Category Archives: Arab League

The End of British Imperialism


We have had a period of Western imperialism running from Iraq to Syria. It has been assumed that centralised control by indiginous minorites should be replaced by those citizens, they are numerous, who wish decades of authoritarianism to be swept aside and a Western stle democracy to take its place. That democracy is best. France, Britain, and the USA assume that it is their duty to help bring this about. The result, the outcome of the Arab spring, has been disastrous and now to echo a phrase, all is quiet on the Western front and it is turmoil, vast suffering and despair in one Arab country or another.
And now we hear nothing about arming rebels and all our efforts and resources are deeployed in supporting humanitarian aid. Of course we should be helping the displaced and the hungry. But that is all we should be doing.
So what comes after. There will surely be no universal outcome but after long periods of sectarian warfare people will become tired and despairing of armed struggle. In one country after another there will be a weary peace as the will to struggle on grinds to a halt. That will be the point at which diplomatic intervention can build something more constructive for despairing people.
Can’t we admit it? At least to ourselves. The Thirty Years war must not be repeated in Arab lands. Surely we have the sense to face up to our limitations. Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. Surely not! Surely we are not quite scoundrels yet.

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The Language of Neo-colonialism


It is surprising that the Coalition has found it so easy to define a British foreign  policy so blatantly neo -colonialist. Not surprising that is that they have attempted it for it is no more that we might expect from a Tory government, but that opposition to it has been so feeble. Of course, most people understand the need for a foreign policy that defends British trading and investment policies around the world. But defence, in this expression of it, is, as the word implies, non-aggressive. A willingness to remove dictators and authoriarian governments  by armed force with or without the USA our major ally is quite another. The Middle East and Africa has been categorised in this policy as a zone of Nato, and in particular Anglo-French,  zone of influence. Almost anything goes and the number of autoritarian regimes objected too is numerous. The argument goes like this: authoritarianism is bad for people and for trade; democracy and a developed system of commercial law is essential and an open-door policy for attracting inward investment highly deirable. Ipso facto, it must follow, that all military and diplomatic methods should be used to upset and overthrow regimes not coming up to scrap.

Let me clear. I do believe that democracy is a more desirable form of government than autocracy from every point of view. What is wrong is using British influence around the world to declare war on autocracies. I can hear tut tuts from the establishment. What is your answer then to the need to avoid man-made humanitatian disasters? Here is the starting point for the neo-colonialists. There are some situations so appalling that action is highly desirable. Kossovo, for example with hundreds of thousands of people forced out of  their homes. Iraq is not. The evidence of nuclear or biological threats to Iraqui and other citizens and states  was too weak. Libya is a no,no, and the case  relying on the usual  Ghadaffi diatribes. Would there have been a massacre in Benghazi? I doubt it but now it slips easily off the lips. We are now involved in Libya in helping one side of a civil war, the weaker side, against another. It may turn out that we are supporting one nasty side against another as deplorable. As the months tick by the human toll in deaths and injuries mounts. Are we causing more human misery by intervention in Libya than avoiding it? Arguably, it is what we did in Iraq.

Every morning bright and early William Hague awakes and thinks, Perhaps, it is today. The fall of the tyrant is going to happen today. The months tick by and the enthusiasm dims. When will William  reach the point when enough is enough and he calls it off. Well we are at it for as long as it takes – or so he tells us. Evil cannot hold out for ever. Well yes but neither should we endure it for ever. It would have been much, much better not to have started it at all. So tell us William, what shall we do?

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Blair: We need a better Middle Eastern Plan


Blair tells us, that is the British public,  that we need a better plan for North Africa and the Middle East. What does he mean? If he means what I think he means a better plan is the last thing Britain needs. A little clarification will help. Who are ‘WE’. It appears that NATO, the European Union and the USA are ‘WE’. or to be brief the Western World. And what do we need a plan for? What is it to do for us? The purpose of the Plan is to assist Arab states become more like us. Particularly those who possess oil and mineral resources but to be fair all states within that geographic area. In our view all democracies will repect universal rights fair representation, equality and freedom under the law and all of them wish to attract more investment, grow and attract investment and develop commerce  to and from the West. What should we do? We should intervene to help these changes take place and use diplomatic and financial means and armed force to help bring these changes about.

President Obama approves these objectives but despairs of a lack of willingness of NATO countries to pay the price for the extra spending on defence such a policy requires – including both France and the United Kingdom. There is, apparently, no political will. Friends Cameron and Hague have the will but not the money and each day that passes limits our armed capabilty. Imagine a conversation at the Foreign Office.

