Thursday, December 30, 2004
Better Late than Never (30.12.2004)

Here is a link to James Bennett's latest article on the Anglosphere and his views on the future of Europe, residing in the National Interest. Whilst I do not fully share the political conclusions that Bennett extends from his work, his recognition of the contribution that MacFarlane brought to the study of English individualism is a rarity amongst historians and the social sciences:

Macfarlane's body of work represents a momentous intellectual revolution. The implications of this revolution have not yet been fully realized, or even generally understood. It suggests that modernity and its consequences came particularly easily for the already-individualistic English. Conversely, it came particularly hard for the Continental Europeans, whose societies were characterized by all the non-individualistic features England lacked. It was to these Continentals that the intrusion of individualist, market-oriented relations was particularly disruptive and shocking. With medieval traditions of representative government moribund or long vanished, it is not surprising that Continental states had a particularly difficult time adjusting to parliamentary government, experiencing instead frequent coups, revolutions and periods of authoritarian rule, spiraling down to the abyss of fascism and communism.

An enjoyable and thought-provoking read.
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
Current British Tsunami Aid

Private effort is preferable to public aid but only the heartless would baulk at providing aid through whatever sources following this catastrophe. According to the DFID, the total amount sent is 677,000 pounds sterling. However, most of this aid is concentrated on plastic sheeting and tents for Sri Lanka (what they had in store) and is channelled through the European Union/United Nations or the World Health Organisation.

Given the history of these organisations, will this aid, provided by the British taxpayer, be wasted? Better that it was channelled through charities and bloggers. In an ideal world...

Tuesday, December 28, 2004
The Autonomous TransDonbass Republic?

As the Ukraine shifts towards the American sphere of influence, the lesser stars of the Kuchma regime have realised that their best hope is to maintain regional power bases like Donetsk. Ukrainian Canadians have reported that ballot rigging and intimidation still took place in this region, although the scale was less blatant than in November. Yanukovych received more than 90% of the vote in this region in the Boxing Day election.

In the Donbass, Yushchenko is seen as a radical Ukrainian nationalist, not as a Westerner:

While Mr. Yushchenko is often portrayed as a pro-Western reformer, Ms. Fetisova sees him as a radical Ukrainian nationalist who is likely to cut ties with neighbouring Russia and cripple the economy of the coal-producing Donbass region in eastern Ukraine, which is centred around Donetsk, a city of 1.1 million.

Such fears are common here in Ukraine's Russianized south and east, where many look more to the Kremlin than to Kiev, and demonstrate the scale of the challenge that Mr. Yushchenko faces.

The referendum on autonomy that was scheduled to take place on January 9th has been cancelled but, as Yanukovych battles the result in court, we can see that this issue may form part of a package of concessions for these areas. More than anything, Ukraine wishes to avoid the shadow of the Transdniester Republic and Abkhazia, Russian satellites carved out of Moldova and Georgia.

This may yet be the result despite the crowing of many over 'people power', a calculation that the Kremlin siloviki do not merit. If they wished to up the ante, they have the power:

And despite Mr. Putin's conciliatory words, met by a promise from Mr. Yushchenko to make Moscow his first foreign trip after being sworn in, relations with Russia promise to be difficult. Vyacheslav Nikonov, a Kremlin-connected political analyst, told the Interfax news agency yesterday that many in Russia feared that Ukraine would now be invited to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and speculated that a "gas war" between Russia and Ukraine -- which is almost entirely reliant on its big neighbour for energy -- could follow.

Expect Ukraine to continue its soft shoe shuffle westwards.

Monday, December 27, 2004
Silent and Witless

Peter Mandelson's ties to the Equatorial Guinea plot were strengthened by a 'sighting' of the appointee Eurocommissar with Ely Calil and Greg Wales, two businessmen associated with Simon Mann, the alleged leader of the coup.

South African police wish to interview Mandelson as a witness but the circumstantial evidence favours the argument that both the UK and the US governments turned a 'blind eye' to these public school machinations
Sunday, December 26, 2004
Out of the Blue

With a natural catastrophe of this proportion, it is clear that the whole region will be picking up the pieces for the foreseeable future. Death toll is now 10,000 and rising, depending upon your news site. The number of deaths has also risen due to the natural clustering of human habitation along the coasts and increasing tourist development.

The Foreign Secretary sent out the message of condolences and said "stand by for action". However, there are no links or help on the website for families to telephone or leave messages for loved ones, holidaying in the tropics. Nothing on the State Department for US citizens either, although this may be dealt with at a local level. Australia is far better prepared with a hotline. The BBC, agitprop wing of the government, wishes to hear your experiences of the tsunami, but doesn't provide you with a number if you wish to let your loved ones know that you are still alive.

Especially as it is the holiday period, this is the time when such government departments should place themselves at the service of their citizens. Should, but don't.

So far, the economic consequences cannot be quantified although the insurance industry has taken another hammering (au revoir, soft market!). This is a horrific example of the increasing complexity that political, strategic or environmental risks take and that, sometimes, despite all the precautions, you are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Update: The death toll is now 20,000 or 22,000. If you wish to take FCO advice, you have to examine every country in order to get the information such as the emergency telephone number. The telephone number is 0207 008 0000, or visit the 'Travel Advice by Country' on the FCO website.
The Scotsman features the thoughts of James Brandon on the recent conseqences of hostage taking in Iraq. Note the role played by the Arab media in providing the 'oxygen of publicity' as the airing of these snuff videos acts as an incentive for the jihadists.

But I had underestimated the brutality of her kidnappers, and Margaret Hassan was murdered as Iraqi militants, frustrated by their inability to do any real damage to the US army, resorted to attacking vulnerable civilian targets. Now vast political power could be wielded by any gang able to get their hands on a knife and a video camera. In a sense this is nothing new - assassins and terrorists have always had an impact disproportionate to their numbers. But now, as if distant footage of burning buildings and grieving relatives after a typical terrorist attack is no longer enough, we get to know the victims Big Brother-style, and to see them suffer from the comfort of our living-rooms. And, like Big Brother, with every episode the ritualised humiliations become more extreme.

Yet, as Brandon's clarity sets out, the chaotic immigration system and the self-serving short term attitudes of politicians who measure power in terms of communal votes rather than potential threats, brings terror closer to home.

When the Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was murdered last month, allegedly by a man named Mohammed B, who disagreed with his portrayal of domestic violence in the Muslim community, it seemed to bring the horrors of Najaf and Fallujah one step closer to the UK. Van Gogh’s death proved that Europe’s aggrieved Islamists no longer needed to travel to distant war zones to kill infidels; it is just as easy to do so in the heart of Europe. Hearing of Van Gogh’s shooting, which was followed by ritual throat-slitting, I recalled the words of a senior officer on Scotland Yard’s hostage negotiation team, who had debriefed me after my kidnapping in Iraq. "We all know that it’s only a matter of time before this happens here," he said grimly. "We’re just waiting for that call, waiting for the video to pop through the post. And there’s nothing we can do to prevent it." The next few years will surely reveal whether he was being unnecessarily pessimistic.

I don't think so.
Saturday, December 25, 2004
Just a small article on those who feel that the present should not warp the past. Does political correctness encompass calendrical correction? Don't forget that Sir Isaac Newton, the greatest Dead White English Male, was born on December 25th, 1642.

Sir Isaac Newton was born Christmas Day 1642, yet some sites want to place his birthday in January, 1643. The discrepancy comes from some historical sites that want to 'modernize' Sir Isaac's birthday in line with the Gregorian Calendar reform. In 1752 England and the American colonies decided to adopt the Gregorian calendar (implemented by Italy in 1582.) This reform aligned the English calendar to the same calendar used by most of Europe. For this alignment to occur, several days needed to be dropped from the calendar. It must be understood that Sir Isaac Newton did not live through this calendar change. It happened after he died. As far as he was concerned, Isaac celebrated his birthday on Christmas Day. In this instance, we feel it is wrong to modernize his birthday.

A Merry Newtonmas to All!
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
The Independent recently published an article on the prospects for the United States siting a missile defence centre in the United Kingdom. Despite the natural enthusiasm of HMG, the United States strategists are examining locations in the Accession Countries for the silo:

Currently, the US missile defence institution is conducting the "technology assessment" on the possible location of the system to see whether it is appropriate for the construction of missile launching silo and whether the electric facilities and road conditions are feasible. The countries selected by the organization are Poland, Czech and Hungary, but the US Defence Ministry and other foreign affair departments insist on the missile defence base be built in UK.

