, think again.
Sunday, March 03, 2002

The Anglosphere and Walden Pond

Jim Bennet, founder of the Anglosphere cult, writes that India should be considered part of the Anglosphere, because ... Gandhi read Thoreau. Oh great, the fact that Gandhi spent most of the second half of his life attempting to lead his country away from such corrupting Western ideas as Industrialism doesn't count. No India is part of the Anglosphere because the father of the nation read about transcedentalism next to Walden pond.

Indian politics can be very roughly characterised as a battle between those who thought that Gandhi went far enough in his rejection of the west, and those who didn't think that he went far enough, the BJP (who in fact are connected to the group that murdered Gandhi). This may be all very admirable, but it does not make India part of the Anglosphere.

We really should do better than this

Anti war commentators, that is (now I'm not actually anti war, just British involvement in it, but this is shorthand). Mary Riddell's piece in the observer manages to combine European sneering with the sort of conspiracy theories that an average member of the West Virginia chapter of the anti-Bildesberg League would blush at.

The real argument against us going into Iraq is that it is not in Britain's interests. If Iraq has a Shia or Sunni government won't affect us. Neither will the status of Kurdistan, the security of Israel, the democratic legitimacy of the Baghdad regime, the possesion of chemical weapons without the means of delivery, the security of Kuwaiti or Saudi crowned heads or the Bush family honour. None of these conceivable or inconceivable motives affects us.

Indeed the only big reason we would have to be interested in the political state of the Gulf region would be oil. And that's because as a net exporter of expensively produced off-shore oil we have a vested interest in a high oil price. So if they want to turn off the spigots, Britain's in for a wind fall. Which isn't exactly America's interest.
For any history buffs out there, this treatment of the original Afghan adventure should be read. It may remind us that just because we've captured the cities, it doesn't mean that the war's over or that it has been won.

Re-match or new Fixture

So there's heavy fighting around Gardez. Now this is odd as there was heavy fighting there a month ago. This time its supposed to be remnants of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, last time it was merely disaffected local chiefs. So one of the following three scenarios must apply:

1) That we are being told the truth and that two bouts of heavy fighting a month apart in the same neck of the woods had nothing to do with each other. How likely is that?

2) That the Taliban was not really dead as we were breathlessly informed in November and has merely gone into retreat, as sources such as Stratfor predicted they would. This means that British troops had better be getting used to Pashtun food long after they've been forgotten by the government and the media.

3) That the allies are wary of any domestic opposition to the use of American or British troops to enforce Karzai's centralised rule and are therefore saying that every insurrectionist is a Taliban fighter. (A strong Pashtun-led central government backed by foreign muscle, now what recent regime tried to pull that off).

Now while either point 2 or point 3 may sound more plausible it overlooks one massive stumbling block. We are told that the two events are unconnected, so they must be. Got it?

Spring cleaning

It's going to be old links day today. Some links I meant to alert you to before but I never got round to:

An interview with Robert Kaplan - where he talks about his experiences among the Mujahadeen.

An old article by Steven Glover on the way the Sun has become less of a newspaper and more of an official propaganda sheet, at least when it leaves British shores.

Some extracts from Bin Laden's December video.

An article on how delicate Musharraf still is.

A very old opinion piece by libertarian icon Murray Rothbard on the futility of humanitarian action in Africa. Here he is on the Gulf War (1991, not know).

Quit worrying about oil, say the National Review, however they don't take it to it's logical conclusion by pointing out that we shouldn't be worrying about oil at all.

The Economist asks "how restive are Europe's Muslims?"

An interesting, and long, essay about how foreign politics can shape domestic politics. The first recorded article since 1985 that has actually made the SDP look interesting.

In defence of Al Jazera. Says it all, really.

Why's the Guardian no good any more? the New Statesman asks.

More later.
Saturday, March 02, 2002

Laissez les bon temps roulez

Looking through those old articles that I've stuffed away to read later, I come across an Economist article marvelling at the inexplicable weakness of the Euro. All possible explanations don't add up they puzzle. What about this one:

That France had been systematically printing more Francs than she was allowed to under the interim arrangements for the Euro. As there was a fixed exchange rate these Francs effectively became Euros, so the effects of a weakened currency could effectively be pooled with other countries, while the Francs would largely fuel prosperity in La France.

Of course this is totally implausible. Consider, the governor of the Banque de France, Trichet, wants to run the European Central Bank. What possible motive could he have for forcing the resignation of the present incumbent (who was under a sort-of obligation to resign after four years of appointment)? Sadly, Mr Trichet is at the moment helping police with their enquiries, on a fraud case, so he will be temporarily unavailable to fill the post of ECB governor that fell vacant due to the resignation of Wim Duisenberg partly because of the lack of confidence of the international markets.

And the French government, what possible motivation could they have for printing money? After all, their increasing regulation of the labour market - with the shortening working week the most obvious example - was bound to pick their economy up. And if you discount any possibility of a slowly inflating monetary supply, this would seem to be the only explanation of the slowly declining unnemployment. French unemployment has suffered a slight up tick in December, but that has nothing to do with the demise of the French control of the printing press, surely.

Of course this would explain the otherwise inexplicable constant fall in value of the Euro, more Euros were being produced, but it goes against one concrete pillar of European politics - that the French will never act in their own national interests if this means that they will inconvenience their partners. So that theory goes out of the window. I'm almost embarased that I was putting forward this theory two years ago.
For all Brits (or continentals) of a libertarian bent read Statewatch's expose of the Schengen Information System, and prepare to be appalled.
Will the Tories follow suit? Republicans hit out at NATO expansion.
It's not just us, France is extending her stay in Afghanistan.
Friday, March 01, 2002


I've been linked by the excellent Rantburg (although we don't exactly see eye to eye on things). I've also been mentioned as one of the only two "war blogs" left standing by Mark Byron, the other one being Rantburg.

Sounding like they used to

I've not been a big fan of Bernard Jenkins, the Tory defence spokesman, but his warnings on overstretch in Afghanistan actually makes him sound like the Tories used to. Now all we need to do is to object whenever our troops fight in the American interest. Or is that too much to ask?

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