Monthly Archives: May 2011

The Obama Doctrine: A Signpost to Disaster


President Obama is an eloquent exponent of the American Dream and gave we European’s a version of this on his visit to Europe last week. Dreams are important to us all but they rarely survive long in the harsh glare of light and to seek to fulfill them can lead to disaster. In the current version the extension of universal rights to democracy, representative government , equality, and the rule of law should become a foreign  policy objective for the West. Its immediate focus is on extending democracy to Africa and the Middle East. In the pursuit of this objective all means, economic, financial and the use of force as a last resort are in order. It has become unanswerable in this docrine that democracy is best not only for human happiness but for the trade and economic development on which the economic stability of Western countries is so dependant.

The Obama doctrine finds an enthusiastic audience in Britain and the European Union. Scarce resources are being provided for the funding of aid and active assistance in nation building and the UN itself is enthusiastic about nation building wherever its sway can be achieved. No one is more enthusiastic than David Cameron and, judging from his recent public appearances and pronouncements,   Ed Milliband.

I hear raised voices at this point. What is wrong about that then? Hold on, my revolutionary friends, say I. Rember the Mensheviks. Do you have a monopoly of vision and prophecy? Can you at this moment of history tell us what will be the outcome of the Arab Spring? Do you expect reason to prevail in Israeli- Palestinian relations? Can you predict the political develpment of Iran?  What will be the nature of successor regimes in the Arab world? Is there more to this world than is dreamt of in your philosophy? Much derided as it is it is now, there is logic in the foreign policy objective of seeking stability in the world and not adding to political turbulence. Perhaps we should be a friend in need to emerging nations and not a friend in your face.

Can I point out to you dear British reader that you live in a country constantly at war in ‘far-away countries’ for the ideals that we share with President Obama. More so than any European country we have been alongside our American friends in worthy (but impractible?) causes around the world. Let’s have more of that then, I hear you say. We Brits have an appetite for it. Does not the call to arms and economic and financial sanctions on  recalcitrant states weary you a little? Are we to have a further two decades of armed struggle with all the division among ourselves this brings?

Well, yes, if need be may be your reply BUT I doubt it. I suggest to you that it is wholly absurd to commit ourselves to the Obama docrine at a time of great austerity, economic stagnation and public expenditure cuts, not least to the armed forces; that to be ‘playing soldiers in Libya’ and perhaps elsewhere is an unsupportable nonsense. For the cost of an intervention in Libya, soon to run beyond a billion pounds and ever upwards we could, for example, ensure the financial viability of care services fior the elderly, boost low cost housing or extend aid to the unemployed. No one would receive a tin medal for it but it could do good. The best way to build respect in the world is to earn it ourselves for our love and attention to our nearest and dearest.

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Cameron: I Speak My Mind


Look Charlie, I’m getting tired of all this criticism. What I told the public – and some believed me – was that we Tories were going to roll up our sleeves and get things done. You should at least acknowledge that we have been successful in this. Not a day passes without a new iniatiative: legislation, white papers, special committees’of enquiry. You name it and we’re doing it.

That’s just my complaint Dave. These so-called reforms of your’s are half-baked and driven by ideology, a narrowly based schemata of outdated right-wing philosophies common in the South of England and loathed elsewhere. You do not recognise the difference between a statement of principles and a detailed implementation of a policy, you do not genuinely consult the people who will be affected by Coalition changes and then of course when you get tired of banging your head against the wall you change your mind and parade a retreat as a victory. Do you wish me to list these policy retreats? No, I thought not.

Charlie, you are not fair. For the sake of this argument, let me accept that we have made some mistakes. But I would suggest to you that we are quick to react to intelligent comment and we have the guts to change our mind to accommodate good suggestions. Isn’t that a sign of maturity and inclusion? Well it may be Dave but I would prefer to describe it that you are indeed quick to recognise a cock-up when someone points it out to you.

I think  that this is not worthy of you Charlie. I have read a book on leadership ( I can’t remember the title for the moment but when I do I shall tell you). Anyway, Charlie, this author categorised types of leader and I used these to recognise and define my own style. I am a pathfinder, Charlie. I find the right path and charge down it shouting for others to follow me. I do not want you to tell people Charlie but Tony Blair was a pathfinder! I can believe it Dave. Did you think of Tony Dave when you committed British armed forces to Libya? I seem to remember being told by Tony that ian invasion of Iraq would be a 7 day wonder. In and out in no time. Today eight years later we finally withdrew  our sailors. Did you not tell us something similar Libya? How much longer will we be wasting scarce resources there.

There’s no comparison Charlie and you know it. I am determined to exercise my leadership everywhere in this small world. Just you wait and see. It will all work out well in the end. I confidently predict that we will be out of there by the next General Election (unless of course we run out of amunition!) Ha, ha Charlie, that’s a joke. Seriously, though Charlie you have a point. Not much of a point but a point. You will notice that after a year or two we shall slow down and consolidate. We have to leave something yet to be done of course. We don’t want to run out of cornucopia, so to speak. When I win the next General Election Charlie I shall grant you an interview and you can publicly admit that you were wrong about me. That’s if you want one!