The source is People's Daily Online, so treat with caution.

A better understanding of the current moves towards co-operation on missile defence, and the cautious steps required to swing public opinion in favour, were set out by Stephen Rademaker, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control:

This is true not only within the United States, but overseas as well. Indeed, when it comes to foreign governments, which are the focus of my remarks today, I would say that, with very few exceptions, they fully accept the need to move forward with missile defense in the current security environment. Foreign publics are often a different matter, however. Not surprisingly, many people in foreign countries pay less attention to these matters than do the officials of their governments, just as is the case in our country. As a result, foreign publics often continue to accept the now disproven contention that we can have either missile defense on the one hand or arms control and strategic stability on the other, but not both. Still thinking that they need to choose between these two options, they instinctively express a preference for arms control and strategic stability.

This provides the current strategy that the United States uses in cooperation with those identified as "friends and allies":

The United States is working jointly with interested friends and allies to analyze each country's unique threat environment and its missile defense requirements for the future. The Department of State has played and continues to play an important diplomatic role in this effort, explaining to allies and friends how missile defense can enhance regional security and stability while encouraging their cooperation and participation.

The details for the United Kingdom are noted:

British Defense Minister Hoon and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld signed a Ballistic Missile Defense Cooperation Framework MoU, on June 12, 2003. This agreement establishes the basis for U.S.-U.K. industrial collaboration in the field of missile defense. An Annex to the Framework MoU regarding the Fylingdales early warning radar was signed on December 18, 2003, authorizing us to upgrade that radar for use in missile defense. These upgrades will allow the radar to generate the information necessary to direct a midcourse missile defense interceptor to the general area of the intercept. This event marked the first time a U.S. ally permitted deployment of a missile defense system component on its territory to assist us in defending U.S. territory.

Another Annex on Missile Defense Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation (RDT&E) cooperation was signed on October 12, 2004. To assist in both government-to-government, and industry-to-industry RDT&E cooperation in missile defense, the U.K. established its Missile Defence Centre in July 2003. The Centre attempts to bring U.K. government and industry expertise together by providing a centralized clearinghouse for the ultimate purpose of establishing closer technical and industrial cooperation.

Cooperation such as the framework of understanding between Lockheed Martin and British Aerospace:

Lockheed Martin, for instance, and BAE Systems in the United Kingdom have signed an MoU to explore partnership opportunities on missile defense programs around the world. This agreement envisions joint investments in key technologies that can significantly enhance the effectiveness of sea-based systems, systems integration, command and control, early warning and sensor networking, interceptors, use of targets, and dealing with countermeasures. This international team is working to expand transatlantic missile defense cooperation for the benefit of both the United States and NATO Allies by leveraging the best technologies and engineering skills each company and each nation has to offer.

It is clear, from the growing governmental and industrial ties that the United States has agreed with certain countries, that missile defence is one of the most important strategies utilised to maintain and forge alliances. There is a strategic benefit from such a relationship, and as Rademaker's speech omits, France remains unprotected. The United States has taken Britain's mantle on the continentals: divide and conquer.

Friday, December 17, 2004
Due to the insurgency in Iraq, forecasts of British commitment in the southern sector have extended from 2006 to 2008. The poor quality of Iraqi security forces has contributed to this:

THOUSANDS of British troops will have to remain in Iraq until at least 2008 - two years later than the government intended, The Scotsman has learned.

Senior military sources say the army has been told to plan to keep a brigade-sized garrison of more than 7,000 troops in Iraq for four more years or more.

The planned extension in deployment has been prompted by the continuing Iraqi insurgency and the inability of local security forces to control the country without US and British troops.

Two days later, the British announced further reforms that would reduce the number of active members of the armed forces. The Conservatives have identified that reductions in infantry units, armoured units, surface ships and the RAF extend the 'overstretch' to very dangerous proportions. Whilst reforms may be required to adapt to changes in warfare, a reduction in the number of troops whilst fighting in Iraq looks foolhardy. Hoon was on hand to provide blather whilst Jackson was supportive, as he would have to be for his political masters:

The changes, which are designed to leave an army of 102,000 men and women, will not lead to cost cuts if, as intended, better equipment is more widely used and soldiers are paid more for their skills in much-needed areas such as communications and intelligence-gathering.

Given the current equipment and procurement scandals, New Labour have just cut the effectiveness of our armed forces. Like NASA, they will find out "faster, better, cheaper" does not work.
Thursday, December 16, 2004
The government announced the closure of 153 sovereign posts as a cost savings measure. Many were located in Europe but other posts were situated in the Pacific, Caribbean, Africa and East Timor. If a British citizen, a rapid response diplomatic unit will be on hand to provide advice at short notice. "Pray?" perhaps...

There is speculation that these cost-cutting measures have taken place so that the government can pay for the European Presidency: sacrificing the long-term diplomatic infrastructure so that Blair and Straw can look good before their peers: the European Politburo. However, new posts will be created to focus upon the pet projects of the Nulab apparatchiks: climate change and international development:

"In Africa, for instance, we plan to create new jobs to cover these issues across the region, with a new post in Nairobi to help support our work on climate change, one in Nigeria to cover energy and one in Pretoria to cover regional issues more generally as well as covering Maseru [Lesotho] and Mbabane [Swaziland]," Mr Straw said. There has been speculation that the money would be needed to pay for Britain's six-month presidency of the G8 group of leading industrialised nations, which begins next month, and its EU presidency in the second half of next year.

One also wonders if these cuts have anticipated the common foreign and security policy or global warming. You won't need representation in Europe since the common arrest warrant provides justice for all Eurocits and the Pacific Islands will all be under water. Sorted!!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

More Important Than Blunkett

Anyone who proposes Identity Cards should have their privacy thoroughly violated, so I have no problem with the attention paid to Blunkett's corrupt little power trips. However, there is a far more important story out there, and that is Turkey's seeming slam dunk of acsession to the EU.

Now in the sense of balance I will prepare a score card.

Good Points

Turkey is almost a democracy (about as much as Israel and a bit more than Iran), that is if you don't ask the Kurds, Alevi or Islamicists.

Having a bigger EU will make it more integrated. Why look at the backwards steps for integration we've made sinve the EU went from nine members to 25. The Euro, the constitution, Amsterdam, Maastricht.

It will somehow be racist to say no.

Bad Points

The second (soon to be first) largest population will be a load of poor Muslims.

These poor Muslims sooner or later will be able to come over here and claim on welfare.

These poor Muslims will have fewer border checks just in case blowing yourself up becomes fashionable in Anatolia.

The average IQ is low so they'll always be poorer.

They're on the border with Armenia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Azerbaijan.

Oh and they're in spitting distance of Israel and Russia.

They don't exactly have a tradition of liberty.

More on Kievan Rus

Two apologies are in order. Firstly sorry for the sparse posting, secondly sorry for going on about Ukraine when even the press seems to realise its strategic import (we're really here for when they don't) and thirdly sorry for bringing in American sources. OK, that was three apologies. And here are some more essays. Firstly from Chronicles where it reports on a spat between Andrew Sullivan and Pat Buchanan on the Ukraine thing. Why are the liberals getting so upset about any aspertions on this Yushchenko chap? Honestly they sound like six day creationists when challenged. There are also a couple of links in the article. Cheerful Pat also has a nice little article on the neo-cons if you are interested in what the Yanks are doing.

Exhibit B is also from Chronicles, also with a British ex-pat, this time Srdja Trifkovic asking why exactly are we undermining a bulwark against radical Islam. We could have said the same thing about Saddam of course, but Putin doesn't even have a moustache.

And finally me old china Justin Raimondo claims that Yuschenko wasn't really poisoned, or something. Now I'm not sure, but it is certainly an alternative view.
The Courts have decided that the Human Rights Act is applicable to foreign nationals who may have been victims of the British Army. The relevant articles are 2 and 3: the right to life and freedom from torture.

