PRIME MINISTER GORDON BROWN: 'OMNIUM CONSENSU CAPAX IMPERII NISI IMPERASSET'?
Ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, probably the most successful Chancellor of the Exchequer since Lloyd George if not Gladstone, now First Lord of the Treasury, aka Prime Minister, Gordon Brown has it appears, after close to five months in office demonstrated once again the contemporary usefulness of Tacitus famous witticism concerning the Emperor Galba, on others of his ilk in history. Seemingly extremely well-equipped by his over ten years at the head of the most powerful Treasury Department in British history, to be Prime Minister, Brown and his government has in the past eight weeks appeared to begin to self-destruct before the public's very eyes. From the debacle over the run on the Northern Rock Bank, to the U-turn over calling a general election, to the more recent scandals over the Customs and Revenue Department losing 25 million personal identifications of UK citizens, and a bungled privatization of a defence contractor. Like a whirlwind, the round of mis-judgments, mistakes in policies and sheer dithering, appears to have come out of nowhere. The seemingly omnipotent 'Iron Chancellor', of the Blair years, has proven in his brief time as Prime Minister, to be out of his depth. Much more focused on 'reacting', rather than giving the appearance to either Parliament or the country of being able to impress himself and his policies on the nation. The front bench of the self-proclaimed, 'Ministry of All Talents', has proven to be a damp squib, if not a complete joke. With the Iron Chancellor, being succeeded by the papier-mache Chancellor (Alistair Darling), as being the most illustrative instance of the worthlessness of the current Cabinet.
As one who did a doctoral dissertation on British Diplomacy in the early to mid-1950's, travails of Gordon Brown bears more than a vague resemblance to those of Sir Anthony Eden during his premiership. It was Eden, who Randolph Churchill pilloried in his biographical study ('The Rise and Fall of Sir Anthony Eden', 1959) by affixing him with Tacitus' witticism. The long awaited premiership, so often postponed by his predecessor, seemingly mastery of one particular subject-matter to the exclusion of anything else in politics & the cabinet (in Eden's case foreign affairs, in Brown's of course, economics). The early honeymoon, followed by a series of crises and attacks in the press for failing to do with it. The tendency to micro-manage both the government and the Cabinet. The installation as his successor at his previous Cabinet position with a successor so maladroit as to give the appearance that only eunuchs will do (Selwnyn Lloyd for Eden and Darling for Brown). As we all know the end-result for Eden was early resignation after the debacle of the Suez Crisis. In the case of Brown, it seems highly unlikely that there will be any early ouster by either events or his party. The more likely result is that the 'drip, drip, drip' of criticism will eventually result in his losing both credibility with the public and parliament. Eventually both will kick Brown out like a ripe abscess. The end-result as it relates to future British foreign policy is that with a politically disabled Brown in Number Ten, we are in for another dose of 'unheroic unction' (to quote Eden) `a la the John Major premiership as it related to the Balkans Wars of the early 1990's. For an example of the current temper of political commentary on Brown to be found in the British press, please find attached a column by the Daily Telegraph's Simon Heffer. By all means read and enjoy.
Gordon Brown is in a hell of a mess now,
By Simon Heffer
"Some have been unable to resist the temptation, after the recent disasters for the Labour Party, to make comparisons with Black Wednesday, and the beginning of the end of the Major government. Those of us who stood by the grave of that administration - and, indeed, helped to dig it - know this is not entirely so. Then, dishonesty led on to incompetence. Now, incompetence - proved by the atrocity that was the handling of Northern Rock and compounded by the loss of 25 million personal financial records - has led on to dishonesty. One almost feels sorry for Gordon Brown. Enoch was right to say all political careers end in failure, but Mr Brown's career as Prime Minister seems to have begun in it.
One only had to watch his press conference yesterday to see in the raw the flaws in his character that caused so many to doubt his suitability as prime minister, irrespective of his policies. Confronted with the accusation that his deputy, Harriet Harman, had broken electoral law, he did one of the finest impersonations of Pontius Pilate seen for years.
Having revealed that Labour's rogue donor, David Abrahams, had offered his own campaign money, he revealed it had not been accepted because Mr Abrahams was unknown to him, and then denied knowledge of any other detail. This was a man whose party general secretary, Peter Watt, had just resigned after admitting wrongdoing, and whose deputy was already smelling of toast, and it was, as usual, nothing to do with him.
advertisementThe press conference, and what passes for the Prime Minister's handling of the funding scandal, were typical of the lack of leadership and absence of decisiveness with which Mr Brown now conducts business. These faults have become his hallmark. All the weakness displayed yesterday has been seen coming on several occasions over the past few weeks, ever since Mr Brown bottled out of the election he could have won - the only election he was ever likely to win, it may now turn out.
Take his behaviour last week. We shouldn't care, for example, if the unlikely claim that the records of 25 million people going walkies was down to "a junior official" is actually true. We shouldn't care if the head of HM Revenue and Customs fell on his sword without demur. We, the people, elect ministers to take the ultimate responsibility. When an error of this magnitude occurs, the only appropriate action is for the minister responsible to resign - not so much for his own sake, or to gratify blood-lust, as to encourage the others. It is a mark of the cowardice and self-interest of this administration, and a downright disgrace, that Alistair Darling is still in office.
That, though, was - so far - only metaphorically criminal. Now we have Labour accepting huge sums from people who turn out to be not donors but the proxies of donors. I suppose it is funny that Labour passed, in a peculiarly self-righteous and grandstanding fashion, the very law broken by this deception: but the Brown Terror has a knack of preventing us from finding much about it amusing. Even I, though, had to laugh on hearing the Chairman (as she does not call herself) of the party's National Executive Committee, Dianne Hayter, say with what I imagine was a straight face that the NEC had run "thorough and complete checks" into the donors. So when a man on a council estate writes it a cheque for £80,000, Labour does not even blink as it utters "comme toujours".
Be in no doubt: something very dirty has gone on here, and the resignation of Mr Watt will not be the end of it. Mr Watt said he knew what was going on but did not know the rules were being broken: yet he was Labour's ex-head of compliance, for heaven's sake. So is this incompetence or dishonesty? It would take a lifetime in the CID to work that one out, but I hope someone will try.
Some of us remember not merely the submersion of the Major government under its tide of lies, peculation, rent-boys and mistresses, but also the Poulson affair of the early 1970s. That, too, like this present funding crisis and the Northern Rock debacle, had its roots in the North East, which since then has become the heartland of Labour's client state. Poulson and his comrade-in-arms T Dan Smith bribed local councillors and officials to get lucrative building contracts. I am sure that this sort of thing has no bearing on the business interests of the real donor of £558,000 to the Labour Party, said to be David Abrahams, alias David Martin, aged 53/63? What are we to make of the decision by the Highways Agency at a time when the Transport Department was run by Mr Brown's blue-eyed boy, Douglas Alexander, to waive objections to a development scheme that stood to earn Mr Abrahams/Martin £60 million?
It might seem that Labour has netted a one per cent rake-off of Mr Abrahams'/Martin's earnings on this scheme. I am sure that this couldn't be true. But it smells to high heaven, does it not? What is Mr Abrahams'/Martin's link to Harriet Harman? Why did he feel he had to fund her successful deputy leadership campaign surreptitiously? Is it at all a coincidence that her husband, Jack Dromey, is the party's treasurer? Is her position compromised by this association with a man with interchangeable names, who uses others to shell out huge amounts of money on his behalf, who was deselected when he stood as a Labour candidate because he invented a wife and child, and who appears not even to have a fixed date of birth? Is that the sort of man Mr Brown wants funding Labour, or his deputy leader wants funding her? Is this the sleaze-free, whiter-than-white image that Labour smugly boasted would prevail once the wicked, venal Tories were ousted? Is that a pig I just saw flying past the window?
Incompetence is one thing. It was blitheringly stupid to use taxpayers' money to prop up Northern Rock - something that looks ever more like the rest of us having to pay to placate Labour's strong regional interest in the North East. It was scandalous to allow procedures to exist that resulted in the loss of the confidential details of 25 million people. But these are faults of experience and ability, not necessarily of character. What is happening now is very much a question of character, not least that of our chippy, surly, brittle, humourless and increasingly hunted looking Prime Minister.
Mr Brown has a habit of maintaining black is white, and regarding the rest of us as mad for thinking otherwise. He has tried this in justifying Northern Rock. He has tried it in his insistence that no minister need take responsibility for the HMRC debacle. He has been trying it for ages in denying the English are being done wrong by the grievous devolution settlement, and by banging on about his "Britishness" to legitimate himself as Prime Minister of England. He is in a hell of a mess now, and his party with him. The trouble for those who put him, by acclamation, in his job is this: you can change policies at a stroke, but changing personality is a much trickier, and more ruthless, exercise altogether".
WHAT PROGNOSIS FOR ANNAPOLIS?
