The Turkish Government says it has officially agreed to take over command of the international security force in the Afghan capital, Kabul.
As the Brits were supposed to relinquish their responsibilities to the Germans two months ago, and were certainly not supposed to be increasing their presence, then this gift horse can be looked squarely in the mouth. However there is progress:
A cabinet statement said Turkey would assume the command from Britain for a period of six months at a date to be decided after talks involving the United Nations.
Officially agreed? What sort of progress? We're going to be directing Kabul's traffic for a long time to come.
Interviewing Le Stylo
John Laughland interviews Le Pen in The Spectator is quite good. It doesn't tell us much that is new, though. Le Pen is a complex character with more of a reactionary than a fascist bent. Even the Guardian runs pieces like that.
I must admit that John is a bit soft on him, which is a shame as his Intelligence Digest is always worth reading, as is his book The Tainted Source.
The piece about Le Pen in the resistance, if true, is overwhelmingly important to John who seems to think that those who supported Hitler were all evil and those who opposed him were good. So Le Pen is less of a fascist than Sartre or Mitterrand.
Bear with me
I lost my template, so the comments section and the margin spacing are up the creek. They will be back to normal as soon as the blogger engine is up today. The last post has been sitting in my Blogger account for 24 hours just taunting me, as I was stupid enough to not realise the error of my ways.
At least posting can resume.
Never ever claim that I'm not good value, for I bring you not one conspiracy theory, but two. The first is from the Telegraph. It is the most reliable source in the world, I must admit that I believed just about everything that Ambrose Evans Pritchard wrote about Clinton - but it is hardly the PLO's information office. However, I think that they go just about bonkers in this piece about "Sharon's plan is to drive Palestinians across the Jordan":
First, the country's three ultra-modern submarines would take up firing positions out at sea. Borders would be closed, a news blackout imposed, and all foreign journalists rounded up and confined to a hotel as guests of the Government.
A force of 12 divisions, 11 of them armoured, plus various territorial units suitable for occupation duties, would be deployed: five against Egypt, three against Syria, and one opposite Lebanon. This would leave three to face east as well as enough forces to put a tank inside every Arab-Israeli village just in case their populations get any funny ideas.
The expulsion of the Palestinians would require only a few brigades. They would not drag people out of their houses but use heavy artillery to drive them out; the damage caused to Jenin would look like a pinprick in comparison.
This wasn't written by Tom Clancey but by "leading Israeli historian Martin van Creveld".
Now the other bit of conspiracy theory is from the 1998 hearing on "U.S. interests in the Central Asian Republics" which I'm ploughing through at the moment. An absolute boon for geo-politics nerds like myself it has gems like this from the Assistant Secretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Energy:
Mr. BEREUTER. Switching geography slightly, what is the status of proposals by Unocal and others to build a gas pipeline through Afghanistan to Pakistan?
Mr. GEE. Perhaps the Unocal witness can give you more detail. I do understand that they do have an agreement with the government of Turkmenistan. They have also been in discussions with the various factions within Afghanistan through which that proposed pipeline would be routed.
The U.S. Government's position is that we support multiple pipelines with the exception of the southern pipeline that would transit Iran. The Unocal pipeline is among those pipelines that would receive our support under that policy.
I would caution that while we do support the project, the U.S. Government has not at this point recognized any governing regime of the transit country, one of the transit countries, Afghanistan, through which that pipeline would be routed. But we do support the project.
They've "not at this point recognized any governing regime", at this point? Any way the rest of the document is much drier than this, and does not really give much scope for conspiracists. After all if the Bush bunch really were in it for themselves why would they want to increase the world supply of oil, and hence lower prices of Texas oil? And if they were interested in an oil route over Afghanistan why would they break up the Taliban who for their many faults were a unifying and stabilising force, and bring back the warlords - who weren't. Or perhaps shrub is trying to stymie any route out, maybe that's the theory.
However, if there is anyone who doesn't think that there is not a strong energy element in US (or European) foreign policy in that part of the world. It is particularly informative about America's strategic competition with Iran and Europe's unwillingness to play along with this anti-Iranianism.
Mark Steyn jumps the Shark
That patron saint of the warbloggers, Mark "cutting edge cultural commentator" Steyn comes with this gem:
TO be honest, it hit me like a bolt out of the blue. We were in the Gladiators dressing room just before the show when Ulrika handed me the press release: "I am no longer part of this relationship."
Gosh, I didn't know that Gladiators was still on and Ulrika was still in it.
The problem with sounding demotic is that you sadly have to keep up with the times. Pop cultural references can age pretty quickly and soon you stop being cutting edge and look like an aging dad trying to dance to his children's favourite album. It diminishes dignity.
In television the term for a show that mysteriously stopped being trend setting and started to be cringe making was "jumping the shark". Mark Steyn would tell you it refered to some episode in Happy Days, but then again he probably thinks that the show is still filming and wearing a leather jacket, putting your thumbs up and saying "heeeeey" is the height of cool.
Credit's all due to Christopher Montgomery for pointing this out.
Is Le Pen a man of the Left?
Mark Steyn states:
M. Le Pen is an economic protectionist in favour of the minimum wage, lavish subsidies for France's incompetent industries and inefficient agriculture; he's anti-American and fiercely opposed to globalization. In other words, he's got far more in common with Naomi Klein than with me.
I'm surprised that I haven't seen the "Le Pen is a lefty" spiel go further on the bolggosphere, but I do expect it to do so. So for the sake of a fair balance let me point out that:
He calls for the abolition of inheritance tax
He calls for the slashing of other taxes (no matter how implausibly)
He calls for deregulation of much of commercial life
He was elected as an MP for the Poujadiste's during their tax revolt
And this is before you look at social issues (immigration, abortion, working mothers, etc, etc). It may be that he is not as economically liberal as in the 1980s (the same goes for M Chirac, both Le Pen and Chirac were outspoken economic liberals during the Mitterrand years), but the right - and I include myself in this - have to accept that he is a right winger.
The problem with catagorising Le Pen, as Justin Raimondo also showed, is that you really cannot do so simply. That said, he's a complex character. The orthodoxy that he is simply some Hitler worshipping Nazi is also far too simplistic, and attempts by revisionists such as Steyn and Raimondo to coax out his Lefty and Libertarian strains are welcome.
What was he doing here, anyway?
One of the good things about this web logging lark is that you can say what everyone else thinks is totally bonkers. So here goes.
I know that Damilola Taylor's tragic murder has nothing much to do with British foreign policy, but what precisely was he doing here?
It seems that his family came over here so that his brother could get free NHS treatment. In the meantime they lived in a taxpayer provided council flat (in an area where there is a long waiting list from native born Londoners of all colours) and with the children going to publicly funded schools. Although I haven't seen it in the papers, the Taylor family did seem to be surviving and there is a good chance that this was not all from money transfers from Damilola's father in Lagos.
And what had the Taylors actually contributed to the British exchequer before living off the taxpayer like this? I can't find any evidence that any of them were actually working over here.
And then there is Anna Climbie who came over here to take advantage of Britain's education system (she didn't but the intention was there). And it looks like her parents are going to be suing the state for a few hundred thousand for the parent's neglect. And Bunmi Shagaya who was in our school system when she drowned in France (who's father, like Damilola's also came from Nigeria when his daughter drowned).
Every death is a tragedy, especially when so young. However, the point is how many African children are we paying to educate in our schools and treat in our hospitals. I don't blame the parents, except if they want to sue us, hell if I was in the same situation I would probably take the free healthcare and education on offer. But there certainly is a pattern here, it seems like the tip of the iceberg.
This is not a cultural, even less a racial, problem. More an economic one. We know that the areas that they are ending up are the ones with the hardest pressed schools that we are always told are underfunded - or as David Blunkett put it "swamped".
Can we really afford this? Maybe this is an isolated phenomena, although anecdotal evidence - admittedly unreliable - suggests otherwise. Where are the statistics on this?
Now Jim, wouldn't it be easier for your readers to do this if I had a permanent link from your site, and then I could link to you and we'd both be happy? Of course then there wouldn't be a baker's dozen. (For others who want a link from me just permanently link to me and I'll link back. That's it).
Our Partners in Europe
Five British plane-spotters were found guilty of spying charges in Greece today and jailed for three years. And they are ramming through a common arrest warrant with these thugs?
You're either with us...
On the Irish theme, here's some Irish reaction on ther IRA's role in global terrorist networks.
