Monday, December 29, 2003
Pathetic Pieties

The EU was setting out the "Austrian solution" for Serbia tonight: everyone who is acceptable group together to keep out the unsavoury nasties with their history of torching villages and living off the narco-economy. After all, the Serbs decided to vote for the nationalists because the "democrats" were not providing Serb voters with what they wanted: security, jobs, economic prosperity and also a touch of national pride.

European diplomacy was more concerned with picking at the scabs of the Balkan wars, living up to the ideals of their transnationalist ideology and preserving Kosovo in aspic so no independent observers could witness its sad decline into a mafia state under the veneer of an EU protectorate. In order to comply with the dictates of the West, the Serbs had to surrender their leaders to a war crime tribunal, witness the destruction of cultural treasures in their historical heartland and meet the stringent conditions attached to reconstruction aid.

Javier Solana stated that,

"I appeal to all democratic forces to work together in order to ensure that a new government based on a clear and strong European agenda can be formed rapidly," Mr Solana said.

However, expenditure demonstrates that the EU used the unimaginative stabilisation and accession process, without taking into account Serbia's particular problems as a defeated nation. This one size fits all approach that made no concessions to local sensibilities is a standard problem of the trannational approach. It does not understand nationalism and ignores its effects upon the political process.

Serbia required more attention from the European Union and greater skill in strengthening its moderate nationalists. This would have paid more dividends than poncing around like some Jacobite pretender imagining they have a claim on the global throne.

The Serbs can vote for whomever they like but the return of the nationalists was far more likely with the policies that the EU pursued.

(23.27, 29th December 2003)
Most European of Nations

Italy was always the country that looked towards Europe for good government as an alternative to the arbitrary stagnation of their own politics. With the end of the Cold War, there was a sense of renewal during the "clean hands" campaign but the underlying lack of checks and balances in their political system reappeared under the abuses of Berlusconi. (There is a similar story for Britain under Blair.)

Now that Romano Prodi is retiring from the European Commission, he is returning to the fray of Italian politics in order to challenge Berlusconi for Italy's political leadership. His bias, seemingly influenced by the BBC, was already clear during Italy's presidency of the European Union:

Prodi launched a broadside in November against his right-wing rival's coalition government, arguing that it has caused anguish to Italy. That earned the rebuke of European conservative leaders, one of whom argued, "This is improper conduct for someone who holds an office which should guarantee neutrality for everybody."

There are few other countries in the EU where the Commission is viewed as atraining ground for the top job rather than the graveyard for political elephants. it also repeats a point that bears repeating. The one-way gravy train of Europe is still influenced by elections and a possible Prodi victory bears this out. He would steer Italy into the Franco-German camp of integrating counterweight, a possibly irreversible step.

France and germany may well bide their time until a government more sympathetic to their aims is returned in Italy. Once three of the original six line up, will not the final retiring member, Holland, conform?

(22.56, 29th December 2003)
Sunday, December 28, 2003
The Revengers' Salad

There is a delicious irony that Blair, master of spin, has been undone by his own inability to stay "on-message". After claiming that a network of laboratories manufacturing weapons of mass destruction had been located, Blair was contradicted by Paul Bremer, the governor of Iraq, who stated that the information was false.

It was, he suggested, a 'red herring', probably put about by someone opposed to military action in Iraq who wanted to undermine the coalition.

'I don't know where those words come from but that is not what [ISG chief] David Kay has said,' he told ITV1's Jonathan Dimbleby programme. 'It sounds like a bit of a red herring to me"

Now, Blair must have jumped the gun and is probably privy to more information than Bremer, as a Head of State. However, his search for public justification leads him into yet another public storm about weapons of mass destruction and the Hutton Report will be published soon.

Perhaps President Bush should issue Blair with a pager and scripted press releases...

(9.47, 28th December 2003)
Saturday, December 27, 2003

Just a link to the post that I have written on White Rose concerning the Schengen Information System and its incorporation of biometric data.

(23.52, 27th December 2003)
Friday, December 26, 2003
Frontpage Symposium

Frontpage Magazine recently ran a symposium entitled "European Union and the Death of NATO?"

In the differing views and the interesting idea of Israel in NATO, most participants agreed that NATO could not survive if the European Union achieved the harmonisation of defence and foreign policy. None had any words of praise for the de facto federation or its leadership and accepted that, in the short-term, such a development was detrimental to the interests of the United States.

However, one of the contributors, Vladimir Bukovsky, viewed the EU as a Menshevik body. The EUSSR. After all, one of the questions that plagues observers of the EU is: how does the EU fit into the European political traditions. Is it socialist, jacobin, a weberian technocracy, a corrupted bureaucracy, a Holy Roman Empire - what is it?

What is the EU today? It is an undemocratic superstate (governed by 25 unelected Commissars as opposed to just 15 in the former Soviet Union); which most nations join involuntarily, under tremendous pressure; which is socialist by nature (just read their Social Charter!); which has the same ideological goal of eliminating national states; which already has its own nomenclatura (about 30,000 unaccountable bureaucrats who don't even pay taxes); which has the same type of in-built corruption as the Soviet Union used to have ( last week, according to the same article in the WT, the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg released a 400-page report that found "systematic problems, over-estimations, faulty transactions, significant errors and other shortcomings" in the EU budget).

EU auditors could vouch for only 10 percent of the $120 billion the bloc spent in 2002. It was the ninth successive year the auditors were unable to certify the budget as a whole). And so on, and on, and on. I can spend hours pointing out those similarities. Admittedly, it is a much milder version of the Soviet Union (as yet), but a version nonetheless. Simply put, this is a Mensheviks' version, not the Bolsheviks' one. This is why two years ago I called it EUSSR, and this quip is becoming very popular in Europe today.

(17.32, 26th December 2003)
Will France become the first country to leave the European Union?

The question in the title has secretly nagged at me for some time. After the French Presidential election, it was clear that centrist politics had declined in favour of the traditional extremes of Left and Right and the environmental movement. This electoral arithmetic ensured that France met some of the preconditions for withdrawal from the European Union.

The scenarios for withdrawal from the European Union will always involve the domestic politics of a particular Member State. An obvious statement, but nevertheless one that allows us to examine what political parties will favour this development. From the protest parties that have arisen in Europe over the last ten years, it appears that 'coalitions of the willing', disillusioned by their existing political elites, can emerge rapidly and gain strong support in political systems with proportional representation and low electoral hurdles that bar smaller parties. The development of the Dean campaign, with its internet based organisation and grassroots support, indicates that existing continental political systems are also vulnerable to these surprising and unpredicted movements.

Recent polls have shown that the European Union is losing public support, especially when tied to the fortunes of the dominant political class. The structure of protest or extremist parties and the issues upon which they are based depend upon the peculiarities of each Member State. They can range from the racist and nationalist organisation of Jean Marie Le Pen to the regionalist Northern Alliance of Umberto Bossi and the liberal Fortuynists. However, their protests will react against the prevailing political structure, a structure increasingly identified with the EU.

Withdrawal will prove the political holy grail of a protest party, outsiders excluded from the spoils of the state and determined to gain their time in the trough of despondent taxpayers. Certain countries have proved or are proving vulnerable to these forms of political organisation including France, Italy under the 'rule of Berlusconi' and Holland. From May 2004, the nascent and unformed polities of Enlargement with their will o' the wisp parties and fickle voters (just like France really) will provide an enlarged canvas for the writ of protest.

(17.05, 26th December 2003)
Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Basra has now reached a level of stability that still eludes some parts of Iraq. Although the British army may point to years of experience in Northern Ireland, this is never a good analogy unless no-go areas and colourful murals start to spring up in Umm-Qasr.

However, the problems of reconstruction including a policy that favours US companies to repair an infrastructure built by the Soviets, French and Germans results in warped priorities. The case of the airconditioners at a dysfunctional power plant in Basra is telling:

A clue lies at the Najibiya power station in Basra, Iraq's second largest city located south of Baghdad. Sitting uninstalled between two decrepit turbines were massive brand new air-conditioning units shipped all the way from York Corporation in Oklahoma. Pasted on one side of each unit was a glittering sticker proudly displaying the "Made in USA" sign, complete with the Stars and Stripes.

It's just what the Iraqis don't need at this time. Since May, Yaarub Jasim, general director for the southern region of Iraq's electricity ministry, has been pleading with Bechtel to deliver urgently needed spare parts for their antiquated turbines. "We asked Bechtel many times to please help us because the demand for power is very high and we should cover this demand," Jasim said. "We asked many times, many times."

