Friday, February 28, 2003

One sided kind of special

So the Americans are pounding the table over our failure to extradite Bahir Nafi.

America yesterday expressed fury that the Home Office has not handed over Dr Bashir Nafi, the British academic charged with racketeering and conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism for a Palestinian group.

An official in the US Department of Justice said: "I thought the Brits were on our side in the war against terrorism. But when something like this happens, you wonder."


Now I happen to agree that the non-British Dr Nafi should be extradited, however after all that the British establishment are risking for this war you'd expect some more appreciation from the Yanks. Not forthcoming.

If you think that the Americans will be grateful for our support over the long term, think again.
Thursday, February 27, 2003
Eurosocialism - 26th February 2003, 20.44

Interesting piece in the National Review arguing that the European Union is now governed by a brand of Eurosocialism that appeals to and caters for the majority of the working population. Neils de Groot and John R Thompson harbour no illusions as to the difficulty of the fight.

Short-term, the gulf will surely widen. As they encounter ever greater areas of conflict, Eurosocialist protectionism and America's free enterprise spirit will have increasing difficulty coexisting. Eurosocialism is on the march, with legions of non-elected bureaucrats committed to solidifying suffocating systems that corrode commerce as well as individual freedoms.

Whatever Europe's eventual course, it is certain the struggle will be long and arduous. However, given one or more of these developments, it is possible to envision the Eurosocialists in Brussels, Strasbourg, Paris and Berlin finally giving way to realism and favoring economic over political union in Europe.

However, their description does not take into account the roots of the welfarist states that were established in post-war Europe. Most states followed the examples of Sweden and Britain, which had survived the war unscathed by revolution or invasion. Both provided a voice, whether formally or informally, for the representatives of both Capital and Labour, ensuring that the flight to the extremes which destroyed or disfigured other countries' political systems, did not take place.

These systems, formally representing both the corporations and the trade unions, have ossified at both a national and European level. The managerial elites that pioneered these 'welfare states' have become a deformed technocracy that places its own existence and ideology above the electorate. However, their existence, in part, was initially derived from a system designed to avoid the extremes of fascism and socialism. If it is Eurosocialism, it is a managerial variety, a 'naive socialism' whose overarching ideology is European unity, not Marxism or working class revolution. Its original proponents viewed the goal as a Third Way, steering a course between America and the Soviet Union, with neutrality the long-term aim.
Unlucky Luckhurst - 27th February 2003, 20.23

Timothy Luckhurst, in this week's Spectator, provides a quick sketch of Poland's love affair with America and the Eurosceptic views of the population providing firm evidence that Common Sense has abandoned Britain and travelled East. Luckhurst argues that the United States and Britain should encourage Polish entry to provide a firmer pro-American voice within the European Union.

Would the largest of the accession countries, Poland, voting 'No' and thriving economically outside the 'naive socialism' of the European Union provide a better example of independence? Of course it would, and hopefully they will ignore such a foolish argument as the encouragement of EU membership because voting yes will help other countries. Voting No will help themselves and also prove that European Union membership is not inevitable.
A Dawning Realisation - 27th February 2003, 20.12

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Times reported today, is lobbying to ensure that the European Charter of Fundamental Rights does not impact upon British industrial relations law. The CBI has recognised that the Constitution, as presently structured, may overrule Britain's more progressive laws on the right to strike and impose the corporatist privileges that unions enjoy on the Continent. They have stated that the Constitution is the most important issue facing British industry.

The Confederation does not have to worry just yet. The Praesidium of the European Convention is faced with a deluge of amendments, 80 of them on the issue of God alone. With the diplomatic division in the EU, Giscard D'Estaing and the Convention have also been surprised at the demands from accession countries for a voice in the Convention. Their argument is that they are not being represented at a time of radical change although they will be expected to swallow the medicine that the existing members have agreed.

The whole enterprise has proved more divisive than the European elites ever envisaged due to the current Iraqi crisis. Yet, the issue of a common foreign and security policy has been resolved in theory, if not in practice. The inertia of the Convention is keeping the project on the road and integration remains the order of the day, even if concessions have to be made to those joining the club and the date set for completion is probably moved into 2004.

Another bill arrives for Last Year's War

I don't know whether Chutzpah translates into Pathan, but this request to pay for 100 000 Afghan militiamen surely deserves this term.

How many "ex"-Talibanis will there be in that figure?
Pax Americana? 26th February 2003.

One thing taken for granted whenever people discuss the intentions of the United States is that she is now the most powerful country in the history of the world – & it is easy to see why. No country has ever been so rich, & no country’s armed forces have ever had such firepower at their command. But so what?

Power – the ability to make others do what you want – is the most relative of attributes. America’s power is a function not of her own absolute wealth & firepower, nor even of the gap between her wealth & firepower & those of other countries, but of the extent to which she is able to use her own wealth & firepower to impose her will upon others – & this in turn is a function of the wealth & firepower of other countries. Just as America has enough firepower to destroy any other country in the world, so there are several other countries – China, Russia, Britain, & France, at least, probably others, such as Israel – who have enough firepower to do the same, enough firepower, in other words, to destroy America. Many others – India, Pakistan, the Ukraine, perhaps North Korea – have enough firepower to inflict more damage on the United States than she would tolerate. So America’s scope for action is severely circumscribed: there is a large number of countries she cannot, on pain of annihilation, use military force against.

If you consider the Roman Empire at the height of its power, there was perhaps one country in the world, China, it could never have conquered – too far away –, but I doubt there was any part of the known world where the Romans would have failed to take military action if they had believed it in their interests to do so. Most of the time, that action would have been & was successful, although there were no guarantees; if the action failed, it was a setback, but rarely a disaster. Today, there are many countries against which the United States can take action, &, when she does so, she is guaranteed success in a way the Romans were not; but as soon as any country acquires a certain number of nuclear weapons, America is guaranteed disaster if she takes any action against that country at all.

So what is the best thing for everybody to do? In the days of the Roman Empire, any nation that wanted to minimise the damage done to it by Rome had the option, either of submitting without a fight, or of trying to destroy the Empire (a slow process at best), or of ignoring the Empire in the hope it was ignored in turn. Today, any country that wishes to resist U.S. power has one option: to acquire as many nuclear weapons as possible.

If, then, the United States makes clear that she is prepared to use military force against any potentially hostile power that lacks nuclear weapons, say on the grounds that she wishes to prevent such powers from acquiring such weapons in the first place, it is plain to all such powers that they must acquire such weapons or be pushed around, perhaps invaded, perhaps destroyed, their regimes perhaps deposed. If I were a dictator, & I knew that America disliked me, I should be doing my damnedest to get nuclear weapons. If America made clear she would not interfere in other countries’ affairs, I may of course try to get nuclear weapons anyway, but I am not sure I should have quite the same incentive.

The conclusion is that America’s determination to prevent non-nuclear powers from going nuclear may achieve the opposite of what is intended. If that happens, then American firepower will become increasingly impotent.


... or thereabouts of the Parliamentary Conservative Party voted
that the case for military action was as yet unproven. I hesitate to use the term "roll of honour" as Ken Clarke was among them, and honour is alien to that old Mosleyite. However here's the line up of antis, with their Eurosceptic ratings from Sean Gabb's candidlist:

Peter Ainsworth (Surrey East) Not Committed
Richard Bacon (Norfolk South) Eurosceptic
Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe) Europhile
John Gummer (Suffolk Coastal) Europhile
John Horam (Orpington) Eurosceptic
Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) Eurosceptic
Dr Andrew Murrison (Westbury) Not Committed
Richard Page (Hertfordshire South West) Not Committed
Anthony Steen (Totnes) Europhile
Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth & Horncastle) Eurosceptic
Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) Eurosceptic
Andrew Tyrie (Chichester) Europhile
Robert Walter (Dorset North) Europhile

An interesting list, showing that what Tory opposition there is is not (as I suspected before looking up the list) motivated by the rump of Europhiles fretting about being "left out" from France and Germany (note to British neocons - yes this is a pathetic motivation, but so is the dread of making war solely to keep in with America.)

However the fact that only five Eurosceptic Tories voted for this motion throws a sorry light on the state of Conservative thought on foreign policy. One only needs to ask what would Enoch do, and we can sense the decline in the calibre of the backbenches in our lifetime.
Wednesday, February 26, 2003
Labour are revolting - 26th February 2003, 23.20

There will be plenty of mileage in this revolt and god knows how many column inches. The principal figures on the Tory side, who ignored the dwindling authority of IDS, included Douglas Hogg, co-author of the key amendment with Chris Smith, John Gummer and Kenneth Clarke. A description of the principal categories of Tory warsceptics was recently published in the Guardian.

There are several different types of sceptical Tory.

