Sunday, February 29, 2004
Imperial Capabilities

The article by David Marquand contained a large flaw. Marquand assumed that the rise of a multipolar world is inevitable and that the United States, like all former empires, will usher in its rivals through some geopolitical 'hidden hand'. However, the advantages that the United States holds over any potential rivals in terms of economic power and strategic influence is bound to increase.

The United States understands that the first power to militarise and control the immediate low to high earth orbits, on which surveillance and communications depends, will gain a 'first mover advantage' that no other power could compete with. That is why the United States Air Force published a report, the Transformation Flight Plan, on the steps needed to command space over the next ten to fifteen years in November 2003. This document is treated in more detail at Winds of Change.

Released in November, the report makes U.S. dominance of the heavens a top Pentagon priority in the new century. And it runs through dozens of research programs designed to ensure that America can never be challenged in orbit -- from anti-satellite lasers to weapons that "would provide the capability to strike ground targets anywhere in the world from space."

Defensetech notes that some analysts fear an arms race in space but, given the dominance of the United States in this area, it is unlikely that any other power could compete. An alphabetical listing of the USAF's wants can be found at

This wishlist is an indication of the importance of the 'high frontier'. American dominance of this regionis not inevitable and the costs may be too great for any one power to bear. If they were to achieve this, then US hegemony would maintain itself into the middle of the 21st Century and perhaps beyond.

How does this affect Britain? Perhaps not too badly, since we would be in the same boat as everyone else. A more searching question is how the US militarisation of space would affect private enterprise. Would they view such activities as a threat or as an American preserve? Are such developments inimical to any private sector space programme sourced in Britain?

(22.58, February 29th 2004)
Saturday, February 28, 2004

The EU and the US have completed their negotiations on Galilieo.

They agreed to adopt a common signal for certain services and to preserve national security capabilities. The agreement marks the end of three years of transatlantic negotiations.

The press release does not mention the worries that the US had over EU communications interfering with their own M-band. However, CNet report that the EU backed down and accepted frequencies that it had earlier rejected in order to avoid degrading US military capabilities.

"We have now agreed on signal structures that will not degrade the navigation warfare capabilities of U.S. and military forces," said Ralph Braibanti, director of the State Department's Office of Space and Advanced Technology.

"It was never the U.S. view that we wanted to block Galileo. It is true that when Galileo was in the hypothetical phase we had reservations about it," he told a news conference.

A possible example of governmental (Member State) interests engineering concessions to the US?

(23.08, 28th February 2004)
The Geopolitics of the Left

Suez is recognised by the Left as well as the Right as the paradigm shift for British foreign policy in the Cold War.

Then came Suez - the defining moment in our post-war history. Eisenhower was understandably enraged by the Anglo-French attack on Egypt and forced us to call it off. The French drew the conclusion that they could not trust the Americans ever again; we concluded that we must never again allow ourselves to be parted from them on an important issue. That has been the governing axiom of British foreign policy under every prime minister since 1956, with the sole exception of Edward Heath.

David Marquand, writing in the Guardian a week ago, had little difficulty in critiqueing the Atlanticist stance on Blair. His article was more interesting because it cited traditional and geopolitical arguments for supporting the European Union. These sit uncomfortably with the earlier arguments for Europe that governed the British discourse: economic benefits and free trade. However, the liberal left in Britain is convinced that the advantages of the European social model have taken on the form of a 'kulturkampf' with their global rivals and that a unified power is the only structure capable of defending what has been achieved in the name of Europe. In this, they have subscribed to the emerging variant of European chauvinism and anti-Americanism that has been confidently articulated on the Continent to justify the EU.

Much more frightening than the threat of international terrorism is the spectre of a divided and politically incoherent Europe, incapable of safeguarding the interests of her people in a world dominated by the US, China and India. Though Blair hates the very idea, that spectre can be kept at bay only if Europe becomes an alternative pole of power in an increasingly multipolar world.

The consensus on an Atlanticist foreign policy is breaking down. However, since the self-described progressives (actually supra-nationalists with a continental palate) wish to transfer one master, Europe, for another, America, the outcome is actually worse than our current situation. The only advance is that the liberal-left is beginning to talk in terms of power rather than transnationalist platitudes.

(22.44, 28th February 2004)
Thursday, February 26, 2004

A Government of Promiscuous Buggers?

No, I'm not talking about the mysteries of the Blair-Mandelson axis, or the late marriage (to his Public Relations consultant, no less) of Gordon Brown. And how dare you think that I would even hint at these matters!

The issue is the alleged bugging of Kofi Annan and Heaven alone knows who else by British intelligence services. Of course the national interest argument is as simple as I am, old Kofi is not a British citizen so if the gains from his bugging are justified by the costs (including any potential embarrasment) then so be it.

