David Miliband wants your foreign policy ideas


by Sunny
14th August, 2007 at 9:23 am    

This is somewhat amusing:

In his first major speech as Foreign Secretary, David Miliband argued that, under Gordon Brown’s leadership, UK foreign policy has the strength to make a difference in the world, and thereby make a difference to Britain. But how do we ensure that the FCO makes the most effective contribution possible to that drive?

He is inviting thoughts and ideas on three key questions:

  • What should our priorities be?
  • What is the best way to co-ordinate across UK government?
  • How can the FCO engage beyond Whitehall?

Well, what would you tell our new Foreign Secretary? And would something like this work, given the propensity of bloggers like Guido Fawkes to send idiots to such initiatives and ruin them (if he hasn’t already tried with this one)?


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  1. Leon — on 14th August, 2007 at 10:20 am  

    What should our priorities be?

    Well, for a start how about prioritising not breaking international law? Hmmm?

    And maybe next time Israel invades Lebanon perhaps we could go to the UN ASAP rather than stalling and allowing them to kill more people…?

    And maybe we should enter into dialogue with our enemies to find negotiated settlements rather than launching wars that plainly do not work?

    And maybe we should actually withdraw from Iraq thereby giving us some moral credibility when we confront Iran for their meddling?

  2. bikhair aka taqiyyah — on 14th August, 2007 at 11:14 am  

    Hmm, send all the ugly guys to war.

  3. Nyrone — on 14th August, 2007 at 11:24 am  

    What should our priorities be?

    How about working towards an inward-psychological revolution that will give us a collective realization that the earth belongs to all of us, and that a bloodthirsty, selfish policy of death, revenge and colonialism is not going to benefit anybody.

    Maybe sticking to international law, breaking with US War-profiteers, and re-distributing that ‘defence’ budget into education would go some way to reclaiming any integrity politics might have had years ago.

    A re-definition of what foreign policy is and what it is supposed to reflect needs to be further widely established too before these flowerly suggestions can be implied and applied.
    How about a basic civic rights handbook for everyone too?

    Oh, and maybe give Craig Murray his job back.

  4. Sahil — on 14th August, 2007 at 11:57 am  

    1.) Drop the concept of liberal intervention: its a practical failure, if anything else.

    2.) Offer financial incentives to the BRIC countries to adopt cleaner technology by either technological sharing, or financial incentives in domestic research.

    3.) Don’t keeping blowing hot and cold with the EU, its a balancing act that is going to get the UK kicked out of europe.

    4.) Offer asylum to genuine seekers, not tax evaders who have stolen from their countries e.g. Berezofsky.

    5.) Crack down on Brits abusing the non-domiciled status to lower their tax return and focus on trying to create a world-wide financial architecture that handles financial fraud and money laudering (possibly in conjunction with the existing crack down on terrorist financing).

    6.) Push for a revamp of the IMF, its becoming irrelevant. Its mandate and powers need to change, and for gods sake stop arguing that the leaders of the world bank and IMF are gift from the US and EU respectively. Appoint the leaders based on merit.

    7.) Keep your pledges and commitments i.e. Tsunami appeal, Jubilee goals, Poverty reduction schemes etc…

    Might have some more later.

  5. Nyrone — on 14th August, 2007 at 12:15 pm  

    In honesty, public suggestions are not even necessary, when the British parliamentary committee themselves have just released a report that is highly critical of our foreign policy, citing that sanctions against Hamas were “counterproductive” and that the UK should stop boycotting discussions with them.

    Maybe I am having a particularly harsh day, but mere ‘suggestions’ about ‘alterations’ to the Foreign policy of this country seem redundant when it is unashamedly a terrorist state currently participating in a criminal act in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  6. Bleh — on 14th August, 2007 at 12:25 pm  

    Overthrowing on one hand a regime that would kill women for daring to venture out of their homes and on the other a genocidal facist dictatorship was “criminal”, Nyrone?

  7. Bleh — on 14th August, 2007 at 12:30 pm  

    “Drop the concept of liberal intervention: its a practical failure, if anything else.”

    Sahil, that sounds to me like you’re saying Kissenger was right.

