Friday, November 28, 2008


Not being either particularly interested in or expert about the Indian sub-continent, which to me has never quite rated the importance that the residues of the British Imperial experience in the 1757 to 1947 seemed to give it, I do not feel sufficiently in command of the subject matter of present-day India to comment at length on the recent terrorist outrage in Bombay. The possible causation's of the violence are many, ranging from Pakistani (either official or un-official) involvement to Al Queda, to indigenous, Indian Muslim elements. What is of importance is that the violence in India, points up to the fact that while commentators have in recent years, pointed up to India as a potential future, Superpower, based upon its economic growth of the last fifteen years, as well as its sheer population size, that prognosis seems to me to be wildly optimistic for several reasons: the vast majority of Indians (perhaps up to 70%) are still dirt poor, and, live in such a state of economic misery which someone coming from the advanced, developed world, can scarcely imagine, or wish to imagine. With all that implies in terms of India's long awaited advance to a higher realm of economic and social existence. At present of course, arguments that India is ready or able to operate as a state or a nation at the same level as a European one are scarcely to be taken seriously. It is in most respects, once one leaves the urbanized, city centres of Bombay, New Delhi, et cetera, a typical, backward Third-world country and not much more. Great possibilities: yes, but, at present just that: possibilities and nothing more.

In addition in various of the outlying provinces of which Kashmir is only one, there are still ongoing insurgencies by rebel groups, which make normal governance quite impossible. Finally, of course the long running confrontation with Pakistan is for India's modernizing elites, rather akin to a tar baby: however much one wishes to be able to drop it, one never can. Unless and until there is a negotiated settlement with Pakistan over Kashmir, entailing some negotiated settlement, which alleviates the conditions of the majority Muslim population, than a genuine and long-lasting settlement between the two countries similar to say between France and Germany after 1945, will be impossible. With all that implies for real stability on the sub-continent in general and in Pakistan in particular. Something which the current Pakistani government, has just in the past few days made some steps in a positive way. Steps which it can be argued, the events in Bombay, were intended to forestall perhaps. To sum up one cannot make any mistake about it: an unstable Pakistan means many, many things, but, it primarily makes also for an unstable India. And, in addition that India's dreams, such as they are to Superpower status will remain just that: dreams. With that being said, I urge you all to read the attached article from the American online journal

RED ALERT - Possible geopolitical consequences of the Mumbai Attacks

If the Nov. 26 attacks in Mumbai were carried out by Islamist militants as it appears, the Indian government will have little choice, politically speaking, but to blame them on Pakistan. That will in turn spark a crisis between the two nuclear rivals that will draw the United States into the fray.

At this point the situation on the ground in Mumbai remains unclear following the militant attacks of Nov. 26. But in order to understand the geopolitical significance of what is going on, it is necessary to begin looking beyond this event at what will follow. Though the situation is still in motion, the likely consequences of the attack are less murky.

We will begin by assuming that the attackers are Islamist militant groups operating in India, possibly with some level of outside support from Pakistan. We can also see quite clearly that this was a carefully planned, well-executed attack.

Given this, the Indian government has two choices. First, it can simply say that the perpetrators are a domestic group. In that case, it will be held accountable for a failure of enormous proportions in security and law enforcement. It will be charged with being unable to protect the public. On the other hand, it can link the attack to an outside power: Pakistan. In that case it can hold a nation-state responsible for the attack, and can use the crisis atmosphere to strengthen the government’s internal position by invoking nationalism. Politically this is a much preferable outcome for the Indian government, and so it is the most likely course of action. This is not to say that there are no outside powers involved — simply that, regardless of the ground truth, the Indian government will claim there were.

That, in turn, will plunge India and Pakistan into the worst crisis they have had since 2002. If the Pakistanis are understood to be responsible for the attack, then the Indians must hold them responsible, and that means they will have to take action in retaliation — otherwise, the Indian government’s domestic credibility will plunge. The shape of the crisis, then, will consist of demands that the Pakistanis take immediate steps to suppress Islamist radicals across the board, but particularly in Kashmir. New Delhi will demand that this action be immediate and public. This demand will come parallel to U.S. demands for the same actions, and threats by incoming U.S. President Barack Obama to force greater cooperation from Pakistan.

If that happens, Pakistan will find itself in a nutcracker. On the one side, the Indians will be threatening action — deliberately vague but menacing — along with the Americans. This will be even more intense if it turns out, as currently seems likely, that Americans and Europeans were being held hostage (or worse) in the two hotels that were attacked. If the attacks are traced to Pakistan, American demands will escalate well in advance of inauguration day.

There is a precedent for this. In 2002 there was an attack on the Indian parliament in Mumbai by Islamist militants linked to Pakistan. A near-nuclear confrontation took place between India and Pakistan, in which the United States brokered a stand-down in return for intensified Pakistani pressure on the Islamists. The crisis helped redefine the Pakistani position on Islamist radicals in Pakistan.

In the current iteration, the demands will be even more intense. The Indians and Americans will have a joint interest in forcing the Pakistani government to act decisively and immediately. The Pakistani government has warned that such pressure could destabilize Pakistan. The Indians will not be in a position to moderate their position, and the Americans will see the situation as an opportunity to extract major concessions. Thus the crisis will directly intersect U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan.

It is not clear the degree to which the Pakistani government can control the situation. But the Indians will have no choice but to be assertive, and the United States will move along the same line. Whether it is the current government in India that reacts, or one that succeeds doesn’t matter. Either way, India is under enormous pressure to respond. Therefore the events point to a serious crisis not simply between Pakistan and India, but within Pakistan as well, with the government caught between foreign powers and domestic realities. Given the circumstances, massive destabilization is possible — never a good thing with a nuclear power.

