Thursday, January 29, 2004
Welcome to the Elected Dictatorship

It is not clear what the final consequences of the Hutton report will be. Like the media run-up to the Scott report in the Major administration, the sound and fury of the pundits was eventually laid to rest by the bathetic desiccation of m'lud's conclusions.

Nevertheless, this inquiry was very different, in one significant respect from its previous incarnations. It was public and transcripts were available through the press, on the internet and even staged as a theatrical adaptation. Readers were able to make up their own minds about whose evidence they believed: the government's, the BBC's or independent witnesses.

Hutton's conclusions that damned the BBC, yet gave the government the benefit of the doubt are unsurprising in hindsight. The Chairman of the inquiry was chosen because of his familiarity with the procedures of the security services thrugh his position as Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland. Hutton did not perceive that the procedures followed during the period up to Kelly's death were undermined or broken. Perhaps they seemed akin to those that the security services in Northern ireland followed so many years ago when intelligence and politics were incestuously intertwined. Whitewash or an instinctual bias towards the administration of the day: it is not possible to explain Hutton's motives.

What counts is the reception of the Hutton report and this has proved damaging for the government. The Report was associated with wider doubts about the Iraqi war and whether the claims about weapons of mass destruction were justified. As the Bush administration has acknowledged the lack of evidence for WMD, the doubts over Blair's claims for going to war are multiplied: the claims which he put to a parliamentary vote.

The public is not convinced by the conclusions of the Hutton Report. The evidence aired confirmed their presuppositions of a manipulative and media-driven government that placed its own political needs above that of Dr Kelly or the country. Hutton's repudiation of every accusation thrown at Blair contradicts the general views popularised by the media and accepted by the country at large.

In consequence, this Report will increase the suspicion and mistrust of this government. Polls already show that the electorate has adopted a 'plague on both your houses' view. However, the offputting triumphalism of Blair is dangerous. He has entered the hubristic period that all Prime Ministers eventually attain: and he will use that to push through his desired changes - a supine BBC whose Charter may be amended to entrench government influence, an appointed House of Lords and politicised intelligence services.

(23.12, 29th January 2004)

Americans don't get it

I always hope that the right will return to its natural role of defending British independence and interests instead of always cowering before the might of America. Thus my unnatural (and unjustified) optimism when an article like this one by Robin Harris one of Maggie's old researchers about how the Americans don't get us. Worth reading, even if he is not yet saying that America is another country with its own seperate interests.

As this is a foreign policy website I won't mention the articles by Rod Liddle and Peter Oborne on the chilling report by the most corrupt judge in Britain. However if this report came out in France or Zimbabwe we'd think it was both typical and unjustified. That's where we're going.
Monday, January 26, 2004

Black day for the Anglosphere

A quick thought. Now that Conrad Black is being furiously chased by just about anyone who was a business partner of his what will become of the Anglosphere cult?

The formerly Canadian, soon to be former press baron was a strong advocate of the Anglosphere before the term was formed. A strong admirer of America he saw the natural place of Britain - and Canada and Australia - as loyal sattelites of the (adoptive)mother country. This was not the main motive force behind this funny little secular strain of British Israelite thought, it was the Cold War mentality amongst many of the Conservative right which wished to maintain the sense of power that being teamed with a winning superpower gave them.

However the Telegraph's and (especially) the Spectator's unnatural disavowal of a patriotic foreign policy was largely dictated by Black. It is rumoured that the choice of Boris Johnson over Simon Heffer as editor of the Spectator was partly due to the former deputy editor's admiration of Enoch Powell, whose clear sighted view of America's foreign policy goals repels Anglospherists.

Will the crowd pleasing Barclay brothers execute a u-turn on America? Certainly not immediately, however with the Daily Mail eating at the Telegraph readership and proposing a conservative foreign policy how long will the Telegraph take before trimming it's sails? Of course the Anglospherists needn't worry, the second Gulf War was widely popular in middle England, George Bush is a greatly respected figure and subservience to America is a strong current in British conservative thought.

When the Telegraph goes tabloid then the Anglospherists should start worrying. At least there's always the Murdoch press, and they never change their spots.
Sunday, January 25, 2004
Zimwatch: Interesting Developments

On Thursday, Thabo Mbeki claimed that Robert Mugabe would soon reopen negotiations with the opposition in Zimbabwe. This annoucement was treated with scepticism by the Movement for Democratic Change and was not substantiated by ZANU-PF.

Now Mugabe has flown to South Africa on a not so secret visit amidst rumours of sickness. The South African government has denied that he is there in an official capacity.

The schizophrenic regime still oscillates between relaxing the crackdown and its more normal thuggery and victim mentality. On the one hand, Dumisani Muleya was arrested for offending the Office of the President recently and was savagely beaten up today.

DUMISANI Muleya, the chief reporter of the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper was recovering Saturday after being savagely attacked by three unidentified men outside a Harare hotel on Friday night.

Muleya, once denounced as a “terrorist” by President Mugabe’s garrulous chief spokesman Jonathan Moyo, was left with a cut to the top of his left eye and had to receive some stitches, a colleague Mthulisi Mathuthu said.

”He was outside a Harare hotel and a car just stopped in front of him and three men came out,” Mathuthu said. “They then started beating him repeatedly and he sought urgent medical attention from the beating.”

However, the Daily News started publishing again, a small reversal of the repression that the free press has suffered over the last eighteen months.

Perhaps we should hope that the Republic of South Africa will be renamed the Retirement Home for Zimbabwean Monsters.

(23.03, 25th January 2004)
The Iraqi Campaign and the Boer War: Some Comparisons

Andrew Gilmour in the Spectator draws parallels between the current campaign by the United States and its partners in occupied Iraq and the Boer War conducted by the British in the nineteenth century. Both involved the major powers of the day undertaking wars that opened them to accusations of undermining international law and creating opposition in many parts of the world.

