Wednesday, March 31, 2004
Labour's Referendum

It is hard to guage the strength of the dissidents within the Labour Parliamentary Party who would rebel over the issue of the European Constitution. It is an issue supported by both Europhiles and Eurorealists within Labour and two MPs from Stoke-on-Trent have already spoken up in favour.

After months of deserved silence, Giscard D'Estaing has raised his head above the parapet in order to bask in anticipated success. Zapatero, the new Spanish Prime Minister, met the author of Britain's suicide note, and accepted the new structure in its entirety, despite his residual concern over the voting system. D'Estaing, in that Alician world of Eurologic, had an answer for those anxieties concerning the double majority voting system:

"Spain expressed its concern, but I told Mr Zapatero that reflections currently exist which could presage a mutually acceptable solution," Giscard said.

Giscard added the issue was about more than simple voting percentages "because we actually vote, and will vote, very little in reality.

"If we do vote there are winners and losers and if we do it too often then we will divide up Europe into winners and losers.

"When a country has been among the minority three times it will start to ask questions. So a European system will work better through seeking consensus than seeking a vote.

To avoid the competitive dangers of voting, it is better to seek consensus that hold votes. Voila! Problem solved! Will this distrust of voting, with its unfortunate consequences of creating winners and losers, be focused on those unpredictable and uncontrollable events, elections. After all, they result in division and dissension, rather than a cosy consensus.

(22.50, 31st March 2004)
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
The Strange Death of Blair's Populism

Frank Field, writing in the Independent this week, called upon the Blair administration to call a referendum over the European Constitution as a strategy to start rebuilding a relationship with the electorate based upon 'trust. The alternative was a further deterioration in the public's relationship with the political parties:

In any event it would be a magnanimous move for the PM to give the people the chance to overrule him. It would also show that this is not a fag-end government waiting to hoover up fag-end events, but one still prepared to confront the big issues, even if it has to follow what the voters want.

The Iraqi war and the Hutton Report have emboldened Blair to follow his own course of action without recourse to focus groups or the line of least resistance. One can speculate about the motives behind his 'conviction' politics. Perhaps his own unpopularity has come as a breath of fresh air; or maybe he has set himself one final task before he steps down, of drowning Britain in Europe, and leaving his successor with a well-paid sinecure.

The last few days have revealed more of the political calculation that guides New Labour's actions. In a decided tactical move away from the media charm offensive of their first term, they are now viewing the press in a hostile light and are determined to ride any short-term crisis or scandal that hits the headlines. This is a precursor to the media war that they expect to erupt over the European Constitution and the election. Hence their wish to boost the immune system of government by demonstrating that ministers and ministries are impervious to the howls of the Opposition benchpress. However, the defence of Beverley Hughes has involved the most sensitive arena of political life, immigration, exposing the vicious circle of distrust and arrogance which structures public perception. Secure in a stable economy, an overwhelming majority and a Liberal Democrat party neutered by an unofficial electoral pact, New Labour views these strikes as mere squalls. Public opposition is ignored except where it is championed by Labour MPs themselves, when it threatens the parliamentary hold of Blair.

(22.35, 30th March 2004)
Monday, March 29, 2004
Too Late! Too Late! The People Cry! Too Late for You! Too Late for Me!

We may be 21st century men but we're still fools. Michael Howard, leader of the Conservative Party, has stated that if the Blair administration passes the European Constitution, a Tory Party would reopen negotiations. Apart from an ill-considered comparison to the Thatcher rebate, in terms of the significance of the changes proffered, the Tories have to remain wedded to the illogical position that their demands can be institutionalised in diplomatic exchanges with the other European Member States.

The news on the Eurocon is now stale so I won't plough across other furrows. Whilst Howard's rhetorical resolution is welcome:

"This constitution is unacceptable to me and, I think, to a majority of the people in this country. Were I faced with that position, I would do what has to be done in order to change a situation that is unacceptable. I think we will be able, as an incoming Conservative government, to do what needs to be done to safeguard the vital interests of this country," he said.

Mr Howard insisted that it would be possible to change the constitution - "if you have a very clear idea of what is in the interests of your country and you are determined to be resolute and firm about the way in which you negotiate to secure that objective. That is the kind of approach I would take after the election if I were faced with that position".