    I fully agree with your point 2 though.

  8. Jagdeep — on 14th August, 2007 at 1:02 pm  

    Bleh is on a mission to prove once and for all that those opposed to the War because they saw the mess it would become, are actually apologists for genocidal dictatorial regimes. Well done Tony Bleh.

    Seriously though, War apologists never cease to amaze me in their myopia. We are not even beginning to see the tru contours of the tragedy that this war has engendered, and the chicken hawks are still strutting around slandering all those with the common sense to have predicted what was going to happen.

    An embittered minority, drive half mad by reality, lumbering like a dead body their support for the war, spitting at everyone else who points out that they’ve pissed their pants.

  9. Jagdeep — on 14th August, 2007 at 1:04 pm  

    This is such a New Labour idea.

    “He guys, lets ask people what we should do, it’s the touchy feely foreign office, lets ask everyone’s opinion”

    David Milliband is Tony Blair part II minus the constant rictus grill and is so the next Labour PM after Brown.

  10. Jagdeep — on 14th August, 2007 at 1:15 pm  

    duh — ‘rictus grill’ = ‘rictus grin’

  11. Nyrone — on 14th August, 2007 at 1:20 pm  

    @Bleh

    Afghanistan and Iraq are countries with human beings living inside them. Do you understand this? not acedemically, not merely literally, but practically and emotionally? Iraq is not filled with 27 million Saddam’s and what has happened to that country since the occupation is one of the most disgusting, unjust global atrocities in modern history.

    As for Afghanistan, is that what you think is happening there? We are overthrowing a regime? Do you feel we should go to Saudia Arabia next because of the way that some of them treat women? Who are you to decide? Have you ever been in a house that has been pounded non-stop by bombs?

    Afghanistan used to be the envy of the modern Arab world in the 60′s when it had it’s first woman elected to parliment, the Taliban were trained and created by the US and UK military for fighting against the soviets, we were best friends with them then….right until the point they questioned foreign countries wishing to exploit their oil-pipe land resources.

    It was profit, power and control….not to mention rascist on an unimaginable scale.

    The mind boggles at how much effort is taken when one man on the street kills another, how harsh and strict the punishment towards the criminals can be, but when entire countries are blown to shreds, it’s a ‘political’ matter that we can’t seem to quite fathom.

  12. Jagdeep — on 14th August, 2007 at 1:28 pm  

    right until the point they questioned foreign countries wishing to exploit their oil-pipe land resources.

    Nyrone, the Taliban were ousted because of their support for Al Qaeda and the refusal to hand them over amounted to accession to an act of war. People didnt wake up and said, hmmmm, we really like their big pipes, lets bomb them.

  13. Neil Clark — on 14th August, 2007 at 1:29 pm  

    1. Pull out of Iraq.
    2. Pull out of Afghanistan.
    3. Abide by international law.
    4. Don’t let neo-cons and liberal interventionists dictate foreign policy.
    5. Move away from our cravenly pro-US foreign policy orientation.
    6. As Sahil says, only offer asylum to genuine seekers, not tax evaders who have stolen from their countries e.g. Berezovsky
    7. Stop indulging in silly neo-con inspired Russophobia.
    8. Rule out military action against Iran.
    9. Take action against the arms trade.
    10. Support Tony Blair being put on trial for war crimes.

  14. Sofia — on 14th August, 2007 at 1:36 pm  

    well it looks like the war in afghanistan worked..we’ve found osama..oh yes and women arent forced to cover up now..so i wonder why they still do..why don’t we go to saudi arabia next or pakistan or iran..i think the latter is on the list…

  15. Jagdeep — on 14th August, 2007 at 1:36 pm  

    7. Stop indulging in silly neo-con inspired Russophobia.

    What constitutes ‘Russophobia’? What an utterly stupid phrase. I believe it was coined by some Putin functionary after all the criticism over the blowing off of the heads of brave journalists in Russia at point blank range, and the murdering of British citizens by irradiation. Some old Stalinists still go limp and weak at the knees at the thought of an old Russian strongman spanking them eh Neil?

