Tuesday, August 31, 2004
The Great Rift Valley

The Guardian has demonstrated its lack of balance with biased and poorly argued 'reports' on the relationship between Britain and the United States. Their willingness to report on any issue as a source of division between the two Allies is an objective description of current foreign policy; their arguments, projected as the usual truth from the land of media-speak, that these issues are causing friction and could result in rifts between the two Allies smacks of desperation.

In the first article, Blair's government has vowed to take a firmer line on the Kyoto Treaty and this "signalled a tougher British and European stance yesterday against the Bush administration's hostility to the Kyoto treaty" under the headline "UK to take tough line against the US over Kyoto". What was this tough line?

Ahead of Mr Blair's big September speech on climate change - the world's biggest collective challenge, he will say - a minister admitted the time has come for the government "to move from words to delivery" at home. Abroad it must also press Washington "to be more ambitious", he said.

The 'tough line' amounts to gentle economic pressure, the usual Blair soft touch, where he talks the talk, knowing that Russia and the United States have doomed Kyoto. Easy spin for the 'greening of Blair' - not the diplomatic chasm or the ultimate electoral issue that the Grauniad feverishly imagines:

That amounts to confirmation that Labour has not done enough, despite brave words since 1997, and that ahead of likely British elections in the spring it must improve its record and distance itself from the White House.

When the British government lines up with the European Union and condemns the expansion of settlements in the West Bank, this is another rift with Britain siding with Europe against America. If this was so important, one would expect a press release or a speech from the Foreign Office or Number 10. They quote a spokesman that Britain supports Europe, and ignore the recent history of policy on Palestine where the government has tended to talk softly but distance itself from US support for Israel.

The British government, in a rare departure from Washington, positioned itself alongside its European Union partners on the issue. The EU, unlike Washington, is critical of Israeli behaviour in the West Bank and Gaza.

Finally, one week later, the Guardian devotes a whole article to four years of forthcoming conflict. What are the important issues that will divide Bush and Blair's administration over a deeply humiliated Britain, humiliated because of "wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also over issues ranging from climate change and the international criminal court to protectionist American steel tariffs." These are the issues that could end this alliance: Cuba, Syria, missile defence and climate change.

Syria and Cuba reveal clearer differences in approach. Mr Bush's controversial Latin America special envoy, Otto Reich, has been quietly cooking up a "transition strategy" for a post-Castro Cuba, ignoring the fact that President Castro is still very much around.

Threatening behaviour towards Damascus and Havana may be an unsavoury feature of a second Bush term. Meanwhile, further American "war on terror" excesses and its abuses of human rights and judicial processes could prove politically explosive in London.

Mr Bush's refusal to support multilateral arms control and counter-proliferation treaties, particularly dismaying to Britain, would be another ongoing source of friction. There is a high embarrassment factor, too, in his insistence on pursuing "son of Star Wars" missile defences, including upgraded British facilities.

This left-wing wish-list ignores the practical hardnosed objectives of the Blair administration. Where issues divide Britain and the United States, they are downplayed or pursued at European level, where they can do little damage. As for the laughable notion that 'war on terror' excesses coudl prove politically explosive, this may well prove so, but in public demands for more draconian policies if there are terrorist atrocities.

The Left in the United States has proved that its hold on the media is biased and bankrupt, spinning off agendas in which events are reinterpreted to further a political objective. The Guardian is playing the lying game: slotting events into a worldview of US/UK division, hoping that if they say something for long enough, reality will reflect their post-modern truth.

(23.20, 31st August 2004)
Saturday, August 28, 2004
An Aid to Constructive Thinking

Both 'The Times' and 'The Daily Mail' have publicised a revelation from 'The Sun' that Michael Howard has been prohibited from visiting the Republican Convention and meeting President Bushin the White House. This is considered suitable punishment for the Tories indecision over cheerleading for the War in Iraq, since they were expected to line up behind Blair, no matter the electoral damage that has been inflicted.

The articles are non-linkable at present and a Google search has revealed nothing as yet. All of the Murdoch articles spin this as an embarrassment for Howard. However, this ban could propel elements in the Tory Party to wonder why they should slavishly follow the American line, when it appears to involve passing up opportunities to reduce the socialist hold on Britain. It probably won't do Howard any harm either: most people dislike Bush over here and by publicising this prohibition, Howard could make in-roads into the disaffected conservative vote that views Iraq as a quagmire. (There are more than you think.)

(13.00, 28th August 2004)
Monday, August 23, 2004
Foreign Policy: A Rising Concern

Further to the article on Blackhurst's thought on the Muslim vote, set out yesterday, a recent poll appears to undermine one of the central arguments of his strategy. Blackhurst argued that the British electorate is visibly indifferent to developments in foreign policy, although security has often acted as a major handicap for political parties distrusted by the voters (such as Labour in the 1980s).

