Thursday, January 30, 2003
Wouldn't that be something? - 30th January 2003, 23.38

Iain Murray, over at the sharp end of England's Sword has already welcomed the possibilities that Christopher Caudwell entertains. More jaundiced readers stay their criticisms and wonder (hope) if there is any substance to this:

And with an economy in far better shape than that of the United States, no Continental-style structural unemployment, and a culture that operates in the world’s global language, Britain could find itself (along with the United States and China) one of the world’s three Great Powers, the first European country to reclaim such a status.

(I couldn't bring myself to quote the Blair bits).
New Labour, New Europe - 30th January 2003, 23.06

It is too early to consider how damaging the current division in Europe has proved to the integrationist hopes of many countries for a common foreign and security policy. The forceful letter which confirmed support from European states for a 'coalition of the willing' demonstrated that only five EU countries (Portugal, Spain, Italy, United Kingdom and Denmark) out of fifteen would follow Bush's lead. From the perspective of the European Union, these five countries broke rank and issued a minority report. The letter also confirmed, an an alarming development to France and Germany, that US influence looms larger in east central Europe than their combined strength and commands more loyalty amongst the more powerful candidates picked for enlargement.

Still in Germany, the multilateralist perspective commands media attention. Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute misreads the situation and still argues from a time when the United Nations mattered. He states that France and Germany could make a stand in the Security Council if they found enough states to support them. "It will be difficult to stop Washington's rush to war. United foreign opposition offers the only hope of doing so." The United States would have, will, brush them aside like chaff.

Tonight, the European Union is in disarray as its heralded common foreign policy self-destructs. The Dutch Prime Minister, Jan-Peter Balkenende refused to sign the letter, preferring European solidarity. Costas Simitas, the Greek Prime Minister and holder of the European Presidency, the European Commission, France, Germany and most other states, were not informed of the proposed missive. The European Parliament has voted 287-209, in an attempt to confirm its lack of influence over foreign policy, that military action in Iraq should not go ahead. Reactions from the Germans have been most quoted by Reuters:

The chairman of the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee, German Christian Democrat Elmar Brok, said any chance of Europe's voice being heard had been undone. "This way the Americans will lead and some Europeans will follow. The race of the vassals has begun," he said. "The result of this policy will be an irreversible damage to Germany's position in the community of common values of the West," said Michael Glos, parliamentary leader of the opposition Christian Social Union.

We will see many articles on Old Europe vs. New Europe but the latter term was coined by Blair, unsurprisingly, in November 2002 and, used yet again, on the 16th December last year. There is a rhetorical linkage here but does this signify Blair's objectives for the European Union - pragmatic and flexible, integrated in certain areas, Atlanticist in tone, squaring the circle?
Wednesday, January 29, 2003
Blair's Appeasement - 29th January 2003, 23.15

Blair knows that he has to maintain good relations with the French if he wishes to maintain the illusion that he is at the "heart of Europe". That is why, despite the French insistence on acting in a contrarian fashion, Blair will insist on making concessions.

Mr Blair is planning to strike deals with the French on cooperation over terrorism designed to rival the Anglo-French deal on defence struck at St Malo in 1998. He is also looking at an agreement for EU forces to take over the peacekeeping role in Macedonia once Nato quits at the end of the year. Plans are also being discussed for greater cooperation on military hardware, including making future aircraft carriers compatible for French and British forces.

It is a clumsy attempt to square a circle and avoid the choice of Europe or America in the short term.

Winstone's Czech Mate

Interesting article in the Spectator (somewhat old) on Churchill's financial dealings:

Consider those sleaze allegations that would have dogged Churchill if he had been forced to admit the truth about his financial affairs in his Register of Members’ Interests form (which in fact only came into operation in 1975, ten years after his death). He would have had to admit that in March 1938, a week before his £18,000 debts to his stockbrokers Vickers da Costa were about to force him to sell his country house, Chartwell, for £20,000, an Anglo-South African businessman called Sir Henry Strakosch, the chairman of Union Corporation Ltd, had taken on his debts and guaranteed all his investments against further losses for the next three years.

The Moravian-born Strakosch’s cheque to Vickers of £18,162/1/10 — about £450,000 in today’s money — would have taken some explaining to the Committee on Standards and Privileges, along with his letter (quoted in Churchill’s official biography by Sir Martin Gilbert) saying, ‘My dear Winston, As agreed between us I shall carry this position for three years, you giving me full discretion to sell or vary the holdings at any time, but on the understanding that you incur no further liability.’ On receipt of the letter, Churchill promptly took Chartwell off the market, even though the Times had already announced it was up for sale.

Although, today, only ex-historians of the extremist kind, like David Irving, claim that because Strakosch was Jewish, Churchill was the ‘hired help’ of the anti-Nazi lobby, one can only guess what today’s press would make of the Strakosch deal. Imagine their reaction if it were discovered that Tony Blair was having his stock-market losses ‘carried’ in such a way by such a person.

Being Jewish sounds like a dead end, but the fact that Strakosch was Czech does not.

Historical note: the Munich summit started in March 1938 and was signed on 29 September 1939.

The most special of relationships

Geoffrey Wheatcroft writes a decent article on the "Special Relationship" saying that while the British foreign policy elite see the relationship in terms of mutual interest (dare one say "Anglosphere") in reality the American foreign policy elite see us as a useful middling ally, and nothing more. I think he overstates the case - there have been Anglophiles in the State Department - but in essence it is sound. Who seriously thinks that the future of Britain is more important to the State Department or the White House than the future of Japan, Israel or Saudi Arabia. Here's the last two paragraphs:

Washington conspicuously did not support us in the years when we tried to defeat the IRA. Blair's devoted loyalty the autumn before last was shortly rewarded by a US tariff designed to destroy what's left of the British steel industry. And if the prime minister really enjoyed the influence he claims, then Washington would have backed his pet scheme for an Israeli-Palestinian peace conference, at least to the extent of telling Sharon to let the Palestinians come to London. Nothing of the kind happened.

The sad truth is that Tony Blair is the last victim of an illusion which has long bedevilled British policy, the myth of the "special relationship". Actually, the chief characteristic of this relationship was that only one side knew it existed - and relationships don't come more special than that.
Tuesday, January 28, 2003
France and Britain are to blame - 28th January 2003, 21.06

Here is a column from Olli Kivinen in Helsingen Sanomat that takes a radically different view of the current developments in the European Convention. Instead of viewing the Franco-German motor as a renewed vehicle for integration, he argues that Britain and France remain distinctive and similar powers in their approach to and demands from the European Union. he points out the contradictions of France and britain supoorting a strong European President or a common security policy when their own actions are unilateral and designed to undermine any community approach. Kivinen's answer lies in history and motivation:

France is concerned about the growth of German influence, resulting from the size of the country's economy and the enlargement of the EU. Britain, for its part, is hopelessly trying to hang on to the core of the EU, which is very difficult, because public opinion will not let the country join the common currency.

France and Britain are in different positions from the other EU countries. As victors of the Second World War they are members of the UN Security Council. Both have nuclear weapons, and they are also connected by a common past; both used to be large imperialist powers, who would at times fight over control of Europe, Africa, and even the whole world. It also left them with a willingness to act far away from home and to withstand defeat in any number of corners of the world.

Their magnificent pasts left both countries with the souls of a great power - something which is difficult to shake off. Both are exceptionally assured of the unique superiority of their respective societies and cultures, which creates in their national memories the historical obligation to be leaders of the EU: naturally each of them separately - certainly not both together. The will is there, but after the Cold War, the taxpayers of neither country have much enthusiasm to finance large standing armies.
The great-power soul also weighed heavily in the decision to enlarge the EU. Both countries see the European Union as a way to hold on to the remnants of their great power status. Politics is carried out on a dual level: working together when it suits them, or acting unilaterally whenever it suits them better.
In other words, the two countries engage in multi-centred activity within the EU when it is in their own interests. The other side of the coin is a willingness to act alone, with no regard for the partners, whenever self-interest requires. For instance, the common foreign and security policy of the EU is a good thing in certain situations in which it has instrumental value, but its structures must not be binding - after all, that might commit a country to sustained cooperation with other member states and EU bodies, which in turn would limit that country's freedom of action.

The downside is that increased integration lessens the freedom of action that each power enjoys and the current military weakness of the EU indicates that it cannot live up to the pretentions of these great powers. (Should we call second tier powers great powers now as opposed to the superpower?)
Linkages - 28th January 2003, 20.55

Behind the scenes, the links between the British and the Israelis may be closer than the recent political spat indicates. The IDF was taking guidance from the British Army on their experiences in Ulster. From UPI hears...