Sir Brian Urquhart has written how the occupation of Iraq, a vast increase in US military spending, Washington?s rejection of important international treaties and its unconcealed contempt for international organisations and conventions have created uproar and foreboding in many parts of the world. The future South African Prime Minister JC Smuts described Britain?s violation of every international law as ?very characteristic of the nation which always plays the role of chosen judge over the actions and behaviour of all other nations?. And there was almost universal moral revulsion over Britain?s internment camps for Boer families, which has continued in some quarters to this day.

The comparison has limited explanatory power as the Boer War was an imperialist campaign by a single country, designed to seize valuable raw materials, and accompanied by the rise of a mass support organised by the new tabloids of the Harmsworth press. The United States has invaded Iraq in the context of the 'war on terror', organising an insubstantial coalition and pursuing energy security in the middle east by removing a potential threat. However, blogs do not count as the "Daily Mail" and there is little evidence that the United States was seized by patriotic jingoism in the earlier part of this year.

The most striking lesson of the Boer War was that the short-term criticisms and diplomatic fall-out from this campaign did not last. The cost of the war propelled Britain to search for understandings and alliances that would shore up the imperial system, namely the entente cordiale and the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902. The United States is also facing the harsh gap between ambitions and resources although they do not face the strategic pincers that squeezed Britain at the end of the nineteenth century.

If Britain could ally with France only six years after the potential clash at Fashoda, is it too radical to suggest that we may yet see a rapprochement between France and the United States, if they perceive that they have more interests that unite rather than divide them.

(22.49, 25th January 2004)

Jack Straw made a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, placing him at the forefront of the centrist consensus on foreign policy in 2004. His speech made the following points, all echoes of the social-democratic approach to globalisation:

The existing international diplomatic framework on political and economic co-operation, of which the European Union is a prime example, is threatened by terrorism.

Disease, famine and other non-traditional threats to security need to be countered.

Democracy, the rule of law, and foreign investment should all be encouraged (though no mention of property rights).

The Blair administration is probably the last bastion of Clintonism on the planet. When the commentariat in the United States cheer Blair on, the vast Right Wing Conspiracy is (un)knowingly acknowledging that their former president, whilst shifty and vacillating, was more inclined to take military action than his current counterparts in the Democratic Party. Bill Clinton taught his wife to be a hawk.

Straw and Blair still defend the Iraq war as a defence of transnationalism, peddling the restrictions on trade that the Democrats hobbled the Seattle round with in order to assuage Hampstead consciences:

A safer, more just world offers business the best conditions for lasting success. By setting high standards of social responsibility and transparent conduct, companies can help reinforce those standards in the countries where they operate, both for governments and for the local businesses with which they work.

One example of this is the UN Global Compact, through which companies sign up to a set of basic principles on human rights, labour and the environment. Another is the ethical trading initiatives which exist in many countries including the UK, aimed at improving the conditions for workers in the global supply chain and helping consumers choose a product which conforms to minimum standards.

The United States has understood. The old alliance has been converted into castrati that hit a high note with article 5, but did not have the balls to actually do anything. If they can make ad-hoc coalitions to achieve diplomatic goals, there is no reason why this freedom of action should be monopolised by the sole superpower. As long as we remain wedded to NATO, EU and the whole commitment of transnationalism, we will not be able to act in our own national interest. We must emulate the United States of America, free ourselves of historical obstacles and adopt Palmerstonian solutions.

The "special relationship", NATO, the European Union, the Anglosphere and the Commonwealth are all Chinese ships that deserve to be sunk.

(00.13, 24th January 2003)
Thursday, January 22, 2004
Franco-German Day

Today was Franco-German day, a state mandated celebration of the postwar alliance. However, the peoples of both countries are now more likely to converse with each other in English than in their own tongues.

The Americans won their prize for Franco-German co-operation:

Ironically, the company awarded the Adenauer-De Gaulle prize -- named after the French and German leaders who signed the original Elysee Treaty -- Thursday for the biggest corporate contribution to Franco-German understanding, was the American oil giant Mobil, whose Mobil-France and Mobil-Deutschland units shared the prize.

(23.23, 22nd January 2004)
Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Rubbing it in

John Laughland is having fun. He is pointing to the logical flaws of the case for war as if they were ever important to any proponent of the war. Let's get this right. There were only two reasons Brits had for going against Iraq, either that Saddam was far more evil than other regimes in the region and all plausible replacements or that we have no choice but to be joined at the hip with America. All ideas that Saddam had chemical weapons or that he was in bed with Islamic fundamentalists may have been important to the Yanks, but I can't think of one person who changed his mind on the war on that sort of argument. There was not one proponent of the war who didn't either believe that we should always be with America no matter what or that it was our job to liberate Johnny Foreigner (Phil Chaston argued that once we were there we should finish it off - but this doesn't really count).

There was no national interest argument for the war in Britain so why are we trying to discredit it.

Surrender to the Shias

It is probably a good bet that when we went in to war one of the war aims, over or under the table, was not to create another Shia dominated state. However if true, British pressure for an early election in Iraq will create precisely that.

What will an early election achieve? Without credible intermediary levels of local government it is likely to mean that the Shias will manage to leverage their absolute majority of numbers to just about total domination of non-Kurdish Iraq. Of course the internal Shia divisions may overcome any desire for beating the hell out of the Sunnis and Christians, or the minorities may form a coherant alliance (but as this means that the Kurds and Sunni Arabs both have to regard the Shias as a bigger threat than each other this is less than likely).

A Shia dominated Iraq should also prove a shot in the arm for the conservatives in Iran who can start talking about Shia solidarity and Islamic revolution again rather than admitting to the fact that they haven't run Iran's domestic economy that well.

No wonder the Shias want an election sooner rather than later. No chance for Sunni or Christian institutions to emerge and no valid electoral roll will mean that they could sweep the board.

But why would we want an early election? Quite simply we realise that the Shias were quiet because we were doing a lot of their work for them in crushing the Sunni insurrection and now that is more or less under control they are no longer happy. Shia unrest will be impossible to control, especially for the British who are overstretched and police an overwhelmingly Shia area.