Now, security and other aspects of foreign policy appear to be important issues for the average Mondeo man, polling evidence that tallies with general anecdotal evidence on a personal level (such issues have tended to come up in conversation without asking). The Mori poll recently undertaken for the Financial Times provided evidence for this:

Thirty-eight percent of almost 2,000 respondents surveyed last week found defense and foreign affairs to be an important issue, compared to a mere two percent in both June 1997 and June 2001.

Immigration and race relations were noted as critical electoral issues for 30 percent of respondents, compared to 14 percent in previous years.

Whether this is the groundswell of an 'anti-war vote' that will aid the Liberal Democrats or a more generalised concern about the ongoing British deployment in Iraq remains to be seen. Seeking the 'anti-war vote' bolstered by Muslim support may prove counterproductive if it is overwhelmed by an opposing reaction in favour of greater security, more draconiam anti-terrorist measures and restricted immigration. One outcome is certain: the political reaction of the electorate to a terrorist atrocity undertaken by Al-Qa'eda may be far more radical than pundits expect, although the route that it would take, towards further war or against, is unknown.

(20.50, 23rd August 2004)
Sunday, August 22, 2004
Organising the Muslim Vote

The Left, from the political centre through to the extremes, has noted the importance of the Iraqi war for the Muslims in constituencies where they provide a 'swing' vote. All three parties of the Left, the Liberal Democrats, Labour and Respect have taken steps to woo this voting bloc. As yet, only Respect has moved from attracting this vote to establishing an institutional coalition with a pre-existing organisation, the Muslim Association of Britain. Is it too long before the mainstream Left allows the establishment of Muslim organisations within its structures as affiliated groups, or perhaps internal structures, reminiscent of the debate in the 1980s on potential 'black sections' in the Labour Party?

Rob Blackhurst, of the Foreign Policy Centre, a left-wing pro-European think-tank, wrote an article in the New Statesman, examining the potential influence of Muslims on foreign policy. The evidence of polling demonstrates that the 'war on terror', and its outcome, the Iraqi campaign, has accelerated the politicisation of British Muslims, especially the younger generation:

ICM polling last year showed that, unlike white Britons, Muslims list international issues as their highest priority. More than 79 per cent said they were "very concerned" about the dispute in Kashmir, a higher score than for either education or health. In Birmingham, home of the world's biggest expatriate Kashmiri community, two city councillors were elected in 2003 from the single-issue People's Justice Party, demanding that the government exert stronger pressure on India.

Events have propelled the Muslims towards demonstrating their dissatisfaction with government policy through the ballot box. Although Muslims of British origin have turned up in various flashpoints as terrorists, they remain a minority of a minority amongst the Muslim community, the vast majority of whom express their grievances as a protest vote. Blackhurst argues that this is a potential reservoir of support for the Left, citing examples where foreign policy is used as a tool to maintain electoral support amongst immigrant communities. Furthermore, he proposes a campaigning group for Muslims, specifically to counterbalance pro-Israeli groups, associated with New Labour:

However, Muslims still lack formal structures. The new lobbying group Muslims for Labour, set up as an attempt to counter-balance Labour Friends of Israel, lacks the latter's influence and its status as a favoured club for young Blairites.

Although a specifically Muslim party would have no chance in a first-past-the-post system, some Muslims favour a campaigning group on foreign-policy issues more willing to bare its teeth than the consensual Muslim Council of Britain. This could work, as foreign policy remains a low priority for most non-Muslim voters. A good analogy is with Cubans in Florida and New Jersey: though most Americans say they favour lifting the embargo, the Cubans prevail because they feel more strongly about it and are willing to switch their votes on the issue.

The difficulty here is to co-ordinate the demands: Britain has Muslims of 56 different original nationalities, and who speak more than 100 languages. The most effective route may be to lobby non-Muslims around limited aims. Just as the pro-Israeli lobby in the US remains influential because many non-Jews identify strongly with Israel, so many Britons share Muslim views about the recklessness of war in Iraq and the dangers of unilateralism.

The emergent agenda in this article is an alliance between Old Labour and the Muslim vote that would undermine the Atlanticist and (implicitly Zionist) approach of Blairism. Blackhurst has set out the possible preconditions for a left-wing, Arabist and pro-European British foreign policy, institutionally supported by Muslim and Labour alike. It is difficult to compare these objectives with other countries but the arguments are guided by the examples of France and Germany in the run-up to the Iraq war, although the underlying arithmetic is electoral (not ideological or geopolitical, as in the case of France).

The one question that Blackhurst does not ask and yet, is implicit in this alliance: how do you react to Muslim demands in domestic policy; demands that are reactionary from the 'progressive' stance of the Left?