Two weeks ago, Bechtel finally came through. Before it could deliver any of Jasim's requirements, however, Bechtel transported the air-conditioners, useless until the start of summer six months from now.

But even if the air-con units become eventually useful, emphasized plant manager Hamad Salem, other spare parts were much more important. The air-conditioners, Salem pointed out, were not even in the list of the equipment and machine components that they submitted to Bechtel.

Security is also an increasing concern for the Iraqis. However, as our soldiers prepare for Christmas in the south of Iraq, thay are finding that age-old preconceptions of military behaviour have to be curbed in Iraq where men are tactile and women are forbidden:

Also on the danger list were women and some tabloid newspapers which tend to show more female flesh than the religious Iraqis think permissible.

As for women, the servicemen are warned not to engage in any conversation with local females which is seen as highly disrespectful, especially to their husbands, father or brothers. Men, however, can make long speeches of greeting and are very tactile. Blokes holding hands or kissing in the street is normal.

(23.24, 24th December 2003)
From Stasis to Stagnation?

The record of fraud that has dogged the budget of the European Commission for many years had little effect upon the well paid MEPs approving expenditure for 2004. The budget of €99.7bn was approved by a majority of 345 with 10 abstentions. Despite the greater publicity given to the issue of fraud within the European Union, accountability has not developed within its parliamentary institutions. Perhaps the recent breakdown in negotiations over the European Constitution have engendered a cautious culture of "business as usual" and an unwillingness to rock the boat at a time when public disillusion with the European Union is increasing.

This has also resulted in the rejection, even on the part of the original six, of the Franco-German project of a "hard core" integrating their state structures. italy and Luxembourg have both rejected these proposals. Whilst Martin Walker has described this as a legacy of Thatcher's view of Europe, a simpler and more truthful explanation is that most European politicians do not wish to abandon the draft Constitution or embark upon even more radical institutional transformations.

The incoming Irish Presidency is setting out a programme of accepting the reforms laid down by the Nice Treaty. However Bertie Ahern, Irish Tiaoseach, has condemned the proposal for a "hard core" an un-European:

In an interview published in the French daily Le Monde, Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern said, "The idea of a 'two-speed Europe' or of a 'hard core,' where certain countries would try to implement their agenda separately from the others, does not correspond to the common philosophy of the union."

He continued, "I really do not see what would justify a two-speed Europe and I am not convinced of its eventual advantages."

The European ideology was always a tool of the political elites, designed to reflect the positive and consensual benefits of integration. Values of harmonisation and solidarity were written into treaties and the draft Constitution. Now, there is a far more visible tension within this ideology between those who champion the existing consensus and argue that all reforms should be carried out, taking the interests of other Member States into account, whilst the call of further integration between a smaller group becomes a divisive objective that places the goals of particular countries for a state above the perceived needs of the Union as a whole.

This does not undermine the points of my previous post. 'Variable geometry' is viewed as a useful strategy because it cannot take effect without the agreement of most Member States. The current conservative reaction for the status quo amongst the political classes in Europe ensures that projects in this area are likely to remain dormant until jaded pols reacquire an appetite for further negotiation.

(23.02, 24th December 2003)
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
A 'two-speed Europe' is bad for Britain

Jack Straw made an unpublicised speech in Ireland as part of the welcome that Britain was giving to the new President Member State of the European Union. After an aside reminiscing about Heath's treachery, Straw provided some insight into the government's view after the postponement of negotiations on the constitution.

Indeed according to Hugo Young [in This Blessed Plot], we have Ireland to thank for our ability to use English at the European negotiating table. Young says Edward Heath had instructed British officials to speak French when they took up their seats as new members in Brussels - a promise he had given to Pompidou during our accession negotiations. The Irish delegates, however, were bound by no such undertaking - and along with the Danes they made clear from the start that they wanted to speak English. In due course, the British representative felt it would be absurd for him not to do so as well; and soon English's equality with French was established.

Whilst Straw wished to give the impression that the European Union was business as usual, based upon the Enlargement process and the continued institutional arrangements settled at Nice, his speech included two alternate possibilities. Firstly, the Government wished to shore up its support for the Constitution and maintain the consensus crafted before December's debacle.

In formal terms, nothing in the new treaty will be agreed until everything is. But as Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi said at the end of our meetings last weekend, there are already some 82 points were consensus is close. Many are points which Britain worked hard to achieve: retaining unanimity for issues such as defence, tax, EU finance, social security and criminal law; changes on energy, civil procedural law and the so-called European foreign minister; and confirmation of the fact that any further treaty change will need to be subject to the approval of national parliaments. We are getting the right outcome in these debates by engaging with our partners rather than sulking on the sidelines.

As Jack Straw had already stated that this speech was rewritten following the failure (another rhetorical sop to the Constitutional Europhiles), his alternative support for variable geometry was the start of teh government's ideological support for alternative structures that increase the integration of Britain in the European Union.

Finally, there is going to be quite a lot of talk over the next few months of 'core' or 'two speed' Europe. On this I would make this comment. It is already the reality of Europe that there are different groups pursuing deeper cooperation in certain areas. Some countries are inside the Euro and some outside. Some countries are inside Schengen and some outside. Some countries are participating in European security and defence operations - in Macedonia and in the Congo - but not all. So groups, of varying membership, are already a feature of the EU.

Even though Straw recognised that Europe, as presently structured, is in economic and political decline, his answers were limited and unconvincing. Since this government is at the forefront of defence co-operation, the themes of variable geometry and a 'two-speed Europe', once so hopeful for Eurosceptics, are now the engines for the further integration of Britain in Europe through intergovernmental institutions.
Sunday, December 21, 2003

One shouldn't be churlish in commending the Foreign Office or our intelligence services for achieving a foreign policy objective, namely, the reeling in of Libya to the civilised world. After all, the deployment of chemical or biological weapons on missiles that could reach our shores was a threat, due to our current alliance with the United States. One less threat to Great Britain is a preferable state of affairs.

Nevertheless, there were other countries whose national interest coincided with or even outweighed ours in the disarming of Libya. France, whose own citizens were victims of Libyan state sponsored terrorism, appears to have played no part in these negotiations. Dominique de Villepin's call for compensation for these victims demonstrates that the entire process must prove frustrating for France since their soul-searching analysis raises questions about why their own approaches to Libya have proved so fruitless.

In terms of diplomacy, the actions of Qadhafi tend to place political success upon those states who defend their interests in the Middle East through force of arms. Those who champion a separate European defence policy or privilege soft power over force have been wrongfooted. Those within the EU who would pretend to challenge the United States find that the occupation of Iraq has resulted, by the end of 2003, with increased American hegemony across the entire Arab world and the overt dismantling of their nuclear capacity. The dangers are contained in the Arabian Peninsular and points east.

Libya will open itself to inspections from the United Kingdom and United States, perhaps under the auspices of the United Nations. This is a far greater move towards disarmament than the pallid acceptance of inspections that Iran signed.

Bilateral negotiations between nation states, often involving the threat of force, gains results. Negotiations using international treaties and institutions on issues of defence or security achieve more limited objectives, often using bribery. Long live realist foreign policy.

(11.07, 21st December 2003)
Saturday, December 20, 2003
Opera yes, West Ham never

"Football and women" was Berlusconi's suggestion for fostering cooperation amongst the vexed negotiations on the Constitution. Sounds good, but it proved too populist for the political elite.

John Palmer of The European Policy Centre argues, in a paper on the failure of the negotiations, that variable geometry will prove the motor for integration within Europe.

These will almost certainly involve some kind of “two speed Europe” with one or more core group of countries moving ahead to integrate among themselves further and faster than all the 25 may be ready to accept.

Neither Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of Germany nor President Jacques Chirac of France made any attempt to disguise their ambition to forge ahead with plans for an EU “hard core.” Indeed President Chirac indicated that, following the successful launch of the defence initiative, the next area where the vanguard countries would begin to integrate their national policies and institutions was justice, police and internal security. There are fewer signs of a consensus about a hard core moving ahead with economic integration.

In these negotiations, Britain was close to conceding on one of the redlines for the higher European goal.