The upcoming diplomatic confabulation in the American, Southern city of Annapolis, is one which I, like many other observers were highly skeptical would achieve much (for which see Richard Holbrooke's remarks to that effect published here, almost four weeks ago). Well it would appear, in view of the breakthrough, in attendance at any rate, if not necessarily in actual results (just yet), seems to indicate that all of the players in this particular show: the Americans, Israelis, Palestinians, Saudis, the Egyptians and Jordanians, even the Syrians (!), have agreed to send delegations to come to this get together. With the latter in particular being the surprise announcement, in view of the hostility that Syria's ally Persia has expressed for Annapolis, as well as the pig-headed obstinacy that official Washington has expressed for the regime in Damascus. With however the partial American acceptance of the idea that the magic mots: 'Golan Heights', will not necessarily be forbidden at the meeting, Assad fils, gave the go ahead and decided to ignore the remonstrances of his ally in Tehran (for more on the dynamics of Syria's last-minute decision to go to Annapolis, go to the best of all possible sources on Syria politics and diplomacy: www.syriacomment.com
In light of my own not very good predictions about what may or may not be achieved, I thought that for once, instead of sitting on my diplomatic soapbox preaching on what should will or can be done, I would present for this audience of diplomatists in exile as it were ('internet exile' comme il faute), a potpourri of voices and views, from different venues. While none of them seem to say quite the same thing, they all do seem to indicate, that as opposed to the collective dismissal of the chattering diplomatic observers like myself or even seasoned practitioners like Richard Holbrooke, there is a small bit of hope that something, perhaps mere hope itself will emerge from the talks at Annapolis. Which is not to say that I have turned into a starry eyed optimist or a believer that the mere fact of 'talking' with one's opponents will magically make the many, many problems of the Near and Middle East suddenly, tout `a coup, disappear like magic. It will most definitely not. But, perhaps for starters, mere 'talk', pour-parlers, as it were is all that is needed or required. As Churchill rightly said in his dotage in the period when the existence of humanity seemed to be threatened (1954): 'jaw- jaw, is always better than war-war'. And, that goes for intifadas too my fellow readers.
"Anyone who expects Annapolis to lead to an agreement is ignoring the situation on the ground. The gaps between the relatively moderate Israeli stance, which is represented by the Olmert-Barak government, and the relatively moderate stance represented by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, are still too profound. Even a consensual declaration of principles is apparently unattainable: In any declaration of principles, the Palestinians will demand that Israel agree, more or less, to a return to the 1967 borders and to turning Jerusalem into the capital of the two states. It is hard to imagine that the Israeli government would be willing and able to do so at present. Although we can reasonably assume that a future settlement, if it is in fact achieved, will follow those guidelines, an outright declaration to that effect by Israel is not politically feasible at the moment....
What can nevertheless be expected of Annapolis? First, something has already been achieved. After almost six years in which Israeli and Palestinian leaders have not spoken to each other, in recent weeks they have been meeting regularly. Perhaps they have not yet reached agreements, but the fact they are talking is in itself an achievement that should not be made light of....
It is in fact a modest endeavor, and certainly not the End of Days. But after the collapse of the Oslo Accords and what seemed to be a rift that could not be mended, this is a certain and significant achievement. Only in this way, step by step, will peace ever be established in our region".
"To Annapolis - Without Illusions", by Shlomo Avineri in www.haaretz.com.
"Few events in Mideast peacemaking history have been subjected to as much cynicism as today's Annapolis meeting. This is due to the perceived lack of planning in the lead-up to the meeting, mismanagement of expectations, and the reported gaps between Israelis and Palestinians over the text of a joint declaration at the meeting's conclusion.
A closer look, however, reveals that prospects for the meeting may not be so bleak. Following six-and-a-half years of aversion to getting involved in Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolution, the US is now seriously engaged. Just as important is the unprecedented tying in of Palestinian statehood with American interests. Speaking in Ramallah on October 15, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice unequivocally stated that a Palestinian state was an American national interest.
Another first is the mutual trust by the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in the sincerity of the other in wanting peace. So too is the changed Middle Eastern political environment, one that is close to the tipping point in terms of the spread of violent radicalism. This has focused minds in the US, Israel, and among moderate Arab states. All of these dots have connected to make reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement in all the parties' interests.
With realism and achievability as the context in which success is defined, two tracks must progress in tandem. The first is the initiation of a serious process of negotiations between the parties leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state based on internationally accepted parameters and the 2002 Arab peace initiative. This is the much-mentioned "political horizon" that is so critical to re-establishing Palestinian faith in achieving statehood through negotiations. Progress on this track will result in increased Arab involvement in the process, particularly that of Saudi Arabia. Arab participation is critical in both reassuring a skeptical Israeli public and giving Palestinians the political support to make the necessary tough political decisions. The role of the US must be to closely oversee, monitor, and shepherd the process with accountability and consequences for recalcitrant action by either side....
Equally important is the second track, which is a visible and marked improvement of conditions on the ground. Internally, Palestinians are primarily concerned with establishing law and order. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has taken significant steps toward re-establishing security with the recent deployment of thousands of Palestinian police across the Occupied West Bank, most notably in Nablus....
Can all of this be accomplished without Palestinian unity and the continued exclusion of Hamas? Initially yes. The mandate of President Mahmoud Abbas, as chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, entitles him to negotiate with Israel. Hamas' violent takeover of Gaza has decreased its support among Palestinians, reducing its spoiler ability. Future progress on the political track and improvements on the ground will further weaken Hamas, allowing Abbas to negotiate a national unity agreement with the movement from a position of strength, based on acceptable conditions".
"Give the Peace Summit a Chance", by Raafat Dajani is executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine, in www.dailystar.co.lb.
"The bar is very low. Success would be a reaffirmation of the common principles of working towards a “two-state solution”, Israel and a Palestinian state side by side; recognition of Israel’s need for security (the stock phrase that refers to protection from Palestinian terrorism); and the need of Palestinians for a viable economy (at the moment throttled by the seal that Israel has thrown around Gaza, and its clampdown on the West Bank). Throw in trappings such as the presence of Syria, and a Saudi official not below the level of Foreign Minister, and that would do....
It’s hard, but yes. Professional optimists – and most of those who give their lives to the cause of Middle East peace are of necessity of this breed - subscribe to the philosophy that it is always good to talk. Even if that seems trite, this is a good time for another attempt – not because either side is strong enough to make the concessions that have proved so elusive, but precisely because of the new mutual sense of threat and urgency. A deal may be as hard as ever to reach, but the consequences of failure are clearly becoming worse".
"Why the Annapolis Talks - and a fear of failure - raise hopes for Middle East", Bronwen Maddox is Chief Foreign Commentator of The (London) Times, in www.timesonline.co.uk
GEOPOLITICAL INTELLIGENCE REPORT: A Glimmer of Hope at Annapolis, By George Friedman
"U.S. President George W. Bush will host a meeting Nov. 27 between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Annapolis, Md. This is fairly banal news, as the gathering seems intended to give the impression that the United States cares what happens between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The last such meeting, the Camp David summit between Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak, sponsored by then-President Bill Clinton, was followed by massive violence. Therefore, the most we have learned to hope for from such meetings is nothing. This one will either be meaningless or catastrophic.
There is an interesting twist to this meeting, however. The Arab League voted to encourage Arab foreign ministers to attend. The Saudis have announced they will be present, along with the Egyptians and Jordanians who were expected there. Even the Syrians said they will attend, as long as the future of the Golan Heights is on the table. We would expect the Israelis to agree to that demand because, with more bilateral issues on the table, less time will need to be devoted to Palestinian issues. And that might suit many of the Arab states that are ambivalent, to say the least, about the Palestinians....
Behind this strange move are the complexities of Palestinian politics. As PNA president, Abbas is charged with upholding its charter and executing PNA foreign policy. But another group, Hamas, won the last parliamentary elections and therefore controlled the selection of the prime minister. Such splits are not uncommon in political systems in which there is a strong president and a parliamentary system, as in France.
But in this case the split ripped the Palestinians apart. The problem was not simply institutional, but geographic. The Palestinian territories are divided into two very different parts -- the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The former was dominated by Jordan between 1948 and 1967, the latter by Egypt. They have very different social and economic outlooks and political perspectives. In June, Hamas rose up and took control of Gaza, while Abbas and Fatah retained control of the PNA and the West Bank.
This created an historic transformation. Palestinian nationalism in the context of Israel can be divided into three eras. In the first era, 1948-1967, Palestinian nationalism was a subset of Arab nationalism. Palestine was claimed in whole or in part by Egypt, Jordan and Syria. In the second era, 1967 to mid-2007, Palestinian nationalism came into its own, with an identity and territorial demands distinct from other Arab powers. An umbrella organization, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), consisting of diverse and frequently divided Palestinian movements, presided over the Palestinian national cause, and eventually evolved into the Palestinian National Authority.
Recently, however, a dramatic shift has taken place. This was not simply the Hamas victory in the January 2006 elections, although the emergence of an Islamist movement among the Palestinians represented a substantial shift among a people who were historically secularist. It was not even the fact that by 2007 Hamas stood in general opposition to the tradition of the PLO, meaning not only Fatah but other Palestinian secular groups. The redefinition of the Palestinian issue into one between Islamists and secularists had been going on for a while.
Rather, it was the rising in Gaza that dramatically redefined the Palestinians by creating two Palestinian entities, geographically distinct and profoundly different in outlook and needs. The idea of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, divided by Israel, was reminiscent of Pakistan in its first quarter-century of existence -- when what is today Pakistan and Bangladesh, divided by India's thousands of miles, were treated as one country. It was a reach.
Suddenly in June, a new reality emerged. Whatever the Palestinian charter said, whatever the U.N. resolutions said, whatever anyone said, there were now two Palestinian entities -- "states" is a good word for them, though it upsets everyone, including the Palestinians. Hamas controlled Gaza and Fatah controlled the West Bank, although neither saw this situation as final. The PNA constantly threatened to reassert itself in Gaza, while Hamas threatened to extend its revolution to the West Bank. Either might happen, but for now, the Palestinians have split along geopolitical lines.
From Israel's point of view, this situation poses both a problem and an opportunity. The problem is that Hamas, more charismatic than the tired Fatah, opposes any settlement with Israel that accepts the Jewish state's existence. The opportunity is, of course, that the Palestinians are now split and that Hamas controls the much poorer and weaker area of Gaza. If Hamas can be kept from taking control of the West Bank, and if Fatah is unable to reassert its control in Gaza, the Israelis face an enemy that not only is weakened, but also is engaged in a long-term civil war that will weaken it further.