This is thinking far ahead of the curve, and is based on an assumption of the truth of something we don’t know for certain yet, which is that the attackers were Muslims and that the Pakistanis will not be able to demonstrate categorically that they weren’t involved. Since we suspect they were Muslims, and since we doubt the Pakistanis can be categorical and convincing enough to thwart Indian demands, we suspect that we will be deep into a crisis within the next few days, very shortly after the situation on the ground clarifies itself.

Friday, November 21, 2008


"I covered a secretary of state, one of the best, James A. Baker III, for four years, and one of the things I learned during those years was that what made Baker an effective diplomat was not only his own skills as a negotiator — a prerequisite for the job — but the fact that his boss, President George H.W. Bush, always had Baker’s back. When foreign leaders spoke with Baker, they knew that they were speaking to President Bush, and they knew that President Bush would defend Baker from domestic rivals and the machinations of foreign governments....

Our current president never cared about this, so neither of his secretaries of state were particularly effective. Rather than having Colin Powell’s back, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld delighted in stabbing Powell in the back, particularly when he was on the road. But being close to the president is not enough. Condoleezza Rice had a close relationship with Bush, but Bush had no coherent worldview to animate her diplomacy, so all her travels added up to less than the sum of their miles. The two most impactful secretaries of state in the last 50 years were Baker and Henry Kissinger. Both were empowered by their presidents, and both could candidly talk back to their presidents".

"Madam Secretary?" by Thomas Friedman, 18 November A. D. 2008, in

Thomas Friedman, who I will openly admit I do not like very much, nor have a very high opinion of, for once gets it about right. And, while I do not have as high an opinion of the junior Senator from New York's talents as he appears to do, we both agree for once, that she would not make the best pick for Secretary of State. And, who you might ask would? Well, I would say that probably the best qualified individual for the position is of course Richard Holbrooke. As I have made clear on another of occasions. Followed in no particular order by Strobe Talbott, Richard Armitage, Robert Zoelleck, Nicholas Burns. It is not that I necessarily agree with everything that these gentlemen do, have done in the past, nor may do in the future. I just believe that based upon their track records, they possess the requisite skill base, talents, and experience to be the very next Secretary of State. Senator Clinton, unfortunately does not come even close. No doubt she is better, then professional Congressional windbags, like Richard Lugar and Joseph Biden. She is probably not as qualified, nor be as good at the position, as say former or current Senators as ex-Vice-President Albert Gore or Senator John Kerry. The upshot of any tenure by Clinton as Secretary of State will be something all to akin to the last three, none too impressive holders of the office: Albright, Powell and Rice. All came to the position with considerable public renown and acclaim (known today unfortunately by the vulgar expression as 'star power'). None of them can be said to have done particularly well in the office, much less enhanced their reputations. With the key difference that whoever will occupy the position knows (or should know) that, the USA is in a much weaker position today than in either 1997, 2001 or 2005. Hardly a situation in which to appoint someone whose practical experience of diplomacy and foreign relations is practically nil.

The only rationale for foisting the junior Senator from New York on the rather slender necks of the American foreign service is that: a) the incoming American administration wants a potentially dangerous critic, out of the way and effectively neutralized; b) by giving her the far from easy, foreign policy assignment, the ex-junior Senator from Illinois, may perhaps be thinking of allowing his former rival to shoulder all of the many potential pitfalls and problems which it would appear that any incoming American Secretary of State will have to deal with. Rather than have a political eunuch, like say Anthony Lake, who everyone will know is merely the creature of the man in the White House, making Senator Clinton Secretary of State will obviously eliminate this danger entirely. However in the latter case we will have someone who attitude towards her underlinings in the department will consist in: "she will role in with a coterie of aides and tyrannize the place" ("Yes She Can", by Jacob Heilbrunn, 19 November 2008, in

Perhaps I am a bit old-fashioned, but, I do not believe that the once august office of Secretary of State, is something to be used as a consolation prize, or alternatively a booby trap for ones political enemies. Unfortunately, I appear to be rather isolated in my opinion of this matter.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


"I really think we have the best atmosphere between Palestinians and Israelis since the mid-’90s, so I’m very gratified that that has come into place. The Palestinian leadership is avowedly in favor of negotiations, renounces violence, recognizes the right of Israel to exist. There is a robust negotiating process, and they have made a lot of progress on how to get to a two-state solution. There is now broad Israeli acceptance of the need for a Palestinian state. After all, Kadima came out of Likud (6) with that in mind. And we have a process on the ground that is beginning to make some progress in terms of making life better for people who live on the West Bank. Palestinian security forces are becoming competent enough that they’re now about to move into Nablus, one of the toughest areas, with Israeli consent".

American Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, 16 November 2008, quoted in

"Ils n'ont rien appris, ni rien oublie". Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand.

The following is an interview recently conducted in the online version of the once quite interesting periodical 'Foreign Policy', now no longer so unfortunately...However, I think that the interview with the egregious Perle is illustrative of the current mind-set of the departing members of the Bush regime and its neo-conservative enablers. Perle himself was one of the masterminds of the entire Iraq debacle from start to finish: from the idiotic 1998 Congressional Resolution to the march into Baghdad in the Spring of 2003. The fact that when faced with the inevitable collapse of his stated hopes for what would occur once the Hussein regime was overthrown, Perle turned on Rumsfeld and Bush, says more I am afraid about Perle's lack of principles than anything else. But, what can one expect from someone who back in the early 1970's, when he was working for Scoop Jackson, was leaking state secrets to the Israeli embassy? The less said the better. I am not arguing that Perle is not an intelligent man: far from it. I am arguing that he is both unscrupulous ideologue and an intellectual charlatan of the worse sort. With that being said, here is the Perle interview in full, read and enjoy:

The “Prince of Darkness” weighs in on Vladimir Putin, Bob Gates, and how the new U.S. president can avoid the Bush administration’s biggest blunders.

"Foreign Policy: What gets covered in the campaign isn’t always what the president has to deal with when in office. What are some conflicts that could be central to President-elect Obama’s foreign-policy legacy?