(21.19, 22nd August 2004)
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
What to do with the Shias?

It may be August, but there is news from Iraq - the Shias have kicked off again.

Thanks to Iraqi government (and American) blundering in Najaf the growing Shia following around Muqtada al-Sadr is up in arms. Their new ally Ahmad Challabi also seems to be lining up Iranian support which effectively means that Al-Sadr is bypassing the Shiite leader Al-Sistani (who is conveniently out of the way) and essentially in pole position to lead the Iraqi Shias.

Unfortunately almost all the British zone of Iraq is Shiite. The Shiites have kept more or less quiet because they think that they will the logical destination of the allied occupation is that their numbers will ensure that they control Iraq, get their hands on the oil wealth and knock ten bells out of the Sunni Muslims. Now this may not be how the Allies see it - but we have to recognise this is how the Shia see it.

This means that if the Shia think they will not get control of Iraq then they will rise (look at the trouble that the smaller Sunni Arab population is causing). If they rise then it will be hard to put down without either lots more troops or uncivilised methods. Will the British public stand for either?

The government should either prepare us for the ironic situation that we will leave Iraq to an Iranian-allied Shia theocracy or that we must have a second Iraq war. At the moment they are pretending that neither is likely to happen.
Let them hang chi-chi gal

The current furore over the Jamaican singer Beenie Man has a rather odd backdrop when you try to look at it in perspective. The British Crown Prosecution Service is looking into prosecuting this Jamaican singer for the effect that his homophobic lyrics on songs for a Jamaican record label may have on Jamaican attitudes towards homosexuals.

It's a good job we never gave Jamaica independence, after all there would be all sorts of trouble being the ex-colonial power and that.

I do hope that Dr Gabb and his Libertarian chums raise a stink over this.
Tuesday, August 17, 2004
Georgia: Stable Ally or Forthcoming Flashpoint

Mark Almond, a historian at Oriel College, Oxford, wrote an article on the possibilities faced by Saakashvili, the US backed President of Georgia. Published in the New York Times, the piece airbrushes the destabilising role played by the Russian Federation in Georgia through its backing for Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Whereas, the complex game of a state asserting itself within its borders, against a backdrop of rebellion in the Russian Caucasus and troublesome enclaves within its borders.

The duet between Russia and the United States over the role of Georgia is complicated by the prospective oil pipeline that may bring black gold from Azerbaijan to the Black Sea.

Resistance to any rash attack by Georgia could easily spawn terrorism. The pipeline that Washington has promoted to carry oil across Georgia from the Caspian Sea could prove as vulnerable to sabotage as any in Iraq. American personnel operating in Georgia could also be targets if Abkhazians, Ossetians and their friends decide to target the people they see as Saakashvili's sponsors.

Almond's major criticism of Georgia is the corruption and malaise that have disfigured this transition economy since independence. Georgia is in good company with other also-rans: Belarus, Moldova, Armenia and the Ukraine. However, these states are beginning to show signs of liberalisation and growth as they swing towards policies that have worked with their now far richer neighbours. Yet, Almond's criticisms ring true: it is unlikely that a disorganised Georgia could assert control over these secessionist regions without Russian acquiescence.

The potential for terrorist attacks and full scale war are also exaggerated by Almond. Faced by Georgian resolve to assert central control, South Ossetia is subject to a ceasefire and negotiating demilitarisation. Taking on the dominoes one by one has proved a successful tactic so far for Saakashvili, and the potential for a stronger Georgia is high.

(23.00, 17th August 2004)
Monday, August 16, 2004

An important article in Foreign Affairs argues that the short-term focus on the Middle East obscures the adjustment required by the West towards the rise of Asia. The rise of the demographic giants, India and China, draws the economic balance of the global economy towards the East. Both, nationalistic in orientation, have rapidly converted their rapid economic growth to military power and projection within their own "near abroads". Such brittle and fragile giants raise the risk for wars comparable to those seen in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries between the European empires:

Each of the Asian aspirants is involved in explosive territorial conflicts, and each has varying internal stresses: dislocated populations, rigid political systems, ethnic strife, fragile financial institutions, and extensive corruption. As in the past, domestic crises could provoke international confrontations.

The three major flashpoints, derived from the frozen conflicts of post-imperial Asia are Kashmir, North Korea and Taiwan. However, all three regions may be triggered through nationalistic conflict warred by conscription armies between unstable states including an unnerving option to escalate to a regional nuclear war.

Asia will provide one of the final issues that uncouples the old alliance between the United States and Europe. The United States maintain strong strategic alliances within the region and provides a defence guarantee to Taiwan, South Korea and Japan. Europe does not share in these commitments and underestimates the potential for sovereign states to war against each other threatening their own declining global influence. Any major war within the region would divide an impotent Europe urging peace talks from the United States carrying a big stick.