First, there are the "British interests first" brigade, who will argue that unless it can be shown that a fundamental British interest is at stake we should not risk the lives of British service personnel. They will have been horrified by the prime minister's change of tack in Glasgow and the line now being pushed by Downing Street that this is a moral war for the greater good of mankind.

Second, there are the military types - of whom there are still a good number - who are traditionally sceptical about most foreign expeditions, particularly given the current over-stretch of Britain's armed forces. They haven't just read about equipment problems and military fatigue after long postings overseas, they really know about them.

Next are the Americo-sceptics, like Ken Clarke, who value the special relationship with the US but are quite happy to say when they disagree. They tend more to the continental European approach and have a genuine believe in the need for UN endorsement. Blair certainly cannot count on their votes.

Then there are the confused and uncertain, of whom I am definitely one.

The vote tonight was based on the Smith/Hogg amendment, not the Liberal Democrat rival, and Charles Kennedy has effectively been sidelined by the backbenchers revolt in Labour. Warsceptics in the Tory party do not even merit a media echo so figures are not yet available.
Something Understood - 26th February 2003, 22.48

To recognise India's ability to make our World Cup more difficult, especially Ashish Nehra's 6-23, here is an interview with Padma Shri Sir Mark Tully from the Mumbai website, Mid-Day, as he reflects on origins, national identity and India.

India wave in Britain

India is very big in artistic terms — music, Indian pop, Bombay Dreams, Monsoon Wedding and Lagaan, and in terms of spirituality. But there isn’t a huge business interest.

The government’s interest in India largely revolves on fear of war between India and Pakistan.

Apparently, people in the West are frightened about China in political terms and want to build up India to be faster than China, but they are frustrated by the uncertainties of what happens here.

In Zimbabwe, cricket is boosting both the cricket union and the black market; only the state suffers a loss.
Trust The People? - 26th February 2003, 22.33

If it's good enough for devolution, it's good enough for national sovereignty.

The government swept aside Tory demands for a referendum in Britain on whether to adopt a new European constitution. Many of the proposals published by the convention on the future of Europe this month were immediately dismissed by the government as unacceptable.

Foreign Office minister Denis MacShane stressed the plans would be discussed at an inter-governmental conference where government heads would take unanimous decisions. The outcome would be put to parliament before ratification.

Mr Ancram warned that no democratic government had the right to surrender "such fundamental areas of sovereignty without the specific consent of the people".

Delaying Tactics - 26th February 2003, 22.25

Giscard D'Estaing has found that the flood of amendments to the draft sixteen articles of the new constitution may not be considered without extending the life of the Convention beyond the agreed deadline of June. All of the accession countries are pushing for a period of reflection in order to make their voices heard in the negotiations. And Peter Heathcote-Amory has tabled a small but significant change...

Some of the proposed changes are fundamental in nature: including a suggestion from a British "euroskeptic" that the word "constitution" be replaced by "treaty." "A constitution establishes a state. A Treaty is an agreement between states," said David Heathcoat-Amory, a British Tory behind that proposal.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003
Everyone argues Chirac is an Arab. He isn't, he's an African, like Mbeki. They have the same view of the world.

Having thrown Mr Mugabe a lifeline, President Chirac then lectured him. Before I quote the choicer chunks of M. Chirac's speech, let us reflect on this fact: on my count, approximately 23 of the leaders welcomed to Paris were dictators, among them a man who killed his own brother to win power. And this is what President Chirac had to tell them: "You – and we – cannot give legitimacy to violence; we cannot allow grey zones or areas of lawlessness to emerge; we cannot leave provinces to become disinherited. How can we remain indifferent to the grave famine now threatening 40 million Africans? Here too, the answer lies in determined action. The days of impunity or when people were able to justify the use of force are over. Now we must work to strengthen justice."

He didn't get a standing ovation. Ill-mannered louts!

The Foreign Affairs Committee and Iran - 25th February 2003, 20.33

The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee was taking questions on Iran. First up was Dr Ali Ansari, lecturer in the history of the Middle East at the University of Durham, who appeared to view Iran as a democracy (of sorts).

The late shah's former finance minister, who now lives in America, Jahangir Amuzegar, says in the Journal of Foreign Affairs, January's edition, his final concluding sentences on his article about Iran's crumbling revolution are, "the theocracies' days are numbered; Iran's own internal currents assure this." Do you agree?

(Dr Ansari) In broad terms, yes, absolutely. I do not like to use the term theocracy, but the system as it stands at the moment is not sustainable if it refuses - and it is a minority here who are being very difficult - to adapt to the needs of the young people (and the needs and the pressure are there; Iran is unique in this respect in the Middle East). It is not sustainable as it stands.

On weapons of mass destruction: Dr Gary Samore, Director of Studies, International Institute for Strategic Studies:

(Sir John Stanley) We have been informed that the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mr Kharrazi, has said on the official Iranian state media, "Iran has no plan to produce nuclear weapons and all efforts in this field are intended for peaceful means". Are you saying to the Committee that in your judgment that is a lie?

(Dr Samore) I think it is patently false. If you look at the facilities that Iran is building, the heavy water plant and the gas centrifuge enrichment plant, they cannot be plausibly justified as part of a civil nuclear power program....

So are you saying to the Committee that in your judgment the Iranian government is lying?

(Dr Samore) Yes.


(Dr Samore) Yes.

In the quotation that I have just read from the Foreign Minister.

(Dr Samore) Yes.

On terrorism:

(Mr Pope) It seems that we are getting a clear picture about Iran. This is a country which is repressing many of its own citizens, it is exporting terrorism, partly financing Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic-Jehad . It is developing weapons of mass destruction. So this is no Sweden. But do you think Bush was right in the axis of evil to lump it in with North Korea and Iraq. It seemed to me that whilst not a great friend of the west it is of a different kind of a state to the other two and it was probably a strategic error on Bush's part to put Iran in with Iraq and North Korea. What do you think?

(Dr Samore) From an analytical stand point it is a very different type of problem. In the case of North Korea and Iraq you are dealing with fundamentally dictatorial states, one man rule. In the case of Iran it is much more complicated and that makes it both better and worse I think in some respects. It is better in the sense that one can hope to strengthen the moderate elements and produce an improvement in behaviour that way. It is worse in the sense that I find it very, very difficult to figure out how any action one takes will actually reverberate within the endless and very complicated and murky warfare that goes on in Tehran. Some people who are not particular fans of President Bush think that including Iran in the axis of evil was actually a very good thing because it strengthened the hands of the moderates who are able to say to other elements, "Your behaviour is putting us on a very dangerous list. The last thing we want to do is antagonise the United States." I think how our behaviour affects what is going on in Iran is very, very difficult to figure out. We may do things that actually have a beneficial effect even if, at first blush, they do not look too smart.

These exchanges clearly show how dangerous Iran is becoming: an unstable theocratic republic which is pursueing weapons of mass destruction and may soon find its publicly avowed ideological foes allied to all of the countries on its borders. One of the strategic consequences of invading Iraq is rarely publicised: the encirclement and containment of Iran.
Bolstering Sierra Leone - 25th February 2003, 20.04

Three hundred Gurkhas have been despatched to Freetown along with a naval vessel in order to strengthen British defences in the country. The civil war in neighbouring Liberia is hotting up and refugees are fleeing across the border (again).

The domino theory of chaos applies to Africa.
Another Ruritania gives up its sovereignty - 25th February 2003, 19.57

Macedonia will apply for EU membership by the end of 2003. Why did they ever bother declaring independence in the first place?

Meanwhile, in last year's war

I don't think this is murky, and I can't see any reason why it would be, but the Afghan minister responsible for THAT pipeline has mysteriously died in a plane crash. He's one of Hamid Karzai's group of Pathan royalist exiles.

Also the German's may be withdrawing their troops in protest over Iraq.

Good thing that the Hindu Kush was nice and nailed down before they went into Sumeria. Nothing in Rantburg as yet, although that will change.
Monday, February 24, 2003
Expect to see this in the Guardian - 24th February 2003, 20.18

It is very hard to assess the evidence in the allegations detailed below although one can be sure that they will be publicised in lurid detail by those whose political agenda is to undermine the professional reputation of the British Army.

British soldiers practicing military manoeuvres in Kenya for several decades have been accused of raping local women in remote parts of northern Kenya. More than a hundred women allege they were raped by British soldiers while they were out herding, fetching water, collecting firewood or walking to and from school. Martyn Day, a British-based lawyer, who is preparing a case against the army, told the women: "The men who did this to you should have been thrown into prison and they would have thrown away the key but what has happened to them as far as we understand - Nothing!"

However, the standard of some of the evidence presented is unconvincing:

Day said that as late as 1999 and early 2000, rapes were still going on. In one incidence, 18 soldiers gang raped six women who were out collecting firewood near their camp. This angered the village but more incidents were reported about three months later, Day said. It is only then that policemen were called in to separate the soldiers from the villagers.