His statements point to a Tory party promoting a semi-detached approach to Europe. However, an integrated superstate may not settle for a halfway house and, as such, the logic of the Tory position, dependent upon the reaction of other Member States is potentially rejectionist.

(23.37, 29th March 2004)
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
How Blairite!

When the Concert of Europe acts in its finest hour, one's eye is dimmed by the resolute loyalty that they show to strategies of spin and puffery in their vain scramble to show themselves as men of action. It is not for me to decry the efforts of our born leaders whose innate guidance and superior wisdom have brought up long-term solutions to the dangers that face us all. I will not bear witness to critics who carp at the supposed naivety of those who view terrorism as a social and economic problem, rather than a moral and a cultural battle, soluble through another round of peace negotiations. Who could doubt the power of the vol-au-vent to entice Hamas or Al-Qaeda to sit down and start telling us of their needs.

However, the appointment of a terrorist "tsar", to coordinate and step up security measures against Al-Qaeda, looks like a publicity exercise straight from Blair's manual. If such appointments achieve little in the rarefied world of the British civil service, how promising is the likelihood of success in the red raw world of Europe. There have been a rash of meetings by ministers and police chiefs trumpeting the need to combat terror. For once, the interests of the nation states have outweighed the integrating desires of the EU (tip of the hat to Charles Tupper Jr. here). Included in this saving grace is a realistic view of intelligence co-operation and the refusal to set up some bureaucratic monster like Homeland Security (for now):

One of the most sensitive areas thrown up by the Madrid blasts is that of intelligence-sharing -- a thorny issue particularly for countries with vast international intelligence-gathering agencies like Britain and France.

As a result EU countries have agreed to boost intelligence exchange via a closely-controlled "cell" in Brussels rather than a kind of European CIA proposed by some.

"We share intelligence on a bilateral basis," said British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. "What we want is a greater number of partners with whom to share intelligence on a bilateral basis," he added, noting: "It does ... require a very high level of confidence and trust."

The pols found that their national interests prevented them from actually cooperating, so they banked on a PR exercise to add 'European' lustre to their pointless meeting. You won't sleep any easier in your beds tonight, especially when it's none of our business.

(20.51, 23rd March 2003)
Sunday, March 21, 2004
Underlying Consensus

The 'war on terror' has proved a useful tool for the Bundesrepublik to engineer a rapprochement with the United States. Although the Franco-German dynamo is used as a shorthand to describe the relationship that has powered European integration, this has tended to emphasize the geopolitical ambitions of the French, with the Germans in tow, and understated the separate interests of this declining giant.

German foreign policy has proved to be more inconsistent than many other powers since Schroeder was elected Chancellor. Including the central thread of Europe, foreign policy has been viewed by the German government as an extension of domestic politics. Thus, national stature was symbolically strengthened through the further deployment of German troops under the NATO umbrella and set within a paradigm of 'normalisation'. Furthermore, the anti-war and anti-American positions were set by the election campaign of September 2002, for expedient, domestic gain.

Now the Schroeder government is downplaying domestic pressures, despite the recent Lander defeats, and tacking in support of the United States campaigns. This was usefully highlighted in a recent article by John Vinocur in the International Herald Tribune that detailed the lukewarm response from the German government to the newfound distancing of Spain from the United States.

The Germans recently agreed an understanding with the United States on their role in the future of the Middle East. They did not support France's proposal for a meeting of European foreign ministers to discuss terrorism and have worked for a United Nations resolution that will provide the necessary multilateral support that will underpin the 'coalition of the willing'.

This alliance has detached Germany from the pretensions of the French and widened the range of options that the United States can consider whilst it prosecutes the 'war on terror'. German commitments in Afghanistan and support for the continued occupation of Iraq were confirmed.

(18.07, 21st March 2004)
Thursday, March 18, 2004
More Alike Than They Know

One of the strongest themes that has emerged from reaction to 3/11 is the desire of individuals and governments to act in concert, presenting a united front. The motivations for these calls for unity differ in tone and content, depending upon the ideological context of the speaker. In the United States, it is an exhortation to avoid any sign of appeasement towards terrorism whilst the European elite has fallen back on solidarity - the value that promotes integration.