First it was the Israelis studying British military handling of the troubles in Ireland, now it's U.S. Army officers learning from the Israelis. The Americans want to get a taste of how to conduct urban street fighting in case a section of the Iraqi civilian population doesn't put out the welcome mat. A couple of months ago, British army specialists held seminars for a group of senior Israeli officers, including Israel's new chief of staff Gen. Moshe Yaalon, mainly on Britain's Northern Ireland experience. Some U.S. officers were present for those discussions. Since then, others have toured the "Ziv Line," pride and joy of Brig. Yisrael Ziv, commander of troops in the Gaza Strip. This sequence of imposing checkpoints, strongholds and outposts chops this hostile, explosive area into manageable, bite-size morsels. U.S. officers are not the only ones who are impressed: Ziv is being promoted to the General Staff as commander of operations.

Given Israel's importance in any forthcoming war, it is not surprising if visible arguments hide closer (though probably not warmer) co-operation between the security and intelligence forces of Israel and the United Kingdom.

Benefits of Iraq

So, we're sending troops to Iraq and cutting them, prematurely, from Ulster. Of course our commitment to irrelevant foreign adventures is not affecting our national security. Of course

Two Fronts

According to the BBC fighting has erupted in Afghanistan:

American and coalition forces are battling Afghan rebels in the south of the country, close to the border with Pakistan.

Of course war with Iraq will help ease the pressure, by, I'm not sure but I do know that Jack Straw will come up with an ingeneous solution on this. Mark my words, the Afghans don't stand a chance in the long run. Just ask the Russkies.
Monday, January 27, 2003
Defence Merger - 27th January 2003, 23.14

British Aerospace denied rumours that it would merge with Boeing in the short term. However, the roles of the British defence industry and the British Army as semi-integrated parts of the American military complex suggest that such a union will occur in the not too distant future.

Is there an independent British defence industry any longer? No, but Britain does gain access to better military technology than its European rivals. Howver, this leaves us vulnerable to developments in US policy.
Sunday, January 26, 2003
1,192 Possible Terrorists to be caught - 26th January 2003, 21.59

This is the number of British citizens that intelligent sources have identified as trainee terrorists in camps run by Al Qaeda. All of these individuals need to be arrested under the Terrorism Act and have their status reviewed to ensure that they do not pose a threat to national security.

This also pins down the lie that only the poor and the desperate will take up an extreme religious ideology. Blair has tried to take a popular stand on asylum by promising a fundamental look at Britain's commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights if his asylum policy fails. Whilst he starts looking at that tomorrow, IDS denounced the asylum system as an entrypoint for terrorists and was attacked by Simon Hughes of the Lib Dems, who stated that only Europe could provide an answer on the issue. Now we know who not to vote for.
Start, Act, Ignore (the Independent) - 26th January 2003, 17.51

The socialist Independent has taken up sloganising with a vengeance with today's op-ed and headline, "Stop, Think, Listen". A pity that the Tories expressing opposition to the war didn't take this advice, instead of supplying some feeble soundbites.

Patrick Mercer and Peter Ainsworth are honourable exceptions in that they consider Britain's national interest to be a matter of concern here.
Back of the Net - 26th January 2003, 17.34

A ha! Steven Chapman scores in one commenting on Nick Clegg....

Actually I think my view that Britain needs to choose between the US and Europe needs revising. There is a third choice: Britain can choose Britain. Britain can choose to freely develop its relations with the US, Europe and the rest of the world - and especially the Commonwealth, some of whose nations (I'm thinking specifically of New Zealand and Australia, but there are others) feel we have turned our backs on them - as we see fit, to our own advantage. Pro-Europeans constantly whine about the decline of the nation-state and our alleged inability to make our way in the world without Europe - but I say we are Théoden and they are all Wormtongues.
Exit Strategy - 26th January 2003, 15.54

Sometimes, one comes across a new site like and all one can ask is "Why bother?" examining its aims. They call themselves independent, neutral and openminded - in their support for a campaign of social justice and resisting the supposed onslaught of globalisation. A standard transnationalist website, masquerading under a banner of impartiality, and giving some indication as to why the BBC now interprets its charter as an authority to report stories in opposition to the perceived ideological bias of the capitalist press.

On this website, Paul Rogers, Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University and opendemocracy's International Security Editor, constructs a scenario where the United Kingdom government could withdraw from a military commitment to 'regime change' in Iraq without damaging its international standing. Rogers presents a 'worst-case scenario', including the deaths of thousands of civilians, the use of weapons of mass destruction, the environmental damage caused by an inevitable destruction of artesian oil wells around Basra and the expansion of 'second' fronts in Israel and Saudi Arabia. How the Iraqi army, reduced to skeletal structures since 1991 will achieve this, is not explained.

Rogers also states that the United Kingdom government should take account of community relations here in regard to its foreign policy, making a dubious connection between one BNP election and a supposed rise in anti-Islamic feeling amongst the British working class. Inferred alongside this conflict are possible race riots involving Muslim communities from Bangladesh and Pakistan. One could conclude from this that Rogers supports any foreign policy action or stance that might antagonise minority communities in the United Kingdom. Presumably, we should have just handed Ulster back to the Republic of Ireland but, of course, Protestants may have started rioting in Glasgow.

The war may also disable the government's current public spending expansion because of the expenditure required. This weak argument merely displays the political bias of the author and can be dismissed since foreign policy decisions should always be undertaken without being dominated by the domestic needs of the particular party in power at that time. Rogers only cites this argument because he supports the domestic policy. If a Tory government went to war, he would no doubt argue that the expenditure should be diverted to the welfare state.

The process by which a British exit strategy from military commitment could take place is quoted below:

In the event that Washington proceeds towards regime termination in early February by military means, Britain could choose to intervene with support for an EU initiative to bring together high-level Iraqi, US, EU, Russian and regional officials (at cabinet rank) to investigate alternatives including internal Iraqi leadership exile and the establishment of a UN-facilitated process of regime change.

Rogers argues that such an action could be undertaken "That would no doubt precipitate a crisis in Anglo–American relations – but, though grave, it might still be on a far smaller scale than the Euro–American crisis developing alongside.". Thus are the ideological underpinnings of Roger's argument laid bare. The fate of the Iraqis under an "internal Iraqi leadership exile" is clear for all to see - a continuation of the Ba'athist regime with all of the accoutrements of power that cow the population. Where would Saddam go? A nice little holiday villa in Basra, perhaps. Whereas, Britain should detach itself from America and ensure that it is aligned with European foreign policy.

Is this in our national interest? Under Rogers' scenario, the US would probably go ahead anyway: establish bases in Iraq, control most of the oil supply in the Middle East which the EU relies upon and view the relationship with ourselves in a cold light detrimental to our concerns. As an added bonus, we would lose our sovereignty to Europe.

Our forces are now committed to this war and the damage that would be caused to our standing and credibility with the US through a unilateral withdrawal at this late stage of the game outweighs the lack of gains from the only possible alternative that Labour would adopt: closer ties with Europe. The only exit strategy that Britain should now be considering is the one that leads out of Europe.
Saturday, January 25, 2003
Zimwatch: An Idiot writes - 24th January 2003, 00.08

Whoever coined the neologism 'idiotarian' should desist from its usage because 'idiot' is a far finer and succinct word to describe people like Imran Khan. The former Pakistani captain has called for a cricketing boycott of England because of Great Britain's support for a campaign in Iraq. As a Pakistani Muslim, this is not an unexpected response.

However, he has the temerity to compare this with the situation in Zimbabwe.

If these are the questions that have preoccupied politicians, pundits and sports fans in England, though, the Zimbabwe boycott affair has posed a rather different one in the minds of many of us in this part of the world: how can it be that England is obsessing over the morality of playing cricket in Zimbabwe at precisely the same time that it - along with the United States - is leading the world to the brink of a grossly unjust and potentially catastrophic war against Iraq? Doesn't Mr Blair's acute sensitivity to the plight of the Zimbabwean people look just a little ironic next to his apparent readiness to vaporise thousands of Iraqis? A little rich, even?

But if and when this cynical war begins - and especially if it inflicts large numbers of Iraqi civilian casualties - other cricketing countries will have to ask themselves a tricky question: should they play in England, a country quite prepared to visit far more destruction on Iraq than Mr Mugabe has ever visited on his own land? Perhaps it is time to entertain the unthinkable: a cricket boycott of the home of cricket. Might that be one language Mr Blair would understand?

