Monday, July 04, 2005

Airstrip One: A Change in Focus

Whilst Airstrip One remains close to my heart, the lack of control over my posts and functional archives has led me to set up a new blog on Typepad, called The Bewilderness. As I have a wider range of interests than Airstrip One allowed, I will crosspost foreign policy articles here but will write on a wider range of topics over there. It is a work in progress, so patience.

And, has anyone seen Emmanuel? He owes me a pint.
Sunday, July 03, 2005
Time to disband the G8?

Blair and his European counterparts must have been overjoyed at the flattery lavished upon them by the moral conquistadors of Live8 who conquered all with their brand of moral monopoly and slogans of urgency. History will judge the objective of "Make Poverty History" less kindly, as expectations outrun outcomes.

Bewitched by the popularity that a positive headline on climate change can bring, all G8 leaders have basked in the warm glow of Live8. None more so than Tony Blair, who has never spotted a bandwagon without hitching a ride and Geldof was willing to provide the Moderniser with the photo opportunity he craved. Perhaps we should be thanful for small mercies. New Labour is now a media parasite, surfing the efforts of others and unable to make waves itself.

Where the G8 leaders have dropped the ball is co-operation, if that is possible, over the macro-economic risks that face the global economy, especially when this effects their own electorates. It is a concern that many economies in Europe as well as Japan operate with high levels of unemployment and low levels of demand at a time when world economic growth is relatively strong. If an economic crisis were to hit these countries, the social and economic damage could lead to severe repercussions, as unemployment soars to new levels and deficit financing proves a useless tool. The window of opportunity for economic reform may be closing as the imbalances within the global economy unwind. If they do so gently, reform is both possible and necessary. If the adjustment is not gentle, France, Germany and Italy will face huge pressures to act and save their industries.

The day of reckoning is not looming, if current economic indicators are believed. A stronger oil price has not resulted in recessions, repeating the pattern of the nineteen-seventies. Indeed, the Global Purchasing Managers' Index has turned upwards. If we wish to understand how such developments may impact upon economies in the Eurozone, it is best to analyze the responses of the Italian government to its slowly developing depression, a symptom that may eventually spread to Germany and France.

In the longer term, some view this summit as the high point, at least in media potential, of the G8, a testament to Blair's skills at spin. As with the Security Council and other international institutions, rising powers question the need for this focus upon the forthcoming decline of former great powers.
Friday, July 01, 2005
A Darker Purpose

An older article in the Observer brought to light the close co-operation between British and American nuclear scientists. Interchanges between the Lawrence Livermore laboratories and Aldermaston have been explained as research into ways of maintaining the existing arsenal. However, the details appear to indicate a wider and intricate web of co-operation:

The figures reveal that British scientists visited key US nuclear laboratories on 180 occasions last year. In the same period US nuclear experts made 128 separate visits to Aldermaston, the Berkshire base where Britain's nuclear weapons are stored. Parliamentary answers also confirm UK and US nuclear scientists are currently on 16 joint working groups, including 'nuclear weapons engineering' and 'nuclear weapon code development'. A major meeting between scientists on both sides of the Atlantic is thought to be scheduled this year and is likely to be held in England.

The British American Security Information Council has verified that the Mutual Defence Agreement ratifying nuclear co-operation between the United Kingdom and the United States is up for renegotiation. There is a move by the disarmament movement to demand a legal review of this agreement in line with the requirements of teh Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Given the asymmetric threats that Britain faces, new research and better weapons appears a more suitable goal than disarming in the face of unknown and potentially fatal threats.
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Feeding The Maw

The Blair government demonstrated their unwillingness to countenance steps that would not sully Britain's traditional reputation as a haven for those who escape or oppose tyranny. This is an episode in our asylum farce where the roles appear to have been reversed. Whilst Mugabe instigates "Drive Out Trash", the government refuses to commit itself to another moratorium on sending asylum seekers back to Zimbabwe, including MDC activists.

The government has insisted that the establishment of a moratorium would reverse its successes in regaining control over asylum. On this occasion, the spin machine has picked the wrong target. Mugabe is the most egregious and public example of African corruption in Britain. The black Zimbabweans, 57 of them, are alleged to be on hunger strike, including MDC activists. Whilst Mugabe kills or impoverishes those who voted for the opposition, it is extraordinary that he can claim there is no evidence that returnees have not been harmed. 'Disappearances' do not count. Chris Mullin, former Minister of Africa, alleged that MDC cards were being forged to provide stories for illegal asylum seekers and accused the Tories of hypocrisy, as Simon Hoggart's parliamentary sketch attests:

Chris Mullin, once a blazing leftwinger, stood up to support the home secretary. He had suffered a "shameless" attack by Mr Davis. And, he revealed, there was even a factory where refugees could get forged membership cards for the Zimbabwe Movement for Democratic Change.

I think if I feared being sent back to Mugabe's goons I might be inclined to try to acquire one of these. But Mr Mullin sounded enraged by the subterfuge.

He has changed an awful lot.

The MDC has claimed that returnees are viewed as spies by the Mugabe regime and their safety cannot be vouched for. Given the excesses carried out in Zimbabwe, the self-serving rhetoric of Clarke and his ilk should be discounted.

A leader of the opposition, Crispen Kulinji, was spared from being deported this weekend at the last minute. Mr Kulinji, in a wheelchair from beatings he says he suffered at the hands of Mr Mugabe's men, had said: "I will be killed if I go home - it's as black and white as that."

Perhaps Clarke should be willing to personally wheel Mr. Kulinji to the passport booth at Harare Airport and stand by his claims of 'safe passage'.
Monday, June 27, 2005
Jostling for Position

Both the French and the British view the Polish government, the 'big country' amongst the "Accession 10" as the leader of the post-communist countries. Poland wishes to avoid taking sides between Britain and France in the debate over the rebate. However, if you wished to bet, follow the money. Poland has farmers, the CAP will provide, and solidarity = subvention whilst national egotism is a good road that doesn't give pols money to bribe their electorates.

Not only have the odds of Blair failing in his European endeavours increased, his tactics could accelerate the Europeanisation of the enlarged EU Members, transforming 'New' to 'Old'.
Watch out, Watch out, The EP's About!

Not satisfied with discounting Blair's waffle last Thursday, the European Parliament has launched another attack on 'national egotism', otherwise known as democracy. This time, they are irked by the revanchism of nation-states who continue to structure and procure their defences on a national basis!

In order to prevent this, the European Parliament has proposed that most European of instruments, a Directive, setting out rules for national defence procurement that will ensure national interests are discounted - presumably in favour of a common foreign and security policy. As the European Parliament debated various wordy documents in which their ideas could repose, the concept of a single market in defence procurement, governed by the Commission, sounds a one-way ticket to the elephant's graveyard.

The Commission's Green Paper outlined two ways of responding to the fragmentation of the EU defence market and to the Member States' systematic use of Article 296. One would be a Commission communication, which would clarify the existing legal framework, the other a directive aimed to fix specific rules in the field of defence procurement. Most MEPs and experts at the hearing argued for a parallel approach, calling for both a directive and a communication. Some also advocated the introduction of a Code of Conduct in defence procurement, although disagreement as to the effectiveness of such a tool was clear.

For further information, an interview with Nick Witney, head of the European Defence Agency, can be found here. Note the cautionary tone towards the United States whilst realising that unless all governments agree, his bureaucratic expansion is just another public works scheme providing fantastic pension benefits to the underemployed.
On the Coattails

Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister, confirmed that British officials were involved with contacting the terrorists in Iraq, despite their penchant for setting off carbombs and killing civilians.[Note terrorists, not insurgents]. Since most of these atrocities are located outside of the zone where British troops are deployed, it is unclear why we took an interest, except as the 'junior partner'. Perhaps our Glorious Leader felt the hand of history on his shoulder whilst deciding to talk with yet another group of terrorists.

Perhaps Blair should be looking over his shoulder at the new hardline paranoid leader of the Mullahs. Their potential for stirring up trouble in newly devout Basra should not be underestimated.
Thursday, June 23, 2005
The Anti-Europe

The Prime Minister set out his 'Eurovision' in contest with the French, and promised to report back to the European Parliament on developments, forgetting that he has a constitutional duty to address Westminster first. But Blair has never observed accountability as anything but a politically expedient value that can be raised when convenient or useful.