Both of these approaches have sieved perceptions of the atrocities through an inflexible moral prism, preventing an empirical evaluation of the effect of the bombings. One example will suffice: the condemnation of the Spanish electorate as a symbol of appeasement towards Al-Qaeda. Ian Murray's psephological shorthand attributes the Socialist victory in Spain to an increase in voter turnout. The overall support for the right did not decline as much as the results indicated. They were outvoted:

It is clear, therefore, that the Spanish elections hinged on the feelings of those 3 million extra voters, less than a tenth of the voting population. They were, it appears, overwhelmingly young, something that in Europe at least invariably favors left-leaning parties. It seems likely that the PP's unwise move to pin the blame for the bombings on Basque separatist terrorists ETA before the evidence was in contributed to a feeling among this group that it had been lied to. The group's vengeance was terrible for Spain and the war on terror, but its effect was disproportionate.

As a consequence, the initial reactions to the Socialist victory in Spain on the left and the right should be discounted as the cries and indignation of frustrated Pharisees. However, the appearance of unity is another harmful trend with serious consequences for British foreign policy. The United States has demanded a "with us or against us" approach which has entwined the war on Iraq with the "war on terror". Now the European Union is starting to demand that collective continental security requires centralisation of strategy, defence and intelligence gathering in the name of European nations fighting terror.

These reactions favour a herd mentality, the creation of new bureaucracies that will prove unequal to their tasks and the prevention of countries acting in their national interests (including the engagement and pre-emption of terror). The 'war on terror' is completing what the Cold War started in Europe: the establishment of authoritarian bureaucracies, wedded now to an emergent military-industrial complex, and further degrading democratic institutions and liberties in the name of security.

(21.57, 18th February 2004)
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

The European Commission used the background of the Madrid bombings to strike a claim in the area of defence research and expenditure. Their first bid was an annual budget of €1 billion, to be placed under their control, in order to enhance defence research and cooperation across the EU. This also presented an attempt to construct rival programmes to the superior research facilities in the United States.

The bureaucrats and functionaries who represented the EU Member States at the conferences discussing defence co-operation all favoured supranational decision making.

Professor Rob de Wijk of the Dutch Clingendael Centre for Strategic Studies: "We have reached the limits of international co-operation in European defence policy making. There is little more to be achieved through enhanced co-operation. To have a real leap forward the EU must introduce supranational decision-making."

First Secretary of Defence of the UK Permanent Representation to the EU, Sandy Johnston, said: "Other EU countries look to UK and France wanting to be part of for example the planned battle groups. But that is not the idea. It is for you to do more for yourself, not just to add bits and pieces" (See EurActiv 10 February, 2004) On the sensitive issue of possibly giving up national sovereignty on EU defence, he said: "The problem for the politicians is that they will have to be able to explain it so it makes sense to the readers of the Daily Mail. Otherwise they won't be re-elected."

Apart from thanking whatever deity you believe in for Daily Mail readers, it is disturbing that this "Group of Personalities" favours more centralisation. The Report from the conference held on March 15th, "Research for a Secure Europe" sets out the European Security Research Programme (ESRP) that will also, in one of those financing wheezes, contribute to the drive for competitiveness.

In line with the objective for the EU to raise spending in research from 1,9% to 3% of EU average Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2010, ESRP money would add to funding from the EU Research Framework Programme, national or other intergovernmental sources. This spending level would bring the combined EU (EU, national and intergovernmental) security research investment closer to that of the U.S.

This is a dangerous development. The European Commission is using the issue of security to advance its own agenda of integration and threatens to reduce the efficiency of such research through co-ordinating the planned and unplanned initiatives. It is also clear that a body, infamous for the corruption that it fosters, is not best placed to finance and audit such programmes. The drive for competitiveness can now be judged a failure. How can an economy become more competitive when research and investment is increased through government expenditure, rather than private sector advances?

(22.50, 17th March 2004)
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Spain and the European Constitution

The ramifications of the Spanish election has demonstrated the difficulty of analysing events in Europe, Iraq or the United States in isolation. Whilst the initial reactions to the Socialist victory focussed on Iraq, it did not take long for pundits to note that the new government had changed Spain's policy towards the European Constitution. Instead of demanding an undiluted bloc vote, the new Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Zapatero, declared,

"Europe will be a natural framework for our foreign policy,"... Immediately after his election win was confirmed Sunday night Zapatero told supporters: "I will place Spain in the front line of European construction."