To bring this about, it is clear what Israel's goal should be at Annapolis. That is, to do everything it can to strengthen the position of Abbas, Fatah and the PNA. It is ironic, of course, that Israel should now view Fatah as an asset that needs to be strengthened, but history is filled with such ironies. Israel's goal at Annapolis is to cede as much as possible to Abbas, both territorially and economically, to intensify the split in the Palestinian community and try to strengthen the hand of the secularists. Israel, however, has two problems.
First, Israeli politics is in gridlock. Olmert remains as prime minister even after the disaster in Lebanon in 2006, because no real successor has emerged. The operant concept of the Israelis is that the Palestinians are unstable and unpredictable. Any territorial concession made to the Palestinians -- regardless of current interest or ideology -- could ultimately be used against Israel. So, creating a Palestinian state in the West Bank would turn what is a good idea now into a geopolitical disaster later, should Abbas be succeeded by some of the more radical members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade -- a group that carried out suicide bombings during the intifada. Israel's obsession with the unpredictability of the Palestinians and its belief in territorial buffers cannot be overcome by a weak government. Thirty years ago, it took Menachem Begin, heading a strong government from the right, to make peace with the Egyptians.
At the same time, the Israelis are terrified at the idea that Hamas will topple Fatah and take control of the Palestinian community as a whole. As Olmert was quoted as saying Nov. 23, "We cannot maintain the status quo between us and the Palestinians ... it will lead to results that are much worse that those of a failed conference. It will result in Hamas taking over Judea and Samaria, to a weakening or even the disappearance of the moderate Palestinians. Unless a political horizon can be found, the results will be deadly." Olmert clearly understands the stakes, but with Benjamin Netanyahu to his right, it is unclear whether he has the political weight to act on his perception.
For Olmert to make the kind of concessions that are needed in order to take advantage of the geopolitical situation, he needs one thing: guarantees and controls over the evolution of Hamas. We have seen Fatah go from what the Israelis consider the devil incarnate to a moderating force. Things change. If Hamas can be brought into the political process -- and the split between Gaza and the West Bank maintained -- Israel will be in a superb position. But who can moderate Hamas, and why would Hamas moderate?
Enter the Saudis. The Arab League resolution gave them cover for attending the Annapolis talks -- which is the reason they engineered it. And the Saudis are the one force that has serious leverage with Hamas, because they underwrite much of Hamas' operations. Hamas is a Sunni Islamist group and as such has a sympathetic audience in Riyadh. Indeed, in many ways, Hamas is the Saudi answer to the secular Fatah. Therefore, if anyone can ultimately deliver Hamas, it would be the Saudis. But why would they?
On the surface, the Saudis should celebrate a radical, Islamist Palestinian movement, and on the surface they do. But they have become extremely wary of radical Islamism. Al Qaeda had a great deal of sympathy in the kingdom, but the evolution of events in the Islamic world since 9/11 is far from what the Saudis wanted to see. Islamist movements have created chaos from Pakistan to Lebanon, and this has created opportunities for a dangerous growth in Shiite power, not to mention that it has introduced U.S. forces into the region in the most destabilizing way possible.
At the end of the day, the Saudis and the other royal families in the Persian Gulf are profoundly conservative. They are wealthy -- and become wildly wealthier every day, what with oil at more than $90 a barrel -- and they have experienced dangerous instability inside the kingdom from al Qaeda and other radical Islamist movements. The Saudis have learned how difficult it is for the state to manage radical Islamism, and the way in which moral (and other) support for radicals can destabilize not only the region, but Saudi Arabia as well. Support in parts of the royal family for radical Islamist movements seems dicier to everyone now. These are movements that are difficult to control....
That means that the Saudi view of Hamas is somewhat different today than it was 10 years ago, when Riyadh was encouraging the group. A civil war among the Palestinians would achieve nothing. Nor, from the Saudi perspective, would another intifada, which would give the Americans more reason to act aggressively in the region. The Saudis have moved closer to the Americans and do not want them to withdraw from Iraq, for example, though they do wish the Americans would be less noisy. A Hamas grab for power in the West Bank is not something the Saudis want to see now....
The Saudis want to stabilize the situation without destroying Hamas (which is very different from al Qaeda, given that it stems from the Muslim Brotherhood tradition). The Israelis want to maintain the split between Hamas and Fatah and limit Hamas' power without eliminating it -- they like Fatah looking toward the Israelis for protection. Fatah badly needs to deliver concessions from Israel to strengthen its hand. The Americans can use a success and a change of atmospherics in the region.
Here is the delicate balance: Abbas has to receive more than he gives. Otherwise his credibility is shot. The Israelis find it difficult to make concessions, particularly disproportionate ones, with a weak government. But there are different kinds of strengths. Begin could make disproportionate concessions to the Egyptians because of his decisive political strength. Olmert is powerful only by default, though that is a kind of power.
It is interesting to think of how Ariel Sharon would have handled this situation. In a way he created it. By insisting that Israel withdraw from Gaza, he set in motion the split in the Palestinian community and the current dynamic. Had he not had his stroke, he would have tried to make Annapolis as defining a moment as the Begin-Sadat summit. It would be a risky move, but it should be recalled that few besides Begin believed that the Camp David Accords on the Sinai would have lasted 30 years. But that is merely editorializing. The facts on the ground indicate an opportunity to redefine the politics of the region. There are many factors lining up for it, the concessions Olmert would need to make in order to box Hamas in might simply be beyond his ability.
So long as no one mentions the status of Jerusalem, which blew up the Camp David meetings under Clinton, there is, nevertheless, a chance here -- one we take more seriously than others". in www.stratfor.com
KISSINGER ON DIPLOMACY IN THE POST-BUSH ERA
"Foremost among the attitudes which affect the making of our policy is American empiricism and its quest for certainly nothing is 'true' unless it is 'objective' and it is not 'objective' unless it is part of experience. This makes for the absence of dogmatism and for the ease of social relations. But, it has pernicious consequences in the conduct of policy. Policy is the art of weighing probabilities; mastery of it lies in grasping the nuances of possibilities. To attempt to conduct it as a science must lead to rigidity. For only the risks are certain; the opportunities are conjectural. One cannot be 'sure' about the implications of events until they have happened and when they have occurred it is too late to do anything about them. Empiricism in foreign policy leads to penchant for ad hoc solutions. The rejection of dogmatism inclines our policy-makers to postpone committing themselves until all the facts are in; but by the time the facts are in, a crisis has usually developed or an opportunity has passed. Our policy is therefore, geared to dealing with emergencies; it finds difficulty in developing the long-range program that might forestall them"
. Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy
, 1957, pp. 423-424.
"The Statesman's duty is to bridge the gap between his nation's experience and his vision. If he gets too far ahead of his people he will lose control over events. The qualities that distinguish a great statesman are are prescience and courage, not analytical intelligence. He must have a conception of the future and the courage to move towards it while it is still shrouded to most of his compatriots. Unfortunately while it is true that great are the statesman who can transcend ambiguity, not everyone who confronts ambiguity is a great statesman. He may even be a fool
".Years of Upheaval
(memoirs vol. II), 1982, p. 169.
Like all those who have wrestled with International Affairs and diplomacy in the period of world history beginning in 1789, Henry Alfred Kissinger, presents for the contemporary observer a large and formidable figure. Not only as a practitioner of the arts of diplomacy and diplomatic intrigue (as well as palace politics in domestic affairs) from 1969 to 1977, but both apres his time in office, via his voluminous, three volume memoirs, but, also prior to his time in Washington, DC. In a series of books and articles, Kissinger (without one must admit much in the way of archival scholarship), brought forth a very specific, weltanschauung, in his view of history (in the epistemological sense of the word) and of International Relations. Indeed, it would not be too much to say, that Kissinger probably, for good or ill, brought to the seat of power, the most well-developed ideas of the what was and was not possible in International Affairs, of any occupant of high office in American History. Loath him, or not, no one can argue that he is without a doubt one of the few first-rate minds, to occupy the office of Secretary of State, since the beginning of the American State. Consequently, any time Kissinger offers up comments on contemporary events, is I believe an event of the first magnitude. Both here in the USA and abroad. It is with this in mind, that I pro-offer for the edification of all, the following interview, which was first published in the week-end edition of the Wall Street Journal. As per the what are the most revealing or insightful remarks that Kissinger makes? I would say that they are two, and in essence they are interrelated: one to the effect that: "European Governments are not able any more to ask their people for great sacrifices". A truism, which has become so banal, that its significance has become totally obscured. The current generation in Western Europe, born after 1970, is one that has not only not had to face the possibility of nuclear annihilation, or even large-scale conventional war, but, in fact war of any type. Indeed, it would be true to say that for this generation of Europeans (and Canadians to, if it comes to it), the Kantian, 'ethical' state and a foreign policy to match, are the only normative types of state apparatuses which can possibly command any legitimacy. The time when Europeans were willing to accept that the State, in the Rankean sense of the word, would by definition be a machtstaat, is no longer tenable. And, as a consequence, the idea that the state, in essence the Hobbesian State, if you like, has the right, nay the duty to demand sacrifices of its citizens or subjects is completely outmoded. The days when the British State, circa August and September 1914, could by mere rhetorical flourishes: 'this country needs you', could enlist, voluntarily, about six percent of the entire male population of the country to serve in the trenches, in about six weeks, appears to describe not only another century but, indeed another planetary system of time.
The second comment by our august, ex-Secretary of State, which deserves notice is his remark, building on the one above, that: "only in Russia, the United States and Asia can it [the Nation-State] be found in its classical form".
