Wednesday, May 26, 2010


"The election itself is unlikely to have much effect on the UK's day-to-day relationship with the United States. Intelligence and counterterrorism cooperation and regular discussion over operational planning and political strategy in Afghanistan will ensure that officials and political leaders retain elements of the "special relationship" into the next UK government....

The election may prove to be a hinge point in an ongoing structural shift in the bilateral relationship. The British government has felt itself to be increasingly marginal to America's long-term strategic bilateral relations. Britain is of little relevance to U.S. policy toward China (whether strategically in terms of China's growing political-military presence in East Asia or of its role as an increasingly formidable economic competitor), or toward India, Brazil, or Russia. Each of these countries present important challenges to U.S. political and economic interests, but in ways that do not involve the UK in the way that it was involved in U.S. responses to the Soviet threat during the Cold War or to promoting European security in the post-Cold War period.

A Conservative victory or a Conservative/Lib Dem coalition could lead to an attempt by the new government to demonstrate a greater independence from U.S. foreign policymaking. The economic pressures that the next government will face could play into this dynamic. Reflecting this sense of UK-U.S. strategic distancing, British Conservative and Liberal-Democratic leaders, more so than Labour, have pointed to the need for a more balanced approach to British foreign policy. The Conservatives remain staunch supporters of NATO for UK security. But they have suggested that Britain needs to build its own close set of bilateral diplomatic relationships, both with big powers such as India and China, and with other medium-sized powers in East Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. The Liberal Democrats have emphasized the need for the UK to commit more clearly to the European Union as the lever for furthering Britain's future international priorities. For their part, Labour leaders have been consistent in pointing to the interlocking value of a close Transatlantic and European set of relationships--the strategy that Tony Blair sought to pursue until it was derailed by the Iraq war. A Labour victory would likely see little change in UK-U.S. relations, therefore. A Conservative victory or a Conservative/Lib Dem coalition, however, could lead to an attempt by the new UK government to demonstrate over time a greater independence from U.S. foreign policymaking. The economic pressures that the next government will face could play into this dynamic".

Robin Niblett, "Poised for a British-U.S. Realignment," 5 May 2010, in

"It is more than a little ironic that Nato has committed itself to defining a new strategic concept at precisely the moment the transatlantic relationship counts for less than at any time since the 1930s.

In part this development reflects Europe’s success. While Europe was the central arena for much of 20th- century history and a principal theatre for both world wars and the cold war, it now is mostly at peace. The Franco-German rift has been replaced by a broader integration of the continent inside the European Union, with France and Germany at its core. Europe is to a large extent whole and free. What happens within it will not determine the arc of the 21st century.

Europe’s loss of centrality also reflects its failings. The European project is foundering. Greece is the most pronounced problem, one brought about by its own profligacy and a weak EU leadership that permitted it to live beyond its means and violate the terms under which the euro was established. But the crisis was made worse by German dithering, and initially timid responses from European institutions and governments. The euro could be one of the casualties.

Already there are signs the crisis is spreading to other countries that, having also lived beyond their means, are suffering from insolvency but are unable to do much about it given their domestic politics and membership of the euro. This week’s €750bn rescue package will buy time, but will not address the insolvency at the core of the problem. Europe’s recovery will be anaemic in absolute and relative terms. Europe is now the world’s largest economy, slightly larger than the US, but will not be for long.

Even before this economic crisis, Europe was weakened by a political crisis. Many Europeans have been preoccupied with revising European institutions, but repeated rejections of the Lisbon treaty demonstrate that a united Europe no longer captures the imagination of many of its residents. Lacklustre leadership of European organisations is both a cause and a result of this loss of momentum....

Europe’s drift also manifests itself militarily. Few European states are willing to devote even 2 per cent of their budgets to defence; and what they spend their money on makes little sense. National politics and economics dictate expenditures, so there is much replication of what is not relevant and little investment in what is needed. The whole is less than the sum of its parts.

Afghanistan is a case in point. The European contribution there is substantial, with more than 30,000 soldiers from EU countries. But the involvement is uneven, with nearly a third of the troops coming from the UK. In many cases the roles are diluted by governmental “caveats” that limit missions, a lack of equipment and commitments of uncertain duration. European political culture has evolved in ways that make it harder to field militaries willing to bear the cost in blood; the US secretary of defence describes this as “the demilitarisation of Europe – where large swaths of the general public and political class are averse to military force and the risks that go with it”. All this limits Nato’s future role, as Nato mostly makes sense as an expeditionary force in an unstable world, not as a standing army on a stable continent....

The combination of structural economic flaws, political parochialism and military limits will accelerate this transatlantic drift. A weaker Europe will possess a smaller voice and role. Nato will no longer be the default partner for American foreign policy. Instead, the US will forge coalitions of the willing to deal with specific challenges. These clusters will sometimes include European countries, but rarely, if ever, will the US look to either Nato or the EU as a whole. Even before it began, Europe’s moment as a major world power in the 21st century looks to be over".

Richard Haas, "Goodbye to Europe as a high-ranking Power", 12 May 2010, in

"We can no longer operate from the position of overwhelming strength - military, political and economic - which we enjoyed in the heyday of our Imperial power. But, although we no longer have superiority in material strength, we can still exercise a substantial influence in world affairs - partly in our own right and because of our position in Europe [sic!], and partly as the leader of the independent Commonwealth we must now bring that influence to bear, in support of the superior material strength of the United States, in the world struggle between forces of freedom and
those of tyranny.

We could not hope to exercise that influence - or to put to their best use the advantage of our special position, either as a link between Europe, the Commonwealth and the United States, or as the guardian and trustee of dependent peoples - if we took refuge in the neutrality and comparative isolation of the purely commercial Powers such as Sweden or Switzerland....These political and economic aims are inter-dependent. To achieve them maximum Anglo-American co-operation is indispensible".

"The position of the UK in world affairs", 9 June 1958, marked as 'CAB 130/153, GEN 624/10. Published in British Documents and the End of Empire, Series A, Volume 4, part one, edited, Ronald Hyam & William Roger Louis, (2000), pp. 43-44.

Regardless it would seem of the financial crisis which has hit the UK, and, which its new Tory-Liberal government has made tackling its number one priority, the fact of the matter is, that faute de mieux, there is no other power on the face of the planet which is willing to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the USA. A fact, which contra to Robin Niblett, was to an extent proven by Foreign Secretary William Hague's first trip being to Washington (see: "UK-US partnership deepens," [official Foreign Office Statement], 14 May 2010, in See also: Daniel Korski, "Building on the coalition's good start," 15 May 2010, in All one need do is go down the list: China? Nyet, rien plus. As its ostrich-like policy in dealing with North Korea clearly shows this week (on which see: John Delury,"The Chinese road to Pyongyang," 19 May 2010 in India? Brazil? Russia? Turkey? The questions answer themselves. The only other powers who would intervene along side the USA are Australia and New Zealand. It was the UK, which notwithstanding its relatively weakness in troop numbers which has supplied the largest numbers of non-American troops in every conflict that the USA has been in, since the Persian Gulf War of 1990-1991. There does not appear to be any other middle to large power which is willing to put aside issues of amour propre to go to war alongside the USA. Obviously, as the always intelligent Richard Haas, accurately states, in a lot of ways, the both the UK and Europe as a whole, are a somewhat outmoded diplomatic and military asset to the USA. However, regardless of this fact, I for one do not see any competition to fill the roles that are currently occupied by these powers. As the recent pourparlers between Brazil, Turkey and Persia clearly show, the 'rising' powers of the G-20, are unwilling to support in any way, even diplomatically, the Americans in an issue which on the whole is rather clear-cut. And, nota bene: we are speaking here of diplomatic support only. No mention of military support. To use the terminology of Robert Zoellick, the new 'stake holders' in International Affairs, such as the PRC, Brazil, et cetera, are rather parasitical in their position: wanting to use the existing diplomatic order for their own good, but, not in any way lend support for the same. Even diplomatically. In short, however much weaker the United Kingdom is in power political terms, today as compared to say in 1980, not to speak about say 1958, the fact of the matter is, that it is the only country which is willing to assist the USA, gratis, in various parts of the world. Pace, Martin Wolf, perhaps it is indeed, 'absurd' for the UK to retain 'pretensions to great power status.' However, sans such pretensions the UK will be little more than another Netherlands (Wolf's point of comparison, see: Martin Wolf, "Britain's historic general election," 29 April 2010, in Or as the Cabinet paper referenced above expressed it: 'purely commercial Powers such as Sweden and Switzerland.' A fate which apparently the new UK government no more than its predecessors wishes to embrace just yet.