Am I the only one who thinks that this hearing is perhaps designed as a softening up process for America to stop her sponsorship of the "moderate" Sinn Fein leadership?
No, Le Pen's not one of the nice guys
What is The meaning of Le Pen asked Justin Raimondo, and the answer? Market nationalism in France.
Justin has been pointing to various up and coming politicians and pointing out that they are democratic nationalists with sane ideas on economics. Kostunica in Serbia, Koizumi in Japan, Berlusconi in Italy and Haider in Austria. These are not baby eating monsters, and Justin's thesis that these are a new and positive force is usually spot on. But why should Le Pen be included with the good guys? I think that Justin may have uncharecteristicly called it wrong.
Well, perhaps that's taking things a bit too far.
Justin points out that Le Pen's political roots are in the Poujadist tax revolt. This doesn't mean that he is simply a free marketeer with a bee in his bonnet about immigrants. One must remember that he became an MP for the Poujadistes in his twenties. The Poujadistes were a spontaneous movement that came together in a hurry, this was not a long established party with a "fast stream" for up and coming young ambitious politicos.
A movement like this would be stuffed full of provincial businessmen and other pillars of the community. In short, the last place you would find France's youngest ever MP.
I would suggest that Le Pen must have had some sort of history. In his interview with the Spectator he says that he joined the resistance at sixteen. This may be true or it may be false, but it indicates someone who took an early interest in politics. He also became the leader of the radical-right students at Paris University, at a time and a place where radical right did not mean reading tracts on the privatisation of money.
Justin makes a lot of his views on cutting taxes, but says little on his ideas for increasing public spending. Could this indicate that Le Pen is more of a populist who never expects to get in?
He was also convicted for singing Nazi songs in the 1970s. Could this also tell us something. As would his calls for enforcing "national preference in the employment market".
So while the Poujadist connection certainly tells us that Le Pen can't be explained away as a simple fascist, he can't be explained away as a Gallic libertarian either.
While I think that the result is welcome because "it throws a dirty big rock in the European pool"; I don't want this chap - or his would be immitators in the BNP - ruling here. They are not market nationalists, they are something a great deal more frightening.
So the Peace Process is a success?
This is from an Irish Republican on the Red Action Discussion page, a British onetime Trotskyite group who have allowed themselves to be used as a front for the IRA.
It's fairly clear that the chap is a strong supporter of Gerry Adams, and is responding to a more millitant Republican:
1. "Fianna Fail and the Sticks, bunch of traitors that they are, at least they never gave up any of their guns."
And here's the answer:
Traitors they are, and they didn't give up their guns. Fair enough. By implication you are suggesting that the PIRA have. Who have these guns been "given up" to? No weapons have been handed over. To suggest so is misleading, and if it had happened it would have been nigh on impossible to keep the rank and file on board, particularily in areas such as Ardyone.
Now, there is no suggestion that this chap is anything more than rank and file (and he may not even be that), but this is the real thinking that is going on in Republican circles. Remember this when the "peace process" crumbles.
I must say that apart from their disgusting attitude on Northern Ireland, Red Action are probably the most switched on left wing group in Britain today, and their analysis of both the rise of the right and the unrepresented nature of the Working Class today is spot on.
 The "original" IRA, or more accurately anti-treaty forces, who once they had taken over the Irish Free State cut loose the more rabid members who wanted to continue fighting the "Brits". Now the main political party in Ireland.
 The "Official IRA". These chaps gave up the armed struggle some time ago and are now either involved in left wing politics, gangsterism or both.
 Provisional IRA. This is the lot that run Sinn Fein and whom Gerry Adams represents.
 A particularly divided and strongly antagonistic area of North Belfast.
For all our sneers and jeers at France, she has proved herself again to be an 'important country'. Nationalist and anti-immigrant politicians have been chalking up extensive gains in countries such as Italy, Austria, Holland and Denmark but it is not until Monsieur Le Pen gets a sniff of the French presidency that the entire world gets an attack of the vapours.
British pundits are already postulating about the 'Lepenisation' of European politics and whilst I think they are somehwat behind the curve on that, I can't help noticing that Our Glorious Leader has launched a campaign that is tantamount to a state of national emergency about crime and David Blunkett echoes Lady T by using the term 'swamped' when talking about asylum-seekers (who used to be called 'immigrants', you know).
Mere coincidence that these are the two issues upon which the Front National has ridden the electoral tiger? Looks like the 'Lepenisation' of British politics is what the leader-writers should have been worrying about.
A little over a year ago, I was walking through Central London and, as I passed by an office of the British Tourist Board, I was stopped in my tracks by a notice in the window advertising St.Patrick's Day. I began to steam. It was only by virtue of a sterling act of self-control that I did not march into the office and confront the management with my indignation (brandishing a brolly!).
It was not that incident alone, I must add. Years of exposure to anti-English sentiment and Celtic whining and Fenian propoganda had left my nerves more than a little jangled and I suppose the above-mentioned advert was the proverbial straw. Somebody should start a fightback, I thought. Turned out that somebody was me.
Using the best traditions of my extant opponents of the left, I decided that a good and civilised way to do this was by 'raising awareness' of the the Patron Saint of England, St.George. I began to ask people if they knew the date of St.George's Day. The results were disappointing.
"Er....sometime in November.....Er...Dunno.....Er.....is it in February?.....St.Who?"
This would never do, it had to change and the only way you ever change things is by starting the ball rolling yourself. I decided to hold a St.George's Day party in London. Through a series of connected begging phonecalls I managed to secure an extremely shi-shi nightclub in Central London* and I set about marketing the event by using the extensive e-mail lists of various other members of the Libertarian community.
I must say that it was not without some trepidation that I pursued this project. I had no idea what I might be starting and I was very worried that it might attract the sort of neanderthal nationalists that a) I do not want to be associated with and b) would kill the baby in its crib. However, by stressing the 'patriotic' nature of the event rather than the nationalist nature, that unwholesome eventuality was avoided and the party went swimmingly well, attracting all manner of interesting and civilised people, and a heartening number of congratulatory and encouraging e-mails from people who, for various reasons, were unable to attend.
The event was so successful that I resolved to try to make it an annual event and, on Tuesday evening last, and with the assistance of my fellow Samizdata blogger, Tom Burroughes, another St.George's Day party was held in Fulham. Again it was a great success; a wonderful party that was well-attended and appreciated. We are on the way to making this a regular fixture on the London social scene.
There is no grand macro-political motive to this event but there are quite a few worthwhile micro-political (or cultural) motives, the most enjoyable of which is the way that mere mention of St.George leaves Guardianista types squirming with discomfort. On that basis alone, it is worth it.
*The chap who owned the nightclub was a gentleman called Piers Adam who I only spoke to on the telephone having no idea who he was. He was wildly enthusiastic about celebrating St.George's Day and offered his premises at cost only. I found out later that he is something of a 'celeb' and was Best Man at the wedding of film director Guy Ritchie. So for my efforts, I now claim 2 degrees of separation from Madonna
Collective Guilt - a dodgy concept
Why do all Libertarians believe in the essentially fascist concept of collective guilt? Of course not all of them do, not even most of them, but if the concept of all Libertarians believing in something is so outrageous it should show how stupid the concept of collective guilt is.
Andrew Dodge doesn't seem to think so. He lambasts Iain Dale for condemning the Israeli's "war of terror" on the Palestinians. (My response is that I don't care either way, so don't get me in that Jews'n'Muslims gig). Now he didn't deny that the Israeli's were launching a war of terror, just that the idea was in itself wrong.
I'm not writing this to defend Iain Dale, who is perfectly grown up enough to defend himself, but to show the weakness in Dodge's arguments. Let it be said that the left-wing pro-Palestinians excuse Palestinian attrocities with the same preference for emotion over logic as Mr Dodge.
How can someone who claims to be an admirer of Lady T come out in favour of Palestinian terrorists?
I hardly see support for Israel as a central tenet of Thatcherism, any more than support for the war on drugs.
The more important part is that Iain Dale talks about the "Palestinians" and not the PLO or Hamas, his only mention of the terrorists is to brand them "insane". So, it's alright to launch a terrorist war against the "Palestinians" for the crimes of the PLO? This seems to me to be fascist, in the sense that you see the community - and not the individual - as the repository of wisdom and sin.
To claim that they are taking out their infrastructure or that the civillian casualties are sadly unavoidable is one thing, but to be an apologist for what you perceive as a terrorist campaign against an entire people - well its not exactly the height of enlightenment thought.