Zapatero has quickly reaffirmed his allegiance to the orthodox structure of European power and the odds have turned sharply in favour of the new constitutional settlement. The broken deadlock and the fresh impetus given to the Franco-German alliance was swiftly capitalised upon by that aging euphemism, 'Old Europe'.

Chirac and Schroeder called for a European plan of action to combat terror, the swiftest route to defeat yet devised, given the success of other EU projects. Whilst laying the foundation for their new ten year plan to make Europe the most secure continent in the Universe, both pols trotted out trite inclusiveness to evade any actions that could defeat terrorism.

On countering terrorism, both Chirac and Schroeder said that the fight against terror also requires an attack on its root causes.

Conflicts that feed terrorism and the frustration of some peoples must be ended, Chirac said, pleading for a ”dialogue of cultures.”

The German leader said that economic underdevelopment must also be addressed.

Codewords for interference in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, wasting taxpayers money on Arab kleptocrats and maintaining cooperation with the current parasites that head the modern dictatorships and monarchies. Free trade and strong pressure to liberalise their socialist economies, the leading cause of Arab impoverishment, would provide the wealth and rising expectations that would overthrow these foul regimes and counter the festering hate that fuels Al Qaeda.

Hopefully Chirac and Schroeder, useless bastards that they are, will soon disappear from the international stage.

(22.30, 16th March 2004)
Monday, March 15, 2004

Spanish Practice

So a reasonably competent and popular European government has been toppled because the population view it as having taken unnecesary risks with their safety. On the back of Gerhard Schroeder's otherwise undeserved victory in Germany on the back of his opposition to the war it is becoming clear that playing America's hunting dog is a vote losing proposition. Of course we can rely on Michael Howard to ignore this obvious fact.

However we are now hearing siren voices on the right saying that the Spanish electorate were unwise as the Islamic hordes will be out to get them. Are they right?

What matters is why Al-Qaeda bombed Madrid. As far as we know the video sent by Al Qaeda is genuine and the reasons given, as reported by the BBC was this:

In the video, a man speaking Arabic with a Moroccan accent says the attacks were revenge for Spain's "collaboration with the criminals Bush and his allies", the government said.

The reason given was clear, Spanish support of the Yanks and not a distaste for Western culture in general. In a similar vein Al Qaeda has constantly linked it's campaign against America to America's activities in the Middle East - notably propping up the Israeli and Saudi regimes and American activities in Iraq. Sure they think that we're a load of corrupt atheist farts, but that is not the reason they give in their addresses for bombing us.

I'm afraid that one has to accept that these people are horribly rational and that they have certain fixed aims, to take over currently Sunni countries starting with Saudi. They do recognise that they have to prioritise their targets and husband their scarce resources.

The answer is of course to treat terrorism as a domestic concern, to step up spying on domestic Muslims and to stop dead further Muslim immigration. Any exploits in the Middle East are not going to handicap Islamic terrorism, and are going to increase the risk to British subjects.

Of course the survival of Israel or the House of Saud, or the importance of always being at America's side may be worth this increased risk - in much the same way as the wishes of the Basque or Ulster population is worth the risk of terrorism from ultra-nationalists in these areas. The Spanish people judged that this was not the case.

Would the British if given a choice? You can bet they won't be asked.
Sunday, March 14, 2004
The British response to the bombings in Madrid

Whilst the terrorist atrocities in Madrid represent the first of Al-Qaeda's forthcoming strikes in Europe, it is now clear that membership of the 'coalition of the willing' raises the likelihood of being targeted by Al Qaeda. Spain was already in the crosshairs due to the stated grievances concerning al Andalus, and by Al Qaeda's general hatred of the West. The announcements of Bin Laden have always pointed the finger at those countries which have sent troops to Iraq, and warned that they would suffer for their participation.

In the condolences that followed, Blair's strong perception of a global community fighting evil through international action shone through:

"This terrible attack underlines the threat that we all continue to face from terrorism in many countries and why we must all work together internationally to safeguard our peoples against such attacks and defeat terrorism," Mr Blair told his fellow politicians.

Whilst other members of the government viewed this as an assault on the European collective in their statements, Blair's global perspective raised his eyes above the continent, and by omission, left out any role for its institutions in security.