Monday, May 24, 2010


"I want to commend President Lee for his strong and dignified speech today. It was a testament to his leadership, and to the character and resolve of the South Korean people. We have consulted closely with the Republic of Korea, and we will continue to do so as we move forward. I will be traveling to Seoul on Wednesday for further discussions. I have also had in-depth conversations with the Japanese leadership, and I am in the midst of intensive consultations with the Chinese Government on this issue. My colleagues in the United States Government, including Secretary Gates and others, are also actively engaging countries in the region. The United States fully supports President Lee's responsible handling of the Cheonan incident, and the objective investigation that followed, which we and other international observers joined. The measures that President Lee announced in his speech are both prudent and entirely appropriate. The Republic of Korea can continue to count on the full support of the United States, as President Obama made clear when he spoke to President Lee last week.

First, we endorse President Lee's call on North Korea to come forward with the facts regarding this act of aggression and, above all, stop its belligerence and threatening behavior.

Second, our support for South Korea's defense is unequivocal, and President Obama has directed his military commanders to coordinate closely with their Korean counterparts to ensure readiness and to deter future aggression. As part of our ongoing dialogue, we will explore further enhancements to our joint posture on the Peninsula.

Third, we support President Lee's call to bring this issue to the United Nations Security Council. I will be working with Ambassador Rice and our Korean counterparts, as well as Japan, China, and other UN Security Council member states to reach agreement on a way forward in the Council.

Fourth, President Obama has directed U.S. Government agencies to review their existing authorities and policies related to North Korea, to ensure that we have adequate measures in place, and to identify areas where adjustments would be appropriate.

As I have said, the path that will lead North Korea to security and prosperity is to stop its provocative behavior, halt its policy of threats and belligerence toward its neighbors, and take irreversible steps to fulfill its denuclearization commitments, and comply with international law....Okay. As I said, we are in the midst of very intensive consultations with the Chinese Government on this issue. It would, again, be premature for me to discuss details of those conversations. But I can say that the Chinese recognize the gravity of the situation we face. The Chinese understand the reaction by the South Koreans, and they also understand our unique responsibility for the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

As I said in my statement earlier today, we have cooperated very well with China to respond to North Korea's provocative actions last year, and we are discussing how we will be able to cooperate equally effectively in this context, as well. It is part of the -- obviously, a category of its own, when it comes to the strategic and economic dialogue.

But I have to say that we are off to a very good start, with respect to the dialogues. We spent in a very small group at dinner last night about two-and-a-half hours discussing important matters. I have just completed another small group discussion with about -- of about two-and-a-half hours. So, the Chinese are taking this very seriously, and recognize the importance of maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. And we will continue to work with them on the way forward.

We are working hard to avoid an escalation of belligerence and provocation. This is a highly precarious situation that the North Koreans have caused in the region. And it is one that every country that neighbors or is in proximity to North Korea understands must be contained. So that is what we are working to achieve. And, at the same time, to send a message to North Korea that we are not simply resuming business as usual, that we intend to work with the international community to create a climate in which both consequences are felt by North Korea, and working to change their behavior, going forward, to avoid the kind of escalation that would be very regrettable".

Secretary of State Clinton, "Briefing on the Republic of Korea," 24 May 2010, in

"UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed hope on Monday that the Security Council would take prompt actions against Pyongyang in the wake of a probe that found North Korea had sunk a South Korean warship. 'I am confident that the council, in fulfilling its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, will take measures appropriate to the gravity of the situation,' Ban said at a news conference in New York.

Forty-six sailors died when the 1,200-ton Cheonan corvette sank on the night of March 26 near the disputed Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea after a sudden explosion. A team of international investigators confirmed last Thursday suspicions that the ship was destroyed by a torpedo launched from a North Korean submarine. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said on Sunday his country would take the case of its sunken naval ship to the UN Security Council. North Korea has reacted angrily to the accusations, saying it would withdraw from the nonaggression pact with South Korea if Seoul continued to accuse Pyongyang of sinking one of its warships.

The two countries remain technically at war as their 1950-1953 conflict ended only in an armistice. Naval clashes between the South and the North over the disputed sea border took place in 1999, 2002 and last year. The conclusions of the investigation led to a further deterioration of the already sour relations between the two Koreas and have jeopardized international efforts to stop Pyongyang's controversial nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development programs.

Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, said on Monday that the council's prompt action would also contribute to the early resumption of the six-party talks 'to address [Pyongyang's] nuclear issues and other outstanding concerns.'
Talks on North Korea's nuclear program, involving Russia, Japan, China, the United States and the two Koreas, stalled in April last year when Pyongyang pulled out of the negotiations in protest at the United Nations' condemnation of its missile tests.

Russia and China, both permanent members of the UN Security Council, called last week for North and South Korea to exercise restraint in reacting to the results of the investigation.

UN Chief urges Security Council to take against N. Korea," 24 May 2010, in

"The Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, accordingly, formally declares that from now on it will put into force the resolute measures to totally freeze the inter-Korean relations, totally abrogate the agreement on non-aggression between the north and the south and completely halt the inter-Korean cooperation.

"In this connection, the following measures will be taken at the first phase:

"1. All relations with the puppet authorities will be severed.

"2. There will be neither dialogue nor contact between the authorities during (South Korean President) Lee Myung Bak's tenure of office.

"3. The work of the Panmunjom Red Cross liaison representatives will be completely suspended.

"4. All communication links between the north and the south will be cut off.

"5. The Consultative Office for North-South Economic Cooperation in the Kaesong Industrial Zone will be frozen and dismantled and all the personnel concerned of the south side will be expelled without delay.

"6. We will start all-out counterattack against the puppet group's 'psychological warfare against the north.'

"7. The passage of south Korean ships and airliners through the territorial waters and air of our side will be totally banned.

"8. All the issues arising in the inter-Korean relations will be handled under a wartime law.

"There is no need to show any mercy or patience for such confrontation maniacs, sycophants and traitors and wicked warmongers as the (South Korean President) Lee Myung Bak group."

KCNA [North Korea] News Agency, "Text from North Korean Statement," 25 May 2010, in

It was rather commonplace two, three, four or five years ago, to lambast the Bush regime for the breakdown of the negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear programme. It was argued by many (myself included) that the failure of the negotiations to advance was caused by the hard-line stance of Bush, Cheney and Bolton, et. al. It was stated on many occasions that once this crew changed policy back to what it was under President Clinton, that progress would be made and the situation would revert back to what it was in the mid to late 1990's. Well, in the latter part of the Bush years, policy did revert to what it was under Clinton, pourparler were initiated and while a time, some progress was made, the fact of the matter is that the North Korean regime still has not in fact made a positive decision to give up its nuclear weapons programme. Which leads one to the opinion that there has been a misleading inference drawn by the behavior of the regime in Pyongyang. We all have been operating under the assumption that post hoc ergo propter hoc, the Kim Jong-Il, has been responding to outside influences and policies that he would only co-operate once that policies were made more 'attractive' and thus less 'hostile'. Unfortunately, as the policies of the regime, most especially its last coup de tet, the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel in international waters, appears to show that said policies are a a reflection of struggles, possible secession struggles going on in North Korea. With it is now said, the most recent operation intended to shore-up the position of Kim Jong-Il's son for the leadership once his father leaves the scene(see: "U.S. Implicates North Korean Leader in attack," 22 May 2010, in Today's announcement that Pyongyang was breaking off relations with South Korea, ending all ties, commercial and otherwise with Seoul, is of a piece with a leadership clique which for the most part, does not appear to respond to outside influences but, is merely stimulated and reacts to the internal stimuli of power struggles and maneuverings inside the regime. Id. est., a classical case of Primat der Innenpolitik. Accordingly, and following from the same interpretation, I for one do not foresee anything like an actual outbreak of conflict between the two powers. This is merely another North Korean war of nerves with the outside world, and, especially South Korea and of course the USA. As soon as the succession struggle is over, one may hope that there will be a relaxation of tensions between the two powers, and, between North Korea and the much of the rest of the outside world. Until then infinite patience is required. But, au fond that is what good diplomacy is all about even with the North Koreans.