Since this occurred following the death in custody of an Iraqi hotel worker, there is a need to ensure that the British Army is shown to deal with occupied citizens in a transparent manner, without compromising the safety of our troops. The universal reach of the Human Rights Act and the overweening claims of our own judges are not necessarily the best methods for achieving this, since they may place civilian notions of justice upon military rules of engagement.

It is another failure of this government that they are unable to deal with the consequences of their own badly drafted laws.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
The unnecessary furore over the deployment of the Black Watch by Labour backbenchers has forced Blair and Hoon to take greater account of any announcements on further troop movements to Iraq. During his visit on December 8th to Basra, Hoon stated that the current British force in the southern sector of Iraq would not receive reinforcements unless the security situation were to drastically change. The anticipated rise in violence during the run-up to the elections in January 2005 was factored into this calculation.

There are a number of factors feeding into the status quo: any further announcements on troop deployments will become politicised, following the mishandling of the Black Watch; and, planners may have persuaded their political masters that the consequences of 'overstretch'have arrived. If the latter is true, watch for the British contingent to come home during 2005, as Blair reasons that he has to pay his dues to the EU's Rapid Reaction Force just as he genuflected in Iraq.
Thursday, December 09, 2004
Who would trust the government to draft a "simple and straightforward question" in a referendum on the Constitution? The supported draft amongst the politariat is quoted here:

Should the United Kingdom approve the treaty establishing a constitution for the European Union?

In the accompanying spin surrounding this question, the Herald has presented the above phrase as a victory for the Plain-Speaking brigade versus the Cabinet Europhiles who wish to draft a more skewed question for the referendum.

Except that this question is also wrong. The United Kingdom would not "approve", it would ratify the new Constitution. This requires a stronger question in order to inform the public that the European Constitution is a change of governance. Even this construction, described as neutral, would serve to confuse as some will vote Yes because they do not fully read or understand the issue, which this adminsitration hopes to neuter.

Any referendum question will be difficult to accept and politically contested. However, spin of Brownite battles with the Europhiles should be rejected, since no government can be trusted with such a vital duty.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004
The French and German governments have been enthusiastic supporters of the Republic of China in its campaign to remove the arms embargo established after the democratic uprising of 1989. This is a policy designed to establish clear divisions between the European Union and the United States of America by enhancing their relationship with the last great communist power.

Given the economic and political problems faced by these two powers, China has recognised their courting may mask an acceleration in their relative economic decline. The tone of the PRC's response to the latest delay was aggressive...

The announcement immediately sparked a complaint from Beijing that it was being discriminated against by the 25 nation bloc.

A joint statement issued by EU leaders and Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao after summit talks in The Hague, said the EU had "confirmed its political will to continue to work towards lifting the embargo." China, said the statement, had "reaffirmed that political discrimination on this issue was not acceptable."

Despite the link of the embargo with China's 'human rights' record, the tone of the summit indicated that both sides preferred to terminate this embarrassing moral stain on the Middle Kingdom's record. The communists view the divisions within the former West with some satisfaction. They may note that history has turned away from Fukuyama's Hegelian horizons towards a darker and more authortarian mode, underpinned by culture and technology. Perhaps they savour the ironic flavour brewed by an illiberal Europe providing arms so that communist-nationalists can plan for the destruction of an emerging Taiwanese democracy.
Friday, December 03, 2004

German Lessons

Germany is going to contribute towards the rebuilding of Iraq by training their military. Will this be pre war methods (invade thy neighbour) or the post war method (raise a big army but never fight)?

Oh the irony. De-Baathification means that the Yanks are so desperate they'll even let the Krauts train the new look Iraqi army. Are the de-Baathificationists (to coin a phrase) contrite, or even slightly shamefaced?

If only they'd have listened to us...
Thursday, December 02, 2004


Quelle Surprise

The French Socialists vote to back European Constitution. Now this doesn't mean that the French won't be obstinate, but it does cut down their chances of getting to the right result. There's been a mood among British Eurosceptics that the Constitution will never come to a vote here, but we must not count on it.

Ourselves Alone.

Beware of the Enemy's Enemy

About four times out of five my enemy's enemy usually is my friend in just about any political or strategic tussle. However this general principle should not be taken to be a universal law. The Ukraine imbroglio shows this starkly in two ways.

Firstly there is the case of what America is doing. There is a pro-European Union candidate who favours withdrawing his country's troops from Iraq in short order. Not only is his favourable attitude to Europe not a hindrance for American support (before and after the election) but it is actually more important to America than his attitude on Iraq. (By the way Tories - do you notice how popular withdrawal can be as an election issue - even if you initially supported the war). It should be clear as daylight that supporting America will not automatically loose us from Europe.

The other side are my own side. Yuschenko may not be the angel that the press portray him, however this does not make the other guy squeaky clean. They are both crooks. Yes Western Ukraine stuffed ballot boxes, but so did the Easterners. Yes Nazis like Yuschenko, but Stalinists like Yanukovich. Yes David Aaronovitch is a fool who substitutes Google for actually researching a story, but that doesn't mean that we should jump in to defend Yanukovich. They are both crooks, they are both East Europeans, they are both politicians.

We should not be looking to foreigners to get us out of sticky entanglements. We must rely on Ourselves Alone.
Wednesday, December 01, 2004

In need of heroes

There's a bit of a bitch fight going on between (at the moment) John Laughland and David Aaronovitch and Justin Raimondo has joined in. While I am not too enamoured of John Laughland's urge to counterbalance the undoubted bias towards Yushchenko and other pro-Westerners by overlooking some of the warts of the pro-Moscow Yanukovich, it is fairly clear that Aaronovitch's journalism-lite is out of order. It seems that both Aaronovitch and Laughland have both got caught in the trap of hero worship - just different heroes. At least John Laughland gets marks for originality (and balance).

On another point - although clearly a large majority of Yushchenko's people are not neo-Nazis is Aaronovitch seriously claiming that there are no neo-Nazis around the anti-Russian elements of Ukraine. As anyone who has followed politics in that part of the world knows (a la Croatia or Slovakia) the pro-Nazis do tend to gravitate towards whoever is anti-Russia. That doesn't make the anti-Russian parties wrong, the attention is probably unwelcome, it just is a fact of life around there.

I suppose it all goes to show that there are no such things as heroes when foreign politicians are involved.

No surprise that Aaronovitch finds the very idea of an "opposition" candidate cheating - even with a large number of local authorities supporting him - to be scandalous. It all reminds me of the American Republicans who will go on endlessly about how Nixon was cheated in 1960 by the graveyard vote in Chicago while being scandalised by suggestion of Republican no-goodniks operating in Southern Illinois. Or for that matter Democrats who go on about hanging chads while ignoring the extraordinary turnouts and voter registration drives in Philadelphia.
I am profoundly thankful that during my formative years I never had
contact with any institution under State control; not in school, not in
college, nor yet in my three years of irregular graduate study. No
attempt was ever made by anyone to indoctrinate me with State-inspired
views – or any views, for that matter – of patriotism or nationalism. I
was never dragooned into flag-worship or hero-worship, never was caught
in any spate of verbiage about duty to one's country, never debauched by
any of the routine devices hatched by scoundrels for inducing a
synthetic devotion to one's native land and loyalty to its jobholders.
Therefore when later the various aspects of contemporary patriotism and
nationalism appeared before me, my mind was wholly unprepossessed, and
my view of them was unaffected by any emotional distortion.

What is patriotism? Is it loyalty to a spot on a map, marked off from
others spots by blue or yellow lines, the spot where one was born? But
birth is a pure accident; surely one is in no way responsible for having
been born on this spot or on that. Flaubert had poured a stream of
corrosive irony on this idea of patriotism. Is it loyalty to a set of
political jobholders, a king and his court, a president and his
bureaucracy, a parliament, a congress, a Duce or Fuhrer, a camorra of
commissars? I should say it depends entirely on what the jobholders are
like and what they do. Certainly I had never seen any who commanded my
loyalty; I should feel utterly degraded if ever once I thought they
could. Does patriotism mean loyalty to a political system and its
institutions, constitutional, autocratic, republican, or what-not? But
if history has made anything unmistakably clear, it is that from the
standpoint of the individual and his welfare, these are no more than
names. The reality which in the end they are found to cover is the same
for all alike. If a tree be known by its fruits, which I believe is
regarded as good sound doctrine, then the peculiar merit of a system, if
it has any, ought to be reflected in the qualities and conditions of the
people who live under it; and looking over the peoples and systems of
the world, I found no reason in the nature of things why a person should
be loyal to one system rather than another. One could see at a glance
that there is no saving grace in any system. Whatever merit or demerit
may attach to any of them lies in the way it is administered.