Secretary of State can we have you direction, please. Here is a list of countries we are determined to assist to democratic status. They all require a UN resolution. What do we do? What do we do, you say. We act, this Goverment acts. Give me the Calendar. Not that one, 2011 you ass. Let’s see. We  need to allow a week between resolutions. Let’s do it aphabeticallyby week. 1.Bahrein  2. Gulf states(?) (need to be more precise here) Israel/Palestine (a tall order this) 3. Lebanon (good thinking), 4. Saudi Arabia, (you’re joking(? ) , 5. Syria (a brutal race, we need armed force here, get the Turkish  Premier on the phone. What’s that!  A deal on Cyprus needed? Have we not  done one of those?  Get Greece on skype. 6. Yemen ? (Good God 500,000 men could get lost in the desert. I exagerate. But you know what I mean.) What does Obama think? More defence expenditure and quickly. Something about lendlease,  if it would be helpful. So we have reached a decision point. I’m strong on decisions you know.  Look I can’t think clearly now. Get Liam in the office on Monday. Hold on. Here is one of my inspired thoughts. National Service! Get the unemployed youth off the streets, lower the unemployment rates at a stroke, re-issue some of those Lee Enfield’s  -and off we go. Hey, ho the boys. Let Liam know ahead of the meeting, there’s a good chap.

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Hague: My Mission to Dominate North Africa and the Middle East


I want to tell you about my mission to dominate North Africa and the Middle East. Well, not exactly mine but ‘This Coalition Government’s’ – (its what I call it now) – although to be accurate I should say we – the old colonial powers, Italy, France and Britain. Or is it NATO – I suppose it is. Well whatever it is, it is mine and I stand and fall by it. Look Charlie, stop laughing, I’m tired of this. Your precious Labour Party supports us, the House of Commons approves,  together with 40 percent of the electorate. What more can you ask for? Don’t answer that, rhetorical you know.  When I was a young Yorkshire lad two thirds of my Atlas was colured pink. It made you very proud to see it. And now, virtually nothing. Can any kid be proud of that? The answer is , no, Charlie. Of course not. Now we have another chance. These African Johnnies, it seems to us at the Foreign Office, wish to live in a democratic country like our own. Democracies are good for trade and commerce. We wish to trade and invest, of course we do. Ipso facto as they say at Oxford, supporting these revolutionary Johnnies is  in the national interest. It was always in our interest whether the map is coloured pink or green. Of course, if you intervene like we are doing in Libya in other places you cannot guarantee an outcome. But we three countries can see off Ghadaffi. It won’t take long – at least we hope not. What kind of chaps would we look like in the Middle East if we had done nothing, stood by on the other side of the road, while citizens were slaughtered. In my view Charlie – and please stop laughing – there is the domino effect to consider. If one country goes pink – that is pink for democracy now of course – other countries follow suit and the black and grey parts diminish. It makes you glad to know it. Glad to be British/Italian/ or French. I am glad.  Never in my wildest dreams did I believe that I would be  embarking on a mission to free so much of the world’s population from tyranny and poverty. Not single handed , of course. I spring out of bed these days with joy in my heart. If you snigger again, I’ll punch you. What did you say, consider the slogan, ‘In your heart, you know I’m right.’ and look what happened to him. Too abstruse Charlie. You can do better.

In many ways these are dark and difficult days for ‘The Coalition Government.’ We may fail overall to rescue Britain from the financial mess bequeathed by Labour. I admit it to you Charlie as we are off the record. But I – the Foreign Secretary – will look back on my experience at the Foreign Office with pride. We did our best to change the political colour of millions of people. What more can you ask of a British Foreign Secretary (sound of laughter and the crash of over-turned furniture off stage). 

 

 

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Cameron: Libya, my next move.


Oh, its you Charlie! You do dog my steps. Can’t you find something new to talk about. I’ll help you if you like. A world exclusive, specially for you. Thanks Dave, but no. I think we all need to know what you’re up to in Libya.

That’s a good expression Charlie. What am I up to.That’s a good way of putting it. Well, I’m not sitting around waiting to fail because fail we shall if it goes on like this, locked into a military stalemate  and no worthwhile diplomatic way out. I’m not a loser Charlie, remember that. The playing fields of Eton are a good training ground for life. They  breed winners, Charlie. I’m a winner.