Friday, May 21, 2010


"About thirty years ago the fear of the 'Yellow Peril' was the fashion. It was said that China and Japan were about to advance towards the economic and perhaps also military conquest of Europe and other regions. Much was written to stress the vast size of the yellow races, their modest standard of living which ensured the low prices of manufactured goods, the political sense of Japan, the reawakening of China after a sleep of centuries. Then gradually these fears abated and were replaced by others....There can be no doubt the reawakening of the Orient, not only Japan and China, but also of India and Islam, is about to become an important factor in the balance of world power, and no human force is in sight which can stop this natural
course of events".

Vilfredo Pareto, "Russia," first published on the 13 June 1922 in "Il Secolo." The Other Pareto, edited and translated by Gillian & Placido Bucolo, 1980, p. 258.

"China’s current reputation for power benefits from projections about the future. Some young Chinese use these projections to demand a greater share of power now, and some Americans urge preparation for a coming conflict similar to that between Germany and Britain a century ago. One should be sceptical about such projections. By 1900, Germany had surpassed Britain in industrial power, and the Kaiser was pursuing an adventurous foreign policy that was bound to bring about a clash with the other great powers. By contrast, China still lags far behind the US economically and militarily, and has focused its policies primarily on its region and on its economic development. While its “market Leninist” economic model (the so-called “Beijing Consensus”) provides soft power in authoritarian countries, it has the opposite effect in many democracies....

Per capita income provides a measure of the sophistication of an economy. While China’s impressive growth rate combined with the size of its population will surely lead it to pass the US economy in total size, that is not the same as equality. And since the US is unlikely to be standing still during that period, China is a long way from posing the kind of challenge to America that the Kaiser’s Germany posed when it passed Britain at the start of the last century. Nonetheless, the rise of China recalls Thucydides’ warning that belief in the inevitability of conflict can become one of its main causes.

During the past decade, China moved from being the ninth-largest exporter to the largest in the world, but China’s export-led development model will probably need to be adjusted as global trade and financial balances become more contentious in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Although China holds huge foreign currency reserves, it will have difficulty raising its financial leverage by lending overseas in its own currency until it has deep and open financial markets in which interest rates are set by the market, not the government.

Unlike India, which was born with a democratic constitution, China has not yet found a way to solve the problem of demands for political participation (if not democracy) that tend to accompany rising per capita income. The ideology of communism is long gone, and the legitimacy of the ruling party depends upon economic growth and ethnic Han nationalism. Some experts argue that the Chinese political system lacks legitimacy, suffers from a high level of corruption and is vulnerable to political unrest should the economy falter. Whether China can develop a formula that can manage an expanding urban middle class, regional inequality and resentment among ethnic minorities remains to be seen. The basic point is that no one, including Chinese leaders, knows how the country’s political future will evolve and how that will affect its economic growth.

In 1974, Deng Xiaoping told the United Nations General Assembly: “China is not a superpower, nor will it ever seek to be one.” The current generation of Chinese leaders, realising that rapid growth is the key to domestic political stability, has focused on economic development and what they call a “harmonious” international environment that will not disrupt their growth. But generations change, power often creates hubris and appetites sometimes grow with eating. Some analysts warn that rising powers invariably use their newfound economic strength for wider political, cultural and military ends.

Even if this were an accurate assessment of Chinese intentions, it is doubtful that China will have the military capability to make this scenario possible. Asia has its own internal balance of powers and, in that context, many states welcome a US presence in the region. Chinese leaders will have to contend with the reactions of other countries as well as the constraints created by their own goal of growth and the need for external markets and resources. Too aggressive a military posture could produce a countervailing coalition among its neighbours that would weaken both its hard and soft power. A recent Pew poll of 16 countries found a positive attitude towards China’s economic rise, but not its military rise.

The fact that China is not likely to become a peer competitor to the US on a global basis does not mean that it could not challenge the US in Asia, and the dangers of conflict can never be ruled out. But Bill Clinton was basically right when he told Jiang Zemin in 1995 that the US has more to fear from a weak China than a strong China. Given the global challenges that China and the US face, they have much to gain from working together. But hubris and nationalism among some Chinese, and unnecessary fear of decline among some Americans make it difficult to assure this future".

Joseph Nye, "China's Century is not yet upon us." 19 May 2010, in

"Either Germany is definitely aiming at a general political hegemony and maritime ascendancy, threatening the independence of her neighbours and ultimately the existence of England; or Germany, free from any such clear-cut ambition, and thinking for the present merely of using her legitimate position and influence as one of the leading Powers in the council of nations, is seeking to promote her foreign commerce, spread the benefits of German culture, extend the scope of her national energies, and create fresh German interests all over the world wherever and whenever a peaceful opportunity offers, leaving it to an uncertain future to decide whether the occurrence of great changes in the world may not some day assign to Germany a larger share of direct political action over regions not now a part of her dominions, without that violation of the established rights of other countries which would be involved in any such action under existing political conditions....It would be of real advantage if the determination not to bar Germany's legitimate and peaceful expansion, nor her schemes of naval development, were made as patent and pronounced as authoritatively as possible, provided care was taken at the same time to make it quite clear that this benevolent attitude will give way to determined opposition at the first sign of British or allied interest being adversely affected. This alone would probably do more to bring about lastingly satisfactory relations with Germany than any other course".

Sir Eyre Crowe, "Memorandum on the present state of British relations with France and Germany," 1 January 1907, in British Documents on the Origins of the War, 1898-1914, Vol. III, Edited Gooch & Temperley, 1928. Appendix 'A', pp. 417-418.

As usual, the words of Joseph Nye, are very wise indeed, and, point out some home truths which need to be repeated and listened to. Particularly in light of such nonsensical treatises on this subject as say Martin Jacques recent book (see: Martin Jacques, When China Rules the World, published in 2009). It is commonly agreed, that as of yet, the regime in Peking, is still not up to the task of competing with the USA either militarily or politically. Not even in the area of the Pacific. On the other hand, one cannot hardly not be aware of the fact that the tentacles of the Chinese, both official and non-official are spreading ever so wider the world over. From trying to buy up natural resources all over Africa and Latin America, to the provision of economic assistance to regimes as far from each other as Burma, Ceylon and the Sudan. Nor is it certain pace Nye, that the PRC will not try to match the USA militarily within ten to twenty years time. Per se, with it having the world's largest foreign exchange reserves, there is nothing which could prevent it from doing so. At least financially speaking. What is certain is that China does currently possess a political culture, and a domestic structure which makes it difficult to imagine that it can very easily replicate the relatively peacefully rise of say the USA to being a weltmacht & regional hegemon one hundred or so years ago. Additionally, as I have pointed out in the Financial Times recently, contemporary China, unlike the USA of one-hundred years past, faces a less than inviting neighborhood. Being involved in regional conflicts with almost all of its immediate neighbors: Japan, Formosa, Vietnam, India and the Philippines (for my small contribution to this discussion see: "China no clone of Bismark's Reich," 23 April 2010, in In fact the power which it has the most similarity in this respect was the Kaiserreich of the 1890-1914 period. Like the PRC, it was an authoritarian / semi-authoritarian regime, which was to an odd extent, afraid of its own domestic public, and, therefore conducted its foreign policy with an eye to how it would play at home. Id est, the classical example of primat der Innenpolitik. Peking's sometimes paranoid reactions to rather benign comments and or actions of other powers (like say France's meetings with the Dalai Lama of Tibet, or American arms sales to Formosa) is a result of this particular dynamic. The key differences though between Peking and the USA of one hundred years ago is that fact, as Nye puts it, that the PRC, has yet to come to grips with how to manage its domestic political structure both near and long-term. It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that the PRC's only domestic policy is to keep its Han Chinese population contented via continuing high rates of economic growth. As Nye also points out, the likelihood is that the current double-digit rates of growth will not continue for very long hereafter. Something that the similar cases of Japan and South Korea has shown, a change which tends to occur much more rapidly than was anticipated. How the rulers of the PRC will adapt to that circumstance and the most likely negative reaction of its subjects to such a change is less than clear at this time. One way of dealing with such problems would be to bang the patriotic drum over such issues as Formosa, among other things (for this likely transition, see another Nye article: "The Chinese forecasts of a US decline are off the money," 25 March 2010, in Unfortunately, as the history of the Wilhelmine Germany shows, such exercises in official manipulation from above are: i) difficult to control; ii) notoriously dangerous. The anti-Japanese riots which broke out all over China a few years back, initially encouraged by the authorities, before being reigned in, being a perfect example of the former. Additionally, unlike the USA or the Kaiserreich of one hundred ago, the PRC, has to deal with two serious separatist threats in Tibet and Sinkiang. An additional variable which hobbles any attempt by the PRC to assume the mantle of regional hegemon or a full-fledged weltmacht. Added to which is the fact that again unlike say the USA or Germany circa anno domini 1900, the PRC is still a poor country on a per capita basis. With over half of the population 'living' off an income of two dollars per day. And, with approximately forty percent 'living' off income of one dollar a day (for these statistics, see: Peter Zeihan, "China: crunch time," 30 March 2010, in This poverty while not per se, an absolute barrier to a decision by the PRC to engage in a partial (which is what is probably happening now) or even a full-scale military build-up, does make any such decision much harder to engage in. Much less explain or justify to its population. Although of course, Peking can if need be, try to do so by engaging in exercises in Hurrahpatriotismus.

