Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Diminished - 30th April 2003, 23.50

Sixty years ago the conflicts of the European powers reverberated across the globe, their empires dominated most of the Third World, and they sank to a depth of savagery and moral despair rarely seen since except under communism. Now, their long reaction to these dark times has culminated in a neutered military forces and a moral relativism that seems unable to distinguish tyranny from freedom. However, they have finally realised their weakness when they measure themselves against the power that they identify as their rival: the United States. They are choking on their impotence. That is why Germany, France, Belgium and Luxemburg took the first steps towards a military union in order to create a counterweight to the hyperpower.

Spurred on by Europe's glaring divisions over Iraq, the mini-summit's host -- Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt -- wants the 15-member bloc to set up a permanent force of "tens of thousands" of troops capable of intervening at short notice anywhere in the world. He also backs setting up an EU central command outside Brussels, creating a centralized European arms procurement agency and signing a "one for all and all for one" security pact among Union states modeled on the infamous Article IV of NATO's founding treaty. Verhofstadt insists the mini-summit is not directed against the NATO military alliance or Washington, but like French President Jacques Chirac, he is in favor of Europe acting as a military counterweight to the U.S. "hyperpower."
"The Iraq crisis has perhaps played the role of a catalyst, in the sense that it has once again shown that, if Europe is not coherent in defense and foreign policy matters, it will not play a large role," he told Belgium's Le Soir newspaper.

At the moment, their attempts appear to be as realistic as their rhetoric about increasing the competitiveness of their economies. Without the reforms, this will just prove to be a step down the road towards a 'two speed Europe' and result in armed forces that prove as inflexible as all other aspects of the European project, an ossified baroque regiment.

As we all know, sometimes European leaders speak the truth...

Verhofstadt -- who is in the midst of an election campaign in fiercely antiwar Belgium -- defended his proposal in a series of weekend interviews. "If we had said 'we can't make the monetary union without Britain,' Belgian citizens would have continued to use the Belgian francs today," he said.

..but it's the opposite of what they mean. More's the pity.
Tuesday, April 29, 2003

The Plotter Thickens

Matthew D'Ancona writes on Conservative plotting. To be nice to Mr D'Ancona he does have a good headline "The Tories really have lost the plot" relating as it does to the lack of a leadership challenger. For a change how right the warmongers were. In his case he sees that Clarke has been worsted by being questioning on the war:

The public were certainly baffled by the Bush-Blair strategy, as Mr Clarke said to anyone who would listen. But once Saddam's regime began to topple, the voters swung behind the war before you could say "next stop, Pyongyang". Mr Clarke's legendary political antennae - his principal claim to the top job in the party - had failed him badly.

Like a certain other Spaniard, Mr D'Ancona didn't seem to be able to follow the argument as that would have involved - oh I don't know - listening to it. The best summation of this point of view was discursed by my improvement Mr Montgomery:

Let us imagine for a moment that the Official Opposition didn’t endorse this war, that it was at best luke-warm, and at worst, downright hostile. If the war goes badly, then we stand to benefit from our prescience; whatever way we choose to pitch it, we would, had we opposed the war, be able to attack the government. We could be the party that said that this was a foolish military adventure, entirely divorced from the national interest, ‘not worth the blood and treasure’ etc, etc. Or we could have been the party that wasn’t much enthused, and so sat on our hands. In this scenario, we stand out as the movement that refused to go along with ‘the rush to war’, so wise old us. I don’t think for one second that the war that’s liable to be fought is going to be such as to cause either Britain or America domestic problems, but if that’s a wrong shout, a party that has opposed the war will find it hard to avoid some sort of political benefit.

What then if things go ‘well’? As I argued above, the gain from backing a government that does well out of war is non-existent for an opposition, so the issue has to be, what kind of penalty will be incurred for opposing a war that’s won?

Here again, given the temper of Western electorates, I’m hard pushed to see what the punishment would be. So what if a party stand out against war, either meekly, or, less wisely, by predicting Armageddon? Voters are fickle and shallow, and oppositions are so rarely punished for being wrong. No one remembers the mistakes shadows make, but they hardly forget what government does. In other words, since so few people pay attention to an opposition, historically it’s been quite easy to avoid any serious political consequences for your rhetorical actions. By far the worst decision any government in Britain made in the nineties was to enter the old Exchange-rate Mechanism (ERM). This decision was reluctantly taken by a Tory government, and every moment of delay was denounced by a Labour opposition braying ever more keenly for entry. In the end, John Major’s government was destroyed by this mistake, and Tony Blair’s blindly pro-European New Labour romped home to a general election triumph. To state a general rule: you only pay for your actions when your actions matter.

In other words if there's no risk of losing but a chance of winning then take that strategy. Now first let us remember that foreign adventures tend to go wrong at the occupation rather than the invasion stage, recall Vietnam, Somalia, Northern Ireland....

But even considering that we were in the best of all possible worlds and that the occupation went without major incident and the neo-cons were leashed to the post and America didn't invade everywhere between Kandahar and Timbuctu. Would there be any negative consequences for an anti-war opposition party? Well unlike any arguments about how peaceful and everlasting American Imperium in the Middle East will be we actually have polling figures.

Let's look at the figures for the Conservatives and compare them to the Liberal Democrats. I'll take July as the base line as Charles Kennedy, the Lib Dem leader, started to speak out strongly against the war in mid August. According to Mori the war supporting Conservatives got 27% then and they got 27% in March (last available figures). Well they didn't suffer, but they hardly prospered.

The Liberal Democrats who "got it wrong" according to Mr D'Ancona got 18% then and 20% now. Now I'm not claiming that this was due to their opposition to the war, just that the opposition plainly has nor hurt them. Montgomery and Clarke were right, it doesn't harm. If this adventure unravels (and their is no guarantee that it will, at least in public gaze) then who would reap the benefits. IDS failed to see, or what is worse failed to take up, a risk free strategy.
Sunday, April 27, 2003
Britain in Iraq - 27th April 2003, 18.20

Given that the British media appears to be concentrating upon the role of the United States in Baghdad, there appears to be a domestic gap as far as reportage of our own record in Iraq occurs. One could argue that the argument on public interest would demand such coverage, but it is now outweighed by a desire to appeal to an international audience and maintain an anti-American agenda. I had to listen to Channel 4 news last night to learn that US troops had tried to help those injured by the blast at the arms dump but came under fire, preventing them from admistering aid. This fact curiously omitted from the BBC report which dwelt upon the proximity of the dump and the damage caused but neglected to provide details that could show US troops in a positive light.

The Palestinians are reporting from their State Information Service that the British used Israeli cluster shells during the battle for Basra. It's an attempt to blacken the reputation of Satan's Mini-Me even further in the Arab world but provides evidence that the British Army was willing to use all of the weapons at their disposal, without being hamstrung by pseudo-humanitarian considerations.

British engineers are still attempting to restore basic services in Basra, two weeks after the fall of the city. There is some speculation that sabotage may be the cause for these delays. The International Committe for the Red Cross noted that,

"It looks like sabotage, continuous sabotage. Who would steal elements of a transformer station in the core of the infrastructure?" Andres Kruesi, head of mission for the ICRC in southern Iraq, told AFP. A humanitarian worker speculated the sabotage could be the work of Saddam Hussein loyalists keen to see the failure of British forces that routed his regime out of the southern city earlier this month. Water and power supplies in Basra have improved in recent days but have not yet attained the levels of before the start of the US-led war on March 20. Kruesi noted that Basra was relatively unscathed by the bombing and that the infrastucture remained "fairly intact". "Looters caused more damage to the water and electricity infrastructure than the bombing," said Kruesi, who has been posted in Basra for a year-and-a-half.

Despite these postwar setbacks, there are some positive signs. The oilfields are now producing crude, although the refinery is not yet operational. The United Arab Emirates Red Crescent has provided a water purification pump that provides 250,000 gallons of fresh drinking water per day and the university is beginning to reopen its doors (if they had any, they were looted).

There is a complete division between two parts of Basra's society. On the one hand, the poor associated the university with Saddam's state and burned or looted vast portions of the buildings. Most appear to privilege the knowledge of imams quoting from the Qu'ran and have no interest or awareness of science, technology or the liberal arts. For only barbarians burn libraries.

The mobs set the university library alight. Rooms that once held aisles and aisles of books in English and Arabic now house piles of ashes and burned metal shelving. A fire still smoldered in a room that once contained statistics books. Elsewhere, wooden doors and their frames had been pried away. A painted sign at the entrance to the English department said, "Wholeheartedly, Iraqis Love Saddam Forever."

