Monday, March 31, 2003
Understanding Blair - 31st March 2003, 23.15

Many people see the stanch actions of Blair but forget that they are consistent with his earlier actions during the Kosova conflict. In a speech at Chicago in 1999, Blair expanded upon his notion of 'international community':

Today the impulse towards interdependence is immeasurably greater. We are witnessing the beginnings of a new doctrine of international community. By this I mean the explicit recognition that today more than ever before we are mutually dependent, that national interest is to a significant extent governed by international collaboration and that we need a clear and coherent debate as to the direction this doctrine takes us in each field of international endeavour. Just as within domestic politics, the notion of community - the belief that partnership and co-operation are essential to advance self-interest - is coming into its own; so it needs to find its own international echo. Global financial markets, the global environment, global security and disarmament issues: none of these can he solved without intense international co-operation.

To implement this concept Blair promulgated a series of faux Wilsonian points:

We need to focus in a serious and sustained way on the principles of the doctrine of international community and on the institutions that deliver them. This means:

1. In global finance, a thorough, far-reaching overhaul and reform of the system of international financial regulation. We should begin it at the G7 at Cologne.
2. A new push on free trade in the WTO with the new round beginning in Seattle this autumn.
3. A reconsideration of the role, workings and decision-making process of the UN, and in particular the UN Security Council.
4. For NATO, once Kosovo is successfully concluded, a critical examination of the lessons to be learnt, and the changes we need to make in organisation and structure.
5. In respect of Kyoto and the environment, far closer working between the main industrial nations and the developing world as to how the Kyoto targets can be met and the practical measures necessary to slow down and stop global warming, and
6. A serious examination of the issue of third world debt, again beginning at Cologne.

In addition, the EU and US should prepare to make real step-change in working more closely together. Recent trade disputes have been a bad omen in this regard. We really are failing to see the bigger picture with disputes over the banana regime or hushkits or whatever else. There are huge issues at stake in our co-operation. The EU and the US need each other and need to put that relationship above arguments that are ultimately not fundamental.

Today, Blair remains as wedded to the 'international community' as ever and no doubt supports a more radical interpretation of reform within NATO and the UN after the pre-Iraq diplomacy. Perhaps he views the 'international community' as a concept that may be institutionalised elsewhere. Such abstract concepts are very elastic.

Even his support for the Iraqi war was consistent:

So how do we decide when and whether to intervene. I think we need to bear in mind five major considerations

First, are we sure of our case? War is an imperfect instrument for righting humanitarian distress; but armed force is sometimes the only means of dealing with dictators. Second, have we exhausted all diplomatic options? We should always give peace every chance, as we have in the case of Kosovo. Third, on the basis of a practical assessment of the situation, are there military operations we can sensibly and prudently undertake? Fourth, are we prepared for the long term? In the past we talked too much of exit strategies. But having made a commitment we cannot simply walk away once the fight is over; better to stay with moderate numbers of troops than return for repeat performances with large numbers. And finally, do we have national interests involved? The mass expulsion of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo demanded the notice of the rest of the world. But it does make a difference that this is taking place in such a combustible part of Europe.

By his definition, Britain probably does have a national interest in the war because it needs to support the international community, leaving security issues aside. As you can read, Blair is a dangerous man.
Alexander's Heirs - 31st March 2003, 22.55

Lord Robertson welcomed the start of the EU peacekeeping mission in Macedonia as "a new chapter in European security". Let's hope it's the epilogue.

France and Germany turned up for Mission Concordia providing half the forces and the commander. Britain also sent forces but I haven't been able to ascertain the numbers as yet.
The 'War on Terror' loses its Allies - 31st March 2003, 22.27

An article in Rosbalt News by Vladislav Kraev asserted that the US had lost the 'war on terror' because it had embraced terroristic methods itself.

The war against terrorism is ending in defeat for the US because by attacking Iraq and ignoring the opinions, fears and interests of its allies, old and new, America is only making itself more enemies for many years to come. Now the American 'war against terrorism' is turning into a personal campaign which other countries are by no means obliged to support. In other words, it is no longer our business.

The article recites arguments about oil and plunder and states that the United States is no longer motivated by the international attempt to extinguish terrorism but is acting out of narrow self-interest. The breaking of international law is the crowing piece of his theme.

The article demonstrates the mindset of those countries who no longer wish to be viewed as fellow travellers on the 'war on terror' and provides an example of the arguments that they would utilise to justify their withdrawal from the 'coalition of the willing'. Watch out for this over the coming months.

Some Insults - 31st March 2003, 21.57

National Review provide some Arabic insults:

'Buff' Hoon is Himar - the donkey.

Blair is known as al-Tabe - the subordinate or, ironically, as Akrout - the loathsome pimp. Surely they mean German.

Zimwatch: Final Days?

Personally I don't think that Bob's final days are upon us, but he's taking no chances - police are out in force around his mansion, and there are some by-election results due (which the MDC are already contesting). An MDC vice president has been arrested while the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai also faces arrest. With the opposition saying that there is "no turning back" and vowing to ""fight to the death" it could get very ugly.

Good thing it was Last Year's War

As you have found your way to this remote corner of the internet, I assume that your attention span extends to Afghanistan - unlike so many others. So what you will make of a (non-fatal) rocket attack on the UN headquarters in Kabul or the death of two US special forces troops after an ambush, I do not know. It's a good thing to find out that the Americans are "considering a wider offensive to root out terror groups in Afghanistan".

Those of us who thought that the terror groups had already been rooted out were sadly misled.
Sunday, March 30, 2003
America and the World - 30th March 2003, 21.45

This is the title of Tony Judt's review of five recent texts in the New York Review of Books examining the rationale, the exercising and the prospects of American power now and stretching far into the new century. A description and bilbliography of this French specialist may be found here.

Judt examines commentaries that have been designed to elicit fevered comment from newspaper columnists and op-eds in the last few months, since most of the authors hail from the 'republic of punditry' themselves. They are:

Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order by Robert Kagan
The Ideas That Conquered the World: Peace, Democracy, and Free Markets in the Twenty-first Century by Michael Mandelbaum
Rethinking Europe's Future by David P. Calleo
The End of the American Era: US Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the Twenty-first Century by Charles A. Kupchan
The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria

All five are a diverse set of authors who span the spectrum from the Wilsonian mission of Mandelbaum to the dark tempered scepticism of both Kupchan and Zakaria, and they are all compared unfavourably with George Kennan, although this undoubtedly applies to Kagan most of all.

Unlike Kennan, however, his would-be heirs nurse metatheoretical aspirations, whereas Kennan was building policy recommendations out of close local observation. They don't write as well as he did; and they have scant desire to hide their authorial light under the bushel of anonymity. Not surprisingly, the implicit comparison is consistently unflattering: kissed only by the shadow of Kennan's achievement, his successors—like Portia's suitors— "have but a shadow's bliss."

Their contradictory speculations demonstrate that the reporting of foreign policy is just as confusing if you are embedded in a think-tank as any correspondent in a field of battle. These five books herald America's century, America's decline, Europe's rise and Europe's fall - a convincing demonstration that they know as much about the future as we do and only hindsight will suggest who wrote the most accurate explanation.

However, some thoughts do suggest themselves from this article.The first is that the current war may signal the weakness of the United States rather than its dominance:

Thus when American leaders throw fits of pique at European dissent, and provoke and encourage internal European divisions, these are signs of incipient weakness, not strength. Real power is influence and example, backed up by understated reminders of military force. When a great power has to buy its allies, bribe its friends, and blackmail its critics, something is amiss. The energetic American response to September 11 is thus misleading, in Kupchan's view. Like Mandelbaum, but for opposite reasons, he treats the "war on terror" as a "surface feature" that does not affect "underlying tectonic forces and the location of fault lines." The bedrock reality is a world from which the US will either retreat in frustration or with which it will have to engage on cooperative terms. Either way, the "American era" is passing.

Although I would disagree with Judt's definition of power, it is clear from the events of the past year that the United States is less able to exercise diplomatic influence within international institutions than it has been since the Cold War, since it faces the same model of an ideolgical opponent with an implacable view of the veto. Moreover, since most states are used to working through the established system of international relations, this provides a window of opportunity for European states to export their perceptions and practices.