So I'm glad that this is happening. Sunni or Shia control of the Shatt-al-Arab does not matter for our national interest, although the oil importing Americans may demure (especially with the Shia population in the oil producing regions of Saudi Arabia). However not having our troops exposed to a widespread Shia insurgency is most definately in our national interest.
Tuesday, January 20, 2004

The War with Iraq: Nine Months After

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment
published on the Internet
Editor: Sean Gabb
Issue Number 118
19th January 2004

The War with Iraq: Nine Months After
by Sean Gabb
Last year, I found myself in strong disagreement - not only with my usual opponents, but also with close friends - over the wisdom and morality of our war with Iraq. I do not wish to restart the controversy with this article. Instead, now that the invasion is over, and now that there is more evidence of its effects, I want to examine more calmly than perhaps I did at the time whether the main arguments in favour of the war were valid. There are, I think, four arguments in favour of the war.

The first is that Saddam Hussein had weapons that he was able and willing to use against us directly or against our legitimate interests in the Middle East. This argument falls. Though I could not of course know for sure at the time, I doubted if such weapons existed, or if there was the will to use them. Iraq was a poor and barbarous country, and I was unable to believe that it could threaten us in any conventional sense. With full control of the ground, British and American inspectors have now been looking for such weapons since last April. They have found none. There was much excitement last month when it seemed that mustard gas shells had been found. But these turned out, on inspection, to be something else. Even otherwise, they would not have been the sort of weapon to justify a defensive war. Perhaps something will eventually be found. But the fact that nothing was used to repel the invasion is strong enough evidence for me against the more lurid claims.

That Mr Hussein was some kind of lunatic willing to involve himself in utter destruction is answered by the additional fact that he did not and by the manner of his discovery last month. The German National Socialists apparently said "When we depart, let the earth tremble". He was discovered cowering in a hole with an empty gun and enough cash to buy a small house on the south coast of England and a small annuity. This is the sort of end to a career that Plutarch would have enjoyed describing, but is anything but proof of self-destructive lunacy.

A more reasonable claim is that he was financing Islamic terrorism against us. I found this unlikely as well. He was a secular nationalist, Osama bin Laden a fundamentalist Moslem. Until quite recently, they hated each other more than they hated us. Again, no clear evidence has been found of any connection - and what evidence has been found may be of connections weaker than those between Mr bin Laden and the American Government. Indeed, documents found with Mr Hussein indicate that he remained suspicious enough of the fundamentalists to warn his followers against too close an involvement with their strand of the resistance. That claim also must fall.

To be fair, none of my friends really believed in these claims, and they have now mostly joined in the chorus against Mr Blair. One of their preferred arguments was that Mr Hussein was a tyrant, and that it was our duty, since we were able, to step in and save the Iraqi people from his rule.

Now, I am not sure about some of his alleged crimes. There is a general tendency among people to make up or to believe stories that are out of common experience. I doubt the story about how people were fed alive into plastic shredders, and I do not know if those Kurds were gassed on his orders or were incidental victims in some battle with the Iranians - or even if the shells were fired by the Iraqis or by the Iranians. But while questioning individual claims, it does seem that he was a tyrant, so far as he ruled Iraq with a beastliness beyond the normal experience of his people. This granted, however, I do not accept that we had any duty to intervene.

If private individuals in this country were to come together and plan some act of tyrannicide, there might be a reason on the grounds of national interest to stop them, but I see no objection in principle to their actions. Governments, though, are not private individuals. They do not spend their own money, and they do not risk their own lives. Their primary duty is to their own people. Unless he presents a clear and present danger to their own people, there is no case for them to intervene against a foreign tyrant.

For any libertarian to say otherwise is to endorse in foreign policy what is rejected in domestic policy. If we desire the government of this country to save foreigners from a tyrant, how can we deny the legitimacy of its trying to secure our own people from poverty and ignorance? An interventionist foreign policy is the equivalent abroad of a welfare state at home. As it happens, I do accept on practical grounds the need for some kind of welfare state at home. I do not think it desirable, but since nearly everyone else thinks it is, and it need not be as expensive and morally corrupting as it is in its present form, I see no benefit in strenuously arguing against the principle. But my more interventionist friends do not on the whole agree with me, and would try to abolish all welfare provision if ever they came into government. There seems to be an inconsistency here, and I would ask them to think about this.

A third argument in favour of the war was that, while Iraq was no threat to us, it was in our interests to keep in with the Americans. This is a stronger argument than the first two. The main present threat to our independence is continued membership of the European Union. The maintenance of close links with America is a strong counterweight to this threat. It gives us the option, should we leave the European Union, of joining NAFTA - and knowledge of the option may increase the desire. I do not think an independent Britain needs membership of any trading alliance that might compromise our legislative independence. But America would be better than Europe. In the event, the strong opposition of France and Germany to the invasion has turned the Americans against the European Union; and the recent collapse of talks over the European Constitution may be evidence of some benefit to us from the alliance - though this collapse could just as easily be for other reasons unconnected with the Americans.

This being said, it could only be in our long term interests to join with the Americans in a war that was likely to work to American advantage. A war with Iraq did not seem to me at the time likely to do this, and it has not so far done this. There was no strategy beyond achieving a military victory; and the occupation has been mishandled. The Allies find themselves in a war of guerilla resistance to which they have no answer. They have lost more men in the occupation than they did in the invasion. I notice that the Americans have now lost 500 men, which is as many as they lost in the first four years of their adventure in Vietnam. Hopes that the capture of Mr Hussein would end the resistance were unrealistic. He was not directing the resistance as a whole; nor was it conducted in his name. Indeed, his remaining at large until last month may have done much to limit Iraqi support for the resistance. Now that he is safely out of the way, the Iraqis can start arguing in earnest over a future that does not involve him - or the Americans.

Moreover, the invasion and occupation have revealed the limits of American power. One of the reasons that made nuclear war so terrifying after 1945 was that no one really knew what one would be like. Would it be mutually assured destruction? Or could it be limited to the use of battlefield weapons? No one knew, and no one ever felt sufficient provocation to find out. So it was before last year with the threat of American conventional power. It has now been tried; and the results are an incomplete victory and an overstretch that is reducing America to impotence elsewhere in the world. I did say a couple of years ago that a conquest of Iraq would be so cheap and easy, given modern weapons, that Britain alone could do it: my objection then was to its more general wisdom. I was wrong. The conquest has been immensely expensive. It has cost the Americans at least $30 thousand million directly. It seems in part to have caused the present collapse of the Dollar, and may prompt the main suppliers of oil to switch to dual pricing in Euros as well as in Dollars - a switch that may constrain American monetary policy in ways that it has not been within living memory.