However we are not dealing with a government who think too much about the national interest except as an add on justification to whatever course of foreign affairs they want to take (a disease that is endemic throughout the political classes), in that "of course removing Saddam / signing up to the single currency / doing America's bidding / starving the third world is in our national interest, otherwise I would never have proposed it." Oh yeah? Sounds like shoehorning to me.

We are dealing with a government who believe that British forces should be deployed to enforce "international law", and it is far less of an after thought than the national interest. Now I realise that international law is an amorphous concept, but bugging foreign diplomats is a pretty big no-no, and there doesn't seem to be a general exception to the UN for this.

Now I don't worry about this but for a government that does (and constantly uses not only international law but the will of the United Nations as a justification) it plainly should. The sounds of hoisting by home made petards can be distinctly heard.
Wednesday, February 25, 2004
Pan-Am Proliferation

James Steingold, a staff writer in the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote an article on the approach of the United States to nuclear proliferation, a subject of topicality after the recent revelations concerning Pakistan's "Muslim bomb". Steingold analysed supposed inconsistencies in US foreign policy by comparing the sanctions applied to Iran (terrorist state) with the blind eye shown to Brazil. Both countries have recently enriched uranium.

From this, certain questions are raised:

The contrast of the two cases underscores a sharp philosophical divide that lies beneath the debate on the best way to stop nuclear proliferation:

-- Should the policy be based on a view that nuclear weapons are not inherently bad, but rather perilous only if they fall into the wrong hands?

-- Or should the international policy be that the weapons are so dangerous that the aim should be applying restrictions equally and eliminating all warheads and production programs, even in the United States?

Transnationalists view all nuclear weapons as evil and support a program of disarmament that would end all state mandated nuclear weapons programs. In the real world, where the great powers understand that non-governmental groups could soon acquire nukes, there is an instinctive recognition that nuclear proliferation is a process that can, at best, be slowed but not controlled.

Nuclear proliferation is rolling out and as armouries fill up with these cheap bombs, the probability of their use rises. Two more mega-risks for the twenty-first century.

(22.57, 25th February 2004)

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Suggestions one year become practical reality the next. The Austrians put forward a position paper arguing for the establishment of a European intelligence agency to combat terrorism, offering additional "options to the military, to diplomats and internal security systems.

The proposal was knocked back, but this is one to watch. The 'war on terror' provides a justification for the European Union to beef up its security apparatus, define its enemies and take whatever action is deemed appropriate.

(19.58, 24th February 2004)
Sunday, February 22, 2004
Kerry advocates US interference in Northern Ireland

Now that the two sides in Northern Ireland have reached a political impasse, it is unclear how the British and Irish governments should proceed in a delicate and unstable situation, marked by staccato outbursts of paramilitary activity. No doubt, the pro-republican statement issued by the democratic frontrunner, Kerry, may prove a sop to the Celts in the Democratic Party. However, it spells awkward trouble for the Good Friday supporters who have grown accustomed to the stasis and have welcomed the benign indifference of the Bush presidency.

At first reading, Kerry takes an evenhanded approach condemning paramilitary activity. But, after the obligatory condemnation, Kerry maintains that any US administration under his command would support the Good Friday agreement, and that the suspension of the Assembly should not continue.

However, the presidential hopeful acknowledged that more work needed to be done. His campaign team's statement said: "As a supporter of the need to hold recent elections for the Northern Ireland Assembly, he believes that repeatedly suspending democratic institutions is not the way forward for Northern Ireland.

"He urges all parties involved to work for the earliest resumption of the assembly, and he believes the review of the Belfast agreement must be just that - a review, not a renegotiation.

"The problem is not the structures of the agreement itself, but rather the failure of all to fully implement it.

"The DUP cannot be permitted to disenfranchise half the population of Northern Ireland by refusing to form a government with Sinn Fein."

The incoherence of this statement and its focus upon the Irish-American communities bodes ill for any understanding that a new prospective Democratic President would bring to the table. The current impasse occurred because the Unionist communities perceived that the concessions they had made were not reciprocated by their negotiating partners. Hence, they voted for anti-agreement candidates. When Kerry refers to the DUP, he focusses upon one of the two sticking points, unionist rejection. The other is, of course, the unwillingness of all paramilitary groups, to disarm completely.

Kerry's statement namechecks Ireland, the IRA, loyalists, paramilitaries and the Agreement. He does not mention Great Britain, the polity within which Northern Ireland is located, or the unionists. Kerry has made his sympathies clear for electoral purposes and has shown, yet again, that Democrats in the United States do not recognise British sovereignty over Northern Ireland.

If the policy that he intimates in his statement is pursued, then the Agreement will be shredded. The circle cannot be squared now, and if the unionists have voted for anti-agreement candidates, then it shows that the Agreement does not command sufficient respect from all parts of Northern Ireland, catholic or protestant, to create a stable government.