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Cameron: Populism and Maddie


David Cameron has requested the Metropolitan Police to join the search for Madeleine McCann and the Home Office is to give the Met a few million pounds to pay for it. Earlier in the year this same David Cameron agreed to cut the budget for the work of tracing missing children  by concentrating activities in a police Missing Children Unit. Most children who go missing, as defined by this unit as four days or more, are recovered quickly but large numbers are not. In the three and a half years since Maddie went missing  some 400  children went missing according to independent studies. Many of these were recovered, exactly how many is difficult to estimate,  but it may be that something like 200 were not. Most of these children have distraught families searching for them. These families are often of modest income but, nevertheless, they consume their savings and  time in  desperate efforts to find their children. Many of these parents were not careless in the care of their children. Their disappearences were not as a result of their carelessness but as a result of factors outside their control . The McCanns were careless of their children. They took a holiday in a busy resort with other adults and put their wishes to have a good time before the guardianship of their children. I suspect that many adults with children would take a different view and arrange their  holidays so that adults were with their children after  lights out. The McCanns made a grievous decision not to do this. In this they put themselves before the interests of their young children. If we were to ignore all that the gravaman of the issue would remain to be addressed. What makes the McCanns so special? In a time of austerity and budget cutting why put Maddie’s interest before hundreds of other unnamed but grieved missing children. Of course the McCanns are a literate and well-organised professional couple who have been able to articulate their search, attract private funds, and promote their cause in a variety of media. And good luck to them, says I,  and  so would  any caring adult. But what about the others, all those other grieving parents most of whom lack the persuasiveness of the McCanns?  Is David Cameron going to take up their causes? Will the Government seek the extra funds to take up their cases? Where does the police manpower come from to undertake special searches on their behalf? Perhaps I have got this all wrong.Who cares about fairness, equity, money and police time?

But hold on. What about the strategic independence of British police and all that? Can the Home Office direct the Met  to alter police priorites by writing a letter to them. The squeemish among us would think this was political inteference with the police at the populist whim of the Prime Minister. They would be right. David Cameron doesn’t care much for the niceities of public life. What a coup, what a stunt, imagine the headlines. If Cameron stopped his whirlygig for but a moment, he might ask himself the question of what these other grieving parents will think when they read the press headlines? Lord, good lord, save us from this man.

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Ed Milliband: Schoolboy Politics


Labour supporters will be non-plussed by the performance of its leader. Any objective appraisal will come to some daunting conclusions. There are several policy and leadership issues where he has been found sadly wanting.

1. Libya. Labour’s policy support for the Libyan adventure is driven by emotion: the ‘we can’t stand aside while thousands are slaughtered’  argument. Maybe there would have been many deaths in Benghazi and maybe not. We shall never know. One thing is certain: by supporting the weaker side in a civil war  the conflict has been drawn out and will lead to many more deaths than not intervening. But the bigger objection is that Labour is buying into an Anglo-French strategy to use NATO to extend their influence in Africa and the Middle East. This is essentially a neo-colonial strategy that will lead to other interventions and a complex of economic and financial sanctions that will be injurious to everyone involved. The alternative is to patiently relate to the various situations as a friend and to allow the various civilian revolutions to work themselves out. The Anglo-French ambitions will divide NATO and lead to splits betwee northern and ‘Mediterranean’ states. The Libyan mis-adventure will work out badly for Britain and not to Labour’s advantage.

2. The AV Referendum and Constitutional  Changes. The electorate have rarely had any appetite for electoral and constitutional reform. Of course, the electorate distrust their MPs and Parliament itself. This is a healthy distrust and people have no wish to be deprived of it. Here Milliband had a judgement call. He got it wrong and labelled himself a loser. In practice he would have had no difficulty in finding a good reason not to seek to commit Labour to the preservation of Nick Clegg. And now Labour must be ruthless and sink Clegg’s constitutional proposals in the Lords. The time ‘to do’ constitutional reform is when you control the agenda.

3. Scotland

Labour got the issues badly wrong. Scots electors turned to the SNP as the best option to protect them from Coalition cuts. They were right in their judgement. This time the issue was not the menace of self rule as Labour supposed but which party can best be trusted most at this time to defend their interests. As with England, Labour has no convincing alternative narrative.

4 The NHS Reform Bill

Labour is getting this wrong. Today they should divide the House to defeat the NHS Bill. I believe that Cameron is willing to ditch the Bill in order to maintain the Coalition. There is no need for a Bill. The worthwhile reforms can be accomplished without one. If it is ditched the Lib Dems will be given the credit for it. Again this is a judgement call. Can Ed Milliband deliver on the NHS? I doubt it now.

5 And lastly a more basic point. Where is the evidence that Labour is working as a team and is the ‘team’ up to it. Precious ittle and ‘No’ are my answers and more to the ppint it may be the judgement of the country as a whole.

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