Yet, the academic staff moved rapidly to de-Ba'ath themselves and set up new governing structures in a promising rebirth of civil society.

The first step taken by Basra academics, less than three weeks after the war here ended, has been to remove deans and department heads who owed their positions more to their Baath Party connections than to their professional achievements. In the engineering department, for example, the previous dean, sensing change, departed for Baghdad. "It was clear to him," a professor of marine engineering said dryly, "that he was not wanted."

With the old government gone and a new one still not in place, professors gathered and made their own rules. They chose to vote on their new leadership, department by department. In the College of Science, Jassim, a charismatic former Basra soccer star who earned his doctorate in Scotland, won with 73 of 98 votes cast. The former dean got less than a dozen votes.

The entire structure of the 20,000-student university will be replaced, professors said today as they gathered to assess the damage. New curriculums must be designed, eliminating the scorned National Education 101 and its two successor courses, which focused on the glories of Hussein's Baath Party. The practice of academic freedom, unknown in recent times, must be relearned, they said.

On the political front, the coalition forces have found it very difficult to co-opt non-Ba'athist local elites that are able to appeal to the Iraqis and run Basra's services efficiently without corruption. Two candidates, tainted by association with the fallen regime, hold some influence: Sheik Muzahim Mustafa al-Kanan set up a council two weeks ago and is now rivalled by a businessman, Ghalab Kubba. Competition for British influence in postwar Basra involves the urban elite, the heads of the local tribes and the imams, who act as inconsistent proxies for Iran.

As Ba'athist and Fedayeen saboteurs and terrorists remain at large, it is clear that Basra remains a difficult locality to police and govern.
Putting the puzzle together - 27th April 2003, 17.42

It will be many years before a consensus emerges about the frantic diplomatic efforts of Blair in February and early March before the Iraqi war. However, it is now clear that the prime minister was taking soundings from Bill Clinton on the role of the United Nations and, one would suspect, the possibilities and limits of such a policy with the Bush administration. Clinton appears to have supported an extension of the inspections after a second resolution allowing military action, and Blair had been on the verge of obtaining the Chilean vote in th UNSC. This was scuppered by the television interview with Jacques Chirac where he promised to wield his veto without any room for compromise.

British efforts to secure a deal were scuppered when the French president, Jacques Chirac, gave a television interview saying he would veto a resolution authorising war whatever the circumstances. Mr Blair followed up the interview with a private call to Mr Chirac, in which the French president said he would not tolerate any resolution that contained an ultimatum to Saddam. Commenting on Mr Chirac's television performance, the defence secretary, Geoff Hoon, told the Guardian: "He blew it. If he had said 'let's look at it again in two months time', we would have been in much greater difficulty."

Hence, a more detailed explanation for Blair's anger.
Let us have our say - 27th April 2003, 15.42

Paul Robinson has written an article for the Spectator, putting forward the argument that Britain should hold a referendum on the proposed European Constitution, through private financing and organisation (a preferable outcome), if the government is unwilling.

YouGov also held a poll for the Spectator on this issue and on Britain's general relationship with the European Union.

We asked if Britain should sign up to the following proposals, if that were finally agreed: an elected president for the EU (37 per cent said ‘should’, 50 per cent said ‘should not’); a common defence policy (44 per cent to 46 per cent); an EU army — with British forces coming under EU command (20 per cent to 69 per cent); establishing guidelines by which the running of each member country’s economy would be co-ordinated (25 per cent to 63 per cent).

This survey shows how the structure of questions can shape a response. A common defence policy is a borderline issue and may be viewed as an acceptance by the public of security as a collective, international enterprise. Once concrete examples of sovereignty are given - British forces coming under EU command, or the central co-ordination of the economy, opposition to these proposals shoots up.

Should it then be left to Parliament to decide whether to sign up, or should there be a referendum? Only 12 per cent were willing to leave it to the politicians — 82 per cent wanted the whole nation to give its verdict.

This is a very satisfactory outcome and a result that many Labour politicians at the grassroots may note.

We also asked about a number of policy areas, and whether in each case ‘all’ or ‘most’ decisions should be made at national level or at the EU level. Only in the area of ‘crime and justice’ did a majority of people (just a shade over 50 per cent) think that all decisions should be made at national level. The other results: environmental policy (all/national: 23 per cent; most/national: 24 per cent; jointly: 36 per cent; most/EU: 11 per cent; all/EU: 3 per cent; don’t know: 4 per cent). Foreign policy: 33–26–31–5–2–4. Defence policy: 40–22–28–5–2–3. Economic policy: 43–32–19–3–0–4. Asylum and immigration policy: 45–16–26–6–4–3. Crime and justice: 50–26–16–3–1–3.

From this, it is clear that the model of national sovereignty appeals to between a third and a half of those individuals surveyed. This result is not that positive but is still more popular than the polled figure of 31% ready to vote for the Tories. Except for environment policy, those who wished to give the European Union the major or sole competence over policy hovered around a tenth of those surveyed except for economic policy where support for the European Union plunged. The primacy of economic issues over security issues also demonstrates that the electorate is far more intelligent than its representatives; that those surveyed remain very sceptical of the Euro area institutions; that they are aware that the European Union will probably have more say over economic policy than security policy after the Iraqi war; and that memories of the exchange rate mechanism have fostered a deep scepticism of subordinating economic policy to 'Europe'.
What happened in the Convention - 27th April 2003, 13.41

The Financial Times carries informative reports of the European Convention but the articles on the website are only available to subscribers. therefore, here is a quick posting on an article by Daniel Dombey of the FT, published on the 24th April 2003.

Giscard D'Estaing obtained full support from the Praesidium of the Convention on his proposals for a full-time President of the European Union. His supporters included Gisela Stuart, the New Labour representative on the Convention, who was described as "broadly favourable" and clearly indicates that the Blair government will sign up to the Constitution, as it is currently drafted.

Members of the European parliament, suspicious of plans for a new Congress of the Peoples of Europe which could choose the council president, labelled the ideas "a slap in the face for European democracy", a "hijack" of the EU by big nation states, and "autistic".

This un-PC language from the European parliamentarians demonstrate how much most members are opposed to domination of the EU by the larger countries. Even Germany was tentative in its support as opposed to Britain and France. D'Estaing found that his proposals were watered down: the role of the vice-presidency was abandoned whilst a board to assist the President was downgraded to an "option". The number of Commissioners would be reduced to 15 from 25 though a further 15 "commission delegates" would be appointed in a sleight of hand that both reduces and increases the number of individuals appointed by the member states in the Commission.

The council president would be chosen from the ranks of past or serving EU leaders, have the right to call together summits and represent the EU to foreign heads of state and government. He or she would serve for a renewable term of two and half years, ending the current system in which countries take six month turns to preside over the council.

The Euroepan Presidency would only be available to the current political mafia (read "class") that forms the incompetent elite of most of these countries. No doubt the first compromise candidate will resurrect the political career of Jacques Poos (also known as Chirac) and extend his period of immunity from prosecution.

The Conservatives did condemn the proposals as "jobs for the boys".
Thursday, April 24, 2003
Paris-US rift - 24th April 2003, 23.00

To reiterate the differences between the US and France is fairly pointless. The US will soon provide an example of what "consequences" means. However, the US did criticise the Defence Meeting scheduled for the 28th.

Washington has also criticized an upcoming defense summit in Brussels, bringing together France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany -- but leaving out the majority of European Union members.

Is this criticism a statement of support for European defence integration, for NATO, or against France and Germany setting up a separate military force? It's not very clear.
What future for the Common Foreign and Security Policy? - 24th April 2003, 22.45

Dr Simon Duke of the European Institute of Public Administration has written a paper on the shortcomings of the common foreign and security policy (CFSP) over Iraq, in a pained style that laments the waywardness of individual countries acting on their perceived national interests and undermines the value of solidarity in the European Union. An example:

France and the United Kingdom vigorously defended their positions but both appeared to have forgotten their treaty-based obligation to defend 'the positions and interests of the Union' in the UN Security Council as permanent members.

Duke argues that the CFSP should be strengthened through proposals to the European Convention and using the Iraqi crisis as a spur to reform. This would include a strategic overview of the European Union and the following is noted as a positive outcome (since no other strategic alternative is discussed:

This has led some to conclude that the EU will not be taken seriously by the U.S. until it is a complete actor in its own right. This implies that the EU Member States must be able to combine diplomatic leverage, with economic persuasion (through aid and assistance or sanctions) and, critically, the credible threat of military force and the will to use it where circumstances demand.

Although the CFSP may fail as individual members act on their national interests without reference to the European Union, Duke argues that this is a clear failure of the CFSP.