Refashioning the past is another tactic that proved very useful in distancing Labour from its Fabian past. Now Blair uses recollection as a weapon to disassociate himself from the anti-European Labour party of 1983.

I am a passionate pro-European. I always have been. My first vote was in 1975 in the British referendum on membership and I voted yes. In 1983, when I was the last candidate in the UK to be selected shortly before that election and when my party had a policy of withdrawing from Europe, I told the selection conference that I disagreed with the policy. Some thought I had lost the selection. Some perhaps wish I had. I then helped change our policy in the 1980's and was proud of that change.

But the content of the speech demonstrates clearly that Blair has opted to follow the same line as his fellow politicians on the referenda results and the role of the EU in the wider world. There is nothing new in his speech. Europe must have an economic and a political dimension, providing economic growth and social protection through the values of solidarity. By using the discourse that all Europhiles follow, Blair legitimates a narrative where peace in Europe was achieved through the EU, an argument with little basis in fact. Indeed, he supports the view that the referenda did not reject the Constitution, that the "Noes" were a protest, not a rejection.

Blair supports integration, the pithily renamed "political Europe". But, it appears that the people of Europe are calling out for "political leadership". This speech must mark the high point of Blair's hubris. Having won a third election and seen off the scandals over Iraq, he now serves up the warmed over socialism of Brown's Treasury as the answer for Europe's ills. His litany of successes turn Britain into a shining economy within a silver sea, all achieved through increased taxation and higher public spending. This is his cure for Europe.

It is just that we have done it on the basis of and not at the expense of a strong economy.

In addition, common defences, authoritarian populism and a solid macroeconomic structure, that coded message for putting sterling into history, round out Blair's answer for Europe's ills: exporting New Labour.

Only one thing I ask: don't let us kid ourselves that this debate is unnecessary; that if only we assume 'business as usual', people will sooner or later relent and acquiesce in Europe as it is, not as they want it to be. In my time as Prime Minister, I have found that the hard part is not taking the decision, it is spotting when it has to be taken. It is understanding the difference between the challenges that have to be managed and those that have to be confronted and overcome. This is such a moment of decision for Europe.
The people of Europe are speaking to us. They are posing the questions. They are wanting our leadership. It is time we gave it to them.

Blair understood his audience and downplayed the issue of Enlargement, making scant reference to further expansion. This is not the enthusiastic hymn for Turkey that the International Herald Tribune portrayed. Der Spiegel uses a German government position paper to look beneath the spin and argues that Britain's role as an agricultural reformer is unsubstantiated. However, by arguing that no reforms have been tabled in the last eighteen months (when CAP is frozen until 2013), the paper undermines its own tale of German success in slicing thin wafers of French lardesse. Their conclusion strikes a chord though:

The government, the working paper states, "won't rule out" further reforms. Nevertheless, the British have made no proposals for agricultural reforms during the past 15 months. They didn't present any proposals during EU constitutional convention or at the intergovernmental conference that followed it. Now they've come up with their arguments for reform like a "magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat." Anyone who negotiates in this manner, it continues, "doesn't want an agreement, and is instead looking for a pretense for failure."
Monday, June 20, 2005

Tonight, Blair has set out his stall for reform in the European Union. Whilst recognising the failures of this morass, he is unable to understand that reform will fail without support from all of the larger countries. It is not possible to implement his agenda on a majority vote.

Does he mean to argue that reform requires further integration; or drive the French into variable geometry; or use the lack of cooperation to demand opt-outs and the repatriation of powers. Nothing so planned, I suspect. Another initiative that may result in diplomatic ructions if Blair proves as incompetent in Europe as he has proved at home. Fingers crossed....!
Thursday, June 16, 2005

Something will give in the Armed Forces if the current 'string and sealing wax' approach is maintained. The National Audit Office report has highlighted the disparate stories of unpreparedness on the part of the armed forces and placed them within one framework.

The report did, however, say that there were major problems related to a reduction in collective training, a shortage of resources, including military hardware, and overstretched forces that would affect the deployment readiness and performance of the three branches of the British armed forces.

More than one-third of the armed forces was described as having “serious weaknesses” in terms of preparedness to deploy within the desired timeframes. Two per cent of these were said to have reached readiness levels so poor that they were described as “critical”.

The worst branch hit by the lack of resources has been the Royal Navy, and the Ministry of Defence will no longer be able to defend stories of equipment delays or failure as unrelated to a lack of resources for the armed forces.

In a worst-case scenario, the NAO report said, little more than half of the naval fleet would be able to deploy within the required timeframe, a problem that could continue for the next six years.

Posturing on the world stage whilst ensuring that our armed forces do not have the resources to complete the tasks laid out by our catwalk politicians will have lasting consequences. The NAO provides independent corroboration of New Labour's mishandling of our defences, though it is unclear if this cutprice approach has actually resulted in the casualties or deaths of soldiers, sailors or airmen in Britain's employ. We do know one thing from this: Probably the most hypocritical government in the world.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Public Holiday

Today is a public holiday in the Falklands islands, celebrating their liberation from Argentinian invaders in 1982. What a pity Thatcher didn't move the second bank holiday to this date from May, daring Labour to appease their tranzi wing!

Here is an article about the military infrastructure on the islands that allows the armed forces to fly in new forces if the territory is threatened:

The Royal Navy operates out of the East Cove Military Port, six miles from the airport, home of the Falklands Islands Patrol Vessel (FIPV). At the moment HMS Dumbarton Castle performs this duty. Her primary aim is to act as a visible deterrent by actively patrolling the Falkland Islands and surrounding waters, as well as being available for immediate tasking as required by CBFSAI. The Ship is multi-role, capable of performing maritime interdiction operations and radar support as well as being able to operate helicopters up to Sea King size.

The naval force is supplemented by a destroyer and, occasionally, by a nuclear attack submarine. The Queen's Lancashire Regiment patrols the islands and No. 1435 flight provides air support. Further troop and air reinforcements can be flown at short notice although the issue of overstretch poses a question mark on this structure. The current commitments of the armed forces could curtail these defensive requirements.

B.B.C. Greatest Philosopher Vote - Marx in the Lead! Urgent Action Required.

Apparently, although it doesn't say it on their website, Marx is currently in the lead. This is not a wild rumour: Bragg himself said it on the radio last week. We cannot allow this to stand. His theories were responsible for the deaths of millions of people and his arguments were codswallop. Please vote for one of the 19 other nominees.

I've voted for Plato, but Aristotle, Kant, Wittgenstein, Socrates, Hume, Descartes, and Spinoza all have a case. Marx hasn't.
Monday, June 13, 2005
Mozart: Yes, Michael Jackson: No

As the disillusion in the Senate mounts over the rise in public disapproval for the Iraqi effort, a British assessment of required troop deployment in the South of the country has concluded that the new government will be unable to provide competent security until 2006 at the earliest.

Middle East Newsline reports that the after an assessment of the situation in the Basra area and of Iraqi military capability, the Defense Ministry decided that Iraq's army is not yet ready. Officials cited high absenteeism, a lack of discipline and inability to cope with the insurgency.

An article in today's Guardian sheds some light on the methods used by the British Army in securing Shi'a acquiesscence to their presence. Was there a natural rise in religiosity once the Shi'a community was freed from the dead hand of Saddam's Ba'athist regime? Were the rudimentary Shi'a authorities encouraged by the British looking for figures who could be co-opted to represent and secure their territory? Did this represent a process that the Iranians tacitly encouraged, providing greater influence for their conservative brand of radical Islamisation? It is difficult to tell if the British Army has presided over a Basra, reminiscent of a shift towards mullahocracy or whether this is a genuine democratisation, reflecting the tribal and sectarian structures of southern Iraq.

Since the US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein two years ago, this city with a long liberal tradition and the surrounding provinces have fallen under the sway of conservative Islam.

Alcohol shops have been burnt, women have been encouraged to wear the veil and music has been banned in many places. Prostitution has gone underground. A student picnic was viciously attacked because the male and female undergraduates mingled.

Mr Bahadli, an ally of the influential cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, said music and television must not excite the wrong emotions. "Mozart yes, Michael Jackson no."

Religious parties with links to Iran won the election in January and, by the admission of Basra's chief of police, their militias largely control the city, raising the spectre of what has been dubbed "Shiastan", a swath of Iraq under the sway of Shia clerics.