Well from this point, Dave, how do you win? It’s easy Charlie. Step by step you change the rules of engagement. No single move in breach of the UN Resolutions but accumulatively amounting to such pressure on Ghadaffi that he cannot resist us. Remember this Charlie, I loath the man. Years ago I vowed that if ever I was in a position of authority I would get rid of him. Give him a good kicking. Get him off the playing field, so to speak. Yes Dave, I do understand. Assad you could share a room with but not Ghadaffi. Completely, understandable. I wouldn’t fancy an  emergency meeting in a tent with him, myself. Precisely that, Charlie. Blair could kiss him  in the hope of reform but not me. Oh, dear no.

Let’s cut the crap Dave. What are you going to do to get us out of this mess?  Well you would call it mission creep Charlie. We are going to flood Misrata and other places with humanitarian assistance workers. No fighting while they are there. You infiltrate these places with SAS in plain clothes. They tell you where the Ghadaffi lot are positioned. Zapp, zap, zap Charlie from the air. a bit of bang, bang, bang on the ground. You beef up the rebels by advisers and special forces. Down the road with close air support. Bang, bang bang again and you’re on the road to Tripoli. Come to think of it there’s a good song in this. There usually is.

You’re mad Dave. You can’t get away with that. Emergency meeting at UN , heated debates in the Commons where you would lose the vote, to say nothing of the Lib Dems. I’m not a loser Charlie. Remember that. Things were going badly for Margaret Thatcher until the Falklands. Then she became a heroine. Very patriotic the British working classes. Come on board HMS Victory my lads. We all love a winner. If you can pull that off Dave you will deserve to win. I may even vote for you myself. Now I know you are joking Charlie. But I’m not joking. Just you wait and see.

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Libya and the Anglo-French Zone of Influence


Do you remember the European Defence Force (EDF) proposed by the France as an alternative to NATO and rejected by the British? You do, good. I have news for you it is alive and kicking (with a little help from Italy). There is new foreign policy strategy. Britain and France have declared that the Mediterranean area including North Africa be deemed their  sphere of influence. There is no immediate need for Britain to have an aircraft carrier for French one will do and the Italians will provide an air base in Southern Italy. If we act now and together there will be no more influx of unwanted immigrants into Frence and Italy. Like all speres of inluence it would be better for the client country to have a similar political system of our own  Trade and investment prospers best in democracies amd a reliable commercial law. To be fair to ourselves her in Britain this has always been the case. All these jolly colonies were reformed into democratic societies and when all was hunky dory we went home and they had their independence. Of course there many wars to achieve this but achieve it we did. Gradually the atlas studied by English schoochildren turned from the pink of Empire to a cacophany of other hues and anthems. 

It dawned on me as I watched French helicopters fir on the Presidential Palace in the Ivory Coast that nothing much had changed. We do not call it Empire any more, these African states are not colonies but the white man’s mission continues. The emotion felt by the former colonisers remains the same.

But I saw other things in this state of confusion as well as well. On the Palace wer trained the guns of UN helicopters. In Afghanistan it was a UN agency that was being stormed. The Un commitment to nation building was in full flood. While I had looked away for a moment or two the UN had developed a role of its own and it wielded armed forces of its own. It came as quite a shock to me.

Why am I getting so excited about this? Well think a bit. There is work to be done to persuade all those African and Arab countries to come into line and to make the region fit for invest and the export of oil. I cannot come about over night. After Libya there will be many other states waiting for our attention. The USSR did not find it easy to have all those client states in Eastern Europe. And let me tell you what happnened to them. They collapsed. All those years of economic sacrifice and political attention and then,  almost over night, nothing.!

I am conscious that this new regional foreign and defence policy has mnot been debated by the House of Commons. It is stealing up on us. Is this neo-colonialism in the interest of  Britain. What will be the efects on our alliance with the USA, the cohesion of NATO and the unity of Europe. No room for the Huns in all this! Germany can sort out the Eurozone and serve them right.

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Libya: An End to Liberal Interventionism


I bow to no-one in my detestation of the Ghadaffi regime- or the Yemeni, Syrian, Iran or Tibetan regimes – to say nothing at all about the world’s petty tyrannies in such places as the Ivory Coast and Zimbabwi.  I am all for assisting peoples caught up in natural disasters and who are the victims of tyrannical regimes wherever they are are – but not by invading their territories in the name of Western democracy. But I do not wish the armed forces of the UK to involve themselves in the civil disturbances of other countries unless it can be proved without reasonable doubt that the happenings in these countries directly involve our national interest and their regimes are a threat to other countries including our own.   