So when people speak of loyalty to one's country, one must ask them
what they mean by that. What is one's country? Mr. Jefferson said
contemptuously that 'merchants have no country; the mere spot they stand
on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they
draw their gains.' But one may ask, why should I? This motive of
patriotism seems to me perfectly sound, and if it should be sound for
merchants, why not for others who are not merchants? If it holds good in
respect of material gains, why not of spiritual gains, cultural gains,
intellectual and aesthetic gains? As a general principle, I should put
it that a man's country is where the things he loves are most respected.
Circumstances may have prevented his ever setting foot there, but it
remains his country.

Albert Jay Nock, "Memoirs of a Superfluous Man"
Monday, November 29, 2004
Should we gloat when we see Denis MacShane moan that vested interests within the European Union wish to impose further burdens on the British Labour market and undermine its flexibility?

There is a concerted effort by key players in Brussels on the European Commission, in the Council of Ministers and the European parliament to take Britain in the direction of rigid labour markets,” he said.

“Some want a made-in-Brussels straitjacket, by imposing bureaucratic inflexibility on the ability of workers and employers to shape working hours that suit individual needs of employees.”

Mr MacShane urged the ambassadors to convey to their governments the need to “say goodbye to out-of-date thinking from the 1980s about how work time should be organised”.

Given the efforts of Brown to crush the benefits of supply side reform and mire our economy in Wilsonian mediocrity, it ill behoves any Labour minister to blame others for their own mistakes. Perhaps some of the brothers are waking up to the cold dawn when their economic luck runs out and they realise they burned all the fat on quangos and jobs for the enemy class.

The news about Mandelson's alleged links to the Equatorial Guinea plot hit the front pages and will probably slink away just as fast. There does not appear to be any substance to this story, unless picked up by African authorities looking for public scalps. This whole episode demonstrates the lack of gravitas in "international law".

The Observer said that, despite clear obligations under international law, the British Government failed to warn the government of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.
The Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the House of Commons this month that his department had received "confidential information" about the plot in January, but could not verify it independently, and so did not pass it on.

On this basis, we would notify any sovereign government of possible threats against their positions. Let us make this clear: international law would appear to demand that we notify a sovereign government of an impending coup attempt, no matter how odious the regime.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has discontinued its mandate for investigating human rights abuses in Equatorial Guinea since 2002. In the same year, according to Amnesty,

...more than 60 people were convicted of "attacking state security" and attempting to overthrow the government, on the basis of confessions extracted under torture after an unfair trial.

International law in action!

(23.08, 29th November 2004)
Saturday, November 27, 2004
Despite his encounter with a thesaurus, Oborne provides an insight into Jack Straw's recent admission that the UK was aware of the plot to over Equatorial Guinea's kleptocrats since last January.

Even so, it is unlikely that the British government, as Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe has mischievously claimed, was behind the coup attempt. On the other hand, there is little doubt that HMG could have intervened to prevent it had it really wanted to. That is why Jack Straw’s startling admission that there was foreknowledge of the attempted coup is by no means without its consequences for Sir Mark Thatcher, who is at present languishing under house arrest in Cape Town. Till now, Sir Mark has looked a lonely figure. Jack Straw has granted him the opportunity to use what might be termed the Matrix Churchill defence. He can claim that his actions, however illegal, were nevertheless carried out with the tacit approval of the Foreign Office.

No doubt, FO inaction will be publicised in the forthcoming extradition hearing. Don't forget that under EU common foreign policy, HMG would be in the wrong, since we should endeavour to support international law, even when it acts as a defence for dictators.

There is also a Mandelson connection: he borrowed a house from one of those accused of plotting the coup. This may show a poor judgement in friendships but Churchill and Blair are not immune to this accusation. One wonders if this quiet admission was to provide a backstop in case it came up in the European Parliament. Not enough meat on the bone for the Farage sliderule, I suspect.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Who's the moneybags?

Just as I said that there was nothing worth saying about the Ukranian election - here is something, a Guardian report on the opposition's American links. In case your wondering the the Guardian approves of this, even if their reporter is not so sure.

The fact that the exit polls were financed by the same people who financed the opposition campaign is notable. Even I was not cynical enough to assume that. Exit Pollsters for Kerry wouldn't have been taken seriously.

One thing I would say is that although the figures don't sound much in impoverished Eastern Europe a dollar goes a great deal further than here.

The last line is memorable:

The places to watch are Moldova and the authoritarian countries of central Asia.

We will with the same amused detachment.

So will it be Civil War?

I'm not really inclined to report much on Ukraine, despite my great interest in it, because what is often not said about these things is so obvious that even the media are noticing it. This is more than just an election it is a geopolitical struggle.

It should be noted that Russia being worried about Ukraine is much more justified than Russia being worried about East Germany. Firstly there's a shared border, secondly there's a large minority of nominally Orthodox Russian speakers within the state. The election results (and support) if anything does not seem to be about economic liberty, corruption or civil rights but about culture and so Yanukovich's supporters are not going to go away.

Before we start cheering the pro-Polish candidate we should think very carefully - do we really want another shared border with Russia under EU and NATO obligations?

NB Thanks to Bob Briant for highlighting an intriguing past link between Blunkett and the Russophiles.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Link #2

The War Nerd writes that we should bring Saddam back to get out of Iraq quick. While I see a certain elegance in the plan, I think that we have another easier to implement plan also on offer.

Step 1. Talk to Sistani and promise him Iraq if he let's us get out
Step 2. Hold elections and allow Shiite theocrat thugs to rig them (we're going to allow Allawi's sub-Baathist lot to do that any way)
Step 3. Act surprised when Shiite theocrat thugs "win"
Step 4. Let Shiite theocrat thugs take over
Step 5. Withdraw as quickly as decently possible
Step 6. Express usual formulations of regret as Shiite theocrat thugs knock ten bells out of the Sunnis
Step 7. Pretend that a strategic realignment vis-a-vis Iraq and Iran is just not happening

Well its better than fighting Falluja again and again. And the beauty of this is that we can either do this with the Americans, or (with a bit of nastiness from the Bushies) we can do it without them.

Link #1

Srdja Trifkovic has written a piece in Chronicles on THE FACTS ON THE UKRAINIAN MELODRAMA. I can't help but share his scepticism about the black and white presentation of the two candidates.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Another Rapid Reaction Force

Every so often, we hear that Europe has decided to start up another amalgamation that can be sent off to sunnier climes in order to bear the French man's burden. This is three and counting.

Last month, NATO's Response Force -- a 17,000 strong elite corps capable of intervening anywhere in the world within five days -- was declared operational. Then on Monday, EU defense ministers meeting in Brussels announced the decision to create 13 battle groups of 1,500 troops apiece ready to step in to conflict areas within 5-10 days.

As if this was not enough, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain agreed to establish a European Gendarmerie Force capable of policing trouble-spots earlier this year. The armed forces of Germany, France, Belgium, Spain and Luxembourg are also pooled together in Eurocorps, the Strasbourg-based body that currently runs the international peacekeeping effort in Afghanistan.

Blair, polishing his European crdentials, has already picked out the soldiers who will participate in this joint venture. As the continental pygmies do not have the capability to provide troops (before 2007), the 'battlegroups' sent out for peacekeeping and humanitarian duties will be provided by Britain and France. This is an additional commitment to the other EU 'rapid reaction force'.

Since 'battlegroups' will deal with crisis situations when NATO has declined to take any action. One can view this additional policy as a subtle tag from Chirac to prey upon that buffoon Blair and include the overstretched British army in France's next attempt to shore up its informal empire in Africa.

(23.20, 23rd November 2004)

The Commission Latest Score

Devout Christians: 0

Convicted Fraudsters: 1

And that's before anyone looks at our Mandy. Can someone remind me, just what is Reinaldo's immigration status?