Martyn Day is a lawyer who takes on environmental and human rights cases including a class-action suit for smokers, POWs used as slave labour by the Japanese, and a previous case on Kenyans injured by leftover ordnance.

It is too early to tell what substance underlies these allegations.
Franco-British Defence - 24th February 2003, 19.57

The diplomatic splits. heralded by the Americans as a division between Old and New Europe, do not appear to have entered the minds of the British and the French. Both countries submitted a joint paper to the EU foreign ministers calling for the proposed EU Rapid Reaction Force to be deployed in Bosnia from early 2004.

Whilst the continuation of an institutional link to NATO may appear surprising to Reuters, it would be surprising for France to undermine European co-operation in this area. It demonstrates that on the ground, French ambitions for an independent defence pillar for the EU remain a long-term aim and they are willing to co-operate with Britain (including a closer relationship with NATO), in order to prepare the foundations. Moreover, most EU nations form part of NATO and the French will be unable to replicate its structures at short notice. The other question mark over this exercise is the ability of Britain to contribute to the Rapid Reaction Farce given the forthcoming war in Iraq.
Dealing with the EU - 24th February 2003, 19.42

Desmond Zammit Marmara, writing in the Times of Malta, slates the ironically named Nationalist party for undermining the isalnd's national interest. In a story familiar from to many other accession countries, the European Commission has adopted a 'take it or leave it' attitude, presenting EU membership as a reward for any country invited to join rather than entering a relationship of equals. Marmara states that Malta's strategic position is important to the EU and more concessions should have been wrung out of Brussels before accepting the package offered.

Marmara is wrong to accept that membership of the European Union is beneficial in any form but he certainly pits Brussels in its place.

We cannot put European Union issues at the top of the country's agenda and give all the other important issues a backseat as the Nationalist government has done, with the disastrous socio-economic results that you can see all around you. A new Labour government will put at the top of its agenda the really important issues such as reducing the burden of taxation on Maltese citizens, controlling and reducing government expenditure, tackling the drug problem among our youths, improving technical education and reducing the number of youths who leave secondary schools without the academic and social skills necessary for success in life, and tackling environmental problems such as Maghtab.

Meanwhile, the negotiations with Brussels would go on but only as a backdrop to all this. Valletta would be the centre of operations and not Brussels. You would not switch on the television or the radio to a nauseating over-saturation of EU-related programmes. The European Union would be one topic of debate among many, equally-important others.

If you love your country, you cannot vote yes at the referendum. Viva Malta!

I suspect that this is the only time I will be rooting for Labour!

Frittering away our interests

As well as worrying about whether we can see off blackmail from the Fire Brigades Union we should also be looking to Northern Ireland where we seem to be giving the IRA just about everything they want:

A working text for the deal with the IRA has been agreed between the British and Irish governments, although final details still have to be hammered out. It sets down the withdrawal of up to 5000 British troops within weeks and the dismantling of up to 30 security bases, including about a dozen army watchtowers along the border.

Now I wonder why they want to get 5000 troops out of Ulster within weeks?

Sleepwalking into Empire

Yet another reason not to go to Iraq. John Major points out that we will have to keep in Iraq for the long term.
Sunday, February 23, 2003
Germany: Stagnant and Unsettled - 23rd February 2003, 22.07

In the furore that unsettled the West for the early part of this month, France was viewed as the Satanic motor behind the 'coalition of containment' and Germany was bring up the rear because of a lame duck Chancellor. This view underestimates the level of anti-American sentiment in Germany and transforms the largest country in Europe into an insignificant cipher. That view should be reconsidered.

As the Washington Post reports, the German citizen has been starved of economic and political freedom. The political system of his country is stagnant and does not appear capable of overcoming the interests that oppose reform. Their leader lied in order to be re-elected. Yet, whilst they decry political decay and criticise the moribund state of their economy, most are unwilling to endure the pain that change will require.

As a result, stagnation deepens and people grumble. Die Zeit political editor Martin Klingst writes of the "naked rage" many feel "when they look at their paychecks these days and see how little they have left after deductions from their salaries for pensions and national health insurance." Too often, they look for others -- foreign workers, lazy East Germans, corrupt politicians -- to blame.

This is a dangerous and unstable impasse. It is compounded by opposition to war on in Iraq, a peace dividend that is redefining German identity and injecting a component of populism into German politics.

One student, a woman from Leipzig, said that Schroeder's declaration of opposition to war in Iraq was the first time she had ever felt "proud to be a German." Not long ago, that same phrase -- Ich bin stolz, Deutscher zu sein -- was a slogan used by far-right nationalist groups; you would not have heard it at a dinner table full of thoughtful university students. But I took it to mean that being against the United States -- and "for peace" -- has become a way for Germans to feel good about a society that otherwise is not working as well as it used to.

The German economy grew by 0.5% last year and, pundits suspect, that this anaemic increase has reversed itself. The official unemployment rate now stands at 4.27 million.

Despite the geopolitical orientation of Central Europe towards the Atlantic, the area remains the economic hinterland of Germany. These countries, above all others, are aware of what Germany is capable of, given their schizophrenic attitude towards power. A more vigorous national identity, born of an anti-American reaction, political disillusionment and economic anger, is a potential catalyst for the type of populist movement that we have seen in other European countries over the last decade. Such a movement will assert Germany's powerful but atrophied economic and political muscles and may well wrench a large part of continental Europe away from the Atlantic Alliance.

Germany bears watching.

Now they'll use Iraq to get the Euro

Just to show that our leaders have the safety of the young soldiers that they're sending into harms way foremost in their minds, the Sunday Times has an article claiming that the Government see a quick victory in Iraq as a springboard for a snap Euro referendum. It's in the Sunday Times and so is impossible to link to, but you'll have to take my word on it. It's all spin but it gives an idea into their thinking.

It seems like the Anglosphere apologists are proving wrong about their idea that this war will open any meaningful rift between Britain and Europe.
Zimwatch: American diplomat was detained - 23rd February 2003, 13.27

This is not the first or the last time but a few more details have emerged.

The US diplomat attended a public meeting held in the up-market suburb of Borrowdale, which the police declared illegal. Under the Public Order and Security Act, a public meeting that is not sanctioned by the police is deemed illegal.

Several local activists, including human rights lawyer Brian Kagoro, and Transparency International chairman John Makumbe were also arrested at Northside Community Hall in Borrowdale.

Bruce Wharton, spokesman for the US embassy in Harare, yesterday declined to disclose the name of the diplomat involved, citing official Unites States policy.

He said this was the third time in the past year that United States diplomats had been detained, robbed, threatened or interfered with while performing official duties.

I wonder if British diplomats have encountered similar difficulties.

Where Blair and Bush differ - 23rd February 2003, 12.30

Blair's moral impulse governing his support for any Iraqi war also views another crisis as another area where the man who feels the heavy hand of history on his shoulder may do some good. Jack Straw and Jan Petersen, Foreign Ministers of Britain and Norway respectively, wrote an article for Al-Hayat, "Two Simultaneous Crises in the Middle East", wooing the Arabs and stating that the Palestinian/Israeli (although it is actually the Arab/Israeli) conflict is equal in importance to the Iraqi crisis.

There are also other encouraging signs in an overall situation where it often can be difficult to identify rays of hope. Opinion polls show a majority on both sides for a two-state solution involving, among other things, evacuation of Israeli settlements, an Israeli withdrawal, and an end to Palestinian terrorist attacks. The international community has come together to help the parties get out of the current impasse. We share a vision of two states living side by side in peace and security. We are eagerly awaiting the adoption by the Quartet of a ‘road map’ with clear time lines and benchmarks to assist Israel and the Palestinian Authority in reaching a comprehensive settlement. In a situation where the parties themselves often seem to lack the courage to make the necessary moves towards a peace settlement, it is of great importance that the international community acts to help the parties to take the perhaps painful but necessary steps.

Britain should not be involved in any steps to help either party. Given that the Palestinian Authority is a shell of its former authority and that Hamas, whose ideological goal is the destruction of Israel, is rapidly gaining in popularity in Gaza and the West Bank, how can any peace process move forward? Moreover, what about the other Arab states that continue to foster terrorist attacks on Israel and whose steps towards peace are tactics when they feel their interests are under threat?

