European politicians and electors alike are gripped by the political and social revoutions engulfing the Middle East and not least by the bloody resistance of some autocracies to change. This is a generational revolution of young and educatedd populations pressing for a dignified space in the world and of an educated proletariat denied work and democratic rights. As I have written before, it is in France and Great Britain, the former colonial powers , where excitement and the call for international intervention to help dissidents is the strongest. Elsewhere in Europe and in the USA there is caution, concern and a desire not to be involved militarily.
Think of it. Arguably democratic change should be welcomed. It is demonstrable that trade and peace is safeguarded ibest in democratic societies. It is therefore easy to argue that not only are democratic rights good in themselves, and even that they are universal rights, but that they will guarantee peace, tranquility and prosperity in Europe itself. Of course we know nothing about these unknown revolutionaries who wish to sweep autocracies aside. Perhaps it would not work out the way we suppose. When the Communist stone was turned over in Eastern Europe we discovered nationalism and zenophobia. When these Middle Eastern sand dunes are disturbed might we find militant Islamists and anti-semites anxious for the annihilation of Israel. We just don’t know.
We do know something. These revolutions were born in the Middle East and they belong there. The citizens of these countries own them. Personally I wish them well. But should we intervene militarily to seek to impose democratic changes upon autocratic regimes? There is a growing consensus in the West that we should and that we should attempt to own these democratic changes and influence them in our own democratic interests. That in embracing them we should own them. This desire to own territories with which we trade and in which we invest for the economic and commercial advantages that ownership would bring has a name: Colonialism. Are we in France and Germany wrapping ourselves in a new flag? Are we not advocating a New Colonialism? Have we not had enough of it: not only our own colonial adventures but those of Germany, the Soviet Union and the USA?
The two major policy objectives for British foreign policy in the Middle East are to deal with the threat that Iran poses for the region and to us directly and to secure an Arab Israeli settlement of what is known now as the Palestinian question. Would military intervention in Libya help to achieve these objectives? I think not.
Personally, I am in favour of a little illegal arms trafficking in tanks, artillery and planes to help the dissidents. It is something best kept quiet. I doubt very much whether Ghaddafi’s armies would much like to recieve back what they are giving. I do not think sounding the drum or urging the UN Security Council do what they surely do not wish to do will do the trick for Benghazi. And then good luck to them. Now remind me. Where are we on the Palestine-Israel talks and what next with Iran?
Filed under Arms dealers, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Colonialism, Europe, France, Ghadaffi, Labour Blogs, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, Libya, Middle East, Obama, Politics, Revolution, Russia, Sarkozy, United Nations, Wlliam Hague
I have a complaint to make. Could not the media, and in particular the television news channels, raise its game in the reporting of the Libyan crisis? Can anyone explain for me the rationale behind an Anglo-French alliance pressing for war to aid the overthrow of the Libyan regime? Of course, I know the bit about the importance of supporting democracy throughout the Middle East and the horror of a government slaughtering its own people to maintain an authoritarian and unpleasant dictator and his family. Let me pin my colours to the mast. I am on the side of the rebellion. But is it not a fair question to ask for a reason for Britain and France to be the most bellicose Western powers and alone in pressing for armed intervention? Why is France so premature in recognising the rebel Council in Benghazi as the legitimate government of Libya? Is there anything in the history of Anglo-French relations with Libya that might help an analysis of the issue.
Look, I am hesitant in suggersting an over-riding issue. But what distinguises Britain and France from other members of the European Union? Hold your hats, please. They are major suppliers of arms to Libya and other African states. David Cameron has told a wondering British public that the principal objective of British foreign policy under the Coalition is now to be the promotion of trade. Is he not fresh back from visits to authoritarian Middle Eastern states accompanied by British arms dealers? Hasn’t he nailed his colours to the mast? Could it not be that he has his eyes on the opportunities that would be opened up for arms deals if the Gaddafi Libyan regime were to fall?