Finally, the question of whether CFSP has any relevance at all, having been side-stepped in such a blatant way in the Iraq crisis, is one that the Member States must answer. In the absence of the political will on the part of the Member States to act in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity, no amount of institutional tinkering will revive CFSP. The choice is relatively simple. The EU Member States will either have to respond to the fundamental challenges outlined above together, or they will have to shape their destinies individually - or uncommonly. The gap between rhetoric and action has simply become too blatant to paper over cracks, it is time for some fundamental decisions. In this sense the Iraq crisis may prove positive for CFSP.

Papers like this are very important as examples of the concepts underlying the European ideology, embracing an ideal and demanding that all countries follow the values laid down as appropriate in ordering and confining their actions. It is an updated Continental system, antithetical to free trade and liberty.
News from the Convention - 24th April 2003, 22.17

The European Convention is now due to issue its full draft of the Constitution on time at the Thessaloniki European Council on June 20th 2003. Giscard D'Estaing also announced that there was unanimous agreement over the need to appoint a European Foreign Minister, spelling out the acceptance of a common foreign and security policy by the Blair administration.

The main area of contention appears to be the professed role of any potential European President. This forms the greatest difference between the smaller countries who favour the rotating presidency cobined with the European Commission and the larger countries who prefer a defined presidential role. Giscard D'Estaing ignored the views of the smaller countries and proved yet again his bias towards the proposals tabled by France and Germany.

This week, the Convention will be debating the role of the "Foreign Minister" and Article 46, known as the "exit clause", the clearest signal that the new Constitution effectively strips all members of their national sovereignty. The latest incarnation of the "exit clause" includes a wait of two years for the lucky country, approval by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers as well as agreeing the terms of exit on a qualified majority vote. Since this is close to the original draft publicised by Andrew Duff.

A flavour of the opposition to D'Estaing's proposal can be found from this reaction amongst the Finns. Helsingen Sanomat reported that most of the Finnish parliamentarains viewed D'Estaing's reforms as undemocratic. In addition to the Presidency, he also proposed a Congress of the Peoples of Europe, a stripped-down Commission and a Vice-Presidency that would be allocated to a smaller country. With such divisions there may be a positive outcome,

The Convention is scheduled to complete its work in the summer. However, differences in opinion are so great that it is unlikely that a single draft constitution for Europe will be approved by consensus, especially with the chairman making proposals that go against the views of the majority of the members of the Convention. "If the proposal comes to the convention table looking like this, the reception will be catastrophic. This does not reflect the debate that has been going on in any way", said Teija Tiilikainen, a Finnish member of the Convention, in an interview with the Finnish News Agency STT.

so long as D'Estaing is not being too clever.

Kimmo Kiljunen suspects that Giscard's paper might be deliberately strong, for tactical reasons. "My feeling is that Giscard wants a single final document from the Convention, and this goes against that goal. I am confident that this was put out simply to spark debate." Kiljunen suggests that the purpose may be to reach a compromise similar to that proposed by Germany and France earlier this year.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

George the Dragon

Tomorrow being St. George's day, what should we think of the allegations in the Telegraph? Well George denies this, he would and has threatened libel action. We'll see how far this one gets. Michael Foot, who was as guilty as hell of giving information to the Soviets in return for funding his pet project (Tribune) won substantial libel damages. I do doubt, however, that George Galloway will cut nearly as sympathetic figure in court as Foot did. However for more detail go to Harry's Place, who has a couple of good summaries.

The first thing is that this should send a message to the anti-war movement. The campaign had an attitude of no enemies to the left, which meant that very dodgy Trotskyite groupsucles and Islamic radicals were allowed to attach themselves to the campaign while no effort was made to reach out to Tories. The fact that it was Galloway and not someone else who may have been the conduit for Iraqi money is surprising, it could have been any dodgy group that the anti war campaign embraced.

There is also a further point on foreign funding of British politicians. Of course the cases of Michael Foot (Russia) and Edward Heath (China, and possibly Iraq) are fairly well known. But are we missing the point? Are politicians being bought by Europe and America.


How many of the Tory front bench went to America, how often and who paid for it? How many times since becoming an MP did Iain Duncan Smith go to America? Who paid for this? How were the think tanks that paid for this paid for themselves.

Have any of the main political Parties, or their youth or international wings, taken funding from the The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) or the National Republican Institute for International Affairs (NRI) - both funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, itself funded by the American taxpayer? What risks were assessed as to possible conflicts of interest, and what action was taken to minimise those risks?

Which MPs, MPs researchers or party official seconded for American policy institutes? Which ones and how long for?

South Africa

Will the government release the security records for Peter Hain, and explain what investigations were taken as to his alleged links with South African intelligence services? How close are Labour links with the South African ANC, and are they seen to be at all problematic to our actions in Africa?


How many former senior civil servants are working for European Union funded institutions? Senior MPs? Is their an open, central record for EU funding to British political groups?

Conspiracy Corner

Why do I look like such a conspiracy freak asking all these questions? Oh and if you want a laugh, here's George Galloway's discussion forum.
Monday, April 21, 2003
A Succinct Precis of Franco-German Contradictions - 21st April 2003, 20.53

The editor of New Perspectives Quarterly examines the record of France and Germany leading up to the war. He concludes that their objectives were honourable, their approach deluded.

That seems to be where we are headed. Despite their truly significant contributions to the fight against Al Qaeda—France and Germany have joined illiberal Russia and undemocratic China to check the United States, having concluded that an unbound superpower—even if it is a democray—is a greater threat than mass destruction weapons in hostile hands.

This betrayal—not so much of America but of any real understanding of the power relations required to sustain a liberal order globally—is an historic mistake that Britain’s Tony Blair avoided, even at the risk of siding with Bush’s folly.

In the end, it is the anti-Americanism of France and Germany that has contributed most to the demise of the UN and the Atlantic Alliance. Evidently, Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder see the multilateral UN primarily as an arena where they can compensate for their own weakness by blocking American power, even though the credibility and effectiveness of the UN itself rests on that very American power! Believing that might cannot be right, they decided to do the wrong thing to try to stop it.

Wordsmithing - 21st April 2003, 20.32

Perhaps the Prime Minister should add the role of neologist to his ever-expanding list of talents although I suspect that he has admired, from afar, the role of the (late and lamented) Iraqi Information Minister. In homage to al-Sahhaf, he may have resurrected the term wordsmithing in his meeting with Gerhard Shroeder last week to disparage reporters who dwell on the minutiae of his pronouncements. Both leaders agreed that the United Nations should take a "vital role" or a "central role" under a UN umbrella although the exact mechanics would, of course, be "up to the diplomats to then sit down and nail down the whereabouts". If one can stomach the bonhomie and backslapping of the Anglo-German 'friendship', the divisions soon come to the fore. Blair was asked directly if he would join the meeting of 'Old Europe' on the 28th and set out his own support for a European security policy "fully consistent with and compatible with NATO". A very polite way of saying no!

Blair's meeting with Kofi Annan in Athens on the 16th April was just an enlightening in a bland way. Although the "important role" of the United Nations was reiterated, Blair now stated that its role would be expanded from humanitarian assistance to "political and reconstruction issues". This expansion was conditional upon a partnership between Europe and America over Iraq and shows an astute politician supporting multilateral institutions in Iraq, knowing that his rhetorical objective could be undermined by the intransigence of the French and the Russians. In two months, Blair will state he supported the role of the United Nations in Iraq but this was halted by the intransigence of the other permanent Security Council members.

Blair's underlying philosophy runs true to form: a partnership between America and Europe underpinned by transatlantic ties. With the encouragement of 'New Europe' and the ambivalent role of Germany, Blair understands that no power within the European Union has an interest, at present, in pushing for an outright rupture.
Sunday, April 20, 2003

Biased Biased BBC?

The Biased BBC blog has been given a new lease of life with the Mesopotamian adventure. Their struggle to find pro-government and pro-Labour Party bias has not uncovered this gem:

"Well, I think this does one thing - it draws a line under what, before the war, had been a period of... well, a faint air of pointlessness, almost, was hanging over Downing Street. There were all these slightly tawdry arguments and scandals. That is now history. Mr Blair is well aware that all his critics out there in the party and beyond aren't going to thank him - because they're only human - for being right when they've been wrong."

If you want a 22 carat example of pro-governing party bias from the government controlled broadcaster, there it is.

It is odd, therefore that the (pro-war, did I mention that) Biased BBC site did not condescend to mention this.