In determining our national interest I reject the argument of spheres of influence. When the Soviet Union claimed the right to determine the political complexion of Eastern Europe as being essential to their national interest and within their zone of influence I argued against it. I was still against it when the Russian  Federation invaded Georgia. I am against it now when Britain, France and Italy, the former colonial powers,  claim a right to determine the political complextion of Northern Africa as being part of ‘their zone.’ 

It is time to stop all this because the time and geographic  horizon is unlimited. William Hague has stated unwisely that other Middle Eastern tyrants need not think that the killing of their rebellious subjects has  gone unnoticed. He unfolds for us all a road to nowhere and a decade of ceaseless interventions by Western powers.

The naievity of all this is shocking. Iraq is a highly complex society and a bewidering confusion of ethnic and religious differences. To believe that you could replace a dangerous tyrany with a democracy in a few weeks of military destruction was always absurd. Similarly you cannot realistically imagine a stable future in Afghanistan without a deal of some kind with the Taleban. Left to themselves most divided countries will sort lut their own affairs. Take the so called humanitarian disaster that awaited Benghazi were Ghadaffi to occupy it again. What would he actually have done. The most active of the insurgents would have slipped across borders to Tunisia and Egypt and as for the rest they would do all that was required to survive. The citizens of Libya are used to doing this. Ghadaffi is an old man and cannot survive for ever. Left to themselves the civil war in Libya would now be over. The casualties would have been lower than they will be now and the sorting out would be done by Libyans in their own time and in their own way.

It is time to bring the whole gory adventure to a halt.  It is time to stop. Iraq, Afghanistan and Iraq has taught us that intervention to change political regimes does not work and what limited success we can achieve has been bought at huge human cost

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Libya: Mission Creep


The British, French and America mission to unseat Ghadaffi by armed intervention and, belatedly, diplomatic opposition is failing. It was always doomed to fail. Libya as with Iraq is a complex society. Any outside interference in its affairs is bound to be simplistic. Ghadaffi and his nasty regime has much greater popular support than has been supposed and  suspicions of the motives of the insurrectionists are well grounded. TV audiences have had an opportunity to look at some of the Members of the Opposition Council. I cannot speak for anyone else but I found them distinctively dodgy. We are looking at the failed members of Ghadaffi’s regime seeking a way back to power. I suspect that we are not looking at the grey men who will replace them when the time arises.

Cameron, Sarkozy and Obama cannot let the mission fail: they have Elections to win. For the moment they cannot admit that they were wrong in the diagnosis and chosen solution -armed intervention. Enter mission creep. As we must win at almost any price what do we NEED to do. Let us now destroy every tank, armoured vehicle and artillery piece we can spot, turn a blind eye to rebel intrusions into Ghadaffi supported population centres such as Sirtes, and enlarge the number of participants in the Alliance (less blame per participant). We must tighten the economic and diplomatic noose around the Ghadaffi regime, encourage deserters from his doomed Aministration and from the Army. Will that do the job? No. Perhaps not. Remember Iraq? Must we?

I’ll tell you what would do the job. Put in 20,000 professional soldiers to occupy Misrata and secure the oil terminals along the East coast. Would that do the job? Alas no. What about the oil fields themselves? Well another 10,000 soldiers or so could secure them. What about Tripoli itself? Well once we have secured the other places we could move against Tripoli. Shouldn’t be a problem about that.

If I understand Hague and Cameron correctly, they would not stop there. What should we do about other Middle eastern autocratic rulers. The Syrian regime is busy killing protestors,. Surely we should do something to assist the protestors get rid of the Syrian regime? If you are at heart a Liberal Capitalist wih a colonial mentality, surely it must be in the interest of France and Britain, in paerticular, to get rid of these regimes for as we all know democracies are good for trade and are places where you can do business. The British love trade and doing business. It is the object of British foreign policy to do more of that. Why then stop at Libya?

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Libya: Why us? Why him?


For all the talk of International Alliances to save lives in Libya it does become clear that the intervention is transatlantic: the USA and Canada and the old African colonisers Britain, France and Italy. As in all foregn adventures domestic electorates are told it is in the national interest and their citizens have a moral duty to save lives.  Britain has been almost continuously involved in foreign interventions in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan with  forays into Kossovo, Serbia and Sierra Leone for the past 20 years. It is apparently always in our interest to do so and there is always a moral imperative. A war-weary British electorate has become sceptical: not another one, could not someone else do this and why this constant cranking up of fears might be their questions?.