But Europe, especially "old Europe," is much more in tune than the US with the thinking of the rest of the world on everything from environmental threats to international law, and its social legislation and economic practices are more congenial to foreigners and more readily exportable than the American variants.

Whatever our view of the current war, it is also certain that local powers from Africa, Asia and Latin America view Europe as an example to emulate rather than the distinctive (a much more accurate term than unilateral) Anglo-American states which place national interest above solidarity. The Bush administration do not understand, as yet, that the model of a constitutional and liberal republic, tempered by democracy is uncongenial to political elites that would prefer to preserve their power through the technocratic and bureaucratic model currently taking shape on the Continent.

Of a more local note, Britain has the worst of all possible worlds since we have the rule of law and the bureaucrats which continentals tend to ignore. There are some who argue that Britain should become more like Italy in order to ignore the state but that does abandon the traditions and the virtues that our system of law and governance has provided over many centuries. No, the answer is to dismantle the state apparatus constructed over the last two centuries and revert to the established institutions from English history, since they will prove far more adaptable to our needs than the state that exists now.

But is he entirely sane?

Matthew Parris asks whether Tony Blair is losing his sanity. Sean Gabb speculates that he may be on mind altering medication of some kind. I must say that this sort of question "is he entirely sane, though" has been going around Tory circles within six months of the first victory. It's a valid question, but it won't stop him winning elections.

Zimwatch: Now it's for keeps

Looks like we're approaching civil war in Zimbabwe as Morgan Tsvangari Opposition activists say they are prepared to bring the nation to its knees and "fight to the death" in order to end Mr Mugabe's harsh rule. They predict civil war if the regime resists the "will of the people".

Opposition activists say they are prepared to bring the nation to its knees and "fight to the death" in order to end Mr Mugabe's harsh rule. They predict civil war if the regime resists the "will of the people".

Ten days ago, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change brought the country to a standstill for two days by leading a national , in which tens of thousands of people refused to work.

The MDC is threatening to unleash its fresh wave of action unless the government agrees to 15 demands by tomorrow night. These include negotiations over last year's widely contested presidential election result, a restoration of law and order and guarantees for judicial independence.

Civil war threats, "negotiations" on the election result. The MDC must be feeling either strong or desperate - or both.

Looks like their could be regime change before we hear about Saddam.


Current British troop levels in Baghdad are unsustainable over a period longer than six months, there's a shock. However according to this story they're pretty much unsustainable over 5000 troops. I think that's on the low side, but who am I to second guess a general?

Robin Red Top

Robin Cook writes in the Sunday Mirror that we must "Get the Lads Home". But how do we do that Robin? It is going to be impossible to bring them back after a Parliamentary vote (no matter how corruptly obtained). Answer comes there none.

The fact is that the British troops are going to have to stay in Iraq until Saddam Hussein is toppled or until the Americans break their word on something. Until either of those two events we will lose far too much face to be taken seriously as a power that means business.

Unless the antiwar movement finds a plausible break point (and Saddam going is the earliest I can find unless the Americans make an official policy of using us as target practice) then we simply can't get our troops home. Of course the antiwar movement has a lot to do. The case for the invasion has not been made, and in fact is weaker every day we're in (where are those chemical weapons?), however we're there because we're there and with British troops involved in combat that is the only reason we've got. The fact that the case has not been made should be made repeatedly and apologists for the war should be taken apart. Escalation to other oil producers and threats to Israel Arab countries must be resisted.

But the big push of antiwar forces must be when Saddam leaves the presidential palaces and a reliable puppet is installed in Baghdad. Our troops will have done their duty. Sure there'll be a need for some troops to continue fighting the civil war and to act as a target for suicide bombers - but let the Americans clear up their own mess.

The time to call out British troops will come soon - but for now we must support them, no matter how stupid this war is.
Saturday, March 29, 2003

Win it while we're in it

An excellent article by Christopher Montgomery looking at various aspects of this war. It may be a stupid war, but it's a stupid war we need to win, and the sooner Saddam's swinging on a meat hook the better for Iraq. Why it isn't in his usual home of is a question that they have to answer.

City Limits

Simon Jenkins writes on whether or not Baghdad will fall, and he thinks not. I'm suspicious of journalists who hold themselves out as military experts (John Humphreys is another example) and I suspect that a lot of the commentary is based on his belief that cities are better than the country. However there are a couple of interesting snippets:

Geoff Hoon yesterday called the defenders of Baghdad “dastardly” for involving civilians. Wars in cities always do. They are always dirty wars. Mr Hoon cuts off Basra’s water and power and lobs shells into populated areas, knowing full well that this will kill bystanders. With life thus cheapened, it is small wonder defenders fortify schools and hospitals and fail to wear identifying uniforms so Mr Hoon can shoot them.

Not to get on a humanitarian high horse, but we are cutting off the water supply to Basra until they revolt. What do we expect them to do, drown us. If we get some silly fool of an international lawyer trying to find something to try British (but not American) troops on for war crimes do you think cutting off the water supply to a city of a million people will look good?

Another point (which I think is his get out clause if the regime falls in the next couple of weeks):

But history says Baghdad will fall from an act of politics or treachery, not an act of war.

Expect that to happen. In the past few days its been easy to forget that Allied troops are in fact only a few miles from Baghdad.

Sour Krauts

The war is proving unpopular in Germany where Schroeder is more popular than the Christian Democratic leader for the first time in six months. When people lose interest in the war this is, thank God, going to die down.

Two interesting things to come out of this. People are rallying to their governments during this international crisis, whether Germans opposing the war, Brits supporting it and the Iraqis fighting it. Secondly, does anyone really think that this will last once the sports stars getting the headlines again?

Rallying round the flag

Steve Sailer writes an interesting piece on growing British support for the war. Although Steve sort-of supports the war, he doesn't think that the upturn is because the British were always for it but had a funny way of showing it (unlike others, such as Iain Murray):

This offers a lesson about the long-term relationship-building value to the United States of getting foreign countries not just to make positive statements about U.S.-led wars but to also put some of their soldiers' boots on the battlefield. Seeing television coverage of young people from one's own country fighting alongside Americans seems to foster martial enthusiasm and warm feelings for the United States.

There is a certain rally-round effect. Even as staunch a cynic as myself wants to see the troops home without losing any troops, time or pride - and that means a quick victory. Middle Eastern peace and (especially) Iraqi civilian casualties play a minor part, if any, in my feelings. That does not mean to say that this is support for the war.

What would be interesting would be to see any opinion polls (they may be out there - but I haven't looked) asking "Regardless of your support for British troops, do you think that that we should have been over there in the first place." The fact that the opinion poll companies (or perhaps headline writers) are conflating the perceived need for the war and support for the troops confuses the issue.

Friday, March 28, 2003
Regime Change - 28th March 2003, 0.30

This was not a major factor in my support for the war but it is certainly a war aim when it comes to the BBC. One of the war aims of the blogosphere should be regime change at the BBC preferably accompanied by privatisation or break up.

I can stand a lot of things but I can't stand someone sucking up to the French. Paul Reynolds writes a profile of Dominique de Villepin and his speech to the IISS that is neither balanced or impartial. The French Foreign minister is hardly damned with faint praise.

Dominique de Villepin is a very attractive figure, and is not, according to fellow Frenchman Francois Heisbourg, chairman of the IISS, an "assembly line product of the French meritocracy." France still believes war was avoidable. He is an author (about Napoleon) and a poet as well. One felt that he spoke with the voice of France at the moment.

Just to show that he is not alone, a supportive member of the audience is gushingly quoted...

I also spoke to Sir Weston, a classic Brit, in the front row of the audience. Sir John is a former ambassador to Nato and the UN. He turned out to be critical of British policy and said that it had been a "cop-out to denounce France." He reminded me that he had written a poem in the subject, which he is rather proud of, though it is a pastiche of something Philip Larkin once wrote. Its last two lines read:

"But tell our children we're a lesser country
If common sense is ruled by moral fervour."

I am sure that Dominque de Villepin, a fellow poet, would have approved.

You would think that Villepin had announced an earthshaking diplomatic overture, some rabbit from a hat that France would use to bridge the rift, given the pedestal on which he so deservedly stands. But no...