Israeli citizens have the right to live their lives without the constant threat of being killed by suicidal/homicidal fanatics with bombs strapped to themselves.
Yes they do. However as the line "a terror campaign against the Palestinians - not just over the last three weeks, but for many years" would suggest a slightly longer term view than the start of the suicide bombing campaign. The suicide bombing campaign happened long after the Israeli occupation, and can properly be ascribed to be a reaction to Israeli policies. So when Iain Dale is condemning policies in place "many years" ago, it can't be claimed that these policies were a reaction to suicide bombers who were not a factor "many years" ago.
Iain, have you forgotten that Palestinians cheered on the streets upon hearing the news of the 9/11 attacks?
As Iain has mentioned "their cheering in the streets when anything bad happens to the USA or Israel" I think it is safe to assume that he has not forgotten. Still do these deluded acts of free expression by a minority justify a terror campaign against a whole people? Why should it be any more of a factor than the Palestinians who gave blood?
Thinking like that is the same as thinking like Bin Laden when he sees all Americans as guilty for the occupation of Saudi Arabia or the starvation of Iraq. And on the (ethically worthless) collective guilt front he's got a stronger point, as the average American has more chance to vote for his President than the average Palestinian.
Narrower still and narrower
Christopher Montgomery's latest article is mentioned on Stephen Chapman's Daddy Warblogs. He doesn't like it:
My problem with his position generally is that, in the grand scheme of things - and I am, unashamedly, interested in the 'grand scheme of things' - British foreign policy by itself isn't worth dick.
A rather odd observation considering that the world's fourth richest country has not had its own foreign policy on anything important since Suez.
Now, OK - if you want the UK to be another Switzerland, existing in a state of near-perfect isolated sovereignty, then fine. I don't agree with you, but then I'm more interested in what nations represent and what they stand for than any purely nationalistic sentiment. I am most definitely not a 'my country right or wrong' kind of guy.
This is one area where in fact Mr Montgomery and I disagree. Mr Montgomery is a "die hard" of the Churchill or Powell tradition who believes in an imperial and independent Britain. Myself I am more of a Little Englander, who while aware of Britain's ability to project power think that it is simply not worth the cost.
So I suspect that the question is aimed at myself. What is the point of a foreign policy that doesn't have a moral tone to it? What are we doing with an army when all they do is defend us?
You could take it a bit further and ask what is the point of a police force when all it does is to protect our life, liberty and property? Shouldn't there be a moral tone to policing, improving people's morality by outlawing rum, Romanism and sodomy? You can insert three of your own vices of choice (for all my alcoholic Catholic readers, I have nothing against Rum and Romanism). Of course some of us may say, and indeed I do, that the police should merely concentrate on protecting us from others and letting us look after our own morality.
This idea of a core competancy also applies to foreign and defence policy. If you want morality in the Middle East you can always send money to the Israeli embassy, or even go over there yourself - just don't spend my tax money or propose to put me at a greater risk for your morality. The sole aim of British foreign policy should be to provide security for British subjects on British soil, the morality we can look after ourselves.
What I want to know is this: suppose we had complete control of our own foreign policy. What would we do?
Perhaps we wouldn't get in the history books, but Britain could be more secure for less money. The prosperity and safety of her citizens may not be a grand goal, but it is a worthy one.
And then there would be the ability to run our own domestic politics. To take a small example, we used to have a negligible heroin problem, because we allowed Doctor's to prescribe it. However, to fit in with the American war on drugs (it wasn't called that then) we clamped down on doctor prescription. A nation that had some pride in itself would not have sacrificed all those young men and women. Similarly we don't have those wonderfully batty debates on the death penalty because we are not allowed to reintroduce it under the stipulations of the European Convention of Human Rights, a condition of our membership of the EU.
Many of my readers may not think legalising drugs or reintroducing the rope are good things, however they are domestic issues. Yet foreigners are telling us what we may and may not do.
What are our compromises with Europe and the US preventing us from doing off our own bat?
There are plenty, but let's start with the European Union, NATO, ECHR, the UN, OECD, the Dublin Convention...
Or is this splendid sovereignty to be an end in itself?
No, the national interest is the end. Sovereignty is simply the only way of attaining it.
I simply don't see this happening. We are already in psychological 'decline' mode, not quite as decadent as the Continent, but heading that way. Sovereign foreign policy is for nations that believe in themselves and believe in the things they say they stand for - in other words, it's for nations like the US and Israel, nations psychologically different from ourselves.
China and Iran believe in themselves. Should we follow them in the same way as we follow the US and Israel?
Britain has a secure perch in the North Atlantic and a surprisingly rich economy. She has the infrastructure for an independent foreign policy, the mentality will follow of its own accord.
Some comment on the Andrew Alexander piece from the forum. The writer is anonymous for now, but if he wishes to put his name to it I'm sure he'll ask:
I worked for Andrew Alexander, on and off, for ten years and like to think that my isolationist scepticism about the Cold War influenced his. He was always an ultra-hard-line free trader (unlike me) and America-disliker, but he had few positive enthusiasms or loyalties and a sketchy knowledge of history and political doctrine. This rendered uneasy his efforts to meld his unoriginal, sub-Powellite view of British foreign policy with an un-Enochian hostility to any government economic intervention whatever. (Even in the first paragraph of this screed he betrays ignorance or carelessness by implying that Saul of Tarsus set out to Damascus on a truth-seeking pilgrimage, rather than being confounded while on his way to persecute believers.)
This is an example of over-confident retro-history. It was not obvious in 1945 that Stalin's Soviet Union would remain placatory towards the western allies, even if he had hesitated to tread on Hitler's toes when he was trying to industrialise the country and reform its agriculture in the 1930s. Even so, by 1940 Stalin had gobbled up half Poland and the Baltic republics and tried to recover Finland for Russia. These might be seen as corrective reversions to a Tsarist idea of natural frontiers, but Stalin had also been very active behind the scenes on the Republican side of the Spanish Civil War, and had squared up to the Japanese Emperor over Manchuria. After VE Day he went beyond what had been allotted to him in Greece and pawed the ground over Berlin. The creeping takeovers of eastern European countries were not vigorously opposed by Britain and the USA, while Stalin had strong local communist support in France and Italy (and, potentially, in the Allied occupation zones in Germany).
Alexander maintains that it was palpably foolish to envisage the Red Army sweeping into the Channel ports and menacing Britain, but dictators do toy with follies. Besides, such overstretch was not Stalin's sole option. He could have imagined an Austrianised or Finlandised western Europe, formally capitalist but refusing to perpetuate the wartime alliance with the USA and maybe forming a collective security apparatus and customs union which would freeze out both superpowers. This would have constituted a more convincing buffer zone than a clutch of communised Balkan and Slavic nations.
"Nor was he [Stalin] a devout ideologue dedicated to world communism. He was far more like a cruel oriental tyrant."
Like, say, Genghis Khan?
Truman, Eisenhower and the seasoned diplomatic advisers they employed (not just Dulles but Marshall, Kennan, Acheson and Rusk) therefore adopted a sensible policy of testing Stalin's resolve without goading him. He let Yugoslavia become semi-detached (perhaps seeing Tito as setting an encouraging example to communisant France and Italy) and he allowed the airlift to beat the Berlin blockade. Having in his own mind attained nuclear parity, allowed a free hand with Comecon and the Warsaw Pact, Stalin rested on his laurels, as did his successors. Containment worked: it kept the West alert, chiefly through immense nuclear superiority, but without beggaring itself in a conventional arms race. Gradually the ground of competition shifted from military to economic turf. Khruschev boasted during his 1959 visit to the USA that the USSR would surpass it in prosperity by 2000, and the Pentagon found this credible. But Khruschev also liberalised the Soviet Union, and despite some unease about the treatment of Jews and dissidents it no longer seemed worth confronting in arms in the name of freedom- not when the USA, after Eisenhower, was itself growing more and more overtly aggressive overseas in pursuit of profit.
The Cold War was global, but Alexander only discusses the windswept plains of Poland and northern Germany in detail. Under Kennedy America resumed in earnest the western Pacific policy of the Roosevelts. Kennedy was encouraged by the Sino-Soviet split and the possession of docile strategic assets- Taiwan, Japan and South Korea- to take up the threads of America's drive for predominant influence over South East Asia- from its aircraft carrier, the Philippines, with Australia as a gung-ho junior partner. The "domino theory" was the pretext for this. Khruschev and Brezhnev were remarkably tolerant of US meddling in the region, probably because they hoped Mao would be discredited. By now the America of Warfare/Welfare was the provocateur in the Cold War, but apart from the fortuitous and overblown missile crisis of 1962, the Russians were becoming too exhausted to gird up their loins against the Asian neo-imperialist. Alexander's perception of the showdown as a sham is indisputably true only from about 1963 onward.