This is the passage where Khan becomes a babbling amoral fool, descending into the victimised mindset that even blames the rise of the fundamentalist religious parties in the North West Frontier Province on the US rather than, er, the Pakistani electorate. (They didn't vote for Imran, you see). If you were to compare Mugabe with anyone, it is with Saddam Hussein, since both are monstrous leaders who have inflicted horrific human rights abuses on their own populations. Khan manages to blame the US and belittle the plight of the Zimbabwean people in one article. Breathtaking.
Friday, January 24, 2003
The Heir of Gladstone and Thatcher - 24th January 2003, 23.45

Looking back at the relationship between Britain and America, the current marriage of war aims and diplomatic approaches referred by some to as the US/UK entente, is far closer than any Prime Minister has encouraged since Thatcher. The last Labour Prime Minister who had to balance the demands of his backbenchers with American requests was Harold Wilson; and his decision was to remain unengaged from the Vietnam conflict. It is only a decade ago that US/British relations were nearly ruptured over the fall of Yugoslavia. Blair's support for America, enthused by his own 'muscular christianity' and crusader mentality, is conditioned by the traditional poles of British foreign policy that have enccompassed these ups and downs: the Atlantic Alliance and engaging with Europe.

However, in the last year, European powers have accelerated the process of integration through the European Convention and have emphasized their diplomatic goal, previously soft-spoken, of acting as a counterweight to the United States. This has come as a calculated response to the renewed international presence of the United States and has been accompanied in both continents by a renewed focus on difference amongst ideologues on both sides: in terms of values, economic models and diplomatic goals. The latest rupture is the Franco-German opposition to an Iraqi war; and their mortification at a snappy one fingered salute from Donald Rumsfeld by return of post.

In the post-Cold War world, the search for new models of engagement between states has resulted in a three different approaches: the transnationalist emphasis on international law, now damaged by the visibly self-serving actions of the Great Powers and championed by the Left; the technocratic European Union that presents itself as an improvement upon liberal democracy and has yet to discover that the relationship between legitimacy and power will bring about its downfall; and a realist approach that clothes itself in the rhetoric of international action for convenience. The flexible nature of international relations has increased the debate on how states should relate to each other, including the creation of such cultural constructs as the Anglosphere and renewed appreciation of soft power or the influence of diasporas.

Blair retains a risk-taking approach to foreign affairs, informed by his deep sense of Christian faith, although he is not above squalid deal making as his latest 'result' over Mugabe indicates. Thus, the combination of a moral approach to foreign policy, harking back to Gladstone, combined with a muscular Atlanticism reminiscent of Thatcher displaying Blair's attachment to the nostrums of the Cold War and his belief that he can maintain the balancing act of America and Europe.

It is too early to tell if the current divisions between America and Europe herald a wider division or if the current identification of the West (a word one hears less these days) will be retained and strengthened by future developments. In the short term, the US/UK campaign in Iraq has destroyed the possibility of a common foreign and security policy in the European Union. It has caused, through fear or opportunity, an attempt by both Germany and France to revive their core relationship as an attempt to dominate the forthcoming European constitution and has effectively sidelined Britain.

However Blair retains a view of British foreign policy that is rooted in the Cold War and his actions do not recognise the new roles that the US and European states have taken in the last few months. He displays a blindness concerning European integration that could prove deeply damaging to British independence.Will he have the strength of character and the political clarity to effect a 'diplomatic revolution' if he finds that the European Convention replaces an independent foreign policy with a united European view, based on qualified majority voting?


According to the Foreign Policy Center the government could win a referendum on the Euro. You see it's easy:

But it concluded that to do so they would have to retain all their current support and persuade half the "don't knows" and half those who are opposed but still open to persuasion.

Emboldening mine.

More joys of Europe

Five Moroccans found with explosives in Italy are being questioned over a possible plot to attack Britain. This according to the Telegraph.

So why would they be arrested in Rome. Well Italy is easier to get in than the UK, so that's that bit answered. And once you're in the EU it's a piece of cake to get into Britain. Trust Europe to mangle even the noblest ideas such as the free movement of people.

Time to leave.

Are the Frogs hopping mad?

The French seem to be doing a number of things that are humiliating the British Government. If it's not inviting Bob Mugabe for tea, its carving Britain out of EU reform or condemning Britain's stance on Iraq within the UN.

So what are they up to. With the possible exception of the EU (which France and New Labour agree on more than France agrees with Germany) none of this is material, but it is painful to Blair. So one has to ask why the French are behaving in this way. I can think of a few possible answers

It could just be an ignorance of what British reactions would be. Although France would like to be in the position that it didn't have to consider British reactions, she's not, so I think that this is unlikely.

Perhaps it's a response to Blair's rudeness to Chirac last year, which the French President seemed to take far more personally than a British politico would. Or maybe it's ethical dislike to the Iraqi adventure. France's ethical foreign policy is of course as well known as Tony Blair's modesty.

There is also the fact that France may be looking for large concessions from Germany, but as France seems to have been making all the concessions so far when dealing with Germany (except over the Common Agricultural Policy) it's hard to see what those concessions are. And it's even harder to see why France has invited in Comrade Bob, who the Germans do not like.

So why are the French seemingly so keen on humiliating Blair? I can't claim to know, but it is certainly an area to watch.

If you believe that

Shock, horror. Saddam has chemical weapons, say our boys in the media. While I am sure that this is true (the question is how this affects us) one can have fun with the sources.

Firstly they are that well known hard to forge evidence "hand-written Arabic-language notes" (considerate of the telegraph to tell us that Arabic is a language). So you would expect these hand-written notes to come from a pretty reputable organisation with a track record of disinterested neutrality, like the Iraqi National Coalition. Ho hum, the group that is bigger in the beltway than in Iraq. Got to believe them, then.

What is also interesting is that they are talking about the weapons being used if the West invades Iraq. In other words they would be for defensive purposes, which at least rings true - chemical weapons being almost useless for offensive purposes, even less for terrorism.
The Argument Changes Again. 24th January 2003.

As war looms closer, the search for a casus belli becomes more & more desperate. Blair, in front of some House of Commons committee or other, has changed the argument yet again. He has abandoned the ridiculous claim that there are "links" between the Iraqi government and al-Qa'eda, 2 organisations with opposing ideologies who detest one another, to claim instead that there are "people in Iraq" who are "linked" to al-Qa'eda. As a justification for war, this has the unfortunate consequence of justifying war on just about every country in the world, including, of course, Britain & the United States; indeed, Britain, with her pathological unwillingness to infringe the "human rights" of illegal immigrants, is probably a more legitimate target than Iraq, which at least can be trusted to deal with subversives robustly.

The real reason for the war is not the national interest, nor is it oil, nor even insanity. It is ideology. Blair & Bush fervently believe that if only every country in the world would import the U.S. Constitution, the world would be a wonderful place. For them, liberal democracy is the blueprint for ideal governance everywhere. For us, it is the outcome of particular historical conditions in Europe, & there is no reason to suppose it should flourish elsewhere. The encouraging thing is that, perhaps in implicit recognition of the its vacuity, Blair has long given up on the ideological case, & has for some time been trying to make his case on the national interest, hampered only by the fact that no national interest is involved. I wonder what the odious little twerp will try next.

Thursday, January 23, 2003
Is Anti-Americanism in Britain increasing in strength? - 23rd January 2003, 22.05

Carol Nahra, a journalist for the Globalist for fifteen years, certainly thinks so. Most of her journalese is the usual mishmash of remembered comments and amusing stereotypes but two themes do ring out. One is the increasing Americanisation of British culture that leads to a view of the 52 states that no longer conjure any reality:

The British, conversely, have spent the last several decades bombarded by U.S. culture and observing the increasing U.S. dominance of global politics. As a result, they seem to have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to make sense of their wayward child. All in all, their conclusions are not kind. To much of Britain, most Americans are overweight, gun-toting, bible-thumping trailer-living fat people.

Their political views often seem to be more anti-Bush than anti-American, but this is shaped by an unconscious sense of foreboding, an awareness of Britain's vulnerability and unease at where Blair might lead us.