Still, if the wedding market provides an indicator of Iraqi optimism and growth, then growth has soared. No longer a quagmire, but we'll draw a veil over the civil liberties of Iraqi women in Basra.
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
On Point

Dennis McShane, former Minister of Europe, does not appear to have fallen away from the limelight completely, given his recent appearance on Question Time and his subsequent interview for UPI. Cheerleading for Europe with Dimbleby will not tax anyone, but McShane provided some more interesting comments that may cast some light on the current thinking about Europe within the Blair administration, or what backbenchers have to say if they wish to be considered for the next reshuffle.

From the first, McShane makes a point of viewing the French referendum in the faint tones of a realist who accepts a verdict of imprisonment. It is a counsel of acceptance and stoicism, of truth-telling and endeavour; that infamous stranger to the truth, Blairite candour:

"Britain will hold a referendum if there is a treaty to hold a referendum on," MacShane said. "But a French Non means the new Treaty of Rome cannot be ratified. It was always a mistake to call a Treaty a constitution. But a constitution needs the confidence of the people and powerful, united leadership. Europe lacks confidence and effective leadership today so it was not a propitious time to hold plebiscites on the new Treaty. There may be some who hope this Treaty can be made to fly but it would be an insult to France and her citizens to say the Treaty they reject will continue on as a dead man walking. We will have to begin again."

The critique proffered is interesting, since it borrows and begs arguments from the Eurosceptics, in order to incorporate them into pro-EU swaddling. McShane recognises the hostility with which the smaller countries attacked the removal of their representation on the Commission and yet, defends the existing Constitution as a "coherent response" to the problems of the European Union. However, the Constitutional answer (to a question that none of Europe's electorates ever asked) was found wanting. The leaders of Europe could not inspire their voters and the European economy was ruined by:

"... wrong decisions by the European Commission with its obsession on over-regulation and by the failure of the European Central Bank to respond to the economic standstill," MacShane said. "Political-constitutional advances have to be based on economic and social confidence. "

The Eurosceptic critique of the project needs to respond to the flanking movement of pro-Europeans like McShane, who borrow the ideas in order to promote different conclusions. Like some grinning, drooling revenant, that refuses to die, unlike the rest of the reactionaries that pass for social democrats these days, the Third Way has been resurrected as an unlikely combination of welfarism, market economics and environmentalism to provide a new moral backbone for coercion in the name of the public good.

"The answer will not be found by the gentlemen of Brussels but by the willingness of political actors in Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Britain and the rest of Europe to rethink out-of-date 20th century economic and social ideology. We need a new 3-way historic compromise between economy, society and environment. Unfortunately we only hear the shrill protectionism and rejectionism of those who know how to say No to the future rather than work collaboratively to build a new Europe."

"I hope this shock will force pro-Europeans to unite and defeat the reactionary forces of the left and right who have unleashed a politics of fear in place of the hope all Europeans need," McShane added.

It is too early to tell if this forms an altered vision of Europe, one that may appeal to moderates and one nation Tories. By acknowledging its current failures, McShane's arguments may provide a pleasing lure for those who argue that the European Union can be reformed. As such, the Eurosceptic movement needs to counter conservatives and reformers within the EU, forcefully argueing that such approaches will prove inferior to the development of a free-trading area in the North Atlantic.
Sunday, May 29, 2005
Eighty-Eight Deaths in Iraq

Another British soldier died today after a roadside bomb exploded by their convoy. No Iraqi insurgents are being tried for war crimes, whilst our troops are sacrificed for Blair to shore up his ICC cred.

Up to 10 British soldiers face prosecution under international war crimes legislation - for the first time - in the single largest investigation into prisoner abuse during the Iraq War.

They are being investigated over the alleged torture and death of an Iraqi civilian, who died in British military custody. The soldiers, including a decorated colonel, two Intelligence Corps interrogators - believed to be a major and a captain - and seven members of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment, have been told that they could face prosecution under the International Criminal Court Act.

If prosecuted, it will be the first time that British soldiers have been tried under war crimes legislation enacted in 2001, which resulted from Britain backing the establishment of the International Criminal Court. The US refused to sign up to the treaty which set up the court, precisely because it did not want its soldiers to be liable to prosecution.....

Patrick Mercer, the Conservative MP for Newark and a former infantry commanding officer, said: "Col Mendonca is being charged for political reasons. At the time of the incident he was nowhere near the scene of the alleged crime."

Who will wish to join the Armed Forces when any misdemeanour carried out under command can lead to the arraignment of the officer in charge? This is a strong example of the ICC degrading the military capabilities of the British armed forces. Any criminal charges should be dealt with under military law, which was constructed specifically for the peculiar needs of armed service. Another charge to be laid at the door of those, corrupted by power, who send soldiers to their death, treat them with contempt and charge them for not respecting values inimical to military conduct.
Bad Loser

President Jacques Chirac has proved less than enthusiastic about the message he has received from the French people tonight, and distances himself from their views:

“France has expressed itself democratically,” Chirac said in a television address. “It’s your sovereign decision, and I have taken note.”

Like every other European pol, Chirac now talks to two constituencies: his electorate and his fellow European Council members. It is clear which he considers more important as he distances himself from the verdict of the French people.

But he added: “Make no mistake, France’s decision inevitably creates a difficult context for the defence of our interests in Europe.”

Jack Straw has held a press conference on the result of the Franch referendum. The initial position of the British government is that the strength of the "No" vote has cast the continued ratification process into doubt. Any 'reflection' upon this result will take place at a European level, negating the true lesson: that powers should be returned to the elected representatives of each nation, so that accountable politicians can be turfed out as and when required:

“The European Union is a union of democracies, the people of France have just cast their vote on the treaty and voted No by a clear margin. We must respect that result and we do. As I said a few weeks ago a no vote by France or any other member state would create a problem for the European Union. But given the issues in the campaign in France and the apparent scale of the result it is... more significant than that. Indeed, the result raises profound questions for all of us about the future direction of Europe, about the challenges to us and the rest of the world, about the ability of the European Union to respond to those challenges and the demands of its citizens. Britain should and will play a full part in these debates in the months ahead.”

This is the Scarecrow saying that the Project has hit a brick wall and they have very little idea what to do, except that any referendum in Britain may now be cancelled.
How fragile is Balkanende's ego?

Another non-binding referendum will be held in the Netherlands on the 1st June 2005. Opinion polls indicate that most of the population will reject the European Constitution and predict a 56% turnout. As 127 of the 150 Dutch parliamentarians support the Constitution, they have kindly provided guidelines where they think that they could safely ignore the vote of their electorate.

Unlike France's vote Sunday, the Dutch referendum on June 1 is advisory and non-binding. Balkenende's Christian Democratic Alliance and the Labor Party already have said the vote will be voided if the turnout falls below 30 percent.

As this is unlikely to be the case, Jan Peter Balkanende, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands will find that this threshold is a signal to his political counterparts in other Member States, his "friends", that the Dutch just will not do as they are told. Perhaps instead of sending out coded signals, he might ask his friends to "shut up" as their interventions may prove helpful to us. Here are the usual suspects (oh to line them up against a wall!!!):

Jean Luc Dehaene makes his political forecast:

``If France votes `No' on Sunday, the Netherlands should teach the French a lesson on Wednesday,'' former Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene said at a political conference in Utrecht, the Netherlands, today. ``I am convinced the Netherlands will en masse vote in favor of the constitution.``

Dutch politicians fear how they will look in the eyes of Europe if their voters let them down:

Both France and the Netherlands were among the six founding countries of the European Union. Balkenende in an interview with Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad today said he would look ``crazy'' in the European Union if Dutch voters rejected the constitution.

My heart bleeds. One could take a Machiavellian stance, arguing which result would suit the Eurosceptic position in Britain best. These speculations are foolish when we have our own battle to fight. I respect the right of other countries to give these self-selected elites a bloody nose, and, remember, it is best to kick a European pol when they are down.
Saturday, May 28, 2005
What Happens Next?

Antoine Clarke was speaking at Brian Micklethwaite's last Friday of the month on the impact of the referendum, currently taking place in France. Almost everybody was expecting that a 'No' vote would win, due to their lead in the polls. We learned that this differed from the run-up to the referendum on the Maastricht treaty where the 'No' vote never pulled ahead of their opposition in the opinion polls.