There's also an interesting discussion on the Second World War within the comments section.
In case you weren't told...
British troops in secret hunt for Taliban. HUNDREDS of British soldiers, possibly special forces, are taking part in a secret search-and-destroy mission high in the mountains along the Afghan-Pakistan border.
At Last, a reason to vote for Le Pen
Le Pen pledges to quit EU. He may be a racist monster but as Neil Kinnock says "It throws a great dirty rock into the European political pool."
And what's wrong with that?
Who's the Daddy?
My biggest ever daily hit rate (by 4) yesterday. Mostly due to Justin Raimondo. Now this is bigger than Glenn Reynolds managed, but he did do it over two days, the two highest - until now - days that I've got. Will Justin do better? The signs look good.
Oh, by the way, Le Bloguer is linking to me.
Questions on Le Pen
Put your questions to the BBC's William Horseley, here. Questions close at half past two. Hurry, hurry.
Peter Briffa points out that:
Le Pen clearly is a nasty piece of work, but the liberalists do tend to cry wolf a bit. The name-calling of all their oponents as racist, extremist, and xenophobic does create a law of diminishing returns, you know.
And I do think Andrew Dodge goes a little too far in his Vive Le Pen.
Meanwhile David Carr over at the "critically rational libertarian" Samizdata says that the far right tide has some way to go. I personally don't think so, and I think that the natural ebbing of the far right will be mis-sold to us as a triumph of our complacent elites.
Over at antiwar.com
At my old scratching ground two columns worthy of note. Firstly Justin Raimondo has pointed a large number of hits my way. It’s far more than last time as well. Were are all his readers coming from? Anyway, if you’re among that small minority of web surfers who haven’t had a look at his column, see what he has to say about Jenin.
And my improvement, Christopher Montgomery, has an introductory course in Americoscepticism. This is quite a nice little summary of what’s wrong with the right. It would be interesting to see the reaction of the overwhelmingly pro-American British bloggers, as well as those Americans like Andrew Dodge, Iain Murray (well almost) and David Ross who take a close interest in British affairs for one reason or another.
Apres le deluge
An embittered old man with extensive fascist links in his youth sets up an anti-establishment party with authoritarian overtones and rocks the political establishment.
But Mitterrand wasn’t such a bad cove after all.
You’d think that after we sacrificed so much to cleanse them of fascists they’d be grateful. But, no, they go and elect one.
Firstly he’s not going to win. Turnout is going to be large and most leftwingers will find themselves voting for Chirac (if there are any French socialists reading this, you deserved this). In fact if Le Pen gets over 25% it will be an achievement.
However this has a big lesson for the liberal minded pro-Europeans (most pro-Europeans tend to fall into that category). If Britain is to embed every important governmental function within Brussels, what’s to stop the machinery falling into the wrong hands? Precious little.
Austria (junior coalition partner), Italy (two junior coalition partners) and now France – that’s a pretty bad track record for Far Right breakthroughs. I know that none of these guys could be judged to be down the line fascists, especially in Austria, but these are not marginal countries but in at least two cases are more in the heart of Europe than we are.
This may very well be a high watermark for the European right – for in the EU where are extreme nationalists going to make more gains. Belgium, the Netherlands and Ireland are the only three countries where extreme nationalists have the electoral machinery necessary for a breakthrough – and none of these countries is particularly large.
However, this may be the high water mark for this particular tide, ten or fifteen years hence there may be another tide like this. What can we do then? Nothing if we’re in Europe.
So all the Andrew Marrs and David Aaronovitches calls for a federal Europe may sound very trendy and liberal, but they may not fully intend the consequences of their silly calls.
Simply put British participation in a Federal Europe vastly increases the chances of far right control of Britain in a generation’s time.
Now, dear liberals, is that what you really want?
And it hits the fan
If the early results are to be believed Le Pen has beaten Jospin. With half the results counted:
Jacques Chirac: 19.74%
Jean-Marie Le Pen: 17.35%
Lionel Jospin: 15.31%
It is a 2% gap between Jospin and Le Pen, so it could close.
What will be the effect of Le Pen getting through to the second round? Firstly it will realign, temporarily, French politics. A Le Pen - Chirac fight can not be a straight left-right fight. (Oddly both Le Pen and Chirac were outspoken free marketeers in the 1980s and early 1990s, not that many Libertarians will point you to this). The fight will be a populist taking on the establishment. It will affect many issues, from crime to immigration to taxes. But it will be Europe that most affects us here.
While the fight will cut across left and right, Le Pen is a eurosceptic and Chirac is not. This is almost certain to become a dividing line in the election, and it will be one of the areas where Le Pen will try to win voters from the Eurosceptic left.
The play offs have almost finished and it looks like it will be the souvereigntistes vs internationalistes has started in France. Of course the souvereigntistes could not have wished for a worse center forward, but they have reached the final. Will this be 1983 or 1988? And does anyone get the metaphor (clue, it's football, soccer for my American readers).
Why independence matters
Bruce Anderson writes an eloquent plea for the legalisation of heroin. This bit is the crux of the article:
Then the Americans agitated for a tough UN Convention on heroin. Like most proposals to erode our national sovereignty, this appeared to emanate from high-mindedness; it is not easy to generate the political courage to dissent from a widely supported proposal to tackle drug abuse. So the UK agreed, thus creating a heroin problem and a crime problem.
Of course Britain had a working, home grown answer to the heroin problem. It would not necesarily work everywhere, but it worked here. And now? Because of international, mainly American, pressure we changed our policies and largely created our present crime problem.
This is why independence actually matters.
Better late than never
It's the debate on the Middle East the Commons held on Tuesday. Some of the best contributions were from Gerald Kaufman, John Gummer, Andrew McKay and Julian Lewis. If you like emmotive speeches, then George Galloway's is your thing. A lot has been said about Mr Galloway, and I would tend ot agree with those who say that his speeches are no longer new, however he does know his stuff on the Middle East and his speeches are the best exposition of the secular Palestinian cause (a cause that excites me as much as year-old brie) that I have seen anywhere else. Far better than that piece of excrement Tom Paulin (notice to overworked bloggers, that reference has nothing to do with suicide bombers in cinemas).
Gerald Kaufman's speech was the one that was reported in the news when he referred to Sharon as a war criminal. Now it is often being reported as being critical to Israel, but as I have said before he is doing no such thing:
I became a friend of Israel when I was eight days old, and I have the scar to prove it.
Well, maybe that has nothing to do with the debate, but how could I not put in that line?
However Kaufman's interests are those of the Israeli Labour Party and his intention is not to be moderate on the Middle East but to unseat the democratically elected government of Israel. In his speech he mentions Sharon twenty times. Isn't that a bit of a fixation he has there?
I would suggest that Kaufman's views, and background, are probably more that of the BBC than George Galloway's. Israel perhaps suffers from BBC bias (hey - I know that the American press is biased the other way) not because its journalists are antagonistic towards Israel - but that they are antagonistic towards the more right wing elements within Israel. I never remember the BBC being critical when Israel had Labour governments.
You may also want to read the Foreign Affairs Question Time on the same day. Not that much of note in there, alas.
Since we don't have the fundamentalist nutters who think that Israel will be their tool to end the world off and bring the second coming the main claim it has on our affections is that it is somehow more humane is that it is the Only Democracy in the Middle East(TM) (look don't count Iran in this democracy in the Middle East thing, I'm not sure why, just don't confuse things). Image is massively important. Lots of dead bodies somewhat tarnishes the image of the Only Democracy in the Middle East(TM).
Web Log Ping Pong
Natalie Solent asks, "can hereally think that Peter Briffa retroactively lamenting his own failure to suicide-bomb Paulin while watching a bad Spielberg movie is quite the same as someone saying "Jews should be shot" to an Arab newspaper in a time of rampant Arab terrorism against Jews?"
But, your honour, I didn't mention Peter Briffa once in my piece and that was not the column to which I was refering. But just to be certain, I don't think that not very good jokes about blowing up Tom Paulin count in the same league of infamy as the same as depriving people of water, murdering people because of their religion or blowing up the holiest city of the world's second largest religion. Tom Paulin's comments I would count in there.
