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.
Going Forward

The breakfast meeting that Prescient Bush held with Mr Blair reads as if it were a holdover from the past, a final declaration of what had been achieved rather than looking forward to new endeavours. Whatever the 'special relationship' portends, if anything, it is possible that Britain's use as an active ally for the United States is ended under Bush's Second Presidency. As a reward for past endeavours and as a pragmatic response to the death of Arafat, Bush has provided some support for Blair's Middle Eastern Conference. Perhaps Blair also wished to downplay their friendship in the phoney war before the electoral declaration.

Moreover, behind the scenes, Blair was left in no doubt about the concerns of the United States if the EU embargo on China were lifted. Perhaps the words "Joint Strike Fighter" were mentioned, since our dependence on the United States for military equipment, leaves us extremely vulnerable if such links came rapidly to an end. To which, Europe is no substitute:

The prospect of a public dispute with Mr Bush is deeply embarrassing for Mr Blair. While No10 is happy to play up divisions over matters like climate change to emphasise the Prime Minister’s independence, a split over a crucial security issue is far from welcome.

Other than brief remarks congratulating Mr Bush on his commitment to Middle East peace, Mr Blair made no public comments in Brussels yesterday. That left the Prime Minister’s spokesman to confirm that Mr Bush had registered his displeasure over China. He added: "We are working to address their concerns."
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
The Common Atlantic Home

President Bush shared a short press conference with Chirac following their dinner. With so little to share in policy terms apart from Syria, they had to fall back upon platitudes and values, especially Chirac:

Now, President Bush and I have always shared very -- always had very warm relations, which, in fact, translate, to a certain extent, of relations -- of warm relations that have always been characterized -- the links between our countries and the relations, be they bilateral or transatlantic ones, which have always been excellent between France and the United States.
Indeed, we have struggled for some two centuries, 200 years now, to uphold and keep alive these values which we share, and which our people share and hold very dear to their hearts, and which we are very attached to.

The consensus in the press was that unity of tone did not disguise the differences in substance, as this quote [translated by Expatica] from Liberation demonstrates.

"Once again France and America share the same goal of getting Iran and Syria to stop destabilising the region ... but to get there Bush still seems willing to contemplate the big military stick rather than the diplomatic carrot that France and its diplomatic partners are offering," it said.

The only note of substance was a shared condemnation of the murder of Rafik Hariri and a call for an investigation into his death by the United Nations. However, Chirac was demoting NATO today, in order to show that substance remained.
Monday, February 21, 2005
Campaign for Democracy

President Bush explored the areas of mutual interest between the United States and the 'European dimension' of NATO. Without offering any concessions, Bush used the triumph of elections in Iraq to promote a paradigm of democratic reform in the Middle East, Europe's 'Near Abroad', where both continents joined in a campaign of values. The 'crusade for freedom' now trumped the 'war on terror', demonstrating the hallmark of Bush 2005 as the thirst for action against Al-Qaeda abated. In this, Bush remains the poster-child of neo-conservatism, if its objectives are now pursued in ways that the original pundits neither foresaw or supported.

How sincere was Bush? With lines like these, one is tempted to by a certain sceptical cough:

That's why we'll continue to advance the Doha Development Agenda, and bring global trade talks to a successful conclusion. We should all pursue fiscal policies in our nations -- sound fiscal policies of low taxes and fiscal restraint and reform that promote a stable world financial system and foster economic growth.

However, the major olive branch was offered on Palestine, where the death of Arafat is proving fortunate for both Blair as well as Bush. The latter provided some timely support for British interference by pushing its weight behind the donors' conference, that Blair had promoted with irrevelance for some time:

Next month in London, Prime Minister Blair will host a conference to help the Palestinian people build the democratic institutions of their state. President Abbas has the opportunity to put forward a strategy of reform, which can and will gain financial support from the international community -- including financial support. I hope he will seize the moment. I have asked Secretary Rice to attend the conference, and to convey America's strong support for the Palestinian people as they build a democratic state. And I appreciate the prominent role that Prime Minister Blair and other European leaders are playing in the cause of peace.

