England's Sword 2.0

Friday, March 21, 2003

True Friends

The French Embassy in the US has a paean to our shared values... rather amusing.

And the Kings of earth in fear

Just saw the first pictures I've seen of jubilant Iraqis celebrating Allied arrival. Jolly good. But what was more important was what they were saying: "Saddam is dead," according to the translators. In some ways, this makes the question of whether we killed Saddam or not irrelevant. If the word of mouth is spreading that Saddam is dead, then his regime is over.

Which makes the line I quote above (from the poem whence this blog's title is derived) seem more and more apposite:

"And the Kings of earth in fear shall shudder when they hear
What the hand of God hath wrought for the Houses and the Word."

Tyrants all over the world should take Saddam's fate to heart. With the very first shot of the war we may have killed him and at the very least loosened his grip of fear over his people.

PP: They're now saying the people were saying "Saddam's days are numbered." Ah well. Still, I think Robert Mugabe and Kim Jong-Il will probably have required a change of trousers after they heard the news.


Sadly, this is unsourced, but sounds right:


The absence of the British Defence Minister, Geoff Hoon, from a routine EU defence ministers' meeting in Greece on Friday and Saturday (He had "more urgent business" to attend to in London, he said) could not have been more symbolic. Nonetheless, the French Defence Minister, Michel Alliot-Marie, tried to pretend that all was well: "Our transient differences," she said, "will not impede our will to make progress with European defence." The only problem with her optimistic statement is that the backbone of European defence is Franco-British co-operation - the one relationship which has soured more than any other within the EU.

At the beginning of April, the EU is to take over from Nato in the running of Macedonia, and supporters of European defence are looking forward to this with glee. (They seem less interested in the actual resolution of the crisis in that country, so keen are they to have their own EU protectorate.) But apparently Macedonia is only the amuse-bouche for other more important military dishes: the EU wants to take over peacekeeping operations in Bosnia as well. There seems, therefore, to be little chance of the situation being resolved there either, now that institutional interests are firmly driving the agenda. The EU already has a police mission in Bosnia & Herzegovina composed of 510 policemen under the command of Javier Solana; it is now looking forward to greater glory.

CFSP is dead, thank goodness. Wouldn't surprise me, though, if it rose like a vampire in a year or so.

Collateral Benefit

The Irish National Platform is an isolationist group that almost got the Nice Treaty on the future of the EU scuppered. They're currently anti-war, which I think is consistent with their general outlook. Anyway, in their recent e-mail alerts have been a couple of very interesting gobbets gleaned from European sources, such as:


The Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who supports the US-UK attack on Iraq, has expressed the fear that the chances of the European constitution being signed in Rome in December, as planned, are receding. Although Berlusconi, in a meeting with Gerhard Schroder, has said that he was very attached to the December deadline, because he wanted the new constitution to be signed in Rome. Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the chairman of the Convention which is drawing up the document, admitted on 14th March that the Constitution could probably not be presented to the European Council in Thessaloniki on 20th and 21st June, as planned. He claimed to see no problem in delaying the conclusion of his Convention's work to the end of September; but the risk, in the eyes of the supporters of the constitution, is that any delay now will only snowball.

Giscard thinks there should be a special summit devoted only to the constitution, to be held in October or November; but there might still be disagreements then, especially since the new member states are involved in the process too. Four member states (Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the United Kingdom) have joined six candidate countries (Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Latvia) in asking for a period of reflection between the end of the Convention's work and the beginning of the Inter-governmental Conference that will actually draw up the new treaty.

The EU candidate states do not want the Constitution to be signed before they join on 1st May 2004, by which time the presidency will be held by Ireland. So Berlusconi seems to have lost grip of "his" ceremony in Rome this December. But according to commentators, his support for the British, Danish, Portuguese and Spanish governments on the Iraq crisis has pushed suspicion among EU states to their highest imaginable level. Under the circumstances created by the Iraq crisis, Paris and Berlin are unlikely to accept that foreign policy should be decided by majority vote. But just as disagreements and national reflexes of the European states could not be greater, Giscard is still talking about the "profound unity of European peoples" which he wants to "come to the surface." [Liberation, 18th March 2003]

The Iraq crisis has turned over the stone of "European unity." There are all sorts of unpleasant things crawling underneath.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Idle thoughts

Watching the news tonight, I am completely sick of the excuse for opposing the war given by certain Muslims that Hussein is their co-religionist. Somehow, I doubt he's observant. Therefore, in a similar vein, all Christians ought to support Milosevic, Mugabe, Gerry Adams, et al, given that they all respect the cross. Given that Islam has condemned the Crusades for that exact mentality, it's rank hypocrisy to belief support of Hussein for that reason to be any better. After all, aren't the Kurds and Shi'ites fellow Muslims?

Furthermore, what's all this demanded linkage between Iraq and Israel/Palestine? It befuddles the mind. Although Arabs may believe it to be unfair, let's turn the question on its head. If the US and UN proposed to solve the Israel issue tomorrow, ought objectors have a right to oppose due to the fact that measures on Iraq are not included? Again, the resolutions against Israel are of a different nature than that to Iraq.

The beliefs of many young protestors are dangerously naive. Apparently, the Iraqis have free reign to overthrow Hussein, despite several noticeable failures. The belief that mobs in the street equate to democracy is foolish. After all, many voters aren't happy with the government they elected. If we let the mobs rule, why don't we descend to anarchy? After all, that's the way democracy works. I don't agree with Roe v. Wade, but I don't consider the government illegitimate as a result. A much needed introduction to the real world for these blinded youth.

More on crime

The second and third parts of my crime series are now up at the UPI site.

Sacre bleu!

Ricin found in Paris. Chriac set to blame America. BBC to host special Question Time devoted to the issue with guests Dominique de Villepin, Tam Dalyell, Michael Moore and Osama bin Laden, with Jolly Josh Fischer as the comedian.

The humble soldier

As Stephen Pollard says, Lt. Col. Tim Collins' speech to his men makes me proud to be British too.

America's role in the (crime) world

The first part of my 2500 word magnum opus on just how crime-ridden America is compared with the rest of the world has been put out by UPI at Analysis: America the crime-free, Part 1. This part tackles the question of whether America's murder rate is a good guide to how crime-ridden its society is.

Panic and security

Boris Johnson conjures up a wonderful image of the degree of panic being spread in the UK at the moment:

In the restaurants of London, we are invited to imagine that Levantine waiters will sidle up and sprinkle anthrax on our spaghetti. Out of the doner huts and falafel dens will swarm the tarbooshed hordes, plotting to release their deadly vapours on the Tube.

It's the Phony War again, isn't it? And the upshot is a bizarre contradiction:

Worse was to follow when Ann tried to fly to Scotland for a wedding. Now she was told she needed a passport for the plane to Scotland! No ifs, no buts, she needed a passport or photo ID - which she did not have - if she wished to travel within what is still the United Kingdom. Why? "Security."

Something has gone seriously wrong, if we are so obsessed by security that we inhibit the right of a freeborn Batley girl to fly to Scotland. If we are so worried about undesirable aliens within our borders, wouldn't it make more sense to crack down on the freedom of movement of asylum seekers?

After the policeman was killed in Manchester, I discovered that in 2001 there were 2,665 Algerian applications for asylum, of which 2,530 were turned down.

Guess how many were either removed or departed? 125. No doubt many of these are good people, who deserve sympathy. But shouldn't something be done to sort out this abuse of the system, before taking away, from British people, in a hysteria about "security", the basic right to move around their own country?

Actually, people do have a right to move around Britain, just not necessarily to fly. We've accepte that in the US for some time. If they're demanding papers at Kings Cross railway station and at roadblocks on the M1 going North towards Edinburgh, then that is a problem and the right is being denied. I don't think that's happening, though. Yet.

Child abuse

Yesterday, there were many protests by schoolchildren over the war. They played truant to demonstrate, but their teachers "understand." Hmmm. This Telegraph editorial has it right. There are two problems. First, what this tells us about our schools (as if we didn't know already):

The head of education at the National Union of Teachers, John Bangs, told Radio 4's Today programme yesterday: "I don't condone young people leaving school, but we have to understand it. These are major events." Equivocation over whether this truancy should be punished is tacitly to politicise education.

Second, the fact that immature minds are being used in such a fashion demonstrates the intellectual poverty of the antiwar movement:

A sort of pacifist jingoism has, lately, replaced real and thoughtful dissent. Just as jingoism is a perversion of the admirable values of patriotism, Stop the War is a perversion of pacifism. Militantly and flatly, the peace jingoists assert that all soldiers are bad, all government untrustworthy, any use of military force motivated by economic agendas. The children of Servicemen should not be made to feel defensive as they watch their schoolmates protest on television. Those children must be rightly proud of their parents. It is the child protest organisers who should be ashamed.