Little Russia's Geopolitical Spasm

If you thought that the Ukranian election was between a doughty democrat and a foreign backed demogogue you'd be half right. Both sides of the Ukranian election were backed by foreign powers, but what makes it interesting is that they were both backed by foreign powers, its just that they used different tools.

The East of the country stuffed ballot boxes. But who were the International Republican Institute or the National Democratic Institute For International Affairs supporting? The reason why they are important is hat these two bodies channel American taxpayers money into poorer countries political systems through supposedly partisan channels (the Republican and Democtat monikers do this). And the money goes a long way in post communist countries. The Foreign Office and the British political parties do the same in case you were wondering.

They were supporting the good guy by the way.

There's nothing actually wrong with that. I can't think of any compelling national interest in Ukraine, but if there was then subsidising friendly politicos would have to be done some how, we might as well feel virtuous about it. And I would probably have suported the free marketeer Viktor Yushchenko if I were Ukranian (with the important proviso that I'm not). However these two caveats aside it is important to remember that this is less a battle about democracy and more about Ukraine's alignment.

The West (that's both the EU and America) want Ukraine in their camp, and the Russian's don't. Thus lots of money and other help from both sides poured in. That's life.

As some perspective Kerry won on the exit polls and Bush got a margin of victory of less than three per cent, if that brings any perspective. And Kerry was backed by self-righteous foreigners.

(Although it is a fair bet that pro Yushchenko local governments (including Kiev) did try to match the ballot stuffing antics of Viktor Yanukovych and that more pro-fascist nostalgics in the Western third (this is Eastern Europe here) backed Yushchenko over Yanukovych don't believe some of the stuff that will come out about Yanukovych being the real democrat. It's about as believable as the pro-Mugabe guff that we sometimes come across.)
Monday, November 22, 2004
The Tools of Realism, The Goals of 2008

By the next European championship or Beckham's last hurrah, the Bush administration hopes to have established democracies in Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq. Perhaps some will even be campaigning for their second elections. Whatever the future holds, the objectives are clear and the replacement of Colin Powell by Condoleezza Rice heralds a cautious and steely realism.

The Spectator article by Bruce Anderson, linked to above, speculates that Washington, preoccupied by its economic ties with China, will gradually marginalise the European Union. Germany, France and Spain are viewed as an 'axis of evil', although declining powers are still mischief-makers as Chirac has proved. Through geopolitical concerns and personal antipathy, the Bush administration strikes a stance critical of European integration, a chord in tune with the concerns of Eurosceptics.

There has also been a profound change. For years, British Europhiles were able to insist to the Eurosceps, with some justice, that whatever the state of the special relationship, our influence in Washington depended on our influence on the Continent. If we were marginalised in Europe, no one in Washington would take us seriously. That is no longer the case. If he were a Brit, President Bush would be a Eurosceptic. Though some State Department officials still dream about European unity, they can expect no support from their political masters.

If this aversion to European integration develops in Washington, it undermines a central premise of Blair's foreign policy, a stalking horse without a challenge. However, there is dissent and division in the sceptic camp on the home front. Some Eurosceptics are Atlanticists, opposing Europe because of their preference for an alliance with the United States. Others have adopted opposition to the war and may find, like the Daily Mail, that a vociferous campaign runs the danger of promoting Europe as a viable alternative (or underweight, as Chirac proposes).

Whilst the war has proved disastrous for Blair's reputation, it has also succeeded in demonstrating the divisions that now extend fissures from the libertarians and conservatives into the Eurosceptic camp.

(23.25, 22nd November 2004)
New Links

Pretty much what it says on the tin, a whole load of new links headed by the wonderful EU Referendum blog (not that anyone else with the sense and discernment to link here is not also wonderful). Some of them are rather late.

If you already link to me then please email me and I will do it - on present form in six to eight months. But it will be done.
More Recognition

I like labouring away under the feeling that the uncommon good sense on here is unappreciated by the unwashed masses within the political classes, but we got on radio last night. There I was in the car listening to the radio and I almost swerved when I heard Airstrip One mentioned by Kevin Maguire. It's all here (needs some audio player):

Of course he doesn't actually mention our ground breaking analysis, or cumudgeonly isolationist selfishness, take your pick but Airstrip One is mentioned twice. Next stop Hadrian Wise on Newsnight and Philip Chaston in the Spectator.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Mondo Chirac

Jacques Chirac, President of France (for those who don't know their foreign policy), has given an interview on Newsnight to celebrate his visit to Britain on the centenary of the entente cordiale. If you wish to watch the whole interview, go to

There were a couple of points that surprised me, as Chirac emphasized unity and downplayed differences over Iraq. One of the first was his description of a multipolar world. Many pundits have often accused France of attempting to undermine the United States with its ad hoc alliances and friendly relationships with other Great Powers, noticeably Russia, Germany and China. There is, no doubt, an element of opportunism in France's diplomacy, but Chirac views the development of a multipolar world as an inevitability, and anticipates the relative decline of the hegemonic power. The United States can also recognise the transatlantic community of values which Chirac endorsed: Europe and America acting in concert due to shared values.

With the next breath, the President undermined this vision and demonstrated the European components of Blair's foreign policy. This multipolar world, which France endorses, would act under set roles through a reinvigorated and reformed United Nations, established as a guardian for peace and democracy.

Honeyed words, but one asks, would France surrender its permanent seat on the Security Council to the European Union? One more reason for Britain to withdraw from all acronyms.

(23.15, 17th November 2004)
Monday, November 15, 2004
Blair Recognises Airstrip One

Tonight, Blair made his Mansion House speech, and the strongest, impassioned plea yet for squaring the circle between the United States and Europe, as if these are two poles that Britain bridges. The whole of the set-piece was a mishmash of false positives and preparation for the forthcoming referendum.

The strategic role of Britain (copyright: T. Blair) was unrivalled and these strengths were in danger of being undermined by anti-Americanism and Euroscepticism. Even this blog gets an unspoken reference.

Nowhere is this clearer than in evaluating Britain's place in the world. There is only one superpower in the world today and we are its strong ally. The most powerful political grouping that has created the largest economic market in the world is the European Union - and we are a leading member. It's a great position. We should celebrate it.

However, one part of opinion wants to cool the American alliance. Another part wants us out or semi-out of Europe. In fact, some parts of opinion are now both anti-America and anti-Europe.

Blair argues that he (=Britain) can continue to maintain both diplomatic relationships, since they share common objectives in fighting terrorism and promoting democratic regimes across the globe. He stated that although there are different values between Europe and America (cue death penalty), these are not sufficient to drive a wedge between the alliance.

Should one admire a politician who continues to promote the metaphor of the Atlantic Bridge even as it weakens in power, both at home and abroad? Blair is attempting to shore up a damaged alliance that is undermined by the actions of France and Germany: his twin strategy, further integration in Europe and greater support for the United States. The subject of his speech and the need to articulate this programme for a wider audience proves that Blair's hand has weakened over the last few months. The Iraq war has cast a pall over the transatlantic community and, despite the rhetoric of success, even Blair is aware that he has not persuaded the European Union to follow his diplomatic path.

Blair, persuaded by the righteousness of his arguments, says that he can fight for the European Constitution and win. He will certainly campaign as hard as possible for this writ of sovereignty.

We have just had a debate in Europe about the new rules governing the new union of 25 and more. It is generally heralded everywhere (but Britain) as a triumph of British diplomacy. It is, overtly, an expression of Europe as a union of nation states. It is, implicitly, the rejection of Europe as a federal superstate.

So Europe matters profoundly. There is an argument raging as to its future direction. The argument can be won. And what am I advised to do? At the very moment of maximum importance, of acute urgency of decision-making, when all is in the balance and to play for, I am told to leave our allies in the lurch, walk away from the argument, retreat into a eurosceptic sulk and call it "standing up for Britain".

The preparatory arguments of the campaign, the smearing of Eurosceptics as isolationists and traitors to their allies, have been sounded out in this speech. Yet, how can we support a Prime Minister, who adopts one path and railroads his country into the chosen future, a destiny increasing at odds with the desires of his own party and, in thoughtful reflection, of teh majority of the electorate.

(23.12, 15th November 2004)
Saturday, November 13, 2004
The Palestinian Pole Vault

When Blair and Bush held their joint press conference on Friday, most of the questions concerned their proposals for resuscitating the Middle East Peace process. After one has read the transcript, it is clear that the two leaders knew their objectives and deliberately ensured that they avoided concrete measures which would achieve them.