The full (ultra-left) article is here. The only really worthwhile bit is the transcription of the Marr editorial analysis.
The issue of Iraqi sanctions - 20th April 2003, 18.13

Over the last week, France, Germany and Russia have demonstrated that they will impede the reconstruction of Iraq by using their power and influence within the United Nations to obstruct the lifting of sanctions and prevent the passing of a UNSC resolution that legitimates the actions of the coalition. Their economic and diplomatic interests happily coincide: pressure on the United States to ensure that their Iraqi debts and oil contracts are not forgiven or annulled; diplomatic obstruction within the United Nations to show that US influence is not opposed and acting in concert to cement their partnership as a counterweight.

The United States did not anticipate that the diplomatic conflicts of February would be revisited after the Iraqi war. In an attempt to flank the initial hostility to their call for the lifting of sanctions, thay have conceded to their opponents by proposing a phased lifting of the sanctions.

However, as the 'counterweight coalition' have already called for the United Nations to take over the administration of Iraq, this small concession is unlikely to be received with reciprocal concessions on their part. There are a number of issues that they could utilise in their diplomatic offensive: the 'oil for food' programme, the inspections and the extension of United Nations recognition to any successor regime within Iraq. If they do decide to fight all of these battles, France, Germany and Russia may fall into the same trap that they sprung two months ago. By doling out verbal concessions to prolong the diplomatic tussles but without cooperating to resolve the outstanding issues, they run the risk of alienating the United States. The Bush administration is ideologically unsympathetic to the United Nations and, if they concluded that the UN was no longer adding value to US diplomacy, could withdraw their support. The 'counterweight coalition' has demonstrated that its tactics are predictable and need to show a willingness to engage with the issues if they do not wish to court irrelevance.

Zimwatch: Send for the Troops

Alasdair Palmer writes that British troops should be sent to Zim, we only need a few. Now this column has always accepted the view that first world armies can beat third world armies fairly fast, but this is not the problem. The problem is that while it would be nice to stop Mugabe undercutting the global diamond market with southern Zairean gems install democracy in Zim, how many troops do you need to stay there? Four hundred here, two hundred and fifty there, it all adds up.

Staying on, and on

According to the Telegraph:

The United States is planning to keep long-term access to military bases in Iraq, it has been reported. Military chiefs are said to want to keep the option of using up to four bases around the country.

They did that to us sixty years ago, and they're still here. But this time they're defending us from, well, what?
So Easy - 20th April 2003, 13.55

It is always a pleasure to examine the actions of the European Union and to unearth another test of their commitment to freedom. Given Castro's predictable moves to destroy a home-grown movement of dissent whilst the West's attentions were (supposedly) diverted in Iraq, one would assume that Europe and America would take steps to punish the communist, one-party state for its repression.

The Cotonou Pact was signed on the 23rd June 2000 at Benin between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States. Under article 9, the fundamental political aims of all parties are set out: "Respect for human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law, which underpin the ACP-EU Partnership, shall underpin the domestic and international policies of the Parties and constitute the essential elements of this Agreement." The Pact was ratified by its members on the 1st April 2003.

The Cotonou Pact includes Zimbabwe although aid is currently frozen due to the Mugabe regime. Cuba has also applied to join and it shall be interesting to see if the EU observes the values that it sets out as a mantra on all of its treaties. The organisation recently opened a trade mission in Havana and the Development Commissioner, Poul Nielson, stated that the communist one-party state of Cuba fell into the category of countries considered "eligible" to join the Pact.

The EU is hoist on its own petard, since managing its trade to promote certain values and transnationalist institutions, will leave it open to the charge of hypocrisy. Free trade brings its own rewards and may have shortened the period of misery that the Cubans currently endure.
Saturday, April 19, 2003

After Empire

Theodore Dalrymple writes a depressing essay on the state of Africa, which he knows well. He ends with a thoroughly conservative case against colonialism.

Cheering Crowds

One of the most facile of the pro-war comments was that of the cheering crowds. You know, usually intelligent people going "people will hang their heads in shame when they see Iraqis cheering their liberators." I think that was from Julian Lewis MP.

It was a bad argument for the simple reason that our national interest had very little to do with whether the people of Iraq would turn up to a pro-goverment demonstration. The domestic hapiness of the Iraqis bears nothing on the security or prosperity of the United Kingdom.

Although this would also be the case with the present pro independence demonstrations, let's use the pro-war logic here. If the well being of the Iraqi people is to over-ride our national interest, then these demonstrations against infidel occupation should also worry us. Now that we have done what the Iraqis wanted (but not sufficiently to get it done) and got rid of the hated Baathists we must at once set up Sharia law and vacate the place. Kind of stupid I agree, but we're all interventionists now.

This is a stupid reason for carrying out any policy, but it is time to gloat.

After all the pro-warriors gloat at "proving you wrong" on things that we (or at least I) never said would happen - you know stiff Iraqi resistance and lack of cheering crowds. Now it's time to prove them wrong on things that they did predict, like the crowds (aimed at us) and the lack of usable weapons of mass destruction. Admittedly the right wing anti-interventionists were expecting the gratitude to last a bit longer, a week would have been nice, and to see at least a trace of mustard gas. However the privilege of the reactionary is that you can be proved right not by your predictions but simply by the failure of your opponents predictions.

So Pollard, Samizdata, Murray, all of you. You were wrong and we were right, and we didn't even see how. Na na na naaa na. Na na na naaa na.

The world's most powerful Trots

While talking about Harry Hatchet, I saw a link to this review article on the demise of the Trotskyite Partisan Review. This was the journal that inspired the original neo-conservatives. It is their methods to their obsession with neo-conservatism can it be said that anything has changed for them apart from their choice of useful idiots?

Why National Sovereignty trumps Human Rights

Harry Hatchet has translated a very important article by John Lloyd (originally in an Italian newspaper). It exagerates but in exagerating explains Blair's motivation:

Do we support this gross breach of national sovereignty (which the invasion of Iraq certainly was)? Or do we oppose it, ultimately in the same of just such a national sovereignty? Do we, in other words, allow the sovereignty to trump human rights, yet again?

Everyone prefers human rights to sovereignty, right? Well there are two good reasons to look through this and see why sovereignty is so important.

Firstly there is the fact that sovereignty cuts down the reasons for war. You may despise the religion, or lack of it, of your neighbour - but if you accept their sovereignty on that matter crusades for the true religion (or secularism or ecumenical niceness) become harder. Every peace settlement (and put to a side my scepticism about peace settlements) is based on accepting some degree of sovereignty, whether it's an acceptance of Israel's 1967 borders or an acceptance (even if feigned) of the will of the people of Northern Ireland. The willingness to over-ride sovereignty, as happened in the Kosovo conflict and later in Iraq, simply lowers the bar for future war. And anything that makes wars easier will be a net negative for human rights.

There is a positive reason for respecting state sovereignty, and that is the matter of political evolution. Whether you believe that man is a product of his history, culture and environment or that man is a universal being, political evolution is crucial. For the integralists the political institutions should be rooted in the local soil of the cultures they govern, and so should evolve with as little outside evolution as possible - no matter how bizarre they appear to outsiders. I have often argues with Americans that we do not need to get rid of the royal family simply because America has an elected President, the same applies to (admittedly more important) sharia law or tribal councils.

Even to the universalist, apart from the Panglossian element out there, the present model of social democracy still needs refinement. It is better that lessons are learnt from two hundred laboratories (under vastly different conditions) than under twenty with one hundred and eighty virtual colonies.

Personally I have a foot in both camps, believing that there is no universal political model but economically seeing that a free market is the natural state of man. So I use both arguments depending on whether we're exporting democracy or capitalism.

In the end it doesn't matter. Blair's crusade, no matter what its temporary successes, will wither away. The natural law of military balance will reassert itself and the dreams of the hegemon (or in this case the bespectacled kid who runs behind the school bully) will be set aside in the very serious business of power politics.

Until then however we've got to try and make fewer strategic mistakes prompted by the siren calls of human rights.

Mandarins against the Special Relationship

Prospect magazine has an article on the Special Relationship which it argues that this is harmful to Britain's national interest by Rodric Braithwaite former chairman of the joint intelligence committee, former ambassador to Moscow and author of "Across the Moscow River". It makes a very good case that Britain is no longer independent in any meaningful sense, and not because of Europe but because of our overt dependence on America.

There's a marvelous deflation to the Anglospherist's favourite quotation, Harold Macmillan on Britain being Greece to America's Rome. The Greek advisers, points out Mr Braithwaite, were largely slaves.

To show that British foreign policy discourse is at the highest level one of competing treacheries, it is pro-Europe. It makes this telling point against the mainstream of the Eurosceptic movement:

Many Britons fear that British sovereignty will be further eroded inside the EU, and they would like to disentangle themselves from it. The same people are now arguing for an even more intimate relationship with America. They fail to point out that this would constrain British sovereignty at least as much.