Al-Qaeda have shown that they are capable of exploiting intelligence blindspots and identifying opportunities for mass murder using transport and other systems. Their bombmaking has become more sophisticated and they may have abandoned symbolic acts in favour of a greater death toll. Understandably, the government stated that it would not cut funds to the armed forces or the police and compromise security.

The first step has been the announcement that marshalls will ride on trains although there is no reference to arms on their person. However, the 'fifth column' remains as morally convincing as ever.

Attacks on the US by al Qaida or other groups were viewed as justified by 13% of the 500 British Muslims questioned.

Another 15% said they did not know whether the such attacks are wrong or right.

If this poll is correct, over a quarter of British Muslims do not view terrorist attacks that kill large numbers of innocent people as evil. The vast majority do not support Al Qaeda but, nevertheless, a worrying and substantial minority are sympathisers.

(21.55, 14th February 2004)
Thursday, March 11, 2004
Zimwatch: Experienced Totalitarians send trainers to Mugabe's Thugs

Zimbabwe does not really have an army, just a collection of thieves, murderers and rapists who happen to be paid by whatever mafia passes for the state. The Zimbabwe Herald, fleeing from reality as fast as Saddam's PR, has announced that their pro-western foreign policy will be abandoned (perhaps they mean Botswana or Angola here?) .

Less surprising is the presence of military trainers from the PLA, who are introducing the Zimbabweans to the joys of "peacekeeping, or as it is known in the Congo, "conflict diamonds".

"China and Zimbabwe have always worked together to fight the machinations of the big countries. In the last two years we have defeated those moves by working together. We intend to defeat them again this year," said the minister. [Stan Mudenge, Minister for Foreign Affairs]

China’s deputy defence attache in Zimbabwe, Colonel Li Wen, praised the Zimbabwean army’s role in regional peacekeeping.

"We’re honoured to make a contribution to bilateral relations," Col Li Wen said.

The Chinese instructors are involved in training the Zimbabwean army following the withdrawal of the British army.

This has also formed a desperate lifeline for the economic mismanagement that the country has suffered. Devoted to autarky, the regime's supporters are arguing that economic policy has been a success:

We need them [the IMF and the World Bank] as international development partners," trade consultant and economic commentator Samuel Undenge said of the IMF, attacked the world over for more-often-than-not taking a firm but wrong headed stance on fiscal issues.

"I regard it as a very timely visit. They will be able to see, first hand, the result of our own monetary policy.

"It is a home-grown economic policy which we crafted ourselves, so they will be able to appreciate that locally devised programmes work and give us support," Undenge said.

Economic analyst Jonathan Kadzura concurred.

"The bottom line is we need each other. They are not an island and we are not either.

"The point is they can see changes, even from afar, in terms of the seriousness and purpose as demonstrated by the implementation of the new monetary policy," Kadzura said.

This is accompanied by a reliance upon the Far East, as an alternative to the West.

The government's position, repeated many times by President Robert Mugabe and some of his ministers, was that Zimbabwe can totally eschew the Bretton Woods institutions and "look East", in reference to the Asian markets and the country's emerging economic partners in the form of China, Malaysia, Indonesia and other such states.

Even these states will not provide Zimbabwe with a free lunch. However, China requires ever more commodities and has developed its strategic and economic influence in Africa over the past two years. Whilst this is a short-term move to fill the gap left by the vacuum of the West, they would have been unlikely to step in without the acquiescence or permission of South Africa. The relationship between Africa's only great power and China is the one to watch.

(21.56, 11th February 2004)
Another Roosting Chicken

Neither the Labour nor the Conservative Parties can maintain the present level of British defence commitments without an increase in expenditure. Yet both are toying with further cuts in expenditure, despite the shortcomings that the Iraqi war has already revealed. Brown may already have decided to surreptiously join the anti-war camp by ensuring that Britain will no longer be able to fight its corner.

Whilst Australia and the United States have increased their defence budgets, Britain is deployed in 80 countries without the infrastructure to defend its soldiers properly and professionally:

On Saturday, The Scotsman revealed how previous defence cuts had played a part in the death of the first Scottish soldier to die in Iraq, ensuring that he went into battle in an outdated vehicle which should have been phased out years ago. Lance-Corporal Barry Stephen died after his armoured personnel carrier broke down a couple of days into the campaign; any cuts in the defence budget will ensure that its replacement, the introduction of which has already been postponed, will be pushed back yet further.