  16. Sofia — on 14th August, 2007 at 1:45 pm  

    i agree with most of neil’s points..although i do question the bit on Russia and asylum…the former, as I don’t think russiaphobia exists..as a method of foreign policy propaganda..also asylum is a broader issue and should definitely not be a part of foreign policy remit…

  17. Sunny — on 14th August, 2007 at 2:03 pm  

    What’s the case against liberal intervention? I’m all in favour of it.

  18. Bleh — on 14th August, 2007 at 2:10 pm  

    Do you feel we should go to Saudia Arabia next because of the way that some of them treat women?

    Yes. In the 21st century that a mysoginistic regime sauch as Saudi Arabia still exists is despicable. Just because you and I are sitting comfortably in a western country that guarantees equal rights to women does NOT give us the excuse to sit back and do nothing about the fact that woman are treated worse than dogs in Saudi Arabia.

    Who are you to decide?

    You know, a fellow human being, who happens to think that genocide, mysoginy, slavery are wrong, always and should never be tolerated.

    the Taliban were trained and created by the US and UK military for fighting against the soviets

    Its amazing how often this myth is repeated by the usual suspects. And it doesn’t make it any truer the more its repeated. The Taliban were exclusively the child of the ISI, the Pakistan Intelligence Services (a situation that continues to this day). UK and US aid for the mujahadeen in the 1980s was almost exclusively given to what became the Northern Alliance.

    right until the point they questioned foreign countries wishing to exploit their oil-pipe land resources.

    Wrong. There were never any proposals to build western oil-pipelines through Afghanistan. Nyrone, if you’re going to engage in an argument, try not to crib every single argument from much-debunked STWC Myths 101.

    It was profit, power and control….not to mention rascist on an unimaginable scale.

    Overthrowing a regime that forbade woman’s education, and indeed treated them worse than dirt is now racist is it? I suggest you recalibrate your moral compass, because its gone extremely haywire somewhere along the way.

    Oh, and reading Neil Clark’s utterances, its funny how unreconstructed and unrepentant Stalinists like him are nowadays alomst indistinguishable from the likes of Pat Buchanan and Nick Griffin.

  19. Bleh — on 14th August, 2007 at 2:11 pm  

    What’s the case against liberal intervention? I’m all in favour of it.

    Sunny, liberal intervention has the nasty habit of unseating facist dictators that certain journalists lionise.

  20. Nyrone — on 14th August, 2007 at 2:12 pm  

    @Jagdeep

    With respect, I disagree.

    The US government’s main objective in Afghanistan was to consolidate the position of the Taliban regime, to obtain access to the oil and gas reserves in Central Asia. It was the corporate vested oil interests that were beating the war drums soon after.

    Previously, The US government saw the Taliban regime as a source of stability in Central Asia that would enable the construction of an oil pipeline across Central Asia from the oilfields in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan, through Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the Indian Ocean.

    So, the way I see it, it was pure energy security.
    The Taliban’s refusal to accept US pre-conditions on the mythical deal between the two led to a war to install a new puppet regime that would play nice and sign the deals.

  21. Sid — on 14th August, 2007 at 2:15 pm  

    What’s the case against liberal intervention? I’m all in favour of it.

    It doesn’t work.

  22. Bleh — on 14th August, 2007 at 2:22 pm  

    The US government’s main objective in Afghanistan was to consolidate the position of the Taliban regime, to obtain access to the oil and gas reserves in Central Asia. It was the corporate vested oil interests that were beating the war drums soon after.

    Totally and utterly incorrect

    Look, Nyrone, you seem like a nice chap/chappess, but stop making things up. You’re only making a bit of a food of yourself.

  23. Bleh — on 14th August, 2007 at 2:24 pm  

    It doesn’t work.

    Or rather they can’t afford it to work because it would burst their Buchananite bubble.

    Sid, feel free to tell the Kurds that, or an Afghani girl starting her education, that liberal intervention doesn’t work.

  24. Sid — on 14th August, 2007 at 2:27 pm  

    And ignore millions of Iraqis? Who are you, Niel fucking Clarke?