To be fair, the Italian Presidency’s job was made none the easier by the insistence of a number of other countries to hold dogmatically to their “red lines” on negotiating issues. This led to a reportedly abrasive exchange at one point between Mr Blair and both President Chirac and Chancellor Schröder. They insisted that if there was to be a compromise agreement, then Britain as well as others would have to abandon at least one of its red lines involving maintenance of the British veto over tax, social security, foreign and defence policy. There is no doubt that British diplomats feared they would come under irresistible pressure to give some ground on at least one of these policy “no go areas” once the stand off with Poland and Spain was resolved.

More surprising is that the weakening moves towards integration have not abated in the areas of defence or foreign policy, with the new co-operative structures indicating a European presence.

Ironically foreign, security and defence policy (CFSP/ESPD) may prove to be one important counter trend to the wider ebbing of the integrationist tide. The Brussels summit enthusiastically endorsed the revised European Union security strategy put forward by the High Representative, Javier Solana. At the same time the Union has nailed its colours to the mast of “effective global multilateralism” with a reformed United Nations at it heart. The two policies mark out clear elements of divergence from the policies of the current United States administration – even while acknowledging the primary importance of the trans-Atlantic partnership.

With the agreement on an EU arms agency along with the French/German/British led drive for a European Union defence force which will include an embryonic military planning staff attached to the Council of Ministers as well as to NATO military headquarters, CFSP and ESPD are providing an important impetus to a clearer collective definition of the European Union’s global role. The more this develops the more powerful the arguments will become not only for the creation of a European Union Foreign Minister (now on hold) but also for some move towards qualified majority voting on foreign policy (if not on defence matters).

Palmer concludes that the relationship between the United States and Europe will be subjected to greater divergence over the medium to long term due to the institutionalisation agreed to above.

Lastly, on the civil liberties front, the EU remains wedded to biometrics and a common border policy.

However, the summit separately called on Justice Ministers to finish their examination of the proposed European Agency for the management of cooperation at the Union’s external borders so that it can become operational by January 2005. The European Council also wants to accelerate the introduction of “biometric identifiers” in passports and the development of a Visa Information System. It also noted the “persisting political obstacles” in the way of directives on a common asylum policy.

The truce on the Constitution may have been constructed in time for Christmas but it is not the only front.

(16.37, 20th December 2003)
Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Has There Been a Deal?

Saddam Hussein caught. I wonder if he will now help the Americans find all those atom bombs they buried in the desert last summer - in return for which he will drag out the remainder of his miserable life in a nice war prison with satelite TV while the layers argue over jurisdiction and procedure?

Whatever the case, I bet the resistance with now gather pace. All that has been keeping the lid on things in Iraq was the faint possibility that he might come back. Now he is out of Iraqi politics, all those old men with beards will seem so much more persuasive, and pressure will mount for the Americans to go away.

Call me an old cynic, but this capture may not be quite what was desired....
Monday, December 15, 2003


Who's winning?

Before I go, this article in the Spectator by Correlli Barnett is quite sobering reading. Written before the capture of Saddam, it points out that terrorism hasn't exactly slowed down since invading Afghanistan and Iraq.

What is refreshing is his treatment of the fundis as a rational (if not particularly nice) adversary who should be fought as such.

Who gives a Shiite?

So Saddam has been captured. It's good news for the Iraqis who were persecuted by him and for the Bush family who don't look like such incompetents a second time round. It also is far better than the utter cock up when the Yanks killed Saddam's sons rather than capture them for information. However is it good news for us?

British troops in Iraq are almost all in the south of Iraq around Basra. The majority of the British zone is Shiite. It is also far quieter than the American zone.

Why this is so should be, but isn't, a matter of urgent debate. After all if this situation could be upset then it has the potential to stretch our army to the utmost. When it is addressed at all it is seen to be because our troops are somehow superior to those stupid and insensitive American troops. Now the Yanks do have many stupid and insensitive troops, and compared to our more compact and bijou armed forces it is perhaps not surprising that the stupidity and insensitivity quotients are somewhat higher. The average IQ would decline in ours as well if we had the amount of men under arms that the interventionists imagine that we do.

So is it this intelligence and sensitivity together with our experience in Northern Ireland keeping our sector that much quieter than the Americans? I have my doubts. The American sector is not that much more lively than ours if you take out the Sunni Arab areas. The Kurds and the Shiites in the American zones are just getting on with it. Of course there are some misunderstandings, for example when Kurds want to ethnically cleanse Arabs or when Shiite holy cities get bombed, but we had Fallujah and riots in Basra. The real source of bad things for the Americans has been the Sunni triangle. The very use of the term by the media has been an admission that the real damage on the occupation forces has been imposed almost entirely by a minority of the population. The comfortable official story that the attacks are orchestrated by the largely Sunni Baathists or the entirely Sunni Al Qaeda network is also a recognition of the ethnic imbalance.

Imagine if we had that with the Shia? Would our intelligence and sensitivity manage to keep a lid on things? Perhaps, but I'm not that keen on finding out.

So, what will the capture of Saddam do for the Shia population? Well first off they will be very happy for a couple of weeks. Most observers can agree on that outcome. Most Shia hated Saddam, for good reason. Then, many of the observers believe, they will be grateful to us and keep on co-operating. That's nice. Gratitude is not a well known quality in Middle Eastern politics, in fact it's almost unknown in politics the world over. Although I will be the first to admit that I don't know the intricacies of Arab tribal customs or Shia theology - I simply find it as stupid as the idea that Iraq could be democratic by now, or as stupid as your average neo-conservative public pronouncement on foreign policy.

So let's hope for gratitude but prepare for the Arabs to act like, well, Arabs. What has kept the Shia so relatively co-operative, or at least not fighting to the last cousin as the Sunni do? Perhaps its the fact that they like to be occupied by non-Arabic speaking nominally Christian foreign powers. Or perhaps they, or their leaders, trust us to give them democracy, sovereignty, control over their oil money, the right to bash ten bells out of the Sunnis and other good things. Well do you, dear reader, believe that we will sign up wholeheartedly to the Shia agenda - if we can find out which Shia agenda is the real Shia agenda? Do you think they've forgotten what they regard as our betrayal of the Shia rebellion after the last Gulf War? If you don't think so, why should they?

Perhaps its just not worth the bother. Perhaps we are seen as more ruthless and more desperate and able to pour more armed men in to suppress a rebellion than Saddam was. Perhaps they got fed up after the last rebellion and they think that trusting the authorities, vigorous debate and civil disobedience are now the way to go. Perhaps, but a prudent man wouldn't bank on it.

So what has been there motivation so far? Well let me hazard a guess. Fear. Fear that Saddam may come back like he did last time. Or fear that the Sunnis may come back like they did last time, and every time since the Ottoman Empire first came along. (Parenthetically, do you think that the Shia like hearing all this talk of reconciling the Sunni Arabs with the occupying forces now Saddam has gone? Oh well.) Now arresting Saddam has not removed the fear entirely, after all he could be brought back by the Americans, or his son could come back, or he could escape, or some crazy Western judge could set him free. However this fear, this until now very useful fear, will have been reduced drastically. The man is now in American custody, his supporters have seen him weakened. Even a conspiracist Arab would admit that Saddam is probably (the conditional is deliberate) a spent force. You don't fear a spent force.

That's why I want Saddam kept alive. The very fact that he is alive will give the Shia pause for thought. They know that he would welcome the prospect of returning as a puppet president of Iraq, and although they would be fairly certain that the Americans wouldn't wear it - could they be entirely sure? Of course the fear would be far less than it was last Saturday, but at least we would have some leverage.

But will it be enough fear? I doubt it. Perhaps the Shia will be grateful enough to leave us alone. Perhaps they will see more profit for their agenda of Shia domination of Iraq through co-operating with us. Perhaps they fear their Sunni neighbours enough to prefer us. Perhaps if they do rise, it will be so divided and puny we will not be greatly inconvenienced.

That's an awful lot of perhapses.
Sunday, December 14, 2003
Saddam Captured

They really did find the ace in a hole.

I shall just note that BBC News 24 stated that Saddam was beaten by his stepfather, and from this cruelty, it was just a short step to megalomaniac dictatorship.

Hand him over to the Iraqis since they are willing to put him to death!

(13.36, 14th December 2003)
Saturday, December 13, 2003
24 Hours

Last night, I was attending the Putney Debates where Russell Walters of the Democracy Movement gave a clear and objective talk about the European Constitution (where I shall link to the obligatory Searchlight article warning of the dangers of people like us to the democratic structures of the European Union).