I'm sure that Mrs Solent has got this confused with another column, but just in case.
The Eurosceptic case for Brown
What is the biggest threat to our independence? The EU.
What is the next big step that the EU has in mind for Britain? Economic and Monetary Union.
Why can't they just impose it? Because there has to be a referendum, at least in this parliament.
Will it be a fair referendum? Almost certainly not.
Who's pushing this? Tony Blair.
Can he be toppled before the election? Only by one man, Gordon Brown.
Tony Blair's continued presence in 10 Downing Street is the biggest current single threat to British sovereignty. Just as it was right for Eurosceptics to push for the Tories, so is it right for them to push for Brown's success and so Blair's failure. Of course, Brown may be as bad as Blair on the EU - but it is highly unlikely that he will be worse.
So let's bite our lips at Brown's lunatic tax increases and flat earth approach to public services. Its time for us to join in battle with the Luddites.
Was the Soviet threat bogus?
Andrew Alexander argues in the Spectator that the Cold War was a Bad Thing. The crux of the argument is in this paragraph:
It was a Manichean doctrine, seductive in its simplicity. But the supposed military threat was wholly implausible. Had the Russians, though themselves devastated by the war, invaded the West, they would have had a desperate battle to reach and occupy the Channel coast against the Allies, utilising among other things a hastily rearmed Wehrmacht. But, in any case, what then? With a negligible Russian navy, the means of invading Britain would somehow have had to be created. Meanwhile Britain would have been supplied with an endless stream of men and material from the United States, making invasion virtually hopeless.
It must be said that I do not agree with this, although I am naturally inclined more to this realist inspired revisionism than the pro-Soviet pap that comes to us from many of the more left revisionists. Firstly the Soviet Union had not disarmed and would have been helped by a large amount of sympathisers - especially in France. It was true that getting across the Channel would have been difficult, but Britain would have been brought back to the stage that it was in after the fall of France - hardly a time of comfort and ease. It all rather reminds me of Neil Kinnock's line in the 1987 election that if Russia had invaded then they would have been met by a determined resistance movement. He didn't seem to get the point that we didn't want to get in with the resistance in the first place.
That being said, many of my ex-colleagues at antiwar.com, including my improvement Christopher Montgomery, are Cold War sceptics - and mainly from the right. I am not as settled and convinced in my support for the battle as I used to be, although I am still on the side of orthodoxy.
Andrew Alexander also makes the claim, that Stalin was not interested in world revolution. He had a funny way of showing it. Support for Ho Chi Minh in North Vietnam was hardly meddling in the traditional Russian spheres of influence nor was it the occupation of a formerly devastating enemy. Nor for that matter did the siege of West Berlin or the overthrow of the elected Czechoslovak government come under this description.
However there are two interesting and good points:
The fact that the Cold War continued after Stalin’s death and succession does not, as some would claim, prove the Soviets’ unchanging global ambitions. The invasion of Hungary in 1956 and of Czechoslovakia in 1968 were brutal acts, but were aimed at protecting Moscow’s buffer zone — much as the United States had always protected her interests in Central and South America. The same may be said of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1980 (as a result of which, with the help of the CIA, the Taleban came into existence). In none of these cases was there a territorial threat to the West.
Of course Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan were no business of the West except as part of a general roll back, which is why we should treat any breastbeating over our "abandonment" of Afghanistan. We helped the resistance to the Soviets to keep Russia weak, not out of any fellow feeling for the Afghans. So we didn't abandon the Afghans, we merely concluded a mutually beneficial arrangement with certain factions within their nation. We had, and have, no obligation to them.
Similarly if the Soviet Union were not interested in a global presence, and more specifically domination of the UK, then these events would not have mattered to us, in the same way that the treatment of the Kosovo Albanians or the Krajina Serbs would not normally affect us.
And a last piece of wisdom:
One can, of course, understand why few anywhere in the West want the orthodox view of the Cold War overturned. If that were to happen, the whole edifice of postwar politics would begin to crumble.
Could it be that the heavy burden of postwar rearmament was unnecessary, that the transatlantic alliance actually imperilled rather than saved us?
Of course many of the main elements of our political settlement were decided by Cold War sentiments. The European Union chief among them. If there had been no Cold War would the Conservatives and the right-wing Labour MPs have been so keen to join the wretched thing? The idea that the British had to be in so as to inject some spine into our European allies was seductive, and actually rather succesful. No cold war, no EU? Almost certainly.
Now, we don't seem to have a Cold War on at the moment, so no EU? Sadly not.
Apart from killing millions of innocent people...
... what is so bad about genocide? Asks David Ross. Now, I don't think he's joking.
In short, the warbloggers want to eradicate a religious culture that counts many millions of people as followers. The analogy would be the Spanish-Portuguese-and-Catalan reconquista: to paraphrase Ann Coulter, killing the leaders and converting the rest to secularism. How is that not genocide?
And why complain?
It should at least be funny
Is calling for the indiscriminate murder of a lot of Muslims, because they are Muslims, a jolly old laugh? Or does it show genocidal tendancies?
Well I don't think that Natalie Solent would ever think that killing people would be a source of humour, but she does gamely try to defend it as such.
Replying to three examples of over-enthusiastic war bloggers put out by myself the defence was that these things were totally understandable, and hilarious. Not to be taken as wanting death to Arabs, oh no.
Firstly she claims that one comment about respecting Islam by killing Muslims is actually sarcastic. I doubt she would be so charitable to that piece of excrement Tom Paulin, who would probably claim the same about killing religious American Jews, for the self same reasons that the brothers Judd cheer on Israeli killings.
Then she says that another piece about killing the bomber's entire family was actually against genocide. Like the bit where he almost, although not quite, calls for the Israelis to clear the West Bank of Palestinians by cutting off their water. Of course this is a more in sorrow than anger piece as USS Clueless says:
I guess I better make something more clear. No, I don't expect Israel to go out and start slaughtering the families of bombers. That's not the point I was trying to make.
The point was that when you back someone into a corner and leave them only the alternatives of being killed or lashing out violently, then you better make sure to have plans for violence. If the only way they can survive is to become monsters, then you shouldn't be surprised if they do.
So it's not advocating acting like monsters, its saying they have no alternative. I suppose that's a new twist on things. Gerry Adams didn't advocate bombing innocent civilians, he just claimed that there was no alternative. Sorry, one person doesn't see the difference.
And then there was the piece de resistance, that the call for bombing Mecca "promotes moderation rather than the reverse". It's quite neat, if a bit implausible, so you could read it. You see it was just putting out a meme, or an idea to think about. Which would not explain Rich Lowry's follow up posting:
Lots of sentiment for nuking Mecca. Moderates opt for something more along these lines: “Baghdad and Tehran would be the likeliest sites for a first strike. If we have clean enough bombs to assure a pinpoint damage area, Gaza City and Ramallah would also be on list. Damascus, Cairo, Algiers, Tripoli and Riyadh should be put on alert that any signs of support for the attacks in their cities will bring immediate annihilation.” Then there are those who think we really can't do too much differently than what were doing now (my original proposition).
Note the absence of any "hey that was just an idea to play with, not to take seriously" or "jeez, I was only joking". It was a serious thought. He may prefer that we keep bombing - although the term "original proposition" seems to show that he was wobbling, but that's perhaps deconstructing it too much.
According to Justin Raimondo Rich Lowry did not claim that it was the playful meme that Natalie Solent ascribed to him, but that the whole thing was just one big joke. Only thing about a joke, is that its supposed to be funny. (The phrase "I was joking" in New York Conservative circles obviously means "Please let me keep my job, I have a family to support".)
I hope that I wouldn't have made the mistake that Natalie Solent made. The argument by association, which I used, is a very weak argument. Hopefully if someone came out with some extremely stupid pro-Arab comment (I'm not actually pro-Arab, just against mass murdering them) - and there are plenty of those around - I would have said "nothing to do with me guv". In any argument you are bound to have some rather unsavoury friends who take your arguments where you don't want to go.
The New Left used to have a slogan "no enemies to the left". I always thought that this was a particularly stupid one that got them into far more trouble than they would have otherwise found themselves. Does Mrs Solent really think that she will all the warriors to be of sound mind?
The material importance of Geography
I have been accused by a few of my more perceptive critics of overplaying the geography card. As the appropriately named Mr Wise says below “Why ascribe such mystical importance to geography?”