Much of the discussion circled around the political implications of a result rejecting the European Constitution, especially as the European politicians had proved remarkably unimaginative in their response. However, such discussions rarely take into account the legal options open to the actors. The reaction of the European elite to a 'No' vote in national referenda will be shaped by the existing rules laid down for the ratification of the Constitution. These have been summarised by Euractiv.

The ratification process was laid out in Clause IV-442. This stated that, two years after the signing of the Constitution, a European Council would be convened if the Constitution had been ratified by 2o Member States, and rejected by others (euphemistically called "encountering difficulties", or known as the will of the people) :

"If, two years after the signature of the treaty amending this Treaty, four fifths of the Member States have ratified it and one or more Member States have encountered difficulties in proceeding with ratification, the matter shall be referred to the European Council."

The strong rejection of the European Constitution by two of the founding members will undermine the legitimacy of the ratification process. Some will argue for the continuation of the process, but most Member States will desire tackling the subject at the next European Council, providing Tony Blair with some work for once. They will follow the model of Clause IV-442 for the route to resolution, although the authors of the Constitution did not anticipate such an early 'crisis'.

This crisis will test the political skills of the European elite. They have usually been found wanting and, if they follow their Pavlovian tendencies, we can expect a continued process of ratification for the Constitution. By increasing the number of countries that say 'Yes', they can place greater pressure on those countries that say 'No'. If they show some cunning, they may downplay the need for a Constitution and reintroduce these measures in two years, using the tried and tested treaty model. It is in Britain's interests that they prove true to form and continue to promote the Constitution, as this will provide us with the opportunity to hold a referendum on Europe.
Monday, May 23, 2005
Irish Republican Assassination?

A former British Army sniper, who may have claimed the lives of six terrorists, was gunned down in a London street last month.

Scotland Yard is investigating the London shooting death of a former British army sniper who was prominent in the Northern Ireland campaign.Retired Warrant Officer Michael Norman, 62, formerly of the Coldstream Guards, was found with a bullet wound to the stomach in a green BMW April 17 with a 9 mm handgun nearby.Norman, who left the army in 1989 after 22 years, built a reputation in Northern Ireland and other operational theaters as a high-grade sniper. He is reputed to have killed as many as six Irish Republican Army gunmen during anti-terrorist operations, The Times of London reported Tuesday.He was also an anonymous witness at the inquiry into the Bloody Sunday deaths in Londonderry in 1972, according to his former wife, Fiona McNab.

Further reporting in the Telegraph on the 30th April stated that the police authorities had not ruled out suicide as a cause of death. However, a more recent article in the Hounslow Guardian revealed that the police were appealing for witnesses in a death that they were now treating as murder.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005
The People have spoken but we may choose to ignore them

The Netherlands has threatened to veto the budget of the European Union unless their contribution is reduced. The Finance Minister, BenBot, has set out an uncompromising line for the latest negotiations, although they have not uttered the word, rebate.

This accompanies the latest surge in the campaign for the No vote. The Dutch are so cynical about their political elite that some expect their Parliament to ratify the constitution even if the non-binding referendum rejects the treaty. Would that not prove the 'democratic' credentials of the Constitution?
Monday, May 16, 2005
Basra Watch

Although major terrorist action was seen in those parts of Iraq held by the United States, Basra was still attacked by insurgents or other terrorists. (You can never rule out Iranian participation!).

During the latest upsurge in violence, bombs destroyed the country's largest fertiliser factory and a gas pipeline. This is a long haul for little reward.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
A Defining Myth

Richard Drayton, Senior Lecturer in History at Cambridge University, had the opportunity in his contribution to the Guardian, of providing a thoughtful and balanced analysis of how the Second World War formed a key part in the legitimising myths that defined foreign policy actions on the parts of Great Britain and the United States. Instead, the article presents a laundry list of facts designed to promote a moral equivalence between the Allies and their opponents.

An example of this is the bald assertion that fascist ideology and tactics were deliberately copying the policies and ideas of the British Empire or the United States of America.

Our democratic imperialism prefers to forget that fascism had important Anglo-American roots. Hitler's dream was inspired, in part, by the British Empire. In eastern Europe, the Nazis hoped to make their America and Australia, where ethnic cleansing and slave labour created a frontier for settlement. In western Europe, they sought their India from which revenues, labour and soldiers might be extracted.

American imperialism in Latin America gave explicit precedents for Germany's and Japan's claims of supremacy in their neighbouring regions. The British and Americans were key theorists of eugenics and had made racial segregation respectable. The concentration camp was a British invention, and in Iraq and Afghanistan the British were the first to use air power to repress partisan resistance. The Luftwaffe - in its assault on Guernica, and later London and Coventry - paid homage to Bomber Harris's terror bombing of the Kurds in the 1920s.

This Marxist structure that allows the contextualisation of Nazi Germany within a wider development of capitalism provide the moral inversion that Drayton prefers, tracing the ills of fascism to liberal democracies and eliding the radical development of totalitarianism at a time of economic crisis. Did the Nazis learn the utility of the vanguard party, the efficiency of terror, the advantages of the confiscation and distribution of property, the dehumanisation of selected, nay even fictitious, minorities from the Mother of Parliaments or Roosevelt's Presidency?

This article presents another strand in the development of a movement on the New Left to deconstruct the myths of the Second World war and replace them with a perspective that sullies the roles of the Allies in defeating Nazi Germany. There is a case for a revisionist study of the Second World War, based on a careful weighing of the evidence and consideration of the possibilities that all actors faced in the War. Sadly, Drayton's article reflects none of these complexities and merely seeks to replace one myth with another; swapping ossified nationalism for vulgar Marxism where imperialism provides a broadbrush answer for all of these ills.

The MSM will have to raise the quality of these debates if it wishes to survive...
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
The Atlantic Turn

Whilst Michael Howard is not welcomed in the White House, following his willingness to criticise the Bush administration, the Shadow Cabinet reshuffle has strengthened the Atlanticist tendency in the Conservative Party. Liam Fox, the new Foreign Secretary, has made a speech entitled "Let Freedom Prevail", which the BBC misunderstood and interpreted as a call for 'modernisation'. The initial paradigm emanating from the Tories is a familiar refrain that the Tories must seek to understand modern Britain. Fox's own metaphor for reinvigorating the brand was swapping Eastenders for the Archers. The Archers is quite emblematic of British mores these days with its moral decline but why Fox should wish to hitch the story of a sinking soap to the BBC's flagship programme surprises me, unless it is a desperate bid to acquire a higher profile on the ten o'clock news.

Joking apart, Fox's speech was a conscious effort to capture the 'modernisation agenda' by evoking the theme of freedom, linking social and economic liberalism, in a package that may attract Thatcherites, Eurosceptics and the softer sofas of the 'me-too' Blairites:

Dr Fox says the first test the Conservatives must apply to every proposal is whether it increases or decreases the size of the state.

Government should be an "enabling framework", not an "entrapping web", he argues.

He underlines the importance of freedom coupled with encouraging personal responsibility, albeit with a "safety net" for the genuinely needy.

He concludes: "Freedom is not a slogan. Freedom is not just a means to an end. Freedom is our essence. Freedom is our core. Let freedom reign."

As an article by Fraser Nelson over at Atlantic Bridge demonstrates, Liam Fox and George Osbourne have cultivated links with the Republicans to stand alongside more established figures such as the underrated Iain Duncan Smith. Both have attempted to rekindle the marriage between the Republicans and the Tories, with little success. To reward his loyalty, Bush has stood foursquare behind Blair, even though the Prime Minister's fortunes appear limited.

This may certain consequences in the post-Blair environment. If Gordon Brown becomes Prime Minister, his links are tied to the Democratic party and it is unclear if he would be able to establish a similar rapport with Bush . The Republicans may view the Tories as an irrelevance, given that they are unable to attain power and bring little of note to the conservative movement. Through ideological drift, institutional neglect, misplaced loyalties and a recognition of Britain's increasing impotence, the roots of the Atlantic Alliance may wither on the vine.
Monday, May 09, 2005
Eurosceptic Left

It is easy to forget that Old Labour was hostile to Europe in the early 1980s, viewing the nascent single market in similar fashion to the French obloquy for Anglo-Saxon liberalism (whatever that is!). Ian Davidson, MP for Glasgow Pollock, has emerged as one of the most vocal rebels on the backbenches, calling for Blair to resign.

Ian Davidson, Glasgow Pollock MP, said that plans for an "unremittingly New Labour" agenda were "a car crash waiting to happen". "We should start succession planning now and recognise that effectively Tony Blair is a lame duck prime minister from day one."