Richard Perle: North Korea is far from resolved in a stable way. Iran of course has to be dealt with. The obvious objectives are halting their nuclear weapons, their search for nuclear weapons, their program to acquire nuclear weapons, and their involvement in terrorism.

Syria remains very much an unresolved issue. The Syrians are up to no good in Lebanon, up to no good in the region generally, and they make territory available to terrorists. This administration doesn’t have a coherent policy with respect to Syria, but the next one will need one.

Russia. Again, I don’t think that this administration has a coherent Russia policy, but the next administration is certainly going to need one. The Russians are sounding very aggressive these days—provocatively, unnecessarily aggressive.

There’s the large question about how we deal with terrorist threats. For all the deficiencies of the Bush administration—and there have been many—there hasn’t been another large-scale attack in the United States since 9/11. If there should be one, that is an existential threat to Obama’s second term for sure.

FP: What lessons from your time in government would you like to pass on to the Obama team during this transition period?

RP: Everything is people. The right people in the right positions produce sound and effective policies. And the wrong people can create enormous difficulty. It’s often hard to know—if you put a senator in a cabinet post, someone who has never managed anything—is he going to be able to effectively manage a huge bureaucratic institution? Same goes for academics. Teaching in a university is about as different as managing policy in a bureaucracy as anything I can think of. I think driving a tractor probably prepares you as well as a Ph.D. for life in a bureaucracy.

FP: What advice would you give Obama in dealing with a resurgent Russia?

RP: The first thing we need is a strategy, which I think we don’t now have, for assisting in the development of pipelines that will diminish the dependence of our allies on Russian gas in particular, but oil and gas. It looks to me like [Russian Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin’s strategy is to try to assure that no oil or gas moves without [the Russians’] approval. The closer they get to achieving that, the more aggressive they will become. Chances are that Obama will improve on the Bush policy—[of which] there is none. It was just: Hope for the best. Say nice things about Putin and hope for the best.

FP: Some have argued that the United States should stop backing Georgia after its conflict with Russia because it could be damaging to U.S.-Russian relations. What is your reaction to that argument?

RP: That would be a mistake of historic proportions. That would be appeasement of the worst kind. Georgia is now democratic, certainly by regional standards, and it’s better than that in fact. They’ve done some foolish things, but they have been invaded and beaten up pretty badly. If we now abandon them on the grounds that we should be kissing Putin’s behind, that will be very, very damaging. And it will not improve the [U.S.] relationship with Russia.

FP: The deputy commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps recently implied that Iran should not negotiate with the United States. What does this tell us about the hopes that Obama’s election could bring a rapprochement with Iran?

RP: There’s a lot of maneuvering going on. I wouldn’t take it at face value, but if Obama believes he can talk the Iranians out of their nuclear weapons program, and talk them out of their terrorist alliances, he’s wrong. You’ve got to put it in some context. What is it you want to negotiate? And what do you think can be achieved through a negotiating process? It is an illusion to believe that negotiations will work. Obama will figure that out sooner or later.

Now, Obama has got something going for him. The price of oil has tumbled. The Iranian economy is in terrible shape. It’s an unpopular regime, by almost any measure. And if he could get a really tough sanctions policy, he might actually be able to do something.

FP: In September 2003, you said that “a year from now, I’ll be very surprised if there is not some grand square in Baghdad that is named after President Bush” and that except for a “very small number of people close to a vicious regime, the people of Iraq have been liberated and they understand that they’ve been liberated.” Does the rosy picture at all represent the country we see today?

RP: I never expected that we would get into that occupation. I thought we’d be out of there. Iraqi sovereignty would have been restored. That didn’t happen.

Is it rosy today? Do I think most Iraqis have been liberated? Absolutely. I think the Kurds have been liberated, for sure. The Shiites, who were horribly suppressed, have been liberated. And I think many Sunnis, too. That was a place where you got arrested in the middle of the night, and nobody every heard from you again.

Obviously if it deteriorates into chaos or a new Saddam emerges and people are no better off than they were before, then there won’t be [a square named after President Bush]. But I think they’ve got a decent chance of establishing a representative government that isn’t going to look like our system, or some other democratic systems, but if it’s reasonably representative and humane, if the economy starts to develop—yes. I think [Iraqis] will look back and say, we paid a terrible price, but it’s worth it.

FP: Obama reportedly remains open to keeping Robert Gates on as secretary of defense. Would that be a good decision?

RP: My guess, when the rumors first started before the election, was that it was an interesting way to say to people who may have bought the line that [Obama] was a dangerous radical that in fact he was pretty moderate in outlook. But I wouldn’t [keep Gates on]. He’s got better choices, and I think you want someone with more imagination. You’re at the beginning of what is likely to be eight years and you probably want to accomplish something. Gates is a decent man. He’s very workmanlike, but there’s no inspiration and no imagination".

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


"Nothing is harder than to determine the historic significance of events when they are happening. Yet the meeting of the heads of governments of the Group of 20 in Washington at the weekend looks as historic as the crisis it responds to. It might even prove the one bright light in the gathering darkness.

While the G20 contains countries of small significance, it does include all important advanced and emerging countries. The fact that this group could meet and commit itself to a substantial agenda and another meeting in April 2009 shows belated recognition of the shift in the balance of economic power".

"G20 Marks shift in economic power," Financial Times, in

"The G-20 met last Saturday. Afterward, the group issued a meaningless statement and decided to meet again in March 2009, or perhaps later. Clearly, the urgency of October is gone. First, the perception of imminent collapse is past. Politicians are superb seismographs for detecting impending disaster, and these politicians did not act as if they were running out of time. Second, the United States will have a new president in March, and nothing can be done until he defines his policy.