To conclude, unlike say Jacques, I agree with Nye, that the likelihood of the PRC becoming a hegemon, either regionally, much less `a la the USA or the UK in the 19th or 20th century is widely off the mark. And, as Pareto's comments show the 'Yellow Peril' has long been with us regardless of elementary facts. It is the case still that the PRC at this point in time is still: too poor, too backward, too hemmed-in, in its own region by less than trusting neighbors. It also suffers from the twin defects of a political regime which is not entirely legitimate in the eyes of its own populace, and, on-again, off-again rebellions in two of its largest provinces. Added to the fact, that Chinese soft-power is for all intents and purposes non-existent outside of some official circles in Sub-Saharan Africa, and, one fails to see the makings of a future world hegemon. That being said, one cannot gainsay the fact that the PRC, has in recent years, thrown its weight around diplomatically speaking in a way which is different than that recommended by say Deng Xiaoping during the 1978-2004 period. The reasons for which have been outlined above. How one may inquire should the USA and the West in general react to, and or handle this change? There are those such as Henry Kissinger who say that the West needs to handle the PRC with 'kid gloves', and, in essence appease its rise to being a weltmacht, regional and otherwise, in order to avoid an unnecessary conflict with the regime in Peking. There are others, myself included, who opt for a different policy. Akin in fact to what Sir Eyre Crowe recommended to Sir Edward Grey about England's German policy in the years prior to the Great War. A policy in essence of containment (for lack of a better way of describing it), in which the potential hegemon is put on notice that any attempts to forcible overturn the status quo ante, will be met with by force. `A la the American policy in the Formosa mini-crisis of 1995. It is difficult to imagine that a softer line will work with the PRC. As we can see, its domestic structure and the problems following from the same, make them disinclined to be adherents to a Kantian view of international relations. To put it mildly. As Crowe put it aptly in his famous memorandum of 1907:

"To give way to the blackmailer's menaces enriches him, but it has long been proved by uniform experience that, although this may secure for the victim temporary peace, it is certain to lead to renewed molestation and higher demands after ever-shortening periods of amicable forbearance. The blackmailer's trade is generally ruined by the first resolute stand made against his exactions and the determination rather to face all risks of a possibly disagreeable situation than to continue in the path of endless concessions".

Thursday, May 20, 2010


"In the past few weeks, Europe has certainly got the world’s attention – but not in the way that it had hoped. Rather than admiring the EU for its dynamism and power, the rest of the world is watching the unfolding economic crisis in Europe with fascination and horror. Observing the struggle to save the euro from Washington or Beijing is a bit like watching a car crash on the other side of the road. It is bad enough being a spectator – but there is the added fear that you will be hit by flying debris....

It is natural that international attention should focus first on the economics of the crisis in Europe. But there are also broader, if less immediately obvious, political consequences. It is easy to mock the pretensions of the authorities in Brussels. But the fact is that the EU does – or perhaps did – stand for something important on the world stage.

What Europe represents is not so much raw power as the power of an idea – a European dream. For internationalists everywhere, for believers in much deeper co-operation between nations, for those pushing for the establishment of an international legal order, the EU is a beacon of hope.

If the European experiment begins to unravel – after more than 60 years of painstaking advances – then the ideas that Europe represents will also suffer severe damage. Rival ideas – the primacy of power over law, the enduring supremacy of the nation state, authoritarianism – may gain ground instead....

However, the European economic crisis has made life much harder for those Americans or Asians who want to argue that the rest of the world should learn from Europe. Last week I met a member of the Japanese establishment who was guffawing at the idea that his prime minister had ever believed that Europe could be some sort of model. In the US, the European financial crisis has been seized upon by conservatives, who argue that Mr Obama’s alleged embrace of European-style “socialism” will bankrupt America.

While the EU’s foreign admirers are on the defensive, international Eurosceptics are in the ascendancy. Charles Grant, head of the Centre for European Reform, a pro-EU think-tank, says he has been struck on his recent travels by the growing disdain for Europe in Delhi, Beijing and Washington. “We’re seen as locked into permanent economic and demographic decline, and our pretensions to hard power are treated with contempt,” he laments.

A few years ago Jeremy Rifkin, an American author, published a book called The European Dream, which made a great splash in Brussels. Mr Rifkin, who perhaps not coincidentally also wrote a book called The End of Work, argued that Europe was a model for the future. “While the American spirit is languishing, a new European dream is being born,” he wrote. “It is a dream far better suited to the next stage in the human journey – one that promises to bring humanity to a global consciousness befitting an increasingly interconnected society.”

Reading those words today, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry".

Gideon Rachman, "The Death of the European dream," 18 May 2010, in

"The Cold War made the European Union possible. For centuries, Europe was home to feuding empires and states. After World War II, it became the home of devastated peoples whose security was the responsibility of the United States. Through the Bretton Woods agreement, the United States crafted an economic grouping that regenerated Western Europe’s economic fortunes under a security rubric that Washington firmly controlled. Freed of security competition, the Europeans not only were free to pursue economic growth, they also enjoyed nearly unlimited access to the American market to fuel that growth. Economic integration within Europe to maximize these opportunities made perfect sense. The United States encouraged the economic and political integration because it gave a political underpinning to a security alliance it imposed on Europe, i.e., NATO. Thus, the European Economic Community — the predecessor to today’s European Union — was born....

But to get Berlin on board with the idea of sharing its currency with the rest of Europe, the eurozone was modeled after the Bundesbank and its deutschmark. To join the eurozone, a country must abide by rigorous “convergence criteria” designed to synchronize the economy of the acceding country with Germany’s economy. The criteria include a budget deficit of less than 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP); government debt levels of less than 60 percent of GDP; annual inflation no higher than 1.5 percentage points above the average of the lowest three members’ annual inflation; and a two-year trial period during which the acceding country’s national currency must float within a plus-or-minus 15 percent currency band against the euro.

As cracks have begun to show in both the political and economic support for the eurozone, however, it is clear that the convergence criteria failed to overcome divergent geography and history. Greece’s violations of the Growth and Stability Pact are clearly the most egregious, but essentially all eurozone members — including France and Germany, which helped draft the rules — have contravened the rules from the very beginning....

Germany would therefore not be leaving the eurozone to save its economy or extricate itself from its own debts, but rather to avoid the financial burden of supporting the Club Med economies and their ability to service their 3 trillion euro mountain of debt. At some point, Germany may decide to cut its losses — potentially as much as 500 billion euros, which is the approximate exposure of German banks to Club Med debt — and decide that further bailouts are just throwing money into a bottomless pit. Furthermore, while Germany could always simply rely on the ECB to break all of its rules and begin the policy of purchasing the debt of troubled eurozone governments with newly created money (“quantitative easing”), that in itself would also constitute a bailout. The rest of the eurozone, including Germany, would be paying for it through the weakening of the euro.

Were this moment to dawn on Germany it would have to mean that the situation had deteriorated significantly. As STRATFOR has recently argued, the eurozone provides Germany with considerable economic benefits. Its neighbors are unable to undercut German exports with currency depreciation, and German exports have in turn gained in terms of overall eurozone exports on both the global and eurozone markets. Since euro adoption, unit labor costs in Club Med have increased relative to Germany’s by approximately 25 percent, further entrenching Germany’s competitive edge....

Europe therefore finds itself being tied in a Gordian knot. On one hand, the Continent’s geography presents a number of incongruities that cannot be overcome without a Herculean (and politically unpalatable) effort on the part of Southern Europe and (equally unpopular) accommodation on the part of Northern Europe. On the other hand, the cost of exit from the eurozone — particularly at a time of global financial calamity, when the move would be in danger of precipitating an even greater crisis — is daunting to say the least.