Whilst avoiding the description of their shared strategic perspective as neo-conservative, both agreed that Palestine could only enter final status talks for a two state solution to peace, if the Palestinians had constructed a viable and liberal democratic state. Both cited the insight that Fukuyama built into a thesis twelve years ago: liberal democracies do not go to war, and have applied this to the problems of the Middle East. As Bush stated:

And the reason why I'm so strong on democracy is democracies don't go to war with each other. And the reason why is the people of most societies don't like war, and they understand what war means.

I've got great faith in democracies to promote peace. And that's why I'm such a strong believer that the way forward in the Middle East, the broader Middle East, is to promote democracy. I readily concede there are skeptics, people who say democracy is not possible in certain societies. But, remember, that was said right after World War II with Japan.

The opportunity for establishing democracy in Palestine following Arafat's death is low. These territories are riven by corruption, terrorism and a culture that has promoted violence on Israel as the solution to all problems. The hurdles put in place to kickstart the peace process support Israel's practical course of action: disengage, build a big wall and concentrate on withdrawing from territories that are impossible to defend. (Note that Bush purposefully called for withdrawal from parts of Gaza and the West Bank).

When asked about the payback that Britain could reap from the support provided to the United States, Bush did not answer the question. His reply praised the man, the leader, not the country. Blair noted that the alliance was based upon values and shared interests between Great Britain and the United States, rendering that line of questioning void.

PRESIDENT BUSH: The Prime Minister made the decision he did because he wanted to do his duty to secure the people of Great Britain. That's why he made the decision. Plenty capable of making his own mind. He's a strong, capable man. I admire him a lot. You know why? When he tells you something, he means it. You spend much time with politics, you'll know there's some people around this part of the -- this kind of line of work where they tell you something, they don't mean it. When he says something, he means it. He's a big thinker. He's got a clear vision. And when times get tough, he doesn't wilt. When they -- when the criticism starts to come his way -- I suspect that might be happening on occasion -- he stands what he believes in. That's the kind of person I like to deal with. He is a -- I'm a lucky person, a lucky President, to be holding office at the same time this man holds the Prime Ministership.

These are troubled times. It's a tough world. What this world needs is steady, rock-solid leaders who stand on principle. And that's what the Prime Minister means to me.

PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: I just want to add one thing, which is that, well, this -- this concept of payback -- we are -- we're not fighting the war against terrorism because we are an ally of the United States. We are an ally of the United States because we believe in fighting this war against terrorism. We share the same objectives; we share the same values. And if we look back over our own history in the last half-century or more, we, both of us, in different ways, the United States and Britain, have a cause to be thankful for this alliance and this partnership. And I should we -- I believe we should be thankful that it is as strong as it is today. And as long as I remain Prime Minister of our country, it will carry on being strong -- not because that's in the interests of America, simply, or in the interests of the international community, but because I believe passionately it is in the interests of Britain.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Good job. Thank you, sir.

As we have seen before, Blair supports a 'war on terror' and assumes that British interests are served by his own need to counter the perceived threats to our security; interests that also serve the United States and the international community, indeed the planet.

Blair's steady, rock-solid and does not bend - even when he is wrong and fits the facts to his "clear vision". Palestine, Israel and Iraq will prove to be unyielding obstacles to his big picture.

(23.24, 13th November 2004)
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
The Ties That Bind

Without descending into the conspiracy theories that dog Usenet or other commentaries, we can note the importance of networks in maintaining ties between the British and American elites. A good example of this organisation is the British-American Project for a Successor Generation that runs annual conferences and played a role in cementing ties between socialist moderates and the Beltway. Conservative (with a small c) members of this outfit include Stephen Dorrell, Alan Sked and David Willetts.

Whilst such ties were important for maintaining and reinforcing the Atlanticist perspectives in the Labour Party, they are countered by the traditions of anti-Americanism that have now allied with European ideologies for ballast. One recent example of this was the John Steele article in the Guardian, calling for the disbanding of NATO and European independence.

This article provides another example of the abandonment of British interests on the part of the Left. For 'independence' from the United States, they demand a united foreign and security policy, based upon the European Union. With their revisionist view of the twentieth century portraying the United States as a bullying threat and the Soviet Union as a weakling bestowed with military muscle by propaganda, the moral relativism of Communist apologists is revisited:

In contrast, a few members of the European Union who chose to take the considerable risk of staying neutral during the cold war - such as Austria, Finland, Ireland and Sweden - see no need to join Nato in the much safer world we live in today.

Do we really need American nuclear weapons to protect us against terrorists or so-called rogue states? The last time Europe was in dire straits, as Nazi tanks swept across the continent in 1939 and 1940, the US stayed on the sidelines until Pearl Harbor.

Glibly eliding the self-inflicted wounds of appeasement, Steele writes in a realist idiom that has proved more attractive to the Left since the Iraqi war. Moral and ideological arguments have proved wanting, so this emerging discourse marries the values of a 'European civilisation', proudly carried by the European Union, with the self-appointed task of providing a counterweight to the United States.

Ending Nato would not mean that Europe rejects good relations with the US. Nor does it rule out police and intelligence collaboration on issues of concern, such as the way to protect our countries against terrorism. Europe could still join the US in war, if there was an international consensus and the electorates of individual countries supported it.

But Europeans must reach their decisions from a position of genuine independence. The US has always based its approach to Europe on a calculation of interest rather than from sentimental motives. Europe should do no less. We can and, for the most part, should be America's friends. Allies, no longer.

This realist language, encouraged by the recent actions of the European Union, is arguably more dangerous in the long-term than our alliance with the United States. No-one ever argues that British interests are incorporated into United States foreign policy, since we are recognised as a separate sovereignty, despite an unspoken fealty to the daughter republic. The European ideology, on the other hand, speaks with its own voice, and subsumes British interests within the needs of the continental union.

As stated before, an Atlanticist tie remains a necessary counterbalance to the European Union, especially as the political classes of the latter express their 'interest' in terms of multipolar alliances, wooing China and Russia from a position of worsening decline.

(23.05, 10th November 2004)

A Europe of Democracies

So the doughty Belgian government acts with resolve to shut down the largest opposition party, shame they could find no evidence of conspiracy with Marc Dutroux. I wonder why that was?
Go Rocco Go

I don't know what it is, but I like Rocco Buttiglione. Well I do know, he gets up the noses of all the right people (but then again so does George Bush and I don't like him). He's also honest about his personal views which for a politician, especially a Cisalpine politician, is good. Of course the left seem to wish to gut society so that they can rebuild it - and attacking religion is probably the closest thing one can get to social cancer short of passing out crack free to school children. I digress.

Here's another reason to like Buttiglione, he was against the war, and this was while serving in a pro war administration. Not just a make belief Michael Gove style conservative, but a real Conservative. Truly too good for the European Commission.
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
Quagmire Antennae

Most politicians would appear humbled after the setbacks that they have encountered in Iraq following their own wilful manipulation of intelligence. Such politicians would not be Blair.

Where Blair always set himself apart from Bush was his belief, encouraged by the Arabists of the Foreign Office and the anti-Zionist sympathies of his own left-wing, that the problems of the Middle East would be cured by the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This has proved a foundation stone for his championing of the peace plan and road map: two metaphors that have almost been abandoned as the intifada has strengthened apace.

Now that Bush has been re-elected, he is a president more welcome than his irresolute rival for defending sovereignty and undermining international institutions (like the French). Blair, as his closest ally, intends to use some of the capital provided by the American people, to bring peace to the Middle East. As always, Blair's vaunted efforts are constrained by the policies set out by the White House. On Breakfast with Frost, Bush Senior set out the groundrules:

I think there is an opportunity and I think Tony Blair was heard loud and clear in Washington about what he was calling for," the elder Bush told the British Broadcasting Corporation's "Breakfast with Frost" program. "There is a real opportunity. People forget that this president is the first president to call for a Palestinian state."Blair is correct, 100 percent correct. And I think he will find the president a willing and able partner, particularly if there is a change in leadership in the PLO that we can deal with more openly and with more confidence," said Bush.