Kerry has fallen into the trap of viewing the Good Friday Agreement as a Republican and nationalist settlement. It was not. It was designed to provide democratic institutions that, moving forward, could accommodate both traditions. It has proved unequal to the task, and if Kerry were in the position that he advocates, we would have to pick up the pieces of his incompetent meddling.

For this partisan approach to Northern Ireland, it would be in Britain's interests if Kerry remained where he belongs, unelected.

(18.50, 22nd February 2004)
Zimwatch: Even the Communists agree...

The South African Communist Party undertook a fact finding mission recently to Zimbabwe and concluded that ZANU-PF was avoiding talks with its opposition, the MDC. As revolutionaries first and democrats second, the ANC assumed that a one-party post-colonial government representing all aspects of society ensured progress unless misgovernment or corruption diverted them from their ideological task. Then, oppositional (presumably counter-revolutionary) forces would emerge:

While land redistribution was "very central to consolidating the Zimbabwean independence struggle, a lawless, populist-inspired land grab by an elite in the inner circles of government is a cruel caricature of the kind of land reform that the rural poor of Zimbabwe (and South Africa) so desperately require", the SACP said.

"The 'fast-track' land reform in Zimbabwe has left hundreds of thousands of the poorest of farm workers displaced and without work," it said. The SACP said the ANC regarded the MDC as a creature of Zanu PF's "mistakes and stagnation".

ZANU-PF has demonstrated, like the Chinese in 1989 and the Mullarchy in 2004, that if a regime is willing to use violence to maintain power, the civil society and democratic protest are insufficient to propel regime change. The MDC has been unable to convert its electoral base or mass action into a movement that will overthrow Mugabe.

Mugabe celebrated his eightieth birthday yesterday and, after the obligatory reference to assassination (preserving his image as a paranoid Big Man), stated that he would retire by 85, coincidentally the age when his presidential term runs out. As the internal opposition in Zimbabwe has been unable to achieve this through the ballot box, only death, foreign pressure or a violent change of leadership/regime will dislodge Mugabe.

There is no indication that a successor regime in Zimbabwe would prove equal to the task. ZANU_PF is a broad church, and the moderate wing could be enticed into a national government with the MDC, but the kleptocratic elites, now extremist, would overthrow the constitutional facade to maintain power. The future of Zimbabwe may be the militarised dictatorship seen across the continent or, more happily, a ZANU-PF/MDC alliance.

(18.05, 22nd February 2004)
Saturday, February 21, 2004
The Travails of British Aerospace

British Aerospace, as the strongest and last contender, for Britain to maintain a defence company at the highest level, is now facing strategic uncertainty and financial pressure. Whilst these constraints are taken into account, the future of BAe is entwined with the decisions of its paymasters, the British government, and their own view of Britain's future defence needs.

Since the beginning of this year, BAe has faced an unpromising report from the National Audit Office, blaming the company for cost overruns on defence programmes. A huge contract of ?13bn for air refuelling facilities was passed to EADS, the Franco-German group as a consequence.

The current model adopted by the government is for a quarter of all British procurement contracts to be sourced with BAe in order to maintain the company's existence. The remainder of the contracts would be put to tender, with foreign companies allowed to compete on a level basis.

This type of procurement policy has a number of drawbacks. Whilst BAe, in which the government has a 'golden share' may be protected, the underlying second and third tier of firms on which defence contracts and research depends, may find themselves underbid by companies protected in their home markets. The consequences would be the long-term decline of defence infrastructure in the United Kingdom and a greater dependence upon their competitors, the majority of whom are probably sourced in the European Union.

The current direction of this administration is to increase cooperation with other member states of the European Union in terms of defence procurement, operations and infrastructure, without undermining the existing ties institutionalised within the NATO umbrella. However, the future of BAe is decided just as much in No. 10 as it is in the boardroom. That political dimension may have proved unpalatable to Boeing after their own publicised troubles in 2003 or the British government no longer saw any advantages in tying BAe so closely to the defence contractors of the United States.

BAe's limbo mirrors the current European policy of this government. Most of its profits and research is now located in the United States but it also cooperates with other defence contractors in Europe. Whilst there are advantages to these entanglements, the danger is that this administration may sacrifice BAe to burnish its European credentials, engineering its merger into EADS and spinning off the North American unit to Boeing, Lockheed Martin or other US defence corporation. Then, the maintenance of British independence will prove far more difficult to attain, involving the disentanglement of our defence from a continental corporation.

(22.28, 21st February 2004)
The Secret Wind

If it is, it is an informal one. Britain has moved fast to convert Libya from a menace to an ally and a potential bulwark against unsavoury developments in the Maghreb. This includes an offer to train their soldiers as an incentive to complate the handover of weapons of mass destruction.