  25. Bleh — on 14th August, 2007 at 2:33 pm  

    Oh, I’m not Neil Clarke, I assure you, or any of his infamous nom-de-guerres.

    Iraqis were and are able to go out and vote for their government, a democratically-elected and internationally recognised government thanks to liberal intervention. Castigate away (rightfully in some regards) mistakes made by the Coalition after overthrowing Saddam, but when it comes down to it, Sid, you opposed the overthrow of a fascist tyranny.

    Sid, having said that, I’m definitely NOT lumping you in with the likes of Clark, who gives succor to the worst kind of theocrats and fascists, who are the ones causing carnage on the streets of Iraq today.

  26. El Cid — on 14th August, 2007 at 2:36 pm  

    I think the priority is to restablish the authority of the UN by persuading the Americans et al to sign up to the idea that military intervention without a mandate is illegal.
    I would also invite India, Brazil, Japan, and Germany to become permanent members of the Security Council.

  27. El Cid — on 14th August, 2007 at 2:37 pm  

    El Cid for president

  28. Sid — on 14th August, 2007 at 2:38 pm  

    Bleh, again, what about the millions of Iraqis who’s lives are ruined? Who are you to make glib qualitative judgements on one group over the other?

  29. Nyrone — on 14th August, 2007 at 2:44 pm  

    “You know, a fellow human being, who happens to think that genocide, mysoginy, slavery are wrong, always and should never be tolerated”

    It’s funny how we are in agreement about this, and yet disagree about the approach that countries and people should take. I consider it rascism because we don’t count their dead, a western life has a higher value than an Iraqi life and we occupied their country like they were sub-humans. We have entered into their country, produced a propoganda coup by implying that Iraqi’s were barbaric savges who didn’t understand basic hygene (when they were far more advanced than us for ages) and proclaim ourselves to be giving them ‘freedom’ it’s like a text-book excercise in imperialism isn’t it?. Would that have happened in Europe?

    Bleh, take a step back and look at what has happened over the last 5 years or so, you think it was all fine? Can you really defend it all? The shifting sand, the lies, the hypocricy? the human cost?

    If so, I’m not sure we are communicating via the same page.

  30. El Cid — on 14th August, 2007 at 2:58 pm  

    yes, alright, you disagree over iraq.
    how about moving on?

    how about all those million who have been killed El Cid, eh El Cid, can they move on?

    sorry maybe I was imagining that

  31. Leon — on 14th August, 2007 at 2:59 pm  

    El Cid #26, I like your thinking on this.

  32. Bleh — on 14th August, 2007 at 3:06 pm  

    Nyrone, *who* implied that the Iraqis were barbaric savages? Certainly not me, or anyone else who supported the removal of Saddam (in fact, I wanted him gone in 1991). In fact, the people who *are* implying that the Iraqis are something other than human are those who on the one hand claim that *everything* is the fault of the UK and the US, as if people were someone automatons without free will, or on the other seek to return UK and US troops home quickly because “its not worth it” – implicity implying that Iraqs aren’t worth it either.

    Would I defend the overthrow of Saddam? I certainly would. It really is a no-brainer. His regime was a fascist genocidal tyranny. Are there things that could and should have been done differently after his regime was overthrown. By all means, definitely. But that does not invalidate the original decision to overthrow Saddam in the slightest. Its like you’re asking me sometime in 1942 to defend the decision to go to war against Germany in 1939 on the grounds that Europe is covered in bloodshed.

  33. Bleh — on 14th August, 2007 at 3:09 pm  

    I think the priority is to restablish the authority of the UN by persuading the Americans et al to sign up to the idea that military intervention without a mandate is illegal. I would also invite India, Brazil, Japan, and Germany to become permanent members of the Security Council.

    El Cid, the problem with that is that the UN, as is, is often too busy cooking up more anti-Israeli resolutions and conferences (at the behest of the OIS), and is a forum where Chavez, Kim’II’Jong or Mugabe, for example, have the same weight as a Gordon Brown, or Angela Merkel or the president of Sweden.

    Until you square that circle, the UN won’t be much use for anything, alas.