Geography is, quite simply, the engine of history. Where you live determines your strengths and weaknesses, allies and enemies.
Why did England suffer comparatively less civil discord than their northern neighbours? England has relatively flat terrain, meaning easier travel meaning in turn that armies and commerce could both go round England. This in turn made for both a more easily controlled and a more prosperous population. The Romans stopped at Carlisle because they were tired. It was the higher topography of Scotland that meant that no matter how often they tried to subdue the Scots, they simply couldn’t control them. It wasn’t until the British started using new road building techniques in the later eighteenth century that they managed to control the Scots. That mystic factor geography.
And why do we dislike the French? Its not because of their culture, as at least in London we are bombarded with advertisements extolling French culture and it is an aspiration for most of the bourgeois, no matter how Eurosceptic, to speak a bit of French and be conversant on at least some French foods and wines. No other nation, apart from Italy, has the same aspirational pull in Britain. Can we honestly say that any grown ups are snobbish about their ability to speak good German or their knowledge of Californian wines? So if not culture, then what? What about geography, or am I getting too mystical? The fact that France and Britain were both on each others doorsteps meant that when one was weak and one was strong then they would naturally either loot or raid their neighbour.
Proximity creates enmity. Unless one side is totally dominating the other, as in America and Canada, the main geopolitical fact will be fear or greed concerning your neighbours. So the Euro-fanatics have it totally wrong, being neighbours does not make you friends. However sharing a neighbour, as Scotland and France do with England, may make for peculiarly strong friendships – at least by the standards of international relations.
So that goes someway to explaining my “mystical attachment” to geography. To understand geography means that you understand all the important bits of history.
So it is not so much uselessness that wishes me to break the contract (a contract that has two parties) with the Falkland Islanders, but danger. To keep the Argentines away, we have to make it painful for them to invade. This means maintaining a far greater naval force than we would otherwise need. Now after considering the extra danger that we expose ourselves to do we ask what function does the place fill in our national defence strategy. Even if the Panama canal was shut to shipping, I think that Atlantic-Pacific access is the last thing we need to worry about if we are at war. Similarly opening up access to Antartica’s mineral wealth will vastly increase the danger from jealous neighbours who will want a share of that mineral wealth.
The national interest that we need to think about is that of the metropolitan power. Defending the loyalists of America, the Muslims in India or the Turks in Cyprus may have been “honourable”, but our then leaders rightly foreswore such a suicidal course.
All for One & One for All.
I hope this will not be considered bad form, but I have to disagree with my indefatigable Comrade Goldstein when he says that Britain ought to dump any of her dependent territories that are of no use to her. No-one could make such a suggestion without disastrously misconstruing the nature of nationhood. Overseas dependencies are of course an easy case: they are geographically separate from the rest of the country, & so it is much easier to imagine them as politically separate too. But the *criterion* for political separation proposed by Emmanuel is not geographical distance, but uselessness, & uselessness is something common to plenty of British subjects who are not geographically distant at all, & whom, consequently, it is rather harder to imagine being rid of - the unemployed, for instance, or the elderly, or the very young. So I have to ask Emmanuel whether he is in favour of alienating all those British subjects who are useless, or whether he would alienate only the useless who happened to be far away, & if so, why.
Whichever answer he gives, it must be wrong. To alienate everybody who is useless – assuming we could ever agree on who really was “useless” – would destroy the fellow-feeling on which national identity relies, & thereby undermine our patriotism. Any of us could find himself useless at any moment, so any of us could be cast out at any moment: there would be no settled & stable British population with which to identify, no guarantee that our fellow British would remain so, giving as much reason to be suspicious of them as to trust them, & no guarantee that we ourselves should remain British, giving us little reason to show any loyalty to Britain. No patriot could abide such a dystopia.
There has to be some limit to alienation of the useless, so let Emmanuel draw it where the British seas end. Then ask him, Why? Why ascribe such mystical importance to geography? That is what the Euro-fanatics do. If Emmanuel is not being mystical, he must have some ground for drawing the line here rather than elsewhere; & whatever that ground is – convenience, perhaps, or practicability – it will be a ground in principle that other categories of useless people could one day meet. So although the undermining of patriotism & national identity would be neither as swift nor as complete as in the previous case, slowly the poison the whole bloodstream would fill nonetheless.
National identity cannot be a question of interest, because the nation-state is not a means to an end, created by contract, it is an end in itself, sustained by pietas. It is not a firm, whose members are dispensable units of production, it is a family, & every member of it matters as every member of a family matters. And even if that were not so, even if the nation-state were a means to an end, it could never hold itself together long enough to attain that end unless it pretended it was an end in itself.
Natalie Solent takes me to task over a previous post:
Goldstein (if it is he) says "the warbloggers" - not "some" but "the" - actually want to commit genocide. What evidence does he have for this dreadful charge?
Well I was wrong to say that all warbloggers want to dish the darkies, even saying that most of them do is a slur (at least the ones I read). But to say that there is no evidence, now perhaps we are into the realms of whitewash:
In Islam, we're told, martyrs get to go straight to Paradise. And the entire Islamic world apparently considers anyone the Israelis kill to be a martyr. So maybe you can explain this to me, if we're being respectful of Islamic beliefs, why is it a bad thing for the Israelis to kill them? Courtesy of the Brothers Judd.
If after every bombing they [Israel] identified the bomber and then killed the bomber's entire family then the number of volunteers for bombing missions would collapse in fairly short order . Courtesy of USS Clueless.
And then of course there is the completely non-genocidal:
This is a tough one, and I don’t know quite what to think. Mecca seems extreme, of course, but then again few people would die and it would send a signal. Religions have suffered such catastrophic setbacks before. As for the Saudis, my only thought is that if we're going to hold them responsible for terrorism, we had better start doing it now, not after an even more catastrophic attack. And, as a general matter, the time for seriousness—including figuring out what we would do in retaliation, so maybe it can have some slight deterrent effect--is now rather than after thousands and thousands more American casualties. from the NRO Corner.
Now I'm perfectly prepared to accept that I went over the top in implying that the only motive for going to war in Iraq was to kill a few hundred thousand A-rabs, but can't we stop this game that there are no racists among the warbloggers? Killing lots of people simply because of their family or ethnicity seems to me like, well, genocide.
Something odd about Ariel
So all us peaceniks cheer when someone stands up to the Yanks (OK I don't care, but I'm special). So what if he's some chap called Ariel, and he totally humiliates the Secretary of State when he's visiting the place. I mean the way they're treating Powell you'd think that Israel was bunging the Yanks five billion bucks.
Do we peaceniks cheer and clap? Do we hell.
Here's a chap who takes Americas money and tells America that it can stuff it. And he survives. No military coup greets him like in Venezuala. And let's be honest, he's causing a hell of a lot more problems for the American governing class than some jumped up colonel with a Bolivar complex.
Now, I've always railed about how a big weakness of the peace movement is that on the whole its instinctively anti-American. Now this is just as brainless as the instinctive pro-Americans. However, here they see someone really smashing the Americans around and all they can do is tut tut that as if if the servant had rund off with the chequebook.
For that matter why are all the warbloggers cheering this brazen defiance? Do they not realise that the biggest obstacle in the way of their dream of a genocide on the Euphrates is this belicose little man in Jerusalem.
Ah, but the Israelis are - like - Westerners fighting against the oriental brown peril. The cross (well, almost) triumphing over the crescent. Stirring stuff. But what about when the Serbs did the same? And after all they have far more claim to be fighting the rising Muslim hordes and protecting the West. I mean, they are hardly a half-century old colony, they are real deal Christian peasants fighting the Mussalman hordes.
But when these chaps were blaring defiance of the West in what they saw as the West's defence (hey, in their own minds) we rain down fire and brimstone. We blow up their TV stations, we feel that bad about it. But when old Ariel goes and snubs his multi-billion dollar income stream in favour of some scripture eating nuts in Samaria they can't get enough of it.
What's up with that?
Why not actually write to her, I thought? So:
Dear Ms Burchill,
After reading your article in the Guardian I was intrigued. You say that we should "populations, however small, decide what nationality they are for themselves".
But what about those of us at home, can't we decide if we have to defend them?
Is it really in our interests to go rescuing those transplanted Brits half way round the world?
We are slashing the Territorial Army in favour of long distance naval capability, running down our air and sea defences so that we can have strike capabilities in other continents.
Even if we want to let our defences go to pot (that means the defence of the metropolitan power and not a couple of hundred historical accidents in the middle of some Ocean) can't we spend the fruits of our imprudence on something really useful, like tax cuts.