Israel seems to be doing fairly well at containing the problem on its own and if the United States wishes to push them towards some peace process, then so be it. It is none of our business to sort out another intractable fight.
Who holds the Champagne? - 23rd February 2003, 12.09

Liam Fox appears to be launching his new improved website and think tank, the Atlantic Bridge, with a reception at the House of Commons on March 10th "to a broad audience of businessmen, journalists, academics and politicians". Their website is far more friendly to the eye as well; the Houses of Parliament is no longer doing a tango.
Saturday, February 22, 2003

Prices for Crises

We're often accused of being Guardian readers by some of our less careful detractors; who are either unaware of what a Guardian reader is or who do not read us at all critically. However, and I am shocked here, the Guardian is analysing the coalition building from the vantage point of the national interest, in which it lists:

- $26 Billion of grants to Turkey for hosting forces on its soil. Now $6 billion more is being demanded.
- Increased foreign aid for security council members Guinea, Angola and Cameroon
- Relaxing immigration restrictions (what more?) for Mexico, another security council member
- Pledges on EU entry for Bulgaria
- Large debt write offs for Russia and China
- Requests of $12 billion extra aid for Israel
- Various dollops of aid for Egypt, Jordan and Syria

Of course most of this will be paid by the US, but do you notice what we get? Neither did I. The article does not mention the price that France will extract, which will be paid by us.

Is some tinpot in Sumeria really worth this?

Raimondo but Rong

Justin Raimondo gives a hearty Vive La France for the snail munchers' stand against American action against Iraq.

Now I must defer. This is not because I want to put down Justin Raimondo, Justin got me started in writing on the net - as they say over the pond. I owe him a lot, and criticising him feels like thumping my dad.

However I do think that his optimism overtakes him when talking about our Gallic neighbours. The basic premise is that Chirac is being principled when stressing his reservations on the proposed action on Iraq. To which I say rot. By all means like or admire the French, but never trust the buggers.

Chirac is simply trying to get as high a price as possible out of the Americans and, more to the points the Brits. A UN vote would make life hard for Bush and harder (although not impossible) for Blair. No UN vote would mean that Blair would have a Labour movement in near revolt and the promised European utopia being very surly indeed. All this and a heap of local elections for Blair as well. These guys haven't vetoed a security council resolution since 1956.

Imagine the scene, plucky Tony Blair in a European Council of Ministers and Jacques Chirac - mysteriously balder stroking a white fluffy cat.

"Alors monsieur Blair, you 'ave yourself in a bit of a pickle, non?"

"Well, Jacques, that's what I wanted to talk about."

"Monsieur Blair, we are very disappointed in you on this business regarding the travaillistes temporaire"

"Travaill... Workers. Oh temporary workers, I still speak the lingo. Oh that's because business needs the flexibility to employ workers without giving them unnecesary claims."

"It may be bon for your businessmen, but you are dumping social costs on us"

"Well we all care about the business of building Europe. We'll look at our opposition again. Now about this Security Council vote on Iraq."

"Better, but not yet parfait, Monsieur Blair. This European constitution, your ministers have said some terribly rude things about that..."

And so it goes. Sovereignty that is. Just to show that I will slap all sides, I must say that this shows how wrong the Anglospherists have been on this war. Remember the argument? Being closer to America will drive a wedge with Europe and force Blair to finally abandon his dream of taking Britain into the Euro. It was wrong then, and even more mistaken today.
The Federal Union - 22nd February 2003, 16.10

Many observers assume that the ideological positions governing the European Union and the progressive left are a recent phenomenon, and that they are derived from socialist or social democratic thought. This is not an accurate examination of the ideological roots of what is termed loosely as transnationalism.

One of the pioneers of thinking about a system of international governance designed to end the "anarchy of sovereign states" and institute global rule of law was Lord Lothian. Lord Lothian, Philip Kerr, (1882-1940) was a member of Milner's Kindergarten and would not have seemed out of place in the current debates underpinning the development of the Anglosphere concept. He was an active enthusiast for closer imperial union and served as Private Secretary to Lloyd George from 1917 to 1921. Kerr also played a role in fostering closer Anglo-American relations during the 1920s, a time when both countries were formally rivals, and setting up the Indian Federation.

And yet? Kerr, who nurtured links between Anglo-Saxon countries and the Empire, was considered to be one of the founding fathers of European federalism.

He studied the problem of national sovereignty, developed a theory of supranational organisation and became a severe critic of the League of Nations. After Munich he took a leading part, with Sir Charles Kimber, Lionel Curtis, Sir William Beveridge, Barbara Wootton and Lionel Robbins, in the establishment of the Federal Union movement. His writings on international relations inspired Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi who, during their internment under Mussolini, developed the case for a federated Europe after the war on the basis of the Federal Union literature. Today Lothian is honoured in Europe as a founding father of the British federalist school and a pioneer of European unification.

If one reads his lecture, "Pacifism is not enough nor patriotism either", you find that Kerr envisaged a federal structure composed of the victorious democracies from the First World War, France, Britain and the US as the nucleus for an eventual world state.

Is there a danger that those who mull over the need for greater ties between English speaking nations in dark times may eventually travel the same path as their historical predecessors?
Friday, February 21, 2003
Enarquey - 21st February 2003, 20.57

Another article from the International Herald Tribune on the rivalry between Britain and France to shape the EU; Chirac's gaffe versus Blair's letter. The letter is quite embarrassing.

In it he said he regretted that future members of the Union were not invited to a special EU summit meeting Monday dedicated to the question of Iraq. ‘‘As you know, I had argued that you should be present and able to contribute fully to the debate,’’

An opening bid for votes in his campaign to become one of the first Presidents of the European Union? However you read this missive, it is embarrassing that our foreign policy is reduced to touting for influence across Europe through a leak. It is the sort of behaviour you would expect from a minister in the 70s dealing with some contentious quango. A sign of how much we have lost in terms of power and respect.
Entrails Watch - 21st February 2003, 20.42

Croatia has tried democracy for a few years and obviously found it wanting; it submitted its proposal for acceding to the EU in 2007 with Romania and Bulgaria.

Bat Ye'or provides another unique view on Eurabia, although she seems to confuse pomo transnationalism with Islamization.

Recommendations were emphatically and repeatedly imposed for spreading the knowledge of the Arabic language in Europe, and the learning about the superior Islamic history and civilization. As these decisions were taken, and then implemented through the mechanism of the Dialogue that covered every country of the EU, a profound cultural Islamization — through the network of schools, universities and the blessing of Islamophile clergymen — conditioned the mentalities of two generations of European youth.

Yes, I remember my schooldays: prayermats, learning where Mecca is in geography, understanding that compound interest was immoral..blah blah blah

The Polish Parliament approved a bill for a June accession referendum.
The Grand Old Man of Terror - 21st February 2003, 20.12

Although the Guardian has acquired a reputation for onanistic handwringing, it still provides the occasional gem. Said newspaper ran a well-rounded article with biographical detail on Robert Conquest, whose services to British foreign policy need no further mention here.

A few highlights include his limyrickal thrust against Hobsbawm and his ilk:

There was a great Marxist called Lenin
Who did two or three million men in
That's a lot to have done in
But where he did one in,
that grand Marxist Stalin did ten in.

and the ultimate accolade of coining his own law:

Conquest and the elder Amis campaigned against the expansion of university education, on the grounds that it would dilute standards. "More will mean worse" was their slogan and neither ever saw anything to make them retract that judgment. From this period dates "Conquest's Law", which states that "Everyone is a reactionary about subjects he understands". This was later supplemented with the balancing rule that every organisation behaves as if it is run by secret agents of its opponents.
Does It Matter? 21st February 2003.

Never seem to write, indeed!

But although not writing, I have been thinking about the war - impossible to avoid, as a Radio 4 listener. Unfortunately, my deliberations have resulted in no more interesting conclusion than this, that I am not sure the whole thing matters. This may in part be Radio 4 fatigue, it may be the result of a Marvellous retreat from public affairs ("Fair quiet, have I found thee here, / And Innocence thy Sister dear! / Mistaken long, I sought you then / In busie Companies of Men. / Your sacred plants, if here below, / Only among the Plants will grow. / Society is all but rude, / To this delicious Solitude."), but, whatever the motives, there do seem to be justifications for it too.

Take those who think there is a moral case against war. They argue that innocent Iraqi civilians may die - but many more may die if Saddam is not removed. They say that the U.S. has ulterior motives - but doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is still doing the right thing. They say that there are other evil regimes - but better one fewer evil regime than no fewer. They say that the West once backed Saddam - so the West now has a responsibility to remove him. They say that the U.N. may not support war - yet France & Russia are motivated by their wish to protect their commercial interests, which should not be allowed to prevent others from doing the right thing. They say that the U.N.'s authority must be upheld, &, if the U.N. is by-passed, its authority will suffer - yet if horse-trading prevents the U.N. from enforcing its own resolutions, its authority will suffer too. So the moral case against war is a dead loss; yet the moral case for war is little better. However appalling Saddam's regime, it seems unlikely that war is the least life-costly way of removing or restraining him; & in any case, his massacring days seem to be over; but, on the other hand, the world would be a better place without him however he was removed. So there is no compelling moral reason to support or oppose war.