But a senior former American diplomat I spoke to afterwards murmured that the French minister had said nothing new.

So the French Foreign Minister made a diplomatic speech in London where he made no attempt to start a rapprochement with the UK or the US and, for this, is transformed into some diplomatic guru by the BBC. The only consolation I can see is that even New Labour will become sick of this crap and turn them off, saving us all a license fee.
Thursday, March 27, 2003
Those who wish or predict defeat - 27th March 2003, 18.05

Scott Ritter has stated that Iraq will be a quagmire. The Russian people have certainly proved themselves as opponents.

Russia is most certainly not on the list. A public opinion survey published there Wednesday showed that 74 percent of those surveyed said they hoped that the Iraqi army would defeat the coalition forces.

But the greatest number are not the anti-war demonstrators but the pro-iraqi movement, although the media tends to confuse the two. The latter is Muslim in its membership and structure and has moved from calling for coalition forces to stand down to defeat of the West.

Several Pakistani cities saw new protests today. There was a protest in Srinagar, India, as well, where Muslim students shouted, "Iraqis will defeat infidels."

Or the usual ultra-left suspects who support a war for Iraqi defence and revolution but not Saddam Hussein (does not compute!)..

The crimes of the Ba’athists against Iraqi workers, Kurds and Shi’ites serve to underline why the call for military defense of Iraq is counterposed to any political support to the Saddam Hussein regime. In this war, our position is one of revolutionary defensism toward Iraq: seeking to combine the struggle for national independence against American imperialist militarism with a social revolution against the Iraqi capitalists and landowners. But to this day, the Iraqi proletariat suffers from the legacy of its defeat in 1958-59. This underlines the necessity for the most advanced elements of the Iraqi proletariat to draw the lessons of the 1958-59 betrayal and fight to cohere a Leninist-Trotskyist party committed to the political independence of the proletariat. Only through proletarian revolutions against all the bonapartist dictators, sheiks and Zionist butchers can the workers and oppressed throw off the yoke of imperialism and lay the basis for a socialist federation of the Near East.

Lastly, for some reason, the Muslim Association of Britain (where's the great?) has taken down its online forums!
Wednesday, March 26, 2003

The Price of Oil and the National Interest

The Money Programme had an interesting episode concerning "energy security". Basically its argument looked not at whether oil was a factor, but at whether oil is running out. One theme was that Britain may start being an importer of oil as soon as 2015 and so the Britain in fact needs cheap oil.

Here are two reasons why this is not so:

1) If Britain can expect to stop exporting the stuff in the next two decades then it will need to get as much money as possible. That means higher oil prices. Coupled to this is the fact that Britain is a fairly high cost producer - due to the fact that the rigs are at sea and it pays first world waged - then the case for medium term high prices becomes overwhelming. Sure petrol taxes would have to be cut, but at 75% of the cost of a gallon of petrol there's plenty of room.

2) When we get to importing status the last thing we need is an artificial demand from the rest of the world. Governmental efforts to buck the market in the end fail, and if an artificial lowering of the price by ever more intrusive interventions in the middle east runs out just as we are running out of oil there will be a double whammy. We need to encourage people to develop alternatives to oil, energy efficiency, more effective extraction and new fields. You can do this ineffectively by subsidy or you can let the market take care of it by ... raising the price. In the medium term we won't feel it (we'll be exporting the stuff) but in the long run the benefits of lower use and greater production will be coming on stream.

A low oil price may be in America's interest (although if I were American I would argue that the market rather than the armed forces are better at looking after the adjustment) but it is certainly not in ours. I doubt the war is all about oil, however it would be naive to say that oil is not an important factor in this war. It's just that we could do with a higher oil price right now.

Outsourcing the British Body Count

I am now outsourcing the BBC to the BBC. They have a list of the casualties which I will use. It is a bit more cautious and does not include non combatents like Terry Lloyd, but the point is made, hence the fall in numbers.

Let's just hope that there are not too many more British boys dying in other countrys' fights.

Killing Ground

Iraqi exile Burhan al-Chalabi writes in the Guardian "You should have known we'd fight". Through some left wing drivel it seems that the Iraqis who are fighting, are fighting a patriotic war in much the same way as the Russians did. This is dangerous for two reasons. We are not in Baghdad in "four to five days" (remember that), although plans do slip in war and we shouldn't make too much of that. However guerilla wars against occupying armies can be damn difficult to fight, hence any idea of colonial occupation reconstruction should be in the short term.

One particular sentence scared me witless:

Iraqis - in particular the Arab-Iraqi Shi'ites - fought bitter and hard and suffered thousands of casualties in order to liberate Iraq from the British occupation. They will do so again.

What have the Shi'ites got against us? Not only were they deadly in Lebanon but they are about half the population in Iraq.

UPDATE: Here's more on Chalabi the leader of the Iraqi National Congress. Reading my above piece I didn't realise that I stressed his interest in giving the above advice. Consider it stressed.

British Body Count

25/3 2 - Tank crew caught in friendly fire outside Basra

In regard to the two missing troops, I hope I'm wrong but they haven't turned up either in our hands or Iraqi hands. So it will be assumed that they are dead. So:

23/3 2 - British soldiers missing after attack on British convoy.

The BBC are also doing a list of British casualties, although limited to confirmed losses of British troops (slightly different from the method here - which counts probable deaths, and includes all British subjects) and doesn't differentiate from enemy action and friendly fire.

Further commentary here and here.
Tuesday, March 25, 2003
It Takes One to Know One - 25th March 2003, 22.08

The International Committee of the Fourth International (World Socialists) feel aggrieved at the Stop The War coalition. They kindly list its members.

The meeting [People's Assembly] was held under the auspices of the STWC, an organisation made up of the British Muslim Association, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and a number of left-wing parties of which the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) is the most prominent.

Why are they hopping mad?

Their agenda is to dragoon the antiwar movement behind a political perspective of support for the European imperialists and an attempt to revive the United Nations as a vehicle to try to restrain American militarism.

Now that the war has started, it does look like the anti-war coalition is slipping back into the hinterland of theoretical faction and left-wing lunacy from whence it came. One hopes that they will infect the Muslim Association of Britain with the same history of splits and arguments that they have enjoyed up to now. Where will Mohammed stand on the glories of Gosplan?
Howelling - 25th March 2003,

Lord Howell writes yet again in the Japan Times on the approach that Britain should take towards Europe. He argues that the drive by France and Germany to dominate the European Union is now at an end and that the structures will have to be rebalanced towards a "gentler, more democratic" continent. In order for this to take effect, Britain has to act as a bridge-builder and coax Germany back towards an Atlanticist position.

The problem that Howell avoids is, of course, that Blair's attempt to form a troika in Europe has ended in ignominy with the continental powers actively attempting to bring down his government. Those are not the acts of longstanding allies. Moreover, Germany does not appear to be in a position where they can be coaxed...

Joschka Fischer, German foreign minister, said yesterday that Germany would flatly oppose a new world order emerging from the Iraq war, based on an all-powerful US dictating terms to the international community. Referring to Britain and Spain, he said: "One must ask whether the countries that are such close partners of the US had or have an influence [over Washington's Iraq policy]."
He said the positions taken by the British and Spanish governments had led to "major [domestic] problems that bordered on the destabilisation of democratic systems".

The combination of hyperbole and transnationalism places Germany on the side of the idealists who view international law as the moral standard. Britain, under New Labour, recognises the primacy of international law, but still views it as a tool for moral and political ends, rather than as an end in itself. If there's one thing we can be thankful for, it is that we are not yet infected by Teutonic Transnationalism, a virulent and pacifistic version of the disease.
Oh No, Not Again - 25th March 2003, 21.27

One would wish that Blair may have learned his lesson from the previous diplomatic fiasco at the United Nations. Prepare for Round Two. The Prime Minister confirmed today that he would be seeking resolutions on both humanitarian aid to Iraq and approval of any postwar administration constructed by the coalition.

The first is in respect of humanitarian assistance we need a resolution through on that and I am confident that we should be able to secure that. There is going to be a debate about the UN resolution that then governs the post-Saddam civil administration in Iraq. We are quite clear that any such administration has to be endorsed by the United Nations, it is important, and that is exactly what we said at the summit in the Azores. Now the details of that we will discuss with allies within the UN and with others. There may be certain diplomatic difficulties but I think in the end people will come together and realise that it is important that any post-Saddam Iraqi government has the broadest possible representation, is respectful of human rights, is careful to preserve the territorial integrity of Iraq, and the important thing after all the diplomatic divisions that there have been is that the international community comes back together, and I hope that it will.