Well quite.

It is in short the article that Robin Cook should have written in the New Statesman. The article itself (subscribers only - I wasted money on the magazine) is very disapointing. Reading a Guardian summary it came out as if it was thinking deep thoughts about Britain's place in the world, with an expected amount of partisan bile. Instead it is partisan bile that masquerades as deep thought. The reason Britain should rethink her place at America's side is, well, America is run by Republicans. Well that's good long term thinking Robin.

One thing that was interesting was the use of the term "neo-conservative management" to describe the American administration. Even anti-Tory bile recognises that many of the most influential hawks are conservatives in name only. If the peace movement were to forget about talking about the right wing standing of Paul "Outside Interests" Wolfowitz and instead concentrate on the Trotskyite antecedants of many of the neo-cons Labour MPs would dump Blair in 48 hours. Labour MPs can just about deal with Tories, but they hate Trots ten times more.

If you are going to read one Europhile debunking of the special relationship this Easter read the one from Prospect.
Divisions on European Defence - 20th April 2003, 22.42

Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Germany are meeting on the 28th April to establish an avant-garde in European defence and overturn or advance (depending upon whom you read) the European defence and security policy established by Blair and Chirac in 1998. This has positive implications for the United Kingdom: as it reinforces a 'semi-detached' status that now appears to be a realistic proposition.

As for the continental powers:

Messrs Chirac, Schröder and Verhofstadt are probably right in feeling that in a broader and more diverse EU, defence integration will require an avant garde to set the pace. However, a core based on anti-Americanism cannot work. They are unwise to take this initiative without the British - and the timing is appalling.

Their meeting provides further ammunition that the present crop of continental leaders are the worst since the war in terms of their diplomatic skills and their ability to orient themselves in the changing landscapes of international relations.
Friday, April 18, 2003
Neville Chamberlain, Appeasement and the British Road to War
Frank McDonagh
Manchester University Press, Manchester and New York, 1998, 196pp, £14.99 (pbk)
ISBN 0 7190 4382 X
Reviewed by Sean Gabb

I read through this book during my lunch break today, sat in an unusually warm and sunny Kensington park. An old man saw the cover with its bold title and rather nice line drawing of Chamberlain. "Neville Chamberlain?" He said to me with an accusing stare. "What a wanker he was." I thought of putting the book down and starting an argument about the realities of British foreign policy before 1940. But lunch breaks for me are far too unusual for wasting on argument with someone who would only start ranting about Saddam Hussein and plastic shredders or whatever - and I get quite enough of that from the Internet. So I smiled and carried on reading.

His reaction, though, was no more than the conventional wisdom. Despite more than 30 years of revisionist scholarship, Neville Chamberlain is still seen by the world exactly as those in and around the first Churchill Government wanted him to be seen. That view is of a weak and confused man out of his depth in the snakepit of European politics. With his rolled umbrella and wing collar, he blundered round Europe in the late 1930s, deceived at every point by bad men of greater intelligence, but hoping that he could settle German demands for territory as peacefully as he might settle a strike in a Birmingham button factory. In the process, he refused to let the country re-arm sufficiently to face the inevitable conflict in defence of liberal civilisation. His name has become shorthand for weakness and self-delusion in foreign policy. "Appeaser" has become one of the ultimate insults in political debate throughout the English-speaking world; and every argument over the present war with Iraq must include some slighting reference to Neville Chamberlain and some lavish praise of Winston Churchill, his apparently more realistic and courageous antithesis.

In fact, this view of Chamberlain has largely disappeared from the scholarly literature. What we have instead is a cool understanding of the limitations of British power in a changing and increasingly hostile world. This book expresses the view briefly yet fully, and it gives useful extracts in support from contemporary documents, and contains a good bibliography for further reading. As such, it is an excellent introduction to the subject for students and for those simply interested in the approach to the greatest war ever fought by this country and the last in which it entered as a primary belligerent.

And that is all I will say about the book. I am reviewing it simply as an excuse for writing more about British foreign policy - this time from the perspective of the 1930s.

Undoubtedly, the Great War had been a disaster for this country. It was an act of stupidity to enter it, and even more stupid not to try for a negotiated settlement in 1916. It had killed nearly a million men, and left many more maimed. Its financial cost had been immense, requiring heavy taxes and a devaluation of Sterling, and a tenfold increase in the national debt. It had also distorted patterns of investment. The vast overseas portfolio built up during the previous generations had been partly liquidated and replaced by heavy indebtedness to American interests. Internally, capital had diverted into an unsustainable expansion of heavy industry - areas in which the country had for some time been losing its comparative advantage, and the products of which could no longer be readily sold in an increasingly fragmented and economically hostile world market. The years before 1914 were not some long, golden summer. But to those looking back from the years after 1918, that is how they often seemed.

But while disastrous, the Great War had not for us been a catastrophe. It was, if in various ways, for Germany, France, Russia and Turkey - but not for us. It had not been fought on our territory. Nor had it been followed by any serious challenge to the established order. Though these did not at all justify the heavy costs, it had even been attended by certain benefits. Germany and Russia and Turkey were destroyed by defeat and revolution. France was prostrate. The United States had briefly emerged as an active great power, only to return to a determined isolationism. In terms of naval supremacy and imperial security, the country was restored to something like the position it had enjoyed after Waterloo. And, while taking the German colonies was of no value, the despoiling of Turkey had given us control over the Middle East and its increasingly important oil reserves.

By 1920, it was clear that the Great War had ripped holes in the financial web that had once bound the world to the City of London. There could be no exact return to the position of 1914. But, if it had shaken the foundations of British power, the War had not undermined them. Something like the old position could still be restored. It was necessary to make a complex and difficult set of changes. At home, it was necessary to cut taxes and spending back towards the levels of 1914, and to force down the price level to the point where the gold standard could be restored at the old parity. At the same time, the over-expansion of heavy industry had to be reversed, so that labour and capital could flow into the more productive new sectors - cars, chemicals, electricals, general light engineering, and so forth.

In the Empire, it was necessary to reduce the commitment to India - returning to something like the system of indirect rule used before the Mutiny - and to shift the balance of imperial interest to the now more valuable Middle East. Outside the Empire, it was necessary to restore as much as possible of the old financial and trading system.

Any one of these required much effort and some luck to achieve. Astonishingly, most of them had been achieved after a fashion by the 1930s. The Great Depression had put an end for the moment to hard money and free trade, but caused little harm overall to the domestic economy. The unemployment and other hardships were mostly confined to the declining heavy industries. From the Midlands down, the country was enjoying a steady increase of output and living standards. Indeed, looked at from about 1935, the Great Depression seemed to serve British world interests rather well.

After 1918, the only potential challenger was the United States. Its size and wealth appeared to place it beyond all hope of competition. If it wanted to outbuild the Royal Navy, it could. However, its prevailing constitutional and moral order made a challenge unlikely. Though it might take an occasional interest outside the Americas, it was essentially isolationist. Though it might have the cash to challenge British primacy, it lacked the will. It had been tricked into the Great War to serve British interests. Now, it had largely withdrawn. The Great Depression seemed to confirm its impotence. The general collapse of its economy after 1931, and the emergence of mass unemployment - averaging, I think, around 35 million - threw it proportionately into a scale of suffering quite unknown in this country. Moreover, the election of Franklin Roosevelt had opened it to a departure from economic orthodoxy that opinion in this country rightly saw as likely to keep it in depression for as far ahead as could reasonably be seen.

All this country needed to consolidate the recovery was time - time for the new arrangements at home and abroad to take full effect. What had to be avoided at all costs was another big war. That would destroy all the cautious but solid progress made since the removal of Lloyd George from power in 1922. The Treaty of Locarno had got us out of all practical European connections after 1925 - the guarantee to both France and Germany was in effect a guarantee to neither, as it justified a refusal to enter into close military relations with either. The League of Nations was a useful means of imposing British will elsewhere in the world where it was no longer convenient to act unilaterally.

By 1935, the country had never in living memory enjoyed such profound home and imperial security, or spent so little of the national income on defence. Let all this continue, and by 1960, the financial and strategic costs of the Great War would have scarred over as surely as those of the Napoleonic wars had a century before.