It seems that the dumbing-down of education has now spread to the level of protest. How ironic. The law of unintended consequences strikes again.

HM's Message

Her Majesty the Queen has sent a message to her troops that says it all, really:

"May your mission be swift and decisive, your courage steady and true, and your conduct in the highest traditions of your service both in waging war and bringing peace," she said.

"My thoughts are with you all, and with your families and friends who wait at home for news and pray for your safe return."

Simple yet elegant, and exactly what needed to be said.

Well, the Guardian often gets it wrong...

I forget on whose site I found this, but it deserves posting everywhere. Back in 1999, The Guardian was reporting on a meeting between Saddam's people and Al Qa'eda. Even if it was rebuffed, it is still evidence that the supposed hostility between the two is not nearly as deep as people say it is.

Le deluge

Iain Dale is a publisher as well as a blogger. He's decided to publish a humor book on "why we hate the French" and, as part of the research, wants us to send him our best anti-French jokes. Fire away!

Useful source

From what I've seen of the American coverage so far, it looks like Sky News, Fox's sister network in the UK (but without the reputation), is the best source for up-to-the-minute news on what's happening in Iraq.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

If you're tired of watching C-SPAN

Or Fox News, or CNN or even MSNBC, try to catch the reruns of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart tomorrow. My friend John Hulsman from Heritage is on it and he really puts the case for action in Iraq as well as can be expected in the circumstances...

Resignation Issue

I have an article over at The American Enterprise Magazine Online explaining for an American audience the significance, or lack of it, of the various resignations from the British Government over the Iraq issue.

Buggers at work in EU

Officials at the building that House of the EU Council of Ministers have uncovered mystery buggings of the offices of the UK, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Austrian delegations. Curious that this should have been discovered on Feb 28 but only made public today. Less curious that the French newspapers should blame the US. Watch this space for developments.

Timeo Danaos et Dona Ferentes?

The Greek presidency of the EU has decided to use the internet to give Europeans a voice in their government. Hmmm. I wonder what will become of this, given the unrepresentative nature of the internet. Anyway, Vote for the EU YOU want is the intiative. Thanks to Dan Hannan MEP for the heads up.


A brief exchange between my good friend Paul Robinson and Eugene Volokh on the dangers of precedents in warfare is up at The Volokh Conspiracy. I think both sides make good points. But if the onrushing war is a military disaster, or even just less effective a solution than we thought it would be based on the precedents of Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, I think the "dangerous precedent" argument won't hold much water, because there will be severe negatives in following it. It will probably remain a "good precedent" until we run into trouble, at which point a new precedent will be set.

The ongoing political war

Now the British public is moving to acceptance of war, there will be two political wars ongoing there. First, the Civil War within Labour, where I think Blair will win handsomely. More interesting perhaps will be the war between the Tories and the Lib Dems. Like Chirac, I think Kennedy overplayed his hand in thinking that British antiwar feeling was stronger than it is. The Tories should be able to exploit this and paint the Liberals as the leftists they are. Peter Cuthbertson, a Second Lieutenant in the Tory forces, comes out with guns blazing in this particular fight.

Blair for an Independent Britain

Excellent analysis by Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post of Tony Blair's internal contradictions over Iraq. She concludes that Blair's decision is a rejection of transnationalism:

But they [Blair's opponents] won't all come around, because the debate about Iraq in Britain is actually about far more than Iraq. It is about making a choice between two radically different options. Either Britain will become further enmeshed in the world of multilateral institutions, eventually diluting its sovereignty in the European Union; or Britain will continue to have its own foreign policy and a distinct international role. Blair knows this, and said yesterday that the decision to go to war in Iraq "will determine the pattern of politics for the next generation." Putting it more grandly, the British philosopher Roger Scruton has described this as a test of whether Britain will remain a "nation-state" at all.

Odd though it sounds, Blair is asserting his country's independence by siding with George Bush. If he is perceived to fail -- if the war goes badly, if his party votes him out of office -- his career will be at an end, and so will a very old British foreign policy tradition. After such a setback, it's hard to see how any future British prime minister would ever be able to defy European conventional wisdom again. Until now, Blair has always tried to play by the rules of multilateral Europe and to back the United States. Now he knows that he can't have it both ways, and his agony shows on his face.

I think she's right. If the war goes badly, the British may well lose the self-confidence they have been regaining gradually since Thatcher, and might throw themselves wholly into the European project as a way of preventing such tragedy again. Europe will become a protectionist hedgehog, rolling itself up in the face of any danger, only with no spines to protect it. We can but pray that the Generals know what they're doing.

Kris on "So you think you might be a tyrant?"

Not sure what counts as tyranny? Perhaps you think you can spread the definition so thinly as to apply to any leader, thereby making the concept of tyrants irrelevant (and thus protect yourself).

Well, here goes….

If you think gassing men, women, and children for political gain is okay, well, then you might be a tyrant.

If teaching your sons how to torture is a fun way to spend a Saturday, well, then you might be a tyrant.

If holding your government’s family members in prison is a good way to get the votes you need, well, then you might be a tyrant.

If keeping the home fires lit involves covering citizens with oil and igniting them, well, then you might be a tyrant.

If shredding old documents and people is a good way to tidy up the place, well, then you might be a tyrant.

If your idea of urban renewal is to build dozens of palaces while your people starve, well, then you might be a tyrant.

If rape is a good way to meet a girl, control a father, or get driving directions, well, then you might be a tyrant.

If shooting unwanted party guests is a good way to keep your shindigs intimate, well, then you might be a tyrant.

If you think you need to be on constant move and only sleep 4 hours a night, well, then you might be a tyrant.

If your “posse” consists of thousands of heavily armed soldiers, well, then you might be a tyrant.

Some people might call certain leaders tyrants because they hold a different political view than they. Some people might call certain leaders tyrants because they made one horrible mistake. But let’s not lessen the term by bandying it about. Tyrants do unimaginably horrible things for a long time. Let’s leave the past behind us. We can not change what has happened there. Let’s start looking at leaders who have for the past, say 10 years, been truly tyrannical and concentrate on getting rid of them. Let’s call for a new approach where these evil men are no longer tolerated or supported.

-- Post by Kris Murray (Iain's wife)

Old World Order

Janet Daley has a compelling column in the Telegraph where she says this is the dawn of the New World's order. Some good points well made, but her last sentence set me thinking:

And so they will fight this fight now in the only way that it can be fought: with the unflinching dedication of true believers, while the Old Europeans cringe on the sidelines.

The current "new" world view is in many ways a reversion to the Evangelical era of British foreign policy. The view was that, if something is wrong, then it will be stamped out, whether it be sati (the Hindi practice of immolating widows on their husband's funeral pyre) or the slave trade. Yes, some these actions had serious consequences: 15,000 in total died in the Indian Mutiny that was inspired by the imposition of "British values" on India. But as 7,500 women died in just Bengal in the years 1813-1825, I think it's fair to say far more lives were saved than lost.

The evangelical era died out because the British lost the confidence that they were right, coupled with the crippling costs of World War I. This new era has two crucial differences: first, it is secular, not religious and belief in democracy, personal liberty and social justice is unlikely to be eroded as quickly as was belief in evangelicism. Second, the British had rivals to its hegemony who were able to drag it into debilitating war. We are unlikely to see that happen to the US any time soon.

There is also another aspect to this. This new era reflects, as Jim Bennett has written, an understanding between the American Jacksonians and the British Gladstonians, typified by Tony Blair. In realising that he is a Gladstonian, Blair may be beginning to reject European-style transnationalism. We'll see when the European issue comes back to the table, but the bitter personal attacks of the European transnationalists against him cannot but have had some effect on his worldview.

Watch C-SPAN if you can

And try to catch the LA Times debate on American Power and the Crisis Over Iraq. Christopher Hitchens and Michael Ignatieff effectively destroy the "dirty hands" argument, Hitchens dealing particularly well with the accusation of double standards over his treatments of Kissinger and Wolfowitz.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

"Tommy" seems apposite here

More evidence that the UN was a distraction in British public opinion. Thanks to commenter Richard for pointing me towards this ITV poll that shows 50% support for war. A far cry from the ten percent of a couple of weeks ago. And whose fault is the collapse of the UN process in the opinion of the British public?

French President Jacques Chirac has few supporters for his stance. Sixty eight per cent said he was wrong to block UN backing for the threat of force. Just 21 per cent felt that he was right and 11 per cent didn't know.

Mr Chirac also gets most blame for the failure of the international community to work together through the UN. Fifty per cent said it was his fault. Thirty five per cent thought George Bush was responsible and Mr Blair was blamed by just two per cent. The don't know tally was 13 per cent.

