Sunday 27 February 2011

David Cameron Is Wrong


There is precisely one outstanding threat of a nuclear strike by any state against any other. The aggressor is known to have hundreds of nuclear weapons, but denies it, and has started a staggering number of wars for an entity only set up in 1948.

Whereas the victim is known to have no nuclear weapons, has repeatedly expressed a strong aversion to them in principle, and (the second-oldest continuous civilisation in the world) has not started a war in anything like modern times, but is routinely traduced and defamed.

David Cameron Is Right

Here, again.

Not only would the negotations necessary in order to leave the EU drag on for years and years, but calling the referendum “a device of demagogues and dictators” was Thatcher’s only ever favourable quotation of a Labour Prime Minister. Yet to those who worship at Thatcher’s altar while wholly ignoring her record on this and so much else, the demand for that deeply flawed and wholly foreign device has become a nervous tick. They honestly cannot see how Pythonesque it is to demand a referendum in the cause of defending parliamentary sovereignty. The Lisbon Treaty is self-amending, so there can never be another treaty. What is needed is legislation with five simple clauses.

First, the restoration of the supremacy of British over EU law, and its use to repatriate agricultural policy and to restore our historic fishing rights in accordance with international law. Secondly, the requirement that, in order to have any effect in the United Kingdom, all EU law pass through both Houses of Parliament as if it had originated in one or other of them. Thirdly, the requirement that British Ministers adopt the show-stopping Empty Chair Policy until such time as the Council of Ministers meets in public and publishes an Official Report akin to Hansard. Fourthly, the disapplication in the United Kingdom of any ruling of the European Court of Justice or of the European Court of Human Rights (or of the “Supreme Court”) unless confirmed by a resolution of the House of Commons.

And fifthly, the disapplication in the United Kingdom of anything passed by the European Parliament but not by the majority of those MEPs certified as politically acceptable by one or more seat-taking members of the House of Commons, so that we were no longer subject to the legislative will of Stalinists and Trotskyists, neo-Fascists and neo-Nazis, members of Eastern Europe’s kleptomaniac nomenklatura, neoconservatives such as now run France and Germany, or people who believe the Provisional Army Council to be the sovereign body throughout Ireland. Soon to be joined by Turkish Islamists, secular ultranationalists, and violent Kurdish Marxist separatists.

This calls for a Labour three-line whip in favour, with the public warning that the Whip would be withdrawn from any remaining Blairite ultra who failed to comply. The Liberal Democrats set great store by decentralisation, transparency and democracy, and represent many areas badly affected by the Common Fisheries Policy. The Liberals were staunch free traders who were as opposed to the Soviet Bloc as they were to Far Right regimes in Latin America and Southern Africa. The SDP’s reasons for secession from Labour included both calls for protectionism and the rise of antidemocratic extremism. (Both the Liberal Party and, on a much smaller scale, the SDP still exist, and both are now highly critical of the EU.)

The SDLP takes the Labour Whip, the Alliance Party is allied to the Lib Dems, the Greens are staunchly anti-EU, so is the DUP, and the one other Unionist is close to Labour. The SNP and Plaid Cymru can hardly believe in independence for Scotland, greater autonomy for Wales, yet vote against the return to Westminster of the powers that they wish to transfer thence to Edinburgh or Cardiff; the SNP also has the fishing issue to consider. Even any remaining Conservatives who wanted to certify the European People’s Party as politically acceptable might be brought on board.

Leaving those fabled creatures, backbench Tory Eurosceptics. It is high time that their bluff was called. This is how to do it.

Go, Wisconsin! You're Fighting For All Of Us

Clancy Sigal writes:

On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin! …
Fight, fellows! Fight, fight, fight!
We'll win this game.

– Football song of the Wisconsin Badgers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

My heroes have not always been cowboys but union organisers. Mom and Dad were labour organisers, as were my cousins, Bernie (printing trades), Charlie (shipbuilders) and Joe (auto workers). If we had a religion, it was One Big Union with loud, rambunctious mass meetings as its eucharist – such as we are seeing in huge numbers of drum-pounding, slogan-shouting local government workers in Wisconsin's state capital Madison. We're talking about teachers, custodians, clerks and garbage collectors, not to mention sympathetic cops and firefighters. Some kids are raised to respect God and country; I was bred to respect a picket line. My very first parade, probably at age eight or nine, was down Ashland Avenue – Chicago labour's main drag – honouring a union official murdered by company goons.

In a dozen other state capitals – in Ohio, Indiana, Florida and others – there is a sustained, coordinated campaign by recently elected and highly pugnacious Republican governors to cripple what's left of the American labour movement. This assault is essentially an ambush of the working middle class. It is openly financed by Big Money, like the hard-right multibillionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, who also fund – courtesy of the US supreme court's Citizens United decision – the Tea Party groups that supply anti-labour's ideological storm troopers.

Sensing a possible kill, union-busters are – unlike our side – in no mood to compromise. So, it comes as no surprise when Jeffrey Cox, Indiana's deputy attorney general, calls Wisconsin public sector workers "thugs" against whom he advocates deadly force. "Use live ammunition," he tweeted. Reluctantly, his boss fired him. Poor lawyer Cox was merely saying aloud what a whole slew of Republican state governors and elected officials are thinking, but dare not say … yet. They want to push us back not just to the 1930s, before New Deal labour laws mandated collective bargaining and anti-child labour laws, but to the red-in-tooth-and-claw pitched battles of the 1890s, in which unions were defeated by force of arms – as in Homestead, Pullman and Coeur d'Alene when local and federal governments felt little compunction about shooting down strikers.

Wisconsin's governor Scott Walker, a dim bulb but ultra-reactionary and with obvious political ambitions, has threatened to bring in the national guard, and dispatched armed state troopers to round up absent Democratic lawmakers who have fled to avoid a quorum vote to strip unions of collective bargaining rights. Now, Walker is twisting the screw on unionists by issuing pink slips to state employees. Wisconsin is a make or break fight for labour. The citizen demonstrators camping out, in tents and on sleeping bags, in freezing Madison can expect almost no help from their natural ally, the national Democratic party, nor from President Obama.

For years, the now-defunct "centrist" Democratic Leadership Council has been indistinguishable from the rightwing US Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable. Two years ago, a campaigning Obama promised, "When I'm in the White House, I will put on a comfortable pair of shoes and I will walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States." Today, he says he has "no current plans" to go to Madison – while his partner Michelle chooses this exact moment to fly off to way-expensive Vail, Colorado for a ski holiday. So much for solidarity!

We are on our own in this battle to save America's middle class. But it need not be so. The Wisconsin workers will lose unless they turn their skins inside out and make this a community fight, too. Unions are notoriously insular and atrocious at public relations. They can't afford the luxury of that ineptitude now. Unions win when they reach out, convince people that a strike is their fight also, as Martin Luther King taught us during the Memphis garbage workers' strike, and in the more recent, remarkably successful "Justice for Janitors" campaigns, and my own Writers' Guild strike against studio corporations three years ago when we touched base with churches, synagogues and mosques, community groups, rock bands and even reached into police and fire stations to ask for their support. When you're walking a picket line, there's nothing more uplifting – and PR-savvy – than being serenaded by Bruce Springsteen or Billy Bragg while cop cars and fire engines drive by blowing their horns and flicking their lights in support.

But the public has to be convinced first. Junk those placards that accuse the opposition of being anti-union. Much of the Fox News- and Rush Limbaugh-propagandised public is anti-union because it perceives public sector workers especially as soft-living crybabies who refuse to sacrifice high-on-the-hog benefits and pensions along with the rest of us. Education, by any and all means, is the key. Make this what it is: a fight to protect the American middle class.

It's not easy to put it right out there, with pie charts, statistics and personal stories, among your neighbours, the family next door, the American Legion post. The crux, as expressed by America's most successful investor Warren Buffet: "There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making the war, and we're winning." But pushing the case that it was labour unions that made the middle class could get through – because it's true. When unions at their height, with 35% of the private sector workforce in the 1950s (now down to 7%), bargained collectively for better wages and conditions, it impacted everybody and made their lives better, union, non-union and anti-union alike.

Wisconsin has suffered badly from the "rust belt" disease of outsourcing jobs, deindustrialisation and stagnating wages. Still, the state has a good many Forbes 400 companies like the plumbing giant Kohler, Harley-Davidson and Mercury Marine, whose billions are left untouched by Scott Walker's tax cuts to the rich. And contrary to his absolutely false assertion that the "fiscal crisis" is due to bloated worker pensions, the latest report, from the Pew Research Centre, says that Wisconsin's state pension fund is one of the healthiest in the nation.

Go, Wisconsin! You're fighting for all of us.

Acknowledging The Political Reality

Toby Harnden writes:

In recent days, President Barack Obama has jettisoned his legal support for the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA), viewed by religious conservatives as a cornerstone of the principle that marriage should be between a man and a woman. He has also appointed a gay man to be the White House social secretary. At the same time, Democratic leaders in Maryland, most of them Roman Catholics and one of them, Governor Martin O’Malley, a potential future president, have pushed a same-sex marriage bill through their state’s legislature. In December, you’ll remember, Obama managed to end the notorious “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) ban on gays in the military. So you can be sure as eggs is eggs that the familiar “wedge” issue of gay marriage will be used by Republicans in 2012, right? Surely, it’s a no brainer that accusations of the moral depravity of Obama and the Democrats will spread from pulpits to the people, from the bible belt and beyond?