Given the sense in Europe that this financial crisis marked the end of U.S. economic supremacy, it is ironic that the Europeans are waiting on the Americans. One would think they would be using their newfound ascendancy to define the new international system. But the fact is that for all the shouting, little has changed in the international order. The crisis has receded sufficiently that nothing more needs to be done immediately beyond “cooperation,” and nothing can be done until the United States defines what will be done. We feel that our view that the international system received fatal blows Aug. 8, when Russia and Georgia went to war, and Oct. 11 when the G-7 meeting ended without a single integrated solution, remains unchallenged. Now, it is every country for itself".

G20 and GM: Economics, Politics and Social Stability," by George Friedman, 17 November in

After all of the talk of a 'Second Bretton Woods,' by people who should know better like Nicolas Sarkozy and Gordon Brown, it is not surprising that post-facto the entire G20 meeting has aspects of an exploded bicycle pump: something which generates a great deal of noise, but, with almost nothing to show for it. In retrospect it is quite obvious, that the entire 'event', was more of a media circus rather than a productive exercise in crisis management. The real parallel to the meeting, as the prolific if sometimes facile, British expatriate historian, Niall Ferguson reminded us over the week-end, was that pre-eminent exercise in failed economic, crisis-management: the London Economic Conference of 1933 (see his article in the week-end edition of the Washington Post, in Like the G20 meeting it was an effort to resolve on a co-operative basis, the major economic problems of the day. And, like G20 meeting, it turned out to be merely a damp squib. With little to remember it by except for the fact that it provided future historians wonderful vignettes such as the silver devotee, and Chairman of the American Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Key Pittman, bowie knife in hand, racing down the halls of the Conference in search of an adherent of the Gold Standard. The reasons for this, as George Friedman of Stratfor makes quite clear is simply that the USA, the still unchallenged economic hegemon, had no real interest either the conference, much less endeavoring to come to any agreements with the other powers assembled therein. The fact that the other powers were quite desperate to obtain (to use the vernacular expression), 'face time,' with the incoming American President, merely proves Friedman's point. Those like the bien-pensant editorial board of the Financial Times, who think that the world has been 're-made,' by what took place in Washington, DC., over the week-end, have unfortunately merely took leave of their senses. Pur et simple.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, wanted to depose Mikheil Saakashvili, the Georgian leader, and hang him "by the balls" following Russia's invasion of Georgia in August but was deterred by Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president.

That is the version of events related by Jean-David Levitte, Mr Sarkozy's chief foreign policy adviser, to a French magazine yesterday, an account that helps the French leader's claim that he averted a Russian military dash to occupy Tbilisi, the Georgian capital.

According to Mr Levitte, when Mr Sarkozy flew to Moscow on August 12 for emergency talks with Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, and Mr Putin a few days after the conflict began, Mr Putin told him: "I want to hang Saakashvili by the balls."

"Hang him?" a startled Mr Sarkozy interjected.

"Why not," Mr Putin replied. "The Americans hanged Saddam Hussein."

"But do you want to end up like [George W.] Bush?" Mr Sarkozy asked.

Mr Putin apparently paused, and said: "Ah, there you have a point."

Mr Levitte told Le Nouvel Observateur that this exchange helped to persuade Mr Putin to refrain from a full invasion of Georgia.

Other accounts of the meeting say the French president was appalled at Mr Putin's use of foul language in talking of Georgia and Mr Saakashvili, and threatened to walk out of the lunch and return to Paris if he did not calm down. Mr Putin then moderated his language.

Mr Sarkozy, who as holder of the European Union's rotating presidency led western efforts this summer to secure a ceasefire in the Georgia conflict, has been accused of ceding too much ground to the Kremlin. "Sarkozy 'soothed' Putin's Rage," in the Financial Times, 14 November,

French President Sarkozy, in endeavoring to defend before European 'civil society,' his and indeed the European Union's current policy of realpolitik vis-`a-vis Moskva, has as per the above article in the FT allowed his Elysee foreign policy adviser Jean-David Levitte, to create wholesale a fictitious lie about what took place during the Russo-Georgian War. Stung by criticisms by such honored 'public intellectuals' (in the Habermasian sense) as Henry-Bernard Levy and Vaclav Havel, of his and France's role in the Georgian War, Sarkozy has either lambasted such critics by saying that he rather than the USA was the true defender of Georgia and freedom in the Kavkaz region, as in the following:

"Lorsque le 8 août, il a fallu partir pour Moscou et pour Tbilissi, qui a défendu les droits de l'Homme ? Est-ce que c'est le président des Etats-Unis qui a dit 'c'est inadmissible' ? Ou est-ce que c'est la France qui a maintenu le dialogue avec M. Poutine, M. Medvedev et M. Saakachvili ?", "Sarkozy critique
ouvertement Bush," in Le Nouvel Observateur, 14 November 2008, in

Or, allowed Levitte to spin a tale which on the face of it, cannot be substantiated one way or the other. On the surface at any rate, there does not appear to be any verifiable proof for Levitte's claims: neither he or Sarkozy speak Russian or any other Slavic language. Putin does not speak French. Nor does Sarkozy speak the only West European language that Putin does speak: German. Nor would it appear does Levitte. Consequently, how would Levitte know that the translator replicated the 'tu' form of address that Sarkozy allegedly used in their conversation. And, since the entire conversation was being translated back and forth, than the immediacy of the flow of the same, could not by its very nature, have been what Levitte claims it to have been. The pauses and the lags as one translator picks up and transmits the conversation to 'his' head of state, while the other does the same, would rob it of the electrical spark that the article in Le Nouvel Observateur claims it that it had. Make no mistake: I believe that it is Monsieur Sarkozy, rather than his critics who are on the side of the angels over the EU policy towards Moskva. It is just that by embellishing and weaving a tale of outright falsehood, Sarkozy will I feel make his task in the future of reconciling the EU to Russia, more not less difficult.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