If the Palestinians can organise themselves, abandon terrorism and coalesce around a leadership prepared to negotiate a peace settlement with the Israelis, then they will get the backing of the US government. Watch three fat pigs fly over Jerusalem.

If Blair thinks that his latest wheeze is better than a short term press release to shore up his image on Labour's left, ("Look at me!, I care about the Palestinians! Let's make noise and show my independence from Bush"), I'd be surprised. If he does indulge in the fantasy that he could make a difference, then this si more evidence that he loves quagmires: political, military and diplomatic.

Bottom line: this is none of Britain's business. The Arabs wish to throw the Israelis into the Sea and the Israelis don't wish to go. Throw in the history of a few wars and I can see how Jews coudl become paranoid and feel "under siege" from a world that would weep crocodile tears over a second Holocaust. Perhaps Blair could emote on their behalf.

(23.05, 9th November 2004)

Monday, November 08, 2004
Geordies fight for us

The relative paucity of analysis on the North East Referendum is a bit of a shock.

Let's go through the facts:

1. It was a constitutional change.
2. Labour and the Lib Dems were on one side - the Tories and UKIP were on another.
3. The No Campaign was both split and (at least in the official camp) shambolic.
4. The BBC were on the Yes side.

Remind you of anything? Furthermore the ground had been chosen carefully - there is a genuine sense of regional identity in the North East, it is very loyal to Labour and Tories are loathed almost as much as in Scotland. Just look at the Hartlepool election for the latter two points.

The margin of the defeat in a carefully chosen referendum is a massive setback for the Yes side on a Euro constitution referendum. How are they going to pull this one back?

Note. Posting has been interrupted on the blog for some time - apologies.
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Sheikh Zayeed Dead. Long live John Peel.

Who? Only the leader of the United Arab Emirates!

Still don't care? Well isn't it nice. It should be this way with all foreign leaders and the press instead of this obsessive coverage of the American Elections.

John Peel should mean far more to me than George Bush or John Kerry.
Monday, November 01, 2004
Not even worth it for the Oil

Britain 'is insulated from oil price rises' according to Roger Bootle. I'd rather think that we were over in Iraq because of a faulty understanding of economics rather than a foolhardy belief in Arabia's readiness for democracy and America's capacity for gratitude, sadly that's not true.
Thursday, October 28, 2004
Bigley 2.0

Am I the only person who finds the lack of attention and effort placed upon Mrs Hassan's captivity, in comparison to Mr Bigley's, distasteful? The press and the victim's family kept the hostage on the front pages of the media and the news, reinforced by the unsettling political effects that the images of this broken man projected over the Labour conference. Now we can watch in deja-va as Zarqawi proves his misunderstanding of the West by retreading the same tactics tried out with Bigley. Our attention span has moved elsewhere.

Now that hostage-taking has lost its shock value, the media no longer provides headlines for its British victims. The favourable conditions for publicising the Bigley's terrible experiences and undeserved fate have fallen away. Moreover, Mrs Hassan's family live in Iraq and, as dark-skinned Iraqis, are less photogenic than grieving Liverpudlians. The emotions are no less raw for that perceived handicap.

This is not a preference. Low-key coverage of hostage-taking is a good strategy, denying terrorists the oxygen of publicity and allowing negotiations to take place outside of the public eye, lowering the pressures under which such diplomacy takes place. Moreover, an observer may speculate that the government has learnt from the Bigley episode and prevented the mainstream media from raising the public profile of Mrs Hassan.

If there has been no government interference, our perception of the media is depressing. Bigley's chances were exaggerated by the press since his life or death had acquired political connotations. These no longer exist and Mrs Hassan becomes another motorway services sign on the way to Newport Pagnell.

(21.14, 28th October 2004)
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
Proof that Europeans are stupid

Is it just me who thinks that this "victory" where the Socialists forced out a commissioner for expressing orthodox Christian social views is going to come back to them. Seriously, do they really think that the gay rights lobby and some far out feminists are going to have more heft than the Roman Catholic Church? In Sweden and Denmark perhaps....

Only an oxymoronic undemocratic parliament could think that. And they have. I feel far more cheerful.
Sunday, October 24, 2004
The Original Neocon

Returning to the speech that Tony Blair made at the University of Chicago setting out his foreign policy objectives, Ben Rawlence, writing in the Guardian, compares the common threads between Blairism and neoconservatism. A key to this radical departure from British policy lies in the emphasis that Blair places upon values above interest:

It is the emphasis on "values" that links him to the neocons. Blair's formulation that, since the cold war, "our actions are guided by ... mutual self-interest and moral purpose in defending the values we cherish. In the end values and interests merge" is one that would be strongly supported by the neocons.

The distinction between values and interests is crucial. Interests are usually defended, values are promoted. Interests are material and can be defined, values are hard to pin down and know no limit. If we take the government's oft repeated mantra that "the best defence of our security lies in the spread of our values", British foreign policy at once becomes diffuse: our priorities are everywhere and nowhere.

What are these values? It is hard to disagree with Blair when he says: "Nations that are free, democratic and benefiting from economic progress tend to be stable and solid partners in the advance of humankind." The problem occurs when British security is linked to the spread of those values, and when we wage war in their name. British national interest is explicitly located in the internal affairs of other countries, violating international traditions of non-interference, and destabilising governments. No wonder countries in the Middle East are nervous.

Whilst the framework is the same, there are distinct differences between Blairite values and neoconservatism. The former judges international institutions and the environment as far more important than the latter, placing Blair straddling the concerns of the left and the demands of the United States.

It also provides a roadmap for the future: the subordination of values and ideologies whilst redefining Britain's interests. One for the right.

(23.04, 24th October 2004)
Thursday, October 21, 2004
Iain, we hardly knew ye

The most underrated politician of all time, Iain Duncan Smith, had a blind spot when it came to America, and still does. However in Monday's debate on Britain's contribution to the Bush reelection campaign he spoke of his concern (he used the term question, but we know parliamentary language when we see it) at British troops being subject to thick torture happy Yank troops (again its the parliamentary language thing, we know what he meant). Have the AEI and other Conservative foundations dropped him, enquiring minds demand to know. However as Julian Lewis, Nicholas Soames and David Heathcote-Amery made pretty similar points this is probably not the case - unless the Atlanticist case among the Tories has been hollowed even further than has been apparent.

The debate itself is worth reading, with the edited highlights of Hoon's pratfall when he effectively admitted to lying to the house about not having made the decision. Also interesting are former supporters of the war such as Geraldine Smith, Teddy Taylor, Rob Marris and Andrew Mackinley getting nervous. The constant talk is of exit strategies.

It seems that even people who were pro-war can now talk about getting out of Iraq quickly without admitting that the invasion is wrong?

See, Mr Howard, there is a way of making the war a vote winner.
Monday, October 18, 2004
Pension Missiles

Like pensions, the decision to deploy of missiles at Fylingdales has been postponed until after the general election. The Labour government wishes to avoid reinforcing the perception of following America's lead. Such actions resurrect the slithering toves of the Cold War peace movement:

Reports over the weekend suggested that the Pentagon had asked Britain for permission to site interceptor missiles at the American-run early warning station at Fylingdales, North Yorkshire.

The government has tried to pour cold water on the story, but there is nevertheless a potentially damaging row looming over the possibility that a deal on the missiles could have been agreed between the two countries, without anyone outside a privileged inner circle being any the wiser.

If such a move had been permitted, there would be dark echoes of the Greenham Common days, when peace camps were set up outside the Berkshire USAF base to protest about the siting of cruise missiles on English soil.

The Cold War has come and gone ... but still America feels the need to rein in its allies for their assistance in helping to defend The 50 States.

This story sits uneasily with the assertions of Christopher Booker and Richard North this weekend that the special relationship was in danger, due to the increasing integration of European defence. The Fylingdales episode indicates that the Blair government still straddles the fence, aiming to act as a bridge between Europe and the United States.

The objective is the same but Blair has switched allies in Europe. At first, Blair attempted to reach his goals with the co-operation of Germany and France. The Iraqi War put an end to those hopes. Now, Blair has realised that a pro-American grouping may hold a majority or a blocking vote in European structures, and hopes to unify this loose collective under British leadership. This would explain his enthusiasm for the European Constitution, and his warnings against a 'hard core' integrationist avant-garde.