“America is like a teenage adolescent on the world stage that we just have to wait to grow up,” my friend said. “But in the meantime, they might blow us away.” And in this argument, I feel his grievance is an entirely understandable one. It stems from the most basic of instincts: fear. For if the U.S. attacks and Saddam fights back, Brits know that it’s a lot easier for the missiles to reach London than New York. That’s the geography that is currently bothering the British

Why are they laughing at me? - 23rd January 2003, 21.53

Romano Prodi must be used to people laughing at him for his fatuous comments and presumptuous displays of self-importance. Now he is displacing some of his sensitive nature to the European Union itself.

The President of the Commission Romano Prodi said that the EU's lack of common direction in foreign policy is making it appear weak when compared to the US.

"Europe should have a role; saying that it should is exaggerated because we are not yet united to speak with one voice. But if Europe had a common goal, in these days it could have a very big influence in the world scene. But instead, we are being laughed at."

You are laughed at because you are weak and you have nothing to back up your claims of influence. Even if you unite, you will still be ignored because you have very little force to back up your statements. It's called power.

That word, opposition

I don't like using the word brilliant to describe any thing, but this article by my improvement on, Christopher Montgomery, get's close.

Perhaps this is because I agree with every word, and the apelation would not apply from more hawkish souls. However the idea that party advantage is to be obtained in opposing the Government is right on the mark.

There's more on this from me in a rather dated article. One thing that is especially dated is this sentiment:

There is a growing band of Conservative MPs who are asking intelligent questions on this silly adventure, but their number does not include Bernard Jenkin, Michael Ancram or Iain Duncan Smith.

Well how about this little contribution from Milord Ancram, formerly adamantine in his support for the Sumerian adventure:

"Do you realise how much work still needs to be done to persuade the British people that Britain's interests and the safety of British interests would be at risk unless action is taken to eliminate weapons of mass destruction?"

Well, there's a thing. Do these British people include Tory activists, donors and MPs?
Wednesday, January 22, 2003
Hitting the Buffers - 22nd January 2003, 23.21

The Franco-German proposal were received with as much enthusiasm in the Convention as a mosque in Ulster (although the source for the mosque is "independent"). However, Peter Hain did not fail to abase himself before the Continental Engine.

The time has come for each of us, on the basis of our distinct sensitivities, to move toward each other - as France and Germany have done," he told the 105 delegates. Peter Hain, the British government's representative, said he agreed "word for word" with de Villepin. But most delegates were deeply critical of the proposal.

Lamberto Dini, a former Italian foreign minister and one of Italy's delegates to the convention, said in an interview that the Franco-German proposal represented "a Gaullist vision of Europe made by states and not the construction of a federal Europe." "They have tarnished their own image and their own union by putting up a proposal that has been overwhelmingly rejected by the convention," Dini said. Of the idea of having two presidents Dini added: "Inevitably there would be a clash."

In stark contrast to France, Germany offered only a tepid defense of the proposal, which both countries announced in Paris last week.
Joschka Fischer, the German foreign minister, said he recognized concerns about two presidents "falling over each other." But Fischer, who is known to have been disappointed by the deal, did not say how this conflict might be addressed. He called the Franco-German proposal a "compromise solution." "Nothing is ideal in this world," he said.
The failure to reach a consensus means that Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the president of the convention, will write draft articles on power sharing in Brussels without any clear direction from the delegates.
The convention is scheduled to reconvene in February, but power sharing is not officially on the agenda.

Did France bow to German doubts over the war in Iraq as a quid pro quo for the compromise on the Convention and does this hammer another nail into the coffin of NATO? - divided today and unable to provide the US with the logistical support that they requested on the war in Iraq.

Now, the chattering classes talk of a choice for Britain between Europe and America. Blair has chosen the line of appeasement in the Convention to prevent any distraction to the forthcoming war.

Zim watch: Games people play

Electric Review has an article on the Zimbabwe cricket farce:

When ministers regulate even the games we play with each other, bureaucratic tyranny has reached down much too deep.



The game really must be up for the Euro. If even establishment liberals like Andreas Whittam Smith are against it then it's done for at least in a referendum. Wooly liberals are even more central to the dwindling pro-Euro constituency than Big Business.

Iraq, what do we do after we go in?

Alexander Cockburn has an article on what is to be done in Iraq after the invasion, and how a revealing memo is showing that there is little thought of how to get from Saddam-land to the democratic and moderate Arab bedrock state that Mark Steyn and others assure us we'll get a couple of days after invading the place. The paper that Cockburn refers to, "Planning for a Self-Inflicted Wound: US Policy to Shape a Post-Saddam Iraq" is here, although in PDF format.

Another center right perspective on Iraq is in the Spectator, and instead of being called a self inflicted wound its called a war for fools and cowards. Please, say what you mean and don't hold back.
Tuesday, January 21, 2003
Philip Gould is burying his head in his hands - 21st January 2003, 23.30

Blair is acting out of character. What is going on? When historians gain access to the records in 2033. they will have a tale to tell. Our Prime Minister, whose political actions are circumscribed by focus groups, is now acting in what he perceives as Britain's interest, even if the polls oppose him.

But while he predicated today that the British public would back a war against Iraq if there were no other means of disarming Saddam, that was not at all clear from new public opinion polls. An ICM poll for the Guardian newspaper showed that 81 percent would not support military action without a second resolution from the United Nations, and 47 percent of voters - 10 percent more than last October -- would not support a war at all. Only 30 percent would support such a conflict.

Labor voters oppose military action by 43 percent to 38 percent, and Conservative voters are also opposed, by 41 percent to 38 percent. Liberal Democrats, whose leader Charles Kennedy has emerged as a major anti-war critic, split 62 percent against and only 19 percent in favor of military action.

A second poll released Tuesday by the Mori Social Research Institute confirmed the trend, with 77 percent opposing military action without a second U.N. vote and 39 percent opposed even with U.N. support -- up 10 percent since September.

Perhaps more worryingly for Blair, almost two-thirds (62 percent) of those polled said they disapproved of the way he was handling the crisis -- compared to 47 percent in a similar Mori survey in October last year. A further 68 percent disapproved of Bush's performance on the issue, an increase of 9 percent over last September.

Blair is acting from conviction and, although one disagrees with his principles and his actions, one must respect his willingness to risk his political skin. Does he think that the increased influence derived from this battle outweighs the neglect of domestic issues and Europe? Perhaps our PM no longer sees the EU as the sole future for this country and plans to veto the constitution if it is not in our interests.

Who knows? A dangerous Blair. An unknown Blair. One who thinks for himself and ignores the public; we shall see the pros and cons.

Philosopher Kings

As judges are using international treaties as an excuse to impose their prejudices over the democratically elected legislature (in this case on assylum, but who knows which subject they could pick tomorrow), the Telegraph - calls for withdrawal from the ECHR. Sadly this probably won't work. Maybe rather than simply replacing stupid treaties, we should be aiming to replace arrogant judges.

If they want to honestly make the case that a largely self selecting elite should make the laws rather than elected representatives then by all means let them, although the current political climate may be against them. Just don't pretend that this is judicial independence - an ideal that can be asserted against executive cruelty but not perceived legislative stupidity.

Objectively Evil

I couldn't make this up:

The European Commission has diverted €50 million (£33 million) earmarked for the restructuring of the EU fishing industry to Marie Stopes International, an organisation dedicated to promoting abortion and contraception.
Monday, January 20, 2003
Let Slip... - 20th January 2003, 23.28

Geoff Hoon has authorised the expeditionary force of 26,000 men, with armour, to embark for the Gulf and a possible war. The latest ICM poll shows that support for the war has dropped to 30%.

If Blair wishes to commit Britain to war, then he has a lot of people to convince.

Update: The soldiers are ready; the equipment isn't. Glad to see the British Army has joined just-in-time manufacturing.
The Dual Executive is strengthened - 20th January 2003, 23.17

The European Parliament endorsed the Franco-German call for the President of the European Commission to be elected by themselves, in what appears to be a co-ordinated move to reinforce the original proposal. This was adopted as an official position and forwarded to the European Convention.

However, there is an argument that the current rapprochement is born of necessity rather than a genuine convergence of interests, leaving both countries supporting their push-me-pull-you until a better offer comes along.
Further Strength to the Referendum Camp - 20th January 2003, 20.56

French Foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, has endorsed the argument for a referendum on the European Constitution, even if he does promote it on a EU basis.

"It is important to have a foundational act that would see all the peoples of Europe reunite on the same day,"

he could not bring himself to say what the outcome would be for those countries that voted "No". Would a European wide referendum be binding or would national sovereignty ensure that the refuseniks would become 'associates'? Probably, given their attitude to referenda, individual countries would have to try again and again until they achieved the required vote.