There were further questions probing Blair on the published differences between himself and the US administration on postwar Iraq but he brushed them aside. The other interesting passage to come out of the interview was Britain's relationship with Europe. The PM was undiplomatic:

There is going to be at the end of this, and there should be.This is perhaps a slightly undiplomatic thing to say at this stage, but let me say it nonetheless. There is at the end of this going to have to be a discussion, and indeed a reckoning, about the relations between America and Europe.

But nevertheless he is still trying to square the circle:

Because I have no doubt at all, I know I have said this so many times to you, but I do believe that it is so important, if Europe and America split apart from each other, the loser is not going to be Britain. We will retain our position in Europe and we will retain our strong position with the United States, the loser will be the wider world because on every single issue that comes up there will be rival poles of power to which people can gravitate.

This is a recognition, perhaps understated, that the present rift could prove permanent but Blair is unwilling state that this would have institutional consequences in Europe. He repeats the mantra that Britain will remain both Atlanticist and European but the emphasis is firmly on the former than the latter. This indicates that Blair is aware of Britain's distance from Europe and is not unduly worried. Perhaps a positive hint.

Where are the cheering crowds?

So the crowds
are not cheering in Basra and we're wondering why. Well let's spell it out. In this part of the world the people cheer in the streets when they're told to.

When Saddam was in charge and he told the people to cheer they did.

When the Allies are in charge and we tell the people to cheer they will.

At the moment they're not sure who's in charge, so they don't know who to cheer for.

In future I'm sure we'll be told that the fighting is worth it because the burghers of Baghdad cheer our liberating troops to the echo. So on that logic surely the cheering for Saddam showed how much he was loved.

In case you forgot

Meanwhile in last year's war:

Hundreds of U.S. soldiers have launched an air assault as a major operation to hunt down Taliban and al Qaeda fugitives expanded in southern Afghanistan, a military spokesman says.

Oh. I was told that we'd won that, but then so were the Russian public.

Odds Behaviour

A $100 payout if Saddam no longer leads Iraq on 31 March has gone from $72 on Friday to $27 on Monday. 3-1 on Saddam being gone in a week? Excellent odds.

Silly Thought

Has anyone noticed that the first things that they Allied troops have captured are the oil refineries and oil wells, and yet the weapons plants have been mostly left alone?

Personally I think that there is nothing in it apart from an elaborate joke on George Monbiot.
Monday, March 24, 2003

Zimwatch: over here

Strange happenings in Southend as MDC supporters picket a business owned by one of Mugabe's key supporters. Two interesting facts, a well established but small scale operation is owned by a Zanu stallwart, and the accusation is that he's over here. Classic bolt hole. The pro-Mugabe people are getting twitchy.

Meanwhile Mugabe's crackdown after the hugely succesful MDC strike, continues apace, and the army is making itself very unpopular.

Where will it end? I think we all know.

When will it end? That's the only question.

Body Count Update

24/3 1 British soldier killed in Az Zubayr.

On the 2 British soldiers missing, they will not be going on to the body count until the status has firmed up.

For the previous figures go here.

UPDATE: 25/3 1 -"A second British soldier has been killed in action near Al Zubayr in southern Iraq."
The Interlocking Wheels of Diplomacy and War - 25th March 2003, 22.46

As the coalition forces tighten their grip on the Faw peninsula and open up the Iraqi coast to humanitarian aid, the United Nations Security Council was discussing adjustments in the 'oil for food' program which would continue to be administered by Kofi Annan and the UN infrastructure. Both the United States and the United Kingdom did not contribute to these discussions or draw up a resolution in order to facilitate the short-term disbursement of aid from the escrow accounts and lighten their own financial burden. These actions on the part of the United nations did not indicate any acceptance on their part of a dominant US role in a postwar Iraq.

UPI states that this move may also be seen as anti-French and anti-Russian, for Annan will be given the power to approve applications, renegotiate contracts and disburse aid. The losers in this streamlined and efficient aid process would be French and Russian middlemen who enjoyed kickbacks from the authorities. In a quote from Stratfor,

Stratfor, the strategic forecasting consultancy, explains why this stratagem is anti-Russian and, more so, anti-French: "The process would greatly speed up the aid disbursement process and cut out the middlemen who profit from the contractual go-betweens ... (which) have been almost exclusively French and Russian companies ... French and Russian banks usually have channeled the funds to the appropriate places ... The contracts were bribes to Paris and Moscow to secure French and Russian support for Iraq within the United Nations."

The United States has no compunction about using the organisational ability of the United Nations where it complements and enhances its war effort. This suits their interests, the need for Kofi Annan to maintain a credible role in a postwar Iraq and a British government that can demonstrate to its left wing that it has softened the neo-conservatism of the Bush adminstration. Those who write about fundamental differences between Blair and Bush on this issue are again overtaken by the compromises of realtime diplomacy.

Missile Defence: Upgrading of Thule - 25th March 2003, 20.57

Should have picked this up earlier but Denmark agreed to allow the US to upgrade the early warning radar station at Thule for a national missile defence system earlier this month.
Slovenia: Confirmed Results - 25th March 2003, 20.49

The EU was backed by an almost overwhelming 89.61% of Slovenian voters and joining NATO attracted 66.02% of the vote. The Slovenians saw these positive votes as a final farewell to their Yugoslavian and communist past and will probably dislike any further reference to themselves as a 'transition' economy.

The European Business site quoted congratulations from only two countries in the EU who obviously speak for all.

Satisfaction, even relief, was also voiced abroad. Slovenia's "clear choice in favor of the EU and NATO is "an important signal, especially in the current world political situation," said German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. The French minister for European affairs, Noelle Lenoir, similarly said on a visit to Prague Sunday night that the Slovenian vote was "a message for the other candidate countries." "I am extremely confident about the other referendums. It's a repeat signal, after Malta," she said.

Dum Frum

David Frum beats the Anglospheric drum. Britain doesn't need to be a province of Europe ... when it can be a satrapy of America.

Now I agree with the first part of that analysis. However the peak of our geopolitical ambition should not be the membership of a better and easier to talk to imperium. I can see an Anglo-American alliance as a stepping stone to independence, but we have to recognise that we have different interests from the Americans. Northern Ireland for instance, we face an enemy that sooner or later will be blowing up our kids again and the American administration faces a bit of difficulty when it comes to raising campaign contributions from fourth generation Irish millionaires.

On another issue David Frum says that "Britain doesn't need the EU to be powerful." Well actually an American alliance doesn't need the EU to be powerful, but Britain could actually use a counterweight on the Continent, even if it is not in Britain's interests to belong to that counterweight. It is simply the difference between saying that Britain benefited from a strong Austria, without any burning desire to have a Hapsburg on the throne. Either David Frum doesn't understand the balance of power or his idea of Britain's interest does not look at Britain as an independent country, but as an American sattelite.

In the end the Telegraph will prove as useful in the fight for British independence as the Guardian.
Sunday, March 23, 2003
Casualties - 24rd March 2003, 20.35

I have tended to avoid commenting upon the war because more experienced individuals are providing the necessary coverage. However, useful information should always be publicised and Reuters has a detailed list of the low number of casualties in this war.

US military: 6 killed in action (although this should be 7 as one of the Marines injured in the terrorist attack has since died), 15 wounded. 5 killed in accidents.
Iraq military: 70 killed in action.
Iraq civilians: 85 killed, 629 injured.
British military: 16 killed through accidents, 2 missing.
Press: 2 killed (1 Australian, 1 Briton), 2 missing.

These are extraordinarily low figures for this war and I expect that they will be revised upwards over the next few days as more information is selectively released. Nevertheless, such figures demonstrate the care with which the US/UK forces have been deployed to avoid civilian casualties. The Washington Post states that 100 Iraqi sildiers were killed in action in Nasariyah alone, as an example of another source. Our forces are now only 100 miles from Baghdad.
Political responses to the Convention - 23rd March 2003, 20.17

There were some old responses to the Convention recently. Gisela Stuart, Labour's German born appointee to the Convention must have held her nose when she gave an interview to The Sun and stood for the rights of Britons not to be brainwashed by the EU. However, the interview continued,

She dismissed claims that Britain is winning the battle to limit Brussels’ powers. She said “real proposals” to halt the drive towards a United States of Europe were blocked.