Blair has been attacked by the rebels of Old Labour and has been defended by his cabinet stalwarts. Even better for the Eurosceptic cause is that Ian Davidson has also called upon the government to show fairness in the referendum for the Constitution. The Labour Eurosceptic movement has demanded that Labour party funds are provided for both the 'Yes' and 'No' campaigns. They wish to harness the protest vote against Blair to give the 'progressive third way' another kick in the ballots (tip of the hat to the Daily Mail). Ian Davidson, their most prominent spokesman, wishes to harness the Labour movement's disillusionment with Blair, to swing the Left behind the anti-Constitution campaign. In order to achieve this, he is calling for the referendum to be held as early as possible.

Ian Davidson, leader of the embryonic Labour 'no' grouping, called for the vote to be held as soon as possible and warned that protest voting during the general election showed how hard it would be to win. 'A lot of this is going to be tied round about the question of Blair's future: a lot of people would recognise that this is an opportunity to poke Blair in the eye,' he told The Observer. 'Even though we are not quite ready to have a referendum on day two after the election, the general principle of having one sooner rather than later is one I believe in. If it's good enough for France to have a referendum now why can't we?'

As a consequence, we see the resurgence of a Eurosceptic grouping on the Left that may galvanise Labour voters to reject the European Constitution. Whilst the right is backbiting, ineffectual andweakening the power of the Tory Eurorealists, the Left may play a bigger role in this campaign than has yet been realised. At this point in time, such efforts are to be welcomed, whether collectivist or libertarian.

The Labour 'no' grouping is expected to make common cause with Liberal Democrats, Greens and trade unionists opposed to the constitution - although it is not prepared to work with groups such as Ukip or Veritas.
Sunday, May 08, 2005
Beltway Perceptions

Andrew Apostolou, Resident Fellow at the The Foundation for the Defence of Democracies (a title craving reproof), argues on TechCentralStation, that the Conservatives are the repository of anti-Americanism. Through the prism of anti-Americanism, he argues that the entire electoral campaign of all three parties revolved around this issue in their attitude to the war.

Whilst Apostolou recognises that the war became unpopular with the British electorate, he argues that this is due to an upswing in anti-Americanism. There is little evidence that anti-Americanism has increased in the last few years or that it has spread beyond its normal bastions of left-wing professionals and the culterati. The war has become entwined with wider issues of 'political trust'. These were concerns that the electorate had held with the New Labour government since the last century.

Apostolou recognises that the Conservative Party had to address these concerns, given the unending enquiries that revealed the duplicitous way that New Labour manipulated intelligence.

Faced with growing anti-Americanism in public opinion, the Conservatives have attempted to do the impossible, to support the Iraq war while retrospectively opposing the reasons for the Iraq war. Michael Howard has openly called Tony Blair, and by extension George W. Bush, a liar over the Iraq war. Britain's Conservatives proclaim that they are pro-American and then take electoral advantage of anti-Americanism. With a straight face, Michael Howard burnishes his pro-US credentials as president and founding chairman of The Atlantic Partnership, an organization devoted to fostering transatlantic links.

The effectiveness of anti-Americanism as an electoral tactic remains to be seen, but the Conservative approach has already eroded the British-American alliance. The pro-American consensus at the center of British foreign policy has been weakened, in large part because its normally vocal and reliable Conservative supporters are instead sniping at the Iraq war. The strategic necessity of the "special relationship", which brings Britain influence unrivalled influence and leverage with the US and with Britain's jealous EU partners, is no longer an article of faith. Instead, many now ask what Britain receives from being the most prominent friend of the US in a world where, if the media are to be believed, the US is hated, reviled and wrong.

If Apostolou's argument is correct, the Conservatives must never take issue with the United States and must wholeheartedly support Blair over the Iraq war, or the Atalantic Alliance will be damaged. Since their constitutional role as the Opposition is to hold the government and its constitutional vandalism to account, this argument fails to take the internal pressures of British politics into account.

Instead of asking why President Bush decided to treat the Conservatives like an unwanted guest at a funeral, with all of the damage that such *personal* treatment brings. Apostolou's own bias is betrayed by his description of the Conservatives as "vocal and reliable", an echo of Thatcher's "one of us" moments. With such actions on the part of Bush and Karl Rove, reciprocated by Howard, there is a division between British and American conservatism that may have long-term implications.

However Apostolou does not recognise that such relationships require co-operation from both parties. By punishing the Conservatives for actions that their role as the Opposition demanded, Apostolou does not understand the drivers behind British politics or the declining importance of the Atlantic Alliance at a time when more foreign policy decisions are decided through the EU. What strikes one about this article is the catching up that US analysts need to do in order to understand how European nation-states are rapidly being hollowed out by Brussels. If he did, then he would view the Conservatives as a love-in, UKIP as a marriage partner.
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Nuclear Fictions

The Trident nuclear programme is beginning to near the end of its life and the question of Britain's continued 'great power status' is coming into view. One could view the mutual assistance pact with the United States as an outsourcing agreement for nuclear weaponry but a question mark must hang over this continued cooperation given the greater influence of Europe and the dissension that it stirs. We know that the mutual assistance pact may foster the illusion of power but that dependence has hollowed out the willingness of our elite to act in our name. It forms one part of the crutch that hobbles our defences; the other and greater support upon which we lean is Europe.

This sets the stage for the leak to the Independent that presents Blair as a hawk maintaining Britain's nuclear deterrent (deterring whom? The French?). With singular alacrity, newspapers then drag in a case of the TBGBs.

Gordon Brown has refused to commit himself to supporting Tony Blair's plans to renew Britain's Trident nuclear weapons system.

Mr Brown appeared to duck the issue on Channel Four News when he was challenged about yesterday's report in The Independent that Mr Blair had agreed in principle to replace the Trident system.

The Prime Minister confirmed yesterday that he wants Britain to retain its independent nuclear deterrent when the Trident submarine fleet reaches the end of its natural life.

Asked whether it was right to replace it, Mr Brown said: "Well, as Tony Blair says a decision has not been made. We have to look at the facts and the figures first."

However, Blair contradicted his earlier positive stance with a statement that any new system would have to be costed. What he meant to say was that it would be controlled elsewhere.
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Democrats and New Labour

Whilst media attention has focussed on Lynton Crosby and the Tory version of Multivac, the New Labour campaign has been enriched by the experiences of Democratic activists working for the Dean and Kerry campaigns. Faced with increasing cynicism and decreasing turnout, the campaigns in both the United States and Great Britain have concentarted on "getting out the vote": persuading those voters in key marginals that New Labour is working and delivering on its promises.

Party officials cautioned against overstating the influence and presence of Americans, reflecting a sensitivity toward any suggestion of American paternalism or political superiority.

Robert Worcester, a British pollster, noted that the race remained very close in a number of districts. Mark Penn, an American pollster working for Blair, said: "Turnout is extremely important. The bigger the turnout, the better for Labour."

There are several other American advisers as well: In London, Zach Exley, also a veteran of the Dean and John Kerry campaigns, is working on the e-campaign, as it is called, building up an extensive e-mail list of supporters and enlisting them to work as volunteers in offices like the one here.

The Blair campaign turned to Penn at the urging of former U.S. President Bill Clinton himself, according to party officials. And Stan Greenberg, a Democratic pollster and former adviser to Clinton, is conducting focus groups for the Labour Party.

Bob Shrum, a senior adviser to Kerry's campaign, is a friend and sometime adviser to Gordon Brown, the chancellor of the Exchequer and almost certain successor to Blair eventually. Joe Trippi, one-time campaign manager for Dean, came to England earlier this year at the invitation of Labour officials to sit down with Blair.

It is clear that neither party accepts the patterns of 1997 or 2001 will be reciprocated. Labour is still stronger in the polls than in voting patterns and the concentration on marginal seats, the strength of tactical voting, the higher turnout from postal votes and the decrease in the Labour lead, make predictions uncertain. Will the political bets prove more accurate than the polls or is there room for surprises within our electorate?

Monday, May 02, 2005
All Aboard the Skylark

Not a testament to the election or the wars that we occasionally fight, but a reference to the last flight of the Skylark, the final testament to the British rocketry programme of the postwar years, when science fiction still set out a vision of imperial starfaring sailors bearing the Union Jack beyond the atmosphere, usually from Woomera.