Hence for Kissinger, the apparent, near-total reliance of Europe, id est Western and Central Europe on 'soft power', not as a weapon of first resort, but more of a crutch, faute de mieux. This following of course from the inability of European governments to demand any sacrifice from its populations. Which is not to say that Kissinger is not an adherent of the Robert Kagan school of thought about the inherent differentials between Americans and Europeans in the usage of not of force. However it would be obtuseness itself to not recognize that for much of the European pays legal, force and even the threaten used of force has become completely
illegitimate. As Kissinger points out, the differences are not so much, ones of contexts but ones of a philosophical difference. With that introduction, I urge you all to read this truly illuminating interview with Henry Kissinger.
THE WEEKEND INTERVIEW: Diplomacy in the Post-9/11 Era
"European governments are not able any more to ask their people for great sacrifices."
BY DAVID B. RIVKIN JR., November 17, 2007
"Whoever the next president is, the new administration will be extremely disappointed if it believes that our relationships will mend because its leader has a different name. . . . Personal diplomacy and relationship-building, although important, are rarely the paramount drivers of global affairs. These are shaped importantly by the long-term national interest."
Thus spake Henry Kissinger when I sat down with him recently in New York. Though I'd met him once or twice over the years, I had never seen him in situ--ensconced in his Park Avenue office. To be honest, I was expecting gilded furniture and sumptuous carpets--the kind of quarters Clemens von Metternich, one of Mr. Kissinger's own diplomat heroes, had in Habsburg Vienna.
I was, therefore, a little surprised to be ushered into a functional space with nondescript appointments, including a 25-year-old Sony Trinitron placed as if to emphasize he doesn't watch much TV. The man who negotiated the United States out of Vietnam, took Nixon to China, and initiated détente with the Soviet Union, received me like the college professor he once had been--surrounded by his books and mementos.
It is, of course, a rare opportunity to speak with one of history's makers and Mr. Kissinger remains one of the country's most prescient observers of world affairs. I began by asking him about the institutional atmosphere in Washington, the hothouse of American foreign policy. The capital is far more poisonous today than at any time in the recent past, I suggested--including Mr. Kissinger's heyday during the Vietnam War, when the early Cold War-era comity between the political parties and the executive and legislative branches was already degrading.
Mr. Kissinger leaned forward to answer my questions with studied deliberation. In part, he felt that this was institutional. Congress has itself changed. The "tradition of long-serving senior politicians from both parties who were devoted to a truly national service has passed, or largely so." The entire system, especially as it has been transformed by the communications revolution, "is now much more driven by short-term political calculations, the need to keep powerful and vocal constituencies happy, and an eye on the next election." This effect, Mr. Kissinger posited, has been enhanced by the 24-hour news cycle--"more information, and less content."
But Mr. Kissinger also dismissed the idea that there was ever some golden age for the domestic fundamentals of American foreign policy. With a wry smile, and a clearly bemused eye, he noted that the 1960s and '70s--when he served as both national security adviser and secretary of state under two presidents (holding both jobs during Nixon's second term)--were not "idyllic." "I thought," he said, "it was very rough."
The dominant theme of today's Washington battles is that most of America's current problems are self-inflicted wounds attributable to overly muscular and "unilateralist" Bush administration policies. Critics say that if only the U.S. were less eager to impose its will on other countries, whether in pursuit of traditional realpolitik goals or idealistic democracy-promotion, we would encounter a great deal less hostility. As Zbigniew Brzezinski, one of those critics and Mr. Kissinger's long-time intellectual sparring partner, puts it in his recent book, what much of the world wants from the U.S. is "respect" and recognition of its "dignity" defined as the ability to manage their own affairs as they see fit.
Mr. Kissinger agreed with the point that other nations will have to have scope to develop their own identities. But he pointed out that to have world order, "these identities need to be reconciled into some general consensus." An American strategy of benign neglect may, in any case, no longer be realistic in an age of increasing global integration when relatively small transnational networks or failed states can project power against democratic societies with devastating consequences.
Meanwhile, most of today's international actors, "including states, international organizations, and nongovernmental actors, are disenchanted with different aspects of the existing world order." Unfortunately, Mr. Kissinger noted, few of these actors are willing to play a constructive long-term role, preferring merely to challenge American policies when they involve risks.
So can our democracy effectively manage long-term foreign policy problems in a world of varied belief systems in which the U.S. is invariably urged, and sometimes required to deal with many imperfect, or even profoundly unsavory, regimes?
"You know," Mr. Kissinger reminded me in an accent as unique and recognizable in American history as Jack Kennedy's, "for somebody like me who, in his youth, lived in a dictatorship, the virtues of democracy don't have to be underlined." Of course, "the United States must operate in a democratic manner, and our foreign policy must reflect and properly balance both value and power considerations."
But, Mr. Kissinger noted, it is important to recall that the American Republic was not originally designed to sustain an ability to pursue a complex foreign policy. The Framers tended to assume that, once independent, the U.S. could operate reasonably well in relative isolation. These attitudes persist. As a result, Mr. Kissinger posits, Americans have little patience "for a long time of foreign tension."
Because of this, "presidents tend to present difficult cases, particularly those involving military engagements, to the American people in terms of a finite timeline. As a result, they often end up implying, or promising, achievements that may not be possible in the short term--and that are by no means guaranteed over the long term."
Foreign policy, he emphasized, "is not something easily put on the clock." It must "not oscillate wildly between excesses of commitment and excesses of withdrawal."
I glanced over his window sills, crammed with photographs of Mr. Kissinger and the world's leaders, toward the Manhattan skyline and inquired about the vitality of some of the key international institutions, and especially the U.N. "The Security Council," he insisted, "must be reformed, since--at the present time--it does not represent the realities of the international community because major countries like India, Japan, Germany and Brazil are not included."
At the same time, he explained that this reform is unlikely, since it would either involve expansion of the veto-wielding permanent membership--rendering the Security Council even less capable of decisive action--or elimination of the veto.
"This would be unacceptable to the United States and the other four permanent members," particularly in a world where the Council's actions, whatever their merits, are imbued with a great deal of perceived legitimacy. "But some change is necessary. The Council itself is breaking down--the interests of its permanent members are simply not sufficiently parallel on a number of issues to permit a unanimous decision and the Security Council can only reflect the attainable consensus. It cannot by itself create it."
This led to discussion of whether international institution building, accompanied by an all-out effort to restore the Cold War-era level of trans-Atlantic comity within NATO, would be a good investment for the U.S., and especially whether this should be a priority for the next administration. Mr. Kissinger was skeptical of the prospects for success.
He also emphasized some profound changes in today's geopolitical environment. He pointed out that the world we have known for 300 years now--the "Westphalian" international system that arose after Europe's wars of religion and is based on the nation-state--is "collapsing." This may be a much more profound shift than the move from dynastic to national motivations following the 1814-15 Congress of Vienna (about which Mr. Kissinger has written) and a more serious challenge to international stability than that posed by states such as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. The nation-state is weakening in Europe, he observed, and has met with mixed success in other parts of the world. "Only in Russia, the United States and Asia can it be found in its classic form."
Meanwhile, across the Middle East and southern Asia, although nationalism remains a powerful force, many cast themselves as a part of a greater Islamic community defined in opposition to the West. In Mr. Kissinger's view, a single formula will no longer adequately describe this international system.
This brought us inexorably back to America's most important relationship--with most of the world's other democracies in Europe. Mr. Kissinger pointed out that, in the immediate post-war period, "Europe was far weaker than today, but still prepared--with leaders like Adenauer, Schuman and Monnet, to conduct a real and assertive foreign policy--even if under the American security blanket and with a modicum of trans-Atlantic discord."
But today, fundamental philosophical differences divide the U.S and Europe across a range of key foreign policy issues. Europeans and Americans, I suggested, disagree as to both means and ends--especially the legitimacy of the pre-emptive use of force without an explicit blessing from the Security Council, as well as in their basic assessment of the gravity of the threats posed by transnational terror networks, which cannot be either bargained with or deterred.
The real difference, Mr. Kissinger interjected, lay in "what government[s] can ask of their people." It is because "European governments are not able any more to ask their people for great sacrifices," he argued, that they have so readily opted for a "soft power" approach to so many foreign policy issues. This will, of necessity, make it harder for Europe to reach a consensus with the U.S.
This is exactly what makes dealing effectively with growing threats so difficult. The question of how to deal with Iran and its nuclear ambitions naturally comes to mind. There is no doubt that Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons would be an extremely destabilizing development and cannot be tolerated by the U.S. Mr. Kissinger's view is that the U.S. must make a serious effort with Iran. He said that negotiations could work in the right circumstances and if there was enough determination behind them. "What you mustn't do," he cautioned, "is to identify diplomacy with escalating [Western] concessions." Right now we are "sliding into a position that we neither negotiate enough nor put out enough red lines."
Mr. Kissinger added, however, that the use of force against Iran cannot be ruled out. Diplomacy not backed by the potential use of force is impotent. This was part of our problem in dealing with Iraq for many years.
When it comes to dealing with our European allies over the longer term, there will continue to be some fundamental disagreements. But "to the extent the problem is characterized by some of our allies as the management of American power, then it is important neither to be immobilized because of a fear of unilateral action, nor to attempt to create an international system based upon it."
Here, Mr. Kissinger suggested that a useful lesson can be taken from 19th century Britain--act unilaterally when you must, but create a framework in which other powers are reassured by an "understanding of predictable" actions and an underlying agreement on objectives.
By the time I left Mr. Kissinger's office, I had a genuine feeling of unease about the future. But had I raised this with Mr. Kissinger, I suspect he would have simply said that this goes with the territory. Great states have great responsibilities. They must expect great challenges, and they must be prepared to meet them".