This was a YouGov poll, whose previous methods have tended to lean things leftwards when compared with other polls, so I'm not surprised the President only gets 38 percent support in this one, but it's remarkable to see these numbers on war support and blaming the French in one of their surveys.

Terrorists caught

Meanwhile, "three European men" have been arrested after 'home-made bombs' were found at their flat.

Uh-oh en Francais

It seems that realization is growing in France and Germany that they blew it badly. Germany first:

In Berlin, a reporter talking to a German official heard that the Schroeder government initially believed Iraq was a one-issue crisis, narrowly confinable to disagreement on the military undertaking and the painful although surmountable problem (in the middle term) of Germany's nonparticipation.

But reacting in fear of isolation, the official suggested, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer's willingness to subordinate Germany to a French view of confrontation with the United States on many wider fronts has brought the government to a position it now finds an awkward fit with Germany's long-term interests, outside the two men's realm of when they ran for re-election on a pacifist platform last September.

In very less specific terms, this notion of things having gone too far appeared to suffuse remarks on Monday by Fischer that American policy was absolutely nonimperial in nature, that the United States was the irreplacable element of global and regional security, that there was no alternative to good trans-Atlantic relationships and that he well understood how the new East European membership of the European Union could have a "very different view" of their security than this or that EU founding member.

So Germany is crawling back. What about France?

For the first time, French publications, reporting on the disarray of political analysts, are now asking: Who are we against, Saddam or Bush? Or: Where was the sense in Chirac's promising a veto of a new UN resolution when such a gesture was not an absolute necessity? And even: How did France manage to reject British revisions to its draft resolution last week hours before Iraq did?

"Have They Gone Overboard?" this week's cover-story in Le Point, a center-right newsmagazine, wondered over a picture of Chirac and Foreign Minister Dominic de Villepin. Its lead editorial's response was mostly yes, noting viperishly that France was rather good at accommodating itself to any detestable status quo. But that hardly signaled some kind of special unease, no more than the middle-ground financial daily La Tribune did in saying Tuesday that France would pay dearly for its gratuitous threat of a veto.

Instead, the notion that a botch may well be at hand for France came in a well-researched article in the current issue of the left-populist magazine Marianne, normally a font of anti-American tweaks and bellows, which analyzed recent French diplomacy under the title, "Visionary Policy or Operetta-Style Gaullism?"

It said France always sought if possible to propel its own policies with a European motor but found that its disagreement these days with many of the EU's members and candidates about the French desire for a Europe defined by its opposition to America eliminated any hope of a common policy.

And, all of a sudden, the French are beginning to confront the reality of Iraq possibly using WMDs on the battlefield:

There were other, more palpable aspects of French policy that caused discomfort among the French. Therese Delpech, a Frenchwoman who is director of strategic affairs at the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission and a commissioner in charge of Iraqi affairs for the UN's control, verification and inspection commission, pointed to a French dilemma if American or British troops were felled by Iraqi chemical or biological arms.

"In a case like that, it will be very difficult (for France) not to participate," she said. "You've got to look (the situation) straight in the eye. If chemical weapons are used against American or British troops, that's really going to be very difficult."

De Villepin referred to the issue Monday, telling a radio interviewer that in those circumstances, France would be alongside what he called "its precious friends." When an American official in Washington was asked if knew of such a contingency, he said no and called the French gesture "meaningless."

I suspect a British official's off-the-record reaction would have been a little more, how can I put it, Anglo-Saxon.

And the upshot?

In the sense of the French having brazenly overreached, while the Germans were stuck holding on to Chirac's shirttail, that has some of Germany's foreign policy professionals regarding the circumstances with irony and tinges of regret. Whatever Fischer says, theirs is a Germany that could come out of the war with deteriorated relations with America, tarnished ones with an Eastern Europe it did not quickly raise its voice to defend and ties well short of full confidence with France.

For the French, the regrets may not yet be full blown. But what is moldering now is a parallel sense of France's having eaten up all its room for maneuver, and all the potential of its star-turn in the run-up to the war through an excess, in the words of a German official, of the French "prestige imperative."

Ah, Chirac. L'etat c'est lui?

Blair wins both votes comfortably

The amendment that there was no justification for war was defeated 396 to 217, including about 140 Labour rebels. The substantive motion approving military action only had 149 voting against it, if I heard right. This was a pretty good result for the Prime Minister.

It's up to the Generals now.

PP: Just to put this in perspective, he would have won without the Tories' 163 votes (although some Tories voted against). While the rebellion was a large one, 2/3rds of Labour MPs supported him. The Labour left simply isn't strong enough to damage him significantly at present.

A quick distraction

My latest TCS column is up in full form (an earlier glitch meant only the first half was posted). TV in the Dock takes a detailed look at the latest study to claim TV causes violence. There's something there, but it's not in black and white like they claim.

They don't do this in Congress...

Britain may have its constitutional problems, but packed Parliamentary debates are great theater. How about this from the much-missed William Hague:

William Hague stands up - and cannot avoid the temptation to have a go at the leader of the Lib Dems, saying if the Iraqi army "collapses under fire as quickly as his argument, it will be a short war indeed!"

Mr Kennedy picks his nose and turns red.

Mr Hague then compliments Robin Cook on his speech last night, before commenting on Clare Short that he has never seen "a more spectacular failure to resign."

He jokes that Mr Blair has had his revenge on her by forcing her to stay IN the cabinet...Mr Blair laughs.

Under fire from Jon Owen Jones, Mr Hague reveals he would not have supported the US invasion of Grenada - but quotes this as showing that backing for America is not unconditional, but vital at this particular time.

Mr Hague goes on that Saudia Arabia and Kuwait "do not care what happens to Saddam Hussein", revelations he has made travelling to those countries since his resignation as Tory leader. "They will not shed a tear for him" he adds, saying the Israel/Palestinian conflict is far more important to those countries.

But he backs pre-emptive action against "rogue states and sponsors of terrorism."

Mr Hague commends the prime minister's stance, urges colleagues to vote for it, and receives a nod of thanks from Mr Blair.

We also learn that the Lib Dem's junior foreign affairs spokesman is Michael Moore. Aha!

Britain moves to war footing

It took me ages to find it, but The Guardian has a very interesting poll today:

Public opinion has shifted dramatically towards military action against Iraq, with the anti-war lead in the Guardian/ICM opinion poll narrowing from 23 to only six points in the past month.

This has been accompanied by a recovery in Tony Blair's personal rating, according to results of the March survey, published today.

Women and Liberal Democrat voters remain overwhelmingly opposed to the war, but majority backing for military action is now to be found for the first time among men and among Labour and Conservative voters.

Now the UN distraction is out of the way the resolve of the British public will stiffen quickly. And just look at this:

Surprisingly the poll also shows quite good ratings for George Bush with 53% of voters saying they have confidence in him to make the right decisions on Iraq, while 43% have no confidence in him.

As long as Blair retains the confidence of the House today, his position is secure politically. For him, all will then depend on the military.

Short Sham Shock

Well, it seems Clare Short, who said angrily she would resign from the Blair cabinet, has decided to stay, and it has stengthened Tony's hand:

The astonishment at his refusal to sack her over her original outburst has now turned into admiration at the way he has completely neutralised her as a political force.

Not quite the way I thought it would go, but I did say Blair would handle this well.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Written Before Bush's Speech

The cover story in this week’s Newsweek talks about how America has been the strongest nation on earth for a full century however, anti-Americanism is only very recent. The author blames Bush’s foreign policy tactics which have managed to both offend and alienate our allies and enemies alike.

Islamic fundamentalists and left-leaning socialist countries have always hated America because we do things exactly the way they think America should not. But everyone else still had a relatively positive image of America. Now as the only super power in the world, Bush has chosen an approach that makes us appear both arrogant and uncontrollable.

I believe there is a lot of truth in this but I think there is something more. The author touched upon America’s ability to crush the Taliban swiftly in the Afghan war, a place where other great empires (Russia & Britain) had failed. We did not.

We won not because we are a huge superpower so much as we were liberators. We came in, we exacted justice, we are rebuilding. That we won so easily is what has scared so many countries. We had been so nice and low-key for so long, they lost sight of how powerful America is. The other countries were hoping we would, maybe not fail but, struggle more. They fear us not because we are bad, but because we succeeded too easily. But again, let me underscore that unlike previous countries, we were liberators (ultimately) in Afghanistan, not conquerors.