The Skylark was developed by the United Kingdom and improved versions were utilised by Germany and Sweden to launch satellites for national programmed up until the present day. The Skylark has now flown one last time as manufacturing facilities no longer exist.

Now that the space industry is beginning to acquire its private sector legs, will we see a renaissance in British rocketry, sparked by an entrepreneurial spirit and capital from unlikely sources (where the US strikes an unusual model).
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Give Blair a Bloody Nose

Will the publication of the Attorney General's advice have any effect upon the election? It is a little difficult blogging up a storm from Provincetown on Cape Cod, although it is wet enough to count as one. Now we know that the Legal Officer of the government told Blair that his war was illegal without evidence of weapons of mass destruction and that the Criminally inclined Minister ignored the Code of Ministerial Conduct (doesn't apply to Primes, you know!!)

The advice is here. I don't think that this will have a radical impact upon the election as Iraq is less important than 'skoolzanhospitalz' for the elctorate. However, now that Howard is following the Crosby method of telling the electorate to give Blair a bloody nose, this places the issue of trust in sharp relief.

Let us hope that there is an upturn in the polls for the Tories from here on in.
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Down and Dirty

Kamel Bourgass, the Algerian asylum seeker, who has just been found guilty of murder and plotting to use poisons has become the latest fixture in the election campaign. The Conservatives ahve pointed to this court case as an example of how the Labour government has lost control of our borders through incompetence, leading to a security threat.

Tory shadow home secretary David Davis said Detective Constable Oake "was killed by someone who should have been deported when his asylum application failed."
"Unfortunately this failure was a direct consequence of the Government's chaotic asylum policy and its porous borders."

Trying (and failing) to strike a statesmanlike tone, Charles Clarke attempted to deflect criticism by ordering the government department concerned to issue a defence. Civil service neutrality anyone?

A Home Office spokesman said: "The Immigration and Nationality Directorate has recognised its systems clearly needed tightening up and has taken measures to do so."
He said Bourgass had broken the conditions of his temporary release after his application for asylum was turned down.
But immigration officials had seen no evidence before Bourgass' arrest to indicate he was a threat to the UK.

Still, to prove a point, Clarke used this to note how New Labour's police state would have ensured security for all, by allowing arbitrary arrest, ID cards, the removal of civil liberties and a gigantic computer project to deal with it all involving shiny lights, lots of dials and men in white coats.

Charles Clarke denied the case was an embarrassment for the government.
"We have to work even harder to contest the terrorist threat," he said.
"I think things like identity cards, stronger borders to deal with migration issues, the kinds of anti-terrorism legislation that we passed in the last Parliament are all necessary."

However, haven't asylum seekers already been given ID cards? So, why do th rest of us need to carry one?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Whither the Church?

Following the death of the Pope there has been serious reflections amongst theologians and commentators on the direction that the Catholic Church may take. In the secular, dechristianised circles amongst which I move, there is little knowledge of religion or its growth. Yet, some of their numbers view Catholicism as stronger now than for many years and predict the demise of Protestantism.

Meanwhile, Protestantism seems spiritually and morally almost finished, according to Peter Jensen, the Anglican archbishop of Sydney, Australia.
"Mainline... denominations are slowly dying. Let them die a natural death," the New Oxford Review, a conservative Catholic journal, recently proposed.
Is this true? Will only Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Islam survive the current crisis of faith, as a senior religious affairs adviser to the European Commission predicted some years ago?

This is palpable nonsense given the growth of Pentecostalist denominations. However, the article moves on to explain the stresses and strains accompanying this explosion in Christian belief.

Pointing to Pentecostalism, the fastest-growing Christian movement, he said a "lively religious interest is bursting out in all sorts of forms. This surge in religious fervor poses a structural challenge to Roman Catholicism and mainline Protestantism."
Especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America, Pentecostalism, which emphasizes the Holy Spirit within the Trinity, has already influenced countless Catholic as well as Protestant congregations.
Rorem called it an "uncontrollable movement."

Crisis of faith or opportunity? What happens if this third-world movement begins to make inroads into Europe and the Middle East, directly challenging the bastions of secularism and Islam? Would the fragile institutions of Euromed survive a moral onslaught of unforeseen and fervent Christians providing new challenges via immigration and globalisation?

Friday, April 08, 2005

Where were the Tories?

Rover goes under. It would not have gone under if the government could give a generous loan whose favourable terms qualify as "state aid" under European Union law. All three parties agree that giving the loan would have been the least worst option.

So the European Union killed off Rover. The Tories are the Eurosceptic party with a large number of target seats locally. So they are currently railing at Europe. Not a bit of it. They are not even mentioning the loan.

This is not even an issue of market intervention. All parties want to give Rover the money.

What is wrong with these people? Don't they want to win the election? Erm, well...
Thursday, April 07, 2005

How Long?

Afghanistan likely to have permanent US military presence. It doesn't say how long we'll be there.

Just so you know how long that is, remember the temporary intervention in Bosnia? Or Kosovo?

.... or Iraq? Nah, why would an artificial state that's never known democracy and is made up of three mutually loathing ethnic groups need a strong military presence?
Thursday, March 31, 2005
How Wars End

The Centre for Strategic and International Studies recently ran a symposium for the republication of Dr Fred Ikle's book, "Every War Must End". This minor classic has proved timely with the recent war in Iraq and Beltway discussions on the need for an 'exit strategy'. The thoughts of the symposium were published in pdf format including the GOM of US Foreign Policy, Dr Zbigniew Brzezinski (now that Kennan has passed on).

Reading the transcript brought out a number of thoughts on the first Gulf War. The current experiences of insurgency and chaos now place the decision to halt at the Iraqi border in 1991 within a gentler light. Despite their overwhelming success, the Allied forces in 1991 had no plan to occupy Iraq and would have faced similar problems to the invading forces in 2003. Would the Ba'athists have turned to insurgency in 1991 and acquired weapons from Syria, even without the added stimulation of Islamic jihadis? Would Iraq have fallen into greater chaos in 1991 than 2004 given the lack of an occupation plan on the part of the Allies? Bush and Powell's decision should not be judged too harshly in light of these possible counterfactuals.

When the symposium discussed how the Iraq war/occupation would end, only one member discussed the strategy of the 'war on terror' placing the war within a wider ideological conflict. The other members adopted a more conservative view of the war and posited various scenarios for ending. The probable developments were a developing Iraqi polity requesting the withdrawal of Coalition troops; or, the costs of the Iraqi war setting up the seeds of further conflict in Syria or Iran. This clarification demonstrated that the war will end only when the United States wishes to leave, when the newly established Iraqi elites ask them to, or when the insurgency dies away. These ingredients provide the base for that messy if improving occupation that is sometimes called stability, a curious misnomer. This continuation seems the most likely outcome for now.

This proves again that the decision to withdraw from Iraq rests with Blair. There is no further need to prove solidarity with the United States of America and the Iraqis are proving increasingly capable of policing their own territory. The longer our troops stay, the easier it will be to view them as occupiers rather than as liberators.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Steve Sailer has an interesting piece about the Australian effort in the Iraqi war. Not one fatality. That compares rather favourably with our 86. Remember that Blair had the opportunity to wimp out, with credit still accruing for supporting this silly adventure.

And the favours that we get in return?

Well, let's see. Bush freezes out Michael Howard, he freezes out Gerry Adams (at the same time as Ted Kennedy) and that's it. Two foreign politicians, one unknown and one temporarily unpopular one frozen out.

It's harder by the day to argue that Britain's involvement in the war has done us any good.
Sunday, March 27, 2005
Blair's Bagman

The Sunday Times has provided more details concerning the contacts of Lord Goldsmith, Attorney General, preceding his memorandum dated the 7th March in which he stated that the war in Iraq could be open to challenge in a court of law. It is clear that he met both Lord Falconer, a junior minister in the Home Office at this time, and Baroness Morgan, a political adviser to the Prime Minister. These meetings have been interpreted within the accepted paradigm of Nulab bullying, with 'pressure' applied to Goldsmith to come to the 'correct' conclusion (or perhaps sign a drafted opinion!).

Dominic Grieve, Shadow Attorney General, has asked another question:

“I’d certainly say Lord Falconer had a role in this. It is clear that the attorney-general carried out a major change of policy,” said Grieve. “One possibility is that he was leant on. The other, which I think is more likely, is that he was given new information about weapons of mass destruction. I think he was hoodwinked, like parliament.”