For Rothermere and Liberty

It's been a while since a German ruler tried to use the courts to dictate what the British press said. 23rd April 1763 to be precise. And now they're at it again. The idea that foreign rulers in (albeit less) democratic countries should presume to dictate to the press is sinister. Let's face it, a four times married man who is proven to have lied about the economy to get re-elected is hardly likely to tell the truth about his wandering hands.
Sunday, January 19, 2003
Confused and Insecure - 19th January 2003, 21.20

The Observer published articles today: the first asking the opinion of designated 'prominent Britons'; the second was a more anecdotal survey of coffeehouses and pubs to air the latest views held by the public about any forthcoming war on Iraq. After reading these articles, one is convinced of the insecurity of the public and their unwillingness to decide whether a war is worthwhile.

The two firm camps on either side of the debate are well represented: the pro-war camp that argues Saddam Hussein will not be overthrown unless it is through military action. Salman Rushdie, surprisingly, provides an articulate voice of moral indignation here.

Salman Rushdie, Writer
There is a strong, even unanswerable case for a 'regime change' in Iraq that ought to unite Western public opinion and all those who care about the brutal oppression of an entire Muslim nation. Saddam Hussein and his ruthless gang of cronies from his home village of Tikrit are homicidal criminals, and their Iraq is a living hell. This obvious truth is no less true because we have been turning a blind eye to it - and 'we' includes, until recently, the government of the United States. But, as I listen to Iraqi voices describing the atrocities of the Saddam years, I am bound to say that if the US and the United Nations agree on a new Iraq resolution, then the rest of the world must stop sitting on its hands and join the Americans and British in ridding the world of this vile despot and his cohorts.

On the other hand, the anti-war camp views the war as a vendetta for Bush to wipe out the slur on his family's honour and as an opportunity for the United States to assert its power throughout the Middle East. Martin Jacques, former Marxist, consolidates this view.

Martin Jacques, Writer
The threat of war against Iraq has nothing to do with some new-found threat and everything to do with the new era of international relations, in which the US is determined to exercise its global omnipotence in the wake of 11 September. It wants to reorder the Middle East in the cause of oil and to impose its civilisational view of the world, its contempt for those of another colour and religion barely concealed. Contemptible as the Saddam regime is, deploying such overwhelming might against such a poor people is obscene. At least in the Cold War, each superpower acted as a constraint on the other. We are returning to something that looks more like high imperialism where the most powerful nation, the US, carves up the world for its own purposes.Who says history can't go backwards - by almost a century in this case? The fact that the United States and Britain are prepared to act without a UN mandate only serves to emphasise the point.

Most of the contributors involved with international relations from their academic work tended to take a more positive view of the role that the United States and the United Kingdom were playing out, since they argued that a lack of coercive effort would undermine the United Nations and prevent the strengthening or maintenance of a rules-based system in international relations.

Those who belong to the anti-war camp rarely articulate the argument of 'national interest' as a reason for staying out. Their voices are a curious and dated bag of prejudices masquerading as argument: oil, daddy's war, empire, hundreds of thousands of deaths, without ever engaging with the questions that should be asked concerning British involvement with the war. Their mindset gazes at the conflict and cannot focus on the specific issue of British participation except invoking the standard insult of Blairite poodlism.

The British public also stated similar arguments to the anti-war camp in their answers to the Observer reporters - those who were interested enough. Some were honestly recorded as 'don't know, don't care'. Now this article may be biased but polls show that the British public believes it is inevitable that our armed forces will go to war. Yet, public opinion remains confused and divided, spouting prejudice and unable to conclude the proper course of action from a reasoned and vigorous debate.

However, Blair can be criticised for not making more of an effort to persuade the British public that the possible war is a just war. The style of his government has been confirmed in its approach to this war: media manipulation and the publication of dossiers as 'events' to talk up their case: Hussein and Weapons of Mass Destruction, Hussein and Human Rights and so on. There has been no substantive debate in Parliament, apart from last September, and no attempt to counter the fears that the public currently holds. This neglect means that the government could enter a war without substantial public support: an act that convinces one of Blair's courage and faith in his own course of action but raises questions about his custodianship of Britain and how far he recognises that his own actions should reflect the views and willingness of the British electorate. The Prime Minister has not justified to the public that they should be prepared to pay the consquences of his decisions in this regard. For British soldiers, and if terrorists strike, British civilians will pay the 'blood price', which Blair easily invoked as another of his opportunistic soundbites.
Friday, January 17, 2003
Beyond the Pole - 17th January 2003, 23.18

Geoff Hoon, Minister of Defence, appeared before the House of Commons Select Committee for Defence on the 15th January 2003, with two senior civil servants from the MOD, in order to answer questions on the upgrading of the radar facilities at Fylingdales.

Hoon indicated that Britain faced a potential enemy that would be able to fire missiles across the polar region and threaten these islands: North Korea and the dreaded Taepo-dong II missile, which has a range of four thousand miles and could be deployed towards the end of this decade. A civil servant pointed out that, "It has that range that you are talking about and they could test one of those within weeks, although we believe that the capability to deploy them will take possibly to the end of the decade."

Here is a map from that indicates the threat of North Korea to Finland is slim with the Taepo-dong II; to us, it is nil, unless the system was sold to hostile countries located closer to us - a possibility further down the line. (There is a possibility that the missile could be tested by Iran).

It would not be the first time that the government has conjured up a potential threat in order to justify a decision that is based, in large part, on its wish to maintain the present close relationship with the US. The cynics on the Committee were far more eager to see a Memorandum of Understanding signed that would provide technology transfer from the US to GB with the requisite contracts for British companies.

This does not underestimate the threat of missile proliferation and as long as Britain maintains its activist stance in the 'war on terror', we should look to our security. A greater concern for me was Hoon's admission that if national missile defence for the United Kingdom was established, it would have to depend upon interceptors based in continental Europe. Given the attitude of European states to the relationship of the US and the UK, such a deployment could give a veto to states that, quite frankly, do not hold our interests at heart. It would be in Britain's interests for the US to concentrate on sea-based interceptors that we could buy and deploy in the Atlantic, the North Sea and the Med.

What's it good for?

A good bit of right wing NATO bashing from Srdja Trifkovic.

Wrestling with Islam

An interesting essay on the state of Islam, which contends that Islam is basically in hyper-sensitive mode because unlike Christianity it has not made peace with scientific theory or the enlightenment. An interesting point is made on the growth of Christianity amongst Islamic populations, roughly the opposite point from the one we are given by the media.

Just War

An interesting article on Just War by Murray Rothbard. The first half is a discussion on the Just War tradition, the second is an interesting (although hardly vital) diversion into discussing the American Revolution and Civil War.
Thursday, January 16, 2003
Not one of our better campaigns - 16th January 2003, 21.30

Britain's campaigns in the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean were mostly failures during the Great War. Salonika, Gallipoli and Iraq are not renowned for their glory, especially now that war appears to be looming. The Iraqi campaign of 1915 to 1918 was one of Britain's worst hours.

Instead, in a sobering lesson for imperial ambitions in the place now called Iraq, the British army campaign of 1915-16 was a colossal and costly blunder, a bloody, nightmarish tragedy of incompetence, slaughter and betrayal. Machine guns manned by entrenched enemy mowed down British troops by the thousands. For lack of medical care, many of the wounded and mangled were left in the sun for days. Thousands of British enlisted men, abandoned by their commanding general, starved or fell to disease.

The British Army lost over 50,000 men, more than the United States lost in Vietnam and most are buried in Iraq. There are few parallels between this campaign and the hi-tech war that will probably be waged in a few weeks or months. The only lesson that military strategists may take on board is that the Iraqi tribes proved immune to any foreign presence and tended to be bombed into submission.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission maintains 16 burial grounds in Iraq. After years of neglect, a process of renovation is taking place.

Maintenance became difficult during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s but continued until the onset of the Gulf War in 1990. Since 1996 Commission staff have made a number of visits to Iraq and some renovation work was possible before the resumption of bombing in 1998 brought further delays. These and the effects of two wars and years of sanctions have left all of the cemeteries in need of attention and although there has been considerable damage to the fabric of the cemeteries, there has been no threat to the land or disturbance of the burials.

Following persistent visits since 1998, full agreement to resume work was received last December after a meeting between the Commission's Director-General, Mr Richard Kellaway, and the Iraqi Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr Naji Sabri al Hadithi. The Commission plans a rolling maintenance programme in Iraq with the full agreement and co-operation of the Iraqi authorities.