What many these other countries don’t understand is that America doesn’t do things the way Islamic fundamentalists and left-leaning socialist countries would. If we really wanted to “rule the world”, Peru, Mexico, and Venezuela would have been American states ages ago. That said, it floors me when Europe actually expects the US to give up its sovereignty to an international body. They call us arrogant when they clearly think the US is too stupid to see through their Kyoto Treaty stunt, amongst others.

Yes, President Bush has a lot of fences to mend. And I sincerely hope he does it quickly and sincerely. He squandered decades of good will in just a few years. I don’t know how we can rebuild it, except to do our best. We also need to counter the really ugly propaganda that Islamic fundamentalists and socialist countries have been broadcasting. Propaganda that is proven a lie when held up against the actions of America and the general feelings of the American people.

I deeply hope President Bush will work hard to improve US relations with the rest of the world and reassure them that we mean no harm, but I would be seriously pissed off if he gave up my rights as an American to please elitist-run socialist countries.

Kris Murray
Iain's Wife

Murray backs winning candidate shock horror

Amazing. Chris Patten is the new Oxford chancellor. Yet the BBC still manages to twist things round. They say he

beat off a strong challenge from senior judge Lord Bingham to win the election for the coveted post

The votes were as follows:

First round: Patten 3657, Bingham 2251, Neill 1290, Toksvig 1179. Toksvig excluded.

Second Round: Patten 4203, Bingham 2483, Neill 1470.

So Patten had half as many votes again as Bingham in the first round and got fully half of Toksvig's transfers. Strong challenge? This was a walkover.

I'm still reeling from the idea that I backed a winner...

Warming up flocks

Dame Thora Hird has died. A splendid lady, may she Rest In Peace.

The Diplomatic Game

It seems clear to me, as it seems clear to British, Spanish, American and Portugeuse leaders that France has overplayed its hand. We'll see tomorrow (well, today now) whether France's unreasonable veto threat wins the day and plunges the world into war,,,

Blogger This

You may not agree with what he say, but that forthright Aussie John Ray has a new site at Dissecting Leftism.

Where's Dead or Alive when you need them?

what decade does your personality live in?

quiz brought to you by lady interference, ltd

99 Red Balloons

Lilli Marleen is the website of the Group Captain's German friend. A useful insight into the current German psyche.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

Spring is here

Well, the Tories think it is, at least. Peter Cuthbertson's coverage of their spring conferance is here. As another delegate suggested to me over the weekend, much of this was irrelevant in view of the momentous events about to happen.


This has to be the most bizarre news headline I've ever seen: Tory leader woos middle classes.

Poll pall

I am an unindicted co-conspirator at The Volokh Conspiracy, having been asked by the well-bred one to post there a few time. Eugene himself tells it like it is about current polls on the war. Well worth reading, even if you're not a conspircay theorist.


What are the sanctions of the United Nations? Jay Manifold tells us exactly what the USA would be like if it reflected the UN. Exquisite.

The reality of Zimbabwe

Thanks to Fred Boness for this article about the courageous cricketer Henry Olonga. He has had to go into hiding to escape the secret police.

In sporting terms, this is worse than what happened in the Soviet Union or South Africa. God bless Henry Olonga, and may he be able to take many wickets for a free Zimbabwe in the future.

Roundheads for Liberty

As may be gathered from the title of this website, I tend towards the Roundhead point of view. It is one of the most annoying facets of the Left that they have co-opted the Roundhead image for their own. This is twisting their position. The Levellers, for instance, were in favor of free trade, as can be seen here:

"The Case of the Army Truly Stated"... included this demand: "That all Monopolyes be forthwith removed, and no persons whatsoever may be permitted to restrain others from free trade."

It is interesting that the current crisis seems to me to be returning us to the 17th/18th century arguments. The arguments of liberty. justice and free trade on one side, the arguments of entrenched position, arbitrary power and regional protection on the other.

Of course, we won then. We'll win again now.

For conspiracy theorists

Don't fail to check out David Icke's web site. He knows the real truth: check out especially this page, where you'll find out that both the 9/11 hijackers and the American authorities are tools of the Global Secret Society Network. Doubtless Saddam, Bush, Blair and Chirac are all taking their orders as we speak.

They're all shape-shifting alien reptiles, you know.

Saturday, March 15, 2003

Kris had a thought (just the one)

This came to me, I thought about it, and Iain is letting me share with ya'll (it's very exciting).

Which is more frightening to the anti-West folk (including anti-West Westerners), that America is so powerful it could crush any nation it chooses, or that America could but doesn’t?

I wonder if those most jealous of America’s wealth and power are not only jealous but also angry that America “wastes”.

It’s an odd thought but I’m beginning to suspect it a true one.

America’s success is not a secret. The means are available to any country that wishes to for it. We made good choices about the handling of our resources (including tax policies) in order to maximize opportunities and minimize risk for the majority of our citizens. Were we right all the time? No. Are we perfect? Lord, no! But did we get it more right than wrong? Yes.

Let’s face it. What so upsets the liberals and fundamentalists equally is we didn’t choose their way and we were (mostly) right. That we don’t “use” our power the way they would is just the icing on the cake.

Kris Murray (Iain's Wife)

Friday, March 14, 2003

Young Thugs for Peace

Be sure to check out OxBlog's accounts of antiwar protests by the young in Oxford. How pleasant.

Olonga Silenced

Zimbawean cricketer Henry Olonga, who protested against Robert Mugabe's regime in front of a Harare crowd, has been silenced:

"I would love to talk to you guys," he told reporters at Bloemfontein's Goodyear Park on Monday, "but they don't want me to."

When asked who "they" were, he added: "Work it out for yourselves. Work out who doesn't want me to talk about things other than cricket."

Olonga has also not been selected to play for Zimbabwe since the incident. Owing to a rain-shortened match, he bowled only 3 overs, but conceded only 8 runs. If he was dropped on cricketing rather than political grounds, they didn't give him much of a chance.

Also on sp!ked

The always readable Jennie Bristow sums up the dreadful Clare Short in The war of Clare's ego. She finishes off with a useful reminder of what politcians are supposed to be about:

When even a Cabinet minister is so ill-prepared to take responsibility for the actions of a government of which she is supposed to be a part, preferring to broadcast her personal objections across the UK media instead of fighting them out with her colleagues, this is not political leadership, but its opposite. It is a self-conscious abdication of responsibility, for the sake of an individual ego.

There's nothing brave or admirable about the likes of Clare Short attacking the government from within. What public life needs are more people prepared to fight, to lead, and to take responsibility, and fewer moral cowards looking to nurse their gripes in public.


MMR Mania

Sorry to hear that Melanie Phillips has bought into the MMR panic. Sp!ked's resident doctor, Michael Fitzpatrick effectively demolishes the arguments here. Fitzpatrick has an autistic son.


If you're tired of waiting for my Lomborg summary, check out Duane Freese's coverage at TCS.

What a surprise

Republican - You believe that the free market will
take care of most things, but that the
government should be there with moderate
taxation to provide for national defense and
enforcing morality. Your historical role model
is Ronald Reagan.

Which political sterotype are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

PP: I just re-ran the quiz answering as I think a New Labour type would. The result was: "Fascist: You believe that an alliance of monopolistic corporations and oppressive government should cooperate to lord it over the population with an efficient iron fist. Your historical role model is Adolf Hitler."

Jacques Who?

I think the most interesting thing to come out of this FOX News poll is that fully 45 percent of Americans have never heard of Jacques Chirac. The equivalent figure for Tony Blair is 17 percent. So much for the Frnch being demonized over here.

Vote for Patten

I helped nominate him, so I'm going to go a little further and ask Oxford MAs to vote for Chris Patten, for essentially the reasons outlined in this Times leader. He would also almost certainly give up being an EU Commissioner if elected, so it's likely to be a win double.

As Cicero once said...

"Plato is dear to me, but dearer still is truth." Eoghan Harris, in his Telegraph article, "Unlike Clare Short, Tony Blair knows that evil must be fought," points out a difference between the Platonist and Aristotelian ways of thinking about the nature of man which gets to the heart of the moral questions being asked about the current nastiness:

Most of the woollier anti-war activists are Platonists. But their ethically empty rhetoric, if applied to Nazi Germany, would go like this: "Hitler is no worse than Churchill. Look at Gallipoli, look at the way he shot the miners. How do we know Hitler means what he says about the Jews? Anyway we shall have to wait until he does something to them. And in the meantime, let's leave it to the League of Nations."

What at first appears to be a high-minded stance against using force against Saddam Hussein is in reality a recipe for raising children to be the sort of ethical eunuchs and moral neutrals who will lack the character to fight the good fight in any field.

I'm more and more convinced that this is right.

Law. What is it good for?