So, here's the Labour representative, in primetime tabloid, stating that Britain has lost any influence in the Convention. That was surprising. The Independent provided more detail and demonstrated that Stuart made her statement as a representative of Parliament rather than as a member of New Labour, ie, it was unspun.

"I am by birth Bavarian, I know what it is like to be Bavarian," she said. "I am by choice British, I know what it is like to be British. The argument is that, if you strip out my birth and my Britishness I will become a true European. I think this is opening a Pandora's Box."

The Tories are as disappointing as ever, concentrating on repatriation of powers rather than withdrawal. This is clear from the letter written by Lord Stockton and Edward Heathcote-Amory to Giscard D'Estaing, that I am sure was binned. It sent a clear message such as: -

When the working group on Complementary Competences was established, some contributors indicated that they wanted a general discussion on the attribution of competences as a whole. Some called for more integration; others, a restoration of national powers. Understandably, the Chair determined that such discussions lay rather in the remit of the plenary as a whole: such is their importance. But those discussions have yet to take place.

On the new harmonisation of asylum and internal security there is a weak call for harmonisaton from the dreadful Timothy Kirkhope, who then called for democratisation in the EU by giving more power to the European Parliament.

God, Thatcher must despair when you can see that Gisela Stuart has more balls than the Tories. Perhaps they ought to recruit her. She sounds a damn sight more patriotic.
Slovenia votes yes - 23rd March 2003, 19.54

Exit polls have shown that Slovenians have approved membership of both the European Union and NATO.

According to a poll conducted by state TV, 60 percent voted in favor of joining NATO, and 40 percent against. The poll indicated support for membership in the EU at 93 percent, with only 7 percent against.

Should we welcome them as an ally? I think not.

``NATO is a necessary evil, but I chose common sense, which tells me it's a lesser evil and that there could always be something worse,'' Janez Zebeljan, a hotel receptionist in Ljubljana, said after voting yes to NATO.''

The only reason they voted yes was because they wanted 'influence', and they will get it in the consensus driven structure of NATO. Another notch in the decline of this obsolescent alliance.

A Snippet

There seems to be a fleet street rumour that Blair will call a Euro vote if (when) there is a clear cut victory in Iraq. So how many people were saying that (a) this meant that Blair no longer trusted the Europeans and (b) the Europeans no longer wanted us?

British Body Count

As one of the main objections from this site to this war has been the brave troops who will be needlessly lost, I've decided to keep a count of how many British subjects are actually dying as a result of this. This will include more than troops, and if there is a terrorist incident directly related to this war, for example, the British victims will be counted. So how are these figures made up? For now it is:

21/3 8 - British troops die in American Sea Knight crash
22/3 1 - ITN reporter Terry Lloyd fired on by American Troops. Missing presumed dead.
22/3 6 - British troops die in helicopter collision
23/3 2 - RAF Tornado shot down by American Patriot misile. No confirmed numbers yet, but usual crew is two.

17 so far. Let's hope that there are no more.

If you wish to add to or dispute the figures please e-mail me.
European Constitution: Internal Security - 23rd March 2003, 12.45

This is covered by Article 31 from Part One and draft articles from Part Two.The PDF file can be found here.

In summary, there are few surprises. All member states of the EU will recognise each other's judicial decisions. In Article One under Part Two of the Constitution, "The Union shall frame a common policy on asylum, immigration and external border control based on solidarity between member states and fairness to third-country nationals". It is clear that adoption of this clause would remove Britain's ability to act independently on asylum policy.

"The Union shall ensure a high level of safety by measures to prevent and combat crime and promote coordination and cooperation between criminal police and judicial authorities and other competent authorities as well as by the mutual recognition of judgments in criminal matters and the approximation of laws". It is the phrase "approximation of [criminal] laws" that concerns me since it implies that all individual countries should endeavour, over time, to standardise their notion of what is considered illegal.

The Convention has recognised that this area of 'freedom, security and justice' is embedded in a country's national identity. therefore, they have taken extra steps to ensure that national parliaments may debate and evaluate the directives that will be emanating from the Commission. If a quarter of the national parliaments disagree with the proposal, "the Commission may decide to maintain, amend or withdraw its proposal". The chances of national parliaments co-operating with each other? Poor, so this can be viewed as another scrap tossed to those who wish to maintain a veneer of local accountability.

"Article 5: [operational cooperation]: In order to ensure that operational cooperation on internal security is promoted and strengthened within the Union, an internal committee may be set up within the Council. Without prejudice to Article [207 TEC], it shall be responsible for coordinating the action of Member States' competent authorities, including police, customs and civil protection authorities.The representatives of Europol, Eurojust, and where appropriate the European Public Prosecutor's Office, may be involved in the proceedings of this committee. The European Parliament shall be kept informed of the work of this committee." Weak oversight and anability to centralise an internal security apparatus overriding the concerns of national parliaments or the local constabularies. Britain will get a centralised police service by default. In the notes, it states that the "role is confined to general operational cooperation, for example in the event of a major catastrophe,attacks and events or demonstrations on a European scale". (my emphasis).

This area will be subject to qualified majority voting and where actions are undertaken in compliance with Union law, will be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. In the medium to long term, this implies that matters of criminal justice will increasingly be decided at a European level.

After this, the document details the common asylum policy and "the gradual introduction of a common integrated management system for external borders". Since this was already agreed at the Seville European Council in 2002, it appears that Blair has signed away British asylum and immigration policy without any reference to Parliament or the electorate. A word of explanation here. Once a policy has been agreed by the European Council, that area ceases to be the domain of national law and is instead dealt with as a Union competence. The European Parliament and Commission would decide legislation in this area.

"Article 14: [Judicial Cooperation in Civil Matters] The union shall develop cooperation in civil matters based on the principle of mutual recognition of judgements and decisions in extrajudicial cases. Such cooperation shall include the adoption of measures for the approximation of national laws having cross-border implications." Such latitude spells the end of common law and will prove a coercive measure to standardise and unify all laws throughout every European country. Any sophist can find a cross-border implication. Think German Chancellor and Mail on Sunday here. At a start, family law will be decided at Union level. That's a surprise!

On criminal justice, the same approximation applies and at Union level, minimum standards will be set for: the admissibility of evidence, the rights of criminals, the rights of victims, and other aspects of ciminal procedure decided unanimously by the European Council.

"Article 17 [Substantive criminal law]: The European parliament and the Council, in accordance with the legislative procedure, may adopt framework laws containing minimum rules concerning incriminations and sanctions: in the areas of particularly serious crime with cross-border dimensions resulting from the nature or impact of the offenses of from the special need to prosecute them jointly. These areas of crime are the following: terrorism, trafficking in human beings and sexual exploitation of women and children, illicit drugs trafficking, illicit arms trafficking, money laundering, corruption, counterfeiting of means of payment, computer crime and organised crime. The Council, on the basis of developments in crime and acting unanimously after obtaining the assent of the European Parliament mayidentify other areas of crime that meet the criteria identified in this indent." In the appended notes, this list of crimes also includes racism and xenophobia.

The document includes a Union role in crime prevention, sets out the role of Eurojust and states that a European Prosecutor may be set up, though its institution is purposefully left vague.

"Article 21 [Cooperation with regard to internal security]: 1. The Union shall establish cooperation involving all the Member States authorities with responsibility for internal security, including police, customs and other specialised services in relation to the prevention, detection and investigation of criminal offences. 2. To this end, the European Parliament and the Council, in accordance with the legislative procedure, shall adopt laws and framework laws concerning, - the collection, storage, processing, analysis and exchange of relevant information, - the training and exchange of staff, equipment and research, - any other measure not referred to in the following paragraph, that encourages cooperation between the authorities referred to in this Article. 3. The Council may unanimously adopt laws and framework laws concerning operational cooperation between the authorities referred to in this Article. It shall act after consulting the European Parliament." Here's a law we passed earlier - suck it and see!