  34. Sahil — on 14th August, 2007 at 3:13 pm  

    Bleh:
    You’ve labelled me a Buchanite and a Kissingerite, maybe now you should just call me Hitler and the show is done.

    Sunny:
    “What’s the case against liberal intervention? I’m all in favour of it.”
    Liberal intervention is a two-pronged ideology: regime change and nation building. Whilst regime change is easy enough for someone like the states, nation building is the difficulty, especially when the administration that is so economically illiterate. In these situations you have no property rights, you have no standards of trade, you have no idea of the value of goods (or rather there is no universally available global market price, rather a very large black economy). This means essentially you need a command economy that is benevolent enough to ride through the initially patch whilst helping the economy develop. Unfortunately, for most interventionists this is highly expensive, and hence they can’t be bothered. Human nature gives ways to so-called ‘values’ and the victim is left further screwed. Real politick dominates in International Relations unfortunately, there is no benevolence in intervention.

    El Cid:
    “I would also invite India, Brazil, Japan, and Germany to become permanent members of the Security Council.”

    No what we need is a dissolution of the Security Council. No one nation-state should have permanent occupancy, it leads to corruption and ambivalence to other smaller non-security-council nation-states. There needs to a complete rotation system, otherwise, expect specific countries from specific regions to try and screw their neighbours.

  35. Nyrone — on 14th August, 2007 at 3:14 pm  

    Bleh,

    I even disagree with the typical generalizations and stereotypical vilifications of the ‘Taliban’ as some objective group of ‘evils’. How many have you/I actually met? There are many more powerful groups than the Taliban in Afghanistan fighting privately against occupation, for private triabalistic warlords ETC, so why do we claim they are all ‘Taliban’? again, the rascist over-simplification and diagnosis of a situation is constantly in the background of this ‘War on Terror’ phase we exist in that has been built with the practical intention of creating some apocolyptic clash-of-cultures scenario.

    How easy it is, mentally, for us to de-humanize and sub-compartmentalize entire peoples in our heads for the sake of making arguments. You wanna talk luxury? Perhaps this commenting between us is proof of it.

    I don’t want to class entire countries as terrorists, because when we do, our perceptions focus far more strongly on the enemy than on the human beings that outnumber them. Why not ask, how did the enemy become an enemy?

    I heard it a while ago, and it always stuck in my head:
    “The beast of terrorism is born in swamps of poverty”

  36. Bleh — on 14th August, 2007 at 3:24 pm  

    Nyrone, I disgree completely with your soft-soaping of the Taliban – their actions have demonstrated that they are objectively as close to “evil” as is possible to get. And don’t forget, their victims were almost all muslim. And what other groups are “fighting privately against occupation”?

    However, regarding “The beast of terrorism is born in swamps of poverty”, wasn’t there studies done that revealed most suicide-bombers were in fact middle-class and from financially well-off backgrounds?

  37. The Common Humanist — on 14th August, 2007 at 3:27 pm  

    Liberal Interventionism – a great and even noble idea, incredibly mangled by the US and to a lesser extent the UK.

    There is nothing wrong in challenging totalitareanism around the world.

    The Devil of History is in the details.

    Take Iraq, whatever their ultimate motives, in order to achieve success in any form the US had to build upon the lukewarm support/at least non-opposition from the Iraqis post April 2003.

    They had to provide basic security and a fast and comprehensive political strategy whihc involved the UN as well.

    Clearly they failed on all counts and as summer 2003 wore on, the US Presence faltered and the rest is a four year hell for both American and Iraqi.

    The much trumpeted ‘Surge’ (Trickle in military terms) was needed in August 2003 – the Baathists had planned well, the islamists were gathering strength and a tidal wave of basic crime was ripping across the country.

    And don’t even get me started on the looting.

    The more I read about pre and post invasion Iraq the more I come to the conclusion that the US Admin was essentially ideologically incapable of putting in place the necessary efforts and plans to give themselves and the Iraqis a fighting chance of a peaceful-ish transition to democrac, civil society and good government.

    Essentially conservatives/neocons, however you want to describe the people calling the shots, do not like evidence based policy making, do like forward planning and were not willing to commit sufficient resources.