Mr. Rivkin, a lawyer based in Washington, served in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. www.opinionjournal.com.
A COLOSSUS WITH FEET OF CLAY? PERSIA'S MINORITY-MAJORITY PROBLEM APPRAISED.
"In order to develop a smarter Iran [Persia] policy, U.S. leaders must first accept certain distasteful facts - such as Iran [Persia]'s ascendancy as a regional power and the endurance of its regime - and then ask how these can be accommodated. Despite its incendiary rhetoric and flamboyant claims, the Islamic Republic is not Nazi Germany. It is an opportunistic power seeking to assert predominance in its immediate neighborhood without recourse to war. Acknowledging that Iran [Persia] is a rising power, the United States should open talks with a view to creating a frame-work to regulate Iran [Persia]'s influence....In this spirit, Washington must abandon its hopeless policy of regime change....Iran [Persia] simply does not have a cohesive opposition movement". "Time for Detente with Iran".
by Ray Takeyh, Foreign Affairs (March /April 2007).
Thus according to the 'Senior Fellow' at the CFR and respected author of Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic, there is nothing for the USA and the West to do in its coming confrontation with the Islamic Republic but to in essence capitulate by accepting both de facto and de jure, Persia's grossly exaggerated claims to predominance in the Near East. A prognosis which I deem to be a gross misreading of the reality of the underlying fundamental strengths and weaknesses of the Islamic Republic. Which is not to accept at face value, or for that matter at any other value the premises put about by our neo-conservative commentators (Richard Perle for example), that Tehran is a hotbed of pro-American masses yearning to be free, `a la the peoples of Central Europe circa 1989, who at the first shot from an American aircraft carrier or tank, will rise up, and overthrow their Turban-headed leaders. That scenario is extremely unlikely. However there is the possibility that the USA and its allies, can and if the chips are down, should, make use of the existing extensive cleavages in Persian society to disrupt Persia as much as possible. After all it would be no more than what Tehran has already done in say Afghanistan, Iraq and the Lebanon. As the Tehran-based writer and analyst, Kamal Nazer Yasin, cogently argues, almost fifty percent (50%) of Persia's population is non-Persian speaking. Many of which are located on the outlying periphery of the country. A good number are ripe for armed revolt due to the heavy handed rule of Persian, clerical elites from the centre. One of the more prominent of these discontented groups, is the Kurdish population. In the following article by Yasin, we are given a uniquely in depth view of the 'simmering cauldron', of the Kurdish population of Persia, and, how quite possibly this cauldron might, just might, be brought to a boil, by a combination of circumstance and outside interference, especially by Uncle Sam. However as the article makes quite clear, the impetus for the growth of the movement, is mostly a reaction to the misrule of Persian Kurdestan by the regime of Mullahs. That more than any outside interference, can and will make possible an strategy of 'regime change', or in this case, 'regime disruption'. This article first appeared in the Swiss German journal, ISN Security Watch on the 12th of November (www.isn.ethz.ch
Iranian Kurdistan: A simmering cauldron, By Kamal Nazer Yasin
"The Iranian government is taking aim at a shadowy branch of the Turkish Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in an attempt to head off rising resentment the country's ethnic Kurdish community.
Iran's ethnic minorities make up around 44 percent of the population. Except for the Azeri minority in the north, which comprises around 22 percent, there is much mutual mistrust between the ethnic groups and the central government. This is partly due to the bloody events of the post-revolutionary days when large-scale uprisings for independence and local autonomy became the norm in most outlying areas. Since that period, the government has come to look at these areas as potential sites of unrest.
While blatant and systematic instances of ethnic discrimination are rarely practiced in Iran, the border areas of Khuzestan, Balochistan and Kurdistan - where the ethnic Arab, Baloch and Kurdish minorities live, respectively - are among the most underdeveloped in the country, thanks to the government's reluctance to allocate much-needed capital and know-how to these regions.
Moreover, practically all mid- to high-level officials are brought in from outside, exacerbating the situation. It does not help that the population is primarily Sunni while the officials hail from the Shia branch of Islam.
The US government is fully aware of these tensions, and, according to published reports, is preparing several contingency plans to capitalize on mass discontent in these areas.
If and when destabilization campaigns against Tehran get underway, experts believe overt or covert support for these three regions will be high on the agenda of whoever will occupy the White House in January 2009. For now though, there seems to be little US direct assistance to any of Iran's ethnic groups.
The Kurdish minority is the Islamic Republic's second largest ethnic group. A mass uprising after the revolution, led by two armed Kurdish groups - the leftist-nationalist Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) and the Maoist Komoleh - managed to cleanse the area of the government presence for a while. This was followed by a mini-civil war that left tens of thousands people dead and wounded and much of the economy in ruins - a situation that has not changed much since.
Today, over 50 percent of young people in Kurdistan are unemployed or semi-employed, while there are only six large-scale factories operating in the whole province. In addition, the Kurdish population lives under heavy repression and militarization, courtesy of the Iranian government.
Change finally came with the fall of Baghdad in 2003, when the US-led invasion precipitated a takeover of the entire Iraqi Kurdish region -including the oil-rich Kirkuk -by two Iraqi Kurdish groups: the Kurdish Patriotic Front led by Jalal Talibani and Kurdish Democratic Party of Iraq (KDPI) led by Massood Barzani.
The freedoms and general prosperity of the areas under these two groups created a surge of optimism and hope for Iranian Kurds. In response, Tehran decided to finally loosen somewhat the long-standing repressive measures that had been in place for nearly 25 years. Cross-border visits to friends and relatives were allowed for the first time and a flourishing smuggling trade in goods and contraband was tolerated. This, it was hoped, would reduce the autonomous yearnings of the local population for the time being.
Another major development that followed the US-led invasion was that the two armed guerilla groups, Komoleh and KDPI, unilaterally decided to cease armed struggle, opting to engage in "non-violent means" instead. "This was more a pragmatic decision than anything else," a Kurdish journalist who closely monitors developments within these two groups told ISN Security Watch.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, he said the two groups were anxious to join a putative US destabilization campaign.
"They hit two birds with one stone," he said. "They could not be accused of terrorism any longer, while by doing so they could maintain their present force level for that anticipated time in the future when an Iran-US confrontation would finally take place."
Instead of armed skirmishes with the regime, their work consists of beaming daily TV and radio programs to Iran from their Iraqi headquarters: in Koi Sanjag, where the KDPI operates under Barzani; and the Zargar Barz, where Komeleh operates under Talibani.
As a rule, to make their power and influence felt in Iran, armed bands from these groups sometimes enter Iranian Kurdish cities at night, where they issue leaflets against known drug smugglers, threatening them with summary execution if they refuse to cease and desist. They return the next night to pass their sentence if the smuggler has not left the area.
The birth of a new rival
Under the aegis and supervision of the PKK, a new political-military entity, the Kurdish Party of Free Life, entered the scene in 2004. Known by its Kurdish acronym, PJAK, the group has changed the regional equation in unexpected ways. Led by the charismatic Rahman Haj Ahmadi, it managed to attract a goodly number of fighters and sympathizers from around Kurdistan in very short order, including disaffected KDPI and Komoleh members angry at the abandonment of the armed struggle.
At first the Iranian government did not consider the PJAK a serious threat. According to reliable sources, the Revolutionary Guards of Iran even created PJAK contingents of their own to infiltrate other groups and establish covert programs against Turkish interests in the area.
However, the first armed skirmishes with the PJAK in 2005 soon changed the government's complacency. The group proved far more adept at hit-and-run tactics and in propaganda against the government than had been anticipated.
Today, the PJAK's armed units freely roam the countryside, ambush patrols, hold "people's trials" against notorious collaborators or drug smugglers and make recruiting runs with great daring.
In August, the government ran out of patience and launched a heavy bombardment of PJAK camps in the rugged mountains of Qandil, where the PKK shares facilities and fortifications with PJAK, less than 20 miles from the Iraqi side of the border. In response, the PJAK started a robust guerilla counter-offensive that was so intense Kurdish sources claim that a large number of Revolutionary Guards recruits deserted.
The surprising resiliency of the PJAK confounds most local and regional players. Aside from the Iranian government, which had unwittingly aided PJAK growth by creating rogue contingents of the group, the Iranian Kurdish groups are hard pressed to find a viable strategy in dealing with this new entrant.
The Iraqi Kurdish Regional Authorities, particularly the Kurdish Patriotic Front, which has close links with Iran, are embarrassed by the PJAK's activities, which technically originate from their areas of control.
The US government is rather reluctant to give assistance to the PJAK at present, as it may complicate its efforts to force Iran to disengage from its support for groups like Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army in Iraq.
According to newspaper reports, US State Department officials refused to meet PJAK leader Haj Ahmadi last summer when he traveled to Washington for face-to-face talks, although unconfirmed reports indicated he may have met with mid-level Pentagon officials in DC.
A surprising, alleged player
When asked about the possible sources of PJAK funding and support, a noted Iranian political scientist who is an expert in regional geopolitics told ISN Security Watch that one need look no further than Israel.
"Israel is definitely in on it," he said, offering no tangible proof, but pointing to several reports of a heavy Mossad (Israeli intelligence) presence in Iraqi Kurdistan and the fact that Israel considers Iran as an existential threat to its security.
"Look, the Israelis supported the Kurds as early as 1965 when it suited their regional interests. The situation right now is far more propitious [...] than it was in 1966," he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
All indications are that the PJAK's strength will only grow in the future. Many Iranian Kurds are likely to secretly sympathize with PJAK's actions. A casual roundup of these opinions by this author in Kurdistan showed general support for the group's aim and motives, though some disparaged its methods.