On Monday, the 10th of November, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, gave one of the standard, set-pieces of British political speech making: the annual Guildhall Speech at the Lord Mayor's Banquet, in London. The speech was to no one surprise mostly about the ongoing financial crisis. A crisis, which so far as Prime Minister Brown is concerned as done him quite well indeed politically speaking. How permanent the 'Brown bounce', will be once, the very negative consequences of the rather harsh recession that the UK will go through in the next eighteen to twenty months is another question entirely (for the latest figures as provided by the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, see: However, I do not wish to discuss Gordon Brown's political prospects in the near or not so near future, today, as to discuss his ideas about the future as it relates to both British foreign policy, and, policy as it relates to the USA. In both cases the speech makes for grim, or rather depressing reading. To paraphrase Lev Davidovich Bronstein (aka Trotskii), 'there are few things more depressing than reading Gordon Brown' (unless that is one is reading his Foreign Secretary David Milliband's blog). Regardless, what one immediately comes across when one commences to delve into Brown's words is the plethora of dead metaphors and descriptions, usually of the Churchillian variety. Such as:

"And, we have a choice: to retreat or advance; to turn inwards to to look outwards; to be cowed by our fears or to be lead by our hopes".

With all too many similar such examples to quote to you. Notwithstanding the primacy, one would think of the current economic crisis, Brown was rather unwilling to come up with any specific suggestions or initiatives. Instead the audience was treated to such commonplaces as:

"I believe that we in the west should approach these great challenges of our time with some humility. The West certainly does not have all the answers to them. We need more than the G8 - for the time when a few powers can just sit around the table and set the global agenda is over. Quite rightly, the emerging powers of the 21st century will want to - and must - play their part. And so the G8, the IMF and the World Bank must change to meet the new realities".

The fact is that already, two days prior to the tremendously over-sold, 'new Bretton Woods', meeting this Friday, the likelihood of anything of substance occurring is Gordon Brown notwithstanding, apparent next to naught. First, it appears that neither the outgoing nor the incoming American administrations appear to be very anxious to be committed to any agreements arrived at, this coming week-end. Second, the head of the IMF, Monsieur Dominique Strauss-Kahn, has openly declared that he has not the slightest interest in changing the mission or the nature of the institution that he heads. Third and finally, it does not appear that Peking is itself particularly interested in allowing its freedom of economic action and sovereignty to be circumscribed by some new 'financial architecture' (for the above see the relevant articles in the last week in the Financial Times:

On the subject of Anglo-American relations, Brown plays the same notes that his predecessor, Mr. Blair, played so incessantly, albeit more ably:

"My central argument this evening is that the alliance between Britain and America - more broadly between Europe and America - can and must provide leadership in this [crisis], not in order to make and impose the rules ourselves, but to lead and broaden the global effort to build a stronger, secure and more equitable international order".

The fact of the matter is that on most international issues currently, the UK is still playing (in the words of Lord Avon) "the American tune". And, that the USA has no real intention of doing any of the things that Brown laudably enough, wants to do, such as: reduce poverty, reduce income inequality internationally, bring a sustained effort to peace in the Near East, help with the unresolved conflicts in Darfur, Burma and Rhodesia [Zimbabwe], et cetera, et cetera. Nor as we have seen, is the USA, either now or on the 21st of January 2009, interested in changing the financial architecture of the world. However, for Brown it makes much more sense to believe otherwise. And, in fact one can argue that the incoming Administration will if nothing else, be so much better in providing a fig leaf, to the UK government in such matters. As opposed to the toxic Bush Regime.

In short, rather than providing a clear and realistic assessment of the past and future of UK foreign policy, as well as the financially troubled times that we are living through, Prime Minister Brown has merely ad libbed some rather dead metaphors and ideas, which have little or no life left in them. Reading the speech in full, one can only wonder how much longer the UK can be governed by such a man.

Speech to the Lord Mayor’s Banquet: Transcript of speech given by the Prime Minister to the Lord Mayor’s Banquet at the Guildhall. 10 November 2008

"My Lord Mayor, my late Lord Mayor, your Grace, my Lord Chancellor, your Excellencies, my Lords, Aldermen, Sheriffs, Chief Commoner, ladies and gentlemen.

These last weeks and months will be studied by generations to come.

Historians will look back and say this was no ordinary time but a defining moment: an unprecedented period of global change, a time when one chapter ended and another began - for nations; for continents; for the whole world.

To us falls the challenge of leading Britain through the first financial crisis of this new global age and, as reflected in the huge volatility in the price of commodities, its first resources crisis too.

But these crises reflect underlying and unprecedented transformations in our world:

· the rise of Asia and the shift of global manufacturing power;
· growing resource pressures - from oil to food
· the undeniable reality of climate change;
· and new political instabilities and conflicts

All accompanied by the growing gap between rich and poor countries; and of course by the impact of new technology and the rise of the internet giving millions of people for the first time the ability to communicate, do business and organise across frontiers.

The range, complexity and impact of these forces underline just how much we are taking the first tentative steps towards what i will call a global society. And that what is at stake now is not just the success and legitimacy of our global economy but ultimately the prosperity and security of nations and communities in every corner of the world.

The decisions we make now will re-shape our societies ——in all probability for decades and more.

And we have a choice: to retreat or advance; to turn inwards or to look outwards; to be cowed by our fears or led by our hopes.

The world today can seem a daunting place - and when people feel buffeted or bewildered by the scale of the changes it can seem easy to retreat into the outworn and failed responses of yesterday — to a time of pessimism, protectionism and retrenchment.

But we could make a far better choice.

I want this to become the moment when together we rise to the new challenges by purposeful visionary and international leadership, leaving behind the orthodoxies of yesterday and embracing new ideas to create a better tomorrow: not as victims of history but as shapers of an open, free trade, flexible globalisation that is also inclusive and sustainable.

For while today so much looks grey or dark in the global economy we should not forget that we are in the midst of an economic transition to a new global age: whatever happens now, it is likely that in the next two decades the world economy will double in size. And that means twice as many opportunities for good businesses and twice as many opportunities for men and women with new ideas to market. And as many as one thousand million new jobs for skilled workers will be created. So this is the other side of globalisation - not just the insecurities we know about but the opportunities, the promise it holds for tomorrow.