Walters pointed out the centralised and unifying force of the proposed European Constitution, with its dangers to the continued existence of British institutions through powers that allowed further involvement of European law on hitherto domestic policymaking areas such as education, health and social security. Now, a day later, the more immediate threats and possibilities of a ratified Constitution have been postponed for a while.

However, arguments were dominated by a literal reading of the Constitution and the probability of a war if the European Union were to implode under the pressures of absolute economic decline, nationalism and our coming demographic downfall. Whilst the ideological trend towards centralised integration has been consistent, its institutional expression has mutated from Weber's bureaucratic rational state, with power vested in the Commission, towards the institutions of the political elite, the Council of Ministers. With the strengthening of the latter body, the geopolitical struggles that underpin the European Union's policies have become more transparent and more fractious. If the Constitution were to be ratified in some form, its unitary underpinnings would, in the short term, be counterbalanced by the political jockeying of Member States, horsetrading with each other, over political issues. In the longer term, if or when more powers over tax, defence and foreign policy were centralised, this counterbalance could diminish in importance.

Any reading of the European Constitution has to balance what is written with the practical expression of these clauses in institutions and legal practice. The incoherence of the document gives few clues as to whether the immediate trend favoured strong centralisation or indeed promoted the very gridlock it was designed to prevent - a possible outcome. I might add that, at no point, does it adopt the repatriation of powers or more influence for Member States.

We are left with scenarios that debate the dynamic of further integration under the proposed Constitution but agree on the thrust of the ideological programme adopted by D'Estaing and the European Convention.

The final possibility that must be faced is the implosion in violent conflict that accompanies the end of most multinational state structures. Given the history of Europe as the cradle of nationalism, the chances of avoiding a conflict amongst these nations are poor, if the spoils of the state are a source of competition. How fitting that even the possibility of such wars becomes an additional moral resource to oppose the continued existence, in its present form, of the European Union.
Paradise Postponed

The negotiations over the draft of the European Constitution have broken up without agreement. The gap over voting rights, between those who defended their privileges enshrined in the Nice Treaty and the supporters of the new system that increased German influence, could not be bridged.

The initial reaction of European leaders to this development has been to downplay the consequences of the breakdown.

Whilst the current postponement of negotiations is welcome, it is too early to conclude its effect upon long-term trends. The existing structures based upon Nice remain and will be stretched through their accommodation of the new accession countries. Arguments of an inner zone, variable geometry or institutional crisis are speculations that await further events.

This is not the first time in the history of the EU/EEC that countries have failed to agree. So far, this has not led to the withdrawal of a member state or a reversal of the long-term ideological and institutional trend towards integration.

Still, I'm enjoying a warm glow this afternoon.

(16.43, 13th December 2003)
Tuesday, December 09, 2003

We will be in Iraq for 10 years, says MP reservist

The real issue on withdrawal

The anti-war Tory MP and army reservist Andrew Murrison says that Britain will be in Iraq for ten years, because Iraq can simply not govern itself.

While we probably will be there for ten years, and Iraq probably will be unable to govern itself in that time - this dependence need not detain us in Iraq. The Americans will suffer if they leave Iraq in chaos, but we will not. We are the junior partner - we can leave whenever we like. The Yanks will simply have to fill the vacuum.

Of course the consequential Yankee displeasure may be worse than any withdrawal. However it is the prospect of American displeasure that is the reason for keeping the troops in place. We must not fall under the illusion that Iraq is our show.
Monday, December 08, 2003
Moment of Truth

The meetings surrounding the draft of the European Constitution have continued. Whilst the 'Big Three' (Britain, France and Germany) agreed upon a provisional form of military headquarters (an acorn or successful sabotage, depending upon your viewpoint), their proposals still require full agreement from every Member State.

The other issue of European defence is the mutual defence pact, suggested by the Italians at the end of November and viewed as anathema by those smaller countries which maintain the myth of neutrality as their foreign policy objective. This has been ditched for the concept of soverien countries assisting each other in the event of armed aggression.

However, Berlusconi was 55% optimistic on Sunday and was in a halfway house on Saturday. Both France and Germany are unwilling to compromise on their demands for voting powers and greater integration, with Chirac describing the critics of the draft constitution as "incoherent".

Jack Straw has repeated the government's position: that a bad Constitution is worse than no Constitution. The anxious moment is this weekend when final negotiations take place and hardline positions give way to compromises in order to achieve that final deal.

On Monday, we could wake up to find the European superstate has arrived or has been definitely postponed.

(22.50, 8th December 2003)
An Unsurprising Insight

Gisela Stuart, the New Labour member who sat on the European Convention's presidium, has finally admitted her disillusion with the whole process. Stuart provides anecdotal evidence of the strategy D'Estaing employed to achieve his consensus.

"There was little time for informed discussion, and even less scope for changes. Large parts of the text passed through without detailed discussions", she writes.

Small details would be strangely absent:

Some members of the secretariat showed particular irritation with my insistence that documents be produced in English. On one occasion a redraft of articles dealing with defence mysteriously arrived just before midnight. They were written in French and the authorship was unclear. Verbal reassurances were given that this was little more than a "linguistically better draft of the earlier English version". The draft was discarded when some of us spotted that references to Nato had mysteriously disappeared".

Yet, for some reason, there is a faint echo of the British Parliament. Another planted article to allow New Labour both possibilities: success or failure.

(22.22, 8th December 2003)
Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Airstrip One: British foreign policy as if the national interest mattered

A Brown Government?

What would a Brown government look like foreign policy wise? It's a good time to ask this as Blair seems to be (A) amazingly reckless on non-core items of the New Labour agenda such as tuition fees and (B) publicly sickly.

On the second item I am sceptical about how much Blair's actual health has deteriorated. After all he has been incredibly profficient at hiding Leo Blair's avoidance of the single vaccine MMR jab, his use of IVF to conceive Leo Blair and the rather extensive, and free, use of private health resources. If he can keep this stuff secret why are we suddenly hearing so much about stuff that sounds scary but is in fact relatively minor - at least compared to conceiving a child to win seats at the next general election.

After this we leave the realm of facts for that of speculation. Is this a deliberate ploy or just a post-Campbell policy decision to be more honest? Perhaps they think that a Prime Minister's health is more to the point than his children's. Well my theory is that this is deliberate, and it is a ploy. Blair probably intends to keep his promise to resign and let Brown have a fist at being Prime Minister - around about now. However the Great British public may not like the idea of electing Blair and getting Brown. However if Blair had to resign...

So what would Brown be like in foreign policy? In the least important area, our relationship with the third world, he would be worse. He thinks that we should be indulging in transferring our wealth to third world elites in the shape of aid programmes (or he is transferring our wealth). He may also be even keener on implementing pointless environmental treaties (although that's not certain).

In the second most important area, our Special Servitude to America, there will be little difference. Despite the (often skin deep) Atlanto-scepticism of his backers, Brown is as emotionally committed to America as Michael Howard is - and as committed as Blair is to Europe. We are unlikely to give less to, or receive any more from, America. Our boys will still be dying in useless wars.

The most important area is Europe, and Brown will be marginally better. His current, exagerated, Euroscepticism will almost certainly be diluted. For a start he will be out of the traditionally Eurosceptic environs of the Treasury. Secondly, he is not truly as Eurosceptic as he appears to be in contrast to Blair. On the other hand he is no longer committed to Europe in the same way as Blair is. For a start America is no longer as keen on Europe. He also seems to have shown a genuine distaste for the wranglings of Europe, and he is not as capable of self-delusion as his neighbour - he does not think things will improve fast. It will be a marginal improvement, but a marginal improvement is still an improvement.

Sure, the Tories will be better than Brown, but Brown is better than Blair. All those concerned for Britain's independence should be fervently praying for a Brown succession.
Tuesday, December 02, 2003
Persuading old allies

Geoff Hoon is meeting Donald Rumsfeld in order to allay US concerns about the fleshing out of the joint defence clauses written into the draft of the European Constitution. As there are 1,000 planners in NATO and 30 in the new planning unit, the ambitions are not yet matched by the embryonic institutional structures being put in place.

On a separate note, the CBI has warned that the proposed Constitution could undermine British industry and security. Energy assets (North Sea oil and gas) could be sequestrated under a European licensing and nationalisation system, sharing these assets to all Member States in a time of crisis.

His [Digby Jones, Director-General of the CBI] deputy, John Cridland, said last night that the energy chapter could allow the EU to take control of energy supplies by giving it the potential right in times of crisis or scarcity to effectively share out reserves.