Work is already underway at the largest of the Commission's cemeteries in Iraq, Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery, where a new perimeter fence has been installed and construction of a caretaker/watchman's quarters has begun. This will be followed by a major horticultural and structural renovation programme. More than 500 headstones have been shipped to Iraq with United Nations approval - just the first phase in a major headstone replacement programme.

At least some places are sacred.
The Battle for Europe is lost. The Battle for Britain has begun - 16th January 2003, 20.56

France and Germany finally revealed their compromise deal for the future governance of the EU and introduced the notion of the Dual Presidency to rank alongside that other famous constitutional cuckoo, the Dual Monarchy. Let's hope that, if it is implemented, it does not last the fifty-one years that Austria and Hungary managed to stay together.

The proposal was unveiled against a backdrop of increasing indifference from the nation-states to the desires and goals of the Commission as they struggle with economic stagnation. The International Herald Tribune examined the latest report of the Commission on member states and disclosed that most countries did not get good marks. For the first time since 1992, and in a black mark against the integration of Euroland, the report stated that cross-border investment and trade had declined as a proportion of the size of the total European economy. Productivity of European workers had also dropped to 83% of their American competitors. The Commission concluded that deficit spending could worsen Europe's forthcoming demographic crisis and might prevent the EU from becoming the most competitive economy in the world by 2010.

These figures show that the European economy is becoming less competitive and the EU does not have the capacity to foster structural reform. Even the promised integration from the creation of Euroland has faltered. The Commission responded to the recalcitrant nations by taking more cases to the European Court of Justice, including the priority 'infringement proceedings against five countries for failing to implement an EU directive ‘‘setting out the minimum standards for the protection of laying hens.’’'

The Franco-German proposal represented a poorly-organised compromise between the intergovernmental and the federal approaches. The former wanted a President based on the Council of Ministers; the latter, a President based on the European Commission. Their solution: we'll have both.

Chirac explained the compromise to journalists last night: "In this spirit (of cooperation), France accepted that the president of the commission be elected by the European Parliament, and Germany accepted that the European Council (Council of Ministers) is chaired by a president elected by the European Council with a qualified majority for a duration of 2 1/2 years or five years."

This proposal will be submitted to the Convention and will probably form the basis of any new institutional arrangements. This dual executive is an awkward compromise that will prevent any reform from touching the EU for years. As the Council of Ministers will be unwilling to elect a president that outshines them, the President of the Commission, now legitimately elected by the European Parliament will gain the position of primus inter pares by default.

Blair has lost the battle in the Convention even before it begun. Expect a rearguard action whilst he attempts to keep the redcoats active on tax, foreign policy and the army. Now is the time to call for a referendum.


The question "well what would you do?" has been the prerogative of the radical down the ages. "Let's not behead the king", "Well, what would you do?". "Let's not invite the Dutch in" W,WWYD?

Sometimes it is a genuine question that needs to be answered, but most of the time it is simply fatuous. The job of political conservatism is to tell the difference. To paraphrase Salisbury unless change is absolutely necesary it is absolutely necesary not to change.

Which is why I am dismayed with Michael Gove's recent article when he poses Tony Blair's question "Well, what would you do" as if it deserved an answer and was not simply a piece of empty rhetoric. Michael Gove is a conservative of the Portillo persuasion, and I suppose it is a problem of the Portillo faction in general, as it was a problem in the later days of St Margaret. The assumption that Conservatives should search for dragons to slay, rather than doubting the very existence of these dragons.

Which is why it is a blessed relief to see fellow Times columnist Simon Jenkins pour good Tory scorn on the case for war. He doesn't doubt the need for war for the same reasons as I would, but the scepticism is necesary.

After all even if Saddam gets those weapons of mass destruction how will he get them over here, even if he wanted to? Until there's an answer to those two questions we should file Iraq away with China, India, Pakistan, Iran, Israel, North Korea and any other far away power that I've forgotten with horrible weapons Without Means of Delivery.

Peace of what?

A new group seems to be organising called Tories for Peace. One must read what I've got to say in the light of the fact that I know sod all about them and what they stand for, all I have is their rather leftist sounding title.

It must be said that any debate on foreign policy in the Tory ranks is to be welcomed. At the moment the biggest insult seems to be that you are not sufficiently subservient towards American foreign policy goals.

On the other hand, can't they get another name? They sound like a bunch of bloody hippies. Peace is a nice thing, but it is never a permanent fact of life. You might as well call the group "Tories for living for ever". Barring the Second Coming peace will not be achieved, and a good case can be made by the supporters of the war that they are aiming for peace - it is the impossibility that one must aim for.

So "Tories for the National Interest" doesn't have the same ring to it, but surely a better title can be found. We have to recognise that war is inevitable in this fallen world, however that doesn't mean that we should get involved in other people's wars just becaues we may feel left out.

Sacked for Blogging

Iain Murray has been sacked for his web log. Job offers and donations to his tip jar would be appreciated.
Wednesday, January 15, 2003

'Britain's role is to unite the world'

It's some time since I talked about that Blair speech.

I'm not going to grace this with the line by line commentary that I sometimes do with one of Master Blair's more manic speeches, although this is certainly up there with his "forces of conservatism" or "reshaping the world" speeches.

Essentially the speech is saying that we should expend our blood and treasure on the middle east (as well as putting our citizens in danger) for the Middle East peace process, global poverty, the greenhouse effect and the United bloody Nations. It is even doubtful that this man grasps the difference between a physical enemy that can be defeated and a method of war, whether terrorism or weapons of mass destruction.

Jail for Jokes

It's really quite chilling how benign countries on Continental Europe are really quite hostile to free speech. This time the Krauts are taking a man to court for a tasteless joke about 9/11.

I am not making this up.
Tuesday, January 14, 2003
Securing Energy Supplies - 14th January 2003, 23.02

One of the more interesting reflections of Jack Straw in his speech to the diplomatic conference last week was a reiteration that one of Britain's vital interests remained the security of energy supplies. This was also reflected in the Guardian.

The US and British governments officially deny that oil is a factor in the looming war with Iraq, but some ministers and officials in Whitehall say privately that oil is more important in the calculation than weapons of mass destruction.

These ministers and officials have pointed to the instability of current oil sources - the Middle East, Caspian region and Algeria - and the need for secure alternatives. Iraq has the second biggest known oil reserves in the world.

Mr Straw told ambassadors that, following a review he ordered last year, the Foreign Office drew up a list of seven medium to long-term strategic priorities, including "to bolster the security of British and global energy supplies".

A history of the region since the Second World War shows that heavy-handed intervention in the Middle East has often resulted in a short-term interruption to the oil supply and has not undermined the permanent insecurity that overshadows every country around the Gulf. This government may be starting to raise the issue because it has realised that Bush promised the spoils to France, Russia, Turkey and its own companies for their support.

More realistic reasons for the possible war are welcome from this government, since it at least displays a practical assessment of British interests. However it is unclear how British security of energy supply has been obtained on a permanent basis, since US force remains the lynchpin upon which this security rests.

More public consultation

In an article on the famous five tests an intriguing couple of paragraphs appear:

John McFall, MP, chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on the Treasury, says he would welcome submissions from the public on the subject of 'the UK and the euro'. His committee is looking at European Economic and Monetary Union since January 1999, and examining the basis for the Chancellor's current assessment of the five economic tests 'with a view to informing the House on these matters'.

Now is your chance: if you wish to influence the course of history - for political or economic reasons, or both - you are officially invited to put your thoughts - or questions - by email to

You know what to do.

Liberalism and the EU redux

I'm not sure whether it is simply the incapacity of most English people to read foreign language press, or simply something in the water, but the devotion of civil libertarians to the European Union is becoming more and more perplexing.

Now Belgium looks as if it may ban its main opposition party. One of the more sinister parts of this is that the banning need be only administrative as all party funding is by the state (private funding seems to be illegal) and they only need (politicised) judges to rule that a party is undemocratic and the plug can be pulled. Now which country is moving to state funding of political parties and judges friendly to the regime (or to Cherie Blair's legal arguments)?

Identity Problem

Do you like the idea of identity cards? Did you know that the government is going to be claiming that you are in favour of them?

The government has been running, very quietly, a consultation process on identity, sorry entitlement cards. This has meant that the only people who have got in touch are those who were tipped off beforehand and so there has been a large response in favour. Funny that.