And it is, indeed, possible to see the threats and challenges we face today as the difficult birth-pangs of a new global order - and our task now nothing less than making the transition through a new internationalism to a more collegial, collaborative and opportunity-rich global society, not muddling through as pessimists but, as optimists, making the necessary adjustment to a better future....

So, while I see a world that is facing financial crisis and still diminished by conflict and injustice, I also see the chance to forge a new multilateralism that is both hard-headed and progressive. And I believe that in our international co-operation on finance, climate change, terrorism and ending conflict, there is evidence of this new multilateralism at work in the world: fairer, more stable, and more prosperous because it is rooted in cooperation and justice.

And if we learn from our experience of turning unity of purpose into unity of action, together we can seize this moment of profound change to create, for the first time, the age of the truly global society —-one where progressive multilateralism, not narrow unilateralism, is the norm; one where people find that what unites them is far greater that what ever divided them; and where it is co-operation, not confrontation, that flourishes in answer to age-old challenges:

· the challenge to reassert our faith in the advance of democracy as the most effective weapon in our arsenal against terrorism and tyranny.

· and — as we mark armistice day tomorrow and remember the sacrifices made in darker times - the challenge to build for peace

· the challenge to build consensus for a new global financial system

· the need to confront the realities of global climate change by building a sustainable low carbon economy

· and to make a reality of the vision of a global society by creating global partnerships across public, private and voluntary sectors to address poverty and move toward economic justice.

I believe that we in the west should approach these great challenges of our time with some humility. The west certainly does not have all the answers to them. We need more than the G8 – for the time when just a few powers could sit around the table and set the global agenda is over.

Quite rightly, the emerging powers of the 21st century will want to - and must - play their part. And so the G8, the IMF and the World Bank must change to meet the new realities.

But my central argument this evening is that the alliance between britain and America - and more broadly between Europe and America - can and must provide leadership in this, not in order to make and impose the rules ourselves, but to lead and broaden the global effort to build a stronger, secure and more equitable international order.

Rightly people talk of a special relationship: but that special relationship is also a partnership for a purpose. The transatlantic relationship has been the engine of effective multilateralism for the past 50 years. Together

· we faced down aggression and dictatorship;
· in a few short years we built the great international post-war institutions - the World Bank, the international monetary fund, the United Nations.
· and we led the drive for trade, enterprise and dynamic markets.

Now unprecedented events have brought a turn of history that few would once have foreseen or expected.

Just days ago, across the atlantic, our closest ally gave new meaning to its founding creed that all “are created equal.” Gave new strength to the notion that the american dream is for all Americans....

Winston Churchill described the joint inheritance of Britain and America - as not just a shared history but a shared belief in the great principles of freedom and the rights of man - of what Barack Obama described in his election night speech as the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

And as America stands at its own dawn of hope - so let that hope be fulfilled through a pact with the wider world to lead and shape the twenty-first century as the first century of a truly global society.

And i believe that with the farsighted leadership we have in Europe, the whole of Europe can and will work closely with America and with the rest of the world to meet the great challenges which will illuminate our convictions and test our resolution.

First - we must reassert our faith in democracy and be confident in our belief that open, plural, diverse societies are those most likely to stay rich, strong and free.

So we must step up and win the battle of ideas against terrorism and extremism not by sacrificing the liberties that they scorn but by securing new international means of achieving stability, reconstruction and democracy in failed and fragile states.

And we must promote greater tolerance and understanding within and between communities. Later this week I will join King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia alongside president bush and other World Leaders for his interfaith dialogue at the United Nations - deepening understanding between religions and countering extremist ideologies.

Second let us move quickly to complement the role of peacekeepers and aid workers through civilian as well as military assistance, to rebuild conflict-ridden and fragile states.

Just as we will continue to offer immediate help and advance the cause of peace in Darfur, Burma and Zimbabwe, and stand up for the democracies of Georgia and Ukraine, we will stand by the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo as they face new conflict and turmoil. We will get aid to those who need it. We will protect those who are threatened ——by ensuring that un peacekeepers, already the largest force of its kind in the world, are properly led, trained and enabled. And we will work relentlessly to build the political settlement that is the only guarantee of long term peace.

Ultimately our shared security should be based not on the increased use of weapons but on their reduction. At this same occasion last year, I described the leading role I saw for our country in reducing the proliferation of weapons.

I am pleased that one hundred countries have joined us in banning cluster bombs; and that the idea of a multinational fuel bank to help non-nuclear states acquire nuclear energy is gaining support.

And working with our allies we are ready to do more: having extended export prohibitions on trafficking in small arms, we are ready to promote a new arms trade treaty. And I say to Iran which has signed the non proliferation treaty: in these new circumstances rejoin global society and benefit from help in acquiring civil nuclear power - or face new sanctions –and growing isolation.

Conflict in the Middle East and the failure to restore a Palestinian state is a festering wound that has for generations poisoned relations between the west and the arab and Islamic world. But I believe, and I have heard for myself, that the elements that can constitute a settlement are now well understood by those on all sides who want to come together to end the divisions of the past. It has often been said that an historic hard-won and lasting peace is now within our grasp. But what i do know is that building on the work of President Bush, that durable and just settlement is an urgent priority for the new us administration - and the uk will stand firm in support.

A Middle East settlement has the potential to transform the future of the Middle East. In Iraq we continue to defend a new democracy and last summer we set out the remaining tasks to be achieved there to make possible a fundamental change of mission and the transition to a long term bilateral partnership with Iraq, similar to the normal relationships which our military forces have with other countries in the region. And we are making good progress with each of our objectives.