So Tony Blair says to his press secretary "How should I pronounce it? I - R - A - Q or I - R - A - N ?"
Well I thought it was funny.
Mentions from Jim Henley and David Ross on my Chavez piece. Why is it the ones I put no thought into get referenced, while all those that I research, agonise over the wording and pour my experience into are ignored?
I also note that Mr Montgomery, my improvement at antiwar.com, has gone - well - bloggish. It's very funny. The column, that is, and not the format.
Off her trolley
The gossip of the past few days about Guardian columnist Julie Burchill's tryst with right wing comic Jim Davidson sounded ridiculous.
Then I read this column:
The fact is that believing we have the right to "give away" people who want to stay British is as reactionary, rightwing and imperialist as forcing people to be British when they don't want to be.
She's saying that the British governing classes have no right to give away the left over colonies because these people "want to be British".
Now I'm not imperialist but I'll yield to no man (or Julie) in my reactionary and right wing credentials. And giving away colonies is perfectly reactionary and right wing.
If 2000 transplanted Welsh sheep farmers in the South Atlantic or 20 000 Andalucian dock workers on the Spanish coast want to be British, why should the home population, all 60 million of us, have to suffer lower security because of it?
The continued Britishness of these colonies should be dependent on their utility to the mother country and nothing else. While I accept that Gibraltar may still provide some rationale by helping to protect the sea lanes leading to us, the Falklands stopped being useful in that respect when the Panama canal was opened in 1914. Do we really need wool and squid enough to keep a long distance task force in battle condition?
We were right to fight for the Islands in 1982, because to do otherwise would have shown a weakness that would have invited yet more problems. It was not a matter of honour, but of practicality.
Thatcher was right to fight in 1982, yet she was also right to try and give the islands away a year earlier.
So, yes, Julie, it may be right wing to put the interests of the metropolitan power ahead of outlying islands half way round the world. It is also right.
That stuff about Jim Davidson and Julie Burchill was not actually true, I just put it in to baffle the American readers and to confuse those of you who don't bother to read to the end.
We who question the principle of invasion as a route to world peace make a mistake if we let our doubts about the principle impel us into predicting immediate and embarrassing failure at every step along the way. Rather as in the classic courtroom defence — “my client was not present when the burglary took place, and if he was, he did not commit it” — we doubters have sometimes tried to establish more than we needed to or reasonably could, and in doing so undermined a much stronger case. The sun may shine for a while on Pax Atlantica. We should not get involved in short-range weather forecasts.
Although I am not as sure as he is about the chance for a peaceful Afghanistan - countries built of mountains tend to naturally decentralise (ask William Tell). Nor would I say that the Serbs completely lost the standoff - the demanded NATO troops are not in Serbia proper. However he is right in the main point, just because you think that something is stupid in the long term it doesn't stop it succeeding in the short term.
Indeed, it is distinctly odd how the same people who would rightly discount the short term effects of extra government spending on health, believe that the short term effects of a superior military force bode well for a permanent world order.
How'd that happen?
Chavez returns to power
Venezuela's ousted President Hugo Chavez has made a dramatic return to power, two days after being forced out by the country's military.
He formally resumed his presidential powers in a televised ceremony at the Miraflores presidential palace in the capital, Caracas
If you'd written that as a story it would be seen as ridiculous.
Why those wacky Lib Dems, always there to make us laugh.
And while we're talking about pratfalls, this is another illustration of how not to handle a majority.
Remember, these are the people who sincerely hold to the belief that they can handle our lives better than we can ourself.
Who said that?
Obviously we are at the limits of our commitments and I recognise that.
So farewell then Hugo Chavez of Venezula,
It was nice knowin ya,
But we didn't.
E J Thribb *
Doesn't this seem to be a bit like the Philippines?
Pound to a penny that some "Agricultural Attache" or "Junior Trade Consul" with the American Embassy is up to his ears in this one.
Not that I'd have any objection to it, this is America's backyard. But don't you think we can stop hearing all this tripe about "protecting Democracy" or about how a democratic culture is somehow in the West's interests?
Plainly it just depends on the circumstances on the ground.
* Trust me, if you don't know who E J Thribb is by now, the reference would be take so long to explain that it would cease to be funny. See.
Here's a link to yesterday's Prime Minister's Questions which seems to have drawn quite a lot of backbench venom, like this particular performance from Peter Kilfoyle - one of my favourite lefties.
IDS also does quite a good job at showing our lack of defensive capability. If any of our territories outside Europe were attacked we would be humiliated. Probably a good argument for getting out before we are humiliated (although most Tories would see this as a good argument for neglecting core defence in favour of such peripherals).
There's also Blair's statement on the Middle East.
Thanks for asking, but...
No, I'm not Eric Blair and I don't have anything to do with Warblogger Watch. I may agree with the author that invading half the Muslim world is a really stupid idea and share a fondness for Orwell allusions, but:
1) I'm not American
2) I'm right wing
However I would recommend this. It does take apart some of the nuttier ideas on the web logs.
Well worth a visit.
Parliament to discuss foreign policy - shock
Nick Assinder says that there will be a debate on the Middle East on Tuesday. Today's question time (not yet up on Hansard) is also quite important in showing disatisfaction with government policy on Iraq.
Why Blair won't be the next Ramsay MacDonald
Blair faces MPs' anger over Iraq say the headlines.
Will this lead to a catastrophic split within the Labour Party that will force Blair to bring in the Tories?
Highly Unlikely. Not far off impossible in fact. Look at this for a start:
Labour Majority 167
Conservative MPs 166
It is commonly accepted that a government is safe in all important areas with a majority of around 40 (the Thatcher government of 1979 was around this figure). This would mean that Blair would have to lose 127 off his majority, thus 64 MPs or would have to regularly vote against the government in a vote of confidence. This sort of behaviour would lead to loss of the whip and deselection.
How many Labour MPs are prepared to risk their livelihoods or their bit part on the national stage for Iraq? Certainly nothing approaching 64.
First thing to note is that this is not going to bring the Tories into government and so make Blair the Ramsey Macdonald. Off the top of my head the rules for triggering a leadership challenge (you won't imagine how hard it is to find) is for 20% of MPs to petition for it. This is in public. So that's 83 MPs.
Now these guys will not lose the whip, and they have less chance (although still a high one) of being deselected. They can also kiss goodbye to any career of any kind under Blair, and you would have to count out almost all the MPs who would be at risk from a serious Tory comeback - not far short of 200. Blair is still popular enough among natural Tories as to significantly shore up the marginals. It really doesn't matter if Blair turns off the Northern mill and mining towns as they are seen as safe Labour for ever. Also count out the payroll vote which is (counting out the MPs for marginals who are under-represented here) about 70.
So let's say that of the 413 MPs we have to count out 180 from the marginals (a couple of mavericks like Bob Marshall-Andrews notwithstanding) and 70 on the payroll vote, that leaves us a pool of 163. Let's also say that 30 MPs would sign a leadership challenge come hell or high water (an optimistic assumption), 5 among the marginal MPs. The challengers would have to find 53 (83-30) MPs out of 138 (163-25) - 38.4% of available MPs willing to substantially risk any future career.
Even if this were to come about the unions would have to approve the challenge by a majority block vote (basically each union casting its vote for each member). This itself will militate against the MPs - as they know they will be unsuccesful. If Blair is not in a position to buy of the big unions, then he would have resigned long before.
Would he resign if 20% of MPs voted against him? This is the man who ran for office against his party and models his toughness on Thatcher. Although grappling with Blair's mind is harder than grappling with the mind of the average Labour MP or union bureaucrat, I don't find it likely yet. The man who won't sack Byers on grounds of machismo is hardly likely to sack himself.
This all being said, I hope to be proven wrong.
Israel, Palestine and the Blogosphere
Israel is a topic which fires up the Bloggers more than the Spice Islands or Angola, and so there's a lot of unchallenged commentry out there. A couple of gems:
The Islamo-facists have one collective idea, to make the world Islamic. Link Here.
1. So does just about every devout Muslim. I could say the same for most Christians and Atheists.
2. Islamo-Fascist is just name calling. We wouldn't dare use a similar term for West Bank settlers - quite rightly. Let's keep consistent.