Actually, there’s little evidence of this happening anywhere beyond the wild imaginings of Democratic strategists desperate for voters to be distracted from their fixation on the economy. Obama, who is a much more timid politician than most people appreciate, was late to the cause of gay rights (I’m aware the term sounds quaintly old-fashioned but I not quite ready to go from the modish acronym of LGBT – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender). Although it’s clear from reading between the lines of his statements on the issue that he’s thoroughly in favour of gay marriage personally, he was a model of political caution in the way he edged towards achieving repeal of DADT. That foot-dragging prompted a lot of grumbling on the Left. But Obama began to get a little bolder once DADT was passed to a muted reaction from even the US Marine Corps, the most determined opponents of open homosexuals serving. By abandoning his administration’s previous resistance to legal challenges to DOMA, a triangulating nod to social conservatives by President Bill Clinton in 1996, a re-election year, Obama is simply acknowledging the political reality that it is safe for him to do so. He is following rather than leading public opinion.

The really dramatic change on gay rights has come from conservatives, some by omission (Sarah Palin, for instance, was not moved to comment immediately on DOMA) and some by active support for gay marriage. Ted Olson, the man who argued for President George W. Bush in the Bush versus Gore case in 2000 that secured the White House for Republicans, is the lawyer leading the case against California’s Proposition 8, the ban on gay marriage. His argument that gay marriage is an American value, in that it promotes stable family life and is based on the principle of equality, has been hard for many conservatives to reject. Dick Cheney, the former vice-president and the father of a lesbian who has borne him two grandchildren, is another supporter. This month’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington was riven by a dispute over sponsorship from GOProud, a Republican gay rights group. Some conservatives boycotted the event but most did not and firebrands like Ann Coulter and Congressman Allen West spoke out for equal rights. Within the Tea Party movement, which has a strong libertarian streak, social issues are very much in the background.

Perhaps the single biggest factor in all this is the economy. As the emergence of the Tea Party exhibited, ordinary Americans are mad as hell about government spending. Hundreds of thousands of people are far too busy worrying about whether they have a job to be much preoccupied with whether two consenting adults have the right to commit themselves to each other for life. It remains to be seen whether the gambit of Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana, a possible 2012 candidate, to call for a “truce” on social issues pays off. But it is hard to resist his logic when he argues that a broad Republican governing coalition will be hard to build if those who agree with Ted Olson and Dick Cheney are excluded. Obama would love the 2012 to be about issues like DADT and gay marriage because they would enable him to avoid speaking about unemployment, spending, stimulus and healthcare. All the signs are that Republicans won’t give him the chance.

Thank God for those whose black and Hispanic votes swung the reaffirmation of traditional marriage in California and Florida on the same day that they swung those states' Electoral College votes to Obama, with the black churches playing a pivotal role. Contrary to what Harden asserts, Obama has repeatedly and very publicly stated his commitment to that definition. As for the GOP, this, like the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, is where you end up if you subscribe to neoliberal economics.

Gentlemen and Thugs

Why does the Welsh working class so love the game of those who gave it its martyrs at Tonypandy? Other than cricket (arguably - it is very much the summer game of the old mining communities in these parts, and the old pit villages often have remarkable grounds to reflect that fact), rugby is quite the least likely game for such implacable foes of the ruling class of yesteryear.

For that matter, why do the Boers, of all people, love rugby, of all sports? Mind you, the supposed Tories in the present Cabinet managed to love the Boers and their anti-British revenge republic, which would have been just as improbable if they had really been Tories at all. I understand that rugby was, and to an extent still is, a way of expressing a Basque or Catalan identity in south-western France, distinct from the football-loving French.

In Argentina and Chile, although it is a small minority pursuit in those countries, it is nevertheless a way of expressing longstanding ties with Britain, and especially with Wales in the Argentine case; there were far more British subjects living in Argentina than on the Falkland Islands at the time of the Falklands War, for example.

In Portugal, it is a way of expressing very longstanding ties with England specifically, like the use of the GMT and BST that Spain is also considering adopting, like the popularity of Cadbury's chocolate, and like the making available of the Azores in the Falklands War. In Australia and New Zealand, the link is obvious. In Italy, it goes back to Welshmen who went over there to work in the mines.

But in Wales, in South Africa, in the Scottish Borders - isn't it just a bit English, and posh English at that, for them? So, what is the story? But then, look at the cricket-playing (and the Episcopalianism) in the Scottish North East, in no sense an Anglicised area, but rather one where the SNP does well electorally.

For that matter, look at the popularity, real or otherwise, of football among the English middle classes since 1990, even though England has not won an international football tournament since 1966 (at home), when football was pretty much a working-class peculiarity, although they had only ever been taught it by public school curates who had wanted to give their young male parishioners something to do in their spare time.

There is a book in here somewhere. So much so that someone must surely have written it by now. Ian Jack, perhaps. Or David McKie. Someone like that, anyway. Does anyone know? It would be very much an expression of what Geoffrey Wheatcroft, reviewing McKie's Bright Particular Stars: A Gallery of Glorious British Eccentrics in this week's New Statesman, calls "the fogeyism of the left - "Radicals for cricket, railways and real ale"." Like the book of South Riding, without the made-for-television rutting.

Or like this blog, in fact. For only fogeyism can now satisfy the aspirations of the Left, and vice versa. Radical action is now necessary to conserve and restore cricket, railways and real ale. And no such action should be countenanced except in the furtherance of those and other such aims.

Mandy and Mil-E

Who cares what Old Mother Mandelson says about anything? He would still have been in the Cabinet if Cameron had won outright, as had been publicly announced months before the Election, compromising not one jot either his then Cabinet position or his Labour Party membership.

James Purnell was to have been restored to (No) Work and (Barely Any) Pensions, Andrew Adonis was to have been given his dream job of Education, and a party's acceptance of this as the permanent state of affairs was to have been built into the definition of "the Centre Ground". This was all made perfectly clear, and scarcely reported because such arrangements were no longer news.

But things did not quite turn out at instructed. Ho, hum, many of the lower-profile appointments from this fully public scheme have nevertheless been made. And many more will be. To little reportage and almost, if almost, no comment. Such things are now no more reported or commented on than the rising of the sun, and rather less so than the turning of the seasons.

Harping On

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael might not have started out this way; each of them has been all over the ideological spectrum. But they do currently manifest, like the National and Liberal Parties in Australia, the ability of a more sophisticated electoral system to sustain, as distinct entities, both a socially conservative, nationalistic, agrarian-populist party and a neoliberal one.

As well as to blunt the edge of neoliberalism by requiring Fine Gael to go into coalition with Labour, the commitment of which to abortion, even if all Labour TDs (never mind the majority of voters in a referendum) could be made to go along with it, is essentially a meaningless piece of electioneering against the sectarian Left and the Greens, since no coalition containing either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael would ever legislate for such a thing (neoliberalism still has its limits in what is, after all, still Ireland), and since no governing coalition could ever be formed unless it included at least one of them.

Kevin Myers describes Irish Labour as "not Labour in the British sense, for it attracts few working-class votes, has no clear principles, and is largely a platform for the careers of its senior members. Some of them are ex-IRA men or supporters of the USSR, over which a discreet veil is being consensually drawn." How does one answer that?

Exposed In All Its Vice

One John R. Bradley has a truly wicked, classically neoconservative article in this week's Spectator, bemoaning the fall of the Ben Ali regime because what is replacing it is closing the brothels, prohibiting an intoxicant (alcohol, as it happens) abhorrent to the bulk of the population, allowing places of worship to be unshuttered outside prayer times, and permitting men to grow beards without the indulgence of the local police. Bradley now raises such spectres as an end to abortion, an end to "frank sex education compulsory in schools", and an end to children's having it "drummed into their heads that religion and politics were distinct and separate". Imagine!

That last would have come as news to the hereditary barons and the trade union barons who used the Victorian Liberal Party against opium dens, unregulated drinking and gambling, and seven-day working weeks, all of which have returned to "post-Christian" Britain, just as the extension of the franchise has effectively been reversed. It would have come as news to the Tory Wilberforce in his fight against the slave trade, to the Tory Shaftesbury in his fight against child labour and horrific factory conditions, and to the Tory Disraeli in his social reforms and, again, his extension of the franchise. And it would have come as news to the founders of the Labour Movement in their synthesis of those Liberal strands, those Tory strands, and Catholic Social Teaching.

For that matter, it would have come as news to the American Civil Rights movement, or to the network that ended up literally hacking down the Berlin Wall, or to the shipyard workers of Gdansk, or to the organised opposition to apartheid, especially within the black majority. Among so very, very, very many others.

Shock Doctrine, USA

Paul Krugman writes:

Here’s a thought: maybe Madison, Wis., isn’t Cairo after all. Maybe it’s Baghdad — specifically, Baghdad in 2003, when the Bush administration put Iraq under the rule of officials chosen for loyalty and political reliability rather than experience and competence.

As many readers may recall, the results were spectacular — in a bad way. Instead of focusing on the urgent problems of a shattered economy and society, which would soon descend into a murderous civil war, those Bush appointees were obsessed with imposing a conservative ideological vision. Indeed, with looters still prowling the streets of Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer, the American viceroy, told a Washington Post reporter that one of his top priorities was to “corporatize and privatize state-owned enterprises” — Mr. Bremer’s words, not the reporter’s — and to “wean people from the idea the state supports everything.”

The story of the privatization-obsessed Coalition Provisional Authority was the centerpiece of Naomi Klein’s best-selling book “The Shock Doctrine,” which argued that it was part of a broader pattern. From Chile in the 1970s onward, she suggested, right-wing ideologues have exploited crises to push through an agenda that has nothing to do with resolving those crises, and everything to do with imposing their vision of a harsher, more unequal, less democratic society.