As noted elsewhere, Bush's strong support for Europe was also a clear indication of the defence identity that the United States prefers. There was fulsome praise of national allies acting through the structure of NATO; there was no support for an EU common security policy, nor fulsome praise for Brussels, beyond an acknowledgement of Solana's role, in tandem with national governments, during the Orange Revolution. This was a clear call that the United States works with national partners through NATO rather than a common European home.

As Martin Walker documented, the EU expended more energy during the infighting of the 'protocol wars' to host the esteemed President, than on the issues that he raised in his speech. As he addressed the assembled panjandrums tonight, Bush knew where power lay:

Bush and his advisers know this, but nonetheless the decision has been taken to put an end to the open rows. In the words of the old Sinhalese proverb, the Americans have recognized that you cannot pluck tail feathers from a turtle; the European Union is not going to become a serious politico-military player in the future but can be either a useful ally or a diplomatic nuisance. The Bush team has decided - in the face of considerable evidence - to treat the EU as an ally, while not expecting too much.

Above all, the White House has decided that considerable EU goodwill can be bought quite cheaply, simply getting Bush to repeat what every American president has intoned since 1948; that the United States supports European integration and unification, and that it would prefer to have Europe as a strong partner - the phrases that Bush will utter this week in Brussels. Such kind words cost nothing and make the protocol princelings of Brussels feel better, which is a sensible thing to do after all the broken crockery in European-American relations over the past three years.

Except that the US is beginning to get cold feel about integration.
Sunday, February 20, 2005
No Surprises

If we believe the Spanish government and the European Commission, this is a great day for Europe,as the Spanish people have voted 'Yes' to the new Constitution. Media reports may concentrate upon the 'low turnout' of 42% but the overwhelming majority of those who voted, gave a positive response. As the BBC succinctly put it:

A clear majority of Spaniards have voted in favour of the European Union constitution in a referendum.

With nine out of 10 votes counted, officials figures showed 77% of voters backed the charter.

Not entirely right: A clear majority of the Spaniards who voted... Approximately six out of ten Spaniards registered to vote stayed at home because they knew little about the Constitution or other unknown reasons. Tonight, the Commission crows as about three out of ten members of the Spanish electorate voted for ratification. If they can have a 'Yes' based upon apathy and low turnouts, they will accept such gifts.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who called Mr Zapatero to congratulate him, welcomed "the very clear 'yes' which Spain has given to a Europe which moves forward and which makes a difference, a Europe united in diversity".

The EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana said: "I am convinced that the results in Spain will have a positive impact in consultations that will take place in other EU member states in the coming months."

As the vote for the Constitution is not a contested issue in Spanish politics, this may prove a positive vote, although the treaty still has to be ratified by the legislature. In more divided countries such as Britain, supporters may opt for the lack of a threshold in the referendum bill and campaign for a low turnout favouring the 'Yes' vote. On present electoral patterns, that would be a very bad strategy, since this would only favour a positive vote in Britain, if they held a majority.
Si Senor, da nada

With the European Constitution, the E-unionists have stated that they aim to achieve a single voice for the European Union in NATO and a single embassy system across the globe. Whilst the latter would remove the useless bureaucrats of the FCO and may prove useful, the replacement is even fouller. How ironic that the FCO has managed to champion the very project that will abolish it. A small and pleasant irony.

Britain, along with other EU countries, will close all its 153 embassies around the world under the new EU constitution, Spain's prime minister has predicted.

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero revealed the radical move ahead of his country's referendum on the new EU constitution at the weekend.

Speaking about the federal ambitions, which will lead to a single European foreign service, he said: "We will undoubtedly see European embassies with a European foreign service." He said that approving the Constitution - Spain is the first country to hold a referendum - would lend credibility to a common European policy.