From the point of view of the national interest, there is no evidence that Saddam is a threat to Britain. Even if he weren't Without Means of Delivery, he would never attack a Western European country, because he knows that if he did so, he, his regime, & his country would be utterly annihilated. Even if he attacked one of his neighbours, even if his depleted army overcame the enemy, he knows he would be booted out in short order, as he was in 1991. He would want to do either only if his regime were put in mortal peril by a U.S.-led attack; & even then, he couldn't. Given these obvious disincentives to attack a pacific Britain, clear evidence needs to be provided of his intention to do so - e.g., evidence of his supplying al-Qa'eda with chemical weapons, an inherently unlikely thing for him to do, since a) he would not build an arsenal at enormous risk & expense only to give it away, and b) he is an enemy of Islamic fundamentalists. No such evidence has been provided. So, from the point of view of British national interest, we have no reason to attack Iraq, unless you count staying pally with the Americans, who have a treaty obligation to defend us in the unlikely event we are ever attacked, whose sentiments therefore are immaterial.

But, on the other hand, while there may be no reason for us to attack Iraq, I cannot see it would be all that disastrous if we did. Yes, some soldiers may die; this is certainly not to be taken lightly, but, to put it in perspective, I should be surprised if half as many Britons were killed in Iraq as are killed yearly on our roads. Yes, it would cost a lot of money, but an end to the uncertainty would do wonders for the stock market, & it's not as though any money saved by peace would be well spent on anything else, at least not by this government. Yes, a few more terrorists would be recruited, but at least there would be fewer asylum-seekers from Iraq. These are not trivial matters, but neither are they earth-shatteringly important. So I don't think this is something worth going to the barricades for.

Thursday, February 20, 2003


One of the amusing things about writing on the web has been the almost total fall off of interest from the professional peaceniks, addresses deregistering from my e-mail lists, links to my column and this site going from sites. First they liked the novelty of a conservative critique of intervention, but the interest was hardly sustained, although outside the UK it's a different story. I'm not quite sure whether they were horified at the right wing tone of the analysis here (and some right wing sites have been worried by that) or whether they were needled by the constant criticism of the mainstream peace movement.

Now do I see a stirring of interest? The Stop the War Coalition have listed this site. The description is telling:

Opposes war on the grounds of national interest

By and large true (Philip Chaston is pro but lukewarm, the others are against but they never seem to write). However shouldn't just about all oposition to an intervention be on the grounds of national interest? Let the pro-war party ignore the national interest of the British people and witter on about imagined claims of Levantines and Sumerians for our protection. Unfortunately the CND lot don't really like the idea of the nation (seperate from the state), let alone that there may be some interests linked to it.

But thanks to linking to me any way.
Why did they march? - 20th February 2003, 21.45

The World Socialist site exaggerates the events and calls for revolution. However incoherent the protest was, they do put their finger on why many of those people marched:

Again and again people said they felt compelled to participate, that they had the impression something historic was underway, that the world was being remade in some fundamental sense that they could not quite put their finger on. Everyone rejected the US and UK’s claim to be concerned with Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction”—it was patently a war for oil, and more than that, for world domination. For that reason, even though most official speakers at the rally made clear they would support war against Iraq, providing it was conducted through the United Nations, this was not the sentiment on the march. There was overwhelming hostility towards an attack on such a poor and vulnerable country. This was combined with a more inchoate and confused sentiment—a nascent class resentment and mistrust against a ruling elite that, in the case of Iraq, was demonstrating its indifference and contempt for the democratic will of working people.

They also state that two million protestors marched, following the Stakhanovite estimate of 'double or quits'. Very Soviet!
Entrails Watch - 20th February 2003, 21.25

Attempts to reform the Growth and Stability Pact, supported by France, Germany and Britain (since we have to follow the rules even though we don't belong to the Euro), and allow more flexibility on deficit financing are opposed by many of thesmaller countries.

Gordon Brown, UK economy minister, wants to see the reforms succeed, arguing that Britain needs to run deficits to fund long-delayed investment in public services. If the reforms are vetoed, opponents of Britain joining the euro could seize the chance to say that membership of the single currency would force cuts to spending on hospitals and schools.

The EU will provide state funding to pan-European parties that contribute to European awareness, recognise the Charter of Fundamental Rights, support the principles of democracy and a state based on the rule of law. They must be represented in a third of all states and will receive £5.6 million. Thieves! Eurosceptics and nationally based parties need not apply as Nigel Farage proudly pointed out. Now we know how Labour will fund its overdraft!

The commission admitted yesterday that it would be "pretty hard" for Eurosceptics to get any cash, but said that parties would not be banned. (A curious statement since it infers that one could put the words "for now" after the sentence).

And finally, some Belgian rot from Guy Verhofstedt, their Prime Minister, on the need to re-balance NATO. Another reason to get out of Brussels if this is their perception of Europe:0

Indeed, Europe is developing its own priorities and focus. Increasingly, the EU is seen as a model of multilateral co-operation, as a mediator and peace keeper in complex conflicts, as a continent sensitive to social and ecological challenges. It is a continent that realises that its own wealth remains fragile as long as most people in the world are hungry. That is why Europe needs its own foreign policy. Yet that will only be credible if it is based on a European defence policy. This is the paradox we must face in the years ahead: the more people march in our streets in favour of peace, the more urgent it becomes to develop a true European defence.

Amendments to the Second Draft - 20th February 2003, 20.56

The Convention has been accepting amendments to the second draft of the Constitution. Some 1,500 have been received by today with more expected even though the deadline of Monday, 17th February, has now been dropped. The Financial Times has reported that the vast majority of these amendments are critical of the draft because it does not fully support the agenda of integration. They call for 'to preserve references to "an ever closer Union", promote the "European social model" and work towards common defence'. Many also want the European Union to confirm that it has developed into a state.

Many members call for explicit reference to the symbols of the EU - such as its flag, anthem, currency and public holidays, many of which are seen by UK politicians as having the trappings of statehood.

Peter Hain has objected to all 16 clauses of the draft and has made common cause with the Irish on a common foreign policy and with the French on integrating the remaining areas of national policy. At it is currently constructed, the draft is a poison pill, craftily designed to force Great Britain to swallow bitter medicine.

But do they want to win?

Robert Fisk is probably the blogosphere's most quoted columnist, although certainly not the most agreed with. The routine trashing of Fisk is probably due to the fact that he is more reasonable and knowledgable than almost all other left wing anti-interventionists. It seems that Fisk is different because he wants to win the argument rather than simply be smug about how morally pure he was, as shown in this article. It argues that the antiwar movement is not even trying to connect with the available support in the hinterland:

The people with whom these liberal academics should be building bridges are the truck-drivers and bell-hops and Amtrak crews, the poor blacks and the cops whose families provide the cannon fodder for America's overseas military adventures. But that, of course, would force intellectuals to emerge from the sheltered, tenured world of seminars and sit-ins and deal directly with those whose opinions they wish to change.

When I made this very point at Harvard and several other universities, I was told, rather patronisingly, that these people – the phrase was almost identical – had "so little information" or are "not very informed". This is, in fact, untrue. I have heard as much sense about the Middle East from a train crew en route from Washington to Georgia and from a waiter in a St Louis diner as I have from the good folks of North Carolina.

The point was also made in a Spectator article (sadly the Spectator is off line at the moment) about the Stoke Newington Against the War group, with shades of Citizen Smith.
Wednesday, February 19, 2003
Operation: Overstretch - 19th February 2003, 23.13

David Ramsbotham, an adjutant-general during the Gulf War and her Majesty's Inspector of Prisons, 1995-2001, provides an overview of the corners cut in the British Army in order to meet the demands of any possible war in Iraq. Whilst the article is more lucid and thoughtful than most of those critical of the deployment of troops, Ramsbotham does not address the damage that would be caused to britain's international position by withdrawal at this late stage in the game. Such possible damage must be factored into any assessment of the risks Britain is undertaking by going to war or staying out.

Now the whole scene is different. Quite apart from the endless round of operational tours, soldiers have currently to provide cover for striking firemen, who are said to be paid more than the soldiers replacing them. Some of these had to surrender leave earned during a six-month tour of Kosovo, to train to be firemen before training for Iraq. We used to try to ensure that there was a 24-month gap between operational tours, so that soldiers could have time to spend with their families and to train, both operationally with their units and individually in pursuit of their careers. We never achieved it even then: now, for some, the gap is less than 12 months. Such a degree of overstretch cannot be sustained, and cheers will have rung round the Armed Forces when the Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, had the courage to say this publicly to his Secretary of State.