The Royal Navy, too, is already shouldering more than its fair share of cutbacks; doubts remain about plans for two new aircraft carriers, and with plans to get rid of at least four Type-42 destroyers in the next three months, the number of surface warships will have fallen to below that of the French navy for the first time since the 17th century.

The Royal Air Force, meanwhile, appears resigned to losing at least one tranche of the order for Eurofighters - somewhere in excess of 80 planes - but there have been howls of anguish at the prospect of losing its remaining Jaguar squadrons, up to six bases and as many as 7,000 jobs.

Whilst a reduction in the defence budget would force the government to prune its crusades abroad and reduce its usefulness to the Americans, it would also increase our dependence upon the continentals for any form of military venture, boosting the involvement of the European Union.

However the bombs in Spain indicate that the threat is now ever present. The incompetence with which this government has handled other matters, such as the foot and mouth crisis, does not provide any confidence in its ability to enact security policy.

On the same day, General Dynamics acquired Alvis, the manufacturer of the British army's battle tank, the Challenger II, for $556,000,000, a further move away from a strategically independent defence sector.

(21.35, 11th February 2004)
Wednesday, March 10, 2004
I have called on a new world to balance the old

A few news stories over the past few weeks have demonstrated the inevitability of proliferation.

Nigeria has indicated that countries that have gained the West's favour will still shop at Rogue States R Us for their military needs, namely missiles from North Korea and nukes from Pakistan.

These dangers have also established a new alliance between Brazil, India and South Africa. They are hoping to establish another voice to the United States in multilateral institutions with designs on proliferation and the United Nations Security Council:

The three countries expressed their unhappiness with "serious inadequacies" in "the implementation of and compliance with" both the non-proliferation and disarmament commitments of countries, as much a reference to NPT signatories like Iran and Libya that had clandestine nuclear programmes as to the US, which continues to refine its nuclear arsenal even though the NPT commits it to disarmament.

The three countries will work towards the "early reform of the UN to make it more democratic" and have agreed to back each other for permanent seats on a reformed Security Council.

Dlamini-Zuma, however, added the caveat that South Africa would be a candidate only in the context of consensus in Africa . If the African bloc came up with a different name, she hoped India and Brazil would support them.

This para was not there as a formality, said Amorim. "We could make a difference. We could help the Quartet get the roadmap implemented", a reference to the stalled efforts of the UN, the US , Russia , and the EU to get the Israelis to agree to a durable peace with an independent Palestinian state.

Since other powers are unable to compete with the United States at a military level, they are combining to increase their influence in the diplomatic sphere. These new groupings redress the balance for a multipolar world, and as the reference to the Quartet suggests, anticipate success through diplomatic channels as America grapples with the limits of its military capabilities.

(23.23, 10th February 2004)
Tuesday, March 09, 2004
The Nominalist Approach

The political elites of Europe currently resemble the witchdoctors and shamans of a primitive society who hold fast to the belief that if they wish for something with enough faith, it will be magicked into existence.

Hence, the Presidents of Italy and Germany invoke the standard incantation before their publics that the European Constitution needs to be in place before the summer. However, the Irish Prime Minister, Aherne, is meeting Chirac to update him on the lack of progress towards a compromise. Within the next three weeks, we should know if the European Constitution will be revived.

(22.49, 9th February 2004)
Monday, March 08, 2004
War Without End

Tony Blair made a strong speech on Friday, the 5th March, setting forth his reasons for supporting the war In Iraq and the continued presence of British troops in that country. What was striking about his tough stance was that there was no mention of the United States or Europe, no strategic calculus or appeal to self-interest.

Blair's intellectual development has ended in foreign climes. His communitarian leanings have been thwarted or watered down in the domestic sphere and, like all heads of government, his attentions have strayed overseas as the reform programme dissipates into the sands of Old Labour. Blair consciously positions himself as a radical, rejecting the Westphalian settlement, and arguing that the security of the international community, is sufficient to justify war, intervention in a foreign state and regime change. He explains that the radicalisation of his position was a direct consequence of the 9/11 atrocity since that led him to reassess the threat that non-state actors could pose to the West.