This would provide a difficult call for the United Kingdom. After the problems with the post-Iraq invasion, it is unlikely that any British government could deploy troops to aid the United States (within three years a token effort may be impossible, anyway). Moreover, the Blair doctrine has failed to extend its remit towards security issues but remains wedded to humanitarian headlines (once Darfur hit the news, it was time to send the troops). Its ideological underpinnings do not include defending democracy, one of the doctrine's significant departures from its nineteenth century liberal antecedents. By default, the rise of Asia will visibly hasten Europe's decline, and with our current security relationships, Britain will be included in this dangerous whirlpool of impotence.

(23.10, 16th August 2004)
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Do We Really Want to be Mixed up with Religious Bigots in Europe?

11th August 2004

To the Ambassador
Embassy of Sweden
11 Montagu Place
London W1H 2AL
United Kingdom


I enclose the following news release from the Libertarian Alliance, of which I am Director of Communications.

You may also care to see our more extended commentary on your country's actions:


The two Libertarian Alliance news releases:


We are shocked and disgusted that a supposedly European country could engage in religious persecution of this kind.

Be assured - the eyes f the Libertarian Alliance and of the free world as a whole are upon your country.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Sean Gabb

In Association with the Libertarian International
Release Date: 9th August 2004
Release Time: Immediate
Contact Details: Sean Gabb, 07956 472 199,sean@libertarian.co.uk
Chris R. Tame, 07957 644 519,chris@libertarian.co.uk
Release url: http://www.libertarian.co.uk/news/nr022.htm


The imprisonment of a Christian preacher in Sweden for offending homosexuals reveals Sweden as a sinister police state eager to deny freedoms of speech and worship, says the Libertarian Alliance, the radical free market and civil liberties think tank and pressure group. It calls on The European Commission to suspend Swedish Membership of the European Union pending a full human rights investigation.

The Facts

Ake Green is pastor of a Pentecostal congregation in Borghol in Sweden. In 2003, he preached a sermon during which he referred to homosexuality as "abnormal, a horrible cancerous tumour in the body of society." He also quoted some of the standard biblical injunctions against homosexuality. He was denounced to the authorities and charged under "hate crime" legislation passed in 2002. He stood trial in June 2004, and was in July sentenced to imprisonment for one month. He remains at liberty, pending appeals into higher courts.


Libertarian Alliance Director of Communications, Dr Sean Gabb commented:

"This is an outrageous attack on rights of speech and worship. It is a denial of some of the most fundamental freedoms that we in Europe at the beginning of the 21st century thought could be taken for granted.

"The Libertarian Alliance calls on the European Commission to suspend Swedish membership of the European Union while a full human rights investigation is mounted in the country. We call on Sweden to be treated as Austria was when it elected a government of the "far right" - though Austria was not accused of having breached any human rights, whereas Sweden glories in its authoritarian bigotry.

"We shall ourselves be making an official submission to the United Nations about this denial of the right to freedom of speech and worship."


The Libertarian Alliance believes in the right to freedom of speech. This includes, though is not limited to, the right to say anything about public policy or alleged matters of fact. If someone wants to say that homosexuals are the spawn of Satan, or that black people are morally or genetically inferior to whites, or that the holocaust did not happen (but should have), or that the Prophet Mohammed was a demon-possessed, epileptic paedophile, that is his right. If he causes offence, hard luck on those offended. They have no right to legal protection against such views.
The libertarian position of homosexuality is equally predicable. The Libertarian Alliance believes that consenting adults have the right to do as they please without intervention by the law. But freedom for homosexuals does not mean legal privilege against the hatred and contempt that others - however unjustly - may feel for them."

The Libertarian Alliance advocates the following with regard to freedom of speech:

No controls of any kind on the expression of opinion on matters of public policy; The repeal of all laws that make it illegal to express opinions on matters of race, religion, sexuality, or any similar matter; The repeal of all laws against discrimination and incitement to discrimination on any grounds whatever; The abolition of the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission, and all similar bodies; The cutting off of all tax-payer funding for any group that disagrees with the above.


Note to Editors

Dr Sean Gabb is the Director of Communications for the Libertarian Alliance and edits its journal “Free Life”. His latest book, "War and the National Interest: Arguments for a British Foreign Policy", is available at http://www.seangabb.co.uk/buy.htm. His other books are available from Hampden Press at http://www.hampdenpress.co.uk.

