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.
Filed under Afghanistan, Bahrein, Cabinet, Cameron, Civil liberties, Coalition Government, Colonialism, Economics, Ed Milliband, Egypt, Europe, Ghadaffi, Gulf States, Iraq, Labour leadership, Lenin, Lib Dem blogs, Libya, Obama, Politics, RAF, Revolution, Russia, Syria, Treasury, Unemployment, United Nations, Wlliam Hague, Yemen
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
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.
Filed under Politics, Labour Blogs, Coalition Government, Obama, Parliament, Europe, Lib Dem blogs, Russia, Gorbachov, Berlin Wall, Afghanistan, Stalin, Defence Review, Immigration, Ghadaffi, Libya, Egypt, Middle East, United Nations, Sarkozy, France, Colonialism, Arab League, Gulf States, Yemen, Syria, Ivory Coast, Germany, House of Commons
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.
Filed under Afghanistan, Arab League, Bahrein, BBC, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Colonialism, Ed Milliband, Egypt, Ghadaffi, Gulf States, Iraq, Labour Blogs, Labour leadership, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, Libya, Michael Gove, Middle East, New Stateman, Obama, Politics, Revolution, Russia, Sarkozy, United Nations, Wlliam Hague, Yemen
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?
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
NB This post comes with a health warning. No one without a sense of humour should read it.
What I do from time to time is to talk to you about the real purposes of the Coalition. Of course, it is common ground among all political parties that urgent and difficult decisions need to be taken to reduce the financial deficit. That difficult burden is placed on the Coalition. However, our adminstration offers the British public something different: we really are serious about diminishing the role of Government and shifting power to you the people. When some fuddy-duddy objects it is quite clear that they are misguided: public service union officials trying to hold on to their membership and their jobs; pressure groups with odd objectives, well-meaning but misguided; and of course politicians nervous that fair representation will lose them their jobs. You know the kind of thing. They simply don’t get it.
Let’s consider policing. The Police Federation has suggested that expenditure cuts will cause a big loss in the numbers of policemen and that after 4 years there will be 60,000 fewer. I’ll be frank with you. In my judgement the loss will be greater. Would this be a disaster? No. Not if we do the right things.
As you know, I am a Revolutionary and something of an expert on Russian history. (Stop laughing, please, at the back). Our dreadful political and economic disasters are akin to those confronting first Lenin and the Stalin. They were confronted with similar circumstances. Power lay with the State. The police served a narrow bourgeois interest and were resistant to change. What did Lenin do? Well, he was a pioneer of the Big Society. He called upon volunteers and instituted the creation of Druzhinicks (Volunteer Guards). Companies were obliged to volunteer people for Guard Duties. A vast body of men and women were issued with uniforms, arm bands and a whistle and they patrolled the streets. (More laughter). It was a holiday with pay spent in the fresh air. Of course, like Community Policemen today, they had no powers of arrest and when confronted with really difficult situations had to call the police. But it worked there and then. People confronted established power and made it subject to their will.
We have a plan. (we usually do). Let us replace these policemen with volunteers. These men and women could be recruited from two sources of manpower: first the growing number of unemployed and secondly the release of short stay prisoners from prisons onto this form of Community Service. (Even more laughter). Of course, there will be objections. Those on Job Seekers Allowance and Disability Allowance might object. They must be told ‘get serious’. If you want some of our money you must earn it! It is certainly possible to patrol in a wheelchair when accompanied by an able bodied person. Some objections might be raised by the media and the general public to the use of delinquents. But who better to catch a thief than a former villain. Remember they will be in uniforms. A good uniform can help the process of rehabilitation and change personal behaviour.
Of course there are expenses here but just think of the savings: no new prisons, the release of 20,000 short stay prisoners and up to 100,000 high paid policemen made redundant. What is the cost of 120,000 whistles compared to these savings? And the benefits to 100,000 of a life in the open air and the handing back of responsibility for policing to communities will have enormous advsantages.
The Big Society worked for Lenin and several generations of Soviet citizens, so why not for you, and for us. Those who want to try out a whistle can get one as they go out. (Laughter and the blowing of whistles?)
Filed under BBC, Benefits, Big society, Cameron, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, Disability Allownce, Disabled, Job Seekers Allowance, Labour Blogs, Lenin, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, New Stateman, Police Federation, Politics, Revolution, Russia, Stalin, Uncategorized, Unemployment
I am informed, reliably or not, that the Con leadership held an emergency session in Padstow early this evening without the presence of George Osborne who was busy speechifying in London. This is what our Dave is alleged to have said.
I have become concerned over recent days that the concept of the Big Society has become difficult to sell to the electorate. It has been suggested that I think of a rebranding, not abandoning the idea you know, but giving it a new dimension. Cleggie, who is fertile in these marketing matters, has suggested what I think to be a powerful new dimension which could be added to our message. As you know, he is hot on historical matters and, in particular, modern Russian history. He has suggested that we use a new slogan, that we should rename our message – wait for it and don’t smirk at the back- the British Perestroika. He is quite right on the similarities: the old Communist brand of socialism had come to an end in 1989, the people wished to cast aside the centrally directed and collective dictatorship of an overbearing state, there was a need to end corrupt government and reform the electoral system, there were popular demands to end a ruinouus Afghan war, the economy had collapsed, inflation was out of control, whole areas and regions of the State sought independance from Moscow . Ring any bells. Oh yes, and the maintenance of a large army, an independent nuclear arsenal of weapons, and attempts to boss large parts of the world needed to be abandoned. (By the way before I forget it I have suggested that Liam think twice before sacking any Generals, Air Marshals and Admirals at the moment. We don’t wish to encourage military unrest at this time, if you get my drift.I have always loved boats.) And remember, Perestroika, the demand to reorganise a whole political system, did succeed in the end. Admittedly after a period of confusion and abject poverty but as George was saying today in a few years time we shall all feel better about these regretable hardships. As Margaret was apt to say this misery is a price worth paying.
I’m sorry I did not quite hear you. Yes, that distinguished looking person with the moustache, on my right. Wall, you say, we don’t have a Berlin wall to pull down. Good observation. I get reports, for all I know you get them too, that our party position has become desperate in Scotland. I have been told that we are likely to be wiped out entirely in the Scottish Assembly elections next May. It would of course, be a disaster for the Union. We do have a wall. It isn’t necessary to invent one. Hadrians Wall. We could pull it down as a gesture to the Scots. No more Imperial British power or painful memories of past hostilities. We, the Brits and the Scots are in this together as friends and allies. We wish you to share our misery and our hopes for a better future. We are all in this together.
(The meeting broke up in confusion).
Filed under Afghanistan, BBC, Berlin Wall, Big society, Cameron, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, George Osborne, Gorbachov, Guardian, Labour Blogs, Labour Party, Liam Fox, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, Local elections, Nick Clegg, Politics, Poverty, Russia, Scotland, Scottish Assembly, Thatcher