This is the background against which Adolf Hitler was viewed by this country's ruling class. There is no need, I think, to argue that he was a thoroughly bad man. He turned Germany into a semi-socialist police state, and tainted with his embrace what had previously been one of the homelands of liberal civilisation. However, I share the official perception of his early years that he was no threat to this country. His published writings and speeches at the time, and his private conversations made available after his death, all point to a settled ambition. This was to expand German power deep into Eastern Europe. He wanted to gather up the Germanic fragments of the Habsburg Empire under his own rule, and to conquer large colonies of settlement for the German people in Poland and western Russia. That was the consistent purpose of his foreign policy in the east. In the west, his only declared and perceptible aim was to reach a settlement with Britain that would give him a free hand in the east.

Yes, we are told endlessly that his eastern policy was just his first step to conquering the world. Give him Poland and Western Russia and their great resources, the claim goes, and give him the lack of an enemy to the east - Soviet Russia being destroyed - and he would surely turn eventually on Britain. I suppose he might have. But he might also have died his hair green, or applied to join a kibbutz, or had an early sex change operation. In deciding what someone might have done in circumstances different from those he actually faced, we can say nothing for sure. If we want to say anything at all, we can only do so in the light of his stated or revealed intentions. For Hitler, there is no evidence that his ambitions stretched to a conquest or even a humbling of Britain.

He had a sincere, if not always well informed, admiration of Britain and the British Empire. He respected our victory in the Great War, and wanted to avoid another conflict. He did not share the desire of other German nationalists for a return of the lost German colonies. He had no interest in naval construction, and went out of his way to condemn the naval race that had poisoned Anglo-German relations after 1898. He signed a naval agreement with us in 1935, and I think this is the only treaty he ever made that he took care to observe. When the Arabs rose against us in Palestine, they sent emissaries to him in Berlin, seeking financial support. Since they were all good anti-semites, one might have thought they would reach a deal. But Hitler refused all help, declaring in effect that he would not lift a finger against white rule over the coloured races.

It is possible that victory in the east would have raised his ambitions in the west. We cannot be sure that it would not. But neither can we assume that he would have been any more successful in his invasion of Russia than he actually was after June 1941. Without facing us, he would not have had to divide his forces between France, North Africa and the Balkans. At the same time, he would not have had forces hardened in those wars, or the record of invincibility that for a while silenced his internal critics. And the Russian winters would have been no less ruinous of invaders than it had always been before. He would probably have taken Moscow and Leningrad. But I do not know how much further into the Eurasian landmass he could have reached. He would have faced much the same war of attrition with the partisans, and would probably have had to keep a vast army of occupation in the east before it could be made safe for German settlement. He might well have been able to present no threat of any kind to the west. His only contact with us might have been endless requests for loans, and complaints at our unwillingness to join his crusade against Bolshevism.

Even otherwise, he would have dominated much the same area as Stalin did after 1945, and done so at a comparative disadvantage. Most obviously, he was not the acknowledge head of an international conspiracy to spread his rule. He had no bands of committed followers stirring up trouble everywhere from China to Peru. As its name suggests, national socialism was not an ideology for export. It was an ideology of Aryan domination. Even in other Aryan countries, it had little following. Oswald Mosley made a big noise in this country for a while, but never came close to electoral significance. Under Soviet rule after 1945, the Slavs of Eastern Europe went into their factories and film studios and, for a while, worked with something like unforced gratitude for their masters. Under Hitler, they had to be coerced from the start.

Granted, his economic policies were less insanely destructive. At the same time, the expectations of his people were higher, and they had been less frightened by his tyranny out of expressing them. And he was a socialist. If he had presided over a recovery from the Great Depression, that recovery was running into trouble after 1938. Inflation could only be hidden by wage and price controls, and was evidenced instead by shortages of consumer goods - see, for example, how the German forces sent into the Czechlands in March 1939 stripped the shops in Prague bare of things like razor blades and overcoats. Not all the frenzied rhetoric in the world could have saved Hitler's revolution from running out of steam after 1940. It was only the war that kept up a semblance of prosperity into the middle of the decade.

A German domination of the east might have involved us eventually in a cold war. But ours would have been an unexhausted, unbankrupted, unhumiliated Britain and British Empire. There would have been no American support. Neither though would there have been need of any.

There are two further points to be made against me. The first was made by a friend last week, as we sat arguing over what I have just written. Suppose, he asked, Hitler had not only failed to conquer Russia, but had lost. Suppose Stalin had all by himself beaten Hitler and conquered all the way to Germany. Would this not have been worse for us? There would have been no limit to the prestige of Communism, and every Comintern agitator throughout the world would have had a glorious time against liberal civilisation. At least in the real war, the victory was shared between us and them.

I have no answer to this point. It requires more detailed understanding than I have of the relative balance of forces in hypothetical circumstances between Russia and Germany. But while it strikes me as reasonable to say that Hitler might not have won very easily, I find it hard to believe that he could have lost to Stalin.

The second point is the atrocities committed by the Germans. These are often used as justification for going to war. Do I not care about these? My answer is that I do not think they were grounds in themselves for war. An individual has all manner of moral responsibilities, and looking to these will by no means be always in his own interest. A government, however, is a trustee of the nation to which it is accountable, and must look only to the interests of that nation. It would be wrong for our government to visit positive evils on foreigners. It would be right for it to perform such good offices for them as did not involve much cost to us. But it has neither the duty nor the right to go about the world acting as some knight errant, putting down the bad and raising the good. When we talk about the British Government, the adjective is at least as important as the noun.

It must also be said that the worst atrocities were committed towards the end of a general war, and do not seem to have been long premeditated. They happened at a time in which fear of defeat and a misplaced desire for revenge had extinguished the usual moral feeling, and in places far removed from the battlefields that most attracted western curiosity. I have no doubt that an invasion of Russia after about 1943 would have resulted in great atrocities. But I do doubt if these would have been so bloody as the ones actually on record.

Of course, we cannot be definite on what would have happened had there been no outbreak of war in 1939. But the worst I can imagine for us is no worse than did happen after 1945. And it could easily have been better.

This being so, it was not our business if Hitler wanted to tear up the 1919 settlement in the east. It involved us in dangers that can only now be demonstrated behind a mass of subjunctives. Nor, to be fair, was there anything we could have done to stop him. Our guarantee to Poland was a nonsense, bearing in mind our lack of ability to send help. Even if we had - as is often urged - intervened to stop the remilitarisation of the Rhineland, or the union with Austria, or the occupation of the Sudentenland, we probably had not the military power to enforce our will, even against a Hitler weaker than he became. Nor would there have been the public support at home or abroad to legitimise such pre-emptive actions.

And so the policy of Neville Chamberlain was neither cowardly not absurd. It reflected the realities of British power and British interests at that time. I do not accept the accusations of some American conservatives that Winston Churchill was equal to Hitler or Stalin in his infamy. They are angry that he got their country into a war from which it emerged supreme abroad but ruined in its constitutional and moral order at home. I sympathise with this complaint. But he was in every sense a better person.

Even so, did ruin this country. He did so because he never understood the true foundations of British greatness. He saw that splash of red on the map of the world, and never realised that he was looking only at the effect, not at the cause. His ambition was "to make the old dog sit up and wag its tail". In fact, what he wanted for us before 1940, and what he did to us after, was the equivalent of making an invalid get up from his bed and dance too soon after an operation. He brought on the collapse that the Great War had only threatened. He undermined the foundations of our greatness abroad, and at home acted as the front man for a socialist revolution. For five years, he dressed and spoke and acted as if the traditional order was safe in his hand - while quietly behind his back it was taxed and regulated and smeared out of existence. "Why worry? We've had a Labour Government since 1940" was the comment of one observer after the 1945 general election.

All considered, the 20th century as it actually ran was not too bad for this country. We did not lose any big wars, or have a revolution or civil war. We did not even suffer a real economic or financial collapse. Within a few years of each of the two big wars, we had recovered our old living standards in full and were making rapid continued progress. We ended the century as the third or fourth richest and the second most powerful country in the world. We are even remarkably free in practice to live as we please. We did far better than I think we deserved. But it could have been better still. If only we had kept out of those dreadful wars and remained masters of our own fate, the whole world, I have no doubt, would have been a better place.
Thursday, April 17, 2003

Is it all just Wilsonian?

John Ikenberry's article "Why Export Democracy?: The 'Hidden Grand Strategy' of American Foreign Policy'" is a well argued case that American foreign policy is centered around exporting its political system. Take up the white man's burden...

Why America would want the Arab's, for example, to be democratic is another puzzle entirely. Sounds more like a death wish than a noble sacrifice.

Clear as mud

Well I think I know why generally left liberalish people support Britain being further enmeshed in the EU. However there are many reasons why they are being really silly for doing this. One of these reasons is that it upgrades the chance for a far right government from impossible to merely improbable. The other is that the EU is so astoundingly undemocratic, and it will remain so as it has no demos.