The resulting conundrum is one in which reconstitution of the eurozone may make sense at some point down the line. But the interlinked web of economic, political, legal and institutional relationships makes this nearly impossible. The cost of exit is prohibitively high, regardless of whether it makes sense".

Peter Zeihan, et. al., "Germany, Greece and Exiting the Eurozone," 18 May 2010, in

"De Gaulle's whole argument was based on the premise that nothing European could be undertaken so long as Europe was not a political reality. But at the same time he affirmed that the only political reality was the nation-state. What then was this 'Europe' that he was calling for with so much obvious sincerity? 'A vast confederation of States'....All that was clear was his wish to include Germany, harnessed by an agreement giving France the dominant role, especially as regards to defence. The whole system, finally, was to be validated by referendum....Our approach was very different. We believed in starting with limited achievements, establishing de facto [emphasis in the original] solidarity, from which a federation would gradually emerge. I have never believed that one fine day Europe would be created by some great political mutation, and I thought it wrong to consult the peoples of Europe about the structure of a Community of which they had no practical experience....That night gave us the final proof - if we still needed it - that a Europe of sovereign States was incapable, despite its leaders goodwill, of reaching the sensible decisions that were needed for the common good. It would be quite another matter, however once the power of decision was entrusted to institutions serving the general interest and applying the will of the majority in a system of common rules".

Jean Monnet, Memoirs, translated by Richard Mayne, 1978, pp. 366-367, 370-371.

"It makes one laugh when they say that we shall have an idyllic peace when we have re-established the European equilibrium - which was upset, according to some by the immoderate German ambition....But - since when has this beautiful, desired, praise- orthy, European equilibrium even existed? Since when has a lasting peace, which would become perpetual, been seen in Europe....Surely those who dream of a future completely different to the past willingly shut their eyes to experience, and fly off into the nebulous regions of their imagination. Exactly fifty years ago they tried to persuade us that war had become impossible....All that chatter has brought us to the present war, which is the most widespread, the most expensive, the most tremendous of all wars which have ever taken place. Unfortunately, the tracts which are being written on the idyll of a future peace will have no better luck. They may be useful consolation to those who suffer - they are certainly not probable forecasts of the future..."

Vilfredo Pareto, "War and its principal sociological factors", March 1915, in The Other Pareto, p. 233.

Which crisis can it be said is occurring in Europe at the moment? In point of fact the correct answer to that question is: both. There is a crisis of the Eurozone. Which for reasons which have been explicated ad nauseam elsewhere (see in particular: Joseph Stiglitz, "Reform the Euro or bin it," 5 May 2010, in, has had a damned inheritance and which it seems it might not be able to overcome it economically speaking. In addition, we have a crisis of what Gideon Rachman, in his cri de coeur, calls the 'European dream'. Perhaps the more cynically inclined `a la Pareto, would call it: 'the European mid-summer nights dream'. Meaning that in an important sense, the foundations of the European idea, were fraudulent from the very get-go. Specifically, it is possible to imagine that Europe, could have worked as a machtstaat, run from say Berlin, or Paris, or indeed (for argument's sake) Brussels. It is to a lesser extent possible to imagine that a 'Europe of the Patries' `a la Charles de Gaulle, might also have worked. Just perhaps. But, it is good to remember that de Gaulle, only foresaw such an arrangement working in the context of a dominate, if not necessarily domineering France. And, only in the company of the original 'six' member states of the EU: the Benelux countries, Italia, Germany and France. What now seems rather obvious is that the European projet as originally envisioned by Monsieurs Monnet, Schuman, et al., has reached its institutional cul de sac. Without a (to use the unfortunate, but in this case apt mot) 'sovereign', meaning a center of power & authority, the EU, has (as I have observed in this journal over the years) evolved into a mere 'talking shop', pur et simple. The original ethos (such as it was) which still had some life to it, in the years that Jacques Delor was still on the scene has run into the ground. But, those days are truly gone. And, I sincere doubt that anything will occur to resurrect that particular dynamic and vision ever again. Which to be honest, would have by itself, occurred eventually, since the 'European Dream', such as it was and is, was never workable at its base: without a hegemonic power at its center, 'Europe', cannot by its very nature evolve into something resembling the structure that Monnet was dreaming of circa 1949-1952. And, in that respect, it can be seen in retrospect, that it was General de Gaulle, who had the better of the argument. If 'Europe' was to have become something greater than the sum of its national parts, then that can only be arrived at as a political decision by the peoples and nations of Europe. Not, `a la Monnet, by some combination of Fabian tactics and political organicism. The end result of the latter is now plain to see: a disunited and deadlocked EU, which is disunited and deadlocked precisely because politically speaking, the elites of Brussels and elsewhere are unable to make a political argument as to why the populations of Germany, Austria and elsewhere should spend good money after bad in places like Greece, Portugal, Spain, et cetera. As indeed, in retrospect, they were unable to make a convincing argument for the whole notion of the Euro replacing national currencies, other than by utilizing the political equivalent of a confidence trick. Like all such tricks, they work as long as one does not test them. Once, tested (one thinks here of the Treaty of Locarno) they rapidly fall apart. One fears that the Euro projet will go the same way. As for the 'EU' instead of evolving into Monnet's beau idee, it has evolved into something resembling a 21st century Holy Roman Empire. A most noble and praise-worthy political entity (as many historians now tend to see it: viz, Timothy Blanning among others), but, unfortunately, an entity which in in the last one hundred and fifty years of its existence, proved to be nugatory at best. Similarly, with only its acclaimed 'soft power', to show for its pains, and, that being run into the ground by the its current crisis as well as the after effects of the financial crisis of the last three years, the European Union, has shown itself to be (in the words of the late Richard Nixon) 'a pitiless, helpless Giant'.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


"When the leaders of Brazil and Turkey joined hands with Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, Iran’s president, to celebrate Monday’s agreement, the three men dealt a severe blow to US foreign policy.

For months, Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, had warned Turkey and Brazil that their attempt to broker a deal over Iran’s nuclear programme would go nowhere. Instead, the US wanted Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil’s president, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, to use their temporary membership of the Security Council to support another round of United Nations sanctions on Iran....

It enormously complicates Washington’s drive to impose more UN sanctions on Iran, perhaps the highest priority of the Obama administration’s foreign policy.

“If the deal sticks, we have a period of diplomacy, with sanctions on a very slow track [and the] chance of an Israeli strike significantly reduced over the medium term,” said Cliff Kupchan, an analyst at the Eurasia Group, a US-based consultancy. “The US has very little choice but to talk.”

All the same, Washington is deeply sceptical about Monday’s deal, which ostensibly amounts to Iran’s acceptance of a confidence-building measure first proposed in Geneva in October. Iran’s nuclear programme has made significant progress since then. At that time, exporting 1,200kg of low-enriched uranium would have accounted for more than 70 per cent of Iran’s total stockpile. Today, Iran has managed to accumulate at least 2,065kg of low-enriched uranium, according to the latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, and sending 1,200kg to Turkey would account for only 58 per cent of the total. Iran is producing low-enriched uranium at a rate of about 125kg per month, meaning that it could replace the amount exported in less than 10 months. Moreover, the agreement does not address the central issue: Iran’s continued enrichment of uranium in breach of five UN resolutions, a process that could be used to make the essential material for a nuclear weapon.

“As far as we are concerned, this is one more trick from the Iranians,” said a European diplomat. “Iran wants to appear as though it is open to negotiations and ready for compromise.” He asked: “What about the question of Iran suspending its programme? Where does this agreement leave us on that?”

Already, the announcement seems to have ended Washington’s hopes of winning Brazilian and Turkish support for more sanctions. The question is whether the whole drive for another UN resolution has been sabotaged. That largely rests with China, which has the power of veto in the Security Council".

"Iran [Persia] deal sets back US goal of sanctions," 17 March 2010 in

"To that end, we have been working closely with our P-5+1 partners for several weeks on the draft of a new sanctions resolution on Iran. And today, I am pleased to announce to this committee we have reached agreement on a strong draft with the cooperation of both Russia and China. We plan to circulate that draft resolution to the entire Security Council today.

And let me say, Mr. Chairman, that I think this announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide. There are a number of unanswered questions regarding the announcement coming from Tehran, and although we acknowledge the sincere efforts of both Turkey and Brazil to find a solution regarding Iran’s standoff with the international community over its nuclear program, the P-5+1, which consists, of course, of Russia, China, the United States, the UK, France, and Germany, along with the High Representative of the EU, are proceeding to rally the international community on behalf of a strong sanctions resolution that will, in our view, send an unmistakable message about what is expected from Iran".

American Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, "Opening Remarks Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations," 18 May 2010, in

"Russia says the talks on the controversial Iranian nuclear program proceed in the right direction, but the UN Security Council must make the decision as soon as possible, the Russian deputy prime minister said.

The Iranian, Brazilian, and Turkish foreign ministers signed an agreement on Monday on the exchange of low-enriched uranium to fuel Tehran's scientific research reactor.

"We believe that Iran must be absolutely transparent and allow IAEA experts to [inspect] its nuclear facilities. Moreover, we still have questions regarding Iran. The answers must be clear..., and confirmed by the IAEA, if speak about the peaceful nuclear program," Sergei Ivanov said.

Iran, which has recently been under international pressure to halt uranium enrichment, agreed to swap in Turkey most of its 3.5%-enriched uranium for 20%-enriched fuel for use in its Tehran scientific research reactor.

The Iran Six (France, Britain, Germany, the United States, Russia and China) began on April 19 discussing the text of a draft resolution to impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

The German government said on Monday the deal between Iran and the UN's nuclear watchdog, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), on the nuclear program "cannot be replaced by an accord with other countries."

A spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told AFP that the nuclear fuel swap deal "does not answer all of the concerns" raised by Tehran's nuclear program, although it is a "move in the right direction."

"Russia says talks on Iran [Persia] productive; urges measures," 18 May 2010 in

So, much for the Persian diplomatic coup of Monday. Today in a surprise development, many, many months of patient (indeed one may say 'over-patient') diplomacy, the Americans announced that they have signed-up both Moskva and Peking to a new round of sanctions to be imposed upon Persia. Thus effectively negating the attempted Brazilian-Turkish-Persian diplomatic end-run of the Americans. Which in point of fact is not very surprising inasmuch as other than the Persians, none of the powers concerned are truly and deeply interested in the subject. In the case of Brazil, its involvement is merely grandstanding, pur et simple. By a retiring Brazilian President, who up to now, has shown scant interest in the Persian, nay indeed the Near Eastern problem. Similarly, in the case of the Turkish Premier, it is merely a case of regional grandstanding and trying to play a bigger role in the region than Turkey's own power position allows for. Of a piece in fact with its recent 'good neighbor' diplomacy, id est., the diplomatic equivalent of windbaggery. For the Persians of course, the agreement appeared to be a heaven-sent opportunity to regain the diplomatic initiative. With their own internal political problems costing them a great deal in terms of world public and diplomatic opinion. Well then one may indeed inquire: 'will the new set of sanctions lead to a Persian diplomatic capitulation on the nuclear issue'? Hardly. Indeed, au fond I am quite pessimistic about the efficacy of any sanctions that are likely to pass the UN Security Council. However, in absence of the same and an honest endeavor to allow the same to 'work', any more coercive measures (which are indeed vraiment the only solution to the Persian nuclear problem) will never achieve legitimacy outside the USA, UK and Israel. Therefore, however annoying it may be, to the likes of people like former American UN Ambassador Mr. Bolton, more diplomacy not less diplomacy, however fruitless is needed before a policy of pure coercion can be put into effect (for Ambassador Bolton's view of things see: "The Case for Striking Iran [Persia] grows:only decisive action can stop Tehran from acquiring nukes," 11 February 2010 in At the very least, Secretary of State Clinton's announcement today brings us a step closer to that day. To my mind the sooner the better.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


"During his March 27 speech this spring, President Bashar al-Assad was asked why Syria did not clear up ambiguities about Lebanon’s ownership of the Shebaa farms’ region by providing an official Syrian map of the region, that Israel claims belongs to Syria and that Syria and Lebanon both claim belongs to Lebanon....

His announcement emphasizes the complexity of the Shebaa Farms question. Located atop a hill, the Shebaa Farms (or hamlets) are important to both water resources and politics in the region. On May 21st, 2000, after Israel withdrew from Lebanon, ending its occupation that lasted over 20 years, Hezbollah and Syria claimed that the Jewish State still occupied a piece of land northeast of Mt. Hermon in the Golan Heights. That territory, which few had heard about previously, is made up of 14 farms. It is located at the three corners where Lebanon, Syria and Israel share a border.

The problem lies in a geographical error. During the French mandate (1920 – 1946), the Lebanese, French, and Syrian authorities did not pay attention to the frontier between Lebanon and Syria. The former was still considering Lebanon as one of its provinces and seemed not to be interested in drawing the border between the two countries.

Despite the Shebaa area being small in size (approx. 16 sq.m), the problem is difficult. The village of Shebaa is located in Lebanon, northeast of “Djebel ech-Cheikh” (Mount Hermon) while its farms are located south of the mountain. From the Mandate in 1920 to the Six-Day War of 1967, the farms were considered Syrian territories de jure, i.e. on the maps. During that period – and before – the Lebanese farmers used to cross the mountain area to reach their fields, which were cultivated with apple orchards.

Thus, Lebanon and Syria were artificially separated in the Shebaa region by the Wadi el-’Assal, a stream. The Lebanese farmers considered that the river to be the border between the two countries. French authorities did not take into account the Lebanese farmers who crossed the borders to their who had to reach their farms.

The Shebaa Farms case was at first nothing but a cadastral issue and border dispute. As a French diplomat noted in 1935, “this issue is linked to the delimitation of the border between Lebanon and Syria. All legal disputes will be resolved when we will be able to determine if a particular farm is located in Syria or in Lebanon. Everything else is irrelevant”.

In 1950, after the 1948 War, Syria installed an advanced military observation post and carried out topographical surveys in the farms. Thus, from 1920 to 1967, the Shebaa Farms were deemed to be Syrian land on military maps despite the fact that almost all the cultivator of the region were Lebanese and few Syrians lived there. In 1967, Israel invaded the Golan Heights and took the Shebaa Farms. The Israelis expelled the Lebanese farmers that were living there.

It seems that Israel did not realize it had invaded a de facto Lebanese territory.

In 1978, the Israeli Defense Forces transformed the farms into a buffer zone and adorned them with Hebrew road signs. Israel distributed national ID’s that were refused by the majority of the farmers. When Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000 after 18 years of occupation, the Shebaa Farms became central to Hezbollah’s continuing justification for war against Israel. In 2006, during the “33-days War”, the Shebaa Farms issue took central stage.

For Hezbollah, it is absolutely essential to have a justification to maintain its arms which are a guarantee to its survival. In his March, 27th speech, Bashar al-Assad maintained ambiguity about the Shebaa Farms. For Syria, the Shebaa Farms are Lebanese but the Syrians refuse to provide official documents proving it. In fact, Syria alleges that it possesses documents showing that the farms are Lebanese territory but that those documents still have to be clarified with precise topographical and cadastral studies. Unfortunately, neither Lebanon nor Syria have access to the area.

The Syrian position is clear: Israel must withdraw from all occupied territories, especially the Golan Heights, which includes the Shebaa Farms area. Then Syria and Lebanon will be able to resolve their border issues. However, if Syria and Lebanon have not demarcated their borders since 1920, it is doubtful they will do so in

Matthieu Cimino, "A brief Introduction to the Shebaa Farms Problem", 8 May 2010 in

Matthieu Cimino, a doctoral candidate in the ultra-elite Science Po in Paris, contributed the above referenced article on the Shebaa farms conundrum a few days past. And, while it to some extent clarifies matters a bit as it concerns the alleged problem of the Shebaa Farms as it relates to their status and the history of the same, in point of fact, he also inadvertently confuses matters (no doubt unintentionally) further. Therefore, I hope that my two centimes endeavor here, will clarify things for all concerned. In terms of origins of the problem, Cimino does not doubt have the situation right, as it concerns the fact that the French Mandate authorities singularly failed to demarcate the existing boundary of the future, independent states Lebanon and Syria in this particular area. No doubt due to the fact that per se, the area was & is both small and all things considered unimportant. That being said, the French authorities choose to ignore the fact that Lebanese farmers were using the area, and, simply indicated that the area belonged to Syria. After the independence of both countries from France in 1943-1945, both the Lebanon and Syria, choose to continue with the de jure ('in law', as in 'international law', not as Cimino puts erroneously, 'on the maps') demarcation of the area as being a part of Syria. In the case of Syria, that meant that Damascus posted border guards and some rudimentary installations in the area. Therefore signaling that Syria regarded the area as belonging to it. An action which the Lebanon did not in fact dispute or contest. Consequently, when the Six Day War occurred in 1967, Israel, occupied the area as part of the Syria's Golan Heights which it occupied in toto. An action with once again Beirut did not dispute. Nor did Beirut indicate to the United Nations at the time, that it was a party to the dispute between Israel and the other antagonists of the just concluded war. As Asher Kaufman, who has perhaps a claim to being (at least in the English language) the leading scholar on the subject matter has stated, the Lebanese non-action was part and parcel of both Syria's and Lebanon's views on the subject in the 1970's:

"At least twice in the 1970's, Syria and Lebanon had a chance to claim or disclaim sovereignty over the region. In 1974, with the signing of the Syrian-Israeli Disengagement Agreement and the deployment of UN forces in the Golan Heights, Syria accepted the existing maps, which located the Shebaa farms within the occupied Golan Heights. Similarly, with the deployment of the UN forces in South Lebanon in 1978, the Lebanese government endorsed the same maps, which excluded the Shebaa farms."