"We will have a single European voice within Nato." His comments will fuel fears that the Government will have to follow the European line even if it disagrees with Germany or France as it did over Iraq.

The Spanish are due to vote on the Constitution today and Zapatero has stated that a 33% turnout is "reasonable". The Constitution will need to be ratified by Parliament and voter apathy could strike at the legitimacy of any vote. The result is a foregone conclusion, but turnout will be watched in Europe, even if unreported by state agitprop media (BBC).
Get out of the way

Denis Boyles in the National Review has some advice for the European Union (Denis: hint: EU, not European):

1. Get a job
2. Clean up your mess
3. Don't take bribes
4. Get out of the way if you are unwilling to defend yourselves
5. Eco-hypocrisy (Kyoto +REACH = Deindustrialisation and even more unemployment, see 1. above)
6. Start a "No European Left Behind' Programme (Would prefer that they were all left behind myself)
7. Jacques, Gerhard, get a better campaign issue (why our economies are on the slide, not anti-Americanism)

A mixed bag, but we should take his advice on how to deal with the monster:

So there’s your seven-phrase speech, and good luck on that “fence-mending” mission of yours, SeƱor President. However, as a man who keeps a blind donkey in a pretty small pasture, I want to make a little suggestion: If you’re going to mend a fence, go for the barbed stuff, minimum two strand 12.5ga galvanized — which, as you know, is just enough to cut the bull.
Friday, February 18, 2005

Look for the links

"If America took on Europe\Russia\China\Iran then it could whupp their ass." This is probably not official Foreign Office policy, but it is probably the best approximation to the thinking behind our slavish loyalty towards the Yanks.

Now this also happens to be true, up to a point. If there was a mano-a-mano fight between America and anyone then the Yanks would win. But this does not mean that the world is therefore safe for global domination. The trick is not overwhelming them, the preponderance of force is a given (if wasting) commodity. What is most important is to keep them seperate and squabbling.

This is what the Yanks seem to be terrible at doing. Perhaps this is what every strong power can't do - look at us losing India - and it is declining powers such as Ottoman Turkey that specialise in dividing and ruling.

Some examples of this are with Europe. First they are being dovish on Iran's nuclear ambitions and then wanting to export arms to China.

In the next few years, at least the couple of decades before China sorts itself out it will be the anti-American alliances that will matter in geopolitics. The balance of power will, as it always has, reassert itself. You just need to look for the links.
Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Kirsty Hughes, writing in the International Herald Tribune, on the 8th February, predicted that a 'No' vote on the Constitution would be a catastrophe for Britain. Without merging our foreign policy with the European Union and pooling our sovereignty, Britain would lose influence and power. That is right: If Britain doesn't agree to abide by policies that could override its interests through qualified majority voting, then the country will lose its ability to defend those interests. Something doesn't sit right here.

In this article, Hughes states that the European Union will view Britain as an obstacle if it is the only country that does not ratify the Constitution. There will be a foreign policy crisis although the exit of Britain is mooted although it is only one of a number of possibilities. Hughes is preparing the ground for the push that Europhiles will strive for during the referendum campaign of entry versus exit.

Still, her conclusion is unwarranted and without evidence, based on the questionable assumption that Britain derives all of its power from membership of the European Union.

This will mark the start of a slow but profoundly important process that could, by the end of 2006, see Britain close to leaving the EU. This would be an extraordinary turning point in British foreign policy and a major weakening of its international influence. ...

In an extraordinary historical shift, Britain would retreat to the global sidelines, confused, nationalistic and rather powerless. This is the challenge for the "yes" side. It needs to be taken up immediately: The consequences of continued passivity are immense.

One could make the case for membership of the European Union diluting British influence. It is just as plausible a story.
Friday, February 11, 2005

Positive Force This

I know we seem to be fixated with Condeleza Rice these days (well she is better looking than Colin Powell) but she says some revealing things. For instance that the United States is still gung ho for the extinction of Britain:

As Europe unifies further and has a common foreign policy - I
understand what is going to happen with the constitution and that there will
be unification, in effect, under a foreign minister - I think that also will
be a very good development.