Now's your chance to actually be consulted. The cyber liberties group STAND have set up a web page that makes it easy to send in your own consultation to the Home Office.

The consultation ends on 31 January, and the process takes 5-10 minutes. So stop wittering on about how you are a free born Englishman and do something about it.
Monday, January 13, 2003
Zimwatch: False Dawn? - 13th January 2003, 23.00

It is too early to tell if there is a genuine move to 'retire' Mugabe by saner elements in ZANU-PF or if this was an attempt to bounce Mad Bob out to pasture whilst he was taking a vacation. Tonight, talk of a deal has been dismissed as "wishful thinking".

This is the first indication that talks may be taking place behind the scenes with South Africa acting as a broker in order to resolve the crisis. The story may indicate that Mugabe's successors, especially the handpicked Emmerson Mnangagwa, realise that there may be nothing left if they allow Zimbabwe's economy to decline even further.

This also may be one of the last chances for Mugabe to leave with his wealth and health intact. Otherwise, he may depart from his position in a box, as the Zimbabweans already realise the cost of his rule.
Heralding an Inner Core - 13th January 2003, 20.56

The New Year brings the latest signs of co-operation from the revived French and German marriage. The next fortnight heralds important steps in this relationship as Chirac and Scroeder conduct their summit and put forward a combined proposal to the Convention. All sides in the EU are holding their breath to see if they tilt towards the intergovernmentalists or the federalists.

It appears as if the federalist wing may win. France and Germany are planning to swap ministers between their cabinets and unify their approach towards Europe by ensuring that large parts of new legislation are identical for both countries and provides an unstoppable momentum that other countries are unable to resist.

The political elites of both countries view the Holy Grail of dominance in a new European state as such an important goal, that they wish to circumvent their own parliaments, or already perceive them to be rubber stamps designed to provide a democratic relief to their plans.

In a sign of the increased importance of the Convention and reflecting the Greek presidency, George Papandreou will be the latest foreign minister to join. His counterparts present include Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany. Does this reflect an inner core?

Murdoch sells out

One of the problems about the Anglosphere (here I go again) is that it seems to rely on the British patriotism of American, Canadian or Australian movers and shakers. Hence we are expected to trust the adamantine patriotism of Conrad Black's Telegraph, or any of the Murdoch press.

Now we learn that the Sun is to be edited by Rebekah Wade, who is notable for two things - organising national witch hunts against suspected Padophiles and being best friends with Cherie Blair (whether they are shower-buddies we are not told).

What this means is that the Sun will back the Euro, or at least be neutral in this, if it means that it will not lose circulation by so doing. Looks like things got a bit harder for the No camp.

By Jingo what a fuss

There is a bit of a to do around the use of the term "Jingoism" relating to a post in England's Sword. Essentially Iain Murray has been labelled a jingo by a contributor, a use derided by his wife as being not too many degrees off racism, and Iain's no racist.

Is seems that the mystery contributor (I am not this person, by the way) may be right on the strict semantics. The Cambridge Dictionary defines Jingoism as:

the extreme belief that your own country is always best, which is often shown in enthusiastic support for a war against another country

While Iain is certainly not always of the belief that his country (which could be either Britain or America) is always best, his patriotism - like that of Samizdata or Peter Briffa is certainly more martial than required if you were to look at something as piddling as the British national interest.

It is however a nasty word with at least xenophobic, if not outright racist connotations. This is an injustice to Iain who would be a funny kind of xenophobe who raises his family in another country.

So jingoism may have been a useful label a hundred years ago, but it is useless except as a term of abuse. That does not mean that I think that Mr Murray's ideas on foreign policy are short of national suicide or that his Anglospherical musings are anything other than an attempted abdication of English independence. But Iain's no racist, and if the xenophobe label is going spare I'd like first refusal.
Sunday, January 12, 2003
Zimwatch: From Crisis to Catastrophe, From Fear to Terror - 12th January 2003, 21.27

Peter Oborne's excellent programme this evening, titled "Mugabe's Secret Famine" provided some of the first visible evidence of the situation in Zimbabwe in the mainstream media (Britain's Channel 4). It appears that the populations of MDC voting areas are still in the pre-famine stage, depending upon nuts, berries, leaves and logs. Within a period of two months from the making of the film (mid-December 2002), full-scale famine will hit these areas.

The programme also pinned, with a vengeance, the lie that nothing can be done. South Africa has the capability of preventing the famine now but the ANC would prefer to prop this monster, whatever the humanitarian cost. Their excuse was that they did not wish to clean up the mess although this has not prevented their intervention in other South African countries. There is no need for military intervention, only a withdrawal of economic support.

Peter Oborne also skewered Baroness Amos, the Minister for Africa, very efficiently. Her attempts to defend Blair's lack of leadership in bringing proper economic sanctions and pressure against both Zimbabwe and South Africa were shameful.

Britain's reputation is again sullied by those in power. If you get the opportunity, never shake hands with Tony Blair, Jack Straw, Clare Short or Baroness Amos, unless they turn back from this immoral enterprise.
Italy: Eurocon Referendum - 12th January 2003, 13.54

Italy is looking favourably upon holding a referendum on the European Constitution in line with the Euro elections in 2004.

Blair does not trust us to make the right decision so don't expect one in Britain.
Brunei: British Gurkhas stay on - 12th January 2003, 13.38

British Gurkhas will continue to provide protection for the Sultan of Brunei's petroleum installations for another five years.
Unreported in the UK Media - 12th January 2003, 13.35

The European Union's smaller countries, long suspicious of the efforts by the big powers to set up a 'Directorate', will not be happy to learn that Britain's Tony Blair, France's Jacques Chirac and Germany's Gerhard Schroeder are to have a quiet get-together Saturday at Schroeder's home in Hanover. They don't intend to talk much about Iraq, but to hammer out an agreement to ensure that they as heads of governments of nation states continue to run the EU through its Council, rather than strengthen the Commission. But Blair should not get the idea that he's now really on the inside; Schroeder and Chirac will then have an even more private meeting on Tuesday. Just the two of them.

From UPI. Only the sartorial side was noted in the Guardian. It also appears that Jacques Chirac dropped out or was never invited.

As there was no statement issued, it acted as filler for ChannelNewsAsia, and Deepika.
Saturday, January 11, 2003
Preachers of Hate - 11th January 2003, 21.00

Angus Roxburgh's new book on the rise of the far right in Europe was reviewed by David Lammy, the Nulab replacement for Bernie grant in Tottenham. As Angus wasn't able to find enough neo-nazis or racists to fill his book, he lumped the oddball, the nationalists and the Eurosceptic together - a heterogeneous group of populists. One would argue that they are linked by their growth in response to public dissatisfaction with the political elites who have not responded to their grievances. A shared ideology is not in evidence.

This mixture leads to the confusion in Lammy's review, who sounds almost schizophrenic in his twists and turns. At one point he sounds almost libertarian, although he just couldn't quite bring himself to say that political elites and states should just get out of the way:

But mainstream political elites have so far been unwilling or unable to trust citizens to solve their problems themselves, and to provide them with the resources and capacity to do so.

Lammy states that the EU should be concerned by the agenda of these populists: "A striking feature of the populist parties' agenda has been the extent to which they have reconciled aggressive market liberalism with fierce hostility to the European Union." This relatively easy task is not quite right, for as Lammy points out later on, many of these groups share the current European enthusiasm for defending economies through tariffs and state control - just implementing their concerns at a national level.

Roxburgh's packaging of these different parties into one extreme is a feature of the current intellectual landscape in the UK that is dominated by an illiberal unwillingness to entertain or discuss alternatives.

To even begin to think about Signor Berlusconi or the late Pim Fortuyn as ‘preachers of hate’ and members of a family that includes such racists as Le Pen is not just wrong; it is risible. What Roxburgh is really doing is reacting with liberal-conditioned horror to the reality that there are more ideas in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in his or his employer’s philosophy.

That is why liberalism in Britain in all of its variations has defected to the blogosphere because one offshoot has declared its views Holy Scripture and enforces its madness in all areas of life. Some call this an extreme centre, but it can be identified by one symptom: its results defy common sense.
Liberation is a Reactionary Word - 11th January 2003, 16.42

Adrian Hamilton of the Independent drew upon Niall Ferguson's new history of the British Empire as shown on one of the British television channels to condemn the prevailing political culture of the United States, which he describes as imperialist. His description fits the blogosphere to a tee, if you discount the idiocy of his position:

To listen to US politicians or to read American columnists these days is rather like eavesdropping on a Colonial Office conversation in the late 19th century. The hand sweeps across the world's map marking the natives.