If the French understand that they may have to subordinate their foreign policy to an Atlanticist majority, this may prove an additional incentive towards the delinking and integration of the Rhineland quartet. The divisions over Iraq are proving longer-lasting than we anticipated.

(23.07, 18th October 2004)
Sunday, October 17, 2004
Political Responses to the Redeployment

The United States has requested that a small number of British troops are redeployed to a position outside of their zone of control, placing them under US command. This has resulted in a welter of complaints from the Tories, the Liberal Democrats and anti-war Labour MPs that such a move has been motivated by the political strategies of the Bush administration. This has now forced Hoon to issue a parliamentary statement on this subject.

The addition of the US election as a factor in this deployment has politicised the whole move. The Sunday Telegraph reported that the move was opposed by General Sir Michael Walker although it is unclear if he was concerned by the use of our reserve in Iraq to support the Americans or by the alleged political motivations involved.

Gen Walker, the most senior officer in the Armed Forces, is said to be concerned that the Army should not be "bounced" into sending troops into Baghdad simply because the Americans have sustained more casualties than the British.

A Ministry of Defence official said that the Chief of the Defence Staff and other senior officers were worried that deploying the Black Watch, which is the divisional reserve for southern Iraq, to Baghdad would leave British troops vulnerable to another uprising by insurgents.

It is unclear if this move is an operational or a political matter. However, the powers of coincidence fail to explain why this story arose at the same time as the visit of Michael Howard to the headquarters of the Black Watch in Perth. Certain quarters may have viewed this as an opportunity to publicise the government's willingness for using the military to further its political ends. Who knows?

There is clear evidence that the government has suborned the intelligence services to further its objectives, compromising their independence with the willing participation of some of their members. Is the same struggle taking place in the Armed Forces, as commanders juggle defence and cutbacks, whilst opposing actions that put their men's lives at risk? They are certainly leaking to the press....

A senior Army officer said: "There is a certain amount of concern that this is a politically driven military operation and that does not rest easily with soldiers.

"Soldiers accept that they have to undertake dangerous operations in war, they accept that they might be killed or injured, but it is completely unacceptable if they are being sent to Baghdad to help George Bush win the next election."

(22.50, 17th October 2004)
Saturday, October 16, 2004
Civil Con/EuroCon

If your political antennae have been sensitive to the undercurrents shimmering across the blogosphere, then you will have picked up the few postings alerting readers to the implications of the Civil Contingencies Bill. The dangers of this giant step towards authoritarianism have been publicised far more effectively on Iain Murray's personal weblog, The Edge of Englands Sword:

Lord Lucas has described the Civil Contingencies Bill as comparable to Hitler's Enabling Act of 1933 which enabled him to transform Germany's Weimar Republic into his own personal tyranny. I have now read it, and I have to say that he is not exaggerating.

Readers could argue that this is an invocation of Godwin's Law and that, by quoting this passage, I have lost the argument. However, this opinion is that of Torquil Dirk-Erikson, "a noted Eurosceptic writer and learned silk". However, in considering the passage of this Act, it should also be noted that the European Constitution has a section on 'civil protection' as one of the coordinating powers for the European authorities.

The Government wishes to push through an updated Civil Contingencies Bill in 2004. It does not mention the EU, but the draft EU Constitution includes 'civil protection' as an area for 'coordinating action' and the current Treaty mentions the topic vaguely. The Bill also enables the creation of arbitrary imprisonable criminal offences. It enables regulations that can delegate powers to anyone or confer jurisdiction on any court or tribunal. This could be an EU body, unaccountable to government or the people.

From this, it is a short step to imagine the following scenario:

An 'emergency' is declared by the government. Who knows what the catalyst may be? It could vary from an outbreak of foot and mouth to a mega-terrorist attack on the United States of America or another European country. The definition of emergency within the Civil Contingencies Bill is so vague that it could be stretched to cover a terrorist attack in a foreign country, and the consequences of any perceived threat on our own shores. My own assumption is that it would have to be an NBC attack. Nothing less could do for the government's subsequent actions.

Following this, a nationwide emergency is declared and all democratic assemblies are prorogued. The Government pushes through a number of authoritarian measures by regulation including a national ID scheme and, possibly, the reintroduction of a limited draft. In oredr to show solidarity with fellow European Union Member States, the government also signs up to the Euro and the Constitution, promising a democratic vote once the national state of emergency has ended.

Regulatory changes include the creation of a list system for parties, the use of postal, mobile and electronic voting, and the prohibition of 'extremists' such as the British National Party and UKIP. Certain opinions and arguments deemed offensive are banned from the media or the public airwaves. After these regulatory changes, introduced as modernisation or democratisation, are embedded, the government calls another election, which Labour wins handsomely, having introduced a 'managed democracy'. This election is cited as a referendum on Europe and the ruling party declares that no further votes are required on membership within Europe.

To those who say that this scenario is unlikely or extremist, and that the Labour Party would never take such an unprincipled route to preserve its current role as the governing party, I would cite the introduction of the Civil Contingencies Bill as evidence of their political principles. They are not to be trusted.

(18.42, 16th October 2004)

Friday, October 15, 2004
Triangulating Bush and Kerry

The Progressive Governance Conference that took place in Budapest today demonstrated that Blair was repositioning his political position to account for a possible Kerry victory in the US elections. At the same time, he also sketched out his current position on the European Constitution and the role of Europe.

Blair has maintained that the European Union, integrated under the Constitution, can act as an ally rather than as a counterweight to the United States. This is known as the Atlanticist viewpoint, as opposed to the multipolar great power envisaged by the French. Blair has concluded that this objective can only be achieved by harnessing the new Member States and ushering a new vision of Europe to redress the old. Neither of these ideologies contradict the centralising and integrationist path of the European Union, since they concern its future relationships with the United States, not its impending structures.

To this end, Blair made overtures to the socialist Prime Minister of Spain, Jose Zapatero, and argued that a Europe, divided between core and periphery, should be opposed.

Mr Blair called yesterday for the US and Europe to work together in the wake of Iraq as he sent a strong message to France and Germany that there could not be a two-speed EU.In a joint newspaper article with Hungarian counterpart and summit host Ferenc Gyurcsany, he said that in the expanded union of 25 states “all are equal”. “We should reject any suggestion of inner or outer cores of Europe,” the article said.

In a further snub to the 'soft core', Blair also published an article with the Hungarian Prime Minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany. This provided more details on his version of Europe: setting out reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, maintaining an alliance with the United States and uniting Europe under one Constitution.

In anticipation of Britain's presidency of the G8 in 2005, Blair's trailblazer, Mandelson, noted that the United States was taking greater account of the international community on the issues of climate change and global poverty. The implicit criticism that the United States had neglected these subjects was covered by Mandelson's anticipation of a United States engaging with the international community. Whilst neutral in terms of the presidential election, the readership would have noted a deliberate echo of Kerry's voice, whilst the Bush administration understood that there have always been differences of policy which Blair now wished to emphasise.

In an article for the conference in Progressive Politics, Mr Blair's confidante Peter Mandelson said: "America has learnt from the errors of the war in Iraq. America now understands that it needs allies: not just coalitions of the willing that will support the US in its own policy decisions, but a wider international community that wants its voice to be heard and recognised." He said a stable democratic Iraq could best be achieved by greater involvement of the UN and greater efforts to inter-nationalise the coalition effort, particularly on the part of Europe.

Mandelson had already publicised another argument that could be used to defend Blair's flank on Iraq: that the British government had sought international legitimacy for the war, only to be defeated by the spoiling actions of the French, acting out of short-term and corrupt interests, as the oil for weapons scandal demonstrated. This has some mileage, since most of the accusations against the French appear to stack up. We will see if it is used in the next few days.

He said: "Who can doubt that the insurgency in Iraq would today be a lesser problem had a second resolution been agreed and the UN been in the driving seat from the start and throughout." Mr Blair has always insisted that no second UN resolution was needed to authorise the military action, and blamed the French for blocking attempts to win one.

Despite all of the unspoken flim-flammery on the part of the Conservatives, we can see clear blue water between their demands for a Europe based on variable geometry and the unitary constitutional monolith, favoured by Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

(23.41, 15th October 2004)

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