A better strategy for us would have been to do our best to dissuade the Americans from war last year - if necessary by refusing to join in - and then to use our diplomatic abilities to help secure the stated American objectives by negotiation. In the short term, that would not have been appreciated so much as the offer of military support. In the longer term, it might. Sooner or later, the Americans will leave Iraq. They will not leave it voluntarily, but after the resistance has worn down the willingness of domestic opinion to pay the human and financial costs of the occupation. And they will not leave it with liberal democratic institutions. Either they will leave it in the same chaos as they left in Vietnam and Cambodia and Lebanon and Somalia, or they will leave it in the control of a rather less tyrannical but no less dictatorial man than Saddam Hussein. When this happens, the recriminations will start, and there will be a compelling motive for American politicians to shift some of the blame onto an ally that appears to have encouraged them at every step. So far as they can, they will blame us for their own folly.

In passing, I might, had I been Prime Minister last year, also demanded present benefits for joining in the war, rather than hope for future good will. Any claim that the Americans are so powerful that they can demand of their allies without offering anything definite in return cannot be justified. Power is always limited by the niceties of diplomacy. There are plain limits to what the Americans could do even to an entirely uncooperative Britain. In Mr Blair's place, I should have demanded hard assurances of a welcome into NAFTA, an end to official toleration of Fenian terrorism, a rebuke to the Spaniards for their Gibraltar policy, and the same preferential access to military technology as the Israelis enjoy. So far as I can tell, none of this was demanded. Certainly, none was granted.

The fourth argument for war is that there is an inevitable conflict between Islam and the West, and that it is in our interest to win this before the balance of demography has turned any further against us. This is the only argument that I do not flatly reject. I hope that any conflict can be avoided, but I am not sure that one can. It may be that Islamic enmity is wholly the product of American support for Israel. But it might not be. Perhaps if Israel were to disappear tomorrow, the search might simply begin for a fresh set of grievances. I do not know.

This concession being made, however, I still do not agree that the war with Iraq was justified. We won the Cold War not because we defeated Soviet Communism in the field, but because we wore it down until it collapsed. We funded media organisations that broadcast the truth to communist countries and allowed the people there to contrast their own wretched state with our freedom and prosperity. We funded ideological organisations that refuted all the theoretical and practical claims of Marxist-Leninism. We gave moral support to dissidents in the communist world. The heavy spending on armaments that we began at the end of the 1970s only accelerated a collapse that was already inevitable.

Unlike with Soviet Communism, as war with Islam could not be expected to end in the collapse of Islam as a religion. That could only be achieved by killing every Moslem in the world - something that I cannot imagine possible, let alone desirable. A more realistic aim would be the discrediting of certain formulations of Islam. I think it lacking in imagination to say that fundamentalist Islam is the only consistent form of Islam. A plain reading of the Koran might support this view. But how often has any doctrine relied for any time on a plain reading of its core documents? From Plato himself, to Pyrrho, to Plotinus, the Platonic school veered from mysticism to scepticism and to mysticism again. Christianity has more than one interpretation. So it has been and is with Islam. The question, then, is how to encourage the rise to ascendency of a form of Islam compatible with our own interests. I really do not think the answer involves military invasion of Arab or Islamic countries. On the few occasions when our side got into a direct military conflict with communism, we tended to lose. The Americans went into Indo-China to contain communism. They found themselves facing a largely nationalist resistance. So it is turning out with the invasion of Iraq.

The real answer is to follow broadly the same ideological policy with Islam as we did with communism. In place of the massive armaments programmes, I would suggest encouraging a diversification of our energy needs away from oil. Under normal circumstances, of course, where and how we get our energy would be a matter for the market. But bringing on a large and permanent fall in the price of oil would place more effective pressure on the Arab world than threatening it with military invasion. It would deprive governments there of incomes that are effectively a rent, and force them to liberalise their economies. Wealth would then depend far more on market rationality than on considerations of status and connections. That might raise up a wealthier enemy. More likely, it would create the conditions for a fairly peaceful co-existence. At least, it should be tried.

Even if there must be a conflict with Islam, therefore, the war with Iraq was a strategic error. It pleased the armaments companies, a few oil and other business concerns, those Israelis and Zionists whose debt to Prussian philosophy is greater than they might care to admit, and all those who prefer a quick solution to one than might work.

So, what is to be done? We can admit the war was a mistake, but that does not help us after the event - except, perhaps, to deter us from another military intervention. It would have been easy to avoid the situation in which we find ourselves. Escaping from it is another matter. Robert Henderson's view is that this is an American problem, and that we should simply withdraw all British forces now. Short of massive casualties in Basra, I am not sure if this would be the best solution. We have already incurred the ridicule and contempt of half the world. Pulling out now would put the other half against us. Undoubtedly, it would bring on us the active displeasure of the United States - and that is probably best avoided. At the least, we have shown the world that we still have sharp teeth and the will to use them. Pulling out now would take even that away. All I suppose we can really do is stay in there with the Americans until they decide to pull out, and in the meantime hope for the best.

As I hoped and predicted, Tony Blair has emerged from this war fatally wounded. If I hated him less, I might pity the collapse of a premiership that began with so much public affection and with so many more solid advantages. But he did bring all this on himself, and he is stained with the blood of thousands - both in Iraq and in Serbia. He may stagger on another year or so, or he may go before the summer. But I think the verdict of history can already be seen.

And so, I think I was right from the beginning. I was wrong when I predicted a strong military defence of Iraq and heavy Allied casualties in the attack on Baghdad. Doubtless, I shall be told I was entirely wrong every time there is a success of detail in the occupation. But I think it is now reasonably clear that the war was a mistake, that is solved no real problem, but only raised others. I am trying - and probably failing - not to sound too pleased with myself. But If I do sound insufferably priggish, I would ask you to bear in mind that I have not been speaking up for any policy likely to result in the violent death of my fellow citizens. That must surely count for something.