Libya has been increasing its potential influence in sub-Saharan Africa for the past decade following the power vacuum after the end of the Cold War. As a continent, Africa offered few geopolitical advantages and the great powers were willing to allow grandstanding midgets their place in the sun. This window of opportunity for Gadafy ended after 2001 when the United States sought other sources of strategic oil and ended up with interests on Libya's southern doorstep, Chad. With the object lesson of Iraq, Gadafy has seen which way the wind is blowing and has thrown in his hand with the West.

The United States and Libya are now involved in the cautious dance that leads to the normalisation of diplomatic relationships and the ending of sanctions. They have now exchanged diplomats under the respective sections protecting their interests and other restrictions are set to be reviewed or eased depending upon the progress of dismantling Libya's WMDs. It is no surprise that the Belgiums are not far behind.

The United Kingdom has developed warmer ties with Libya and, following the visit by Abdulrahman Shalgam, the Libyan Foreign Minister, on the 10th February, it has been arranged that Gadafy will meet the Blessed Leader. It is not clear how Blair will confront the odd habits of the born-again Pan-Africanist but manners will outweigh the secret wind.

When I interviewed him for the BBC four years ago and he offered to hand over the Lockerbie suspects, he was pretty weird: he wore his hat sideways and broke wind secretively but audibly during our interview. But he was also relaxed, charming and distinctly other-worldly. It may be, as many Libyans believe, that he is now much more like the constitutional figurehead he has long claimed to be.

Libya has always been an irritant rather than a menace. Gadafy is no longer the firebrand who overthrew King Idriss and it is not clear if he wields absolute power in Libya or if the party he established has attained a more independent existence, including in foreign policy.

For the United States and the United Kingdom, Libya is an attractive country to bring in from the cold. It is a North African power that has exiled itself from the constricting morass of the Arab League and can act as another source of oil. Moreover, Libya has obtained a voice in Africa and instead of creating friction with this regional power, Bush and Blair have decided to co-opt a regime that has already acted to bring African leaders into line with its own vision.

Gadafy is now "one of us".

(13.00, 21st February 2004)

One of the government's favourite swizzes to massage the books is the private finance initiative, leaving debts off the public sector borrowing requirement, in order to lower the reported level of expenditure. Now the Minsitry of Defence has been able to live up to the Blair administration's wish to be at the "heart of Europe" using the private French initiative.

If you cast your mind back a couple of years, the government wished to burnish its security credentials by hyping the construction of two new aircraft carriers flying the flag. Such ideals soon sank under the predictable weight of budget overruns and overambitious tendering.

Hoon has decided, that if the French, famous constructors of the floating kettlemobile, the Charles de Gaulle (it floats and you can boil a kettle off its engines), throw in some money for a third aircraft carrier, this will allow the MOD to meet its original financial estimates. The aircraft carriers, based on conventional propulsion, will be 285 metres long, 58,000 tonnes, and will enter service between 2012 and 2015, just when they become obsolete.

Whilst this may be advantageous to ourselves in terms of cost, the French view the joint programme as another development that ties Britain more closely into an integrated European defence programme.

The president of the National Assembly's defense committee, Guy Teissier, said the decision was "first of all political - because on the diplomatic level it opens up the possibility of Franco-British cooperation and supports the establishment of a European defense with Europe's foremost military power."

This is an example of how the Blair tightrope between Europe and America is kept taut by building relationships with both sides and encouraging them to understand that they need Britain in order to achieve their respective goals. This is a high-risk strategy since, if one side refuses to view Britian as an ally, we will lose the ties that we have built in that area. For the United States: that is military and intelligence co-operation; for the European Union (specifically France), it is defence programmes like the one above. Disengagement by others, rather than on out own terms, will leave us in an invidious and vulnerable position.

(21st February 2004, 12.18)
Wednesday, February 18, 2004

A way out for the Tories?

The Conservatives have been attacked for refusing to increase defence spending at a faster rate than the rest of the economy. Surely the answer is to remove ourselves from so many unnecesary overseas commitments?
Monday, February 16, 2004
Nearly Normal Germany

An analysis of German power in the International Herald Tribune argues that the midget of Mitteleuropa has begun to assert its interest in a European context. Gunther Hellmann, a political scientist from the Goethe Universitat at Frankfurt, understands that the 'normalisation' of German power is accompanied by long-term developments that accentuate weaknesses witnessed by its partners.

Germany is pushing its interests through the European institutions since it lacks the confidence to wax its economic or diplomatic muscles outside these forums. Its military forces have atrophied and it has fallen behind its French and British rivals. In order to mintain or increase its influence, Germany has to increase its influence in Europe and ensure that the Constitution is ratified. There is support for thsi argument in the short-term but even the Germans must understand that they cannot dominate the European Union.