This should not be a surprise. America has seen a United Europe as a very good thing. Europe is after all a potential ally whenever a threat from the east emerges, be it Russian, Islamic or Chinese. And a British presence is crucial for keeping the thing tied into the Atlantic. This was the view of the Americans as early as the late forties when they encouraged the Iron and Steel Community, and the British policy elite has gradually fallen into this since we surrendered an independent foreign policy after Suez. Tony Blair is not, to the Yanks at least, a character tortured by his desire to sell his country to the Yanks and the Europeans - this is perfectly consistent.

Of course just because something is in America's interests, that does not mean that it is in ours. This is not something that most of the British right has yet realised.
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
The Soft Bulletin

Condoleeza Rice, in Mary Archer mode, gave a lecture at the Institute d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, restating the historical ties between France and the United States, recast in the 'drive for liberty' that characterises foreign policy under Bush. Whilst the predictable references to shared friendship drop from the lips of every American diplomat who stops in Paris, Rice was careful to avoid issues that emphasised the divide between the two countries. The two biggest issues were Iran and the EU embargo upon China.

There was no concrete policy statements within the speech, marking the public omissions where Rice could draw upon to show affirmation of French friendship. Instead, Rice noted the useful co-operation of sovereign states (did she sanction Diplomad?) as a success story, a narrative missing from EU soft power.

There are also other important fora. Sometimes we can do things through NATO. Sometimes we can do things through the OSCE. And increasingly, it is a good thing when ad hoc coalitions of countries get together on a regional basis because they have some particular interest. I'll give you three quick examples.

One is, the United States and Russia, China, South Korea, Japan are engaged with North Korea in the six-party talks, because those are the regional neighbors who most want to be sure that there is not a nuclear-armed Korean Peninsula.

That's an example of an ad hoc arrangement for a regional problem. A problem, by the way, that could have very big international implications, but where the neighborhood is trying to manage it.

A second example is that at the very beginning of the tsunami -- when the tsunami hit, the United States, Japan, India and Australia, which had navies in the area, formed a core group so that we could use that naval -- those naval assets to make sure that, at the very beginning, aid was getting to the affected areas of the tsunami.

And a third example is a very large coalition, ad hoc group, called the Proliferation Security Initiative, to which France belongs, which is an effort to interdict dangerous cargos related to weapons of mass destruction, using our international laws, using our national laws.

So we have great respect for and want to use the United Nations and the Security Council. But there are times when other mechanisms are equally important. I think we will need to be judged by how effective we are, not just by the forms that we use.

The reader could interpret the whole speech as a reiteration of Bush's foreign policy, directed at France and softened for the audience. This underestimates the message that Rice wished to give to her listeners, where the carrot of co-operation was proffered and the stick was silent.

However, the omission of those actions which the Bush administration consider contrary to US interests was telling. Rice stated that the United States wished to consider the European Union as a partner that would align itself towards establishing democracies in the Middle East and build up its military potential. Rice did not say what the alternative was, but that which is silent in public, must be deafening in private.
Monday, February 07, 2005

Javier Solana, High Foreign Hottentot, of the Planners' Paradise, has warned, on the state owned television channel of one of the subsidiary departments, that a military strike by Israel would "complicate" the diplomatic situation. Complicate for whom? Not for Israel, who, if successful, would remove a strategic threat. Not for some observers of national sovereignty who view any such defensive manoevre as, at best, a delaying tactic before the inevitable adoption of nuclear weapons by one or more Middle Eastern states.

Why does Solana say this nonsense? To preserve the fiction that diplomacy and soft power work as opposed to cynical realpolitik or the military strength of a Jacksonian foreign policy. Both of the latter options require big sticks to allow the snakes to hiss without releasing any venom. (In this regard, Iran has done enough in support of terrorism for Israel to turn around and drop whatever it wants in retaliation.)