Which brings us to Wisconsin 2011, where the shock doctrine is on full display.

In recent weeks, Madison has been the scene of large demonstrations against the governor’s budget bill, which would deny collective-bargaining rights to public-sector workers. Gov. Scott Walker claims that he needs to pass his bill to deal with the state’s fiscal problems. But his attack on unions has nothing to do with the budget. In fact, those unions have already indicated their willingness to make substantial financial concessions — an offer the governor has rejected.

What’s happening in Wisconsin is, instead, a power grab — an attempt to exploit the fiscal crisis to destroy the last major counterweight to the political power of corporations and the wealthy. And the power grab goes beyond union-busting. The bill in question is 144 pages long, and there are some extraordinary things hidden deep inside.

For example, the bill includes language that would allow officials appointed by the governor to make sweeping cuts in health coverage for low-income families without having to go through the normal legislative process.

And then there’s this: “Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state-owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).”

What’s that about? The state of Wisconsin owns a number of plants supplying heating, cooling, and electricity to state-run facilities (like the University of Wisconsin). The language in the budget bill would, in effect, let the governor privatize any or all of these facilities at whim. Not only that, he could sell them, without taking bids, to anyone he chooses. And note that any such sale would, by definition, be “considered to be in the public interest.”

If this sounds to you like a perfect setup for cronyism and profiteering — remember those missing billions in Iraq? — you’re not alone. Indeed, there are enough suspicious minds out there that Koch Industries, owned by the billionaire brothers who are playing such a large role in Mr. Walker’s anti-union push, felt compelled to issue a denial that it’s interested in purchasing any of those power plants. Are you reassured?

The good news from Wisconsin is that the upsurge of public outrage — aided by the maneuvering of Democrats in the State Senate, who absented themselves to deny Republicans a quorum — has slowed the bum’s rush. If Mr. Walker’s plan was to push his bill through before anyone had a chance to realize his true goals, that plan has been foiled. And events in Wisconsin may have given pause to other Republican governors, who seem to be backing off similar moves.

But don’t expect either Mr. Walker or the rest of his party to change those goals. Union-busting and privatization remain G.O.P. priorities, and the party will continue its efforts to smuggle those priorities through in the name of balanced budgets.

Inadmissable Evidence

As the UN refers Gaddafi to the International Criminal Court, and as the US promises in so many words to go to war in Libya, Srdja Trifkovic writes:

On Thursday, March 24, I was denied entry to Canada. After six hours’ detention and sporadic interrogation at Vancouver airport I was escorted to the next flight to Seattle. It turns out I am “inadmissible on grounds of violating human or international rights for being a proscribed senior official in the service of a government that, in the opinion of the minister, engages or has engaged in terrorism, systematic or gross human rights violations, or genocide, a war crime or a crime against humanity within the meaning of subsections 6 (3) to (5) of the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.”

It appears that my contacts with the Bosnian Serb leaders in the early nineties make me “inadmissible” today. As it happens I was never one of their officials, “senior” or otherwise, but the story has been told often enough (most recently in one of my witness testimonies at The Hague War Crimes Tribunal). The immigration officer at Vancouver decided that what was good for The Hague was not good enough for Canada; but her decision evidently had been written somewhere else by someone else well before my arrival. (She was so out of her depth that she asked me if President Vojislav Koštunica had been indicted for war crimes.)

I’ve visited Canada some two dozen times since the Bosnian war ended; ironically, one of those visits, in February 2000, was to provide expert testimony before the Canadian House of Commons in Ottawa. Why should the Canadian authorities suddenly decide to keep me out of the country now, and for transparently spurious reasons? Well, because the Muslims told them so. The campaign started when a Bosnian-Muslim propaganda front, calling itself The Institute for Research of Genocide of Canada, demanded to have me “banned” from speaking at the University of British Columbia on February 24. The ensuing campaign soon escalated into demands to keep me out of Canada altogether. The authorities have now obliged.

As Ambassador James Bissett noted last week, what is outrageous is that, over the years, this “Institute” has indulged in the denial of a real genocide in the former Yugoslavia. It has also attempted to blacken the reputation of one of Canada’s most highly respected soldiers by posting (last December 26) “The Shocking Account by Raped Bosniak Women and Criminal Undertakings of Lt. General (Ret.) Lewis Mackenzie”:

"During the war in Bosnia, the Muslim leadership in Sarajevo became furious when General Mackenzie—who was representing the UN—was not deceived (as many journalists were) by the blatant propaganda generated by the Muslim side and by his insistence at remaining impartial. In an attempt to have him replaced, the Muslims concocted false charges of rape and misconduct against him. These charges were so obviously fabricated they were summarily dismissed by responsible authorities. As the general was able to prove, he was not even in Bosnia when many of the alleged offences took place. Despite the facts, the “Genocide Institute” continues to slander the good name of General Mackenzie. Its web site contains a long list of so-called rape victims who relate in lurid detail how they were raped … by the Canadian officer. They even claim that during some of these rapes the general was “protected” – not by UN troops but by heavily armed “Chetniks.” The stories are so obviously fabricated that to those who know the General personally—as I do—can only wonder at the seriously psychotic nature of individuals who would repeat these lunatic charges."

General Mackenzie is a Canadian so he cannot be deemed “inadmissible,” but who knows what unpleasantness could await him upon arriving in another country with a powerful Muslim lobby. Extradition for trial in Sarajevo? A long and arduous legal battle to prevent such outcome?

Let it be noted that the “Institute for Research of Genocide of Canada” uses for itself the acronym “IRGC.” That acronym is more commonly associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. While conceivably accidental, the coincidence is not altogether inapt. The Canadians will learn, in the fulness of time, the price of kowtowing to these people’s demands. They will become less free with each act of surrender, and the demands will have no end.

Saturday 26 February 2011

Faraway Countries

Listening to my friend Phillip Blond on Any Questions, I was rather saddened when he recounted his experience of being told by the Polish Foreign Minister than Poland now looked to Britain to defend her against invasion by Russia, and that politicians from the Arctic to the Black Sea felt the same way after the war in Georgia.

Pleased though I am that they are so sceptical about NATO, and of course that they are instinctively so pro-British, Phillip will know that Georgia was and is a thoroughly corrupt and anti-democratic outpost of the indebted, stupefied, promiscuous, rootless, godless pseudo-West that the neocons berate both him and me for hating as much as does any Islamist.

Whereas Russia takes seriously her historic role as pre-eminent among the Slavic gate-keepers of the True West, the civilisation defined by the recapitulation in Jesus Christ and His Church of all three of the Old Israel, Hellenism and the Roman Empire. In the exercise of that mission, there is a long history of Slavic, including Russian, affinity, and indeed active alliance, with Britain. Russia is the front line in the True West's real war against an Islamist terrorism aided and abetted by the neocons. It is obvious on which side Poland properly belongs.

We have gone to war in the past to defend Poland. That was an abject failure, ending with a significantly redrawn Poland's being handed over by Churchill to Stalin, as if Stalin, the Georgian who severed Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Russia and whom the neocons would give the last word on those (and two other) subjects, was somehow any better than Hitler. We have been inventing post facto justifications for that catastrophic conflict ever since. None of them was mentioned at the time.

Still, Phillip did end by saying that his wedding present to Prince and Princess William would be the restored Royal Yacht Britannia. Angus MacNeil, the SNP MP for the Western Isles, also maintained, during the Queen's holiday in his constituency last summer, that the Royal Yacht should never have been scrapped. He was of course quite right, just as Phillip is, to bemoan that action of the last Conservative Government. John Redwood raised no objection to it at the time. But it was vigorously opposed by Peter Shore.

Leinster Says No

Whatever else may have won Gerry Adams a seat in Louth, if anything has done so after all, it was certainly not any appeal to the 32-County Republic of 1916. He has made no such appeal, but has conspicuously avoided doing so, instead offering himself and his party as a "None of the Above" option attractive in the present economic climate and in the general stagnation of the Irish Republic's absurdly outdated political configurations, as bad as Britain's when it comes to giving any real representation to the views of the electorate.

If that party were still ever even really mentioning a United Ireland, then it would be as popular on either side of the Border as it was in the days when it did used to do exactly that. Its rise in the Republic, and its meteoric rise in Northern Ireland, have been and are wholly dependent on the shift to a position where it is no more in serious pursuit of a United Ireland than the Saint John's Ambulance Brigade is in serious pursuit of the restoration of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Caging The Dragon, Freeing The Dragon

Wales has a very particular oligarchy which has long existed in some form, but which has been given the run of the place by devolution. Based in English-speaking areas, but using the Welsh language as its cordon sanitaire, that oligarchy is hostile and damaging to the general populations of English-speaking and Welsh-speaking areas alike. And now, it is embarked upon yet another power grab.

This coming Thursday will see the referendum on further Welsh devolution which David Cameron, who has repeatedly expressed to Parliament his indifference as to the constitutional status of Wales (a position incompatible with that of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom), has long been determined to hold. This referendum, never mind a Yes vote, is wanted by no one except the members of the Assembly and their entourages.

Created with the support of fully 26 per cent of eligible voters, the Assembly has already given the land of Bevan, as staunch a Unionist as it is possible to imagine, longer waits than in England for elective surgery, a 46 per cent (in some areas, a 17 per cent) ambulance response time to Category A emergencies compared with England's 77 per cent, the worst stroke services in the United Kingdom, and the endangerment of cross-border services because of a refusal to work with English Health Trusts.

