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.