As for France, in 1967 the French government was quick to welcome the Gaddafi regime in and became a major arms supplier for his regime. But France was greedy and insisted on selling the sme equipment to Gaddafi’s African neighbours so nullifying any Libyan military advantage. Libya decided to buy its weapons elsewhere. Here is a new opportunity for France. Aid the rebels and rearm Libya.
And then there is the issue of oil. Could it be an interest of Britain and France to gain new oil concessions and protect existing contracts? That is a major issue in its own right. But you get my drift. And what unworthy thoughts they are. I’m suggesting that these two right wing governments are desperate to be on the side of new democratic countries which they imagine are evolving from the ruins and contradictions of the existing authoritarian regimes. I am suggesting more than this. In the world of real politik they are desperate to take any action, no matter how absurd and reckless, to place themselves in the vanguard of the revolution.
Let us suppose that they are wrong. Could it be that the regimes that emerge from the ruins of the old are very like the ones they supplanted and their national interests are unchanged? Could it be that our government in its desperate search for fools gold has got it wrong? Is it too wrong and misguided of me to point this out? Come on, BBC. Isn’t that your job? Never mind the pictures what are the issues?
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There are many counties with deplorable records on civil rights and at least two are permanent members of the UN Security Council. In this Gaddafy and his wretched regime are not alone. All this talk by Caneron and Hague about not standing aside while innocent people are slaughtered and imprisoned rings bizarely in the real world. What is the difference between a gun and a black limousine picking up people from their beds and incarcerating them in an unknown prison without trial or the knowledge of their relatives. The reach of the internet is not infinite. We do not get many pictures of tyranny at work in Russia, China, Iran and Tibet. Is it to be supposed that we seek UN authority to intervene in these countries to put things rightthere in a rush of emotionalism and the desire for a get tough image?
It is no good attacking me for being soft on tyrants for I would get tough with them all. What sticks in the crawl is hypocrisy. Oh, come off it, I hear the retort, if we can do something to help why not? Why not indeed. I think the West has acted diplomatically to isolate Ghadaffi and put him in the international dock from whence, hopefully, there is no hiding place. What I am against is armed intervention to remove Ghadaffi and the pretence of a UN resolution to create a no fly zone. I do not like a situation where my government is all puff and no blow. I regard this as humilation for Britain and cheap populiarism. To this you might argue why bother to get hot under the collar if the policy is bound to be empty and unrealisable? In a way the answer is simple. I don’t wish to be led by a braggard fresh from assisting in the sale of arms to authoritarian Middle Eastern states. A bullet is a bullet but in this situation I prefer to know that it was not made in Birmingham.
Filed under Arms dealers, Army, BBC, Cameron, Coalition Government, Ghadaffi, Guardian, Labour Blogs, Libya, Middle East, Politics, Revolution, United Nations, Wlliam Hague
Thanks Charlie for dropping in. I’m glad of the opportunity to clear up some things about our diplomatic incident in Libya involving the SAS. Instinctively, as you know I am on the side of the rebels. Britain should stand up for democracy in the world and we wish to do all we can to help the rebels achieve it in Libya. But as for the stories that I am addicted to James Bond films on the mere evidence that I land a unwelcome helicopter in the territory of a soverign power without clearance or telling anyone with eight men dressed in black carrying guns together with a spy. Well I ask you Charlie. What a flimsy objection. It is true that I have an extensive library of James Bond films but I have not watched one in the last seven-ten days. So much for addiction.
Dave, I am surprised by this. If you want to make contact with rebel leaders, have you thought of telephoning them? I have Charlie, I have, but do they tell you what you wish to know? Perhaps Dave they tell you what they choose to tell you. Have you thought about that? I don’t understand you Charlie. I don’t think you have really studied James Bond films. What you need to do is to drop your agent in and he sorts it out for you, get’s into trouble on the way out and we rescue him. This time somewhere in the Mediteranean sea. Get it?
