Category Archives: Foreign policy

The European future that faces is

It is fairly clear, even among Europhiles who want to stay in, what most people object to about the current state of the EU and what they would like to see changed.   The membership fee is uncomfortably large, some £11bn every year.   Free movement of labour works well between countries of similar living standards, but not between countries at very different levels of economic development.   The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and Common Fisheries Policy still take 40% of the entire EU budget, and cause considerable resentment in many countries, including the UK.   Most people, including most businesses, support free trade, but doubt whether the Single Market is worth the bureaucracy it generates.   It is widely felt that the EU is too regulatory and too protectionist.   Not many people in the UK want to see Britain becoming part of a federal United States of Europe, but that’s the direction favoured by many of Europe’s leaders.

Are these aspirations likely to be achieved in the current negotiations?   It seems very unlikely.   There may be a declaration that the UK is not fully tied into the EU goal of ‘ever closer union’.   The benefit entitlements of migrants from the EU to the UK will be restricted further.   There are proposals to strengthen the sovereignty of national parliaments and for the role of the City to be safeguarded against discriminatory EU financial regulation.   But none of this is likely to impact significantly on the concerns that most people have about EU membership, and particularly at a time when the EU is running into deeper difficulties.   The austerity policies to maintain the single currency leave EU living standards, as in the UK, still well below 2007 levels.   The way the Germans treated Greece has heavily undermined the perception of the EU as a force for tolerance and fairness.   Far right parties are on the march across much of the EU and will increasingly put at risk unpopular policies needed to keep the single currency from collapse.

This may explain why the latest polls suggest that 43% of people in the UK wish to leave and only 40% to stay in.   So how is a policy to remain within the EU, which most Labour Party members want, to be combined with renegotiation aims that meet the objections of the majority of British people?   Cameron and Osborne seem only interested in achieving the minimum changes that will persuade a majority of the electorate to vote to stay in.   Nor has the Labour party so far offered a vision much beyond this minimalist goal.   Once a new leader is elected, this must become a top priority.

Cameron’s declared bombing aims in Syria are ridiculously vain

We have all learnt that Cameron routinely makes up policy on the hoof, but he has really outdone himself by his explanation of his case for bombing Syria.   First of all as he states it, his military case is the defeat of ISIS.   This is risible since the contribution that he is planning for Britain to make to that end would be marginal to the point of invisibility.   It would not only be wholly ineffective, it would also have the perverse effect of making the streets of Britain less safe as ISIS or its affiliates sought to take revenge.   But most important of all, it is easy to enter a war by some vainglorious posturing as Cameron is intending, but very difficult to exit a war as Iraq and Afghanistan make all too clear.   There is the other inconvenient problem for Cameron that if Jeremy Corbyn wins on Saturday, his chances of winning a Commons vote are far from certain.

Cameron’s second declared goal is the political objective of strengthening the Iraqi government.   This is equally fanciful thinking.   UK participation in a few bombing raids in Syria will not have the slightest impact in achieving a more secure government in Iraq.   It is a cliche’ that everyone understands that no war can be won or country saved from defeat by bombing from the air, only by boots on the ground.   The protection of Baghdad is entirely a matter of the resolution and discipline of the Iraqi army, reinforced as it already is by heavy weaponry supplied by the West.   The truth is that adding a few UK bombing sorties in Syria is far more likely to spur extra recruitment for ISIS/al-Qaeda  than consolidate the government in Iraq.

Cameron’s third goal is to help to lead a new diplomatic initiative in Syria which with the support of Russia and China would install a government of national unity in Damascus.   This again is a preposterously bloated ambition.   The idea that Russia or China will take any notice of Britain’s minuscule participation in Syria in modifying or reversing their deeply held positions on the Middle East is again absurd.   The proposal also rather arrogantly dismisses the far more important role of the US, EU and UN which are bound to be the key players in any wider initiative alongside not only Russia and China, but also the regional powers of Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia.   Who does Cameron think he is?

 

Cameron misleads the Commons again

There are three big holes in the government’s defence of the drone killings of 3 British citizens in Syria in this last month.   One is the legality when under Article 51 of the UN charter every country has the right of self-defence, but any armed attack would have to be “imminent or actual”.   More specifically the need for pre-emptive self-defence must be “instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation”.   That does no conceivably fit what happened.   Cameron told the Commons that Khan and Hussein, the two British jihadists killed, had been planning to attach public commemorations in the UK, and No.10 later specified VE Day in May and Armed Forces Day in June, long before the two men were killed in August.   On that basis the killing was clearly not within the law.

Second, there is the much more blatant fact that these killings defy the unambiguous vote of the Commons in 2013 rejecting UK bombing in Syria.   It is clear that Cameron intended at the end of July this year to recall Parliament which had just gone into recess in order to win a vote to start a UK bombing campaign in Syria, but at the last minute pulled back.   Then by September the abrupt rise of Jeremy Corbyn made it unlikely, or at least uncertain, that such a vote could then be won, so Cameron and Fallon decided to make the issue a prior settled one in order to get their way.   But this is a blatant abuse of Parliament for which the government should be expressly censured.