This sets the context in which the "Three Pygmies" meet this week, as large carp in a small pond, since they underestimate the world passing them by. Their latest project is a reorganisation of the European Commission to prevent any further directives that increase regulation and decrease the competitiveness of their economies. This would involve a hierarchy of Commissioners with the 'Big Three' playing the flute whilst the smaller countries played musical chairs.

Therefore, economic deregulation is linked to not-so-great power dominance within Europe leading to opposition from the pygmies even if they naturally fall into the former camp (New Europe par example?). Germany's ambitions are proving problematic for the European Union and impose additional strains on a structure that is already impervious to reform.

When three leaders discuss reforms that will prove unequal to their ambitions, an outcome that is clear to almost everyone else, then one knows that the clock is ticking for the regime change that will dislodge the entrenched barriers to change.

(22.47, 16th February 2004)

How about another variable relationship?

Philip Chaston rightly lauds Michael Howard's speech on the European Union. I do not believe that the speech is as radical as Philip sees it - it is a clearer exposition of present Tory policy.

Eurosceptics will see two problems with this speech. Firstly there is the reminder that it was Conservative governments who managed the ascession into the EEC, brought us the Single European Act and signed the Maastricht treaty. Of course he could have pointed out that it was Cold War priorities that dictated the first two, but the uncomfortable fact that our engagement in the European project is largely at American insistence is perhaps not the greatest idea for a pro-American and Eurosceptic party.

The second problem is that the variable relationship is simply not on offer. That is the whole point of the European Union. However the only way that a reluctant British electorate (and Establishment) will be persuaded of the need for withdrawal is by showing the absence of any satisfying middle way. And what better way of doing that than by genuinely striving for this middle way?

If all of us Eurocynics are proved wrong and a via media is available then this can be lived with and our relationship with Europe can be degraded from sovereignty enemy number one.

However this idea for a flexible relationship with Europe is perfectly admirable, but what Howard neglects to explain is why he is so much in favour of another inflexible relationship that degrades our sovereignty and in its very rigidity acts against our national interest. I am speaking, of course, about our relationship with America. Is Howard really talking about a welcome flexibility in our relationships with the outside world or does he wish to replace one rigid relationship with another?
Sunday, February 15, 2004
Repatriation used to be a dirty word

In the 1970s, repatriation was a tried and tested term used to describe a policy of sending immigrants back to their country of origin. The term was associated with the National Front and Enoch Powell. The term is about to come back into vogue, describing something completely different - the reassertion of national control over subjects that had been ceded to Brussels.

Michael Howard made a clever and interesting speech before the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (Foundation) to a CDU/CSU audience on the Tory approach to Europe. This speech has been reported as a softening of their Eurosceptic approach to the European Union and as a turn away from the opposition to European integration. Well spun, as they say to Shane Warne.

Howard's quick brushstrokes painted an uncompetitive European Union where centralisation and regulation had led to needless unemployment and declining productivity in comparison to the United States. His advocacy of a Europe of nation states with their particular histories, cultures and traditions was linked to his reported 'new wave' Eurorealism:

You are understandably sick of constant British vetoes. And shall I tell you something? So am I.

Howard then sets out his wonderful answer to the problem of British vetoes: remodel the institutions of the European Union to conform with conservative party policy through the adoption of variable geometry. He supports the repatriation of those policy areas which cause friction between Britain and the European Union: the common fisheries policy, the common agricultural policy, and overseas aid.

Let us be clear here. Howard is promoting a radical policy. He is the first party leader for a generation to adopt as policy the reversal of ceding powers to Europe and couch it in terms that do not smack of scepticism or withdrawal. He is essentially demanding the weakening of European Union law:

The kind of approach I am suggesting should also enable adjustments to be made to the acquis communautaire. Where it is clear that policies can be more effectively implemented on a national basis the European Union should be prepared to recognise this. Proposals to achieve national control in such circumstances should be treated on their merits and not automatically rejected as an affront to the European ideal.

Not so much adjustments as a radical restructuring of the ideological premises upon which European law is passed.

Howard recognises that his vision for Europe will not be adopted by the other Member States through voluntary choice. If the Tories are elected and set out their negotiating stall demanding variable geometry, then other countries may fall into the trap of refusing every request that the British government makes, on the grounds that it undermines European unity. The British electorate are not going to place European unity above the interests of British fishermen, farmers or other groups.

Howard has placed a very public trap for all continental politicians who fear a Tory government. A positive and encouraging speech for Eurosceptics, as the EU is not able to respond with the flexibility that Howard has stated he desires. If Member States do not accede to his requests and allow Britain a semi-detached position within the European Union, then the only alternatives may be expulsion or withdrawal.

(22.30, 15th February 2004)
Thursday, February 12, 2004
Swedish Eurorealism

A new Swedish party, called the 'June List', has been established that mirrors single-issue organisations in Britain, with its call for a referendum on the European Constitution. The party aims to maintain Swedish membership of the European Union but favours an intergovernmental approach, the repatriation of border controls and opposition to a centralised European state.