More broadly, investment per pupil is now 9.5% lower than in England, there is a worsening lack of local access to A-level courses, 70 million pounds recently had to be sent back to Brussels because it had not been spent on time, and there is a 60 million pound shortfall in university funding. Even Professor Kevin Morgan, who chaired the Yes campaign in 1997, now speaks of devolution as "devolving our way to relative economic decline".

None of this would be helped by primary legislative powers for the body that created the mess. There is a proposal for a Welsh Stock Market, but, as much as anything else, why would anywhere want such a thing these days? A Welsh Honours List is a faintly charming, and reassuringly monarchist, idea, but the main argument against it is that it seeks to solve a problem which does not exist: Wales, with about five per cent of the United Kingdom's population, already receives about six per cent of honours. Good on the Welsh.

That leaves the rumbling about a separate judicial system. Lots of extra public money for lawyers, mostly or entirely South Wales-based but bilingual lawyers, deliberately as detached from the life of an English-speaking former pit village as from the life of a Welsh-speaking agricultural community. Extreme inconvenience in securing justice from the higher courts if one lived in North, Mid or West Wales and had to make the time-consuming journey to Cardiff, via exactly the English cities where one's case could previously have been heard.

But very difficult, if not impossible, to avoid if the Welsh Assembly were given primary legislative powers. At the very least, any such legislation must need approval by both Houses of Parliament, following a recommendation as to expediency or otherwise by the Welsh Affairs Select Committee, before proceeding to Royal Assent, in the same way that Measures passed by the General Synod of the Church of England require such approval, following a recommendation as to expediency or otherwise by the Ecclesiastical Committee, before proceeding to Royal Assent.

Furthermore, the majority of those MPs voting in favour should have to include the majority of those sitting for Welsh seats. Along with the (often very Old Labour) Welsh Peers who could be relied upon to turn out in force on these occasions and to exercise that great sway which is the manner of the House of Lords when true experts speak; these could be identified by the fact that Peers are registered voters at local elections, for which people who genuinely live in two different places can be and are registered at both of their addresses. Thus would both English-speaking and Welsh-speaking Wales be spared many a monstrosity that would be imposed without such checks and balances.

Noble Friends

A fascinating programme on Radio Four this morning at 11 o'clock, about four recently introduced members of the House of Lords.

The Coalition is preparing to replace the House of Lords with a new second chamber elected by means of regional party lists. Nick Clegg and all the other Lib Dem Ministers who are going to lose their Commons seats would be packed off to it, and the thing itself would be set up by the use of the Parliament Act, any deployment of which other than to pass Lloyd George's People's Budget is essentially an abuse. Do we have a bicameral Parliament, or not?

Their Lordships demonstrated their worth by obstructing, even if with all too little success in the end, the attempt to reduce accountability by reducing the number of MPs but not of Ministers. Remember that Labour, the Crossbenchers and assorted others outnumber the two Coalition parties. Whereas an elected second chamber would have a Conservative-Lib Dem majority on a permanent basis. A Labour skew in the current electoral arrangement is, so to speak, an urban myth (the real problem is that the poor no longer vote, since they no longer have anyone to vote for), and in any case a redrawing now, four years before the next General Election, would make absolutely no difference, since the same trend towards de-urbanisation will continue in the intervening period.

Thank goodness that there is still some part of our parliamentary system from which it remains possible to speak from outside the nasty but inevitable union between, on the one hand, what has always been the anti-parliamentary New Left and, on the other hand, the sociologically indistinguishable New Right's arrival at hatred of Parliament as the natural conclusion of its hatred of the State. Yes, Daily Telegraph, that does mean your expenses "scandal" and your entrapment of Ministers by pretending to be constituents when you were not. From that union, together with the SDP's misguided Alliance with the Liberals around their practically Bennite constitutional agenda, derives the Political Class's desire to abolish the House of Lords.

For those who keep such scores, the House of Lords has a higher proportion of women, a higher proportion of people from ethnic minorities, a broader range of ethnic minorities, and far more people from working-class backgrounds generally and the trade union movement in particular, than can be found down the corridor. More significantly, and despite the very hard efforts of successive governments, it also retains a broader range of political opinion, more reflective of the country at large. But that is under grave threat, both from the party machines and from the way of all flesh.

Perhaps the future composition of the House might be secured, at least in part, by providing for each current Life Peer, at least who attends very or fairly regularly, to name an heir, by no means necessarily or even ordinarily a relative, but rather a political and a wider intellectual soul mate, who would become a Peer upon his or her nominator's death, and who would thus acquire the same right of nomination? I am not necessarily advocating this. But can anyone think of anything better?

Cardinal Truths About Egypt

John L Allen Jr writes:

A Jan. 1 first bomb attack against Coptic Christians in Egypt which left 23 dead and almost a hundred wounded, widely blamed on Islamic fundamentalists, may have been orchestrated by an official in the former Mubarak regime in order to justify strengthening police controls, according to the head of the country’s Coptic Catholic church. Cardinal Antonios Naguib, the Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria, floats that hypothesis in a new interview with the prestigious Italian Catholic publication 30 Giorni.

In the same interview, Naguib also warns that “diplomatic pressures, punitive initiatives or economic sanctions” from Western governments against Egypt in the name of defending the country’s Christians would constitute “the greatest harm that can be done to the Christians themselves.” In general, Naguib says the anti-Mubarak protest movement was marked by tremendous solidarity between Muslims and Christians, and is hopeful about the prospects for building “a civil and democratic country based on laws.”

The Jan. 1 attack occurred just a few minutes into New Year’s Day, as Coptic Orthodox worshippers were participating in a midnight service at the Alexandria church of Saint Mark and Peter. Two weeks before the bombing an Islamist web site had called for attacks against Christian churches in Egypt, including the church that was struck on Jan. 1, and the Interior Ministry quickly blamed the Gaza-based “Army of Islam.” President Hosni Mubarak delivered a nationally televised address in the wake of the bombing blaming “foreign fingers” for the attack.

Naguib, however, says there’s a long history of a connection between domestic anti-Mubarak agitation in Egypt and violence directed at Christians. In the 1980s and 1990s, he says, Christians were targeted by forces that wanted to bring down the regime, and when that failed, they began to attack the police and government officials. In light of that history, Naguib suggests, security forces grew accustomed to using attacks on Christians as a pretext to clamp down on opposition movements – an Egyptian version of the “strategy of tension” long associated with police states. “This has given weight to the hypothesis,” the Coptic Catholic leader says, “in circulation particularly among Christians, that the Minister of the Interior had planned the massacre of Alexandria to justify a strengthening of police controls.”

Naguib suggests that Mubarak’s Minister of the Interior, at the time Habib Ibrahim el-Adly, encouraged the attack as a way of proving that “his person was essential for the president and the regime.” After Mubarak resigned, El-Adly was arrested and is reportedly facing charges of fraud, money laundering and for ordering that security forces fire on demonstrators during the early days of the protests.

The Jan. 1 attack triggered wide international protest, including remarks from Pope Benedict XVI calling for greater protection of religious minorities. That led the Mubarak regime to recall its ambassador to the Vatican, and Al-Azhar University, Egypt’s most prestigious Islamic institution, to suspend dialogue with the Vatican. Naguib blamed “distorted” reporting of Benedict’s comments for those actions, saying that Al-Jazeera and other outlets suggested that the pope had called on Western governments to intervene in Egyptian affairs.

Asked about political efforts in the West to suspend economic and military aid to Egypt, as well as other countries where Christians are at risk, Naguib says “this attitude is wrong. As Christians in Egypt – Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox, without differences – we see that any appeal to diplomatic pressures, punitive initiatives or to economic sanctions directed against Egypt, because of events that concern Egyptian Christians, is the greatest harm that can be done to the Christians themselves,” Naguib says.

In general, Naguib says the experience of the Egyptian uprising has offered hope for overcoming sectarian divisions. “I am reassured by the fact of having seen something take place in these days that has not been seen for a long time: a concrete unity among the citizens, young and old, Christians and Muslims without distinction or discrimination,” he says. “Now everyone sees that those who foment divisions and conflicts with other Egyptians on the basis of religious differences actually aim to destroy this unity and to destabilize Egypt.”

Right And Left Know Right From Wrong

From the Right, and including the hugely important insight that supposedly conservative anti-statism is in fact a product of the sexual revolution, Stephen Baskerville writes:

The impending extradition of Julian Assange on obviously trumped-up sex charges brings the new politics of sex into vivid relief. As with the tribulations of Silvio Berlusconi, there is more here than meets the media’s eye. The Swedes call such ordeals sexfalla, or “honeytraps,” where women use sexual charms as a weapon against men who wrong them. The men who succumb to such wiles may deserve what they get, but when such a sexual drama becomes ensnared with law and politics, the rest of us have an interest in the matter. Assange, in his public and private life, may be far from admirable. But conservatives eager to cast the first stone might consider how Assange’s experience is becoming the experience of us all. Assange’s biography reads like a textbook of the sexual revolution. Even sketchy accounts of Assange’s life illustrate how extensively his ordeal has been shaped throughout by the new sexual order.

First, Assange’s freewheeling and sexually liberated mother, through divorce, deprived him of a father and a stable home, thus ensuring him his share of the problems now well known to accompany such upbringings. In Assange’s case, this seems to have set him on the course of a kind of global nomad, lacking firm attachment to family, home, community, country, or God. His own marriage likewise turned out to be another honeytrap, as marriage has become for millions of men, with the government confiscation of his own son and a prolonged legal battle with the Western democracies’ most corrupt and authoritarian machinery—one designed to neuter, eliminate, and criminalize “male chauvinist” fathers. By several accounts, this was the defining moment in his adult life, leaving him (like many other men) intensely embittered against all government. His experience with the feminist divorce apparat also seems to have diverted his leftist upbringing into a more libertarian distrust of all authority.