He can be contacted for further comment on 07956 472 199 or by email at sean@libertarian.co.uk

Extended Contact Details:

The Libertarian Alliance is Britain’s most radical free market and civil liberties policy institute. It has published over 700 articles, pamphlets and books in support of freedom and against statism in all its forms. These are freely available at http://www.libertarian.co.uk
Our postal address is

The Libertarian Alliance
Suite 352 Landsdowne Row
LondonW1J 6HL
Tel: 0870 242 1712

Associated Organisations

The Libertarian International - http://www.libertarian.to - is a sister organisation to the Libertarian Alliance. Its mission is to coordinate various initiatives in the defence of individual liberty throughout the world.

Sean Gabb's personal website - http://www.seangabb.co.uk - contains about a million words of writings on themes interesting to libertarians and conservatives

Liberalia - http://www.liberalia.com - maintained by by LA Executive member Christian Michel, Liberalia publishes in-depth papers in French and English on libertarianism and free enterprise. It is a prime source of documentation on these issues for students and scholars.

Libertarian Samizdata - http://www.samizdata.net - works in association with the Libertarian Alliance.

-- Sean Gabb sean@libertarian.co.uk Mobile Number: 07956 472 199http://www.seangabb.co.uk http://www.libertarian.co.uk
Buy Sean Gabb's new book: "War and the National Interest: Arguments for aBritish Foreign Policy" - http://www.hampdenpress.co.uk
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
Isolationism best left alone

If there is any reason why certain arguments on the left may masquerade as isolationism, John Laughland's recent article in the Guardian arguing against intervention in the Sudan demonstrates how not to argue for non-intervention. Whilst he understands the moral underpinnings of Blair's foreign policy, the piece descends into a farcical round of targets.

The frothing at the mouth leads to a litany of debatable 'facts' used to morally denounce Blair's actions. That is always a weak position when you attempt to cast doubt on Hussein's skills as a mass murderer.

Like the Kosovo genocide, weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, as we now know, existed only in the fevered imaginings of spooks and politicians in London and Washington. But Downing Street was also recently forced to admit that even Blair's claims about mass graves in Iraq were false. The prime minister has repeatedly said that 300,000 or 400,000 bodies have been found there, but the truth is that almost no bodies have been exhumed in Iraq, and consequently the total number of such bodies, still less the cause of their deaths, is simply unknown.

The cause of death for most of Hussein's victims was fairly clear.

The astonishing claims stem from Laughland's acceptance of Sudan's utterances on the Darfur debacle. This may be a complex ethnic conflict, undeserving of the simplistic genocide narrative, but the Knartoum government are a bunch of crooks. If we don't accept Blair's magic figures, why should Khartoum's be treated as the fount of accuracy?

Campaigners for intervention have accused the Sudanese government of supporting this group, without mentioning that the Sudanese defence minister condemned the Janjaweed as "bandits" in a speech to the country's parliament in March. On July 19, moreover, a court in Khartoum sentenced six Janjaweed soldiers to horrible punishments, including the amputation of their hands and legs. And why do we never hear about the rebel groups which the Janjaweed are fighting, or about any atrocities that they may have committed?

The Sudanese government says that the death toll in Darfur, since the beginning of the conflict in 2003, is not greater than 1,200 on all sides.

Through inconsistency and one-sided polemic, Laughland damages the arguments for isolationism and demonstrates the need for an approach that places principled consistency as the basis for argument. This is an ideal, of course.
First they burn our monastaries. Now this.

In England we give Bibles to prisoners for free. In Sweden you get prison for quoting the Bible, which beats paying for prison chaplains. The case of Ake Green, a Pentecostal preacher from Malmo, has been highlighted by Sean Gabb.

What this hapless pastor did was quote the Bible, but about homosexuality. The Bible in general does not approve of homosexuality, and Ake quoted those bits. I really can't do better than quote from Dr Gabb's terse summary of the facts:

In 2003, he preached a sermon during which he referred to homosexuality as "abnormal, a horrible cancerous tumour in the body of society." He also quoted some of the standard biblical injunctions against homosexuality. He was denounced to the authorities and charged under "hate crime" legislation passed in 2002. He stood trial in January 2004, and was in July sentenced to imprisonment for one month.

I'm not at all concerned about how Sweden orders her affairs and so can't share Dr Gabb's libertarian outrage. I don't like the idea of persecuting small Christian churches, but that is the prerogative of a sovereign country (and a democracy to boot). Beneath her modern facade of tolerance Sweden has a proud tradition of being the most bigoted Lutheran state in history (yes that does count Bismarck's Prussia) and she should be allowed to maintain this.

Unfortunately it is not merely down to that. Europe is becoming a state. Of course it may not get there, and the UK may not join this state if it is formed. However there is always the possibility. Besides that Europe will certainly do a lot of damage to our tolerant culture before that.
Europe is becoming more and more hostile to fringe religions, although not always for the blatantly political reasons evident in Sweden. In France and more so in Belgium lists of prescribed sects are maintained. These not only include the usual American suspects such as Scientologists and Moonies but also rather mainstream Christians such as Opus Dei and the Quakers (in Belgium). These groups can be shut down at will by the state.