And I welcome the reaffirmed commitment from both president bush and President-elect Obama to defend a stable and democratic future for Afghanistan and to review the best ways of achieving this through better burden-sharing: America at its best - leading a broad international effort underpinned by shared values, working more effectively with the grain of Afghan society including the tribes; working with our allies to double the size of the Afghan army, working with President Karzai to tackle corruption and supporting the democratic Afghan government in its slow but steady attempts to build peace. And we will support the Afghan and Pakistan governments in working together to tackle the security issues across the border which the last decade has shown are crucial to our own security at home.

Afghanistan is a test the international community cannot afford to fail. And we will not fail.

Third - seventy-five years ago at a time of recession nations met in london in a World economic conference- and because the talks broke up in failure the world entered a long decade of protectionism and retrenchment.

In Washington this weekend, the British government will work with its G20 partners to establish consensus and begin to build a new bretton woods with a reformed, modern, imf that offers, by its surveillance of every economy, an early warning system and a crisis prevention mechanism for the whole world.

This will require:

· The recapitalisation of banks and their resumption of lending to families and businesses

· Immediate action to stop the spread of the financial crisis to middle income countries, building agreement for a new facility and new resources for the IMF

· urgent agreement on a trade deal and rejection of beggar-thy-neighbour protectionism that has been a feature in turning past crises into deep recessions

· a restoration of confidence by addressing the root causes of the instability through reform of the global financial system based on the principles of transparency, integrity, responsibility, sound banking practice and global governance with co-ordination across borders and every nation playing its part

· better International coordination of fiscal and monetary policy - recognising the immediate importance of this coordination for stimulating economic activity.

At the heart of this is a growing agreement that at a time of change and massive uncertainty, people look to governments for action. This is no time for conventional old thinking or tired old orthodoxies.

So my message is that we must be:

· internationalist not protectionist

· interventionist not isolationist

· progressive not paralysed by events

· and forward-thinking not trapped in the solutions of the past....

And if we do so 2008 will be remembered not just for a financial crash that engulfed the world but for the decisiveness and optimism with which the world faced the storm, endured it and prevailed. And remembered too for how in doing so we discovered and refashioned the global power of nations working together.

President Roosevelt famously said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

When fear overwhelms our perceptions of reality the effect is paralysing; it leaves people frozen into inaction - helpless at a time of great risk — and even at a time of great opportunity too.

But confidence in the future –that most precious asset of all - is the key to bringing back confidence today. It is dynamic, it heralds action.

And - for reasons I have laid before you this evening - I am confident.

Confident that we can seize the moment, grasp it together, and use it to lay the foundations - optimistic, multilateralist and inclusive - on which we can build the first truly global society".

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Notwithstanding some hints dropped here and there, so far, there is nothing of substance emerging from the incoming Administration of the junior Senator from Illinois, with the absurd name. However, in from some ultra-intelligent commentators, like my acquaintance, Professor Joshua Landis of Syria Comment, there is a hope, that the incoming Administration, will in some fashion or other reverse the failed policies of the Bush Regime towards the Near East, and, in particular towards: Syria, Persia, the Lebanon and of course Israel. This seems to me, based upon the prior history of incoming, American, especially Democratic Administrations, a very forlorn hope indeed. Whatever their particular personal and indeed ideological complexions, the fact of the matter is that both of the prior Democratic Party Administrations, have shown themselves extremely hesitant to involve themselves immediately in the morass of the Near East upon coming to power. And, indeed it would be true to say that both under Presidents Carter and Clinton, direct American involvement did not occur until, after, in fact much after the Israelis and their particular Arab interlocutor (in 1977 - Egypt; in 1993 - the PLO) had already begin the process of serious negotiations between themselves, sans American involvement. I suspect that history will repeat itself in the year 2009, especially in the following ways: a) if Tzipi Livni's Kadima Party were to win the upcoming elections, and, be able to embark on serious negotiations with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, then, indeed it can be expected that the new American Administration will endeavor to 'piggy back' upon this development and further it in a positive fashion; b) If Benyamin Netanyahu's Likuid Party were to win the elections, and, drag its feet concerning negotiations with the Palestinians, `a la its performance in its prior periods in power (1996-1999, 2001-2005), expect that the new American Administration, while perhaps in a sotto voce fashion, expressing its 'disappointment' with the newest developments in Israel, will do nothing of substance to revive the 'peace process'.

In addition to history there were and are substantive reasons for the above scenario occurring both in the past and in the future: i) most Democratic Party Administrations are primarily concerned about domestic policies, especially in their initial years in office, and, consequently tend to devote less time to foreign policy than their Republican opposite numbers; ii) Democratic Party Administrations not only are much more beholden to the 'Jewish Vote' (aka most Jewish voters tend to vote Democratic), but, individuals who are Jewish tend to both staff and contribute to the upper echelons of Democratic Party Administrations, in a fashion which is much, much greater than their Republican counterparts (something which is also true of the new administration from its initial appointments). Thus, Democratic Party Administrations, tend to be much more leery of involving themselves in the Near East, unless the parties on the ground in the area, especially Israel have already begin the process by themselves; iii) all of the prospective names mentioned for high positions in the new American Administration: Richard Holbrooke, Strobe Talbott, Anthony Lake, Susan Rice, John Kerry, Richard Lugar, et cetera, none have either much experience or knowledge of the Near East or the Israeli-Palestinian issue; iv) even if items 'i', 'ii', and iii, were not true, the fact of the matter is that with a deep financial crisis and with the need to resolve the Iraqi imbroglio on its shoulders, the new administration, will hardly have any time or energy to 'jump start', negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, much less involve itself in Tel Aviv's current negotiations with Syria, unless both process have already been started and are making good progress. Then and only then can one expect the Americans to jump aboard, if for no other reason than to be present for the inevitable photo opportunities, et cetera. No doubt on the White House lawn...