The latest forecast is that, after the departure from Iraq of the 27,000 troops committed to whatever fighting takes place, 15,000 will be required to secure and police the country. Where will they come from? Are some commitments to be given up? In 1977, the year of the previous firemen's strike, the increase in charges levied on troops for food and accommodation exceeded their 1 per cent pay award from James Callaghan's Government. Some commanding officers resigned rather than have to tell their regiments the prescribed lie that 'this is a good award.' Many other people left in disgust, leaving a hole that had not been filled by the time of Options for Change.

Now, on top of the overstretch, there are reports of tanks whose engines failed during the Gulf War and have still not been properly filtered, rifles that still jam in desert conditions, communications equipment that is well past its sell-by date, and a shortage of boots. I well remember finding many soldiers during and after the last Gulf War equipped with the vastly superior American camp bed, which they had exchanged for our rations (we did get something right).

Two questions must be asked in connection with the use of the word 'affordable': 'Can you afford it?' and 'Can you afford to give up what you have to give up in order to afford it?' In the case of a one-off troop deployment to Iraq, the answer to the first question is yes, because you can raise the numbers required from elsewhere. However, the answer to the second question is far from straightforward because there are deeper considerations of the kind that Field Marshal Carver raised in Borneo.

Serious consideration of these arguments leads one to ask if Blair can continue supporting Bush's campaigns without a policy of rearmament and expansion of the armed forces. Or events might force this upon us, anyway.
Zimwatch: Developments - 19th February 2003, 19.34

Robert Mugabe has flown to Paris in order to join the French bid for a raised profile in Africa and display his ordure for all to see. Most warbloggers will be writing of how the cheese eating surrender monkeys are now worse than the sausage eating French flunkeys and on a par with the Belgians.

However, in Harare, the rumours continue to spread of dissatisfied elements within Zanu-PF and their secret talks with the MDC. Alistair Sparks, a noted South African journalist, has written an account of events so far, and speculates as to what happens next:

The first intriguing question is whether Mugabe was party to the plan or not. Either way, there are significant implications.

* If he was party to the plan and this comes to light, as it must do if it is true, his party and the people of Zimbabwe will know that he is ready to relinquish executive authority and his almost dictatorial powers. That will make him a lame duck President.

* If Mugabe was not party to the plan, it means both he and other party leaders now know that his two most trusted supporters, who have kept him in power through their commanding positions in the military and the ruling party, have been planning to get rid of him. In the words of Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, they are "coup plotters". This must undermine Mugabe's authority within the party as well as his own sense of personal security.

However, the plan for a national government of unity with the MDC depends upon the reaction of Tsvangirai and of the emergent factions within ZANU-PF itself.

Already at least three factions are said to be forming within ZANU-PF, and similar splits may soon appear in the military. One group, led by Solomon Majuru, who headed Mugabe's guerrilla army during the liberation war and was the first chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Force (he went under the nom de guerre of Rex Nhongo then) is said to be strongly opposed to Mnangagwa as the successor. He is said to be supported by the Minister of Defence, Sydney Sekeremayi, and Joshua Nkomo's former guerrilla commander, Dumiso Dabengwa, who joined ZANU-PF in the Nkomo merger and was then defeated in his Bulawayo constituency in the 2000 parliamentary elections. Though retired, Majuru is said to still have influence over key figures in the Zimbabwe Defence Force.

Meanwhile, the repression of Moyo continues with the arrest of a High Court Judge, Benjamin Paradza, for interfering with the course of justice; another encroachment upon the narrow window of independence left to the judiciary. The authorities have also arrested and detained an (unnamed) American diplomat at a protest leading to a strongly worded statement from the US State Department.

The last is an interesting development.
Tuesday, February 18, 2003
Backfiring - 18th February 2003, 20.22

If anybody can recollect the other commitments that the British army faces at the orders of this government, cast your eyes to the protectorate of Kosova. The KLA was financed and trained in part by US/UK intelligence as a thorn in the side of Milosevic and a pain for most of Europe since, as these entrepreneurs moved from the business of liberation to the more profitable sideline of drugs and terrorism.

The KLA was trained, financed, supplied and assisted by American and British intelligence and special forces assets in their fight against the Serbs. Yet after June 1999, NATO and the UN's soldiers and administrators rapidly lost patience and sympathy with their former rebel proteges, as hardline extremist Kosova Albanians carried out a hugely violent campaign of reverse ethnic cleansing against Kosovo’s minority Serb population.

Now the army has become Pristina's policemen for these operations:

BRITISH troops have spearheaded a NATO-led operation to arrest Kosova Albanians indicted with war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague, according to intelligence officials. Three Albanians were in NATO detention in Kosovo yesterday awaiting transfer to prison cells in the Hague. Yet within hours of the operation beginning, it transpired that the arresting troops had missed their main target, a former Albanian rebel leader turned politician named Fatmir Limaj. The operation, which began before dawn on the freezing winter streets of the regional capital Pristina, was the first time that ethnic Albanians from the province have been arrested on behalf of the tribunal. Troops from the 1st Battalion, the Staffordshire Regiment, based in Pristina, as well as British Army intelligence and reconnaissance teams, swooped on three Albanian suspects around 3am. NATO would not specify or clarify whether special forces teams from Britain's 22 Special Air Service regiment, had been used in the arrest operation.

We will have to see if there is an adverse reaction on the part of the hardline Albanian nationalists.
Monday, February 17, 2003

Biscuit thief Blair

Tony Blair seems to have really got into the knack of annoying leftwingers as easily as he annoys Eurosceptics. It's the way he, well bends the truth. Does anyone remember when he derided the Taliban's stockpile of opium, something they had built up as a byproduct of a Western financed crackdown on poppy growing? Well, he's at it again:

Many of the people marching will say they hate Saddam. But the consequences of taking their advice is that he stays in charge of Iraq, ruling the Iraqi people. A country that in 1978, the year before he seized power, was richer than Malaysia or Portugal. A country where today, 135 out of every 1000 Iraqi children die before the age of five - 70% of these deaths are from diarrhoea and respiratory infections that are easily preventable. Where almost a third of children born in the centre and south of Iraq have chronic malnutrition.

Where 60% of the people depend on Food Aid.

Now this may have something to do with sanctions. Is Blair now saying that they were a mistake on humanitarian grounds. He then gets to this:

Where half the population of rural areas have no safe water.

Erm. And who bombed the water purification plants. OK, I understand blocking chlorine imports, but where was the tactical advantage of bombing water purification plants?

Now before I'm accused of sympathy with Saddam or his long suffering people I would strongly refute the idea that I sympathise with anyone, anywhere. I don't do sympathy - I delegate that to my elected representatives. The purpose for typing this is to show that Blair is not a world statesman but an incorrigible liar and not wholly sane. Always has been, and he won't stop now.
United in words, not deeds - 17th February 2003, 23.20

The European Union had to agree a wording at the emergency summit today that could not be viewed by critics as deepening perceived divisions in the comon foreign and security policy. By that measure, the summit probably will be viewed as a success. The final document stated that all European countries viewed war as a last resort; demanded that Saddam Hussein co-operate with the inspectors; and that Resolution 1441 had not specified an open-ended process.

On the key issue of how much time Iraq should be allowed, there was no debate. This is the best of all common foreign policies: one that doesn't work and presents an unconvincing artificial unity to all onlookers. Another nail in the coffin of European pretensions.

Appeasement, first time round

There was a time when appeasement was a geopolitical strategy rather than a knee jerk term of abuse. Christopher Montgomery covers this period in his the review of Burying Caesar.
Sunday, February 16, 2003
A Definition of Solidarity - 16th February 2003, 22.00

One of the values highlighted in the draft of the European Constitution was solidarity. UPI's Walker's World provides a revealing example of thsi value in action.

Eastern Europeans complain of dark hints that their future budget support and favors in the EU will depend on their stance in the current Atlantic row between the Stars and Stripes on the one side, and the EU blue flag with its gold stars for each new members.

"These countries have to decide which starred banner they want to stitch their stars onto," Ulrich Stockmann, the EU representative of German's ruling Social Democrats, told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

French Ambassador to Bulgaria Jean Loup Kuhn-Delforge told an audience in Sofia last week that Bulgaria's support for the United States over Iraq "could pose problems" for its EU membership because public opinion in Western Europe might turn against the candidates. "Bulgaria has to consider carefully where its long-term interests lie," the ambassador said. "When people live in Europe they should express solidarity and think European-style."

An Omanist - 16th February 2003, 20.35

Here is an interview between Yousuf bin Alawi, Minister in charge of Foreign Affairs, and the Indian Express. The Gulf Cooperation Council is sending a force of 6,000 to Kuwait to support their Arab neighbour but are at pains to point out that they do not belong to a 'coalition of the willing'. On the twin issues of 'regime change' and democratisation, the Omani kingdom is very conservative:

Is regime change in Baghdad an option?
No, regime change or exile is not an option. There is a legitimate government in Iraq, we may or may not agree with that fact. International law certainly recognises it to be so. There is no exercise on the cards for President Saddam Hussein to leave the country.