Interesting review of the arguments for and against the legality of military action in Iraq in The Times. The case for its legality looks compelling to me, given that we have been taking military action against Iraq for years:

One difficulty in assessing the legality of a war is the lack of clear principles. A quick scan of the literature shows no consensus on how the UN Charter is to be interpreted. Nevertheless, there are arguments to justify the legality of war on Saddam. The first is textual. Although Resolution 1441 would not appear to authorise war, it has to be read against the background of resolutions passed during and after the first Gulf War. The UN Secretary-General (among others) has used these to justify the use of force against Iraq after ceasefire violations in the past 13 years, strong evidence that further explicit measures are unnecessary.

This is why I don't think the argument that resolution 678 is irrelevant holds much water. The Kosovo precedent is also important, whatever you think of the rights and wrongs of that situation.

You know, I'm no lawyer, but I have a feeling Britain's use of force to suppress the slave trade might have been illegal under current law. That has to suggest that there's something wrong with the law as it stands.

Blair and Chirac

The Telegraph thinks it knows why Chirac has set upon the course he has:

M Chirac's actions are better explained by his historic links with Saddam, whether building the nuclear reactor at Osirak or selling arms, and the satisfaction of infuriating the Anglo-Saxons to the sound of domestic and international applause. The result has been to blow apart the United Nations Security Council, Nato and the European Union, and severely to undermine Mr Blair, the most pro-European British prime minister since Edward Heath.

M Chirac does not seem to care. But once Saddam has been removed from power, M Chirac will find himself isolated and diminished. What we have witnessed over the past few weeks is the reckless indulgence of debased Gaullism.

Perhaps. But there's another issue here.

The current debacle is not about Iraq. It's not even about the US. It seems pretty clear to me that the whole thing is a struggle to decide who is the most powerful politician in Europe, Jacques Chirac or Tony Blair. Blair has successfully challenged the Franco-German axis by allying with Spain and Italy, so creating a balancing force. His nation has overtaken France in economic terms, and its military is better. His close alliance with the world's only superpower adds to his lustre. He has won two elections by massive landslides. This is, I think, why Chirac spotted a weakness in his support and went for the jugular. If he can bring down such a powerful politician, he will be the undisputed master of Europe.

Yet I think there are signs that Blair's position may even be strengthening.
Andrew Marr's BBC analysis contains some interesting hints:

First, a growing number of Labour MPs now see the prime issue as one of Tony Blair's survival.

He has won them two elections and they are unwilling to give up on him just yet.

"This is no longer about Iraq, it's about supporting Tony," is being heard in the corridors just now.

Second, the tough behaviour of France is seen by some MPs as intransigent and unreasonable.

Third, MPs report a clear class and gender split, with men and working class supporters likelier to favour war than middle class and female members.

It is often MPs with university backgrounds and more affluent constituencies who are the most hostile to the war.

The class element may help keep Labour -- the party of the working class for generations -- together, although it's quite possible, as I've said before, that the "educated" MPs representing middle class constituencies will defect to the Lib Dems, which seems there more natural home.

But it's the French intransigence that may be the key to keeping Blair in power as head of a Labour, rather than coalition, government. The "veto under any circumstances" threat cannot be seen as anything other than unreasonable, except by ideologues. Chirac may have overplayed his hand. The struggle between these two European titans is far from over, but I have a feeling it will swing Blair's way again very soon.

PP: Blairite Times columnist Mary Ann Sieghart helps confirm my thesis:

But it was M Chirac’s insistence on Monday night that he would veto any UN resolution, however framed, that most helped Mr Blair. This allowed the Prime Minister to portray himself as the one desperate to follow the UN route, while the French President acted as a wrecker. M Chirac’s behaviour gave those MPs who had impaled themselves on a second resolution an excuse to get off the hook.

The PLP [Parliamentary Labour Party -- ed.] meeting was, by all accounts, an electrifying occasion. Diana Organ, an MP who rebelled in the last Iraq debate, made a passionate speech supporting the Prime Minister and lambasting his opponents. She was followed by colleague after colleague making the same points. Tam Dalyell, one of the most vocal opponents of Mr Blair, sat shaking with rage and eventually stormed out. And Ms Abbott was slated by a fellow Leftie, Lynne Jones, as the two women left, for making a stupid tactical error in trying to undermine the Labour leader at this most delicate of times.

Solidarity among the Comrades. Whodda thunk it?

Spin City

I cannot imagine why I left him out of my blogroll, but one of the best commentators on British Politics today is Mr British Spin. He's from the right part of the world as well, yerbuggermar (as they used to say).

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Thank God

I meant to mention this yesterday, but the news that Elizabeth Smart has been found safe and well should lift the hearts of everyone.

Apologies again

A day full of meetings. I heard Nobel peace prize winner David Trimble speak at breakfast, and then heard Walter Olson of Overlawyered.com speak at lunch. Currently preparing for a dinner party as well. I'm aware I have still to write up my comments on the Bjorn Lomborg event, but will try to do so tomorrow.

In the meantime, check out Fainting in Coyles, by a Brussels-based Brit, Acepilots, by a fan of both Tony Blair and J-Lo, and The Ranting Rationalist, by, erm, a ranting rationalist.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

More on sanctions

Chris Bertram rightly pointed me towards Matt Welch's take down of Walter Russell Mead's piece referred to below. I had thought that Mead's use of the low-end UNICEF figures was reasonable, but it appears not.

Nevertheless, if you read Welch's own Reason article from last year, we can get an idea of the real situation. Leaving aside the pre-food-for-oil deaths, we see that Richard Garfield, whom Welch obviously respects, estimates about 120,000 deaths of children under 5 from 98-02. One quarter were directly attributable to sanctions. I have to say I think Welch's focus on sanctions alone misunderstands Mead's use of "containment," which basically means "allowing Saddam to stay in power, sanctions or no." Saddam's bleeding of the country probably accounts easily for at least as many deaths as sanctions.

So let's be charitable to Saddam and say that 50% of the deaths are down to him and 50% would have happened anyway. That means 15,000 deaths of children under 5 each year. Given the approximate civilian death toll -- all ages -- of under 2,000 in our intervention in Afghanistan (not directly comparable, of course, but it's an indicator), there still appears to be a clear utilitarian case here in lives saved. Gosh, let's accept Herold's figure of 4,000 of all ages. The case still seems pretty firm. (Remember, Afghanistan's population is probably larger than Iraq's).

And, of course, Mead may have deliberately used the UNICEF numbers on the grounds that the Chomskyites use them. Arguing against them also argues against their previous utterings, which have entered the public domain, Herold-like, as the accepted figures on the left. They either have to admit their inconsistency or accept Mead's figures. Either way, they lose. So Mead may have been cleverer than Matt gives him credit for.

The costs of inaction

"War will kill thousands," they say. Now, thankfully, Walter Russell Meade shows how containment is Deadlier Than War:

Each year of containment is a new Gulf War.

Saddam Hussein is 65; containing him for another 10 years condemns at least another 360,000 Iraqis to death. Of these, 240,000 will be children under 5.

Those are the low-end estimates. Believe UNICEF and 10 more years kills 600,000 Iraqi babies and altogether almost 1 million Iraqis.

Ever since U.N.-mandated sanctions took effect, Iraqi propaganda has blamed the United States for deliberately murdering Iraqi babies to further U.S. foreign policy goals.


The sanctions exist only because Saddam Hussein has refused for 12 years to honor the terms of a cease-fire he himself signed. In any case, the United Nations and the United States allow Iraq to sell enough oil each month to meet the basic needs of Iraqi civilians. Hussein diverts these resources. Hussein murders the babies.

But containment enables the slaughter. Containment kills.

We know the consequences of letting Saddam stay in power. The containement regime isn't working and will not work, in terms of human lives and suffering. The utilitarian case for war has never been more clearly set out.

Fame at last?

It appears I'm mentioned in the March 24 issue of National Review. The Anglosphere is the subject of the cover story by Ramesh Ponnuru. Jim Bennett is interviewed, of course. A must-read, I'd say...

BBC gets it right?

This is actually a pretty good analysis of where we are now. I have to say I think I agree that Rumsfeld's comments have backfired and have actually weakened Tony Blair's position, despite what Stephen says here. Yet the upshot seems quite simple, and I think the Beeb correspondent has it right:

They have added to a growing feeling amongst those who support action that the sooner it comes the better.

The longer the diplomatic process continues, the more damage is being done - to international relations, to the UN, and to Tony Blair's standing.

None of the key countries are about to change their positions, despite the prime minister's predictions that things may change once cards have to be put on the table.

And if the prime minister believes he will emerge victorious at home after a short, clean, successful war - with or without the UN's backing - then he might as well get on with it.

Mr Blair can claim he has done what his dissenters want by pursuing the UN route to the last.