Asher Kaufman, "Understanding the Shebaa Farms Dispute: roots of the anomaly and the Prospects for Resolution," 2004, in Palestine-Israel Journal in

A state of affairs for which all intents and purposes remained the same on the inter-governmental level until the latter part of the 1990's. Indeed, it was only with the Israeli withdrawal from the Lebanon in 2000, a withdrawal which was certified as 'total & complete' by the United Nations (an institution which can hardly be said to have a 'pro-Israeli' bias) at the time. Consequently, it is difficult to take seriously the subsequent Syrian and Lebanese (mainly in fact Hezbollah)claims
that the farms were both de facto and de jure Lebanese territory, and therefore the Israeli failure to evacuate the same, made it the latter party a continuing 'occupier' of Lebanese territory and thus providing both domestic and international legitimacy for Hezbollah armed militia. The fact that the Syrian regime still refuses to outright disclaim in precise legal fashion, any claims to the Shebaa Farms, just underlines that political (rather than legal) nature of these newly invented claims.

To conclude, it is obvious that contrary to Cimio's assertion, the farms were most definitely not, repeat not, 'de facto' Lebanese territory, when Israel occupied them in 1967. The mere fact that Lebanese farmers used them for various purposes prior to that date, no more makes them in the context of international law, either de facto or de jure 'Lebanese', any more than say the fact that the United States does not police its borders with Mexico and allows the people of the latter to travel across parts of it at will, make those sections of its border, 'Mexican' rather than 'American' territory. Either de factor or de jure. Notwithstanding the fraught and emotional nature of the politics of the Near and Middle East, it is up to scholars to keep their heads on, and, to explore in as forensic and empirical fashion as possible the claims and counter-claims of all the antagonists. Unfortunately, in the case of the Shebaa Farms, Cimino has willingly or unwillingly chosen to become a party to the dispute.

Saturday, May 08, 2010


"Anjoum Noorani, the diplomat who has been disciplined over a Foreign Office memo mocking the Pope Anjoum Noorani, 31, was the leader of the Papal Visit Team which drew up a document suggesting the Pope should launch his own range of 'Benedic' condoms, open an abortion clinic and stay in a council flat in Bradford.

Mr Noorani, whose identity has until now remained secret, was moved to 'other duties' after he gave authorisation for the memo to be sent to Downing Street and three Whitehall departments. The memo, which was leaked to The Sunday Telegraph, threatens to overshadow the Pope’s entire four-day visit in September after it prompted fury in the Vatican and among Catholics in Britain.

Senior members of the church have described Mr Noorani and his team as having 'not the slightest understanding of Catholicism'. None of the four-strong group is thought to be a practising Catholic. The memo, which also called for the Pope to bless a homosexual marriage, was emailed around Whitehall by Steven Mulvain, a 23-year-old Oxford graduate who describes his sexual orientation on a social networking website as 'gay'. Mr Mulvain has not been disciplined for his role in the fiasco.

Mr Noorani, who, like Mr Mulvain, is a graduate of Balliol College, Oxford, chaired the 'brainstorm' session which led to the “Ideal Visit” memo, which also proposed that the Pope should sing a duet with the Queen and sponsor a network of Aids clinics.
He worked as press secretary at the British Embassy in Russia between 2002 and 2007, where he dealt with all Russian media inquiries about Britain’s response to the murder of the former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko. He was unavailable for comment last night and his mother, who lives in Windsor, said she 'can’t say anything'.

Although the Vatican is now trying to draw a line under the memo fiasco, Papal aides believe the Government’s choice of non-Catholic staff typifies the 'lack of respect' being shown towards the first ever state visit by a Pontiff. One source said: 'The most striking thing about the Foreign Office team has been how ineffectual they are. They have been disengaged and, frankly, clueless.

'I have never had the impression that any members of the team were informed or even sensitive to the Catholic Church or Catholicism generally.' One senior source at the Catholic Church in England and Wales said: 'This does beg the question of how seriously this visit is being taken by the Government.

'All of our dealings with this Foreign Office team have suggested they don’t have any understanding of Catholicism and that’s how this issue seems to have come about'. 'Why did they even have this brainstorming session in the first place? The Pope’s itinerary was decided a long time ago, so it’s not as if there was much room for extra events to be laid on.'

William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, said: “This whole episode was utterly unacceptable. 'A Conservative-run Foreign and Commonwealth Office would put a stop to such pointless time-wasting and insulting activities. Visits by international leaders should be handled with the respect they deserve and that we would expect to be extended to us.'

The Foreign Office declined to comment on the religious beliefs of the members of the Papal Visit Team."

"Diplomat disciplined over Pope Memo is named," 27 April 2010, in

"Let us first discuss nomination. Under the old system, as it existed in Lord Clarendon's days, the examination was less important than the nomination....Yet it has its merits. In the first place the Secretary of State, before granting nomination, took great pains to ascertain whether the young man in question was suited to a diplomatic career and likely to do credit to his country in that capacity."

Harold Nicolson, Diplomacy. 1939, p. 207.

One of the advantages of the 'Old Diplomacy' and its methods of picking the 'right' people (actually young men) for the diplomatic service was that it prevented for the most part, bounders like Mr. Noorani from gaining a foothold in the corridors of the power. Of course under 'New Labour', it was perfectly par for the course, that jumped-up little wog upstarts of this type should be serving in Whitehall. The mind reels as how this character handled the press office in Moskva for almost five years. One may hope that under the soon to be commenced dispensation of a Tory government and a Tory Foreign Office, that people of this ilk shall be swept away, tutti quanti. Someone like the shadow Foreign Secretary, Mr. William Hague, who has thankfully a historical cast of mind, should be able to re-establish some sense of proportion and clean out the mind-set which allowed this type of insult to the Holy Father to have ever occurred. All one can say is: the sooner the better.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010



"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 300 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.

"I am always hearing about the Middle Classes. What is it that they really want? Can you not put it down on a sheet of notepaper and I will see whether we can give it to them".

Harold Macmillian [Prime Minister] to Michael Fraser [head of the Conservative Party Research Department], 17 February 1957, in Alistair Horne, "Macmillan", Vol II, (1989) p. 62.

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

Like Evelyn Arthur St. John Waugh, I also do not aspire to advise her Majesty the Queen, on her choice of servants. Especially since I am not one of her subjects. However, as a life-long Anglophile, who has followed British politics for almost thirty years now, I would like to offer my own 'two cents', about the election which ends tomorrow, the 6th of May. The choice is rather simple actually: the current, Labour Government is completely burned-out. Whatever originality that Messieurs Blair and Brown brought with them to Downing Street back in May 1997, has been completely exploded (to use Disraeli's metaphor). Of course in point of fact, there was not much in the way of substance to 'New Labour', even in the Spring of 1997. Except in the way of publicity(remember 'Cool Britannia' anyone?), and, the expenditure of huge amounts of monies on the public services, such as the National Health Service. Which to a degree was of course warranted. Unfortunately, as is now widely acknowledged, much of that expenditure was either wasted, or used in an extremely unproductive manner. Please do not mis-understand me in the least: there was much in the Thatcher regime, which was problematical. In particular her cavalier attitude to the public services and indeed to the very indeed that 'State' and 'Society' are intermingled and to a degree (as in any advanced society) inseparable, rather than antagonistic. That and her tendency to view everything from a rather dogmatic and simplistic parody of Smithian economic theory. When added to the fact that the Major government and the Conservative Party, after eighteen years in office, were also completely played out, it was not at all surprising that an ignominious defeat at the polls was in store. Unfortunately, the end-result was a thirteen year reign of the Labour Party, which in many ways, made the 'Socialist Tyranny', that Waugh complained of, seem almost nirvanic in retrospect. From the needless destruction of the House of Lords, to the wasteful and also unnecessary devolution of Scotland & Wales, to the application of European 'Human Rights' legislation to the UK, to the gauchist idiocy of 'political correctness' in all walks of life, the United Kingdom has indeed suffered much from the reign of Blair and Brown.

