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.

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