Does the US want to ‘‘democratise’’ the region?
The democratisation of Iraq is a matter of concern. It will take a long time. There is no prescription of medicine that you can take. War could lead to all kinds of crises. And yes, the disintegration of Iraq is a serious possibility, although disintegration doesn’t only refer to a change in borders but also the situation within. Lack of centralisation would create greater fissures within the state and give a handle to people not only to create divisions but also to control the wealth of the state.

Although the Westphalian tradition is adhered to for political purposes, the comments on democratisation are most revealing. Alawi argues that a "lack of centralisation", which is probably read as a strong ruling authority, the king or dictator, leads to parties that create division and try to control the wealth of the country for their own end. It appears that an Arab foreign minister of an ally in the Gulf is stating that Arabs or Iraqis are incapable of governing themselves since a democracy would negotiate the wealth of the state for different groups and this is deemed kleptocratic in practice. (Do the Arabs view the West as kleptocrats rather then democrats?)

The ancien regime in the Middle East is being undermined from both sides by Islamic theocracy and democracy, but its most telling flaw is its inability to initiate reform.
The Sovereignty Con - 16th February 2003, 19.46

Ralph Peters in the New York Post, wrote an op-ed on national sovereignty on the 3rd February 2003, and argued that this was an outmoded concept which allowed unsavoury regimes to maintain their existence and brutalise their populations. Peters considers sovereignty to be an obstacle in waging the 'war on terror', one that allows certain states to remain centres of lawlessness and terrorism. His answer is to introduce 'tiered sovereignties' where countries earn their right to remain fully respected members of the international community through a programme of national self-improvement:

Level One: Every government, from Mexico to India, that respects the will of its people through democratic institutions, works for the betterment of its citizens, demonstrates progress toward respect for human rights and strives toward the rule of law deserves continued recognition of its full, legal sovereignty.

Level Two: States that cannot control their own territory, that lack the ability to protect their own citizens or to prevent international terrorists and other criminals from using their territory as a refuge, would be able to claim only partial sovereignty. More capable, rule-of-law states would have the right to intervene for limited purposes to bring killers and other criminals to justice. In every other respect, these weak, but well-intentioned states would enjoy the traditional privileges and protections of sovereignty.

Level Three: Regimes that refuse to enforce the rule of law inside their borders, that knowingly harbor terrorists and criminals, that behave aggressively toward their neighbors or that abuse their own citizens would forfeit their territorial sovereignty and their right to govern. Period.

This raises a number of questions: who would decide which countries deserve to remain members of the international community and which countries deserve to be downgraded? Which nation or group of nations would gain the privilege of invading their less-governed counterparts? What are the reasons for invading: the 'war on terror', the 'war on drugs', and so on?

Such a systematised form of international relations, based upon the morality of the Helsinki Final Act, can be viewed as a laudable objective, given its moral underpinnings. Yet its weakness lies in the concept of the rule of law, since one suspects that the laws to be upheld are those that fit the needs and fears of those who establish the system in the first place. Libertarians should part company from neo-conservatives in extending their 'liberation ideology' to the entire field of international relations. Peters recognises his constituency:

To the left's horror, today's international revolutionaries are on the political right. The left wing represents the ancien regime: old slogans, old prejudices and badly failed approaches to security and human rights. American "conservatives" are the driving force behind overdue global reforms.

However, he fails to link this movement for change with possible allies on the Left. Blair shares his view that the human rights of individuals override the existence of any tyranny and places such a moral ideal above the actions of the United Nations. If the United Nations were to veto or vote against a war upon Iraq, Blair would understand that the higher calling of his convictions provides justification for the war. Such convictions would also prove a dynamo in casting about for a replacement. An alliance between this wing of the neo-conservatives and the moral hawks of New Labour may be a distinct possibility.

Not quite the History we had in mind

Andrew Dodge calls the demonstrators appeasers. I think this is entirely unfair to the pro-war types. Why last time we threw away appeasement and fought against an unpleasant chap with a moustache the country was bankrupted, strategically dependent on America, soon to be bereft of an Empire and actually in a strategically far more precarious situation than it entered with all these Slavic hordes on the Elbe without the Eastern distraction that the Krauts had.

Of course few of the 750 000 were actually saying that anything should be given to Saddo, so quite what they were supposed to be appeasing we are left to wonder. I always admired Andrew Dodge's ability to pick up the nonsense in commonly thrown around phrases, but he seems to have missed the absurdity of the apeasement jibe.

The next time we faced a nasty chap with a fuzzy lip we didn't go to war with him. Stalin was contained, and it took more than forty years to unseat his succesors, but we actually emerged stronger from that confrontation with a functioning economy and everything. But this wasn't appeasement. We didn't give Stalin what he wanted, outside Eastern Europe and large swathes of Asia. It wasn't appeasement, you see, it was a Cold War. I suppose it can be summed up thus (with apologies to John Fortescue):

"Appeasement never prospers; what's the reason?
For if it prosper, none would say it were appeasin'"

Where did they all come from?

750 000, almost twice the size of the Countryside Alliance march. Not bad at all. It may be a comment on this supposedly dull government that it's now provoked the three biggest demonstrations in British history.

David Carr thinks that it's just a day out for the left. Now I've been to left wing demos in the past and they never get numbers out like this. They've touched a nerve here.

However the guess in this tiny enclave of cynicism is that it won't last. The problem is the UN. The Security Council won't wear it. After all France is agin and Russia sceptical. And we know how hard those two countries are to buy off. Even if these two paladins of virtue were bought off we have steadfast upholders of international law to build a blocking majority, such as Guinea and Angola.

So what happens if there is a UN stitch up? Do the anti-war types now say that this is a good idea because the UN say it is? Or do they point to the undoubted fact that the Security Council vpte is a stitch up and say that although they did argue that the UN was vital before now but now can be opposed. Can you imagine Blair with this gift? "Look, I fully respect their point of view, but we are, with the Americans, doing what they said they wanted. They said that the UN needed to be respected, and we are respecting the decision of the UN. Saddam isn't."

Here at Airstrip One we have been offering an alternate narrative for the anti-interventionist crowd. Iraq's not our business, Saddam's weapon's can't reach us and if the Iraqis hate their regime it's up to them to change it. It may not be romantic, but it can't be wrong footed by a rigged security council vote, a dubious chemical plant or some Iraqi ex-pat.

Of course the antiwar movement would spurn this advice, if they even knew where to find us.
Saturday, February 15, 2003
The United Nations is the new Princess Diana - 15th February 2003, 19.22

Countless numbers march through London reenacting the "grand stupidity". We have not seen such a vast number getting in touch with their emotions and feeling a need to press their opinions on their fellow citizens since Diana's death. It is certain that this march, organised by CND and the Muslim Association of Great Britain, had passion, idealism and a paucity of reason. Now their totem, their article of faith, has been switched to the United Nations as a sacralized slogan.

From the 60s (Jennifer Connolly):

This is my first march since the "ban the bomb" rally of the sixties. I've given up politics and taken up spirituality but for this I've had to come out of retirement. Saddam Hussein has got to be stopped, but if we go to war then we'll really know what terrorism is. I fear Britain will face retaliation, even in the past week I've been very upset and emotional because of the heightened state of alert.

to the 90s (Sash Naidoo):

I came on this march because I believe violence begets violence - war is a bad idea and spells trouble for Britain. I never been part of anything like this before I walked down here from Tottenham Court Road and it's quite something to be in amongst so many people from different backgrounds.

No mention of the national interest, from the marchers or Blair.
One Percent - 15th February 2003, 18.17

The Daily Telegraph reported today that 304 suspected terrorists had been arrested since September 11th 2001 but only three had been convicted of an offence under the Terrorist Act. About forty have been charged with terrorist offences.

Such a record does not bode well for the government's policy on securing terrorists although the lack of an attack to take place indicates that the authorities have been successful so far. By the end of March, more criminals are likely to be serving a sentence for trying to kidnap Posh Spice than for belonging to a proscribed terrorist organisation.

How will the March go?

With this massive anti-war demonstration in London today it will be interesting to see if the anti-war left are starting to move out of the ghetto. I don't go on mass-demonstrations any more, finding them to be a waste of a good day - if the demonstration is small enough for my attendance to make a difference then it's too small in itself to make a difference. The same logic would apply to voting (a waste of quarter of an hour - but many more million participants), but I cling on to that futile method of influencing the government for nostalgic reasons. The other reason I avoid antiwar events is for the fact that I get irritated with the people. The best one's there tend to be church types or the immigrant group de jour (when it was the Balkans it was the Serbs, today it's the Muslims). The Trots are just ghastly I know that we oppose the same thing, but for entirely different reasons.