Aware of this fact, the Iranian government closed the border for several weeks in September to increase the cost for political sympathy. This was ostensibly to protest the arrest of a high-ranking Iranian Revolutionary Guards officer by US Special Forces in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, who was visiting the area with permission from Kurdish authorities. The border closure caused severe hardship for Iranian Kurds whose sustenance is reliant on the border trade and smuggling.
Most experts believe that the PJAK's fate is closely bound to its parent, the Turkish PKK. The two Iraqi Kurdish groups have found in the PKK an important bargaining chip against both Turkey and the US that could be used for gaining full sovereignty over Kirkuk oil fields when the time for negotiating finally arrives.
And despite much pressure from the Turkish government to disband the Qandil camps, or Iran's pressure tactics against other regional powers, nothing will change the situation as long as Iraqi Kurdish authorities refuse to move against the PKK - and PJAK - positions".
GORDON BROWN'S FOREIGN POLICY: THE LORD MAYOR'S BANQUET SPEECH
"Of course the first duty of Government - our abiding obligation - is and will always be the safety of the British people, the protection of the British national interest. And let me affirm our commitment that we will always be vigilant and resolute, never leave ourselves vulnerable, but will at all times support and strengthen our armed forces, our defences and our security. Yet the timeless values that underpin our policies at home - our belief in the liberty of all, in security and justice for all, in economic opportunity and environmental protection shared by all - are also ideals that I believe that it is in our national interest to promote abroad. But we do so in a changing world where six new global forces unique to our generation are demonstrating our growing interdependence and pressing the international community to discover common purpose".
"Through our membership of the European Union - which gives us and 26 other countries the unique opportunity to work together on economic, environmental and security challenges - and the Commonwealth, and through our commitment to NATO and the UN, we have the capacity to work together with all those who share our vision of the future. And I do not see these as partnerships in competition with each other but mutually reinforcing".
"It is no secret that I am a life long admirer of America. I have no truck with anti-Americanism in Britain or elsewhere in Europe and I believe that our ties with America - founded on values we share - constitute our most important bilateral relationship. And it is good for Britain, for Europe and for the wider world that today France and Germany and the European Union are building stronger relationships with America".
"The 20th century showed that when Europe and America are distant from one another, instability is greater; when partners for progress the world is stronger. And in the years ahead - notwithstanding the huge shifts in economic influence underway - I believe that Europe and America have the best chance for many decades to achieve historic progress".
On Monday evening the 12th of November, Prime Minister Gordon Brown gave his first important foreign policy speech since arriving at Number Ten Downing Street earlier this year. As is well known, 'foreign affairs', is not the new PM's forte, unlike his predecessor, Anthony Blair. Id est, Brown, does not really 'do' foreign policy, just like he did not really 'do' Europe, when Chancellor of the Exchequer. Consequently there was more than unusual interest in how Brown would frame the annual Lord Mayor's Banquet Speech, a set-piece event in which the Prime Minister gives to urbi et orbi , his views on foreign affairs. The speech itself while lacking in the flair and the brilliance of ex-Prime Minister Blair's speeches, did set out sensibly enough, Brown's priorities (such as they are) in foreign policy: the dangers and the opportunities provided by globalization, the need for Pakistan to return to the democratic path, the 'protection of the British national interest' (perhaps the most fully anticipated sentence in the speech and hence the least thought-out...) and surprisingly enough a ringing endorsement of the strength of the Anglo-American alliance: "it is no secret that I am a life-long admirer of America". And, even more surprising were words indicating that Brown is closer to the Bush and Sarkozy on dealing firmly with Persia over its nuclear weapons programme, than the Deutsche Kanzler Angela Merkel's more accommodating line:
"Iran has a choice - confrontation with the international community leading to a tightening of sanctions or, if it changes its approach and ends support for terrorism, a transformed relationship with the world. Unless positive outcomes flow from Javier Solana's report and the IAEA, we will lead in seeking tougher sanctions both at the UN and in the European Union, including on oil and gas investment and the financial sector. Iran should be in no doubt about our seriousness of purpose".
Of course it may well be the case that when the time comes for serious action over Persia, that Brown will 'wobble', but, for the moment, it would appear that Brown has decided to join Washington and Paris, rather than Berlin and Brussels in over how to do deal with Persia. Aside from the usual, international development assistance & climate change boilerplate, the most interesting aspect of the speech was Brown's claim that he was an adherent of: "hard-headed internationalism". Which appears to mean that Brown while mouthing all of the right words that Prime Ministers of the UK are expected to utter: peace in the Near East, debt relief, and assistance for the Third World, et cetera, et cetera, will not be expected to be held to account for any discrepancies between his rhetoric and the reality of British Diplomacy. So, unlike Blair, who in the latter part of his premiership, was often tripped up by the contradiction between his earlier, visionary language ("ethical dimension" anyone?) and his later, more sordid dealings with Bush and say the King of Saudi Arabia, Brown straight out of the box informs his audience that they should not: a) expect any soaring verbiage from him; b) to not to expect him to be bother by or explain away, even those instances when his rhetoric does contradict reality. A prime case in point being that the language in the speech about Anglo-American relations almost directly contradicts the mere presence, much less the language of one of Brown's zanier addition to the Cabinet: his Foreign Office Minister, Lord Malloch-Brown. No doubt Brown's response to any queries on this subject would be a shrug of the shoulder's, and a response of 'no matter'(on the appointment of Lord Malloch-Brown to the Cabinet, and, exactly how long he will remain there [apparently not much longer], see James Forsyth & Claudia Rosett's article in the current issue of the London Spectator in www.spectator.co.uk
). And, while that might seem to be something of a falling away from the grander goals and themes of Blair's foreign policy, considering the state of the world, and, where Blair's goals (in conjunction with Bush's) has gotten us, perhaps that is not a bad thing after all. That being said, attached is Prime Minister Brown's speech in its entirety. Please read and enjoy:
"Tonight, I want to speak about Britain's unique place in the new world. And where, as a result, our responsibilities lie; how our national interest can be best advanced; and what we can achieve by working together internationally and by contributing to building the strongest and broadest sense of common
The new context
In the 1820s the then Foreign Secretary George Canning said that he had 'called the new world into existence to redress the balance of the old'. The order of the nineteenth century saw European empires spanning the globe. After World War Two a new international order was defined by the high stakes of the superpower nuclear stand off. Both these world orders shaped by political weight and military power.
In 1989 the old world order dominated by the Cold War came to an end. But how quickly events have disproved those who celebrated the end of the Cold War as 'the end of history'. From Bosnia to Darfur, Rwanda to Afghanistan we have seen a level of disorder and uncertainty that no-one predicted. And no one foresaw the scale of the dramatic and seismic shifts in economy, culture and communications that are now truly global.
Our international institutions built for just 50 sheltered economies in what became a bipolar world are not fit for purpose in an interdependent world of 200 states where global flows of commerce, people and ideas defy borders. With such transformative change comes a clear obligation, but also a great opportunity, to write a new chapter -- to set down for a new era a better 21st century way of delivering peace and prosperity.
Of course the first duty of Government - our abiding obligation - is and will always be the safety of the British people, the protection of the British national interest. And let me affirm our commitment that we will always be vigilant and resolute, never leave ourselves vulnerable, but will at all times support and strengthen our armed forces, our defences and our security. Yet the timeless values that underpin our policies at home - our belief in the liberty of all, in security and justice for all, in economic opportunity andenvironmental protection shared by all - are also ideals that I believe that it is in our national interest to promote abroad. But we do so in a changing world where six new global forces unique to our generation are demonstrating our growing interdependence and pressing the international community to discover common purpose.
First, few expected when the adamantine certainties of the Cold War came to an end, we would have to address the constantly changing uncertainties of violence and instability from failed states and rogue states. The spread of terrorism has destroyed the old assumption that states alone could access destructive weapons. As dramatic in a different way is a third force for change: global flows of capital and global sourcing of goods and services have brought the biggest shift of economic power since the industrial revolution - the rapid emergence of India and China as global powers with legitimate global aspirations. The new frontier is that there is no frontier.
The unprecedented impact of climate change transforms the very purpose of government. Once quality of life meant the pursuit of two objectives: economic growth and social cohesion. Now there is a trinity of aims:prosperity, fairness and environmental care. And as energy supplies are under pressure there is a new global competition for natural resources. New global forces at work - from pandemics to worldwide migration - make the task of overcoming the great social evils of hunger, illiteracy, disease, squalor and poverty even more challenging. And if, as Tom Friedman has written, the defining image of the 20th centurywas a wall representing division, the defining image of the 21st is a web championing connections -- a world where we can rightly now talk not just of the wealth of nations but the wealth of networks. The web cannot be controlled in the end by any single force or any single leader. And what happens within it cannot be predicted from day to day.
George Orwell was not quite right: the technology revolution he foresaw is not a controlling force enslaving people, but for the most part a liberating force empowering them. In the old order power affected people but could not easily be affected by them. But once powerless people now have the potential to be heard andsee their impact felt in places far away. And because our world is now so connected and sointerdependent it is possible in this century, for the first time in human history, to contemplate and create a global society that empowers people.
Why do I believe this is not only possible but essential? Because we cannot any longer escape the consequences of our interdependence. The old distinction between 'over there' and 'over here' does not make sense of this interdependent world. For there is no longer an 'over there' of terrorism, failed states, poverty, forced migration and environmental degradation and an 'over here' that is insulated or immune.Today a nation's self interest today will be found not in isolation but in cooperation to overcome shared challenges. And so the underlying issue for our country - indeed for every country - is how together in this new interdependent world we renew and strengthen our international rules, institutions and networks.