Monday, January 19, 2004
Homeland Insecurity

The anti-terrorist policy of this government can be summed up in one word and I'm too polite to utter it on this weblog. The absence of debate or visible measures of deterrance to combat potential terrorist outrages were given the benefit of the doubt by many observers, including myself. The kernel of doubt, based upon this administration's incompetence in many other areas, was silenced by the possibility that the government was taking serious steps behind the scenes to protect Britain and ensure that casualties would be minimised in the event of a successful terrorist incident.

In a word, no. A report that took evidence from the commercial sector in order to guage their preparation for a terrorist incident showed quite clearly that the government had smothered debate in order to reduce public anxiety. It will now have the opposite effect:

In the report's executive summary it states: "The commercial sector appears to be unanimous in its criticism of the present counter-terrorism communications policy prior to a major incident. They find it outdated, condescending, generally uncoordinated and at times incoherent.

"The Government's current counter terrorist policy was founded largely on the outdated premise of preventing public panic by saying as little as possible. The scale of the present threat necessitates a well-coordinated and informative approach.

"Not only do the commercial sector and the general public deserve to be better informed, but also a knowledgeable and responsive public should be one of the cornerstones of an effective counter-terrorism policy."

One of the simplest reforms that could be put into place in the event of a civil emergency is situation awareness so that those individuals with a public profile or position can act swiftly to save lives.

As the report concluded, there is little public knowledge on the types of terrorist attack that Britain faces. Moreover, due to our involvement in the Iraq war, we are now in the 'Premier League' for terrorist attack. It is not possible to trust the state with these matters after it has failed to act in the public interest.

Defence is the responsibility of the individual and of civil society. If the government has proven a failure in this regard, then I hope that this report recommends voluntary efforts that can be implemented to reduce these risks.

(23.06, 19th January 2004)
Anglo-Libyan Rapprochement

Jack Straw's article in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat clearly shows that Britain has used the closure of the Lockerbie case to promote a rapid warming of contacts with Libya. The Arabists in the FO have always been more lukewarm in their support for sanctions on Libya and welcomed the opportunity to revert to their traditional activity: cosying up to kleptocratic elites in the hope of oil contracts.

All this without a war! However Straw's avoidance of the 'stick and carrot' theory does not wash. Qaddafi does not fancy a smaller hole than the nationwide one his dictatership has already created. Especially after the seizure of those centrifuges!

(22.45, 19th January 2003)
Saturday, January 17, 2004
Spy Club

The Chinese authorities have arrested an official in Hong Kong on the grounds that he is a British spy. The accused, Cai Xiaohong, was secretary-general of the Liaison Office of the Central Government in Hong Kong, and belonged to the nepotistic elite known as the "princelings" that currently rules China. Unlike Soviet Russia, China is rapidly industrialising and advancing in material wealth, so spies are often motivated by cash.

Xiaohong was arrested last summer but his details have only come to light now. They have been released at the same time and overshadowed by the parading of Taiwanese accused of being spies before the cameras. Whilst the latter was designed to influence the internal politics of the future Republic of Taiwan, Xiaohong's fate was downplayed in order to avoid disrupting China's "cosy" relationship with Britain.

No doubt, Chinese communists have infiltrated Britain under the guise of illegal immigration. China has become "the main country of destination in Europe for Chinese asylum seekers, overtaking France." However, the attractions of a capitalist economy will eventually undermine any allegiance to the PRC, unless they have imbibed the nationalism that is detaching itself from its ideological parent, Maoism.

However, David Yip in the Chinese Detective and his popularisation of three wheelers suggests a happier future for the Chinese in the UK.

(10.37, 17th January 2003)
Friday, January 16, 2004
The Foreign Policy Centre

If you want a flavour of the themes that run through the thinktanks behind New Labour foreign policy, one of the places to stop is the Foreign Policy Centre. Whilst Blair is the patron and Robin Cook is the President. The usual raft of reports on Europe, globalisation, transnationalism and ethical foreign policy masks a glint of geopolitical awareness that saves this think tank from total futility.

The reports noted include Andrew Tyrie's essay on why the Conservatives should not have supported the Iraqi war, a pamphlet that, I am ashamed to say, passed me by at the time.

And on a side note, Christopher Montgomery, Emmanuel's sorely missed replacement at and founder of the Electric Review, is now director of the Friends of the Union. His latest piece on the passage of Jeffrey Donaldson to the DUP was recently featured in the Guardian.
Thursday, January 15, 2004
Not Good

On a more joyous note, I would like to congratulate the Secretary of State for Defence, the Right Honourable Geoffrey Hoon M.P. for the singular honour that the Pentagon has bestowed in the form of the Distinguished Public Service Award.

Our Defence Secretary appears, for the moment, to have dodged the arrows of misfortune, unlike Sgt. Stephen Roberts.

On another tape released by his wife, Samantha, he said: "We are now back into one of the camps to up-armour, which again is a bit of a joke in itself because they are running out of the frontal armour.

"It will be interesting to see what armour I actually get. I will keep you posted," he added.

With the correct equipment, he would have survived:

A pathologist's report found that the bullet would have been stopped by a specialist body vest, which had ceramic plates to cover the heart and aorta. Roberts had been ordered to give up the vest to a soldier deemed more at risk, and Roberts was left with standard armour.

We have noted the equipment and logistical failures within the army and this is more damning evidence of their consequences: the needless death of British soldiers. Although the principle of ministerial responsibility is no longer worth a damn, and Secretaries of Defence nee War never resigned over the deaths of the poor bloody soldiers, there is a chilling hypocrisy over the acceptance of this award whilst these tapes are being aired.

(23.10, 15th January 2004)
Blair's Test

The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman confirmed that Blair would make a statement and lead the debate on the Hutton Report after it was published on January 28th. The government was emphasizing that the reaction to the Report would be dealt with appropriately. However, it was clear that the opposition Parties will have to ensure that the government passes the Report to them in good time so that they can contribute to the parliamentary debate after digesting the findings.