Well this article has to be read to be believed. To be short policy is made by committees of civil servants, and no one knows whether 40% of these committees are active or not.

It makes Yes Minister look like ancient Athens.

Zimwatch: It can get worse, now the world's starting to notice

Michael Ancram has called for the UN to tackle Zimbabwe, although the UN Human Rights Commission (chaired by Mugabe ally Libya) has thrown out a critical motion put forward by the EU. Nice one Michael.

The opposition are stepping up the pressure (how many times has that been written?) by planning a rather large March on Home, well Bob's home while talking about uniting to defeat Mugabe - and I don't think they're talking about through the ballot box.

Meanwhile fuel prices have increased threefold.

EU asked for it

So we have the formal acceptance of ten new countries to the EU, before seven have even voted. What is fascinating is that all the new countries are obliged to join the Euro.

Will the government include their economic data in the "five tests" as to whether it is safe to join the Euro? Don't bet on it.
Tuesday, April 15, 2003
The Fallen - 15th April 2003, 22.46

Some deaths in this conflict are a reminder of the countries that Britain draws upon when recruiting for its armed forces. The rollcall of the fallen include Christopher Muzvura, 21, of Zimbabwe. This is how the Mugabe regime welcomed his death:

A Zimbabwean soldier serving in the British army, who was killed in Iraq, has been branded a "mercenary", a "buffalo soldier" and a "sell-out" by President Robert Mugabe's regime.... The (Zimbabwe) Daily Mirror, which supports Zanu-PF, called on the Zimbabwe government to bar Muzvuru's body from being returned home for burial. "It should be buried in Britain, the country that he chose to die for," the newspaper said. "For a Zimbabwean, whose country is virtually at war with Britain over land redistribution, to join the armed forces of an 'enemy' who is literally besieging your country is the highest level of selling out."

Lance Corporal Ian Malone, 28, of Dublin was killed on April 6th in Basra. Both of the above were members of the Irish Guards.

It should be recalled that Britain's armed forces draws upon a host of Commonwealth countries:

By July last year, 190 Zimbabweans were officially recorded as having joined the British military and hundreds of ex-Rhodesian white soldiers were also reported to be serving in that country’s defence forces. Other countries with significant numbers of nationals serving in the British army include South Africa, the Republic of Ireland, Australia, Jamaica, Fiji and St Vincent. Over 66 countries have their citizens serving under the British armed forces, nine of which are from Africa.

This trend should be encouraged especially since it provides a source of personnel for our understrength armed forces, provides much needed remittances for the families of soldiers from poorer countries and establishes a network of Anglophile security forces, strengthening the Commonwealth. The final advantage is the possibility of a future core of a volunteer army within a free Zimbabwe.


There's too many sunny optimists out there, one of whom is David Carr of Samizdata (there can never be too many David Carrs by the way). In a number of posts (the most recent being "a widening channel") he proposes the hope that the government will see sense and give up on this dream for European Union because of our support for America.

Well the war's over - for now - and the dust is settling. Any sign of new thinking? Well Jacques Delors, the cold warrior devout Catholic who somehow found himself in Mitterand's socialist party, has slapped the EU for being unfriendly to America. What? The EU only wants to be a counterbalance to the EU we are told.

Well some prominent federasts actually see it as an ally, as I'm sure Sr Aznar could tell us. The pro-US and pro-Europe Blair is an example rather than an aberation.

Our very own Phil Chaston has also pointed to this article by Dan Hannan showing that the EU is going full steam ahead on this common foreign policy.

There is also more and more chatter to the effect that Blair will regain his standing in Europe by getting us into the Euro (how?). That is, taking us further in to compensate for our behaviour. While this may be chatter, one cannot deny that it is incessant and better sourced than all this talk of Blair seeing the light on the European question.


We have a new contributor. Dr Sean Gabb, of Free Life, the infamous Candidlist and the Libertarian Alliance has agreed to write for Airstrip One. Dr Gabb has long been someone for whom I've held a great deal of respect, and I am thrilled that he had joined the Airstrip One collective. His views on how the internet can be used for political purposes have stronly influenced me, and I know others who contribute to this site - even if I've been spitting at some of his commentaries.

Love him or loathe him, Sean Gabb is going to make Airstrip One a more exciting place to visit.
Irrational? 15th April 2003.

Has anybody else had conversations like this?

IRENE: So remind me – why did we attack Iraq? To liberate the Iraqi people so they could be ruled by a foreign general? To enforce the will of the United Nations against its will? To rid the world of weapons of mass destruction (except ours)?

NIKE: Of course not. We attacked Iraq because her weapons of mass destruction posed a threat to us. It was a simple case of self-defence. All right, pre-emptive self-defence, but you can’t afford to wait to be nuked, can you?

IRENE: Not if you are going to be nuked. But why did we think we were? Iraq had no means of delivering her weapons to us, & in any case she must have known the retaliation she could expect.

NIKE: But none of that would stop her from supplying weapons of mass destruction to terrorists, would it? That’s were the danger lay.

IRENE: But why should she have wanted to give away any of her hard-won arsenal to al Qa’eda, her sworn enemy? Wouldn’t that be rather dangerous? And wouldn’t there still be the risk that the West would guess where the weapons came from? Doesn’t such an implausible hypothesis need at least some evidence of its truth before it can be acted upon?

NIKE: Ah, but you are forgetting: the Iraqi regime was irrational. They could do anything, however mad. They were even mad enough to let themselves be attacked by America.

… Though not mad enough to use weapons of mass destruction in their own defence…

Irrationality is Nike’s trump card, but it is surely worthless. What counts as irrational? Presumably behaviour that cannot be explained in terms of an agent’s conscious reasons. But, once you accept that he is an evil so-&-so with a callous disregard for the sufferings of others, a tasteless bozo who assuages his insecurities by extorting worship from slaves, Saddam Hussein’s behaviour is in every case explicable in terms of conscious reasons. So why suppose he should ever have been irrational?

There is no good reason, but I can understand why Nike uses it as a last resort. Once Irene has shown her that Saddam had no good reason to do anything she feared, & every good reason not to do it, Nike is forced to deny, whatever the evidence to the contrary, that reasons for & against hold any sway over Saddam Hussein. Once she has done so, she can have a lot of fun. She can impute any motive whatever to Saddam, without having to justify doing so. With only a small sleight of hand, she can show any action of Saddam’s to have been irrational, simply by neglecting to explain it. And she can dismiss any reasoned argument showing that Saddam would do something different from what she says he will, on the grounds that any account that commends itself to a rational being must be an inaccurate description of Saddam’s state of mind. She can dispense with rational argument altogether.

Irrationality. What better way to navigate an irrational world?
Free Life Commentary
Issue Number 101
Monday, 14 April 2003
This article and many replies to it will be published in the next issue of Free Life Magazine:

The War: Won but not Over
by Sean Gabb

Though the pacification is as yet incomplete, Baghdad has fallen and the war seems in the conventional sense to be over. I am glad that the Allies have won, and that they have won so quickly. I did not think they would. I really did expect the Iraqis to use their advantages of defence to greater effect. I expected them to blow up all the bridges over the Tigris and Euphrates, and to spread rubble over all the roads into Baghdad - thereby preventing the Allies from driving straight in - and to use snipers to hold up attempts at clearing the rubble. Above all, I expected the Iraqis to defend the city from behind a large and shifting mass of civilians. I do not know why they failed to do any of this, deciding instead on strategies that an idiot child - let alone the Americans - might have countered. As said, I am glad that they failed. But it has made me wrong so far in my gloomy predictions. I was wrong and my more bellicose friends and opponents were right.

This being said, it does not affect my belief that the war was unnecessary and therefore should not have been fought by this country. Success does justify many risks - and this was a risk. But no degree of success can justify a risk that was unnecessary, that has brought human, financial and diplomatic costs, and where the longer term consequences of success may involve still greater costs. Such was this war.

I know that I am repeating myself. Then again, repetition is a valid form of argument where new or forgotten propositions are concerned. But I regard the proper duty of the British Government to be the protection of British life and property. The duty may occasionally require interventions abroad, but will mostly require action only within the borders of the United Kingdom. I believe this for two reasons.

First, a government is an agent of its people, not a principal, and so must take care to spend lives and money on ventures that relate directly to its duty.

Second, when governments set their foreign policies according to known and predictable interests, the chances of war are much reduced. Even when wars do happen, they are for obvious and limited ends, and do not require people to be lied into states of hysteria that are far easier to excite than to abate and that may complicate efforts to make peace.