The Iranians say that they will not negotiate the end of their nuclear programme and the EU's Big Three can either acquiesce with a figleaf or spin this failure as a transition to the rather tarnished UN. One doesn't feel very sorry for France and Germany, circumventing the UN Security Council with their unilateral diplomatic ventures, whaen they are running on empty. The world is noticing their decline.
Bowman's Holiday

The Bowman radio system has finally been introduced into active service after delays and additional funding. In this, it has followed the usual path of procurement projects applied by the MOD. New Labour was quick to 'reform' the process with 'smart procurement' although the results of the shining heat of New Labour spin appear worse than the old boy public service incompetence of their predecessors.

Last night a senior Army source said: "This is basically the new showpiece bit of kit for the British Army - and it is a disaster. It is eight years late in being introduced, has cost the British taxpayer millions in extra funding and now, if not used properly, presents a safety hazard to tens of thousands of British soldiers.

"Not being able to use the radios at full power will limit their range and standing two metres away while a system is switched on is just not practicable in a war situation.

"Last year our forces in Iraq were being hit by ambushes regularly in Al Amarah and Basra. They should not have to worry about whether their radios are giving them radiation poisoning."

Now our boys are glow-in-the-dark targets.

Better Safe Than Sorry? 07/02/05

Things are hotting up on the global warming front. The Daily Telegraph's computer-modelling experiment suggests greenhouse gases could raise temperatures by 10 degrees C or more. This could be good or it could be disastrous - we don't know.

But what we do know is that it's better to be safe than sorry.

We also know who the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases is. Our old pal the good ol' U.S. of A. And we know that our old pal proposes to do precisely sweet f.a. about it.

So what do we do? Well, we could try diplomacy, but let's face it, diplomacy ain't working - just remember Kyoto and all that. It reminds me of, what was that place?, terrible threat to humanity it was, name escapes me, anyway - there were all these bleeding-hearts bleating "give diplomacy more time", blithely ignoring the fact that giving more time to somebody who's working for your destruction only gives *you* less time. Quite rightly, the U.S.A. ignored them & went for pre-emptive action, with - as is now universally acknowledged - the best possible results for herself, the target country, and the rest of the world.

I say we should follow her noble precedent. No more shilly-shallying. It's time for The Rest of the World to take decisive action against the threat now confronting us. Obviously we can expect a certain amount of collateral damage, but that'll be a small price to pay for saving the world, as even the surviving Americans will joyfully agree. And if it turns out global warming was a lot of bull, well, we'll give her a decent electoral system and she'll still be grateful.

She loves freedom, after all.
Sunday, February 06, 2005
Basra Watch

The Iraqi election has proved, beyond doubt, that the Iraqis will vote on religious and ethnic lines, proving that there are no institutions that span these fissures. The outline of the Iraqi regime is becoming clear: Kurdistan will operate as an autonomous fief on the clear understanding that the Shi'as obtain majority rule. The Arab Sunnis have lost ground with their strategy of violence. They will gradually lose their support as the Ba'athists and the Islamicists are whittled away in a war of attrition.

That said, British soldiers face a continued campaign by the terrorists. Basra was targeted by bombs as the Sunnis direct their anger at the new centre of Shi'a authority. The Holy Cities may contain the ayatollahs who have co-operated with the coalition forces but Basra has the population, the position and the potential to act as Iraq's entrepot. That makes teh city a prime target for economic disruption:

A fourth roadside bomb in four days rocked Basra today, injuring one civilian. It was the third recent attack on Iraqi soldiers, following the death of four ordnance experts yesterday.

Whilst the Iraqi political landscape is now structured by the nascent modus vivendi between Kurd and Shi'a, the painful birth pangs of the new democracy will be accompanied by the submission of the Sunni, who played a bad hand worse.
Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Iran away

Just a quick post to point readers to the War Nerd's latest column on Iran.

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