We can dismiss this with standard euphemisms about a “nasty divorce” and “ugly custody battle” and smear him, as some conservatives seem eager to do, with sneers about his “failed marriage.” But there is no need for armchair psychology to see that Assange is yet another product of our great experiment with single parenthood. Nor do we need conspiracy theories to realize that Assange’s current prosecution is very political indeed, though less in the way the left wants to see it than in the way the left itself has made it. Once again Assange has fallen into the clutches of the sisterhood. Indeed, if his arrest did not involve US pressure, its politicization is all the more serious. For it is not a conspiracy, but a vindication of an ancient truth. Men fool themselves that their high political machinations determine the fates of nations. Meanwhile, “the hand that rocks the cradle”… Here as elsewhere, feminists have not eliminated gender “stereotypes” so much as they have politicized them.

It is hardly conspiratorial that American officials and Swedish prosecutrixes have entered a marriage of convenience using the silver bullet of political prosecutions: fabricated sex charges. How do I know they are fabricated? Anyone familiar with the politics of the feminist rape industry can immediately spot the setup, and the New York Times, one of the mouthpieces of that industry, makes it very plain. “When Julian Assange…asked two Swedish women out on dates in August, he may not have known that Swedish laws protecting women in their sexual encounters include wide-ranging definitions of sexual assault and rape.” Translation: Laws against “rape” have nothing to do with actual rapes. Repeatedly the Times bends over backwards to disguise the reality that rape law is political, its purpose to criminalize men regardless of actual culpability. “Swedish prosecutors who want to question him on whether separate sexual encounters he had with each of the women became nonconsensual after he was no longer using a condom.” Translation: The women clearly consented, but feminist prosecutors are charging him anyway.

As if to emphasize the politics of rape prosecutions, the Times adds that “female empowerment – economic, social, and also legal — has a different quality in Sweden than in other countries.” In other words, rape law is so politicized that it can convict innocent men with no fear of scrutiny by journalistic watchdogs. The Times admits that “Sweden’s current criminal code is not much stricter on sexual offenses than those of other European countries” or the US, where miscarriages of justice over rape are routine, if not out of control. One need only glance at the cases of various innocence projects (or a daily newspaper) to see that almost all consist of rape trumped-up charges. The Times account is an open admission that feminist rape laws constitute a standing miscarriage of justice designed to criminalize men, as is now on full display. Not content with this, the feminist gestapo “contend that the definition of rape should be expanded to include situations in which a woman does not explicitly say no to sex, but clearly signals her opposition in other ways.” This manipulation of law to debase the language and create criminals already operates in the US.

Accounts of Assange’s experience bear out the politics very clearly: His first accuser is a professional feminist. “While a research assistant at a local university she had not only been the protégée of a militant feminist -academic, but held the post of ‘campus sexual equity officer’,” according to the Daily Mail. “Fighting male discrimination in all forms…was her forte.” Along with the other accuser, she enlisted a prominent “gender lawyer” and “leading supporter of a campaign to extend the legal -definition of rape to help bring more [alleged?] rapists to justice.” Her website offered “7 Steps to Legal Revenge,” advising women how easily they can use trumped-up accusations to punish men for personal hurts. After the “rape” the woman had sex with her “rapist” again and threw a party for him, while the other accuser cooked him breakfast.

In short, there is not a shred of evidence that Assange raped anyone and very clear indications that he did not. Assange himself sees into whose trap he fell: “Sweden is the Saudi Arabia of feminism,” he tells the Sunday Times. “I fell into a hornets’ nest of revolutionary feminism.” Even some feminists are embarrassed. In a satirical piece in The Huffington Post, Naomi Wolf writes, “As a feminist, I am also pleased that the alleged victims are using feminist-inspired rhetoric and law to assuage what appears to be personal injured feelings. That’s what our brave suffragette foremothers intended!” Wolf’s sisters responded by castigating her for “trivializing rape,” another confirmation that the trumped-up charges against Assange are nothing exceptional but part of the standard feminist modus operandi against men without the publicity or leftist support Assange enjoys.

Indeed, what Wolf is trivializing is not rape but men imprisoned for crimes not simply that they did not commit, but that everyone knows did not happen. The women are not using only “feminist-inspired rhetoric”; they are using the criminal charges, which imprison the innocent for decades. There was no rape, and everyone knows there was no rape. Yet everyone involved from the left to the right has political reasons for implying there might have been, for pretending to see the emperor’s clothes, for blurring the distinction between innocence and guilt, between truth and falsehood.

Thus we all become part of the brave new post-modern world where words can be deconstructed to mean whatever we want them to mean, where there is no objective truth and we all — prompted most likely by political motives — follow the truth that is “right for us.” It is hardly surprising if our governments follow our lead and legislate the meaning of words and “findings of fact” to create their own reality and make us all criminals. As usual, one deconstructed reality (what used to be called a “lie”) necessitates another, until our political agendas require that we remain silent as we watch innocent men being led away in handcuffs. Thus we all trade virtue (literally, one hesitates to point out, “manhood”) to become operatives of the servile state. And then we all have the hubris to claim we are defending freedom.

But this is the disposition of lackeys and tyrants, where brave men are cowed into abject silence by feminists wielding government power, and where everyone finds it handy to have a criminal charge available to pin on anyone who hurts our feelings or threatens our power. This is more than a sideline to national security. National secrets are kept ostensibly to protect our freedom. But servility cannot sustain freedom. A society that averts its eyes and holds its tongue as criminal charges become political weapons will not maintain freedom long. Do the ends here justify the means? Perhaps, but in that case it is much healthier to be straightforward about it. If the US government determined that Assange truly threatened national security, methods exist to deal with him quietly. The international political environment is lawless enough that eliminating nuisances is often the only option, without the sanctimonious pretence that principles other than power and self-interest are in play.

That is part of international espionage, and anyone in Assange’s business knows the risks. (Assange’s prototype may not be the glamorous James Bond, as some suggest, but Alec Leamas, the spy manipulated by forces beyond his control.) Such expedients may or may not have been appropriate in this case, but they are less threatening to freedom than kangaroo courts that mock and debase justice. Expressions of outrage would follow, precipitating a morally elevating public debate about whether assassinating foreign troublemakers is ethically acceptable. But such unpleasant realities do not accord with the new gender sensitivity.

So instead impotent men hide behind Swedish women and indulge in the high-minded pretence that we are employing the rule of law (defending wronged women, no less), when what is occuring is just as much the naked exercise of power as if Assange were quietly snuffed out in a corner. And thereby we cheapen the rule of law, not only internationally (where it cannot be expected to operate), but also within that fragile balance we call free societies. This is the honeytrap which catches us all.

And from the Left, displaying its historically characterstic Euroscepticism, Mark Stephens writes:

Julian Assange will, according to the judge's finding of fact, be held in prison in solitary confinement when he is returned to Sweden and will then be interrogated, held without bail and later subjected to a secret trial on accusations that have been bruited around the world, not least by this newspaper. He has a complete answer to these charges, which he considers false and baseless. Even if acquitted, however, the mud will stick and, if convicted, the public will never be able to able to assess whether justice has miscarried. This country, which has given to the world the most basic principles of a fair trial – that justice must be seen to be done – denies that basic liberty for those that are extradited to Sweden.

How come our courts abandon our cherished principles in deference to European systems and prosecutors? The answer is that they are bound to regard the prosecutors of no less than 26 countries, including Poland and Romania – as perfect. This is the result of the European arrest warrant (EAW), one of the civil liberties disasters bequeathed by the Labour government when it passed the Extradition Act in 2003.

This act, quite incredibly, allows European countries to deem prosecutors and even policemen "as judicial authorities" (a contradiction in terms, because they are neither independent nor impartial) and to pluck their suspects from the UK so long as they tick the right box on the EAW form. In Assange's case, for example, they ticked "rape" and the court cannot dispute that the allegation is of rape, even though the leading authority on sexual offences, the Oxford Vinerian professor, Andrew Ashworth, disputes this characterisation. There can be no questioning on the merits of the charges – in 2003 parliament abolished the traditional right of a suspect to require foreign governments to show a prima facie case before dragging them off to unfair trials.

An inquiry into the working of the EAW system has been set up and Assange's appeal to the high court may demonstrate the extent to which it allows our judges to stand up against unfair European systems. In the case of Sweden, for all its civilised and rational approach to many criminal justice issues – especially sentencing – it is a human rights black spot in relation to solitary confinement, the lack of a money-bail system and ill-treatment of foreigners in the very prison for which Assange may be destined – all matters for which it has been condemned by the recent European Committee report on torture.

But nothing so breaches the most fundamental principle of justice as its custom of holding all rape trials behind closed doors. This, so the prosecutor Marianne Ny explains, is so that "complainants may give their evidence better". Of course it is absolutely right to give complainants the protection of anonymity and to limit the right to cross examine them on their past, but it is utterly wrong to keep it from public view, for three reasons:

1. As Jeremy Bentham pointed out, "publicity is the very soil of justice, it keeps the judge, while trying, under trial". In this case, which will be heard by three lay judges appointed by political parties who are usually members of such parties, it is essential to see justice being done, especially since the Swedish prime minister has publicly attacked Assange.