Grieve said that as a Home Office minister for criminal justice at the time, Falconer should not have been involved in any discussions with the government’s most senior law officer about the war’s legality.
“Falconer should have had nothing to do with this. He’s Tony’s crony,” he added.

A spokeswoman for Goldsmith said the attorney-general had repeatedly said that the advice he had given was his own, genuinely held view and that he had not been influenced by Downing Street or by any minister, including Falconer. “He was not leant on in any way to give that view,” she said.

The power of the erroneous intelligence information was probably sufficient to persuade Goldsmith that, if weapons of mass destruction were uncovered, the legality of the war would never be questioned. Therefore, publication of Goldsmith's advice, with its reliance upon the damned intelligence, would sink Blair administration's thin protestations that the war was legal. Their incompetence would come full circle.
Saturday, March 26, 2005
Pre-emptive Deterrance

The foreign policy of the United States has been criticised for its unilateral and aggressive actions in recent years. These criticisms, often based upon moral support for international institutions, disregard useful analysis for labels and hysterics over 'neo-conservatism'. Yet the turn towards 'pre-emptive action' was the response of a rational actor in a world where the proliferation of nuclear weapons has becoming increasingly common. If a superpower expected an uncertain future with an additional number of uncontrolled and uncontrollable mid-range powers holding nuclear weapons, then the bar for nuclear retaliation would have to be lowered in order to ensure that deterrance was factored into the strategic equation for such middling states.

Areas where rival powers have fought wars over disputed territories are more likely to acquire nuclear weapons, if one of the strategic parties already holds such power. The breakthrough flashpoint was China-India-Pakistan in 1998. The actions of the United States has also increased the pressure by flushing prey out of the undergrowth. This reputation for aggression has reduced the timescale that anti-American nations could use to secure their arsenals and forced their hands, leading to North Korea's admission of nuclear weapons (possibly). As such, the policy has had short-term problems compared to the preparation for long-term uncertainty. It could be criticised for encouraging rather than preventing proliferation.

The major problem with those who support international efforts, such as the Non-Proliferation Treaty, to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons is the realistic evidence of failure. Nuclear weapons have spread to both desirable and undesirable regimes. They are used for deterrance, especially if a state, such as Israel or North Korea, feels that it is under existential threat. Where states have not 'gone nuclear' in response to antagonistic threats is because they have outsourced their right to use overwhelming force against an opponent to the United States. We can identify the three East Asian states that fall into that category: Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. This is an additional pressure for the United States to consider; its own role as a security umbrella preventing proliferation in East Asia - a game of deterrance that China's military build-up places under increasing tension.

To sum up, whatever the short-term motives for constructing a doctrine of 'pre-emptive action' were, this foreign-policy shift is a useful tool in providing clear boundaries for new state actors which acquired nuclear weapons. We can anticipate that as a the United States shifts towards recognition of a world where nuclear weapons are held by a larger number of countries. 'pre-emptive action' will prove to have deterrent value. There is a good case for shifting British foreign policy down this path, especially as we have a need to ween ourselves off nuclear dependence upon the United States.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005

It is rare that I get to exercise my profound disgust at those who wish to control arms and venture into foreign policy by deriding their revolting attempts to internationalise this issue through an "arms control" treaty. It is not surprising that this immoral act is perpetrated by the Blair administration: a clique that is unable to understand the simple connection between the rule of law and a well armed citizenry.

There is a question concerning the relationship between guns and gangsterism that bedevils third world countries but the control of arms sounds suspiciously like that 'success story': the war on drugs. Jack Straw's keen attempt to follow the NGOs on this matter was publicised at a press conference today:

Straw argued that existing treaties covering chemical, biological and nuclear weapons should be matched by a new treaty covering smaller weapons. And he acknowledged that such weapons "account for far more misery and destruction across the world". "The new treaty needs to include a wide range of signatories, including the world's major arms exporters," he said. "I certainly do not underestimate the difficulties of that. Many nations are concerned that a new arms trade treaty may restrict their defence industries; constrain their foreign policy; and lead to constant legal challenge of export licence decisions. Their approach may initially be one of scepticism, at best. "But in order for it to work properly, a new arms control treaty will need to include as many of the world's nations as possible - especially those with strong defence industries of their own.

The NGO campaign for this solution stems from the revolutionary liberalism redolent of Enlightenment manure. Instead of undertaking the patient steps of building stable laws in these territories and defending property, these organisations prefer to build a bureaucratic edifice of controls, inspections and treaties, a job creation scheme for peace studies graduates.

The Control Arms Campaign is co-ordinated by Oxfam and Amnesty International. They view the proliferation of firearms as a key threat to peace and security. They are right in that technology has lowered the cost of owning firearms and has allowed the strong to plunder the weak; governments or gangs to maim, murder and steal. (Although the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 did not require firearms, just edged weapons).

However, their solution is old-fashioned, insensitive to local conditions, and designed to reinforce the status quo in many states, rotten as they are. Their solution is global arms control:

Governments must introduce new laws and measures to incorporate the principles of the Arms Trade Treaty. They must also close the loopholes in their arms controls so that they can strictly monitor end use and effectively control arms brokers and licenced production overseas. They must stop the misuse of arms by security services and introduce systems of accountability and training for them, introduce measures for disarmament when a conflict has ended, develop good justice systems for prosecuting those who misuse arms, enforce all arms control legislation and develop and implement a national action plan to address and solve the country's arms problems.

Communities and local authorities must help collect and destroy surplus and illegal weapons, introduce community education programs to end cultures of violence, provide assistance to victims of armed violence, and provide alternative livelihoods for those who depend on violence for a living.

Only the police are considered suitable to carry guns in protection of communities if they follow the requisite standards:

International standards do exist to control the use of guns and other methods of force by police and other law enforcement officials, but in many countries they are not being followed.These standards centre on the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. At their heart is the principle of what constitutes legitimate force. Police must sometimes be permitted to use force or lethal force, in order to do their job of keeping communities safe and protecting themselves and the public from life-threatening attacks. But the force used must not be arbitrary; it must be proportionate, necessary and lawful. And, crucially, it must only be used in self defence or against the imminent threat of death or serious injury.

Self defence for the private individual in defence of life, liberty and property is not included within this 'solution'.

The McCartneys

We do very little on Northern Ireland these days, hence the lack of any comment on the McCartneys. My favourite theory on this seems to have been blown apart. There has been an amazing amount of coverage on the Slugger O'Toole site, and I would recomend that you go over there.

Now that the IRA are finally being cold shouldered in America (and they weren't after 9-11 - please note) let's see how long before they are on their way back. If it takes decades then it will be tribute to the special relationship. If it takes a couple of years or less then it will simply be revulsion at the death of a young father. I give it until the next congressional elections.
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Flying in to the rescue

Now that the War Crimes Tribunal has again worked its magic, indicting the Kosovan Prime Minister, British troops are flown into his hometown of Pec, to prepare for possible unrest:

A total of 500 troops have arrived in Kosovo since yesterday after the UN mission in the Serb province raised its security threat level to stage black.

The troops have been deployed around the western town of Pec in western Kosovo, which is the home of Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj. The PM confirmed he would resign after his indictment was announced.

As always, the British appear to be providing hard earned resources whereas other European countries have not provided any additional troops from their oh-so overstretched armies (under a quick survey of Google).
Monday, March 07, 2005

Let's be like Lebanon

I'm accused of being churlish when some former tyranny comes blinking into the light to be given democracy. I hate to disappoint and will not do so with Lebanon.

The "Cedar Revolution" - with all those nice new flags, American funding and pretty young students demonstrating does seem to be from a certain template. When writing this I thought, bet Justin Raimondo doesn't like it - and I checked, he doesn't (he also wonders about who killed that chap with the car bomb). All of this is rather true to form.

So being generally conservative I'll keep to the old routines by pointing out that Syria's presence in Lebanon is not entirely a bad thing to Israel, and so by extension America. After all last time the Syrians stood back neither the Israelis and the Americans came out well against a load of Shi'ite amateurs.

Of course, Lebanon is no Iraq. The Christian community, that has historically acted as a cultural and economic leaven in most Muslim countries, has not been persecuted to near zero. Lebanon does have a history of constitutional rule, even if not succesful, and so is more like Japan or Germany than Iraq or Afghanistan are. Things could go better here than in many other parts of the world. The lack of foreign troops (well, not foreign troops trying to impose democracy) probably helps, especially with Lebanon's amazing level of anti-Americanism.