From this foundation, Blair provides an explanation and a defence of his actions. Moreover, he provides insight into how the will of the international community can be established in the long-term. Blair remains a supporter of the United Nations and views this institution as a potential tool in the fight against non-proliferation. Since the Security Council of the United Nations cannot meet his expectations, the threat of the risks described outweigh the need to observe the preeminence of the UN.

It means reforming the United Nations so its Security Council represents 21st century reality; and giving the UN the capability to act effectively as well as debate. It means getting the UN to understand that faced with the threats we have, we should do all we can to spread the values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law, religious tolerance and justice for the oppressed, however painful for some nations that may be; but that at the same time, we wage war relentlessly on those who would exploit racial and religious division to bring catastrophe to the world.

But in the meantime, the threat is there and demands our attention.

That is the struggle which engages us. It is a new type of war. It will rest on intelligence to a greater degree than ever before. It demands a difference attitude to our own interests. It forces us to act even when so many comforts seem unaffected, and the threat so far off, if not illusory. In the end, believe your political leaders or not, as you will. But do so, at least having understood their minds.

Whilst the rhetoric and ideological underpinnings differ from the tensions that underlie the foreign policy of the Bush administration, their shared view of the terrorist threat has led to a common front on strategy and action. Blair has not concentrated on propaganda and slogans for domestic consumption but his words echo the open-ended commitment that has underpinned Bush's perception of a world at war. The argument that the threat is long-term and constant justifies continuous intervention to shut down proliferation efforts, sterilise failed states and remodel chaotic regions after invasion and regime change.

Since the diplomatic damage of the Iraq War has still not been fully assessed, it is certainly unclear if Blair's crusade (as the religious intent justifies the term) has obtained the results of greater security that he holds out as the objective of his foreign policy. The security threats certainly exist and will have to be dealt with. Open-ended commitments and moral interventionism, under the Neo-Gladstonian phase of Blairism already sound passe as the United States settles down to strategies of containment for terrorism, now that the first full flush of conquest has died away. Now, diplomacy, negotiation and intelligence co-operation are the preferred tools.

Blair's hollow evocation is another post-hoc justification for last year's war. Whilst his risk calculation may have been changed forever in September 2001, his countrymen and fellow parliamentarians will remain immune to his insight unless they face the same reality on British soil (and not even then for some of them).

Due to Britain's position in the world, these risks exist but it is certainly questionable that we should address these out of moral commitment rather than a rational assessment of our national interest. Blair demonstrates his loyalty to a 'permanent revolution' in both foreign and domestic policy, heralding a further erosion to our remaining independence and civil liberties.

(23.00, 8th February 2004)
Thursday, March 04, 2004
Lord Butler's Facade

Unlike the Hutton Inquiry, the Review of Intelligence on weapons on Mass Destruction, does not aspire to the same standards of transparency.

The official website has a welcoming photograph to assure any political junkie that this review is in safe hands. The terms of reference are here and the procedures are here. There is no need to dwell upon the drawbacks of this remit since they look at structures rather then personnel, a one-sided affair that will dissipate rather than concentrate blame.

The biographies of the members show that they share a number of common aspects. Like Hutton, Sir John Chilcot was in Northern Ireland and at the same time, as Counsellor to the Intelligence Services. He also served in the Home Office. Ann Taylor is a close ally of the Blair administration as Chief Whip, a position from which she can steer the final report towards a resolution that will satisfy the frontbench and the backbenchers. Michael Mates has a long history as a parliamentary member of committees on Intelligence, Defence and Northern Ireland. Lord Inge, former Chief of the Defence Staff, is one of the lodestars of the military establishment but may prove less conformist than the other members though his is unlikely to dissent on questions of strategy.

The Review will hand its report to the Prime Minister. However, the membership has been recruited from the 'magic circle' that the intelligence services view as dependable. Understandably, experience and interest in Northern Ireland, the intelligence circus of a few decades ago, provided a benchmark of acceptability for those candidates whom the government was unable to directly appoint. Now, we shall see if they can spring a few surprises in order to avoid looking as blinkered as Lord "didn't I do well" Hutton.

If you want the official site, go here.

(22.21, 4th February 2004)
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Where's Osama?

One for the conspiracy buffs. A large number of low profile press stories are suggesting:,4057,8829429%255E2,00.html

Now to put out these stories is inviting ridicule if Bin Laden is not captured. Now we do know that his driver has been caught and held in Guantanamo, and the driver will know enough to let him down.