2. Second, openness is essential to truth. It ensures that witnesses will be afraid to perjure themselves less they be found out. Others will come forward to confound them if they learn that they are lying. In this case, where both complainants tweeted and text-messaged their friends in ways which can be said to be inconsistent with their complaint, justice demands a public hearing.

3. Finally, the public itself has an interest, and that must override the interest of individuals whether the complainant or even defendants are happy that their details of conduct are hidden from public view. No democracy can commit secret court, because then there is no check that the formidable powers of prosecutors and judges are not being abused.

There are two philosophic approaches to the EAWs open to our courts. At present most adopt the "rubber stamp" approach – hand suspects over to the European policeman and prosecutors if the formalities on the warrant are correct. But the alternative – which we will invite the high court to adopt in this case – is that the EAW system should be used to actually improve the quality of justice throughout Europe, but to refuse extradition when the trial in prospect is likely to be unfair, judged according to our fundamental principles. That way, things can only improve and human rights blind spots can be eradicated. If our courts declare that open justice is the only possible justice by denying Sweden the extradition of Assange, this would very likely have the result that Sweden would change its unacceptable policy.

Open justice is one of the greatest contributions the UK has made to international human rights law. It goes back to the famous demand of "freeborn John Lilburne the leveller" – to have the doors of his court opened so that Cromwell's judges could not try him in "holes or corner". The rhetoric about the importance of open justice is found throughout law reports and often in cases brought by journalists at newspapers like this one. Will all this judicial rhetoric be empty or even hypocritical when it comes to deporting Julian Assange? We must wait and see.

Friday 25 February 2011

Shirley Not

Poor old Shirley Williams seems to be turning New Labour right after everyone, at least outside the Cabinet, has seen the error of such ways, if they ever succumbed to them.

On Question Time, she commended Tony Blair for his role in ending Gaddafi's never-existent nuclear weapons programme, and she peddled the old fantasy about Libya and Lockerbie as if it were an established fact, branding al-Megrahi an agent of Gaddafi on the basis of some gossip or other emerging out of the present chaos in Libya.

Still, she also quipped that an audience member sounded as if she wanted to abolish councillors. Her own party will very soon experience exactly what that would entail.

One With Nineveh And Tyre

Peter Oborne writes:

Empires can collapse in the course of a generation. At the end of the 16th century, the Spanish looked dominant. Twenty-five years later, they were on their knees, over-extended, bankrupt, and incapable of coping with the emergent maritime powers of Britain and Holland. The British empire reached its fullest extent in 1930. Twenty years later, it was all over.

Today, it is reasonable to ask whether the United States, seemingly invincible a decade ago, will follow the same trajectory. America has suffered two convulsive blows in the last three years. The first was the financial crisis of 2008, whose consequences are yet to be properly felt. Although the immediate cause was the debacle in the mortgage market, the underlying problem was chronic imbalance in the economy.

For a number of years, America has been incapable of funding its domestic programmes and overseas commitments without resorting to massive help from China, its global rival. China has a pressing motive to assist: it needs to sustain US demand in order to provide a market for its exports and thus avert an economic crisis of its own. This situation is the contemporary equivalent of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), the doctrine which prevented nuclear war breaking out between America and Russia.
Unlike MAD, this pact is unsustainable. But Barack Obama has not sought to address the problem. Instead, he responded to the crisis with the same failed policies that caused the trouble in the first place: easy credit and yet more debt. It is certain that America will, in due course, be forced into a massive adjustment both to its living standards at home and its commitments abroad.

This matters because, following the second convulsive blow, America’s global interests are under threat on a scale never before seen. Since 1956, when Secretary of State John Foster Dulles pulled the plug on Britain and France over Suez, the Arab world has been a US domain. At first, there were promises that it would tolerate independence and self-determination. But this did not last long; America chose to govern through brutal and corrupt dictators, supplied with arms, military training and advice from Washington.

The momentous importance of the last few weeks is that this profitable, though morally bankrupt, arrangement appears to be coming to an end. One of the choicest ironies of the bloody and macabre death throes of the regime in Libya is that Colonel Gaddafi would have been wiser to have stayed out of the US sphere of influence. When he joined forces with George Bush and Tony Blair five years ago, the ageing dictator was leaping on to a bandwagon that was about to grind to a halt.

In Washington, President Obama has not been stressing this aspect of affairs. Instead, after hesitation, he has presented the recent uprisings as democratic and even pro-American, indeed a triumph for the latest methods of Western communication such as Twitter and Facebook. Many sympathetic commentators have therefore claimed that the Arab revolutions bear comparison with the 1989 uprising of the peoples of Eastern Europe against Soviet tyranny.

I would guess that the analogy is apt. Just as 1989 saw the collapse of the Russian empire in Eastern Europe, so it now looks as if 2011 will mark the removal of many of America’s client regimes in the Arab world. It is highly unlikely, however, that events will thereafter take the tidy path the White House would prefer. Far from being inspired by Twitter, a great many of Arab people who have driven the sensational events of recent weeks are illiterate. They have been impelled into action by mass poverty and unemployment, allied to a sense of disgust at vast divergences of wealth and grotesque corruption. It is too early to chart the future course of events with confidence, but it seems unlikely that these liberated peoples will look to Washington and New York as their political or economic model.

The great question is whether America will take its diminished status gracefully, or whether it will lash out, as empires in trouble are historically prone to do. Here the White House response gives cause for concern. American insensitivity is well demonstrated in the case of Raymond Davis, the CIA man who shot dead two Pakistanis in Lahore. Hillary Clinton is trying to bully Pakistan into awarding Davis diplomatic immunity. This is incredible behaviour, which shows that the US continues to regard itself as above the law. Were President Zardari, already seen by his fellow countrymen as a pro-American stooge, to comply, his government would almost certainly fall.

Or take President Obama’s decision last week to veto the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements. Even America itself accepts that these settlements are illegal. At a time when the Middle East is already mutinous, this course of action looks mad.

The biggest problem is that America wants democracy, but only on its own terms. A very good example of this concerns the election of a Hamas government in Gaza in 2006. This should have been a hopeful moment for the Middle East peace process: the election of a government with the legitimacy and power to end violence. But America refused to engage with Hamas, just as it has refused to deal with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, or to acknowledge the well-founded regional aspirations of Iran.

The history of the Arab world since the collapse of the Ottoman caliphate in 1922 can be divided schematically into two periods: open colonial rule under the British and French, followed by America’s invisible empire after the Second World War. Now we are entering a third epoch, when Arab nations, and in due course others, will assert their independence. It is highly unlikely that all of them will choose a path that the Americans want. From the evidence available, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton are muddled and incapable of grasping the nature of current events.

This is where the British, who have deep historical connections with the region, and whose own loss of empire is still within living memory, ought to be able to offer wise and practical advice. So far the Prime Minister, a neophyte in foreign affairs, has not done so. His regional tour of Middle Eastern capitals with a caravan of arms dealers made sense only in terms of the broken settlement of the last 50 years. His speeches might have been scripted by Tony Blair a decade ago, with the identical evasions and hypocrisies. There was no acknowledgment of the great paradigm shift in global politics.

The links between the US and British defence, security and foreign policy establishments are so close that perhaps it is no longer possible for any British government to act independently. When challenged, our ministers always say that we use our influence “behind the scenes” with American allies, rather than challenge them in the open. But this, too, is a failed tactic. I am told, for example, that William Hague tried hard to persuade Hillary Clinton not to veto last week’s Security Council resolution, but was ignored. It is time we became a much more candid friend, because the world is changing faster than we know.

Tea Parties of the Left I

Tina Dupuy writes:

Last week the Tea Party proved itself once and for all to be anti-populist. Now, I know their press says Tea Partiers are just regular Joe the Unlicensed Plumbers, angry about government fill-in-the-blank. That’s been the story ever since they first rallied against people who found themselves on the wrong end of an adjustable rate. “How many of you want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgages who has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills?”, queried CNBC’s Rick Santelli in February of 2009. It was the rant that brewed the Tea. Yeah, can’t pay your bills? It’s not the conspiracy of Wall Street’s semi-legal la cosa nostra. It’s that you’re a degenerate!

Thus the battle hymn of the Tea Party was born: Wealth rewards the virtuous; poverty punishes the failures. Someday we’ll all be virtuous enough to be affluent. This idea has been packaged and sold as “free market” – bought by people in tri-corner hats: There are winners and losers. Losers are broke. Root for the winners. “Populism” – traditionally defined as average people against the elite – was attached to the Tea Party by default. Tea Party isn’t a youth movement. They’re not labor. They’re not anti-war. So for lack of a better vocabulary word the Tea Party – basically the GOP on caffeine, fueled by corporate interests – got labeled “populist.” But they’re far from it. Tea Partiers see destitution as a leprosy to be cured by forceful finger wagging. Shame on you! Pay your bills!

But what the Tea Party really hates is government. They don’t trust the government. They hate all regulations unless it’s policies making life miserable for anyone who looks Mexican – then we’re a country of laws. Government is always too big and too cumbersome unless it’s the military – then it’s patriotic. Government workers are flesh-eating bacteria with parasitic benefits unless they’re soldiers – then they’re heroes. Privatize everything. Let the sleek, optimized, profit-driven business sector make more money off everything. “Capitalism!” Put that on a sign – you’re the Tea Party. You’re shaking your fists at the government!