3. Most Islamic Fundamentalists are actually interested in their home country more than other Muslim states, and interested in us heathens least of all. Does Al Qaeda talk about things going on in historically Muslim lands, or in America and Europe? Quite simply what fires these people up is that they don't believe that their regimes are properly Islamic. In Christian terms they would be reformers rather than missionaries. These people aren't citizens of the world.
Saudis, too, help suicide-murderers turn a profit. Link Here
How can you turn a profit when you're dead? They can't exactly spend the money. Suicide is not a commercial decision, it is a sign of rather deep despair. Targetting civilians is indefensible, but in this case at least it does not turn a profit for the perpatrator. Please do not interpret this as an uncharacteristic lapse into sympathy.
Please can anyone pass some British pro-Palestinian enthusiasm my way for similar treatment.
The Continuing Success of Intervention. Item 236
British peacekeeper shot in Kabul:
A BRITISH peacekeeper was seriously ill tonight after being accidentally shot in the head while serving in Afghanistan.
The soldier, from the Royal Anglian Regiment, was on patrol in the capital, Kabul, when the accident happened this morning.
The Continuing Success of Intervention. Item 235
When nation-building destroys, from Spiked Online:
So what is the state of post-Taliban Afghanistan? Is it a human rights triumph where freedoms have been regained, or just a mess? A security nightmare that needs heavy policing, or a state with some non-threatening security issues?
Mark Steyn is straight...
... and so is Conrad Black
Chaps, for once I'm not being the bizarre one.
David Ross doesn't like Christopher Montgomery, or the Brits, or the Europeans. He does like Mark Steyn - but casts out non-existent demons.
The article starts off well (and points out a spelling mistake - guilty m'lud). However...
A truly bizarre assertion is that anyone is trying to suggest that Mark Steyn and Conrad Black are jointly admiring the pillow covers. To be fair Mr Ross claims to know marginally of Mr Steyn and of Mr Black not at all.
I can assure him that this is one assertion that no one has yet levelled at this pair of treacherous Canucks.
I can't believe that I'm actually defending Mark Steyn!
The Continuing Success of Intervention. Item 234
Afghan minister escapes blast:
Afghan Defence Minister Mohammad Fahim has survived an apparent assassination attempt as an explosive device went off near his car during a visit to the eastern city of Jalalabad.
The Continuing Success of Intervention. Item 233
UN Kosovo police attacked:
An angry crowd has clashed with United Nations police in the ethnically divided city of Mitrovica in Kosovo, injuring 16 officers and a number of civilians.
A UN police spokesman said the officers came under attack as they tried to set up a vehicle checkpoint in the north of the city, which is dominated by ethnic Serbs.
My improvement at antiwar.com has surpassed himself. "Your Friends In the West" is the best demolition job I have seen from him yet. This time he takes on Brendan Simms, one of those foam specked knaves who is trying to steal the "realist" title from those who care about the national interest. He's not the only one.
This is better than his disection of Mark Steyn (which has been strangely ignored by the warbloggers, who are usually keen to find out all sorts of things about Mr Steyn).
Whenever I outrage Mr Montgomery, I do hope he let's me apologise first.
Are we expecting too much of Israel
I don't know what it is, but when I read any account of the Israeli occupation, or see it on TV I tend to get very disturbed by it all. Until recently I couldn't put my finger on it. I'm pro-Israeli, I said to myself. OK, I don't believe that my country should do anything about it but I am pro-Israeli simply because they speak better English, I can understand their politics and I have plenty of Jewish friends. So until recently I've always rooted for Israel. So why do I get so upset when they flood the airwaves with porn?
Well perhaps because I see them as being Westernised. The same reason that I support them is the same reason I expect such high standards. How else would you expect such a reaction from the BBC? It's not ethnic antagonism.
So it brings the next question, have things changed since I first formed my opinion of Israel? In other words, am I expecting too much from Israel?
The original Zionists were Ashkenasi Jews, that is Jews from Eastern Europe. Not only were they from Eastern Europe but they had been westernised, either by linving in Western Europe for a long time or by contact with an urban middle-class lifestyle and western ideologies (nationalism and socialism were the cornerstones of Zionism).
So when the kibbutzim were being founded in the 1920s and 1930s it was Western Europeans who were over there, and who also formed the nucleus for the elite that was to govern Israel. The waves of immigrants in the late 1940s were not as Westernised, although the Ashkenasi element was strong.
Now three things have happened since then. Firstly, and least importantly, there has been an explosive growth rate in the ultra-Orthodox. Now this is not "de-westernising" Israel because they are overwhelmingly Ashkenasi - and the Zionists' parents were often as religious as the ultra-orthodox. Besides they largely wall themselves off from mainstream Israeli society and so their influence is low.
Then there are the Russian immigrants. Although as Ashkenasi as the founding generation, they have been in that least European of European countries. As well as that they have also been walled up behind communism for seventy years. It is no surprise that they seem to be leaning towards Likud, as the Russian Jews from Russia are less westernised than the Russian Jews from America or France. Now when this lot have largely come since Glasnost, you can see that this is a rapidly growing part of the population. Add to this that you will live better and more safely in Israel as compared to Russia, this group will keep on growing as long as free immigration is allowed.
Lastly there is that non-ashkenasi part - not the Palestinians, the Sephardic Jews. Most of them came from Arab countries. Now this makes a big, big difference. They came later, came less well educated and have a higher birth rate. So the rise of Sephardic Jewry vis-a-vis their Ashkenasi cousins is just a natural catching up. So what are the cultural implications of this? Well it is orientalising Israel. Whereas the predominantly Ashkenasi Zionist movement was heavily influenced by the ideas sweeping around Western Europe because of the years spent in or near Western Europe - what is the likely outcome of a longer immersion in Arab culture for the Sephardic Jews?
So is this hand wringing all misplaced. Is Israel simply orientalising, or to be more accurate Arabising? As anyone who followed the Lebanese civil war - and the behaviour of the Phalangists - knows, it is not enough to look to the West to act Western. It is also not enough to not be Muslim, being in a Muslim culture for a few generations is enough to orientalise.
Maybe what we are seeing is that Israel is becoming a foreign country to us. So our high standards should not be applied to Israel so rigorously. Does this say anything for our emotional support?
These are our allies
Julian Manyon pours scorn on the battle readiness of the US "Mountain" troops and the loyalty of the new Afghan army.
According to Nick Robinson:
Powerful people in Downing Street make an extraordinary claim for Tony Blair, referring to him as "George Bush's strategist".
No, it's not idealistic
I really admire Fred Pruitt and Rantburg, but sometimes he really seems to overdose on the happy pills. Like this time:
The US supports the Israelis for what are basically idealistic reasons: we tend to favor David over Goliath and we recognize a kindred libertarian (small L) society in a sea of dictatorships, with an entrepreneurial economic system as opposed to a system that would be stagnant if not artificially fuelled by oil money.
So it's just fellow feeling right? Not the fact that the Republican party has significant swathes run by fruit-and-nut postmillennial dispensationalists (fundamentalists to you and me) who see Israel as fulfilling Revelation.
Now, the Religious Right is a good thing in general - and we Brits could do with a bit of moral rearmament ourselves - however their influence on American foreign policy is immense. Of course there are many who see the Religious Right as being massively influential on the Republican Party on issues like abortion or homosexuality, but these moral libertines also tend to be pro-Israel. So they would say that, wouldn't they.
But consider. Buchanan failed to pick up the evangelical vote that should have been his for the taking in 1992 and 1996. Was it (a) the fundis all read their Adam Smith and said "No Pat, we want free trade", (b) the fundis objected because Pat was a Papist (yet voted for the Roman Alan Keyes) or (c) because Pat wouldn't support Israel? The questions that he kept on receiving where on Israel, not Rome. Now where was the missing margin of victory.
The Israel question kept the Republican status quo safe to lose against Clinton. The Religious Right are the constituency that keeps the Republicans from taking a moderate stance on Israel. After all what would you do if you were the congressman for Dumpsville and many of your more active supporters and donors got all worked up about levelling the Al-Aqsa mosque and building the third Temple?
Why you'd start saying things (roughly) like "Israel's capital should be Jerusalem" (Gingrich) and "The Palestinians have a homeland in Jordan" (I'm not sure who said this, but I thought it was Dukakis)? Hell, if I was concerned about re-election I'd mouth the same sort of platitudes.
So let's lay off the David and Goliath and small l Libertarian stuff. The reason why America supports Israel is that both parties support it, and one of them supports it because much of its grass roots believe that it will bring on the end of the world.
Idealistic, yes. A sane basis for policy, well...
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