Dave, Dave, Dave, come on. This is the real world. Apart from diplomatic and humanitarian help best orgonised through the EU (sorry to use the term) and the United Nations, surely there is nothing we can or should do. To me it looks like a civil war to be fought out between two Lilliputian sets of soldiers. At the heart of this conflict there is nothing for us to do. We don’t want to behave like an Imperial Power, do we? Colonialism has come to an end, or didn’t you notice that? Charlie, sarcasm doesn’t suit you. Britain is an important Imperial power and I am proud of it. I suspect that you were taught in one of those miserable state schools with a twisted sense of British history. The evils of the British Empire and all that. Michael Gove is turning back this unpatriotic tide. Was the British Empire a good thing? I say, yes. And it was governed by Old Etonians to boot. And long may it continue.
Dave, if I publish this you will find that you have opened yourself up to derision. That would be a shame. Some people admire you for your energy and commitment but they are not going to vote for the return of the British Empire. Charlie how little do you know. Did you not observe that in Burnley more people voted for UKIP than for our Conservative candidate? What nonsense this is. Does UKIP stand up for British interests as well as we Tories? How many of them were educated at Eton? Well then, you get my point. And another thing you fail to notice, James Bond is much admired throughout the world. Why not the British Coalition Government, the Tory party and me?
Filed under Arms dealers, Army, Barnsley, BBC, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Education, Eton, Europe, Ghadaffi, Guardian, Liberal Voice, Middle East, Politics, Public schools, SAS, UKIP
Sometimes I wish myself to be ubiquitous.You know what I mean: to possess powers to look in and over, to find out what has really been going on in the corridors of power. For example, who were the arms dealers who accompanied David Cameron on his recent trip to the Middle East and what did they sell and to which authoritan regime. In this age of transparency you would think it easy enough. It isn’t and if you doubt me try it yourself. To mix my metaphor, so to speak, sell bullets to the wrong dictator and they can come back to bite you. This task is so difficult that I have been obliged to invent my own un-Parliamentary questiosns and answers.
Q. What arms deals were negotiated with what regimes on the Prime Minister’s recent trip’. A. Following parliamentary proceedure I cannot answer this. I would remind the questioner that there has been no change in the guidelines that rightly govern these transations. Q. Can the Government confirm that over the past five years, no arms have been sold to Libya. A. If a company wishes to sell arms to any particular country, such as Libya, it must apply for an export licence in the normal way. As I say the rul;es have not changed. Q. Will the Prime Minister confirm which companies on his recent trip will be applying for export licenses and in respect of what arms and to which regimes? A. Britain is one of the world’s most successful arms exporters and I shall do nothing to undermine its efforts to sell arms to a diverse range of countries. In the nature of things a power we regard as responsible at one moment of time may become irresonsible the next. We cannot stand over them when they pull the triggers, can we? Look chaps, some of you types that have attended schools in Wolverhampton and Walsall understnd the facts of life that are learnt in the playgrounds. If you think it was easier for types like me on the playing fields of Eton you are deluded. It is tough and you do not survive without a bruise or two. Basically the rules of the game are simple. You do not take on a bully at the height of his powers. You wait until his position has weakened and when he has lost some of his friends. Then you pounce on him when he least expects it yelling that you are the boss now. If need be get a few friends to help you. Give him a few kicks. Make sure that all the other kids know that you are the champion now. That’s what we are doing with Libya. Never mind the past, ignore the previous arms deals and the British banks stuffed full with his illegal funds. Force majeure and all that and you are the champion now. The others soon fall into line. And that is our policy now. Move over you swine, you might say. We are the champion now. And the rest of you buying arms from us today. Don’t think that we won’t turn on you in the future if we have too. Oh yes, we are not cissies. Look at my muscles. Well come to think of it, perhaps not.
Filed under Arms dealers, BBC, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Defence Review, Egypt, George Osborne, Labour Blogs, Labour leadership, Liam Fox, Lib Dem blogs, Libya, Middle East, Parliament, Politics