I did once almost get into a fight when talking about the First Gulf War and opining that maybe Saddam was lying about some of the civilian casualties, but since then I've kept my non-views to myself. I really couldn't care for the plight of the Palestinians and if America attacked Iraq without British involvement on either side I'd be totally unconcerned about the war. These views do not go down well among the demonstrating classes. Unfortunately they are probably the views of the people who give the peaceniks their public opinion poll majorities.

So a few daft questions for anyone on the march:

1) Were there any Union Jacks or crosses of St. George there, and did they outnumber the Palestinian or United Nations flags?

2) Where there Conservative or Tory-inclined (to the right of New Labour or the Lib Dems) speakers at the main event? Who were they? Did they get booed by the crowd?

3) Did any of the speakers say that Saddam wasn't so bad, or that if he was bad he was no worse than Israel or the US? Did these idiots get as many boos as any right of center speaker?

4) How many kaftans did you spot? Any rousing renditions of "We Shall Overcome", "Kum-ba-ya" or "Imagine"?

5) Did the rival Muslim groups have a fight? Were there any violent altercations between the different types of Trot paper sellers? Did any idiots attack the police?

We'll see. The real question will be whether they can get 408,000 out in London.
Thursday, February 13, 2003

Minority Reports

An interesting post in the aforeunmentioned Gene Expression, on the role of religious minorities in the Middle East. The ruling classes all seem to be either religious or ethnic minorities.

I think too much can be made of this. After all practicing Catholics are a fairly small proportion of the British population, yet all three leaders of the political parties are practicing Papists (Iain Duncan Smith very much so, Charles Kennedy not so practicing, Tony Blair not yet Catholic). Within a lifetime much the same could be said for Episcopalians in America, and perhaps evangelical Christians will start to take the governing slack.

In any pluralistic nation (and with all those artificial nations, that's quite a few) a religious or cultural minority is likely to appear more dominant than their numbers of the population would permit. The same goes for the worlds of culture or commerce. That does not necesarily mean that they are going to be actually more powerful, as they may put their group consciousness behind their nationality.

This perhaps applies to the Ashkenazi Jews in Israel, the Xhosa-dominated ANC in South Africa or the Sunnis in Iraq - whereas the Alawites in Syria and the Nejdis in Saudi Arabia are quite different. But where to draw the line?

It is easy to see where a minority is, it's not so clear whether the minority's members care.
Wednesday, February 12, 2003
Countering Pan-Arabism - 12th January 2003, 19.45

Fouad Ajami, Majid Khadduri Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, wrote an article for the Jan/Feb edition of Foreign Affairs, that was shortened and published on syndication, including the South China Morning Post. Ajami calls for the United States to adopt a Wilsonian policy towards a post-war Iraq and establish a democracy. More interestingly, and harking back to the ideologies dominating this region, the author views this war as a possible tool for removing Iraq from the orbit of pan-Arabism.

It is not decreed that the Kurds, or the Shi'ites for that matter, will want sectarian republics of their own. The convenience that created Iraq in the 1920s may still hold, but it would have to be a different Iraq. A country of genuine pluralism, a culture that has traffic with Iran, Turkey, Syria and the Arabian Peninsula, and the inheritance of four decades of British tutelage, has treated the Arab world to a cruel idea of Arabism, racial belonging and merciless clan rule as well.

The "ownership" of a new Iraq would have to be shared; its vocation would have to be a new social and political contract between state and society and among the principal communities of the land.

But Iraq would also provide, as it did under British tutelage, a mirror for American power as well. A new American primacy in Iraq would play out under watchful eyes. There will be Arabs convinced that their world is being recolonised. There will be pan-Arabists sure that Iraq has been taken out of "Arab hands", given over to the minorities within, and made more vulnerable to Turkey and Iran, the two non-Arab powers nearby. There will be Europeans looking for cracks in the conduct of the distant great power.

If the United States does allow the formation of a federal, democratic Iraq, they will be striking a blow against Islamist influence and at the ideology of shared nationalism (Pan-Arabism), its ignored opponent, although historically, this ideology has motivated revolution and dictatorship since Nasser's coup.

One of America's key war aims must be the transition of the defeated country from a Pan-Arab Iraq to a Post-Arab Iraq.
Anti-Europeanism - 12th January 2003, 19.27

Reading many of the American blogs elicits similar attitudes to those encompassed by this column from Jay Ambrose. Although, it is pitched as anti-European, the Modesto bee in the bonnet is specifically French.

Politically, every action has a reaction. The political class in Europe has nurtured anti-Americanist attitudes for some time and are now encountering a similar attitude from their counterparts across the Atlantic. Did they anticipate such a reaction as a welcome pressure on European integration or did they assume, that an informed American public would be as pliant as their own?

NATO no go

A curiously prescient article on the website "In The National Interest" (from 8 Jan) says that NATO's on the ropes. A bit optimistic about Western civilisation, though.
Now that Blair has put tanks on our streets, a few questions come to mind.

Why were other airports around London not guarded? If the terrorists had a missile and were primed to use it they could have just toddled off to Gatwick.

What good do tanks do against anti-aircraft missiles?

Now I am torn here. On the one hand I would like to say "told you so" and point to the price of the government's posturing in the Middle East being greater risks to us plebby taxpayers. However there appear to be too many holes in this story.

I'd say that this was just a photocall.

Not just in and out

U.S. Plans for Two-Year Occupation of Iraq
Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Still not proven

Another day, another loon. This time the loon (could be Osama, could be an impressionist) is calling for solidarity with the people of Iraq and calling all the Muslims who co-operate with the Americans in the invasion apostates. He even talks of "ignorant governments that rule all Arab states, including Iraq". So what do the hawks do? They claim it as proof that Al Qaeda are now with the Iraqi regime in a "burgeoning alliance of terror".

Poppycock. Al Qaeda and its lookalikes are merely profiting from the latest source of Muslim outrage, latching onto any cause which will advance them - just as they latched onto the Yanks in Bosnia and Kosovo. Does this prove that NATO is in fact a front for Al Qaeda?

Al Qaeda seem to be doing quite nicely from this invasion.

Pinning down the Federasts

Too daunted to trudge through the new European treaty? Phil Chaston has done the work for you on this web log, and Electric Review have put it into a condensed and useful form. Now there's no excuse for reading it.
A Confident Response - 11th January 2003, 20.23

Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary, made a confident speech to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, reiterating the government's case for war with Iraq. His confidence lay with the decisive repudiation of the proposals set out by France over the weekend for a no-fly zone over the country and more 'blue helmets' to police the inspections. Straw revealed that these possibilities had been examined in the preparations for UNSC resolution 1441 and had been found wanting:

As it happens we did examine both of these ideas in the preparations for what became 1441, and there was wide appreciation not just between US/UK but among partners that they were simply not feasible in the absence of complete Iraqi cooperation and not necessary if we had complete Iraqi cooperation. The fact that those proposals are now being aired is significant for one thing only - they represent the clearest admission yet that Iraq is not cooperating.

Blair and Straw are now committed to their course of action and viewed France's intervention as a reheated roadblock. The foreign secretary also repeated the motives of the government for going to war with an appeal to support collective security and dredging the 1930s as the archetypal example of a world ruled by gangsters, rather than law:

If we fail to back our words with deeds, we follow one of the most catastrophic precedents in history. The descent into war in the 1930s is a searing reminder of the dangers of turning a blind eye whilst international law is subverted by the law of the jungle. The League of Nations ultimately failed because its members lacked the courage and foresight to defend its founding principles with force. Good intentions were no match for aggression in Manchuria and Abyssinia.

If the security council were to demonstrate that it was incapable of tackling the new threats of WMD and terrorism, it would risk doing as much damage to the UN as that suffered by the League of Nations when it failed to face up to the challenges of the 1930s.

The irony here is that an idealistic British government attempting to shore up the credibility of the United Nations is supporting actions by the neo-conservative wing of the Republican party that hope the present course of events will spell the downfall of this international institution. Moreover, the comparison between the UN and the League of Nations is wrong. The latter was unable to face up to the challenges of the 1930s because it did not include the most important great power, the United States, and none of its other members had the political will to support its authority. The United Nations has never been considered as a replacement for the League of Nations and acts, in the eyes of the great powers, as a diplomatic convention rather than as the legislature for international relations, although the transnational Left has tried to invest this body with such powers.

Blair and Straw are unintentional revolutionaries in international relations, allied to a state that declaims its sovereign power in order to protect and enhance its security. The United States should hold its British allies on a tight leash, since if their internationalist aims kill the United Nations rather than cure it, they will move down a radical path, inimical to the British and American interest, in order to set up a regional or a global successor, based upon the myths of collective security.

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