Besides I've got a soft spot for countries that have the self confidence to tell foreign troops who've outstayed their welcome to go back home. Wouldn't it be remarkable if we developed the national self confidence of, oh, Lebanon or the Philipines?

Zimwatch: Time for Freedom House?

Suddenly it's got all hot on the Limpopo. Last time most of us looked the MDC were giving up and talking of boycotting all future elections.

No more. The MDC's chairman Isaac Matongo has said "we are going to shock ZANU-PF elsewhere by winning this general election." Now they won't, but this is no longer the talk of a defeated bunch of Soviet style dissidents.

We've also got Mugabe's Goebells, Jonathan Moyo, turning his coat again and threatening to run as a third force against both ZANU and the opposition MDC. What he's playing at nobody knows. Is it a play to split a chunk of the Ndebele vote away from the MDC, or a preliminery to bringing ZANU dissidents into the broad opposition in a preliminary to an American financed People's Power revolution or is it a genuine power play from a man who has come to overestimate his own abilities? Who knows?

Elections are coming soon and this surprising country could appear on our TV screens soon, so don't be surprised.
Thursday, March 03, 2005
Quiet but not forgotten

Although the war in Iraq may have proven successful in establishing a democratic regime, the Guardian Security Affairs editor, Richard Norton, shows that the legal advice remained obscure.

It is becoming increasingly clear that in his final written advice on the war, the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, warned Tony Blair that British participation in an invasion of Iraq could be ruled illegal. The advice was given in a 13-page paper on March 7 2003, less than two weeks before British troops joined the invasion of Iraq. The attorney said Britain could find itself arraigned in an international court and found guilty. So worried was the government that it gathered a group of lawyers to prepare for litigation.

None of this was known to MPs when they voted for war on March 18. They were led to believe that the attorney's final legal advice was contained in a parliamentary answer the previous day. In it Goldsmith said it was "plain" Iraq was in breach of its UN disarmament obligations.

Though the answer was presented to MPs as the attorney's "opinion", Goldsmith now says it was no such thing. "The answer did not purport to be a summary of my confidential legal advice to government," he insisted in a statement last Friday contradicting remarks made by the prime minister. He told the House of Lords on Tuesday that his March 17 answer expressed only what he called his "view".

Still a false prospectus!
Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Don't worry about the energy

At the moment there's less worry about oil prices than usual, so let's just have a few bullet points about high energy prices and how they influence the British:

- Oil. At first this looks bad as we are being told that we will soon be importing the stuff. However a high oil price is good for us. This is because our oil fields are expensive to run - the workers are paid first world wages and the stuffs out at sea. This is not southern Sudan. If there is a high oil price then many of the wells that have been effectively mothballed are sudenly economic and can be brought back into production. If the high oil price is sustained then we are actually going to be even more fortunate as the capital investment that goes into madcap ideas such as oil tars and shale oils is going to find its way here. Then we'll be exporting the stuff.

- Coal. It's been uneconomic for some time, but we have still got loads and loads of it - and high energy prices will make it economic again. Get some carbon scrubbers and pay a desperate third world country to take the scrubbed CO2 (Colorado after the dollar's fallen). Of course we should forget Kyoto, but we should have done that any way.

- Nuclear. Sigh. The most secure form of power and we're too stupid to see it. Cheap as well if you get rid of all the overblown safety measures when they close the things. And you've got enough plutonium to make a couple of bombs to nuke Belgium.

- Wind Power. Yeah right, do you think I'm a hippy or what? Too expensive and I'd rather have a nuclear reactor in my back garden.

Market intervention rarely works in quite the way you expect, and that goes for invading - or defending from hostile takeover - oil producers. If the oil price goes up then let the market work it's stuff. Alternative energy sources, conservation and higher priced oil sources will deal with this perfectly well.
Sunday, February 27, 2005
The Securocrats back Blair

Who knows what hold the security services hold over the Blair administration or vice versa? The nature of their relationship is opaque; the damage that it causes is clear. There is no need to recount the recent reportage that has suggested the politicians engineered the 'legal advice' they required in order to go to war, converting the position of attorney general into apparatchik. Whilst the incompetence of their approach is the hallmark of New Labour policy, the evidence suggests that they misled Parliament whilst ignoring the traditional role of the executive in conducting foreign policy without legislative participation.

The Independent on Sunday has reported that Blair may have decided to go to war in 2002 following a meeting with Bush. Whilst such a promise may have been made, the documentary evidence needed to substantiate this assertion is not the smoking gun that the IoS makes out. Seeking legal advice for possible actions is not the same as a memo stating that Britain would go to war against Iraq by XXXXX. The revelation indicates that the invasion of Iraq was a consideration. Quelle surprise!

A ruling by the Parliamentary Ombudsman, seen by the IoS, says the Government sought advice about the legality of a possible invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2002 as the result of "statements made in a particular press release".

Of greater concern is the executive's reaction to the leaks that have taken place so far. Special Branch have attempted to conduct interviews with the staff of Charles Kennedy, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, and Adam Price, the Plaid Cymru MP leading the campaign to impeach Blair. This is an indication of the gravity with which the government considers these leaks:

Special Branch detectives interviewed senior staff in the office of Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, and Adam Price, the Welsh nationalist MP, in an investigation ordered by the Cabinet Office into the leaking of highly confidential Foreign Office papers on the war in Iraq.

Mr Price, who has led efforts to impeach the Prime Minister for allegedly lying to Parliament over the war, said he had refused to answer the police questions, believing the approach raised significant constitutional issues about Parliament's independence.

The Plaid Cymru MP said he was told by the police the leak had caused "seething anger at the highest levels".

Adam Price has the honour of being the only opposition politician targeted by the Labour Party, who are singling out his constituency instead of defending a marginal. For once, all parties should stand behind one man standing up to Blairocracy.

Mr Price said, "I see this as a tribute to Plaid Cymru's hard work. We have sought at every turn to expose the lies of Tony Blair. He and the rest of the New Labour government are complicit in a crime that has cost the lives of 100,000 people. We have campaigned to impeach the Prime Minister and will continue to do so.

"If we allow Tony Blair's actions to go unchallenged, a precedent will have been set that the Prime Minister can deceive the public and Parliament and get away with it. We cannot allow this to happen. Who knows what country they will choose to invade next and who could believe any justification put forward by either leader for any such invasion?"
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Is that Poodle becoming a Dobermann?

Just as certain parts of the Left can only view the role of Britain as an airstrip and nothing more, there is increasing evidence that the assertiveness of Germany in foreign policy over recent months may have been unrecognised due to the mystique wrapped around France's key role and Schroeder's media-prescribed role as Chirac's bag handler. This perception may be quietly changing if we do not take Schroeder's call for other channels of transatlantic communication apart from NATO. Critics immediately viewed this as support for the Paris-Berlin axis where foreign policy flows through the European Union.

An alternative viewpoint, corroborated by Germany's campaign for a seat on the UN Security Council (Not for the European Union), is that Schroeder was calling for Germany to take a greater role in transatlantic diplomacy, a role drowned out by the emnity of France and the loyalty of Britain. This is a role of greater independence, distanced from the United States and channelled through the European Union though the potential of bilateral ties and independent action lie within its scope:

In his Feb. 12 speech (delivered by German Defense Minister Peter Struck because the chancellor was ill), Schroeder said NATO was "no longer the primary venue where trans-Atlantic partners consult and coordinate strategic ideas. The same applies to the dialogue between the European Union and the United States, which in their present form do not correspond to the increasing weight of the (European) Union nor to the new demands of trans-Atlantic cooperation."

Germany's own perception of its role in international affairs had changed too, he went on: "Germany today considers itself as co-responsible within the European framework for stability and international order."

In the transcript of the interview, the same tone of minimal substance, maximum verbiage that has guided Bush throughout his visit to Europe remained very clear. No doubt the feelgood course of action on technology and climate change proved more productive than recriminations over Kyoto. (This may be a pointer to a post-Kyoto treaty based upon technological transfer and incentives for poorer countries to shift away from fossil fools as the emissions model has failed).

The only firming up on the diplomatic front was Germany's agreement that Iran should not have nuclear weapons. Even this was not accompanied by a promise to refer the case to the Security Council. All in all, a charm school without content.

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