And he can claim that the French insistence it would veto a second resolution under any circumstances is the "unreasonable veto" he has previously said he would ignore.

Meanwhile, his defence secretary Geoff Hoon has signalled that Britain is ready to play the 1441 card - by declaring the original UN resolution gives countries the right to take action against Saddam without further permission.

This is surely the end of the diplomatic game.

And few in Westminster now believe Britain will not be at war within days.

If it 'twere done, 'twere best 'twere done quickly, as the saying goes.


Tony Benn has alleged that "UK troops may soon 'be ordered to commit war crimes'". This is an outrageous calumny that should be thrown back in his face as often as it possibly can.

Arff arff

Iain Dale has a joke about the French quite a few people in the US might approve of...

Blair's position

It's stronger than it looks, I think. Blair surely has the confidence of the Cabinet and of the House. The question is whether his party can do anything. It's not that easy, as the Telegraph hints:

John Reid, the Labour chairman, described talk of moves to replace Mr Blair as the work of a few "usual suspects". They would be heavily outnumbered on the National Executive Committee which would have to approve any special conference by a majority vote. But Mr Reid confirmed that Labour dissidents were plotting against Mr Blair.

"There are a small number of people who, given the choice between getting Saddam Hussein or Tony Blair to lose their job always seem to choose Tony Blair."

Yesterday Mr Blair also met union leaders, most of whom are strongly opposed to war without a second resolution, at Downing Street to discuss Iraq. Their members' votes will be crucial in determining whether the party holds a leadership contest, and its eventual result if one were to take place.

This of course raises the question of why union leaders need a position on Iraq and the UN. One can imagine them being opposed to the war in any event becuase of economic difficulties it might bring to their members, but being willing to support it with a UN resolution? Sounds inappropriate to me.

Anyway, that's a side issue. The central question is whether Blair can survive. I'd suggest he can. If not, I hope he's making contingency plans with the loyal Blairites for a formal party split. In coalition with the Tories, he'd be able to remain as Prime Minister, I suggest, while damning the wrecking forces that took over the Labour Party in an attempted coup: it was his manifesto, not the manifesto of the Left, that the people voted for, etc. That's be the least attractive scenario for him, and I don't think it's likely, but it could be the biggest shift in party politics in the UK since the Liberal Unionist split of the 19th Century.


I've revamped Iain Murray Online a wee bit. At some point I hope to have links to all my published work up there, but this will do for starters. Please e-mail me with any comments.

Germans take action against arms dealers. For shame?

Mrs Tilton and the gang at The 6th International give us some useful perspective on the idea that Germany has been arming Iraq.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Bennett and Basora

Xavier Basora has a series of interesting commentaries on the Anglosphere from the continental perspective up at Buscaraons. Jim Bennett has kindly responded as follows:

I agree with about 3/4th of what Xavier says, or rather, I would if he substituted "Anglosphere Wilsonian/Gladstonians" for "Anglosphere". That is to say, the attitudes he attributes primarily to the Anglosphere as a whole mostly are found among those
who fit Walter Russell Mead's closely related categories of "Wilsonian" (in the US) and "Gladstonian" (in the UK) as set forth in his
interesting book Special Providence.

I consider myself an "Anglosphere Jeffersonian", to slightly amend Mead's typology. That is to say, I believe that Anglosphere liberty (Jefferson would have said American liberty, but he's clear on its English roots) comes from the specific historical experience of the Anglosphere and cannot be transplanted wholesale into other cultures. Unlike Wilsonians, I don't believe in crusades to bring liberty to unlike cultures, although I do support expeditions to smash specific tyrannies that pose a problem to us.

However, as Jefferson said, we can wish other nations well in their own pursuit of liberty, and strive to serve as an example to them, primarily by improving our own institutions. Once you understand how the Anglosphere became rich and free, you can start to
think about how other culture areas that are currently neither, or not enough so, can start moving their own cultures in that direction. Catalan constitutionalists are right to look back to their own medieval parliaments and try to imagine them brought forward in time, rather than just copying the British Parliament or the American Congress. As I've said elsewhere, what France really needs to do is go back in time and undo the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes and the St. Bartholemew's Day Massacre.

On the other hand, it's also important to not let this understanding be an excuse for other cultures to never reform themselves. Latin culture as it exists today is less adaptive to modern industrial society and globalized commerce , and even if they don't adopt our
institutions, they do need to adapt somehow. And some of our institutions may in fact be the only effective adaptation.

However, this gets into the whole issue of what is a "better" or "more successful" culture. If we're discussing this in sociological or anthropological terms, we really can only think about what is more adaptive to the times and conditions in which it is referenced. A moral discussion is in the realm of ethics and philosophy and requires a different discussion. In basic biological terms, a culture is
adaptive to the extent that it reproduces itself and prevents its extinction or absorption by other cultures. Latin American civilization has clearly been successful in the former sense over the past five centuries, and has clearly been successful in the latter sense for most of the same time period.

However, since at least the 1650s, areas of Latin American civilization have become detached from the Hispanosphere and have been absorbed into the Anglosphere and to a lesser extent into the Francosphere. Although in areas like the Mexican-American borderlands, a vigorous hybrid culture has emerged, its very hybrid nature assigns itself to the Anglosphere rather than the
Hispanosphere: as Claudio Véliz points out in The Gothic Fox in the New World (must reading for any discussion of this topic!) "Spanglish" and other hybrid culture forms violate the fundamental Hispanosphere characteristic of uniformity as ideal.

Today, the nations of the Hispanosphere find the problems of feeding, housing, employing, and governing their populations less tractable than do those of the Anglosphere. In fact, millions stream yearly from the former to the latter to take advantage of the
Anglosphere's ability to take on more. Similarly, the United States is constrained from directly dominating the states of the Hispanosphere militarily primarily because of its own internal nature as a maritime commercial republic. If it were a real empire, and
actually practiced a "blood for oil" politics, it would have annexed the oil lands of Mexico and Venezuela long ago.

Xavier is right in that liberty and prosperity, when they come to Latin America, (as they will, I believe) will probably be constructed from Latin American roots, and will be based only indirectly on the example of the Anglosphere. Because strong civil societies all share certain characteristics, a successful Latin American strong civil society would inevitably seem more "yanquificado" to today's Latin
Americans, although tomorrow's Hispanosphereans will find their society perfectly natural and will have no trouble distinguishing it from Gringolandia. In this they will be no different from today's Japanese, who find their cultural artifacts such as beer, Prussian-style school uniforms, or trains to be completely Japanese.

Xavier's problems with people in the Anglosphere stem, ironically, from a lack of a proper understanding of the Anglosphere by its own people, and the facile universalism that has become popular here. A real Anglospherist cannot be a cultural imperialist: rather, an understanding of the roots of our own strong civil society teaches the lesson that strong civil society cannot be imposed by pure imitation of forms from another culture. For one thing, it's too easy to import one cultural institution without being understanding that you must also import the other institutions that counterbalance it. Otherwise, it becomes a form of cargo cult: instead of building the
outward forms of control towers from bamboo, you construct parliament houses with noble architecture, but the actions of those inside no more resemble those of legislators in an authentically constitutional government than the actions of cargo cultists can actually guide an airplane in to a landing.

More useful elucidation of the idea, I think. Jim welcomes comments.

Sorry for the hiatus

Went to a very interesting meeting today where the guest speaker was Bjorn Lomborg. I hope to write my thoughts on that up later today.

TCS Column up

Substance Abuse, Science Abuse is my latest TCS column, looking at the insane position that allows dangerous herbal dietary supplements to go unregulated, simply because they are "natural."

Monday, March 10, 2003


Finally updating my blogroll. Obviously still some teething problems, but if I've promised you a link and it's not there, yell!

Conscious in the womb?

I have no real problem with early abortion, for reasons I've spelled out here before. Yet abortion of foetuses that are capable of consciousness deeply troubles me. The growing realization by neurologists that foetuses 'may be conscious long before abortion limit' is therefore something we as a society should be paying attention to. This forms an important rider to the current debate, as summarized by Gregg Easterbrook in an excellent New Republic article from a couple of years ago which TNR has now callously hidden behind their subscription wall. Here's a link to the Google cached version.

SUV owners look away now

I've never been particularly convinced of the safety case for SUVs as opposed to a decent mid-size car. My latest Recent research suggests ... column for UPI looks at evidence that backs up that view.

While at the UPI site, look for Jim Bennett's latest, in which he argues for a formal Declaration of War against Iraq.

Caught Short

Overseas Development Secretary Clare Short has always been the token loony lefty in Blair's cabinet. She launched an attack against his Iraq policy yesterday but has kept her job. Peter Briffa thinks this is a sign of weakness.