A third very serious gap in the government’s handling of this episode concerns the legal advice received by the PM and National Security Council from the government’s Law Officers.    Jeremy Wright, the attorney general, has been keeping a very low profile, and it is crucial that that advice, and the reasons for it, should now be fully disclosed, both regarding these drone killings already executed and any that might organised in future.

Cameron never answered any of these charges in the House, but concentrated instead on his own agenda (as he always does, irrespective of the questions asked).   That was to try to demonstrate his readiness to take tough action against ISIS and to win plaudits from the more bloodthirsty parts of the press.   But above all, he should not be allowed to get away with operating drone killings as a matter of policy without any parliamentary sanction.

So Tory ministers lying to Parliament is now OK?

The revelation that British air crews have been engaged in bombing operations against ISIS in Syria for the last 10 months, in strict defiance of a Parliamentary vote two years ago prohibiting this, should be a matter where ministerial heads roll.   The excuse given by the Prime Minister’s office that they were embedded with US forces and not operating under a British chain of command is risible.   The vote in 2013 was explicit that there was not to be any British military involvement in the Syrian conflict.   For Fallon as defence secretary then secretly to allow 20 British personnel, including 3 pilots, to take part in U.S.-led bombing missions against ISIS targets in Syria is direct defiance of a Parliamentary red line irrespective of whether British air crew were operating under U.S. or British command structures.   This a very serious abuse of Parliament.   If Parliamentary sovereignty is to mean anything, Fallon should stand down or be forced to resign.
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Tories talk of freedom, but authoritarianism is their hallmark

This last week something little-noticed happened which could have very worrying consequences for the future.   All local authorities, NHS trusts, schools, universities, further education colleges, and prisons had a new statutory duty imposed on themto prevent extremist radicalisation taking place within their ambit.   These new duties will be vastly intrusive.   Local authorities will have to make checks on the use of its public buildings, its internet filters, and on any unregulated settings such as school clubs and groups and tuition centres.   In case there is any backsliding, government inspectors will check to make sure all necessary actions are taken.   And most sinister of all, the target for all this isn’t just extremist behaviour (whatever exactly that means), but ‘non-violent extremism’.
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Tectonic plates shifting in world power structure are signs of a new world order

Something has just happened which got hardly any attention in the media, but which is very important.   The recent setting up by China of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank may not seem likely to excite the passions, but it should.   For this is clearly an intention by the big Asian powers to challenge the World Bank and the IMF which have been the cornerstone of Western (for which read US) domination of the global economy since Bretton Woods in 1944 and the main deliverers of the so-called ‘Washington consensus’.   It is equally significant that several of Washington’s European allies, led by Britain, have signed up to become founding members of the new bank, despite vigorous US  lobbying to stop them joining.  France, Germany and Italy have also now joined up, and Australia and South Korea are also now thought likely to join.   This unprecedented desertion of the US approach by its key allies has left Washington scrambling to recover from a major setback.   But the immediate signs are that it’s not succeeding.
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Western media-led view of Ukraine is selective and wrong

So Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the EU Commission, wants to set up a European army in the face of the threat posed by Moscow.   Quite apart from the fact that this would partly duplicate NATO and the suspicion that it is motivated more by the desire to centralise key powers at EU level since in terms of foreign policy (in Juncker’s words) “we don’t seem to be taken entirely seriously”, it completely misreads ‘the Russian threat’.   Over the last 20 years there has been a steady Western encroachment eastwards which was bound eventually to cause Russian resistance and retaliation.   It has also happened in blind disregard of ~Western pledges to do no such thing.
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Will 2015 be the year when the UK awakes to how disastrous right-wing economic, political, military ideology has been?

The end of 2014 has certainly brought home some hard economic truths.   Osborne told us he had a long-term economic plan and it was working because the UK had the fastest-growing economy in the G7.   Well, it isn’t: the UK economy is now growing at only half the rate of the US economy, and even Australia is now growing faster than the UK.   Worse, the UK economy is slowing,   David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, comments that “the stark revision (downward) in annual growth confirms that the pace of recovery is slowing.”   The budget deficit, which according to Osborne’s long-term economic plan, was supposed now to be £40bn is actually £100bn.   Worse, the deficit is now beginning to rise, not fall at all.   The re-balancing of the economy, another key part of the government’s long-term economic plan, hasn’t materialised and in fact has got much worse.    Kern again: “the current balance of payments deficit has risen to an unsustainably high level….owing to the fall in net investment”.   Business investors clearly don’t believe Osborne either.
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Lies, deceptions, ISC, MI5

The whole narrative of the UK government’s response to the brutal revelations of US rendition and torture at Guantanamo and ‘black sites’ spread across E. Europe, the Middle East and Asia has been one of subterfuge, deception and downright lying, in sharp contrast to the determination of the political class in the US to get (most of) the ugly truths out in the open.   It casts a profoundly dishonourable shame on this country both for its smothering blanket of secrecy and almost total lack of accountability for the grave misdeeds of Britain’s deep shadow State.   The duplicity of all UK governments over this issue in the last decade has been shocking.

Evasion 1:  The Blair government systematically denied any involvement for years, even though government memos were disclosed which showed that Straw delivered British Terrorism suspects to Guantanamo and even though Blair knew that the US was torturing its prisoners.
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