Europe: a fine civilisation but a people grown overprotected. Must brace up with fewer social benefits and more armaments. Japan (wry smile here): once quite challenging but now sunk in a slough of inaction. Africa: a benighted people who have brought it on themselves. And the Arabs? Failed the challenge of modernity. We'll need not just to remove a few bad regimes but also occupy Baghdad until we can spread the word of democracy and capitalism.

Extraordinary to say, but there seem to be a substantial number of people in Washington who believe this patronising drivel.

Hamilton is, of course, wrong in his description of American foreign policy as imperialist. The motivations behind the contemporary expansion of US power are defensive and preventive, stemming from the continental insecurity following the destruction of the World Trade Centre. (Empire, even if unlooked for, is a consequence). It is instructive to consider from this passage that what was once liberal is now reactionary. In the first half of the nineteenth century both France and Britain, considered liberal powers, supported movements for representative institutions against autocratic monarchies or the Ottoman empire without acting in a way that would threaten the Concert of Europe. Now, if a great power promotes liberal values and representative democracy, this is imperialism and "patronising drivel", a reactionary measure. When did the invasion of a country to liberate it from an evil dictator and set up a democracy in its place become an action criticised by so-called progressives as immoral and insulting to native culture?

The other point that Hamilton raises is that there is a conservative wing in Britain wishing to experience Empire again through an American proxy. His evidence, one historian. If the British right did support US action from an ideology of neo-imperialism, it would provide some optimism: indicating a level of forethought and principle behind their Atlanticist stance that does not currently exist (except perhaps with Liam Fox). However, Hamilton's drivel is an attempt to discuss the Empire (again), do down the right and display his credentials as an anti-American - three standard nostrums of the Left.

Update: An interesting discussion of whether America is an Empire, or just a "mild hegemon", by James Bennett at UPI. Given the extension of military and economic power wielded by the US through various institutions, I am inclined to view its control and influence as a form of Empire, though direct and formal control of territory is no longer required.
Friday, January 10, 2003
Zimwatch: Slow Steps to Genocide - 10th January 2003, 19.00

Peter Oborne in The Spectator has just spent two weeks in Zimbabwe in the guise of a golfer and has brought back an eyewitness account of the painful destruction of that country. Away from the towns and the eyes of the world, the political murders, the starvation and the rise of a new army of thugs indicates that the regime will endeavour to survive even as it increases its grip upon the nation.

In his submission to the Centre for Policy Studies, Oborne provides a more detailed list of the miseries faced by Zimbabwe and calls for the immediate application of sanctions. The British government is condemned:

Oborne describes the response of the British Government to this catastrophe as "negligent, cowardly, posturing and hypocritical". Their lack of concern is shown by:

§ the procrastination in imposing sanctions, compounded by a readiness to undermine the integrity of the sanctions regime once they had been imposed; § the defeatist government briefing to the media that Tony Blair's 'mission to Africa' should not be judged on Zimbabwe;

§ the failure of the British Government to call a debate in Parliament;

§ the curious circumstances concerning the removal of Peter Hain as Africa Minister in January 2001. Hain, the only Foreign Office Minister to have grasped the severity of the situation, was moved within days of a harsh letter complaining about his attitude to Zimbabwe from the South African Foreign Minister;

§ the decision to hand control of policy to an Under-Secretary of State, Baroness Amos, based in the House of Lords;

§ the casual and muddled handling of the England cricket team's visit to Zimbabwe for next month's World Cup.

If Africa does not wish to wake up to another stain on its sullied reputation, especially after the pretensions of Mbeki, then they must act to intervene and stop this disaster. They must show their maturity or understand that the rest of the world will view them as bloodstained, amoral and incapable.

How to do it

I remember the peace movement in America and they were, as the Americans say, "a wash", which means that they were about as engaging and even less effective than their British counterparts. Something's happened if stories such as this one are anything to go by. The peace groups in America seem to have discovered the flag, and patriotism is no longer a dirty word (a couple of months ago I saw coverage of an American peace demonstration that seemed to be covered in the Stars and Stripes - I almost fell out of my chair).

If you were to parade a Union Jack at a London demonstration you would be in serious danger of lynching. The peace movement will never be able to convince the country at large - which it at times forgets is the target audience - that it is concerned about the fate of Britain as much as it is of Iraq. After all it should be an easy sell. The government of the country is proposing to put British people at massively greater risk of terrrorist attrocity for no discernable national gain except the idea that the American President may like us a bit more. You'd have to be bloody unpatriotic to support that agenda.

But no, let's tie the peace movement to issues such as third world debt and anti-Zionism that will at best bore and at worse antagonise the British public.

A real threat

While busy bleating about the drastic threat posed by Saddam Hussein's WMD (is that "weapons of mass destruction" or "without means of delivery"?) perhaps our ruling class could concentrate less on getting on the trans-Atlantic top table and more on it's own citizens safety.

This makes the unsurprising revalation that at least two of the terror gang, and their premises, were subsidised by the public purse all the more important. While this is not in itself an argument against the war, it is galling to see plenty of far away adventures linked to stopping terrorism while action at home to staunch the main supply of terrorists - young Muslim men from abroad - is ruled beyond debate.
Thursday, January 09, 2003
Vulnerability to the Economic Costs of an Aging Population - 9th January 2003, 23.05

The Centre for Strategic and International Studies released its annual Aging Vulnerability Index in November 2002 on pdf format.

The countries identified as most "at risk" were Spain, Italy and France, whilst the least vulnerable were the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia. Surprisingly, Japan is identified as "Medium Vulnerability".

Both Italy and France may prove unable to reform and avert this impending crisis but Spain is more flexible, given its federal structure and adaptable economy. Countries that do not avert this crisis will face "economic and social meltdown".
Christianity's Clause in the Eurocon - 9th January 2003, 22.48

Romano Prodi has issued a letter supporting the inclusion of a clause in the new European Constitution supporting the Christian (specifically) Catholic tradition in Europe.

"In the process of construction of the new Europe, no one can remain on the margin or be unknown, to say nothing of excluded; the cultural and religious traditions cannot be neglected, especially the Christian, which has been and is indispensable for defining the memory and future hope of Europe," Prodi stated.

"In Europe, the future of Christianity is closely linked to that of the challenges of the Continent, as well as to its responsibilities before the world in this historic moment," he added.

This was released to a group called the EuroChristians, a Catholic group based in Spain, arguing for the inclusion of Christian values in the reformed European Union. Rather than viewing this as a resurgence of religious feeling in Europe, for which there is no evidence, one can view campaigns like this as an indication of the ideological stakes up for grabs in the Convention, leading to a renewed articulation of submerged themes like Christian democracy.

Will we see an anticlerical and secularising backlash?
American Views of the Palestinian Conference - 9th January 2003, 19.56

Blair's mishandling of Britain's relationship with Israel has invited a certain amount of comment in both the blogosphere and the traditional media. An example from an American blogger can be found with the Republican GreatestJeneration website and also through David Harsanyi's article, "Strained Relations: Britain turns on Israel?" at the National Review.

Both tend to view Britain's actions through the moral prism of the 'war on terror' and judge Blair's or Straw's statements in relation to their condemnation of Islamic terrorism. Harsanyi in particular subscribes to the oft-repeated notion that Euroepans are motivated by a subconscious anti-semitism.

Yet, in a testament to how cheaply civilian life in Israel is considered by many Europeans, the most-controversial aspect of this incident has not been the nihilistic carnage or even the shattered peace, but the government's subsequent ban of a Palestinian delegation from traveling to London for what promises to be futile discussions on reforming the Palestinian Authority — an organization that has encouraged or participated in the murder of 453 Israelis in 2002, 721 since September 2000.

It is striking that the need to judge a country's actions within this either-or framework prevents a proper evaluation of the internal politics that produced the idea of this 'peace conference'. Given the lack of success anticipated with the exclusion of Israel, it appears that the conference was established to release the pressure that Blair found himself under from the Parliamentary Labour Party. The conference, the embargo and the meeting with the Israeli Labor leader were all symbols of the government's contribution to the Middle East peace process without adding any positive value to the mess.

When I read the condemnation voiced in the paragraph quoted above, it does not remind me of European anti-semitism. It is another clear example of a government that could not bring itself to voice a proper condemnation of a terrorist atrocity because it could not see beyond the collapse of its latest foreign policy event and the effect that this might have in the Westminster hothouse.

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