Germany is more liberal but a combination of a (understandable) nervous attitude towards extreme political groups and the Christian Democrat influence there is a bit of trouble for groups such as the Scientologists. Greece is a case on its own with its strong attachment to the Greek Orthodox Church (it's constitution is devoted to the Trinity) means that some groups - particularly Jehovah's Witnesses.

There has been some talk, stalled admittedly, of developing some sort of pan European religious policy. However to say that some lunatic idea is stalled at the European level, does not mean that it is dead. At the moment this would mean that the rules will be made up by the unaccountable, list elected, politically correct twerps who make up the European Parliament. At first this will only affect the real oddballs, but as each year goes by the target will become less and less fringe. Just look how far Belgium has got.

If you don't want some bigoted Swede or humourless Walloon to decide what you are allowed to believe, then get out of the EU.
Monday, August 09, 2004
This is the law, not a war

One of the overarching themes of the warbloggers has been the essential differences between the Bush and Clinton administrations. These differences form the ideological basis of the 'war on terror'. Their criticisms of the Clinton administration focus on the policy of viewing terrorism as a law enforcement problem and often lists the missed opportunities where military force may have prevented 9/11. Their support for Bush stems initially from his willingness to use military resources hand-in-hand with intelligence and law enforcement techniques to root out Al-Qaeda: a strategy that has so far been more successful than its Clintonian counterpart.

One of their misconceptions is that the Blair government has signed up to the same ideological precepts as Bush. Support from Britain for the first incursion into Afghanistan was never in doubt, given the Taliban support for Al Qeada. Who would have stopped the United States, enraged by atrocity, when the sensible move was to step quietly out of the way. However, Blair's support for the Iraq war was never motivated by Saddam Hussein's terrorist links. This was an incidental detail compared to Iraq's unceasing search for weapons of mass destruction, temporarily curbed by sanctions, and more importantly, poverty. Blair may even have invoked the rhetoric of the 'war on terror' but Britain's Iraqi campaign was ultimately defined by his willingness to project a muscular foreign policy, shaped by his own moral preconceptions.

Despite the appearance of unity fostered by Iraq, Britain's approach to the threat of Al Qaeda mirrors its European counterparts, and Tony's good friend, Bubba. The terrorists are still viewed as a law enforcement problem, which need to be monitored and dealt with through the intelligence agencies, Special Branch and a permanent anti-terrorist law (to be repealed as soon as Al Qaeda is defeated???). This provides an explanation for Blunkett's outspoken admonishment of the United States:

"In the United States there is often high-profile commentary followed, as in the current case by detailed scrutiny, with the potential risk of ridicule," writes Mr Blunkett in The Observer.
"Is it really the job of a senior cabinet minister in charge of counter-terrorism? To feed the media? To increase concern? Of course not. This is arrant nonsense." The remarks follow those made yesterday in which Mr Blunkett drew a contrast between "alerting people to a specific threat and alarming people unnecessarily"

This is the difference between a government that wishes to remind its population they are permanently under threat from terrorist opponents responsible for numerous atrocities; and a government that does not perceive itself to be at war and therefore views such warnings as an unnecessary embellishment.

The most important consequence of this ideological divide between Britain and the United States lies in the reception given to a Democrat win. Reports from the Democratic Convention showed a martial candidate, who had actually abandoned the hawkish doctrine of pre-emption expressed by the Bushites. Mouthing war on terror, Kerry is retracting the potential aggression inherent in Bush's stance, a position that Blair, damaged by his own foreign adventures, would no doubt find agreeable. Whoever is in the White House next year, the British government has deployed military and intelligence resources that can find common ground with Bushism or Kerryism. It is a triumph of Clinton's triangulation.

(23.03, 9th April 2004)
What, another Eurofighter?