Europol is also the preserve of the Council and the Parliament. Here's a ray of sunshine: "The application of coercive measures is the exclusive responsibility of the competent national authorities". But I spoke too soon...

"Article 23 [Operations on the territory of another member State] The Council, acting unanimously, shall adopt laws and framework laws laying down the conditions and limitations under which the competent authorities of the Member States referred to in Articles 13 and 15 may operate in the territory of another Member State in liaison and in agreement with the authorities of that State. It shall take its decision following consultation of the European Parliament." This is a worrying catch-all clause that would provide the legal justification for any coercive measure required to maintain the European Union. Under the comments, it states that some countries, if they so wish, could take bilateral steps to encourage even closer integration!

To use Andrew Dodge's famous precision: another vile document.
Saturday, March 22, 2003

Zimwatch: Endgame?

Is Mugabe's rule coming to an end. The opposition seem to be hopeful giving the government a two week deadline to come to a settlement, although the police are still following orders. Amazingly, for those who see comrade Bob as a two dimensional figure out of Soviet central casting, he's actually agreed to South African churchmen mediating between the government and the MDC. The church hierachies in Zim are either broadly pro-Bob (Anglicans) or pro-Morgan (Catholics).

Libyan oil's drying up and South African electricity may be cut off, for non payment. And what did everyone from Peter Tatchell to Peter Oborne say was the easiest way to put pressure on Bob? Why cut off the power supplies. This seems to being done and the usually indulgent South Africans and Libyans don't seem to be bailing him out this time. Probably a mixture of daunting costs and a simple calculation that Bob's not got long.

For what it's worth, I hear that MDC people who were studiously ignored by officialdom are now being, if not well treated, at least acknowledged. There is also the feeling that anything could set off a revolt in the two main cities. Escape plans are being laid.

Could this be 1989 for Zim, but without the TV cameras? Wouldn't it be odd if the world media were caught off guard.
A Marriage made in Hell - 22nd March 2003, 20.50

Slovenia is voting on joining both the EU and NATO tomorrow. Its Trade Ministry is very proud of the fact that Slovenia has a higher GDP per capita than either Portugal or Greece and points out that its macroeconomic indicators are just as robust as EU members. Then comes this odd phrase: One only discrepancy is rather striking - Slovenia imposes significantly high taxes on workers with low wages. This is not a discrepancy. This is a hallmark of richer countries in the European Union as they price their unskilled labour out of the job market.

They are uncertain about NATO because of the war but they love the EU. The two deserve each other.

Levantine Musings

The always thought provoking Gene Expression has a posting on the idiocy of some on the antiwar left. I know you see these all the time, and one of the reasons the scattered remnant read this site is to escape the usual "Let's kick Saddamms a**e" moronicisms on much of the rest of the bloggosphere. However this post is quite good and he doesn't use the term "anti-Idiotarian" or "Fisking" once, which in itself is a sign of culture.

The post also asks why Israel is held to a higher standard than its Arab neighbours. I reply on lines that may be familiar to my faithful reader(s).

Unlike the Roman

Someone has put something in Sean Gabb's water, the man had written a large number of his Free Life Commentaries, five since the beginning of the month, an output unmatched since I can remember. The latest one is special, basically it looks at the chances of creating a Pax Anglospheras and concludes (and these are not Gabb's words) "Tony Blair, you are no Marcus Antonius".

Well worth five minutes of your life.
Friday, March 21, 2003
Consequences of the Franco-British rift - 21st March 2003, 23.12

On the lookout for any indications that the war may have solidified the rift between Britain and the anti-war powers in Europe, it was reported tonight that France, Germany and Belgium were proposing further integration of their defence forces. At this point one must differentiate between diplomatic expressions of exasperation from British ministers and their restatement of the long-term goal of European integration. On the defence initiative:

The rift in the EU appeared to have one immediate consequence with the tripartite defense initiative apparently designed to isolate Britain, Europe's preeminent military power. Although German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder insisted no country would be excluded from a common defense policy, Belgian officials said only three were invited to the initial summit. Schroeder said the initiative would boost European defense industries and could one day lead to common EU armed forces.

This led to a robust and contemptuous rebuff from HMG:

Britain's Europe Minister Denis Macshane derided the plan: "I wonder how serious is the idea of basing European defense on Belgium without Britain. European defense is a matter of two countries that have military capacities: France and Britain."

However, at the summit, Blair was also quick to reaffirm his European credentials:

Blair denied any suggestion that divisions over the Iraq crisis had dimmed his enthusiasm for the EU. "The answer to that is unhesitatingly no. I am not less enthusiastic. Where there are the disagreements, the right way to handle them is not turn our back on our other partners but to engage with them," he said.

This new initiative could be welcomed as the first possible indication of a two-speed Europe with certain countries prepared to countenance greater integration if the Convention proves a step too far. It also demonstrates that the Franco-British defence co-operation agreed at St Malo in 1998 has probably been scaled back or abandoned. Whilst these developments are positive for the goal of delaying or reversing British integration with Europe, they also spell out the possible rise of a dangerous rival on the Continent.

France has continued with its strategy of denying the Allies any legitimation of their activity through the United Nations. France is prepared to veto any UN resolution that supports US/UK actions and has stated that they should not have a role in the administration of a post-war Iraq. Chirac has proposed a Middle East peace summit to increase his support amongst the Arab countries and displace the British from their role in fostering this goal.

The ominous sign of a realignment in European diplomacy is the close co-operation between France, Russia and Germany. Many argued that Putin was merely holding out for concessions and that Russia would support the war in exchange for economic access to post-war Iraq and repayment of debts. The same argument was also made about France before they came to be seen as 'unreasonable'. All three countries share a common interest in forging a de facto alliance that allows them to provide alternative diplomatic leadership to the United States, a temporary European counterweight that may be given concrete form at a later date. Such an arrangement would probably dominate the continent in the medium term and marginalise Britain (also not a bad thing). It certainly explains why these three countries maintain their opposition even though they know it will have no effect. It is very bad news for the Eastern European states and marks another step in the decline of Russia from a super power to a middling state that is now allying itself to the other continental nuclear power in Europe, France.

That coalition

Here's the coalition of the willing we've been hearing about:

Afghanistan* 1
The Czech Republic
El Salvador
South Korea
The Netherlands
Turkey* 2
United Kingdom
United States

* stands for a Muslim country (five of them)
1- The President has American bodyguards
2- Turkey has agreed to US use of her airspace, although details have not been finalised.

One of the best things is that "Fifteen of the allied countries have asked to remain anonymous for now." Do they really exist? In what way can they be regarded as part of a coalition if they provide (although Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar are probably among the coaltion of the willing) no military or logistical help and are not even willing to come out in public in support?

Sounds a bit implausible to me.
A cool handshake - 21st March 2003, 7.13

It's what the Victorians would have called maintaining a front. Blair and Chirac have hit bottom in their personal relationship, almost as low as MacMillan and de Gaulle.

The last time this happened Britain and France tried to waste public money on grand projets such as Concorde. Look for joint funding of Son of Concorde or something similar as a symbol of amity a few months from now.
Reverse Engineering - 21st March 2003, 7.08

Punish the French, give them green cards.
Thursday, March 20, 2003

Unintended Consequence

It seems that Jack Straw has hit on a good idea. Offer Saddam immunity so that he can go in exile and the war will be over. Pity that Straw ruined this little plan when he allowed the arrest of Pinochet. Who would trust him?

Wven with a whole load of Iraqis dying this prime example of liberal incompetence is quite funny.

No great rift quite yet

David Carr makes an argument worth reading over on Samizdata. Basically it's about the Iraq war and it avoids the rather tedious (but intriguingly Saddam-like) hysteria that you see from a couple of other posters about "you pro-Nazi head-in-the-sand moral imbeciles, how are you going to free the Iraqis from the Baath party?" to which the answer is a simple "when was that our job?". I like arguments that take more than a nano-second to answer.

Mr Carr comes up with a number of arguments and observations. Looking at the revolt on the Tory benches he notes that there is a surprising lack of anti-Americanism (which surprised me as well) with a number of the more fanatical pro-Europeans but others with more right wing arguments (he cites this site as an example of this type of thinking - aw shucks). Pretty unobjectionable so far, especially with the link.