So it was a little surprising when in Wisconsin last week, the Tea Party marched in favor of the government. Wisconsin had a budget surplus last year that was given away as tax breaks to Governor Scott Walker’s supporters. Now faced with a deficit, Walker’s “Budget Fix Bill” calls for drastic cuts to working people and the public unions’ rights. After a weeklong standoff, the Tea Party showed up with some misspelled signs (see they’re not elite…just marching for the interests of elites) in support of government overreach. Opposite of their rep, the Tea Party is anti-populist at their core, so they had to show up in solidarity with the big guys. The Tea Party will tell you it’s not the government’s job to make life better for the middle class. Ok, fine. Then whose job is it? Oh, the unions. Which the Tea Party is also apparently against…because the Tea Party is anti-populist.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 1983, 20 percent of the workforce was in a labor union. Now it’s just under 12 percent. The states with the highest percentage of union workers are the richest states: California, Washington and New York. The states with the fewest – Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas – are the poorest. The existence of workers’ unions make non-unionized jobs better for workers. If an employer wants their workers not to unionize, the employer makes conditions comparable to the union places. This is the soft power of organized labor. With the decline of the unions, the middle class has also declined. We just endured the Bush Lost Decade. The richest in this country saw their fortunes increase during the last 10 years. The middle class saw their wages flatten.

Several factors contribute to the flat line, but an important one we overlook is the decline of workers’ collectively negotiating with employers. The right to earn a decent wage for a decent job…has been browbeaten, bloodied and in some cases bypassed. A real populist movement is made up of regular people. In their protests the Wisconsin union supporters have been chanting, “This is what democracy looks like.” They’re also what an actual populist movement looks like.

Tea Parties of the Left II

David Blanchflower writes:

The new US Super Bowl champions, the Green Bay Packers, got a heroes' welcome when they brought the trophy home to the northern state of Wisconsin in early February. The Packers frequently play in below-zero temperatures (Fahrenheit, that is) on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, the stadium named after the team's founder, Curly Lambeau. "Cheesehead" is a nickname, sometimes used disparagingly, for a person from Wisconsin - a nod to the large volume of cheese produced in the area. It is also the nickname of Packer fans, many of whom wear cheesehead hats to home games.

But Wisconsin has been in the news for another reason - namely the angry response of many of its citizens to a fiscal austerity bill intended to deal with the state's $3.6bn budget deficit. Around 70,000 cheeseheads have gathered at the state capitol in Madison to protest against plans by the new Republican governor, Scott Walker, to remove the collective bargaining rights of around 175,000 public-sector employees. Teachers have turned out in such large numbers that some schools have been forced to close due to understaffing. Trade unionists have agreed to double their health insurance contributions and to put 5.8 per cent of their salary towards their pensions, but would not accept the removal of their bargaining rights. Walker insists there is "no room to negotiate".


The vote on Walker's bill requires a quorum of 20 senators. The Republicans have 19, so at least one Democrat must be present for the vote to be taken. Every single Democratic senator failed to show up at the session on 17 February, then fled the state after being ordered to attend. Scott Fitzgerald, the Wisconsin senate majority leader, said that law-enforcement officers were searching for the Democrats, who were apparently hiding at a resort in Illinois.

There is precedent for this kind of political hide-and-seek in the US. The Texas constitution requires the attendance of two-thirds of the 150-member house of representatives to conduct business. In 2003, the Republicans wanted a vote on legislation to redraw the district lines in a way that would have benefited their party. The Democrats were having none of it and went into hiding in the neighbouring state of Oklahoma. The Republican governor of Texas, Rick Perry, sent the Texas Rangers across the border to arrest the runaway Democrats and return them to Austin. But Oklahoma's Democratic governor, Brad Henry, blocked this move, arguing that Texas Rangers had no jurisdiction outside of Texas. The Democrats ignored the Rangers' pleas for them to return voluntarily and the legislation failed to pass.

As I write, the Democratic senators of Wisconsin are still holding out south of the border, and their counterparts in Indiana are also on the run. The mass rallies, meanwhile, are spreading to Ohio and many other states. Some commentators have said that the protesters represent a "Tea Party movement of the left".

Like the protesters in the US, public-sector workers in Britain will not sit idly by as the government tries to impose its misguided austerity measures. Even though trade unionists are in no way to blame for the economic crisis, the Institute of Directors has echoed moves in the US by calling for collective bargaining to be banned for teachers and NHS staff. The TUC's national demonstration on 26 March is gaining support from a wide range of people and organisations worried about the impact of the spending cuts. Given the strength of the unions in the public sector, a big fight looks likely.

The government's case for reform would be hard enough to take even if ministers were being honest with the public. But they are not. Two recent comments stand out. The first was by David Cameron in his Toynbee Hall speech on welfare reform. "This welfare system has left more than one in four adults of working age out of work," he said. This is implausible. The table below shows the latest data for those of working age. The data is presented separately for men and women and the percentages refer to the proportions of the population, so 6.2 per cent of those aged between 16 and 64 are unemployed (the unemployment rate - the unemployed figure divided by the sum of both employed and unemployed - is 8 per cent).


Out of a total of just over 40 million people, 30.7 million are members of the labour force (employed or unemployed). The remaining 9.4 million are classed as "inactive". The different reasons for this are included in the table. Around two million are students; a further two million are looking after their children and homes; 1.6 million are retired. So, even if we assume that everyone who is unemployed is out of work because of the welfare system, and add to them the numbers who say that they are discouraged from work, along with those in the "long-term sick" and "other" categories, only 14 per cent of adults at most are out of work because of the welfare system. That's way off Cameron's "more than one in four". Unemployment is high at the moment because of a lack of jobs, not because benefits are too high. The Prime Minister needs to get his facts straight - and get rid of his speechwriters.

The second wildly implausible comment came from Iain Duncan Smith, who claimed that the welfare system is "so out of control that it houses unemployed people in some of the most expensive accommodation in the land". Housing benefit figures provided to me by the Department for Work and Pensions show that the majority of claimants - 4.6 million of 4.8 million - get less than £10,000 a year. Only 160 people across the country get the equivalent of £50,000 a year (and because these figures are annualised from weekly amounts, they may have got, say, £2,000 for two weeks and far less the rest of the year). The solution is to move those in expensive accommodation to cheaper homes. The evidence provides no justification for reforming the whole welfare system.

The path to austerity is not looking smooth. Wisconsin should provide a warning to the British government.

Thursday 24 February 2011

Fuel For the Fire

Today, British Gas adds yet another of its unanswerable arguments for public ownership. Others are Centrica's hugely profitable interests in nuclear power and in gas exploitation, as well as the drastic fall in RBS's annual losses and its return to profitability in the final quarter. Furthermore, public ownership is British ownership, it safeguards the Union, and its means of defending both the sovereignty and the integrity of this nation frequently even had the word "British" in their names.

Moreover, remember that wildly inflated fuel prices, falling particularly hard on the poor (including very many of the old), are being enforced as part of the war against secure and skilled employment, against the paternal authority thus possessed of the necessary economic basis, against global economic development, against travel by us common people, and against our access to the meat that we are designed to eat.

An Open Letter To Social Conservatives

Although there is every sign that grassroots Dems will save traditional marriage at state level, and although I have never been convinced about the "Don't ask, don't tell" compromise", John writes:

News has it that the Obama Administration will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Obama has already helped to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell" policy, which barred openly gay or lesbian people from serving in the U.S. military. As a social conservative, I don’t agree with any of this, but I understand that many people, especially in the Democratic base, are delighted by these decisions. But what about the other sectors of the Democratic base? What about workers? Where is the big jobs bill? Where is the modern WPA? Where is the tough financial regulation? Where are the efforts to at least renegotiate NAFTA?

The reality in America is that our elite class does not care much about defending social traditionalism. The Republicans will put up some kind of a fight over Obama’s actions regarding DOMA, but it probably won’t amount to much in practical terms. A good portion of the GOP’s “Tea Party” base is not even interested in social/cultural issues. They are more worried about economic issues like government spending and union contracts. By and large, the American elite supports social liberalism and economic neoliberalism. The fusionists can write all the weepy books about family values and the free market fitting together like a horse and carriage, but those who are awake recognize that the GOP uses social/cultural issues to whip up some parts of its base during election time, and then once in office, fights hard for plutocracy. For the last thirty years, the Democrats have been playing the same game, only with their economically populist voters. Democratic politicians on the campaign trail will speak eloquently about “Two Americas” or “Benedict Arnold Corporations” but will also support plutocracy when they get into office, although perhaps not as zealously as the Republicans.

It is very likely that we are looking at a future where the population is ruled by a permanent oligarchy that exercises a soft form of consumer totalitarianism. You can get married to practically anybody you want, have all kinds of stimulating entertainment at your fingertips, and have some basic level of animal comfort, just as long as you don’t particularly care about challenging the economic order.

Giuseppe Dossetti warned Italy’s Christian Democrats that consumerism, not communism, would destroy Christian Italy. Dossetti turned out to be correct, not just about Italy but about the entire West. For too long, social conservatives have been stuck in the Cold War mentality that sees everything as a titanic struggle between Christianity and atheistic communism. Now that communism has been defeated, social conservatives have found out that the system they have spent decades defending has always been the secret enemy. Trying to return to a laissez-faire golden age, however, is not the answer. Social liberalism is really the byproduct of modern economic development. Bringing the First World’s population down to Third World standards of living via fanatical free market policies in the hope that it will “toughen” people up and return us to an age of puritanical morality is both wrongheaded and cruel.