"It's not that evil people in Brussels want to steal our oil and gas but we should not be signing a treaty with significant uncertainty or ambiguity," he said. The EU could take control of licensing and regulation.

By extension, a crisis in pension provision could lead to the sequestration of private pension assets from countries with a strong asset base.

Alistair Darling made noises. That's another battle lost then.

(22.49, 2nd December 2003)
Sunday, November 30, 2003
Blair Out

George Galloway's new way, hoping to unite Islam and the Left, has a predictable message and two agreeable sentiments.

- To withdraw troops from Iraq and to let the people of Iraq decide their own future
- Halting the privatisation of essential public services
- Defeating the Euro and the proposed European constitution
- Protecting and enhancing our environment
- The restoration of trade union rights
- For equality, tolerance and a multi-cultural society

Guess which?

(22.53, 30th November 2003)

Initial indications show that the meeting of the EU foreign ministers, negotiating the draft of the European Constitution, achieved institutional agreements that shored up the text. The agreement on defence is detailed below and, in addition, ministers gainedcommon ground on arguments over foreign policy and the structure of the EU Commission.

Due to the removal of sanctions from the Stability and Growth Pact at Franco-German behest, the smaller countries gained their demands of one commissioner apiece, leading to an unwieldy and overpopulated Commission.

The meeting was unable to overcome divisions on overturning the voting powers enshrined in the Nice Treaty with Spain and Poland opposing any dilution of their votes and Germany demanding a greater say as the most populous power in Europe. The Italians suggested postponing the issue for some years without success.

(21.25, 30th November 2003)
The House of the Result of the Result

Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of State for Defence, repeated the standard American line that NATO should retain its leadership role within Europe. This was repeated in response to reports during the negotiations over the European Constitution that the "Big Three", the usurpers of Yalta, had concluded their defence agreement.

Blair finally agreed to the Franco-German plan for a military planning unit, outside of NATO, and reportedly consisting of 30 "operational planners". This institution is a strong indication that Blair was willing to concede this battle in return for retaining other powers - no doubt they will be lost later. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard describes this as a

a definitive break with British defence doctrine of the past half century. But British officials hinted that the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, would rewrite the agreement if the US was adamantly opposed.

The response from the United States and NATO was critical, but muted, until they are able to respond to concrete proposals that, as yet, remain under wraps. The details are hazy but indicate that NATO maintains 'first refusal' on participation in any crisis and that the EU has secured the Strasburg option. The military headquarters will be located in SHAPE, or in Cortenburg in Brussels and/or in the military infrastructures of France, Britain or Germany.

To paraphrase Howe, compromising with the British has transformed Franco-German pretensions into an impotent farce. The prospects are that EU defence reforms are essentially neutered under this proposal and the French/Germans will now look to develop military co-operation outside of the auspices of the established European institutions

(21.15, 30th November 2003)
Thursday, November 27, 2003
Blair's Bluster

I must admit that I thought the statements issued by the government on Tuesday were primarily for domestic consumption. However, it is reported today that the redraft of the Constitution, under the Italian Presidency, has removed the national veto from foreign policy and subjected this area to qualified majority voting.

Blair hoped that a clear and simple negotiating stance would deter the more federalist countries in Europe from encroaching upon the "redlines": preserving some freedom of action for Britain and allowing the toytown army to waltz across Iraq under US protection. Already involved in negotiations over the military planning unit with France and Germany and aware that the neutralisation of the Growth and Stability Pact has embittered the smaller countries, Blair has realised that the possibility of a full constitutional text for 2004 is diminishing.

In times of pressured negotiating, the European Union has a fairly successful track record. Most of the Member States do not wish to be considered responsible for the demise of the constitution and they will often make the necessary concessions or compromises to attain the winning post. With reference to Britain, one must ask which of the redlines that Blair has so assiduously publicised will be diluted. The most likely candidate is defence and Hoon's mumblings of downsizing, at the behest of a Brownite Treasury that prefers rancid butter to seized up guns, acts as a portent for the future.

If teh Constitution were to fail, the federalists have already started to make noises about a 'closer union'. The grouping includes France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and possibly the Netehrlands. If they were to develop an integrated model of governance, a European core, this could be advantageous or disadvantageous, depending upon how the institutions of the European Union reacted to this avant-garde. Its existence could either provide a stimulus to those bureaucratic and judicial elements that provide the dynamic for integration and harmonisation within the EU or it might encourage the fissiparous elements to demand the repatriation of powers, the greater use of opt-outs and the practical application of subsidiarity.

By writing this Constitution, the European elites have shown that even the structures, ideology and future of Europe remains a subject of division, argument and possibly failure.

(22.45, 27th November 2003)
Tuesday, November 25, 2003
Rowing the boat back upstream to Nice

At first, the extraordinary statements emanating from Whitehall seemed to be the latest in a long series of negotiating ploys designed to strengthen Britain's hand in the intergovernmental negotiations over the European Constitution. The defence of the "redlines", placed in The Times and The Daily Telegraph, was designed to shore up perceptions that Blair was not negotiating in Europe on Britain's behalf. It was rather poor spinning from a government that used to pride itself on setting each day's political agenda, since the placement of the statements was obvious and crude.

The primary question was whether these expressions were issued for the domestic political agenda or were they designed to send a message to other countries within Europe. Given the internecine divisions that have dogged the negotiations over the last few weeks, especially as Spain and Poland refuse to give up their voting rights under the Nice Treaty, the possibility of political failure has become a plausible scenario. Blair could be attempting to capitalise on this failure by portraying himself as a dogged defender of Britain's interests, knowing that the chances of further integraton have actually diminished.

The same position was written into Brown's speech, with a similar emphasis on so far and no further to extensions of qualified majority voting, rather than say, further integration:

"We are making clear in these discussions that we are standing up for British interests.

"We have red lines and we are insisting on unanimity for tax, social security and defence."

On the whole, these speeches were for domestic consumption, rather than acting as manifestos for pre-negotiating positions. They were priming the public for the possible failure of negotiations over the European Constitution (rowing the boat back upstream to Nice) and providing an additional patriotic fillip for the beleaguered government whose earlier enthusiasm looks increasingly out of step with political reality.

However, the fact that the government is considering this posssibility must be good news.

(22.55, 25th November 2003)
Monday, November 24, 2003
Square Wheels

President Chirac, Prime Minister Raffarin (enjoying the end of cohabitation) and Prime Minister Blair enjoyed a precentennial summit of the entente cordiale. During their press conference, perceived divisions were replaced by bonhomie and backslapping unity on the issue of European defence.

According to both Britain and France, European defence would complement NATO. Of course in the devil of detail, differences emerge.

Blair was quite clear that European defence would apply to "the limited peacekeeping and humanitarian tasks, but we are actually doing European Defence today in Macedonia and also in Africa."

Chirac had a view of European defence as defence, operationally independent from NATO:

There are operations which need to be carried out by us. It has to be properly prepared, properly led and properly operated. There are national Chiefs of Staff, but we want our defence to be as effective and efficient as possible. We want there to be an organisation, a harmonisation. We do not want overlapping.

Blair still viewed the proposed rapid reaction force as an adjunct to NATO, taking up tasks in areas where NATO was unwilling to deploy its armed forces. Whereas Chirac viewed the new European army as an expression of European unity, contributing to "extra character and extra efficiency".

This press conference showed that both sides had failed in their attempts to bridge the main divide: between the Franco-German desire to create operational armed forces independent of NATO, and the British objective of utilising European forces as a complementary arm of NATO.

Chirac (smiling like a Cheshire cat) was quite clear that a solution would be found through trust:

I have nothing to add. You have raised a number of minor points, which are, of course, important. We will find an agreement on those with our British friends. There is absolutely no doubt about that, for a very simple reason. If we try to work together as partners but do not trust each other then we are likely to fail. When we do trust each other we find a solution. It is as simple as that. We are absolutely determined today to show that there is confidence, and to rid ourselves of mistrust. That is what makes me think that we will find a solution.

One knows that Blair believed him until directed to the light by one of his advisers with a dawning realisation that Chirac may have been indulging the cameras.

(23.00, 24th November 2003)
Sunday, November 23, 2003
Al-Qaeda: Conspiracy, Network or Ideology?