My approach is hard-headed internationalism: - internationalist because global challenges need global solutions and nations must cooperate across borders - often with hard-headed intervention - to give expression to our shared interests and shared values; - hard-headed because we will not shirk from the difficult long term decisions and because only through reform of our international rules and institutions will we achieve concrete, on-the-ground results.
Building a global society means agreeing that the great interests we share in common are more powerful than the issues that sometimes divide us. It means articulating and acting upon the enduring values that define our common humanity and transcending ideologies of hatred that seek to drive us apart. And critically - and this is the main theme of my remarks this evening - we must bring to life these shared interests and shared values by practical proposals to create the architecture of a new global society.
Through our membership of the European Union - which gives us and 26 other countries the unique opportunity to work together on economic, environmental and security challenges - and the Commonwealth, and through our commitment to NATO and the UN, we have the capacity to work together with all those who share our vision of the future. And I do not see these as partnerships in competition with each other but mutually reinforcing.
It is no secret that I am a life long admirer of America. I have no truck with anti-Americanism in Britain or elsewhere in Europe and I believe that our ties with America - founded on values we share - constitute our most important bilateral relationship. And it is good for Britain, for Europe and for the wider world that today France and Germany and the European Union are building stronger relationships with America.
The 20th century showed that when Europe and America are distant from one another, instability is greater; when partners for progress the world is stronger. And in the years ahead - notwithstanding the huge shifts in economic influence underway - I believe that Europe and America have the best chance for many decades to achieve historic progress ----
· working ever more closely together on the project of building a global society;
· and helping bring in all continents, including countries today outside the G8 and the UN Security Council, to give new purpose and direction to our international institutions.
And while no longer the mightiest militarily, or the largest economically, the United Kingdom has an important contribution to make. Just as London has become a global hub linking commerce, ideas and people from all over the world, so too our enduring values and our network of alliances, can help secure the changes we need.
A new framework for security and reconstruction
Today, there is still a gaping hole in our ability to address the illegitimate threats and use of force against innocent peoples. It is to the shame of the whole world that the international community failed to act to prevent genocide in Rwanda. We now rightly recognise our responsibility to protect behind borders where there are crimes against humanity.
But if we are to honour that responsibility to protect we urgently need a new framework to assist reconstruction. With the systematic use of earlier Security Council action, proper funding of peacekeepers, targeted sanctions - and their ratcheting up to include the real threat of international criminal court actions - we must now set in place the first internationally agreed procedures to prevent breakdowns of states and societies.
But where breakdowns occur, the UN - and regional bodies such as the EU and African Union - must now also agree to systematically combine traditional emergency aid and peacekeeping with stabilisation, reconstruction and development.
There are many steps the international community can assist with on the ladder from insecurity and conflict to stability and prosperity. So I propose that, in future, Security Council peacekeeping resolutions and UN Envoys should make stablisation, reconstruction and development an equal priority; that the international community should be ready to act with a standby civilian force including police and judiciary who can be deployed to rebuild civic societies; and that to repair damaged economies we sponsor local economic development agencies ---- in each area the international community able to offer a practical route map from failure to stability.
New initiatives in non-proliferation
And just as we will continue to be a leading nation in negotiating nuclear arms reductions, so we must be at the forefront of meeting the challenge of preventing nuclear weapons proliferation. And with more sophisticated after-the-fact detection of the source of nuclear materials there must be a determination to hold to account both active providers and potential users.
I propose internationally agreed access to an enrichment bond or nuclear fuel bank to help non-nuclear states acquire the new sources of energy they need. But this offer should be made only as long as these countries renounce nuclear weapons and meet internationally enforced non-proliferation standards.
The greatest immediate challenge to non-proliferation is Iran's nuclear ambitions, hidden from the world for many years in breach of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Iran has a choice - confrontation with the international community leading to a tightening of sanctions or, if it changes its approach and ends support for terrorism, a transformed relationship with the world.
Unless positive outcomes flow from Javier Solana's report and the IAEA, we will lead in seeking tougher sanctions both at the UN and in the European Union, including on oil and gas investment and the financial sector. Iran should be in no doubt about our seriousness of purpose.
Small arms kill every 90 seconds so as we call for an Arms Trade Treaty, Britain is willing to extend export laws to control extra-territorial brokering and trafficking of small arms, and potentially other weapons. And having led the way by taking two types of cluster munitions out of service, we want to work internationally for a ban on the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of those cluster munitions which cause unacceptable harm to civilians.
The renewal of the international institutions
To build not just security but environmental stewardship and prosperity free of global poverty, I want a G8 for the 21st century, a UN for the 21st century, and an IMF and World Bank fit for the 21st century.
And to achieve this I want to play my part in helping the European Union move away from its past preoccupation with inward looking institutional reform and I will work with others to propose a comprehensive agenda for a Global Europe - a Europe that is outward looking, open, internationalist, able to effectively respond both through internal reform and external action to the economic, security and environmental imperatives of globalisation.
I said my approach was hard headed because I am conscious of weaknesses in international institutions that need to be addressed, aware that while resolutions matter results matter even more, determined to judge success not by the number of initiatives in conference halls but by practical action for change, and resolute in my determination that we need fewer rather than more international bureaucracies. Indeed, we need a new network of change-makers - often non-governmental organisations - which deliver concrete action on the ground.
Long term but now also interim options must be examined to reform a UN Security Council - whose permanent members do not include Japan, India, Brazil, Germany, or any African country - to make the Council more representative, more credible and more effective.
The G8 has to increasingly broaden to encompass the influential emerging economies now outside but that account for more than a third of the world's economic output.
And we need a new coalition of democracies and civic societies joining together as allies for progress, with leaders in politics, economics and civil society all pushing forward reform.
International efforts against terrorism are not a short-term struggle where we get by through ad-hoc improvisation: this is a generational challenge. Global terrorist networks demand a global response. And if there are to be no safe havens for terrorists, and no hiding places for those financing and harbouring terrorism, we should work for a concerted global strengthening of law enforcement, financial supervision and policing and intelligence cooperation.
Financial disruption in one country can now affect all countries. The IMF should be transformed with a renewed mandate that goes far beyond crisis management to crisis prevention - not only responsible in the manner of an independent central bank for the independent surveillance of the world economy but becoming its early warning system.
As we move to a post 2012 global climate change agreement, we need a strengthened UN role for environmental protection.
And while we strengthen the World Bank's focus on poverty reduction, it must also become a bank for the environment. So as its new President Bob Zoellick has argued, it should recognise that the poorest countries are the most vulnerable to climate change - and help them to adapt and to finance low carbon economic growth.
Over the summer in places of turmoil as different as Darfur and Burma - where we will continue to pressure and persuade - the international community has shown how it can come together.
In Afghanistan we will work with the international community to match our military and security effort with new support for political reform and for economic and social development.
And today and together we call on President Musharraf of Pakistan to restore the constitution and implement the necessary conditions to guarantee free and fair elections on schedule in January; release all political prisoners, including members of the judiciary and human rights activists; to pursue energetically reconciliation with the political opposition; honour his commitment to step down as Chief of Army Staff; and relax restrictions on the media.
Nor will we shirk our obligations to the people and new democracy of Iraq and to the international community. As we move next month from our combat role to 'Overwatch' in Basra Province, we will support economic development to give the people of Basra a greater stake in the future.
And with the personal leadership of President Bush and the peace initiative involving all 22 states of the Arab League, there is potentially a window of opportunity to achieve - thanks to the political courage of Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas - the creation of a viable Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel.
For this we need not only a road to Annapolis but a road from Annapolis: the December donors conference in Paris; Tony Blair's painstaking work for which I thank him; and Britain's economic road map for reconstruction in the West Bank and Gaza, in support of which the Foreign Secretary and the International Development Secretary will both shortly visit the region.
Whether in the Middle East or across the developing world, indifference to the plight of others is not only wrong, but not in our interests. That is why we continue to do all we can to reach a world trade agreement that will be of most benefit to the poorest.
But the global poverty emergency cannot be solved by one organisation or even a coalition of governments on their own: we now need the concerted efforts of private, public and third sectors working together ------ a new public-private alliance founded on promoting trade and growth.
The injustices people inflict on one another are not god-given but man-made and we have it in our power to become the first generation in history to deliver to every child the long overdue basic right to education. And today we also have the science and medicine to be the first generation to eradicate the preventable diseases of TB, polio, diptheria and malaria -- and eventually to cure HIV and AIDS.
And with a special UN meeting next year, it is my personal commitment to work with all people of goodwill to achieve these goals.
By history and conviction, we - Britain - are bearers of the indispensable idea of individual dignity and mutual respect. But we act to build a different, better world because we judge that it too is the best defence of our own future. We know that Britain cannot be a safe and prosperous island in a turbulent and divided world. A better world is our best security, our national interest best advanced by shared international endeavour.
So this is our message - to ourselves, our allies, potential adversaries and people who, no matter how distant, are now our neighbours: Our hard-headed internationalism means we will never retreat from our responsibilities. At all times justice in jeopardy, security at risk, suffering that cries out will command our concern.
From the early years of this young century we can already discern what Britain, the first multinational state, has always known: that success requires that people of different races, religions and backgrounds learn to live in harmony with each other.
We have already seen what our values have taught us: that progress depends upon openness, freedom, democracy and fairness. And we are finding that prosperity like peace is indivisible and to be sustained it has to be shared.
And we have learned too that without environmental sustainability, justice and prosperity are both imperilled and that the best route to long-term economic growth lies in action to tackle climate change.
These lessons are not an excuse to relax or rest or be complacent but a summons to act with utmost resolve. For the pressing challenge for Britain and for the international community is to harness these insights in a sustained endeavour to reform and renew our global rules, institutions and networks.