Asked if it was up to the Government to decide whether the Opposition parties - and journalists - could be given copies of the Report in advance, the PMOS said that it was up to Lord Hutton to choose how to present his Report publicly. While it was not up to the Government to decide how journalists should receive it, it was, however, a matter for Government to decide when the Opposition received copies. We would be releasing further details about this in the appropriate way and at the appropriate time.

The record of the Blair government on the impartial release of any information is poor. Now, either the record of the No. 10 website is wrong, or the Conservatives did not fully understand the statement of Adam Boulton. Michael Howard, in a press release today, attacked Blair for stating that Hutton alone was responsible for issuing the report to opposition politicians:

?In answer to a question about when the Opposition will have access to the report, you said that Lord Hutton alone should decide that.
?That was clearly untrue. Lord Hutton, in his letter to me of 8th December, copied also to you, said that `the time when you [Michael Howard] should be given sight of the report is a matter for him [the Prime Minister] and is not one for me to decide'.

The Liberal Democrats are silent on the issue of Hutton except for Charles Kennedy's attack on the Tories over the issue of the Report, as part of their strategy to undermine the official Opposition and set up favourable conditions for a coalition. However, Menzies Campbell has picked up teh ball tonight and Kennedy is writing...

The Scotman confirms that the opposition parties will not receive advanced copies of the Report from Hutton.

The Department for Constitutional Affairs, which has handled media enquiries for the inquiry, said in a statement that the parties to the inquiry would be given advance copies of the report 24 hours before publication.

They will have to sign an undertaking not to reveal its contents.

Advance copies will go to the Government, the BBC, the Kelly family, counsel for the Commons Speaker, and BBC journalists Andrew Gilligan and Susan Watts.

It is within the gift of the Prime Minister to provide the leaders of the opposition parties with copies of the Report, under Privy Council confidentiality. The test is whether New Labour can resist its addiction to the political advantages that a 24 hour monopoly would bring in favour of a fair debate on this most important of issues.

(22.47, 15th January 2004)

Update: The opposition parties were granted a six hour preview and the debate on the Hutton Report will take place a few days after.

Two members of the Conservative Party and two Liberal Democrats will have access to the report behind closed doors from 6 a.m.on January 28, Blair's spokesman said. That gives them time to prepare their questions to Blair, who has said he will resign if found to have lied over Kelly.
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Romero's Children

The undead European Constitution was twitching with support from the Poles and the French yesterday. Further detail on the negotiations in early December demonstrates that Berlusconi heroically tried to bury the project through cack-handed bilateral negotiations where he remained hubris-in-chief, possibly outdoing even Chirac. However, now that the Italians have passed the parcel on to the Irish, the latter have sensibly left the divided parties to talk to each other whilst they concentrate on scientific research. The Poles have taken a more amenable stance by appointing a pro-Constitution candidate, Danuta Huebner, for one of the Commission posts.

The smaller states appear to be taking a more public stance on their opposition to 'variable geometry' or a Franco-German core. They must also have been heartened by the recent decision to declare the overthrow of the Stability Pact as unlawful, cementing their alliance with the Commission. The wish to prevent the development of such a division may spur the smaller countries to agree on the European Constitution and paves the way for a compromise with the Big Three.

The important players that emerge from this dance to the German timetable of constitutional completion by the end of 2004 are Benelux. They will provide important evidence of whether they will throw their lot in with the "core" or support the "Europe indivisible" approach of the other small Member States, which the accession countries appear to be adopting. The two other lynchpins in these negotiations are Spain and Poland, since both will require monetary lubrication to ease their concessions.

Britain's acceptance of Europe will be met with relief and and attempt to highlight the "redlines" that were negotiated away without telling us.

(23.26, 13th January 2004)
Centenary of the Entente Cordiale

I am just one day out of date on the centenary of our informed and informal understanding with France. Jack Straw celebrated with a puff piece that skimmed over history and noted how much we had in common. Politicians and diplomats tend to love this spin but the speech, held in Paris rather than London, was designed to reassure a European audience that Great Britain remained wedded to integration:

Neither of us wants a federal European superstate. It would not work; and our citizens would not be comfortable with it. Both of us want a Europe of nations - and a Europe which works.

The negotiations on a new constitutional treaty for the EU have been living proof that the EU is an organisation of sovereign member states who have to reach agreements among themselves for the work of the Union to go forward.

The government has made no concessions on the current suspension of negotations on the European Constitution and continues to support the centralised structures, reinforced by intergovernmental institutions, that the Constitution was designed for.

As permanent members of the Security Council and with our effective armed forces, Britain and France have also led efforts to develop an effective European Security and Defence Policy. This enables Europe to act on its own to protect and advance its interests, to act with NATO support, or indeed better to support NATO through stronger military capabilities. France played the key role in both of the first two operations - in Macedonia and in the Bunia province of the DRC. We are now working to plan for an EU-led force to replace NATO in Bosnia.

Working his audience, Straw also lauded the current progress towards a single European defence identity and France's key role in this endeavour. The differences over Iraq were skimmed over, the United Nations was praised as the central body of a rules based internationalsim and the United States was notable for its absence, although the ghost dominated this affair, like any other. UPI also noted the absence of the 60th anniversary of D-Day from the planned celebrations.

But one date is almost absent on the calendar: June 6, the anniversary of D-Day. It is not one of the top official Entente Cordiale events, though it is the 60th and probably last major commemoration of the Normandy landings in 1944. Diplomatic sources say this is because it is more of a celebration of the British and Americans coming to the rescue of the French rather than something the French can share equally with the Brits, and President George W. Bush has not yet announced whether he will attend. That announcement may not come until the Americans and French resolve their differences over Iraq.

This speech was padded out because Straw found that that the entente cordiale no longer exists in substance. As Andrew Roberts pointed out in the Daily Mail, we were dragged into two world wars, Suez, and long-term ruination for an unreliable ally. It has been replaced by the larger suprantional entity, the European Union, and Anglo-French agreement is now based on the ideological and political premises of membership. This will prove no more successful in the long run.