Al-Qaeda, to repeat the contributions of many analysts and academics, has become an amorphous beast that is no longer open to strict definition. The original terrorist grouping, with its training facilities and affiliation to the Taliban, has long been dispersed. Now, the term is applied to a large number of terrorist atrocities that are motivated by the ideology of Bin Laden, his cohorts and his trained followers. However, these atrocities are the separate manifestations of groups or franchise operations that achieve success with frightening regularity.

The argument that an upsurge in terrorism has accompanied the aftermath of the conflict in Iraq is sound. However, this upsurge has concentrated on Iraq and has been encouraged by the neighbouring states in order to destabilise the continuing development of the postwar settlement. Disaffected Muslims who adopt the ideology of al-Qaeda provide a strong supply of troops and terrorists for an organised insurgency that has wedded disaffected Sunnis, Ba'athist stalwarts and foreign jihadis into a strong opponent for the Iraqi Provisional Authority.

Al-Qaeda's ideology is based upon fomenting chaos and bloodshed, since these conditions appear to be necessary for the establishment of their khalifah. Their ideological underpinnings have been strengthened by the war in Iraq and the continued western presence in the Middle East. Yet, there may be a case for stating that their support has plateaued and that there is unlikely to be a further radicalisation of existing groups or populations within the Muslim world.

The last two years have seen the creation of a "generation of terrorists". They are buoyed up and renewed by the madressehs that educate their successors but they have not proven adept at extending their political base or converting Muslim states to their particular views (with the possible exception of the Northwest frontier in Pakistan).

Whilst the conditions in Iraq have proved a bloody lesson for Britain and the United States in the capability of Arabs in wedding insurgency and terrorism, this conflict has also, in the longer term, demonstrated the limitations of al-Qaeda's reach.

As Paul Wilkinson of St. Andrews University points out,

It has not been lost on the Muslim world that the majority of those killed by al-Qaeda in so many of their brutal suicide bombings have been fellow Muslims.

It is the Muslim states that view Al-Qaeda as the greatest threat to their semi-westernised existence. The terrorists pose a grave threat to any progress made in the Muslim world over the past few years.

The fact that Muslim governments and their citizens increasingly recognise that al-Qaeda’s savage violence endangers their own human rights and their own chances of economic wellbeing and stability just as much as it threatens Western citizens will make them more determined not to give in to this intimidation and to crack down on those responsible for terrorist atrocities and who libel the name of Islam by pretending that they have a religious justification for their crimes.

Authoritarian regimes are beginning to address the social and economic stagnation that provides the fuel for Islamic jihad. However, their culture and their ideological resentment of the West will remain an engine for terrorists in months and years to come. Only by solving the structural impetus of Al-Qaeda can the terrorism be prevented from transmitting its goals and methods to another generation.

(23.41, 23rd November 2003)
Friday, November 21, 2003
In areas where it counts

This is an old report from the Guardian but it demonstrates the difficulties in reading British foreign policy as it oscillates between the British and European poles.

Energy security is an important issue for governments as medium-term projections demonstrate that dependence upon Middle Eastern oil can only increase. The United States has developed a strong debate upon this issue whereas Europe, with a crisis looming, does not address this serious issue in public.

The United Kingdom is moving towards a strategic partnership with the United States in order to maintain supplies of oil outside the Middle East.

The report to the president and prime minister was written in July by Don Evans, the American commerce secretary, and Spencer Abraham, the American energy secretary. It outlines how the American and British governments have woven together the "separate strands" of their countries' energy and foreign policies in a "frank sharing of strategic analysis and assessments".

The countries have agreed "a set of coordinated actions to help achieve our objectives" across the world.

The big British and American energy companies have been given favoured access to the discussions between the governments, taking part in meetings with officials.

This strategic initiative, known as the US-UK energy dialogue, will focus upon Africa and Central Asia. It is not clear if Britain is aligning itself with the United States because the European Union has not organised an alternative or because Blair has decided long-term strategy will acquire the possibility of greater success in partnership with the United States.

(21st November 2003, 19.07)
Friday, November 14, 2003

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Hadrian and the Neo-Cons

Not a particularly bad band from the seventies, but a rather belated mea culpa from me. Hadrian Wise's article, which he has already alluded can be directly referenced here. It's in PDF, but it's very, very good.

Eastern Promise

Another small straw in the wind on Russia's Far East - how long can it remain Russian?

Right Now Article on the Neo-conservatives.

(13th November 2003.)

Okay, since nobody else will, I thought I'd draw readers' attention to a piece I have in the current issue of Right Now! on the neo-conservatives. You can find it here:
Monday, November 10, 2003
Visions of the Future

Although assumptions that do not take into account the electoral cycle may prematurely bury the Western Alliance, their roadmap of dhimmitude, appeasement and decay is not necessarily the future that beckons.

Mark Steyn is more forthcoming in his Frontpage article where the darker side of his vision comes into being:

Europe is dying, and it’s only a question of whether it goes peacefully or through convulsions of violence. On that point, I bet on form.

Whatever the path that European decline takes, it is clear we are now on the glidepath since none of their elites have the courage or the leadership to face the problems of reform.

Still, the Club of Rome has appointed its successor, the United Kingdom Environment Agency. It's the usual case of the frighteners, without any scientific argument to back up their, not to put too fine a point on it, bollix.

The Dumills inhabit a world that is in some ways "less modern" - many homes grow their own food because, thanks to soaring oil prices, imported food is too expensive.

In other ways, however, the Dumills' existence is truly futuristic, with all human excrement being automatically analysed by a robot in the loo.

Many children are adopted, including the Dumills' daughter Britney
[notice the populist touch]. Plummeting sperm counts have made natural conception very difficult.

And most workers are immigrants because global warming has rendered large swathes of the world uninhabitable.

Here's the voice of reason, arguing that New Labour Luddites (formerly luvvies) have bought into the agenda that we shoudl sustain our economy by destroying it.

Prominent global warming sceptic Philip Stott believes the Environment Agency's vision of the future is alarmist and, he argues, not supported by science.

"These scenarios are, in one sense, 'utopian', in that they are about worlds that are unlikely to exist anywhere (even in Tunbridge Wells), while they stem from a dystopian premise that everything about the modern age is gloom and doom," said Stott, Professor Emeritus, University of London.

"Like Eeyore, the EA should be left to ruminate in a boggy place, while the rest of us enjoy our lives and continue to develop without being lectured to by these worryworts."

So that's what Portillo was offered

The shadow cabinet is announced yet strangely no shadow foreign secretary is named. Rather odd seeing as it is such a heavy hitting post. So when Portillo said that he had been offered some big shadow cabinet job, that's what he was talking about.

However according to Norman Lamont, Howard is not that much better on the second most important question facing British foreign policy (and is marginally worse on the most important question):

Both Michael Howard and Tony Blair are strongly pro-American. Mr Blair's attitude comes from his belief that it is in Britain's interest always to stay close to the United States. Michael Howard would strongly agree with that. But Michael's pro-American feelings are altogether wider and more emotional. His enthusiasm for America extends from American football, through American salad dressings, to discussing the differences in the electoral colleges of Iowa and California. One of his favourite books is Tender Is the Night by the American author, F Scott Fitzgerald, whereas Blair's choice on Desert Island Discs was Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott.

OK, he has no big pecuniary interest in the Special Relationship like a certain Leader of the Opposition of not too long ago - but deciding issues of cold national interest on emotional grounds? What is that softie doing leading the party of the national interest?
Sunday, November 09, 2003
Cuts masquerading as 'flexibility'

Lord Bach, Minister for Defence Procurement, was musing about cutting £1bn from the procurement budget (no doubt redistributed to needy Labour constituencies) and focusing on networked communications.

Because the future will probably see more conflicts that are smaller and spread throughout the world, Lord Bach said the UK must invest in capabilities that will drive down the cost of deployments. Indeed, he said, the whole structure of the armed forces should be configured around agility and deployability.

Bach said the changes would require difficult choices. There have been rumours and reports in the UK media that those difficult choices will involve cutting £1 billion ($1.67 billion) from the defence budget. These include: reducing the planned buy of 12 Type 45 destroyers to eight; cancelling the third tranche of Eurofighter Typhoons, bringing the number down to 130 from 232; and withdrawing about 120 Challenger 2 MBTs from active service.

Defence cuts masquerading as modernisation and flexibility. Via Quidnunc.
This one will hit paydirt

This is one lawsuit that the government should consider dismissing at the first opportunity. Even if you disagree with the circumstances of the Iraqi war, the lawsuit launched by the three Hamoodi brothers over the death of their family in Basra, would hobble British military campaigns if they won. Every civilian casualty or death would be considered unlawful and surviving relatives would be liable to damages from the British taxpayer.