As I said in Peter's comments, I'm not sure about this. If Tone sacks her, she instantly becomes a martyr and Blair will be depicted as even more out of touch. He needs to reaffirm the collective responsibility of Cabinet in the next Cabinet meeting and ask her directly whether she agrees with that. If not, she must resign. Her early, pre-war resignation will be less damaging than him sacking her. It will also force the other Cabinet members to implicitly agree with Blair's strategy, so the Party looks more united. I can't imagine a full-scale Cabinet revolt at present, especially given Alan Milburn's and Patricia Hewitt's attacks on Short. Perhaps Robin Cook might resign as well, as Stephen Pollard suggests, but I think that's as far as it will go. And it would make Cook look like he was Short's follower, which is not what he would want. Personally, I think Short's broadside has given Blair an excellent opportunity to strengthen his position, if he's wise.

Time to raise the drawbridge

Our Tone has said time and time again that he wishes to be the bridge between America and Europe. The current crisis has blown that option out of the water, but Blair clings to it, as evidenced by his joint proposal with Spain for a European President responsible to the Council of Ministers. Yet Irwin Stelzer clearly sets out the position, including a couple of unpleasant facts I've been saying here for some time:

“W” and “Tone” may continue to use the same brand of toothpaste. But America’s need and wish to consult No 10 on matters of importance will be gone in a world in which the G7 has been replaced by a G3 (the EU, US, Japan), for the sensible reason that one need not discuss international monetary policy with countries that don’t have their own money. Eventually, Britain and France will be pressured to surrender their Security Council seats to the EU’s chosen representative.

It is, of course, for Blair and Britain to decide whether the costs of deeper integration are exceeded by the benefits. But it is for America to say how it will deal with Britain under the alternative scenarios available to the UK. As an American in love with your country, and an admirer of your Prime Minister’s willingness to pay a steep political price for his moral principles, I can only hope that Britain understands the situation it faces.

Blair once saw only one path open to Britain — further integration into Europe in the hope of becoming Europe’s man in America. The world has changed: he can no longer have Brussels and Washington, too. He will have to choose between the new European constitution, which weds him to the Franco-German axis, and the alternative that strengthens and enlarges the historic special relationship with America, while at the same time solidifying Britain’s role as the leader of “New Europe”. That would involve what politicians dread — a U-turn. But a driver who has negotiated the twists and turns of foreign policy as skilfully as has Blair surely knows that when headed in the wrong direction it is better to execute a U-turn than to continue on a hiding to nowhere.

If the US needs a point man within Old Europe, then Spain is currently doing quite a good job at that. It is better for US interests for the UK to stay out of the Frnco-German Europe. It goes without saying that it is better for UK interests to do so (the only argument ever raised by Eurofanatics in its favor is that lots of British trade goes to Europe. But the fact is that the EU raising tarriff barriers on a withdrawn Britain would be illegal and detrimental to the EU as well. A Britain that has negotiated entry into the EEA would not be subject to these tarriffs in any case. Furthermore, and sorry for this long digression, what would that tell us about Europe's real commitment to free trade?). I cannot for the life of me understand why Blair is clinging to this obviously stupid policy.

Ban Itchy and Scratchy!

Oh, be serious. Researchers from the University of Michigan claim they have evidence of a long-term effect of watching televised violence as children. Children who at 8 or 9 watched violent TV shows were more likely later to have had physical contact with their wives during arguments, to have been involved in physical violence with another adult or to have committed a crime or a traffic violation.

Two problems with this research. It asked the children to name their favorite TV shows, categorizing Road Runner cartoons, for instance, as violent. This seems a little over-the-top. I'd be interested to see what the results were like if cartoons were stripped out. Second, they haven't proved that violent TV casuses violence. It may be simply that more aggressive children prefer more action-oriented TV and then go on to be aggressive adults. In other words, both factors may be symptoms of the same cause. A twin study is desperately needed here to sort out whether aggression is genetic, environmental or, perhaps, influenced by TV. This study doesn't really tell us that much.

Sunday, March 09, 2003

A Little Good News

More evidence of an increasingly bipartisan effort between Labour's Blairites and the conservatives. Oliver Letwin proposed an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill so that burglars would be banned from suing their victims in the evnt of an injury received while burgling. David Blunkett has accepted the amendment. This is a pretty rare event, and something to be celebrated, especially given the soundness of the measure.

Debating with Prof. Robinson

Paul Robinson is a man I respect greatly. A former military officer in two of Her Majesty's armies and a formidable intellect, he is now a lecturer in security studies at Hull University. He is also implacably opposed on moral grounds to military intervention in Iraq. He first set out his views here in The Spectator and has since reiterated them to me in e-mail exchanges. He has given me permission to publish our most recent exchanges here. Some of this will repeat what has been said in earlier posts, but I think this will be of interest to most readers.

Paul began by saying the following:

What the UK and USA are planning to do is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. I feel like tearing up my British passport. If the issue goes to a vote in the House of Commons, and gets passed with Tory votes, then I will probably tear up my party membership card - if there are any active Labour or Conservative party types out there, kick your MP, get him to vote against. We cannot permit this ABHORRENCE to go ahead.


First, the concept of Iraq being a threat is just plain nonsense.

Second, the justification is that Iraq is not complying with UN Resolution 1441. This rests on the assumption that Iraq has lots of WMD and isn't admitting it. But in fact, we have failed to prove that Iraq does have lots of WMD and is hiding them. Yes, some WMD are 'unaccounted for', but 'unaccounted for' does not, as Blix has pointed out, mean that they actually exist. We have not proven that they exist - indeed we have given no solid evidence that they do. Any evidence we have provided has turned out to be false. So we have no proof of non-compliance. Blix again was quite clear on that - he needs months not to disarm Iraq but to tell if it is complying or not. In short, we can't tell right now whether it is or isn't.

The argument therefore comes down to 'trust us, we know he isn't complying, we know it'. But I don't trust Bush and Blair on this one, and I don't believe that they actually have proof, because if they did, they would have told people by now, and would have got the inspectors to dig the stuff up. THE PROOF IS CLEARLY LACKING.

Third, the basis of peace and international order is the prohibition against aggressive war - enshrined in the Kellogg-Brian Pact, the Protocols of the Nuremburg Tribunal, the UN Charter, various resolutions of the UN General Assembly etc. It is fundamental to the maintainance of peace and order, and not some arbitrary rule dreamt up in the mid-20th century, but the product of centuries of experience. And we wish to tear it up, with all the consequences that implies - just because it happens to suit us on this occasion.

Fourth, because Iraq is not a real threat to us, any use of force would be disproportionate. People will die. And there is no need for it. None at all. Now, quite probably the war will be short and victorious, and the deaths will be minimal. But there don't need to be any. It just isn't necessary.

I could go on and on. Isn't it interesting, for instance, that every military officer I have spoken to thinks that this operation sucks? Not only that but they tell me that everybody they know in the armed forces thinks that it sucks too. So we are asking them to kill people and risk their lives for something they don't believe in, and which they know the public doesn't support. How can we justify that?

I despair. I really do. I have rarely felt so gloomy, and I take it extremely personally. It is an insult to the very heart of what I believe in.

I replied as follows:

The key to the problem rests on your 3rd point. The international law we are talking about was framed in a different era. Then, there was the simple disincentive towards a smaller power attacking a larger one on the obvious grounds that a larger power would retaliate with all its might. Now, however, we live in a different era. Sept 11 showed that, as Mr Collard put it, an "impromptu air force" could wreak severe havoc on the civilian population of a country that, at the time international law was written, could feel safe by virtue of distance from and military superiority over its enemies. It is the nature of modern warfare that a country that is unable to wage aggressive war against its enemy might develop weapons of mass destruction and convey them to a third party who would then utilise them against the innocent country. International law is plainly lacking in describing what a country might do if it believes there is such a credible threat against it. One might compare the situation to the state of the law when wives were not allowed to allege rape against their husbands or some similar analogy. Merely because the law is as stated does not make it just. Democracies should not be required to suffer harm against them before they act (I should add that I find it ridiculous that Blair's government is considering abolishing the ancient defense of provocation in murder trials just at a time when it becomes relevant in international law). International law as it currently stands equates democracies and tyrannies. To this extent, international law needs changing. With any luck, this crisis will hasten such a change.

Second, when it comes to Iraq's supposed innocence: see here. Even the Inspectors have found this:

"The decision by Dr Blix to declassify the internal report marks the first time the UN has made public its suspicions about Iraq’s banned weapons programmes, rather than what it has been able to actually confirm. “Unmovic has credible information that the total quantity of biological warfare agent in bombs, warheads and in bulk at the time of the Gulf War was 7,000 litres more than declared by Iraq. This additional agent was most likely all anthrax,” it says.