Why is it in the national interest of Italy, France and Germany to intervene in Libya? Ghaddafi is no longer a threat to his neighbours. A brave Labour administration did a deal with him which seems to have tamed him. He does not threaten his neighbours in the Middle East and Africa. They do not like or trust him but that falls short of a reason for removing him. David Cameron tells us the Libya is a Pariah State, a social outsider,  on the southern fringe of Europe and therefore undesirable. Well , lets not invite Ghaddafi for tea. There is the argument that demcoratic states do not threaten anybody and are beter for trade and business. Maybe, but do we not have to live in the world as it is? So there is nothing to the argument of national interest.

What about our moral responsibility for saving lives? Yes, we should help if we can but Britain does not have a unique moral responsibility. Cannot someone else pick up the baton for a change? If they do not wish to do so does this make them immoral? What about Arab states, Libya’s immediate neighbours? Does not moral reponsibilty start here? The bewildered British elector might think, these Libyan people should sort out their own affairs. If they wish to be nasty and brutish to each other they can’t be worth much in the final analysis. We have problems of our own. Here the propaganda hots up. We are it seems our brother’s keeper.

 The fear factor hits in. Ghaddafi is about to commit genocide. I doubt it. There would be a terrible retaliation in Benghazi no doubt but the Libyan’s are very mobile. Those at greatest risk might beat it into Egypt where they would lead a better life.

Unfortunately the world is full of dictators and autocracies. Steadfastly the West refuses to step in. Anyone can prepare a list but how about Ruanda, Zimbabwe, Bahrein. Yemen, Iran and Saudi Arabia to name a few. I detect a streak of vindictiveness in Cameron. He has it in for Gadaafi and  is determined to see him punished.

Putin descibed the intervention  by the West as a medaeval crusade. He has a point. Isn’t it time we learnt a few lessons from recent history? Of course if it were Michael Gove’s version of British history. it wouldn’t deter Cameron  in the least.

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Dirty Deals in the Middle East


I am at a loss. For the first time in my life I find myself at one with the Left Wing of the Parliamentary Labour Party.Why is it right for Britain, France and the USA to intervene on the side of the social and political revolution sweeping the Middle East in Libya and wrong in the numerous other states busy putting down their protesting masses with a mixture of violence, imprisonment and intimidation; in particular Bahrein, Yemen and Saudi Arabia? It is said that it is because the Ghaddafi regime is peculiarly obnoxious. Not only is he a threat to his own people but he can be in some undisclosed way be a threat to others. This is true. However, it is also true of many other states in the Middle East and elsewhere. Should there be a no fly zone imposed in Iran or military action against Syria. And surely we should not stand idly by while the Chinesese Government tyranises Tibet? No two cases are the same, of course and no one in their own mind would advocate itervention in  Iran or Tibet. Hold on, is this true? So could it be that Ghaddafi is a convenient tyrant. We can corner him and chalk up a few brownie points at home .Foreign wars start as popular. Ask Mrs Thatcher, it won her a General Election; or Tony Blair who became a prophet, although  not in his own land; and now David Cameron, who is hopping about as if he was on drugs. What is it about war that our politicians of all parties get high on it and invite us all to get high with them.

I hate to point it out that drugs can be highly dangerous not only to the takers but to bystanders. Wars are unpredictable. They rarely work out as one hopes. How about a short holiday in Iraq or a a pilgramage in Afghanistan, chaps. You must be joking. You do not need to be a soothsayer to predict that this Libyan adventure will not work out as you now expect. It could be the most horrible of all foreigh interventions of its type,

One disappointment for me personally is the attitude of the Labour Party. ‘We could not stand idly by’ may turn out to be a gravestone epitaph from a party that has learnt nothing about foreign wars and remembered nothing. Courages, mon braves. Use your noddles.

The truth is that US diplomats have been very busy these last ten days. To get any type of resolution through the UN Security Council has required the support of the Arab League. We have seen the US supping with the devil using a long spoon. The nod has been give to the Gulf States that they are free to put down the revolutions in any way they choose so long as they continue with modest changes and in return for their support of a Western intervention tp put down Ghadaffi. We hear the guns in Benghazi but not in Bahrein or Yemen. So the US can continue with its policy of supporting the known and relied upon in oil producing countries while giving a friendly nod to change. All very real, predictable and real politik. Let us all unite and give the bully within our reach a good kicking. We have been wanting to do this for a long time. Pity about the coffins and the body bags.

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