In the realm of foreign policy, things were not as bad for the most part. After the malaise in Anglo-American relations between 1993 to 1997, Blair's unsurpassed talent to ally himself closely with Washington, first Clinton and then with Bush the Younger, did pay dividends. Few may now remember the ways in which Blair, during the height of the Lewinsky scandal, seemed to take over from Clinton as the chief rhetorician of the so-called, 'new liberal interventionism'. First of course in Kosovo and then much more problematically in Iraq. And, indeed the latter conflict was to show the difficulties that Whitehall found itself when it aligned, uncritically, with Washington in an intervention of dubious merit. A policy, which gained the UK nothing, rien, zero in terms of any positive benefits. Something that Blair himself never perhaps quite understood or came realize. British support, was merely factored in by Washington, as a given, and, therefore, no thought was ever entertained by the latter concerning any payments for the same. With this in the background, it was not very surprising that soon enough (by perhaps early to mid-2004), British commitment to the conflict in Iraq, and, in particular the the British-ruled areas around the City of Basra, seemed to seriously waiver. With neither enough men nor material, nor indeed the right mix of policies the order of the day. The upshot being that by 2006, Basra and its environs were essentially ungovernable, and, unlike the rest of Iraq, which saw a degree of improvement with the American-lead 'surge' policy commencing in 2007, Basra failed to show any signs of improvements, until the Iraqis and the Americans took the lead in 2008. Indeed, such was the disappointment with British performance in Iraq, that it became commonplace in certain American military and defence circles to refer to a (in the words of one commentator) British 'collapse' and 'impotence' in the Basra campaign (see for this most difficult issue in Anglo-American relations of recent years, see: Patrick Porter, "Last Charge of the Knights? Iraq, Afghanistan and the Special Relationship," in International Affairs (March 2010), pp. 355-376). A state of affairs, which was only redeemed by the subsequent British intervention in Afghanistan in the form of (as of today) 10,000 troops. Many of them in the most difficult province in the entire country: Helmand. With the end result that the United Kingdom has incurred the most causalities of any outside country other than the United States. Which in turn has made the Afghanistan campaign much more unpopular than previously in the United Kingdom. And, which has also highlighted the deficiencies in the equipment provided to the armed forces by the parsimonious Brown government (on the weaknesses shown by the British army in the Helmand campaign, see: Paul Cornish & Andrew Dorman "Blair's wars and Brown's budgets: from Strategic Defence Review to strategic decay in less than a decade,"
International Affairs (March 2009), pp. 733-753).

With all of the above being said, and, of course the problem, nay the almost nightmarish burden of the huge deficit mountain that the financial crisis and Gordon Brown's policies as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1997 to 2007 have landed the United Kingdom in, is it very surprising that the only sane and indeed safe choice to make is for the Tory Party under David Cameron? Well, unlike the sixty percent of the British electorate, who disagree with me, I do not believe that there is any other choice than Mr. Cameron. Who whatever his other faults and flaw (see below) is at the very least, a gentleman, an Old Etonian and who one may hope has some of the Tory grandee spirit that once emanated from the likes of Harold Macmillan, and Lords Home and Salisbury. In short he is a one-nation Tory, who seems to understand that (in his own words):

We will never take people with us unless we start with a cut in ministers' pay, a cut in the size of the House of Commons, cuts in the bureaucracy of Whitehall and the quangos. This is important because we need to say to the country there are difficult decisions. I want to lead us through to a better future. I’m going to make sure no one is left behind, that we protect the poorest and most vulnerable in our society".

The fact that he also endorsed putting 'Whitehall on a war-footing' to deal with the Afghanistan conflict, with the formation (something absolutely refused under both Blair and Brown) of a "proper war cabinet, sitting as a war cabinet, from day one,"only enhances his appeal (for both see: "Cameron promises to try to 'take the whole country' with him, 2 May 2010, in Of course, ideally from my perspective, I would much prefer someone who is more 'old-school' `a la Enoch Powell & the Monday Club of the seventies and eighties fame. Unfortunately, that is a complete non possumus at this juncture. We are saddled with the faults and flaws of universal suffrage (a most mis-guided and erroneous system), and, I for one do not anticipate any changes to the same, within our collective lifetimes. With all that being said, it seems to me that as compared to such a neophyte as Mr. Clegg (nice background though: the direct descendant of Graf Aleksandr Benckendorf), and, the sub-human Mr. Brown, Cameron sails far and away ahead and thus he has my endorsement.

Sunday, May 02, 2010


"We should present a smiling face. Like mine is right now."
Russian President Medvedev quoted on Danish Radio, when asked how Russia should present itself to the world. See: "Fury as Ukraine bows to Russian charm offensive," 28 April 2010 in

"The sympathy and help that we have received from Russian brothers has breathed new life into a hope for closer relations and reconciliation between our two Slavic nations."
The Archbishop of Krakow quoted in "Poland Holds State Funeral for President Lech Kaczynski," 18 April 2010, in

"This war is not as in the past; whoever occupies a territory also imposes on it his own social system. Everyone imposes his own system as far as his army can reach. It cannot be otherwise".
Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin quoted by Milovan Djilas circa April 1945, in Conversations with Stalin, 1962, p.114.

"Don't talk to me about 'socialism'. What we have we hold."
Leonid Brezhnev quoted arguing to Aleksandr Dubcek circa the Summer of 1968, as recounted by Robert Tucker in "Swollen State, Spent Society: Stalin's Legacy to Brezhnev's Russia," in Foreign Affairs, Winter 1981/1982,p. 429.

The Russian 'soft power' (to borrow Joseph Nye's phrase) offensive is a most unexpected, surprising and also good news that any follower of contemporary Russia and indeed Russian history can have anticipated. Of course one can well imagine that there are those who will look upon the Russian advances in Ukraine, and indeed elsewhere, such as the recent agreement with Norway to finally sign a treaty delineating each countries borders in the Arctic, maritime region (see: "Thaw in the Arctic," 29 April 2010, in, as 'dangerous' moves by a now more diplomatically agile Kremlin, which ergo requires more not less Western vigilance. Even the more restrained comments in the Anglo-phone press were and are negative about the Russian moves (see: "Tilting to Moscow," 26 April 2010 in What these commentators fail to see is that by pursuing seriously a 'soft power', AKA a more purely diplomatic and suave look to Russian diplomacy, Moskva has to some extent followed the playbook that the West has complained Moskva was failing to follow in the post-Yeltsin years. It was precisely the absence of an alternative to a purely machtpolitikaspect to Russian foreign policy which critics of Russian policy (nota bene: myself including in this journal)have so frequently complained of. Now that Matushka Russia is following a more modulated and softer diplomatic line, I am not sure that there is any logic whatsoever to complaining of the fact that said tactic will be successful. By definition, as long as Russian aims are well within the boundaries of what is par for the course in current day international relations, it hardly makes sense to complain about the possibility of a Russian success here and there `a la the recent agreement with Ukraine. What critics fail to see, is that this turn in Russian diplomacy, provided that it is sustained to a degree, offers up the possibility that in turn a 'thaw' in Russian international relations, will make possible a serious 'thaw' in Russian domestic policy as well. Something which to a small extent has already occurred under the Medvedev Presidency. As the late-19th century Russian historian V. O. Kliuchevsky wrote in his magisterial Course of Russian History

"the expansion of the state territory, straining beyond measure and exhausting the resources of the people, only bolstered the power of the state without elevating the self-confidence of the people....The state swelled up; the people grew lean."

A turn away from the traditional grossmachtpolitik style of Russian foreign policy, will inevitably mean a turn away from the semi-authoritarian regime which governs Russia today. Not necessarily immediately, but, certainly within the next ten to fifteen years. And, it is the job, nay the duty of Western statesman to further this process along, by avoiding the anti-Russian pyrotechnics of the Bush & Blair regimes.

Thankfully, something one hopes of the past and not the future.