Instead, social conservatives need to develop a unified worldview that promotes socially conservative goals while also respecting pluralism and democracy. It may be true that we cannot turn the clock back on some issues. However, there are ways to win some victories even if we cannot get everything we want. To a certain extent, this reality is what drives me to push the economic issues so hard. I hope I am wrong, but it may be true that social conservatism is likely to see many more defeats in the First World, at least in the short term. Voting for mainstream conservative parties does not seem to halt the progress of social liberalism, but it certainly advances the cause of economic neoliberalism. Essentially, this is a lose-lose scenario.

By focusing on destroying the individualistic, materialistic, and utilitarian foundations of economic liberalism, social conservatives can then make the case that without some respect for social traditionalism we will have a repeat of the hippies-turned-yuppies debacle of the late 20th Century. At the very least, we will have helped working-class families obtain the economic base to allow them to hopefully cultivate a private traditionalism. And that would be a significant victory all by itself.

A primary challenge to Obama from someone like Marcy Kaptur, including a serious attempt to reach out to paleocons on matters of common interest, is urgently necessary. As is action in John's own city, to ensure that the egregious Rahm Emanuel is not renominated.

Wednesday 23 February 2011

A Secular Egypt?

Be careful what you wish for. Especially when it was you have already had to endure for rather a long time. Think of the reserved parliamentary representation for Armenians and Assyrians in Iran, and think that that could be the lot of your Egyptian outpost of Christendom, too.

If you play your cards right with the Muslim Brotherhood, as Anglophile as when Britain founded it, historically (and at the grassroots still very much) committed to public ownership and to wealth redistribution, and with an enormous international vested interest in doing a deal with you. You will not have this chance again for a very long time, if ever. Make the most of it.

Everything That Michael Gove Touches Turns To Dust

Mehdi Hasan writes:

Spare a thought for Vince Cable. The disgruntled Business Secretary, whose "nuclear option" turned out to be more of a suicide vest, is the odds-on favourite to be the next minister to leave the coalition cabinet, according to the online betting exchange Smarkets. Or perhaps it will be Ken Clarke. "Is it time to give this disloyal, pro-Europe old bruiser the boot?" read the headline in the Daily Mail on 12 February. Paddy Power has him as 7/2 favourite on its "next to leave the cabinet" list. Then there's Tom Strathclyde. Tom who? The Leader of the House of Lords, exposed as an old-fashioned Tory adulterer by a Sunday paper last month, is second-favourite on both the Smarkets and Paddy Power lists.

Away from the betting shops, Tory MPs and peers congregate in the bars and tearooms of Westminster to whisper about the future of William Hague, his personal life and his foreign policy (or lack thereof); about the Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman's disastrous decision to sell off the nation's forests; about Cheryl Gillan's "Where's Wally" performance at the Welsh Office and the persistent rumours of her impending departure from government. But isn't it strange that Michael Gove's name never comes up in conversation, or in the various lists and bookies' odds? That he doesn't appear to be "at risk" or "vulnerable"?

By any objective measure of ministerial ineptitude, the Education Secretary would come out near the top. On 11 February, in the latest in a long line of "bad news" linked to the coalition's education reforms, Gove was defeated in the high court over his decision to scrap part of England's school-building programme, and his failure to consult on it. It is worth quoting from the stinging verdict of Mr Justice Holman: "In my view, the way in which the Secretary of State abruptly stopped the projects . . . without any prior consultation . . . must be characterised as being so unfair as to amount to an abuse of power." Yes, "abuse of power". Strong stuff.

In a sense, Gove was a Cameroon before Cameron. He helped to persuade his good friend "Dave" to run for the Tory leadership in 2005, having tipped him for the job in a newspaper column in 2001. Gove continues to exert a huge influence on Cameron. I am told that the Education Secretary, a dyed-in-the-wool neocon hawk on foreign policy and all things Islam-related, was a key driver behind the Prime Minister's recent speech in Munich - though I have yet to understand how his enthusiasm for faith schools fits with a passion for "muscular liberalism" and ending "state multiculturalism". For now, Gove is Teflon. His membership of the Cameron inner circle, the so-called Notting Hill Set, makes Gove untouchable; so does his fawning constituency in the media - he is a former Times columnist and assistant editor. In the words of one seasoned observer, he is the "golden boy" of Cameron's cabinet. Gove, however, has the reverse Midas touch: everything he touches turns to dust.

Consider his record at the Education Department since last May. To begin with, he claimed more than 1,000 schools had applied for academy status; it then emerged that only 153 had done so. Under cross-examination by his then Labour shadow, Ed Balls, he was forced to apologise repeatedly in the Commons after giving MPs incorrect information about which school rebuilding projects were to be axed. Last October, he caused an outcry when he announced that he would no longer fund School Sport Partnerships, only to do a U-turn in December. He announced the axing of a £13m annual grant for free books that benefits 3.3 million youngsters a year, only to perform another U-turn over Christmas, amid accusations of "cultural vandalism".

Despite his gift of the gab, Gove has a habit of making gaffes. In a Commons debate on 19 January, he told MPs that it "would be wise" for people in Hull to vote Liberal Democrat - and not Conservative - in the May local elections. "He is not as clever as he thinks he is," an irritated cabinet colleague tells me, adding: "But he does have the ability to make the absurd sound intelligent." Gove aspires to be, in the words of the ultra-conservative historian and author Andrew Roberts, "the most radical education secretary since Shirley Williams". (Gove has turned to Roberts for advice on the history curriculum.) "There is a contradiction at the heart of the Tories' policy on education," the shadow education secretary, Andy Burnham, tells me. "They talk about freedom and autonomy for schools and parents but their approach is more top-down and prescriptive than ours ever was."

The Education Secretary, in Whitehall, decides on the status and funding levels of academies and "free schools". Gove's English Baccalaureate takes choice away from students by specifying a narrow range of GCSE subjects that will qualify them for the award. The current Education Bill will grant the Secretary of State more than 50 new powers. So much for people power and the "big society". Burnham, like Balls before him, has pursued Gove relentlessly, concentrating in recent weeks on the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), the payments of up to £30 a week given to students from low-earning households if they stay on at school.

In opposition, Gove made an explicit pledge: "Ed Balls keeps saying that we are committed to scrapping the EMA. I have never said this. We won't." Gove has since scrapped the allowance - but Burnham has received legal advice suggesting that the earlier pledge may have given rise to a "legitimate expectation" by students that these payments would continue. Those students who are set to lose their EMA midway through a two-year course could have a legal case against Gove. To lose one judicial review might be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two would be careless indeed. "Losing the review last week was a huge error," says a senior Tory source. "If any other minister had, they'd be in serious trouble."

Cameron, however, values loyalty and protects his friends. But he also sees himself as the "heir to Blair". The former Labour prime minister was willing to cut his friend and confidant Peter Mandelson loose in the second year of his government, in 1998. Would Cameron ever do the same with Gove?

The Prospect of Prussia

The latest Prospect may contain James Purnell's call for Labour to endorse the Coalition's Blairite schools and health policies; time was when Labour proscribed and expelled parties within the party. But it also contains, more or less, this letter from me in response to a previous article:

Not as a political cause or entity, but as a shared culture and heritage, a common sense of Prussianness across all the areas forming part of that Kingdom during its 1871-1918 heyday would be no bad thing at all, but rather a significant force for peace and stability across Germany, France, Belgium, Denmark, Poland and Russia.

The best Prussian values were not only noble in themselves, but informed the first Welfare State, both they and it being significant forces for unity between Teutons and Slavs, and between Catholic and Protestant parts of Europe.

An insistent and concerted witness to that whole heritage, which notably spawned the attempt to assassinate Hitler, on the part of provinces, municipalities and communities could only be to the benefit of Europe, and of the world, as a whole.

Tiptoeing To War With Libya

Daniel McCarthy writes:

Marc Lynch makes a tentative case for the U.S. to take action — but not too much action — against Gaddafi. The measures he has in mind include, “the declaration and enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya, presumably by NATO, to prevent the use of military aircraft against the protestors [sic]. It could also mean a clear declaration that members of the regime and military will be held individually responsible for any future deaths. The U.S. should call for an urgent, immediate Security Council meeting and push for a strong resolution condeming [sic] Libya’s use of violence and authorizing targeted sanctions against the regime.” Various neoconservatives and Republican hawks have been calling for similar measures. Lynch, at least, says he is “keenly, painfully aware of all that could go wrong with even the kinds of responses I am recommending.”

Never mind what can go wrong, though — what could possibly go right? Sanctions won’t even give pause to the killing, much less end it, and Gaddafi has much more to worry about than “a strong resolution condemning” him or a “clear resolution” that he’ll be held accountable at the Hague. He’s going to be hanging from a lamp post once he loses power. His henchmen face an even starker calculation: join the resistance and risk being shot by Gaddafi himself or stick with him and enjoy the same fate if he’s vanquished. Either way, the terrors of international tribunals pale by comparison.

Aside from making Western interventionists feel better about themselves, the only use the symbolic measures proposed by Lynch have is to set a pretext for large-scale military invention, which Lynch insists he does not want. (“I don’t call for a direct military intervention.”) Imposing no-fly zone is not symbolic, of course: it’s “direct military intervention” pure and simple, an act of war. If a single NATO jet goes down, pressure to invade North Africa will be nigh irresistible. Interventionists of all stripes are fully aware of this.

Maybe naive good intentions outstrip common sense where some interventionists are concerned, but watch out: the Libyan slaughter is creating an opening for those who would have liked to stage-manage the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions to impose some “control” on unrest in the region. A Libyan intervention will be the first step toward putting an end to all this messy indigenous rebellion, so the task of proper, American-led “democratization” can resume. Considering the interests at stake, I expect the cries for intervention to grow very loud very quickly.