Upon this rests our shared future: a truly global society empowering people everywhere; not yet here, but in this century within our grasp".
THE INTERNET AND DEMOCRATIZATION: A VIEW OF THE DEBATE AT THE UNIVERSITY CLUB
"This House believes that the Internet is the greatest force for Democratization in the world".
Such was the proposition put before a select group of people at the Erste Klasse, University Club in Mid-town Manhattan. In an event sponsored by the Oxonian Society (www.oxoniansociety.com
), the third annual, "Percy S. Douglas Debate", between members of the Society and Cambridge Alumni NYC. Speaking in favor of the proposition were society members: Cyrus Habib (St. John's)- a Rhodes Scholar, Truman Scholar and Soros Fellow. David Simon (Trinity)- a Rhodes Scholar and Truman Scholar. Daniel Raglan, LMH, partner in a Wall Street law firm and Atif Ansar who has had extensive experience at the World Bank, having worked in Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa. In Opposition were: Christopher Tine (Kings) - ex-Cambridge Union Society debater. Bobby Webster (Trinity) - ex-Cambridge Union Society debater. Diana Torres (Magdalen) - ex-Cambridge Union Society debater. Partho S. Ghosh - (St. Edmund's) a Wall Street Investment Banker.
The debate was well attended and was conducted with grace, a good sense of humor & fair play among all the participants. The debate was followed the traditional,'Parliamentary Style', born of course in the UK but now followed the world over. Of course it would be easy to point out the conceptual fallacy of the entire proposition, and, in their heart of hearts, few if any members of the team in favor of the proposition would whole heartily agree with it. By definition, 'Democratization', insofar as it is a realistic proposition in today's world outside of the advanced and semi-advanced countries of Europe, North America and parts of Latin America and the Orient, is for the most part dependent upon much more important variables as: increases in literacy, urbanization, education and per capita income. And, those do not even begin to list the other key variables that are necessary, such as homogeneity of population and perhaps equally important of all: a soupcon of luck. The sections of the planet where these factors are not present, or are so in only diluted form: much of Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, perhaps half of the Oriental nations and of course, almost the entire Near and Middle East, also tend to be lacking for almost completely lacking in Democracy and Democratization. As can be readily seen, the 'internet', or lack thereof, are hardly perquisites for either Democracy or Democratization. On balance of course, no doubt, even with all of its stupidities and vulgarities, the internet is a force assisting Democracy and Democratization. It is just that per se, by itself it cannot operate as some sort of deus ex machina. Merely one positive variable among many others.
Was the above jejune insights brought out in the debate? Yes, in fact they were, as (having the easier of the argument) the contra side from Cambridge, brought down their heavy artillery upon the poor members of the Society. And, while the latter did attempt to shore up their position with the occasional valiant counter-attack, their proposition was gradually in the course of the evening, worn away by the repeated logic chopping of their opponents. Praise in particular should be awarded to: Messieurs. Tine, Webster and the witty Mlle. Torres. On the opposing side, Messieurs. Habib and Simon were good-humourly ferocious in defending their side of the argument.
All in all a most enjoyable and intelligent evening of argument and debate was had by all.
BLOGGING AND FOREIGN POLICY: A COMMENT
"There are few things more depressing than reading Leon Blum"
Lev Davidovich Bronstein [Trotsky]
Several people have asked about the wreath I laid at the cenotaph today. It was obviously a different colour from the red poppy wreaths, and was made of live flowers. As is traditional it was made up by Kew Gardens from using ferns and flowers found in the 12 Overseas Territories.
Posted by David Miliband on 12 Nov 07
"Leadership within Islam"
The most effective people to take on the ideology of terrorism inspired or franchised by Al Qaeda are Muslims who are sick and tired of their religion being used as a basis for mass killing. That is the significance of the open letter from Muslim leaders (significantly Sunni and Shia) to the heads of all Christian churches calling for a united front to promote peace and understanding. The origins of the letter are in Jordan but the 138 signatories come from across the Muslim world. The text is a work of Biblical and Koranic exposition and interpretation. It is thoroughgoing and humanitarian. I look forward to the response, and to the dialogue that it calls for.
Posted by David Miliband on 05 Nov 07
"The Search For Peace in The Middle East"
The largest part of my meeting with Condoleezza Rice earlier this week was on the Middle East Peace Process. We spent almost an hour talking about the road leading up to the Annapolis Meeting at the end of this month and the road from Annapolis. We now have the best chance to make progress towards peace in the Middle East since 2001. We hope that an agreement at Annapolis will put the Israelis and Palestinians on a path to real negotiations in 2008, leading to a final settlement of two states living side by side in peace and security. Israeli security is absolutely fundamental to a just solution; and Palestinian hardship can only be tackled through a political process that creates an economically and socially viable Palestinian state at peace with Israel. Now is the time for the international community to be resolute against any attempts - and they will be made - to undermine the firm principles of peaceful coexistence and political dialogue at the heart of this process.
It is vital that the international community gets behind US leadership in this crucial period. The unanimous strength of feeling among European Foreign Ministers at the European Council in Lisbon was a very good sign in this regard and European actions will support the parties to the talks. And the history of Middle East talks shows that without active engagement and support from Arab states, the momentum for progress cannot be maintained - that is why the Arab Peace Initiative is so important.
In my first week at the Foreign Office I laid out the bedrock of our approach to the MEPP. It remains: first, to be unstinting in our support for the principle of a two-state solution; second, to give every support to those who are committed to peaceful progress in the region; and third to support economic and social development across the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad have made clear their commitment to the Quartet principles and peaceful progress. We are working closely with them. As for Hamas, their choice is whether to support the drive for peace based on a two state solution, or whether they will continue to shut themselves off from engagement with the international community following their bloody role in the deaths of over a hundred Palestinians in June.
The Foreign Ministers of France, Spain and Italy previewed for the European Council their visit to the Lebanon, where the countries' security forces are playing a vital role on the Lebanon/Israel border. The next month will also be critical for Lebanon. We have urged the government and the opposition to reach consensus on the Presidential elections. Hizbollah also need to decide what role they will play. They should end terrorist activity, abandon their status as an armed group and participate in the democratic process as a fully democratic political party. Our response will depend on the choice they make.
Posted by David Miliband on 25 Oct 07
All found on www.blogs.fco.gov.uk
And, one may amend tovarish Trotsky's comment by adding 'except perhaps reading David Miliband's blog'. What comes over one, as one peruses Miliband's jottings (let us presume for a second that in fact the tripe that one is reading is in fact Miliband's rather than some Assistant Private Secretary in his Private Office at the FCO) is a mixture of boredom and irritation that the UK rate payer is actually subsidizing this unadulterated rubbish. And, soupcon of embarrassment that the lineal descendant of the Viscount Castlereagh, Lords Palmerston, Clarendon, Salisbury, Granville, Landsdowne, Sir Edward Grey, Arthur Balfour, Lord Curzon, Sir Austen Chamberlain, Sir Anthony Eden, Ernie Bevin, Lord Home, Lord Carrington, Douglas Hurd, et al., has stooped so low, in such an infra dig manner, as to dish out to the public, his staff at the Foreign Office and his colleagues abroad in the chancelleries of Europe and the world, this warmed up soup of cliches and self-serving opinions. What can be more asinine than to read an entry titled: 'we haven't forgotten Burma' (supposed that you had Foreign Secretary what then?), which goes on to explain all the many things that the Foreign Office is trying to do in order to expedite and assist matters in that unfortunate country (the answer is in reality: not much). Once upon a time, the British Foreign Secretary, was one of the centres of power, occupying one of the cockpits of International Diplomacy. Reading Miliband's online journal, after awhile one comes to the depressing conclusion that the current incumbent at Number Ten Carlton Gardens, does not think very much of his new post, other than as a highly visible sinecure, in which to climb up the greasy pole of Labour Party politics, when Prime Minister Gordon Brown does eventually retire.
As for other examples of the genre, they are (believe it or not) even more asinine. The American State Department's 'Official Blog', titled: 'Dipnote', makes its UK counterpart to be unexpectedly intelligent, casual and unassuming. Not to speak of the fact that it is much more overtly propagandistic in both its content and form:
"Lebanon is in the final countdown of Emile Lahoud's presidency, due to expire at midnight on November 23. After having been deprived of its right to vote for a president three years ago, when Syria ordered a constitutional amendment to extend Lahoud's term, Lebanon's Parliament is charged with electing his successor. A struggle is underway about whether the new president will come from the "Cedar Revolution" March 14 bloc (that, despite the assassinations of four of its Members of Parliament in the last two years, still clings to a parliamentary majority) or instead be considered a "consensus" choice acceptable to Hizballah and Syria. Some fear that the political divisions in Lebanon can lead to a presidential vacuum, two parallel governments, or even violence. The United States and other international friends of Lebanon are helping to promote presidential elections held on time and without foreign interference and intimidation. The goal is that a "made-in-Lebanon" president, freely chosen by Lebanon's MPs, will reinforce Lebanon's sovereignty, independence, and democracy, through commitment to the principles behind the dramatic "Cedar Revolution" that led to the withdrawal of Syria's occupying troops in 2005".
"The Role that Lebanon Plays in Regional Middle East Stability", by Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman in www.blogs.state.gov.
The fact that Feltman himself has been attacked (rightly or wrongly is another matter of course) for interfering time and again in Lebanon's domestic politics, is something that one would not know of, from reading this entry (for attacks on Feltman's influence in the current crisis, see: www.syriacomment.com
). Which just highlights the fact that these officially sponsored, online journals are merely another means of propaganda and or the projection of officially sponsored truths. And, like all officially sponsored 'truths', should be held in suspicion until otherwise proven valid.