Now, the additional expense may dissuade the British army from military adventures and there is a moral case for argueing that civilian casualties should be compensated. However, our activist judiciary has, in recent years, supported case law on the basis of universal values as defined by international agreements, rather than the particulars of each case. This lawsuit will provide an opening for the Left to narrow the activities of the British army through judicial decisions rather than Parliament. This is now their preferred route.

(9th November 2003, 22.00)
Fading Horizons

What do you say when arch-federalist and all-Belgian Belgian, Jean-Luc Dehaene, tries to lower expectations of the intergovernmental conference and cautions against a successful ratification of the Constitution.

Mr Dehaene was not overly optimistic about the progress of the ongoing intergovernmental conference (IGC). He welcomed the constructive and efficient way in which this IGC had been prepared by a Convention for the first time, but expressed concern that the Member States could unravel the Convention's draft text. He warned participants not to expect too much from the IGC.

However, in recent talks between France and Spain on the issue of weighting votes, neither party were able to come to agreement over the issue of qualified majority voting.

The possibility of failure is now commanding attention from the Blairites who have invested their time and energy in this process. A pol's survival instinct would be to recognise the cul-de-sac and hope that events elsewhere prevent the issue from ever precipitating a crisis. However, Blair's pro-European ideology is proven by his wish to keep digging by asking the French to stop their own people from having a say on this issue.

British diplomats have appealed to France not to hold a referendum on the new European constitution to avoid embarrassing Tony Blair. One high-ranking British official has privately told senior French diplomats that it would be "unhelpful" to Mr Blair if Jacques Chirac, the French president, decided to go ahead with a poll in France.

This interference demonstrates the weakness of the Blairite position since examples of referenda in other major European countries will undermine his refusenik stance. Our Prime Minister also invites contempt for attempting to prevent the people of another state from exercising their democratic vote in order to strengthen his political position.

(9th November 2003, 21.43)
Friday, November 07, 2003

Self Delivering Leaflets

A new technological breakthrough has reached the the Conservative Party, which I think could well be a secret weapon that will simply knock Labour off the political map for a generation. The self-delivering leaflet has, so my sources at Smith Square unreliably inform me, been a great success. The self-knocking door has a couple of teething problems, but the self-manned polling station is almost certainly going to be ready in time for the next election.

After all what other logical conclusion can one draw from the decision of Tory MPs to sack a swathe of their membership, and then boasting to lobby journalists that they were going to ensure that the members were going to go nowhere near the leadership vote because they were so bloody right wing?

So the Tory MPs have decided to lose a bumbling but trusted leader who led them from 20 points behind in the polls to level pegging with the most upopular minister in the most unpopular government since polling began. A Home Secretary who manages to radically cut crime and still remains unpopular certainly has a unique achievement to his credit - but hardly the sort that a party in the business of winning votes should hanker after.

Sadly for my outraged pique, and fortunately for the national interest, the Tories will be saved the full penalty of their vote-blindness. In the next couple of years it will be a good time to be a Tory. The Tories will almost certainly pick up support before levelling off as the election approaches. This will be the case even if they were led by Neil Hamilton (with Mohamed Fayed as his shadow Chancellor). Unless Labour comes crashing to the ground, the Tories will also lose the election but with a respectable showing. Essentially Howard offers them a Faustian pact - you will pick up seats but you won't win the election.

The other sad thing about Howard is that he is as thoroughgoing an Atlanticist as his predecesor - and many of those surrounding him are active in Atlantic Bridge, the thinktank that gamely tries to maintain that there is a serious intellectual case for the "Anglosphere" apart from the laudible but rather negative fact that it really annoys the Continentals.

So, no change on the Iraq war - and there will still be (thankfully short lived) Lib Dem surges whenever Iraq hits the headlines as it will with Kelly or in the very likely event that the Shias around Basra start getting shirty. Of course a group of serious politicians would not choose a man who was as infected as his predecesor with Atlantophilia - although not as compromised financially by all those sponsored trips across the pond. But we're not talking about a set of serious politicians, we're talking about Tory MPs.
Thursday, November 06, 2003
Onwards and Upwards

On a related note, here is a report from the Center for Defense Information on the weaponisation of space. At this point in time, the militarisation of space continues apace with ten nations having a military capacity and forty nations with the potential to do so, through their current civil capability. The dominance of the United States is awesome: they account for 95% of all military space expenditure and have 110 military operational satellites compared to 40 for Russia and 20 for the rest of the world combined. (One should note that this includes the Global Positioning System).

There is an incentive for the United States to adopt offensive weapon systems in space to protect its military assets and the United States Air Force Space Command's most recent plan has earmarked their deployment in the timeframe 2016-2028.

The report examines the case for whether other countries have the capability of deploying space-based weaponsry, the most promising of which are micro-satellites that can attack and disable existing satellites. There have been statements by some nations, notably China and India, that they are working towards these capabilities but these are considered to be rhetorical flourishes.

Apart from the United States, every other country favours a diplomatic prohibition on space weaponry in order to hobble US supremacy in this area. The other drawback for dependence on space systems is that they are vulnerable to a 'scorched orbit' strategy by a desperate enemy using a low yield nuclear warhead in a low earth orbit or payloads of granular particles.

(6th November 2003, 21.56)

An article in the Christian Science Monitor explores the unenthusiastic response of the United States to the Chinese space programme, in reaction to the secrecy surrounding the launch of the taikonaut. China is playing the weak hand of one man in space very well, playing to the press and entering partnerships with other groups like the EU which wish to maintain independent space programmes.

It is too early to tell if their space programme is viable but the long-term aims of their military ambitions in space are clear:

In the aftermath of the US led wars in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq, the Chinese military has taken note of US satellite systems that coordinate attacks. Sources say it is US satellites that most concern the Chinese. As Johnson-Freese put it in a paper delivered Friday at Harvard, "The Chinese, while advocating a treaty to ban space weapons, have also made no bones about working on anti-satellite technology. Kinetic energy weapons, jammers, parasite satellites that can surreptitiously attach themselves to other satellites, and high-powered ground-based lasers [have] all been on the Chinese menu of options being pursued. The Chinese are also interested in navigation satellites, which can enhance missile targeting capabilities."

The US can brook no interference on the high frontier; this strategic advantage is a key factor in the maintenance of their superpower status.

(6th November 2003, 21.30)

Michael Howard and the Conservative Party: Dracula Will Have to Do

Free Life Commentary
Issue Number 115
Wednesday, 5 November 2003
This article and various replies to it will be published in the next issue of Free Life Magazine:

Michael Howard and the Conservative Party:
Dracula Will Have to Do
by Sean Gabb

The emergence of Michael Howard as leader of the Conservative Party has left me as surprised as everyone else. When it first became public, I assumed the plotting against Mr Duncan Smith was the beginning of more embarrassment and annoyance, and that the Ministers in this most worthless of governments would be able to sleep more soundly in their beds - assured that whatever their own followers might say or do against them, they could rely on the official opposition to say and do nothing. As it turns out, the button was pressed, and Mr Duncan Smith vanished about a day later into the oblivion where all now agree he should have been allowed to remain. In his place sits a man of apparent firmness and ability. Looking at the actions of the Parliamentary Conservative Party during the past ten days, it is as though a mental defective had stopped twitching in his wheelchair and turned into something like a Bond villain.

I ought to say that I share the general relief on the right. When he was Home Secretary, I used to turn out occasional philippics against Mr Howard. He had no respect for our constitutional traditions, I would say. He was transforming the country into a police state. He was a bad man. I do not retract anything that I said against him. Even so, times are now altered. We face a government that is not incidentally bad, but essentially so. Its obvious ambition is to destroy us as a nation and to enslave us as individuals. It is led by a psychopathic liar and war criminal. It is rolling back the economic reforms of the 1980s and bringing us ever closer to the economic stagnation of continental Europe. At such a time, we need a man of firmness and ability to reshape us into a credible movement. Satan was doubtless also a bad person. But had I been one of those fallen angels groaning individually in the lake of black fire, I know it would have thrilled me to have a leader stand up and cry

Awake, arise, or be forever fallen

It certainly beads straining to hear the whispered cough of a quiet man.