So have they got him. Well they've denied it here, here and here. So it can't be true.
Monday, March 01, 2004
European Constitution: Majority Rule

It is time that I turned my attention again to that hardy weed, the European Constitution. No matter how much poison one may use to try and kill it off, it comes back, reinvigorated by the greed and lust of Europols. Even a majority of the British favour this monstrous document, as the headline in the Scotsman proclaimed, even if it was 1% plus 50. Of course, the public, misinformed by a government that prefers to stifle debate, thought there was going to be a European Army (not so removed from the realms of possibility) and a directly-elected European President (them, trust the people to have a say, are you having a laugh?)

But whatever it is, 51% of Britons think the constitution ? designed to streamline EU decision-making and clarify who does what ? is vital to the future smooth running of the enlarged Europe of 25 countries.

A similar proportion ? 52% ? think the UK should make policy concessions to get a constitution agreed.

And 57% would be happy to see a ?two-speed? European Union, in which various groups of member states forge ahead in some policy areas without waiting for others to agree.

The 51% of Britons who say the EU should adopt a constitution is the lowest proportion of all 25 member states. Across the EU as a whole, an average of 77% back the constitution, a 10% increase on the number in favour before the start of the intergovernmental conference last year to thrash out the details.

Some light amidst the gloom and one can envisage such support dropping as the consequences of the Constitution are debated more vigorously.

However, the European elite has geared up to promoting the European Constitution as the answer to all of the problems of European integration, caused by Enlargement and the current structural niceties of the Amsterdam treaty.

Joschka Fischer has reversed his call for an avant-garde core and has stated his, and therefore Germany's support, for a large-sacle integrated European Union. This is coordinated with the repeated calls from Chirac for the Constitution although France gives greater emphasis to further integration within the framework.

There is a concerted push to agree a constitutional settlement by the end of the Irish Presidency, although there does not appear to be concrete negotiations underpinning the public exhortations from the usual suspects. Whilst many federalists continue to publicise this settlement, it is unclear if this is bluster or public preparation.

Whilst France and Germany have agreed to channel their integrationist ambitions through the proposed Constitution, failure would propel them to establish an avant-garde core outside of the current structures of the European Union - their vocal position at the breakdown of the negotiations in early December. The Germans have publicly refused to compromise on the voting system drawn up under the new Constitution and therefore, the Spanish or the Polish, are left to make concessions.

If a compromise is reached, this will be evaluated at the Spring Conference (25th to 26th March) before final agreement at another IGC. If this "final push" does not succeed, then the Member States may conclude that they have exhausted this approach and that a constitutional settlement cannot be reached at the present time.

(23.25, 1st March 2004)
Demos for Rockets

Demos have published a report on attitudes towards space in Britain and how this might be used to guide future policy on the issue. Whilst the favourable response from the "Beagle generation" is to be welcomed, the Nulab spin in which the report is couched for gaining press attention just grates.

As a quick aside, a thinktank that names itself after the Greek word for 'people', embodies a certain arrogance for insisting that it provides a bridge between public attitudes and government policy. To claim that you speak for the people is the height of arrogance.

The press release demonstrates that the report is structured in the favourable paradigm of the liberal-left: Europe vs. the United States

The difference between the US and European approach is highlighted in an interview with Jean-Jacques Dordain, head of the European Space Agency (ESA). “For the US, space is an instrument of domination – information domination and leadership. Europe should be proposing a different model: space as a public good,” he told the report’s authors.....

....The authors describe this as a battle between the ‘closed’ systems of US military technology versus the ‘open’ approach to civilian technology developed through 30 years of European collaboration in space projects.

“It’s been said that when it comes to foreign policy, Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus” say Melissa Mean and James Wilsdon, authors of Masters of the Universe. “Britain could tip the balance between these competing visions – to decide whether space should be used for war or peace.”

It is clear that policymakers view space as a nationalised concern that should be closed to militarisation or property rights. No doubt, the concept of the 'public good' lends itself to licensing and a common space policy, rather than the benefits of old-fashioned ownership, property rights and contract law.

If Britain can provide a different approach, it is surely promoting private enterprise for space industries and avoiding the crushing pincers of militarisation or nationalisation. Space provides another salutary lesson that the United States and Europe are best avoided.

(22.55, 1st March 2004)

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