Generally I've been fairly relaxed at the European Union's attempts to create a super-power worthy military machine. As long as it doesn't involve us (yes, it almost always does, but that's another question) Europe should be perfectly free to follow its military follies.
That is before the "Future Rapid Effects System" came along. This is a cross between a tank and a personnel carrier with state of the art communication and weapons systems which sounds sensible and hi-tech enough until you look at the price tag. According to Richard North it's lifetime ownership cost is £55.5 million per vehicle. We're looking at buying 900 of them.
Now the first thing that is noticeable is that these vehicles aren't much use for defensive purposes. Defence emplacements, a large body of trained (if not active) troops, air-systems, submarines and naval small ships are all good. These vehicles are not. We will already control the transport infrastructure if we are attacked, we do not need a tank on the Atkins diet to force it's way through enemy held territory.
So this is an offensive weapon par excellence. It is so expensive that it will take even more money from our defensive forces.
However it gets worse from there. The cost means that we won't be able to develop it on its own - so we must turn to the Europeans. Like the total mess that is the Eurofighter this is a collaborative venture that will tie us into the whims of other European governments. This is a practical side of European defence co-operation that is more effective than all the joint planning staffs.
As Richard North has pointed out, this means that the essential piece of our army's kit will be under foreign control. Belgium refused to honour its contract with us for ammunition during the first Gulf War and Germany put the Eurofighter programme in a spin when it decided to cut its contribution, France gave American military intelligence to the Serbs. Now imagine if they start acting flaky, and on past performance they will, could they pull a Suez on us? Of course they could, with fatal consequences for British troops.
This folly is wrong because there are not enough checks on the spending, it is forcing us into a more offensive rather than defensive role and it is tying the centrepiece of army mobility with other - let's face it potentially hostile - powers. It must be opposed.
Sunday, August 08, 2004
Darfur: What is to be done?

The first indications of a crisis in Darfur appeared in late 2003 through the United Nations agencies that were monitoring the developing humanitarian crisis in the region. Criticism of the United Nations is unfair in this instance. The crisis has been developing for over a year without a response from the Great Powers.

In November 2003 The United Nations called for nearly 23-million dollars to help people suffering in a little-known war in western Sudan.

In December 2003 nearly 10,000 new Sudanese refugees fled into Chad from the strife-torn Darfur region of the Sudan. There were reports of killings, rape and the burning and looting of entire villages. The peace talks on Darfur resumed 10 December 2003 in Abeche, eastern Chad. A UN World Food Programme (WFP) assessment mission to south Darfur found that 46 of the 62 villages had been completely burned, while the other 16 had been looted. The newest refugees, who brought the number to have fled across the Chadian-Sudanese border over the previous seven months to 75,000, alleged that there has been aerial bombardment of villages and "ethnic cleansing" by pro-government Arab militias.

Subsequent criticism of the United Nations has centred on a failure to prevent or act whilst a program of 'ethnic cleasing', referred to genocide by some, has taken place. However, the UN cannot act without a consensus on the Security Council. This has not been reached as both France and China have oil interests in the Sudan and are unwilling to countenance actions that undermine the regime in Khartoum.

The situation in Darfur highlights one of the major flaws in the institutions that underlie the current system of international relations. Whilst they undermine national sovereignty through the development of international law and the imposition of 'economic development' various areas, they preserve the fiction of national sovereignty. Borders in postcolonial territories like Africa are preserved in aspic favouring the development of the kleptocratic states that suck the lifeblood of their peoples.

Sudan is a prime example. Clothed in the self-righteous rhetoric of Islam, the government in Khartoum enriches itself at the expense of the population, a model analagous to the Mullahocracy of Iran, yet adapted to the harsher and poorer conditions of the Sahara. Western intervention in this conflict would merely delay the conflicts which are caused by the long-term degradation of the Darfur environment; degradation that has led to competition for land and water between subsistence farmers and nomads, with the government favouring particular groups called Arabs over the tribes of subsistence farmers. (We should note that their are probably Arab farmers who have been displaced by the Janjaweed and African nomads/farmers who are fighting on behalf of Khartoum). After the conversion of Kosova and Bosnia/Herzegovina into parasitical protectorates, does Darfur deserve the same fate from the west and its proxies, the African Union.

The answer is No. The sacralization of national sovereignty in Africa is not worth the price of one Darfuri life. It is a postcolonial ideal designed to preserve the thieves who came to rule over the cardboard cutouts left over from the scuttle of Empire. If the Darfuri wish to exercise self-determination and secede from the Islamist Leviathan in Khartoum that burns their villages and slaughters their families, that is their right.

Dismemberment is the answer to the Sudanese question. If we wish to prevent a long-term war in this area, we should support the right of Darfur to become a separate country. Send them aid and guns.

(13.57, 8th August 2004)
Thursday, August 05, 2004
Darfur: An Intervention Too Far

How the Chief of Staff expected to summon more resources from the exhausted British army to pander to Blair's crippling need for "moral" action is a moot point. After Hoon's reforms, the ability of the armed forces to project force anywhere for a generation will be severly undermined, unless a hot war reverses the decline and neglect of the government. Nevertheless, the call for the deployment of British troops was taken up by the Tories, as they demonstrated further evidence of their intellectual retreat:

John Bercow, Tory international development spokesman, warned yesterday that diplomatic efforts were "too little too late".....