There is “something of the night” about Mr Howard. But this is no disqualification to be our leader. Indeed, just as Margaret Thatcher used the “Iron Lady” insult to her advantage, Mr Howard could easily benefit from the abuse now heaped on him by the leftist media. The country has had enough of Mr Blair and his murderous grin. The mood, I feel, is ready to accept a leader who can be respected and even a little feared.

This does not, of course, mean that we can look forward to an age of reaction. Conservative governments hardly ever turn back the clock on what their radical opponents have done. At best, they can be expected to clear up some of the mess they inherit and reach a wary compromise with the entrenched power of an ideological state apparatus that they have not the personnel to replace or the imagination to destroy. On the other hand, the looming crisis on Europe and other issues may now be so great that there may be no alternative to reaction.

Whatever the case, though, Mr Howard will have to do. And so, when he sits high on his throne of royal state, I too will bow down before him and give not Heaven for lost.

But the question remains how did they do it? For the past six years, I have watched from an advantaged view as the Parliamentary Conservative Party ran about like terrified sheep in the dark. How have they managed this coup so quickly and so well? The simplest explanation is to say that enough of them saw the possibility of losing their seats at the next election and that desperation supplied the lack of courage and imagination. I like to believe, however, in a more complex explanation. Mine is not a standard conspiracy theory, as I claim little prior evidence in it support. Instead, I reason back from perceived effects to possible causes. It may be entirely false, but it pleases me to entertain it. Here it goes.

As said, this is not an ordinary Labour Government, but something of wonderful malevolence. It does not so much want to change the running of the country as to destroy it. There is the continued sapping of the Monarchy - the threatened removal of royal powers, and the degradation of Her Majesty from our Head of State to citizen of a United States of Europe. There is the determination to outlaw hunting and to destroy farming and to remove all the hereditary peers from the House of Lords. There is the progressive hobbling of the City financial institutions with European levels of tax and regulation. There is the use of the armed forces as American mercenaries - and without any advantage gained in return. There is the possible murder and undoubtedly the forced suicide of someone senior in the foreign policy and intelligence establishment. The remnants of the Old Order may finally have realised that there is no compromise on offer from this Government, and now may be doing something about it. The Monarchy, the landed and mercantile interests, and the security services - these are even now a formidable combination. Perhaps 1688 is finally come again. Then, an alarmed old order realised the nature of its enemy and took up the cause of an aroused but leaderless nation. Perhaps Mr Blair is to play the role of James II, and Mr Howard of Prince William.

Is there any truth in this? Or am I just an old romantic? We shall see.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2003
I thought this would be on Slugger as it is one of the more interesting stories to come out of NI. Loyalist inmates have called for the army to take a hand in managing NI prisons as part of their campaign for segregation from republicans.

Clearly a big negative in the current climate. We don't need loyalists playing brinkmanship and providing Blair with further tasks for the overstretched defence forces.
Blair waffles on about the European Constitution: here are our red lines.

"But, Prime Minister, what happens if the other countries agree to tax harmonisation?"

"Er, er, it's diplomacy. We're all negotiating. You can't actually expect me to take a position on this issue. My God, is that the time..."
Basra appears to be one city that is stable and enjoying basic services. Good news as the longer stability lasts, the quicker security can be transferred to local Iraqi authorities. There should be a concerted effort to repatriate our troops and replace them with Iraqi police or more lowkey WEU forces.

The new freedom is helping to attract an energetic vibe in the city. Newly constructed hotels have sprung up all over town, filled with businessmen from Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, and Jordan, hoping to cash in on opportunities in a new Iraq.

Basra's streets are filled with merchants selling furniture and used cars, shipped overland or by ship. The nearby deep-water port of Umm Qasr, 30 miles south, hums with activity as Iraqi wooden boats, or dhows, sail up with goods from Dubai and Kuwait.

``This city is alive again,'' said Saeed Hassan, whose furniture store has watched sales triple in the last six months. ``We are safe to do business; we are safe to live our lives.''

An Iraqi success story, in the Grauniad too.
A British marine was shot dead in a covert operation against Al Qaeda forces. It is reported that he was part of an SBS operation, the location of which was not disclosed. Was it even in Iraq?
Tuesday, November 04, 2003
US Bases and Lost Property

Another ally of the United States appears to have displaced indigenous populations in order to establish or expand US bases. Now the Inuit in Greenland are taking their case for the return of their hunting and fishing grounds to a Danish court concerning the US base at Thule.

In the court's biggest civil case to date, the Inuits are demanding the return of their lucrative hunting and fishing grounds plus damages of 234 million kroner (31 million euros, 36 million dollars) for losses incurred since their expulsion in 1953.

The 187 families were forced by the Danish government to leave the village of Dundas, known as "Uummannaq" in Inuit, against their will and with no compensation, and transposed to Qaanaq, more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) to the north, after the United States decided to extend the security perimeter around its Thule radar base.

In a story familiar to the Chagossians, natives that got in the way were removed. Their property rights, based on communal usage, were not respected in the original accord. It is doubtful that Thule will be closed down but there is a case for the Danish government to compensate them for their expropriation. The US should also contribute and come to an agreement with the original inhabitants.

(4th November 2003, 23.25)

Snow White and the Seven Asylum Seekers has been banned. This topical pantomime was considered 'racist' and therefore out of tune in multicultural Britain. The Village Council took the advice of local soviets, oops sorry, racial equality committees, who pronounced that the production was racist and that satire was no longer an accepted form of humour.

Tim Horner, chairman of the village hall committee, said they decided on the ban after taking advice from racial equality councils when the writer and producer of the panto, Bob Harrod, refused to alter the show three weeks ago.

Mr Harrod, 55, branded the decision ``a load of old rubbish''. He added: ``The script is not at all racist, we just take the mickey out of people.''

The panto is not noted for its quality as the list of Alis demonstrates: Chemical Ali, Comical Ali, Back Ali, Dark Ali, Bowling Ali, Ali G, and Ali-Kiss-Angel. No doubt it maligned Africans, Irish, Jews, Gays, Iraqis, comedians and cricketers.

(4th November 2003, 23.15)
Side-effects of the Constitution

The European Constitution includes many ill-defined and poorly constructed clauses, a Dangerous Dogs Act for the continent. One of these clauses is a prohibition on any act that could be construed as a eugenic practice.

The draft includes a new charter of fundamental rights, which has been declared non-negotiable. It requires the “prohibition of eugenic practices, particularly those aiming at the selection of persons”.

This has been noticed by anti-abortion groups who are now determined to enforce their morals on all through the law courts rather than through changes in law enacted by parliament as a liberal democracy would expect. They wish to obtain a ban on ante-natal testing and the abortion of severely handicapped children.

The morality of this issue is very problematic but the actiosn of Life and others demonstrate that the Constitution gives a green light to lobbies and interest groups to implement their agendas through the law courts bypassing the difficult path of public education and support. In the new EU, democracy is just a tiresome obstruction.

(4th November 2003, 23.07)
Monday, November 03, 2003
Brian Micklethwaite recently posted about Blair's strategy for turning Britain into steroid heaven.

Like so much else behind this government's fog, there was a European dimension:

Euro 2004 in Portugal plus the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Athens will place Europe at centre stage as far as international sport is concerned in 2004. For this reason, the European Union has chosen to name 2004 the European Year of Education through Sport (EYES) with the slogan "Move your body, stretch your mind".

Now is the time for the League of Fatties Suicide Squad to sacrifice themselves for the greater good
Michael Howard and Europe

On Sean Gabb's candidlist many moons ago, Mark Reckless cited that working for Michael Howard was evidence of Euroscepticism.

Can I also vouch for a Douglas Carswell, who like me joined the list a few weeks ago, and has been an active campaigner against Europe working with Michael Howard and Michael Spicer.

Moreover, as the Britain in Europe website indicates, Howard was the first MP to call for the repatriation of powers from Europe at a time when the Nice and Amsterdam treaties had not been signed.

The Tory party remains under Eurosceptic leadership.
Gibraltar Precedent

It came too late for the Chagossians in Diego Garcia but the precedent on indigenous consent for changes in sovereignty has also been reaffirmed for the Falkland Islands.

During a press conference held at CARI Martin O’Neill MP, president of the eighth ABC meeting said the British delegation pointed out to the Argentines that the agreement between Britain and Spain, which was subsequently set aside because there was an obvious lack of consent on the part of the Gibraltarians, is a precedent, and that it’s clear that there will not be sovereignty negotiations concerning the Falkland Islands without the consent of the majority of the Islanders.

(3rd November 2003, 22.37)

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