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?
Filed under Arab League, BBC, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Colonialism, Libya, NATO, Politics, United Nations, Wlliam Hague
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.
Filed under Arab League, Bahrein, BBC, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Colonialism, Economics, Ed Balls, France, George Osborne, Ghadaffi, Gulf States, Israel, Italy, Labour Blogs, Liam Fox, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, Libya, Middle East, National Service, NATO, Nick Clegg, Obama, OBR, Politics, Sarkozy, Syria, Turkey, Wlliam Hague, Yemen
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.
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.
Filed under BBC, Cameron, Coalition Government, Colonialism, Ed Milliband, Labour Blogs, Lansley, Lib Dem blogs, Libya, Middle East, NATO, NHS, Nick Clegg, Politics, Referendum, Sarkozy, United Nations, Voting reform
Look son. you are very critical. You do agree, don’t you, that the British Empire was a good thing? Well Dad, it all depends on what you mean by a good thing, doesn’t it? There were a great many good intentions. On leaving we did give these teritories democratic institutions, embyonic education, an independant judicial system, better transport infrastuctue and all that But much of this glossy democratic superstructure is looking pretty tatty now.
Well, yes son, fair comment but WE are not responsible for the decline, for all these tin pot dictators hanging on to power. Well we do have some responsibility, to be fair. But that is a very big subject in its own right. What you do not seem to have grasped, Dad, that the British were forced out by an irresistible force: the belief that self-government is morally superior to good government.
But look you upstart is that really true? What if self-government is demonstrably bad? Bad for who Dad? Well for the peoples concerned and for those who trade with them and who invest vast sums of our money in helping these colonial territories? Careful, don’t you mean former colonial territiories? Well, you know what I mean. I don’t think I do know what you mean. Do you mean that the former African colonial powers, Britain, France and Italy have a right or duty to intervene in these countries if things go badly wrong? Or are you saying that the intenational community acting through the UN has a right and duty under interrnational law to intervene and to call on Britain, France and Italy to act on its behalf.
Isn’t this a quibble? If you see your neighbour in a distressed state, isn’t it right to intervene? Look Dad, use your nous. The world is full of nasty and dangerous regimes. Do you really think we should divide it up between the former colonial powers (or the USA acting as a great power) and Russia as a former occupying power: that the world should be divided up into zones of influence? No of course not. We should be pragmatic and intervene when it makes sense. Makes sense to whom Dad? Well us, of course, to us. So we should intervene wherever we can give some petty dictator a good kicking. Well , yes, I suppose I am saying that. Well, Dad, I have news for you. That kind of interventionism is known as neo-colonialism. A question for you. Why not get rid of the regime in Zimbabwe? There would be popular support for this in Britain. Isn’t that taking the argument too far. There are no strategic issues that should concern us in Zimbabwe. Precisely so, Dad. So it isn’t about common humanitarianism and the rule of law, is it. Its about economic and strategic interests, trade and brass. Let me refine your question Dad. You do agree, don’t you that neo-colonialism is a good thing. Enough said, let’s clear the table for your mother.
Filed under Bahrein, BBC, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Colonialism, Egypt, France, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, Middle East, NATO, Politics, Russia, Syria, Wlliam Hague, Yemen
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?
Filed under Arab League, BBC, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Colonialism, Conservative Home, Ed Milliband, France, Ghadaffi, Labour leadership, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, Libya, NATO, Nick Clegg, Obama, Parliament, Politics, Sarkozy, Syria, United Nations
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?
Filed under Arms dealers, BBC, Cameron, Coalition Government, Defence Review, Egypt, Europe, France, Ghadaffi, Guardian, Labour Blogs, Labour Goverment, Liam Fox, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, Libya, NATO, Politics, Russia, Sarkozy, United Nations
Hello, you out there. I’m going to boast a little. I have been in this job only three months and I have not only shaken up Britain -Small Government Big Society-, he, he, he – but I am changing Britain’s tole in the world for good and I hope for ever – or at least until the next General Election. And by the way I am fixing that, the date and circumstances of an election, so if you think you can easily throw me out think again. Don’t try it! In this I am helped by William [Hague]. He is a real historian, if I ever met one, and knows all about Walpole: no foreign wars, no army to wage it, a few ships to make it difficult for nasty powers to invade us, and local militia (I have been thinking of beefing up the School Cadet Service and the Territorial Army). When I look at what has been happening abroad I am truly appalled: foreign wars in places like Iraq and Afghanistan; following the Americans into those god-awful places, Kossovo, do you remember it; slavishly following the European Union line; cowtowing to Canada in NATO. You name it, we did it! No more. William is wise in all this. He tells me that we could not have defeated the Spanish Armada but for the storms that dashed their ships on the rocks; and it took us fifteen years to defeat Napoleon and we would not have done that but for the Prussians. And the two World Wars? Well as I said to Obama, we should have left to you. It would have saved us a lot of grief. I have changed all that. You can’t engage in these wars if you do not have an army, air force or navy can you? Liam is knocking them all down to size.We need to sell goods and services around the world. We want those countries who are large and growing powerfully to buy from us. Why not? We can make things too. Countries like Turkey, India, China, Brazil, and South Korea. I have a Plan. I go there and act humble. I tell them about our needs. I support them vocally and denounce their enemies (sorry about that fraulein). I become their buddy (this is a strategy I learnt at Eton, by the way). So what if I annoy other countries. Who the hell in Britain wishes to toady up to Germany and France – otherwise known as the European Union! And how much more can we sell to Israel? Be reasonable.
Now some people question both my judgement and character. They describe me as combustible, excitable and something of a bully, and they complain that I am alienating powerful players in the world. They are entitled to their opinion. But did you not know that Britain has traditional ties with our Turkish friends, that we meet more curry than any other type of meal! We can eat more curry still, take it from me. And now for a word on immigration. The question has been asked whether Turkish membership of the European Union would result in hundreds of thousands of Turks settling in Britain. Perhaps, yes, perhaps no. With a bit of luck we might be out by the time they get in. Joke joke! But then you can’t have everything in life can you? Did I ever say you could?
Filed under BBC, Big society, Cameron, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, Guardian, India, Iraq, Liam Fox, Liberal News, Liberal Vision, NATO, Nick Clegg, Obama, Pakistan, Politics, Turkey