The upshot of the above, is that one can ignore side issues, raised by some commentators about whether or not, the incoming Chief of Staff, Mr Emanuel, is a Likuidnik or even an anti-Arab racist (he may perhaps be the first, but, probably not the second). The real issue is that for the structural reasons cited above, it is highly unlikely that there will be any real and sustained American involvement over and above what the Bush regime has given us recently, for all of 2009 and indeed for much of 2010, in absence of an Israeli push on the peace front. Then and only then, can and will the new American Administration in turn involve itself. To expect anything else, is just whistling Dixie.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


"No one has ever lost any money under-estimating the intelligence of the American people." H. L. Mencken

"Stupidity is for the vast majority of people no doubt the best solution to the problem of thinking." T. S. Eliot

"Democracy is the tyranny of statistics." Jorge Luis Borges.

"I hope to see the Conservative Party return with a substantial majority. I have bitter memories of the Attlee-Cripps regime when the kingdom seemed to be under enemy occupation. I recognize that individually some of the Liberal candidates are more worthy than many of the Conservatives, but any advantage to them can only produce deplorable instability....

I have never voted in a parliamentary election. I shall not vote this year. I shall never vote unless a moral or religious issue is involved (e.g., the suppression of of Catholic Schools). Great Britain is not a democracy. All authority emanates from the Crown. Judges, Anglican Bishops, soldiers, sailors, ambassadors, the Poet Laureate, the postman and especially ministers exist by the royal will. In the last 100 years, particularly in the last hundred, the Crown has adopted what seems to me a very hazardous process of choosing advisers: popular elections. Many great evils have resulted but the expectation of a change in my lifetime is pure fantasy.

Crowned heads proverbially lie uneasy. By usurping sovereignty the peoples of many civilized nations have incurred a restless and frustrated sense of responsibility which interferes with their proper work of earning a living and educating their children. If I voted for the Conservative Party and they were elected, I should feel morally inculpated in their follies - such as their choice of Regius professors; if they failed, I should have made submission to socialist oppression by admitting the validity of popular election. I do not aspire to advise my sovereign in her choice of servants."
Evelyn Waugh, "Aspirations of a Mugwump", in the Spectator (London), 2 October 1959.

Like Evelyn Waugh I have never voted, nor do I intend to do so on Tuesday. For some of the same reasons. However, I do wish like Waugh to express an opinion about the upcoming Presidential elections here in the USA. Allow me to say that as in 2000 and 2004, I fully anticipate that the candidate that I personally would prefer to be elected, will no doubt lose. Like ex-Vice-President Gore and Senator Kerry, I believe that Senator John McCain, is both the best qualified man for the position of Commander-in-chief, and, will (perhaps for that very reason?) lose the election. Why one might very well ask is Senator McCain, the best qualified for the position of President? Chiefly I might well respond because of both experience (his own as opposed to his opponent), and, even more importantly because of character. John McCain, comes from a family which has served the state, almost continuously since the origins of the republic. With both a father and grand-father serving as Admirals of the Fleet. As for McCain himself, it is true to say, in Shakespeare's words that he: "has done the state some service". Of which we all know quite well indeed. What however should be pointed out, is that McCain, is one of the few candidates for President in the history of the USA, who is in the original Homeric sense of the word, a 'hero'. Id. est., someone 'who does brave and noble deeds'. What Bonaparte meant when he referred to Marechel Ney as: "the bravest of the brave".That and his wide experience at the summit of the political landscape is more than enough for me to wish him to be elected. And, that is all: I do not in point of fact, agree with much of what McCain stands for. Neither on tax cuts, immigration, nor on his policy towards Russia, Persia or North Korea. Nor am I especially enamoured of the party that he represents (the very re-incarnation of John Stuart Mills 'the stupid party.'). And, as for his choice of Governor Palin for the position of Vice-President, all that one may say about the matter is she seems to be a modern-day exemplar of Pericles dictum that 'women should neither be seen nor heard'. Regardless Senator McCain is in this Presidential election cycle by far the best man for the job.

And, what of his opponent? The junior Senator from Illinois with the absurd name, is of course, and has been the favorite of a good many bien-pensants, both here and in Europe. And, what may one ask make of their claims for this individual? My considered response is: 'not much'. Absurd first, middle and last names apart, the junior Senator from Illinois, is another species from the Clintonesque stable: a pure bred, Balzacian character: the provincial petit-bourgeois, arriviste as opportunist. Pur et simple. Like his erstwhile opponents, the Clintons, the Democratic nominee, has overturned the Shakespearean dictum cited above: the state [politics] has done him a service, by making him considerably wealthier, then when he first entered into it. That aspect apart, the whole premise of the 'vote for Senator with the absurd name,' is premised upon the supposition that he is a 'transformational' candidate. What is the basis of this judgment is to my mind less than obvious. There certainly is no empirical foundation for this hope. Indeed, the auguries for candidates with as much experience as the current Democratic nominee, are less than hopeful: the two Presidents since the Great War, who have had as much experience as he when elected, were: James Earl Carter and George Walker Bush. Ironies of ironies indeed. Ah! But of course what the transformational candidate is supposed to be is a reincarnation of is not of Messieurs Carter and Bush, but, instead Abraham Lincoln! That is who we are supposed to see elected to office on Tuesday. Well pardon me amici, but, insofar as we are talking of the re-incarnation of Lincoln, that would appear to mean that the Almighty has been consulted and indeed approved this proposed 'transformation'. However inasmuch as the Almighty has not been seen by any sentient being in the last two and half millennium, I am not altogether sure that I believe this supposed tale. Which is a pity, since the reincarnation of Lincoln apart, there is little rational or intelligent reason to suppose that the junior Senator with the absurd name will make a 'good', much less 'transformational' President. Or for that matter that he will be a better President than his opponent. However, as the sayings which I have posted above have noted, it is perhaps a bit too much to expect intelligence to triumph on election day. Or as the Anglo-Irish poet, W. B. Yeats put it better:

"A Statesman is an easy man, he tells his lies by rote, a journalist makes up his lies and takes you by the throat, so stay at home, drink your beer and let the neighbors vote."