The website is here but it is in Swedish.

The strategy of the 'June List' is to contest the European rather than the national elections, just as the Danish Eurosceptics have done with notable success. Is this the rise of new political parties, disaffected with the EU, yet campaigning for an institutional reform rather then withdrawal? One doubts their ability to succeed with a reforming agenda due to the lack of leverage that democratic institutions have in the European Union.

(23.02, 12th February 2004)
Sunday, February 08, 2004
Suez and the Iraqi Crisis

William Keegan in The Observer argues that the Iraqi War has been the gravest foreign policy crisis for any government since Suez in terms of the potential damage that it could inflict. He makes the persuasive argument that foreign policy has now been decoupled from economic decline, immunising Blair from the pressures of the markets or any other power who held the whiphand over sterling. The lack of such pressures are a telling testament that Britain's decline has halted.

When one looks at Suez after almost half a century, it is becoming clearer that the debacle was a major foreign policy disaster for the United States, as well as for Britain. At one stroke, they emasculated their strongest ally in Europe, withered the confidence of the Foreign Office and sowed the seeds of distrust that led to Britain entering the European Economic Community in 1973. Without exiting the European Union, it is unclear how Britain will maintain its alliance or intelligence links with the United States as defence and foreign policy are integrated into the emergent continental state.

Cause and effect, old chaps, cause and effect.

(22.36, 8th February 2004)
Saturday, February 07, 2004
Bad Intelligence =Stupidity? Discuss

The intelligence services coordinate their reports through the Joint Intelligence Committee, a body that analyzes the information received and prepares memoranda for the Prime Minister or any other politician who is designated to receive this documentation. This system has remained in existence since its establishment during the early years of the Cold War.

This system has continued without change through the trend towards the legalisation of the intelligence services. Both MI5 and SIS were placed on a statutory footing in 1994 and became subject to greater, though very limited, parliamentary supervision with the Intelligence and Security Committee. These developments took place in response to calls for greater control and transparancy over the security services after public explorations of their methods such as the Spycatcher Scandal. Moreover, the end of the Cold War appeared to remove their deadliest enemy from the scene. Legalisation of the security services was a willingness to exchange institutional flexibility for legal sanction.

This trend towards transparency and legitimation was also reflected in the more influential role of Parliamentary Select Committees since the reforms of 1979 and culminated in the parliamentary vote on the Iraqi war. Yet, as the media has become more accustomed to receiving information in these matters, it is difficult to ascertain how the use of intelligence has changed over the years. This area results the closest links between democratically elected politicians and existing state structures. Did Hutton show politicised relationships that had always developed in practice but remained hidden until the Blair administration unwisely used intelligence in their public documents? Or was there a greater politicisation between Ministers and civil servants involved in intelligence under the Blair administration? After all, it was the unprecedented and public use of intelligence sources in political documents that drew civil servants into the political sphere, a line that they crossed without being aware of the fact, since they also considered the dossiers to be administrative documents.

However, the use of intelligence sources to provide evidence for a course of action has proved problematic. Intelligence can rarely deal in certainties and relies on risk
assessment or "filling in the dots" to structure tentative conclusions. The intelligence failures that have dogged Britain provided sufficient warning to any government not to place a faith in their arguments. They were unable to predict the Argentinian invasion or warn of the danger that Saddam Hussein was close to achieving a nuclear capability. Reliance upon these sources to provide firm evidence for any political action has backfired upon the government.

The media has reacted sceptically to the claims of the government and, in doing so, has educated parts of the public on the use of intelligence to justify foreign policy. The lesson is that the government cannot find firm evidence for the reasons that they stated for going to war. This is where the government may have performed another disservice through their manipulations. They have fed expectations that the government should be able to provide firm evidence of weapons of mass destruction or any other threat before taking any action. This requirement to certify the declaration of war in the public arena is partnered with a need to seek parliamentary approval, through a debate or a vote. By seeking popular legitimation, Blair has tied his own hands and, perhaps those of his successors, before undertaking any future foreign policy adventure.

The question arises: where do we go from here? There are three (probably more) possible developments:

1) Blair could try to return to the traditional powers of the executive in this matter, but under present circumstances, would prove unable to persuade his own Cabinet or the Parliamentary Labour Party. This may return if the Tory Party is ever returned to power.

2) The intelligence services must have now woken up to the consequences of placing their own assessments in the public domain to support a political course of action. It would not be surprising if there is now a call to strengthen the procedures governing the relationship between the Joint Intelligence Committee and its political masters. This would ensure that the intelligence services were once again shielded from the uses to which their information is put after the harsh light of Hutton, where the integrity of the footsoldiers was sullied by the actions of their masters.