He then states that the right "are far from confident that any US administration would go to bat for Britain in the way that Britain has gone to bat for America". I really could not put this better myself, and I have tried. Tellingly he puts forward no evidence to counter that perception.

He then goes on to defend Mr Blair's non-poodle status by claiming that much of America's stance was shaped by Tony Blair, particularly the attempt to gain security council recognition. I would also think that East Coast Republicans such as Powell and Brent Scowcroft were also part of the reason, as were the Democrats and American public opinion. The prize poodle status of Mr Blair is confirmed when without a whisper he backs down from his formerly held views on the role of the UN when the UN refuses to give the nine vote majority. That isn't simply poodle-like, he's taking it like the female of the species.

Then comes the meat of the argument, which I find to be the most important, and intriguing. It is not a new argument from Mr Carr, but it is a worthwhile one. This is the argument that Britain's participation is causing rifts within the European Union that may hold up European Unity or, who knows, even turn the clock back. If this was the case I would be enthusiastic for the war, but sadly it is not.

The first piece of evidence for the defence is a good Euro-knocking piece from "notably left-of-centre British journalist Tony Parsons". He is also notably euro-sceptical, appearing in the No Campaign's cinema ad in July last year (he writes a very good column on this). So he's not a convert from Blair's stand on Iraq.

Then there is the fact that the Greek Presidency have claimed that Britain and Spain "have placed themselves outside the framework of the European Union." It would be nice if this was more than mere rhetoric, but I remember John Major continually doing that and we are still in the bloody thing. Indeed the French are constantly doing the same thing with all their refusals to shift on farm subsidies and block deregulation, and we hear about the falls of Franco-German axes only to see them snap back again. However I was surprised that this rather useful quote from a prominent French politician wasn't missed:

England, in effect, is insular. She is maritime. She is linked through her exchanges, her markets, her supply lines to the most distant countries. She pursues essentially industrial and commercial activities and only slightly agricultural ones. She has, in all her doings, very marked and very original habits and traditions. In short, England's nature, England's structure, England's very situation differs profoundly from those of the Continentals.

Dynamite stuff, from Charles De Gaulle in 1963.

Finally we actually seem to have something that is not repeated rhetoric, the Brits are actually resisting a federal move to create a European public prosecutor. This is not in fact that new, Corpus Juris, the general project to harmonise European legal systems has long been publicly opposed by this government. Take this letter from Kate Hoey, then Parliamentary Under Secretary for the Home Office, in July 1999:

First, the Government welcomes the Committee's conclusion that Corpus Juris is not a realistic way forward, and agrees with the Committee's view that energy and resources would be better directed towards improving mutual legal assistance and practical co-operation.

Doesn't seem a new stance to me.

The fact is that all this seems new, but it is not. Some public figures are entertainingly against the Euro. England is peculiarly ill-suited to being in a European central state and some of the more far sighted Continentals see this. The British government, although generally pro-Europe, is not actively courting a public backlash so will try to sideline particularly objectionable measures. None of these things are new.

The idea of opening a European rift is a tantalising one, but on closer inspection it doesn't seem to have much substance. We need to judge this war on Iraq on the issues of national interest that are obvious, will following America on every important issue lead us to more harm than good? So far the balance is still decisively against intervention, although I admit that this war will probably have little effect either way.
Military Objectives - 20th March 2003, 18.35

The government has announced their military objectives:

In aiming to achieve this objective as swiftly as possible, every effort will be made to minimise civilian casualties and damage to essential economic infrastructure, and to minimise and address adverse humanitarian consequences. The main tasks of the coalition are to:

a. overcome the resistance of Iraqi security forces;

b. deny the Iraqi regime the use of weapons of mass destruction now and in the future;

c. remove the Iraqi regime, given its clear and unyielding refusal to comply with the UN Security Council's demands;

d. identify and secure the sites where weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery are located;

e. secure essential economic infrastructure, including for utilities and transport, from sabotage and wilful destruction by Iraq; and

f. deter wider conflict both inside Iraq and in the region.

Military action will be conducted in conformity with international law, including the UN Charter and international humanitarian law.

6. Our wider political objectives in support of the military campaign are to:

a. demonstrate to the Iraqi people that our quarrel is not with them and that their security and well-being is our concern;

b. work with the United Nations to lift sanctions affecting the supply of humanitarian and reconstruction goods, and to enable Iraq's own resources, including oil, to be available to meet the needs of the Iraqi people;

c. sustain the widest possible international and regional coalition in support of military action;

d. preserve wider regional security, including by maintaining the territorial integrity of Iraq and mitigating the humanitarian and other consequences of conflict for Iraq's neighbours;

e. help create conditions for a future, stable and law-abiding government of Iraq; and

f. further our policy of eliminating terrorism as a force in international affairs.

7. In the wake of hostilities, the immediate military priorities for the coalition are to:

a. provide for the security of friendly forces;

b. contribute to the creation of a secure environment so that normal life can be restored;

c. work in support of humanitarian organisations to mitigate the consequences of hostilities and, in the absence of such civilian humanitarian capacity, provide relief where it is needed;

d. work with UNMOVIC/IAEA to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery;

e. facilitate remedial action where environmental damage has occurred;

f. enable the reconstruction and recommissioning of essential infrastructure for the political and economic development of Iraq, and the immediate benefit of the Iraqi people; and

g. lay plans for the reform of Iraq's security forces.

They also state that British troops will leave as soon as it is "practicable". Translate as God knows when!
UNtimely Obituary - 20th March 2003, 18.33

It is a pity that there isn't a William Tell principle along the lines of the Peter Principle: say, that as soon as switzerland joins an international institution, its days are numbered. Many undertakers have been writing the obituary for the United Nations since last Friday and it would be a great pleasure to see this institution dismantled. However, it is unlikely at the moment and Terence Corcoran (named after Conran?), a Canadian journalist, tells us why,

The Iraq process collapsed for the same reason the climate change process survived. UN momentum is derived from the support, or lack of support, of scores of petty nations and protectorates. Cameroon could not be swayed on Iraq, but it would have thrown its support behind the Kyoto agreement.

It is the vast bureaucratic empire in which all countries are represented and in which so much diplomatic capital has been expended which keeps this boondoggle together. The cost of withdrawal for any country may be too high because there are no alternatives.

Consider the UN's latest fiasco. they are sending a Blix clone, Maurice Strong, to North Korea to sort the issues there. And for anyone who defends the WHO or China, it appears that the former has not publicised the fact that the latter was unwilling to co-operate in providing samples on the respiratory virus spreading from South-east Asia. There's more:

The WHO, for example, just secured a global Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an agreement that will give it far more powers over tobacco trade than it now has over the spread of infectious disease. In recent years, the WHO has shifted massive resources to fighting non-communicable problems such as mental health, diet issues and cancer control. Real communicable diseases that cross borders and kill innocent people -- malaria, TB, and now SARS -- have been downgraded.

The UN is one empire that should be dismantled.

A column

I've put out one of my more batty theories for an airing while locuming for Christopher Montgomery on It felt strange writing a whole column once again, indeed writing more than five sentences and not seeing them instantly on the net seemed novel.
Wednesday, March 19, 2003
Who would be so clumsy? - 19th March 2003, 23.35

The discovery of wiretaps on certain telephones at the EU has all the makings of a 'spy scandal'. They were discovered on the 28th February 2003 but were only publicised today. ABC falls into the trap headfirst and starts blathering about Echelon. Does that mean the British tap was a diversion?

According to the French daily Le Figaro, Belgian police have identified "Americans" as those responsible, but Belgian police declined any comment.

The French response: We know who to blame but we couldn't possibly name names ourselves so we will let the Belgians do it for us. But after they learn the Brits were targetted too, the net widens..

"I deny that we have identified whoever was responsible, whether it was the Americans, the Russians, the Chinese or whoever," said a council official. "We are still investigating but it seems it was pretty professional," he said.

Here's a hint: they are probably European or from the Middle East and are now trying to decipher the intricate negotiations on reinsurance regulation.