Against this proposition, three arguments have been raised. Once again, I know that I have disputed these on many occasions. But I have not so far been successful in winning my case. I will therefore risk the impatience of my readers in repeating myself here as well.

First, we were told that Iraq had weapons that it was willing and able to use against this country, or that it was willing to give to others for use against us. Day after day, the media poured out claims to chill the blood. To these were added claims from within my own circle. One person told me - he promised me he had inside knowledge - that there were tunnels under the presidential palaces in Baghdad up to a mile long, filled with chemical and biological weapons. Someone else assured me that there was a secret nuclear programme, but that Tony Blair was unable to reveal its details to us. Someone else told me in a semi-closed meeting about the “verified links” between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Iraq was cried up endlessly as a clear and present danger.

If true, this would have justified war on the principles given above. But I doubted if it was true. Iraq is a poor and barbarous country. It lost a war with the more civilised countries in 1991, and after that was continually monitored and blockaded. That it could, even so, develop weapons for use against us struck me as absurd - and that was without considering the evidence. But just look at the evidence given. Assertions and plain forgeries aside, not even an opportunistic connection was shown between Qaeda and the Government of Iraq.

As for the alleged threat posed by the Government of Iraq in its own right, we can now see the quality of that evidence. Doubt has been justified by events. If I was wrong in my military predictions, it was only so far as I believed the Iraqis to be more effective than they were. Their inability to defend their own country showed the nature of their threat to ours. They used throughout nothing better than old conventional weapons. Many of these they had trouble making to work. If Saddam Hussein had been the lunatic he was claimed to be, he ought surely to have used his chemical and biological weapons on the first day of the war. If he was the scheming tyrant he was also claimed to be, he ought surely to have used them on the last. He did not use them because he did not have them.

Until Saturday, I was willing to believe that such weapons would be “found” by the Americans. They had the means, motive and opportunity for planting them. But the surrender of Amir Humudi al-Sadi has complicated any such plan. He was the chief weapons adviser to the Iraqi Government. Before the war, he had repeatedly denied that his country had any of the weapons it was alleged to have. He helped reveal the report on Iraqi weapons published by the British Government as a mass of lies - and often of plagiarised and obsolete lies. For his own safety, it was in his interest, once the war was over, to confess that he had been lying, and to validate all American claims. In fact, he called a news conference before surrendering and repeated his earlier denials: “I was knowledgeable about these programmes” he said. “I never told anything but the truth and time will bear me out”. Bearing in mind how little shame the present Government of America has about torturing prisoners of war, it will be interesting to see how long Mr al-Sudi maintains this insistence. But no amount of retraction will now be believed. There were no “weapons of mass destruction”. There was no danger to this country. We were lied into this war.

And so this first claim has been dropped for the moment. The war is now justified on the second grounds of “régime change”. Some of my friends have always supported the war on these grounds, and, while I do not agree with them, I do not accuse them of discreditable motives. But I am shocked by the sudden change of excuse in Washington and London. Interference in Iraqi internal affairs was expressly and continually disclaimed before the war started. The talk then was all about disarmament of Mr Hussein. He had only to comply with the weapons inspectors, we were assured, and his country would then be left alone. To see the politicians now changing their story reminds me of the Victory Square parade in George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty-Four.

But let us set aside the manner of its advancement, and consider instead the substance of the claim - that we have a right or obligation to overthrow tyranny throughout the world. Of course, I deny the claim. So long as it does not endanger us, I do not see what happens in other countries as any business of ours. I know there has always been a strain of liberal imperialism in the libertarian movement. But this is misguided. It is no more the business of our government to liberate foreigners from oppression than it is to feed them if they are hungry. If we oppose foreign aid, why support humanitarian invasions? They both involve spend the taxpayers’ money. Why the inconsistency?

I suppose the alleged answer is that foreign aid does not work, but that liberation does. But what reason have we to suppose that it does work? If the Americans were to conquer Iraq and its neighbours, as we conquered India, it might work. We had not only the will to put down widow burning and sacrificial murder, but the means to enforce our will. We stayed there long enough to remake Indian civilisation. Will the Americans now rule Iraq for two centuries? I think not. The intention seems to be to set up a new government there and then withdraw.

Now, liberal democracy requires more than a written constitution and a few bribes. Though all human beings may want to be free, I doubt if all have an equal capacity for freedom. Free institutions are not the same as satellite television dishes and motor cars. They cannot be exported to and established in countries that have not previously had them. Instead, they proceed from the cultural values of a nation. They can be gradually transplanted. They can even spontaneously evolve. But they cannot be unpacked as if from a box.

Unless they can be taken apart and remade, the various civilisations of the Arab world all require strong authoritarian government. The looting and communal violence we have seen in Iraq since the collapse of its government may be in part a reaction against tyranny. But it is also what happens when order is destroyed in a deeply corrupt society. It will be ended when order is restored, but this order will not be liberal or democratic. To set up a constituent assembly that is any more than a fraud will mean reproducing indoors the hatred now running wild in the streets. This is a truth that liberal imperialists need to learn in every generation. Because of this war, we are now due for another lesson in true sociology.

There is worse. By conquering Iraq, we may have destabilised the country and the entire region. The Arab mind of the past hundred years has been divided between secular nationalism and radical Islam. The first of these now looks to have been comprehensively defeated. The resulting void will not, I think, be filled by liberal democracy. Instead, millions of young men can be expected to grow their beards and pay attention to the usual texts. They will probably make everyone around them unhappy. And I am reasonably sure they will contrive to make us unhappy before the fiends who direct foreign policy in Washington move on from preventive war to preventive genocide.

But I turn to the third justification for a specifically British involvement in the war. This takes it as given that the Americans wanted to invade Iraq, and does not ask why. It simply looks at the advantages for Britain of supporting the Americans. The main advantage alleged is that the war may have destroyed all chance of our integration into Europe. There are persistent claims that Tony Blair will use his restored popularity to call a sudden referendum on the Euro. More likely, though, it seems that the French and Germans have just had all their suspicions confirmed that Britain will never be a loyal and contented member of the European Union, and that our leaving it could be more a question of when than whether.

Before the fighting started, I might have been willing to accept this Machiavellian justification of war. Getting out of the European Union, after all, is a first rate British interest. But, having looked at the civilian casualties - small in number as they have so far been - I have changed my mind. I cannot stop thinking about that poor child who last week had his arms blown off and his lower body scorched all over. If the war had been for our immediate defence, I have no doubt I should have hardened my heart and agreed that his suffering was regrettable but necessary. But the war was not for immediate defence. It was at best in pursuit of an interest that requires further contingencies before it can be achieved. His life has been destroyed for nothing. Perhaps worse, it may have been destroyed because we as a nation are too decadent to save ourselves by other means from a wholly political threat. If we cannot use our still formidable constitutional freedoms to save ourselves without that, I do not believe we deserve to be saved. There is a story that Pope Innocent VIII was prescribed human blood to keep him alive. Three boys were chosen and bled. Too much was taken and the boys died. The Pope still died. Perhaps that is now what we have become.

Since that picture of Ali Ismaeel Abbas was published, some of my critics have stopped denouncing me for my cold-hearted nationalism. I am now accused of being soft-hearted - almost a “leftie”. The reason for this is that I have not made myself sufficiently clear. I deny that it is our duty to go out of our way to help foreigners when they are suffering. But I also deny that it is our right to make them suffer when it serves some doubtful interest of our own. What was done to that boy would always have appalled me. But the knowledge that I share in the corporate responsibility for it almost maddens me with shame and horror.

I hear the liberal imperialist argument that he has been destroyed so that others in Iraq might live in peace and freedom. As said, I doubt if they will live in peace and freedom. I am also not concerned. I am suspicious of caring about people whose faces are invisible. I prefer to look at individuals. Perhaps this leads to an imperfect view of suffering. On the other hand, it keeps one from the callous indifference to actual, known lives that has been shown over again these past few centuries by men who killed even as they paraded their universal but abstract love of humanity.

I am told that the American Government has a list of future targets, and that on it are Syria, Iran, Cuba and North Korea. Already, it seems, opinion is being softened for war with Syria - it has, we are told, “weapons of mass destruction”. I do not know whether to laugh or cry. How could these psychopathic children have been elected in London and Washington?

I do not yet know how Mr Blair will emerge from this war. My fear is that he will be strengthened in his ability to do evil at home as well as abroad. But perhaps the people of Britain have not joined in the worship of power so fully as the opinion polls now indicate. Perhaps they will turn on him. We cannot unwrite this page of our history, or even blot it out. But perhaps by destroying the career and execrating the memory of its author, we can yet rescue some of our self-respect.

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