3) The pressures for greater transparency and supervision could achieve their natural conclusion with proper parliamentary institutions holding inquiries and interviewing security personnel in camera. The appointment of the US inquiry into the failures of intelligence during the Iraqi campaign has shown the drawbacks of our own intelligence services, and forced the government to appoint an equivalent committee. Due to their close relationship with the United States, and their public role before, during and after the war, the JIC is now subject to the harsh glare of the searchlight that is focussed upon the US partners. Perhaps they ought to forsake the shadows and adopt the higher public profile of the CIA. Neither secrecy or a public profile has proved more effective.

Will the forthcoming Butler Report necessitate further reform and the Americanisation of our intelligence services, resulting in a British version of the CIA and FBI?

(20.58, 7th February 2004)
Thursday, February 05, 2004
Further thoughts on Hutton

The remit of the Hutton Inquiry was to examine the actions and processes of all parties involved in the events leading up to the suicide of Dr. Kelly. It was not designed to examine the political reasons for going to war or assessing the accuracy of the intelligence used in the dossier issued in September 2002. Whilst the actions of the BBC are damning enough and they are already paying a heavy price for their lack of editorial control over their journalists, they were not the only party involved in placing Dr Kelly's name in the public arena.

Lord Hutton concluded that the actions and the processes followed by the Ministry of Defence and 10 Downing Street were correct. This included avoiding the release of Dr Kelly's name to the media but allowed civil servants, sanctioned by ministers, to provide any information concerning this individual in order to force his identity into the public domain. Hence, the farcical result that reporters were running through lists of names until civil servants identified the correct individual that they had 'guessed'.

There is a sympathetic argument for the government: that if the name had not been released into the public domain, they would have been accused of a cover-up. However, the methods that they used to bring Kelly's name to the press, methods that were certainly agreed at meetings which included Blair, appear to have been followed for the political benefit of the government without taking Kelly's situation into account. Geoffrey Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence for one, was certainly aware that Kelly was not handling the stress of his position very well.

By convention, the civil service is bound to be neutral and impartial, serving the government of the day without overt partisan bias. It is important that the actions of civil servants and of politicians do not overstep the accepted boundaries. There is a case for stating that the release of information about Kelly, involving civil servants, intelligence officers and politicians in the committees that debated and made the relevant decisions, was an unacceptable politicisation of state institutions.

Britain has nothing similar to the First Amendment. That argument can be extended to include the checks and balances in the American Constitution, none of which are reproduced, except as convention in our own unwritten constitution. That is also why Blair's progressive undermining of the British constitution, both within and outside the government is viewed with alarm by many. I cite two examples: an upper house of appointed representatives and limiting the right to habeas corpus.

This is long-winded so, to conclude, the Hutton Report accepted practices and procedures that struck many who had followed the inquiry as manipulative; that appeared to favour the reputation of the New Labour administration; and were not designed to examine the accusations that intelligence findings were spun in order to enhance the case for going to war.

Both Campbell and Blair stated that they were accused of being liars: their proper recourse was to the libel courts, not to their civil servants.

(23.50, 5th February 2004)
Tuesday, February 03, 2004
More Stick, Less Carrot

The Foreign Affairs Committee have published their report on the "War on Terror". The newspapers mostly quoted from the passages that appeared to support the actions of the government. The long list of conclusions or commendations reproduced the incoherence of the administration's foreign policy.

The Foreign Affairs Committee stated that the war had probably left Britain more vulnerable to terrorist attack. However, it provided a long-term opportunity to increase stability and democratisation in the Middle East. The members then poured the syrup on when they described the government's support for the European Union and the United Nations, including the tri-power delegation to Iran and the establishment of a UN Committee on Counter-Terrorism.

Their response was based on the decadent love of 'soft power' that has infected the political elites in the European Union. They noted that bothe Syria and Iran were possible destabilising influences in Iraq without noting their support for terrorist acts or possession of weapons of mass destruction.

We conclude that Iran and Syria have the potential to be destabilising factors in Iraq, and that maintaining co-operation with both is therefore essential for the success of Coalition efforts to bring stability to that country. We further conclude that the United Kingdom, through its diplomatic relations with Iran and Syria, could play a crucial role in ensuring this co-operation. (Paragraph 34)

However, they take a far greater interest in the Middle East 'peace process' and criticise Israeli actions for undermining these plans. There is a token criticism of the Palestinian Authority for not controlling terrorism (how?) and a desire that the United States should be encouraged to twist Israel's arms into making concessions.
Whilst acknowledging Iran and Syrian activities in fostering terror, on wonders why engagement will work.