(23.04, 13th January 2004)
Monday, January 12, 2004
The Quadrille

Commissioner Erkki Likkonen, produced a public document, based upon his meeting of the 17th December 2003, outlining the greater co-ordination of research in defence and security. Although the budget for this venture is limited at €15,000,000, it marks another integral step towards a single Defence and Security Identity for Europe, the concomitant of the Common and Foreign Security Policy. The two other objectives that the Commission hopes to achieve in this sphere is a single market for defence procurement and the establishment of a Defence Agency to coordinate and control the military single market. The creeping control of the Commission is called a Preparatory Action.

If the European Union were to regulate and control defence procurement, this would strike a severe blow at one of the remaining strengths of the British industrial base. Such manufacturing and research would probably be redistributed across the EU as the gift of pork that politicians could dole out to their Member States. This could prove a politicised "hollowing out" of our defence industry and would spell the death knell of our co-operation with the United States.

This is another example where Britain's ability to square the circle between Europe and America has reached the end of the road.

(23.04, 12th January 2004)
Sunday, January 11, 2004

The Rights of Wrong

The Rights of Wrong

Robert Kilroy-Silk has always struck me as an unattractive character. A flash talk show host and former Labour MP who boasts about his money and blames his secretary lacks, well, class. Although I have genuinely mixed feelings over the Americanisation of our culture, he and his career are certainly one of the bad things to come from that process.

His column was also misjudged. Saying nasty things about Arabs is a rather stupid way of making a foreign policy point unless you are a neo-conservative in which case it's simply living up to expectations. And he came to the wrong conclusion, that we need war. However the proposed prosecution shows simply how the race relations industry has gone too far and needs to be disbanded.

Trevor Phillips, the talentless chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality wants the police to prosecute Kilroy for his column. Now he doesn't appear to have actually said anything that was strictly untrue. Arab governments are repressive, Arabs did hijack the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center and ordinary Arabs did dance and cheer when 3000 (and it looked like far more at the time) innocent Americans died horrible deaths. He did not point out that the Arabs had a logical numerical system before us, but you shouldn't be prosecuted for not pointing out the other side in opinion pieces.

More to the point he did not say "go and kill an Arab for me" nor did he refer to Mr Mustafa at 100 Acacia Road. What he said cannot be construed as incitement to an actual crime.

How is this going to play in foreign policy debate? Well it's going to have the insiduous effect of blocking honest debate. Whether we like it or not there are nasty foreigners out there and there are foreign governments who are acting contrary to our interests. To point this out (even mistakenly) and then find that you could be prosecuted for this is going to have a chilling debate on foreign policy debate. Would Peter Tatchell be able to expose more black governments over their non-European treatment of sexual deviants? Would the silly case of an anti war protestor being prosecuted under the race relations laws for disrespecting the Stars and Stripes be so unique and silly?
And if the majority of people are only exposed to views that paint foreign governments people as nice and trustworthy then we are going to make monumentally bad foreign policy on the back of that.

Free speech is not only important on its own terms, it also helps us to make the best decisions with all the information available to us. Trevor Phillip's updated fascism isn't only morally wrong, it's disastrous for the health of the nation.
Friday, January 09, 2004
An Irish Drawing Board

Bertie Ahern, the Irish Tiaoseach, has convened a meeting in Berlin to discuss the European Constitution with the leaders of France, Germany, Spain and Poland, the four Member States whose actions led to the debacle in December. The primary motive for this was the fear that France and Germany would develop an "inner core" or adopt an integrated group outside of the present structures of the EU.

What Mr Ahern is desperately trying to avoid is a two-speed Europe, where France would take the lead for faster integration together with Germany and others.
That may be the French dream, but Mr Ahern bluntly called it a nightmare. I've never heard how that would work, he said, it would just mean endless divisions and arguments.

(22.38, 9th January 2003)

Interesting counterpoint from irritant to Galileo's world. I'm glad he recognises my claim to the moral low ground.

(22.22, 9th January 2004)
Thursday, January 08, 2004

Anti Americanism

I've been away for a long time - and I would owe Philip Chaston a large number of drinks for an admirable job of keeping this place going if he knew my identity. Thus adding another reason for the pseudonym. I'm very busy at the moment but will try harder to keep up.

This excellent review by Peter Hitchens of Anti-Americanism by Jean-Fran├žois Revel which at the same time attacks both the stupid anti-Americanism of the left and the resulting uncritical admiration of America's foreign friends - an uncritical admiration that in many cases veers on treachery as it used to be understood.

His last paragraph says it all:

If only America deserved the unqualified admiration that Jean-Fran├žois Revel heaps upon it. But tanks, missiles, aircraft carriers, and bombing planes are no substitute for the courageous resolve and unfashionable adherence to principle that once made America great and whose absence now gnaws at America’s vitals. France and Britain are not the only places where the cultural Left has occupied the strongpoints and besieges the inner fortifications.
Sunday, January 04, 2004
Galileo's World

Galileo, the global positioning system that is being constructed by the European Union, has its own magazine website, Galileo's World.

China and India have both signed agreements to cooperate with the European Union on Galileo, although the PRC has proved the most troublesome partner, raising the hackles of the United States.

Grohe told GPS World that the Chinese agreement only initiates activities on application and user equipment development, which will be coordinated through the China- Europe Global Navigation Satellite System Technical Training and Cooperation Center inaugurated in Beijing in October. The terms of more substantial Chinese participation at the program level, which has raised concerns among U.S. military and foreign policy officials, would be worked out in a subsequent agreement, he said. In terms of Galileo system development, Grohe says, “China would like to be involved from launchers to spacecraft.”

China would also like access to the Publicly Regulated System (PRS) that transmits crucial technical information. This is transmitted on a radio frequency that the US military has already tried to reserve for their M-Code.