The French for Democracy

Flawed democracies are everywhere, so I tend not to worry about them (so what if the other guy got half a million more votes - it's federalism baby). However this mention got my double standards outraged, and not just because it comes from France. Terrence Coyles recalls:

Cast your minds back to the Maastricht Referendum in France in 1992, and you feel like you are living withinthin the pages of Andrew Robert's Aachen Memorandum. The vote looked close, too close. Mitterand needed help, needed finance and was casting around in desperation. Mitterand announced his cancer a week before the vote to secure a sympathy ballot. Helmut Kohl, then the inassailable Chancellor gave him cash to help fund the referendum. In the end it was this cross party and cross national illegal funding that formed the case against Kohl, and the reason why he refused to testify.

Would Blair cheat in the same way, or would his sense of honour get in the way? Did it get in the way of backing a war despite insisting on a second resolution? Next question.
For everything else, there's France - 19th March 2003, 19.55

Now that the diplomatic route has died, the media have used the two day period of remission to mount a quick post-mortem on the winners and the losers, in between journalese from the boys in the desert. It has provided most newspapers with the opportunity to 'bash the frogs' and indulge in screeds about how they have been defeated. Such a perspective has even been adopted by defenders of France on the left. John Lichfield in the Independent writes,

The invasion of Iraq will go ahead. The Security Council, seat of France's authority in world affairs, will be marginalised by Washington. Franco-American relations have been ruined for a generation. The EU is fractured into two camps, and not necessarily to France's numerical, or political, advantage. France will clearly be among the losers in the second Gulf War. Whatever moral and historical stature M. Chirac can claim as leader of the peace party, he would prefer to have avoided being thrust into such an heroically exposed position.

Lichfield argues that Chirac is a hero because he stuck to his guns even though he knew that France would lose out and that it would jeopardise or undermine what the gaullists had been working towards for decades. It isn't convincing but the article pinpoints how a whole herd can suddenly spring to a single conclusion: that France will suffer a severe diminution of power and influence following this diplomatic crisis.

It is clear that if the war is short and successful, France will be left out of the postwar settlement in Iraq and the Middle East. However, as Blair has already stated that the United Nations will play a role in the reconstruction, the UNSC will continue to maintain its function within the diplomatic circus, although it will now decline from its pretensions of governance in global security. France, as a member with a permanent veto, retains its own influence within this council.

The Bush administration has hinted that it no longer views France as an ally and this may be viewed in hindsight as a huge mistake. To quote that soul most beloved of American neo-conservatives: "In Victory: Magnanimity". If America chooses to freeze France out and deliberately sets out to curb her power, it may find that this second rate power starts to explore the limits of unilateral power at the expense of US interests. A France that is ostracised may prove more dangerous and unpredictable to both the United States and Britain than one that is channelled and contained.

Further Thoughts - Having ruminated on the possible treatment of France by the Allies, it is probable that punishing that country will prove detrimental to US interests. The United States has to send a clear message that countries which follow a diplomatic line contrary to their interests will pay a price, namely, a level of distrust. That is understandable. However, the diplomatic treatment of France requires the transmission of this message and also the maintenance of diplomatic ties within the Western community.

Instead of freezing ties with France, which are fairly poor, the United States should privilege those nations which are Allies through technology transfer, immigration policies, greater openness in its domestic markets and support for their interests in international institutions . Countries like France, Belgium or Germany are left at the basement level as far as their status with the United States is concerned whilst allies are rewarded. If the US were to choose this policy, they would avoid the unnecessary conflicts that would follow ostracising the 'peace coalition'.

Tory Rebellion Latest

So who are the new Tory rebels?

The full list is:

Peter Ainsworth (Surrey E)
Richard Bacon (Norfolk S)
Tony Baldry (Banbury)
John Baron (Billericay)
Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe)
John Gummer (Suffolk Coastal)
John Horam (Orpington)
Edward Leigh (Gainsborough)
Humfrey Malins (Woking)
Andrew Murrison (Westbury)
Richard Page (Hertfordshire SW)
John Randall (Uxbridge)
Jonathan Sayeed (Bedfordshire Mid)
Ian Taylor (Esher & Walton)
Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight)

Compared to last time we have Tony Baldry, John Randall and the resigning shadow front benchers. Anthony Steen, Peter Tapsell, Andrew Tyrie and Robert Walter did not vote against.

This means that the Tory rebels were a slightly more Eurosceptic bunch than the last one. There were three more this time, but four resignations. Looks like the Tory rebels are treading water, for now.
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
Zimwatch: Signs of Movement - 18th March 2003, 22.15

If there have been no postings here about Zimbabwe, it is not for lack of news. The land seizures have continued to the rallying cry of "one farmer, one farm" and have succeeded in confiscating 98% of the commercial farms. It is now clear that the commercial farming sector in Zimbabwe has ceased to exist and that no successor industry will be in place for many years to come due to the destruction of infrastructure and resources. Zimbabwe is now condemned to penury and dependence upon food aid as long as the current regime exists.

Now that the confiscations have taken place, Mbeki administers a faint rap over the knuckles although this should be set against his behaviour as a Chiracist in trying to coax the Commonwealth into ending Zimbabwe's suspension. Mbeki may be willing to demonstrate his loyalty to the thugs and fascists of Zimbabwe, since he's never renounced violence as a political tool if necessary and still feels guilt over sitting out the struggle against apartheid.

The Zimbabweans treat Mbeki's amoral atonement with the contempt it deserves and are once again showing more courage at a time when all eyes are elsewhere. Tonight 80% of the country is shutdown as people have responded to the MDC's call for a mass strike. Riots have been reported in Harare and Bulawayo as the strikes have been declared illegal and subjected to heavy handed police violence. The Zimbabweans are beginning to respond and to state in both word and deed that they will not countenance the existence in their midst of kleptocrats who have stolen from them and ruined their lives.

Go Davies Go

With all the talk of Blair going because of his support for the war, could it in fact be someone else who gets the deserved kicking for his support of America?

Three more Tory spokesmen have left (which makes a total of four so far if you include John Randall in the Whip's office). These three are
Jonathan Sayeed, Humfrey Malins and John Baron - that makes three eurosceptics and one party-liner according to Sean Gabb's candidlist.

A deposal of IDS could partly be ascribed to his honest but lackluster profile, but it will partly be down to his amazingly uncritical support for America. In that it will serve as a useful lesson to all who wish to follow him.

As long as his succesor is a Eurosceptic this could be a good step towars a coherant and recognisable Tory foreign policy after all this Anglosphere tripe.

You're either with us, or...

A belated happy St Patrick's day to Messrs George W Bush and Mr Gerald Adams, who celebrated St Patrick's day early meeting twice once on the Thursday before and once on the Friday.

Mr Adams had a full programme in America meeting such anti-terrorist luminaries as Governor George Pataki of New York, Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice.

Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a picture of this happy meeting, so I will provide an earlier picture:

An Anglos fear

And if my British readers are not heartened enough by this hearty scene I'll provide some wise words from Mr Bush:

Well, my message is, is that if you harbor a terrorist, you're a terrorist. If you feed a terrorist, you're a terrorist.

Remarks By The President In Welcoming To The White House The Aid Workers Rescued From Afghanistan
November 26, 2001

Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.

President's State of the Union Speech
September 20, 2001

It is nice to know, at a time like this, that the American regime puts so much store in her friendship with us.
Emigration - 18th March 2003, 20.42

I was attending the Emigrate 2003 Fair at Sandown Exhibition Centre in Esher last Friday and visiting relevant stands concerning emigration to part of the Old Commonwealth and the First Empire. The Fair has become increasingly popular over the last few years and all ages were represented, queueing to have their skills and work experience assessed, asking about farms in Alberta or just pining for a better standard of living. There were certainly close resemblances amongst many attendees to the marchers on the Countryside Alliance last year and I met one young farming couple who were hoping for better prospects abroad.

On one wall was a poll demonstrating why people wished to leave and the issues that most exercised them. This is from memory and I haven't been able to track down the particular survey though the Daily Telegraph poll from last year showing that 54% wished to leave the country is still on line in article form. What it did say was, that besides bad public services and hellish trains, a significant minority considered the Euro and Europe to be reasons for departure. Some Eurosceptics, those who would be inclined to join the Tories or maintain a conservative outlook are voting with their feet.

This is just anecdotal, but it may be one of the explanations for why the Tories are not reviving.

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