41. We conclude that through its links with Palestinian terrorist organisations, Iran disrupts prospects for peace between the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. We further conclude that the Government, with its partners in the European Union, has a number of incentives?such as the Trade and Co-operation Agreement?which it can employ to help encourage Iran to cease its links with terrorist groups. We conclude that the Iranian authorities value these incentives and that their existence could be used to discourage Iranian support for Palestinian terrorist groups. (Paragraph 203)

43. We conclude that although Syria's closure of the offices of terrorist groups in Damascus is a positive step, it continues to support terrorist organisations and has failed to restrain them beyond temporary efforts to limit their activities. (Paragraph 227)

44. We are concerned about the pursuit of WMD by Syria. However, we conclude that pressure alone is unlikely to succeed in gaining Syrian co-operation on WMD, and recommend that the Government pursue dialogue with Damascus in order to address this threat. (Paragraph 232)

45. We also recognise Syria's concerns about Israel's nuclear capability and recommend that the Government pursue this issue with the Israeli Government. We conclude that ultimately, a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Arab States will be required to address the issue of WMD and arms proliferation in the region, and we recommend that the Government seek to encourage Syria and Israel to return to the negotiating table. (Paragraph 233)

46. We conclude that, at this stage, it is better to foster gradual reform and co-operation with Syria than to push for unachievable objectives. Syrian co-operation is important for success in Iraq and the Middle East peace process. Given the failure of pressure alone to gain Syrian co-operation, we recommend that the Government continue to pursue constructive engagement and dialogue as the best way to foster co-operation. In particular, we recommend that the Government work to encourage Israel and Syria to resume peace negotiations, including giving its support to any regional efforts at mediation in the conflict, and generally to improve bilateral relations. We further recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government set out its position on the Golan Heights and the Israeli settlements there. (Paragraph 242)

Whilst there is a concern about these states as far as the deployment of our troops in Iraq is concerned, the 'peace process' is an intractable problem impervious to outside influence or pressure. Engagement with these two states will only serve to encourage their existing elites and will not prevent their support for weapons of mass destruction or terror as tools of state power.

A greater concern is the multilateral policy that is now supported by the mainstream in politics. This emphasis upon engagement and co-operation only encourages states that do not recognise the value of a multilateral foreign policy to take unilateral steps that increase their power and unpredictability since they are offered only carrots and no sticks. Such a foreign policy is infused with moral hazard since the rogue states are not sanctioned for breaking undertakings that they may give or for following policies that endanger the interests of the West.

If Syria or Iran are implicated in the deaths of British soldiers through their actions, we do not want our politicians to sound like spokemen for a telephone utility, advocating the joys of diplomacy. We want them to act and demonstrate such actions will not go unpunished. The listless orthodoxy of the Foreign Affairs Committee may play well in the halls of Brussels and the corridors of New York but the sharks in Tehran and Damascus only respond to threats.

(22.50, 3rd February 2004)
Monday, February 02, 2004
The Direct Democratic Deficit

Many of the politicians who favour the European Constitution understand that if referenda were to take place in every Member State, integration would not acquire the legitimate popular backing that it required. Hence, the arguments in favour of representative or parliamentary democracy, that we have heard in Britain and are now emanating from Denmark.

A new book has been written, entitled "Towards the European Constitution" arguing that this could not be achieved if referenda were allowed. These arguments tend to be aired in those countries where the electorate expect radical changes to be confirmed through referenda.

The book - "Towards the European Constitution" warns that the EU could fall apart if the Danish practise of consulting the people in referenda over important EU treaties is copied by other member states.

"Referenda have a very conservative effect on development. If the other countries copy us, the EU will fall apart", she writes.

Mrs Antonsen, a member of the Danish Parliament for the ruling Liberal party, argues that representative democracy is just as democratic as referenda.

"Referenda are in fact pure gambling. There is no guarantee of a positive outcome, unfortunately".

The key phrase here is "positive outcome" and the inability of politicians to guarantee their objectives through a referendum. It is noteworthy that the end-goal of a European state is deemed more important than the right of the electorates to have their say on these matters. Representative democracy is favoured because these goals are easier to achieve in such systems through coalition governments.

Ignore the people and they have a nasty habit of making themselves heard, usually in a convulsive and violent manner.

(23.29, 2nd February 2004)
Self-Determination in a European Context

How democratic is the proposed European Constitution? Does it allow existing colonies to seek independence within a European context?

According to Spain, no. Ana Palacio may be indulging in pre-electoral rhetoric but Spain has concluded that there is a greater possibility of reintegrating Gibraltar if the European Constitution is passed since British sovereignty could be overridden by European institutions.

Ms. Palacio told reporters that although it did not mean that the bilateral (Brussels Agreement) talks are being rejected “the picture of the day is one framed by the European Constitution, which is our reference point without losing sight of the bilateral negotiations.”

She went on to say that in any negotiations there are phases which do not go in a straight line but in more of a helix form. “Some phases are more visible and as these are refined one must take the necessary time and perspective.”

Does this mean that Spain will sign up to the European Constitution if, as part of the necessary concessions, Gibraltar is ceded without the inhabitants having a say?

(23.15, 2nd February, 2004)

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