The role that the Galileo system plays in the security of the European Union can be found in this Powerpoint demonstration. Although the system is supposedly left in the management of the EU and the Member States, it is clear that the satellite systems must fit in with the common foreign and security policy:

"EU and Member States to develop contingency plans for control of GNSS in crisis or war.
Implementation of denial under the control and responsibility of 'relevant European security authorites', and to be formally notified in advance....
OS denial implementation may be coordinated with third countries operating own satellite navigation systems.

Galileo is viewed as part of the emergent European security system and has been constructed under the control of the European Union, not of individual Member States. Although the United States continues to dominate in military technology, there is a natural development on the part of other actors to cooperate in order to avoid continued dependence upon the Global Positioning System.

Military cooperation in Europe, with ties to other powers are far more dangerous for any future British withdrawal than a weakened polity that is unable to compete with the United States in either 'soft power' or 'hard power'. It is in British interests for Galileo to fail, and in as chaotic a fashion as possible.

(23.06, 4th January 2004)
Saturday, January 03, 2004
In Everlasting Chains under Darkness

The fate of the angels cast out from Paradise is described in Jude:6. The same sentiment is often heard in describing the fate of Africa. War, famine, AIDS and wholesale death appear to range across this wide continent, picking off victims in a random and wicked fashion not seen in the West for over fifty years. In all, a time of tribulation and lamentation.

Comparisons are often drawn between Ghana and South Korea in the 1950s since one was richer than the other, yet the wealthier nation then has not created a thriving industrial economy now. Yet, when the peoples of South and East Asia are beginning to attain a better quality of life in the span of a generation, one must ask how long before sub-Saharan Africa travels the same upward trajectory.

Ronald D. Palmer, a retired US diplomat, writes an article of measured optimism on the future of Africa. Whilst the severe challenges that Africa faces can be portrayed as insurmountable, there are a number of trends and developments that provide a counterweight to the pessimistic views often expressed.

The number of wars that have plagued Africa in the postcolonial period are beginning to flicker out and subside. Sudan, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Angola and parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo are enjoying the peace of warweary populations. Set against this is a rising assertiveness amongst Muslim populations, linked to the incessant tribal identities that criss-cross national boundaries and leading to civil war in the Cote D'Ivoire or instability in North Nigeria.

The other reason for optimism given by Palmer is the New Partnership for Africa, where a process of peer review and the promotion of good governance was designed to spread liberal democracy and the rule of law amongst African states. However, Mbeki's flatlining 'quiet diplomacy', which appears to have been translated into support for the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe, has undermined this collective endeavour. Perhaps Mbeki's support for a dictatorship is advantageous to other African countries like Nigeria, Kenya or Ghana, since it undermines the leadership that South Africa appears to wield by 'divine right'.

Palmer's prognosis is relatively cheerful (No.3 is developmental aid or intervention from the US, UN or other bodies - intervention that is probably more damaging than beneficial in its consequences) :

1) Prospects for Peace? Tentatively improving.
2) Prospects for African Solutions of African Problems? Growing.
4) The United States and Africa and the Globalized Economy? US-African trade is already significant despite the low level of overall African trade. Prospects for further trade improvement appear bright. US investment lags but should improve as African observance of WTO business, banking, and legal norms develop.
5) The Promise and Peril of African Hydrocarbon Development? This is an imponderable. To the extent that the development of African hydrocarbons is accompanied by better governance and transparency, prospects are bright. Lacking these elements, hydrocarbon development will present staggering politico-economic-social problems that may precipitate continuing instability and conflict.

The coast of Africa is now a focal point for the strategic thinkers of certain Western nations. They see these countries as a potential source of hydrocarbons that may postpone the inevitable reliance upon Middle Eastern energy sources. Both the United States and Britain have begun to increase their economic and political influence in these localities. The US predicted that Africa would provide 25% of US oil imports by 2015, according to their 2002 Energy Outlook Report. Britain, once North Sea oil runs out, cannot be far behind, and another challenge for the immiserised of Africa is oil largesse.

However, the Africans have proven more impatient with the actions of their elites than ever before as access to more advanced communications technology, greater literacy and more educational opportunities spreads the thirst for a more accountable, market led politics that secures property rights and solid laws rather than Big Men and daily corruption. It is these trends that have led to more democratic African states in the last few years, not development or charity, but Africans learning to read, write, listen, think, discuss, debate and find their place in our world. The upward curve probably began some time ago and the tide is now lifting.

(23.17, 3rd January 2004)
Friday, January 02, 2004
Can We Fight?

Sometimes it is surprising that we manage to put an expeditionary force together for campaigns in Mesopotamia or other farflung corners of the globe. Our latest venture has reinforced the reputation that Great Britain has for being the most capable of all European countries in terms of military expeditions. Whereas professionalism and fighting spirit are second to none, our record of procuring and deploying military equipment is very poor.

The history of overruns includes the SA80 rifle, the Bowman communications system and the Typhoon. The Ministry of Defence makes Failtrack look punctual. Their latest projects are already facing cutbacks and lower capabilities than planned:

Only nine of the 25 Airbus A400M transport aircraft which will form the backbone of the RAF's key rapid-deployment airlift from 2012 onwards are to be fitted with anti-missile defences to save the Ministry of Defence £319m.
This means only nine can be used in a combat zone at the same time, unless the RAF is willing to risk the lives of its aircrew and the survival of its airframes.

The plan to build two new aircraft carriers is rapidly heading south:

The plan to build two "supercarriers" as the lynchpin of UK expeditionary policy is in trouble before the first steel has been cut for their hulls. They will be 10,000-tons smaller to save on their £4bn cost and the number of US-designed future strike craft to equip them will be cut as a result.

and what about our contribution to UAVs:

Britain's commitment to a new, £800m fleet of robot surveillance aircraft to be bought off-the-shelf from either Israel or the US, has a particularly unhappy track-record.
When the Phoenix unmanned drone first entered frontline duty in 1996, it was already 16 years late. Since then, it has been plagued by crashes.The army lost 24 over Iraq during the war in March alone. Many of the 198 bought at £1.5m apiece have been cannibalised for spare parts to keep the others operational.

On this record, the gap between the capabilities of the British and American armies can only widen.

(22.41, 2nd January 2004)

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