Mr Bercow, asked on the BBC's Today programme how soon he thought troops should be deployed, replied: "I think within a matter of days if there is not demonstrable evidence of improvement. Unless there is evidence of real change, I believe that international action in the name of humanity is needed." Mr Bercow, asked on the BBC's Today programme how soon he thought troops should be deployed, replied: "I think within a matter of days if there is not demonstrable evidence of improvement. Unless there is evidence of real change, I believe that international action in the name of humanity is needed." Mr Bercow, asked on the BBC's Today programme how soon he thought troops should be deployed, replied: "I think within a matter of days if there is not demonstrable evidence of improvement. Unless there is evidence of real change, I believe that international action in the name of humanity is needed."

In the past, a call for the deployment of troops, lay in the remit of the Defence Minister, Foreign Minister or Prime Minister. Such an action was only considered if the national interest appeared to be endangered. If such actions were open to interpretation, the underlying motive from the matter of state was national and patriotic. Now, John Bercow, Shadow Secretary for International Development, acting as one of the "bedblockers" to the innovation that may reinvigorate the Tories has called for intervention in Darfur on the grounds that 'we have the tools and people are dying'. There is a Blairite tradition of this activity in British history, and the Tory's anal fixation with the 'centre', has led them to seek the approval of the Liberal Democrats and NGOs.

Darfur is a revolting case of state sponsored violence in a complex maelstrom of culture, ethnicity and language. However, if this were genocide, which is the group targeted - the Darfurians perhaps, or the blacks. Whilst the United States may view this episode through the distorted mirror of race, culture and language appear to be the common division with black nomadic Arabs, the result of intermarriage, attacking the black tribes, mainly farmers. All could easily turn on an outside force as the xenophobic thrust of fundamentalist Islam channels their reactions. All of these complexities raise the risks for any force deployed as peacekeepers. Yet, in shades of Rwanda, the French are in town, casting a raptor's eye over their interests:

On Sunday French troops began to secure Chad's border with Darfur as part of their mission to aid relief efforts to refugees.The WFP has started airdropping food supplies to remote areas of Darfur and French troops stationed in Chad are airlifting relief aid to refugees on the Chad-Sudan border.On Sunday French troops began to secure Chad's border with Darfur as part of their mission to aid relief efforts to refugees.The WFP has started airdropping food supplies to remote areas of Darfur and French troops stationed in Chad are airlifting relief aid to refugees on the Chad-Sudan border.

The French act under a veneer of humanitarianism, but their forces ensure stability in the border region, a status quo that reduces the risk to oil exploration in the region.

(23.07, 5th August 2004)
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
Hayek and the Oil Price

It's early days, but has anyone noticed the sky cave in with the oil price going up?

There are three useful (and brief) lessons from the current spike in oil prices:

1. Invading Arabia won't keep the oil price down

This oil shock started with Putin's attempt to nationalise Yukos (and China's surging demand). So, despite the fact that our forces control Iraq has not stopped oil going higher than it was since the, well, last Gulf War.

2. Oil comes from many sources

The Yukos oil comes from Siberia. Well there's not much more that you can say about that.

3. The market in the end sorts this out

A higher oil price means marginal production being bought on tap, increased exploration, substitution with other sources and less consumption. And as Hayek pointed out (with tin) the government is the worst entity to react to these movements. Responding to price changes is what the market is best at:

Assume that somewhere in the world a new opportunity for the use of some raw material, say, tin, has arisen, or that one of the sources of supply of tin has been eliminated. It does not matter for our purpose—and it is very significant that it does not matter—which of these two causes has made tin more scarce. All that the users of tin need to know is that some of the tin they used to consume is now more profitably employed elsewhere and that, in consequence, they must economize tin. There is no need for the great majority of them even to know where the more urgent need has arisen, or in favor of what other needs they ought to husband the supply. If only some of them know directly of the new demand, and switch resources over to it, and if the people who are aware of the new gap thus created in turn fill it from still other sources, the effect will rapidly spread throughout the whole economic system and influence not only all the uses of tin but also those of its substitutes and the substitutes of these substitutes, the supply of all the things made of tin, and their substitutes, and so on; and all his without the great majority of those instrumental in bringing about these substitutions knowing anything at all about the original cause of these changes. The whole acts as one market, not because any of its members survey the whole field, but because their limited individual fields of vision sufficiently overlap so that through many intermediaries the relevant information is communicated to all. The mere fact that there is one price for any commodity—or rather that local prices are connected in a manner determined by the cost of transport, etc.—brings about the solution which (it is just conceptually possible) might have been arrived at by one single mind possessing all the information which is in fact dispersed among all the people involved in the process.

Now I'll be a good boy and not mention that Britain is an oil exporter (with high production costs per barrel) and so does well out of an oil price rise, as that tends to annoy people.

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