The report says there is “credible information” indicating that 21,000 litres of biological warfare agent, including some 10,000 litres of anthrax, was stored in bulk at locations around the country during the war and was never destroyed."

This somewhat contradicts your assertions. This is UNMOVIC speaking, not the US or UK.

We must further consider, a consideration that is wholly absent from your analysis, the state of affairs within Iraq itself and the suffering going on there as a result of our idiotic refusal to finish the Gulf War. Consider Anne Clwyd's testimony here.

"I'd seen museums in Rwanda, Cambodia and on the Holocaust, but nothing prepared me for this," she says.

"The museum has been set up in the old torture centre, where thousands died. They've kept the cells with the bullet holes, and pictures drawn by children imprisoned there - images of birds and aeroplanes scratched into the walls with blood. The guards said they didn't imprison anyone younger than 11 but they forged their birth certificates."

Former prisoners showed her around. On the walls were hundreds of photographs of piles of clothing, mass graves and skulls. "Saddam's regime is like the Khmer Rouge and the Nazis; they are obsessed by documenting everything they've done. There are lots of photographs of prisoners just before they were executed, grinning at the cameras. The guards tickled them before they died to make them laugh."

The day she opened the museum it was snowing, grey and icy. "Hundreds of relatives of the dead and the victims queued up to watch and to tell me their stories. An old Kurdish woman shoved a piece of plastic at me; inside were two photographs of her husband and two missing sons. She wanted to know how they died. One old man showed me a photograph of 15 of his family. He was the only survivor. 'Why was I meant to survive?' he said."

Mrs Clwyd was asked to cut the ribbon. "I could feel my voice breaking. I've given thousands of speeches but I couldn't speak. I started walking round the room, trying to compose myself, but when a Kurdish TV cameraman asked me how I felt, I burst into tears. As I stood in that museum, I just thought: 'Why didn't we carry on to Baghdad? Why did we let this keep happening for another 12 years?' "

The next day, Mrs Clwyd says, she felt embarrassed. "The Kurds were so composed. I hadn't even suffered and I was sobbing. I went to the market with a Kurdish friend. Suddenly, all the shopkeepers were coming to offer me gifts. One explained: 'We saw you crying on TV last night. Thank you. My mother cried for the first time in 10 years when she saw you. She finally felt she could grieve for her lost husband and brother. Soon, my whole street was crying'."

She also went to the new UN refugee camp. "It's like every wretched camp in the world, only even muddier and colder than Kosovo, and as haunting as Rwanda. They have no fuel, and no possessions. Many once lived quite affluent lives in the towns. Most had less than 24 hours to flee their homes after one of Saddam's ethnic purges."

If you consider leaving this regime in place a benefit to humanity, then there's something seriously wrong. Yes, there are other bad regimes around the world, but, let's face it, Zimbabwe doesn't have 10,000 litres of anthrax and links to Islamic terrorist organizations. North Korea is a comletely different kettle of fish thanks to geography and the unfortunate fact that bilateral negotiation failed completely there.

As to your point about us "tearing up international law just because it suiys us on this occasion," Walter Russell Mead provides a little perspective here. One pertinent section:

"The sad truth is, the Security Council doesn't count for much when nations contemplate war. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, since 1945 there have been 26 international wars, with total deaths estimated at 3.5 million. Only three of those wars had Security Council authorization, including the recent conflict in Afghanistan; the largest, the 1950-53 Korean conflict, was only a U.N. operation because Josef Stalin was in a snit and had ordered his Soviet representative to boycott council meetings. . . .

The United States may be a diplomatic cowboy, but we aren't riding the only horse on the range. Every permanent member of the U.N. Security Council has undertaken at least one war without the council's permission or endorsement. . . .

The plain if slightly sad fact is that from the day the U.N. Security Council first met in 1946, no great power has ever stayed out of a war because the council voted against it, and no great military power ever got into a war because the Security Council ordered it to."

I think I've said enough. The idea that the threat of military action, which even Villepin admitted had helped in the progress made so far, is WRONG WRONG WRONG is itself plainly wrong. The issue is far more complicated than the black and white terms in which you state it.

There is a crisis in the international order caused by changing circumstances. Clinging to a compromise come to in 1648 is plainly anachronistic. I am grateful that even Tony Blair realizes this is true.

This moved Paul to respond as follows:

2 points:

a) your assertion that international law needs changing because threats have changed and we can't afford to sit back and allow WMD to proliferate etc., is based on a false assumption that countries like Iraq really pose an incredibly great danger to us. I simply don't believe it. I just don't. Because a) in the case of Iraq if it does have WMD, it doesn't have means of delivery (and in any case it probably doesn't have them in huge quantities), b) 'rogue states' are not irrational, and can be contained/deterred, c) BW and CW are not WMD any more than conventional weapons are - there is a huge hype about these things which their true potential does not justify, d) you ignore the elemental nature of war - its tendency to escalate, get out of control, etc. etc. I don't accept arguments that now we have to power to limit and control it. Prohibiting war remains an absolute priority.

b) the humanitarian argument is irrelevant to this case. The USA/UK are not acting out of concern for the Iraqi people. After all, we have said that if Saddam does what we demand (which in fact he may not be able to do - but that's by the by), we will leave him alone. In other words, we are quite willing to let the Iraqi people suffer under him, as long as we feel safe. So, this has nothing to do with helping the Iraqis and relieving their suffering. It has everything to do with the irrational fears of our leaders about the safety of
their own people. Besides, if our leaders really want to relieve suffering why don't they spend the money they are about to spend on this war doing some real positive good helping people in places such as Africa. That would really demonstrate their humanitarianism.

The humanitarian argument is just an excuse pulled up to justify something being done for entirely selfish reasons.

I remain convinced at heart that this war is WRONG. I am personally affronted by it. I was brought up firmly to believe that war is justified only in self-defence. It was what made being a soldier an honourable profession. Now, everything we believed in is being torn up. As one military officer told me, 'I joined the military to defend my country, not to go around attacking people'. I feel exactly the same.

I have not yet replied, as there are others in our e-mail discussion who have not yet contributed and I should like to see their arguments first. When I do reply, I shall likely argue that it is my belief that Tony Blair is getting involved in this action for humantitarian reasons. Yes, there is self-interest involved, but that is only part of the whole argument. As for America, I think foreigners misunderstand the American people if they don't think America acts as a nation out of moral concerns. As Jim Bennett has written, engaging the moral outrage of a certain section of the American populace is crucial in moving this sluggish giant to united action. That has been done in this case. Americans do want to bring liberty and justice to Iraq. That is why the President told the AEI dinner I attended that America would be in there until the job is done, should it be necessary.

As for the casual dismissal of biological and chemical weapons, having lived through the chaos caused by the tiny anthrax attacks of 2001, I shudder to think what might happen if a real anthrax attack took place in an American city. We know from Russian experience that large quantities of anthrax will kill thousands. That's a weapon of mass destruction in my book. Yes, it's difficult, but that's exactly why we must prevent professionals from developing the weapons for the amateurs.

As to Paul's points about military honour, I'd be interested to hear from members of the military, serving or former, on their reactions to these arguments.

I plan to make other points, but those will do for starters. All comments are, of course, welcome.

Up far too late

But there's just too much going on for me to read about... Let's look at what the Telegraph calls "Blair faces wave of resignations as ministerial aides issue ultimatum". The wave of resignations amounts to 5 parliamentary private secretaries. PPSs are the lowest of the low, whose job is essentially that of a ministerial "runner," ferrying information between those with real authority, whether it be ministerial or official. We used to joke that Seb Coe, as John Macgregor's PPS, was the best PPS ever, on the ground that he was by far the fastest we'd ever seen (for the benefit of our American audience, Seb Coe won the 1500m gold medal at two Olympic Games, IIRC).

Second, check out the John Stuart Mill quote spotted first in the Sunday Telegraph by Peter Cuthbertson:

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse.

I wonder what the great Victorian Liberals (and, indeed, Conservatives like Wilberforce) might think of the current state of politics in the world. I think the Clapham set might meet with renewed vigor.

Friday, March 07, 2003

A Real Corporate Scandal

Amitai Etzioni is fast becoming the new sensation of the blogosphere. I'm cartainly glad to see such a major thinker giving us his, well, thoughts daily and his blog on anti-Americanism at Davos was very interesting. But this post, which a link to an earlier article of his is, reveals a genuine corporate scandal taking place in the USA. This is the sort of thing which, in the UK, leads people to say "It shouldn't be legal." Normally, I think that's a silly over-reaction. In this case, because of the use to which the proceeds were put, I'm not so sure.