    Instead of the best efforts of a hyper power we got a weak ass banana republic-esque coup de’tat. The consequences of which we will live with for decades.

    So for me I applaud Bush and Blair for the instinct – face down totaliatreans but the detail needs some work – bit of an understatement that.

    With regards to Iraq I really don’t see how anyone gets away clean or can claim any kind of moral high ground.

  38. The Common Humanist — on 14th August, 2007 at 3:33 pm  

    Nyrone
    I urge you to do some watching and reading about the Taliban, their actions whilst in power and since their 2001 removal.

    Saira Shahs work would be a good start.

    I would agree with you however that the US and AQ ramping up of the ‘War on Terror’ etc etc has enabled grubby little mass murderers to get on buses, tubes, murder in cold blood and think themselves as ‘soldiers’, when they are indeed criminals of the worst kind.

  39. Sid — on 14th August, 2007 at 3:33 pm  

    So for me I applaud Bush and Blair for the instinct – face down totaliatreans but the detail needs some work – bit of an understatement that.

    Fuck that. I applaud them for the bady executed Oil Grab which the Invasion of Iraq was. No more no les, no magic Utopian fairy tales, like “facing down totalitarianisms”.

  40. The Common Humanist — on 14th August, 2007 at 3:38 pm  

    Heck my spelling is bad today.

    Should read ‘They do not like forward planning’.

    Sid,
    Whether they were engaged in a liberation or acting out your dysatopian fantasy* the point remains that they are such no marks that they equipped themselves only to struggle, and likely fail. It is easier to buy oil from a stable and democratic Iraq then have to stick the jackboot in for the next ten years.

    *Ask a hundred Bush Staff why they went into Iraq and you will get a hundred variations.

  41. Nyrone — on 14th August, 2007 at 3:45 pm  

    sorry, regarding your point..

    I don’t retain every quote and article I read, so I’m afraid that if you are looking for a direct quotation of a senior US Commander calling the Iraqi’s ‘sub-human’, I’m afraid I can’t give it to you….but one only has to look at the way this war has been managed and the way implications that the population were ‘in prison’ under Saddam has been amplified to give credence to the War-Makers and their media effort to convert the case for war onto a more positive axis.

    When the looting began in Baghdad, we were flashed images of them as if they were animals, at checkpoints, they strip-searched like vermin by suspicious marines, bodies lie strewn across roads, hundreds die and it’s reported as a normal incident, in 2003, I remember seeing news images telling me that Iraqi’s were used to living without water, electricity and basic supplies, what kind of society is portrayed like that? and dont get me started with absolutely everything the marines did, coming in taking the palaces, acting like god-like overlords over all Iraqis, Abu Ghraib Prison photos….If I could sense rascism in these kinds of small examples, I think the reality was far, far, far worse.

    I don’t recognise anybody who thinks that “everything is the fault of the US and UK” I don’t feel like I’ve ever met that person, but neither do I think it’s equatable to state that Individuals that felt the war in Iraq was the biggest FP blunder for decades are also stating that they feel the Iraqi’s are some kind of savages either. As I said earlier, they are as human as anybody else (something I feel many people neglect to understand) but emerging from the psychological/physical trauma they have been through, I think it might take them some time to find their collective bearings.

    Like many people though, I prefer to hear from Iraqis themselves about the situation they experience, rather than journalists and writers.

    Bleh, I’m still having trouble with that phrase you used earlier, about Iraq being a a “democratically-elected and internationally recognised government.”
    Where did you read this? In what way do you believe it to be true from your own knowledge and experience?

  42. The Common Humanist — on 14th August, 2007 at 3:49 pm  

    Nyrone
    The average Iraqi civilian displayed a stunning level of personal courage to vote in the various elections and referendum.

    Far more then your average lard ass brit.

  43. Sid — on 14th August, 2007 at 3:52 pm  

    *Ask a hundred Bush Staff why they went into Iraq and you will get a hundred variations.

    Now you’re talking; One man’s Utopian Fantasy is another man’s cheap fuel bills.

  44. Bleh — on 14th August, 2007 at 3:54 pm  

    I don’t retain every quote and article I read, so I’m afraid that if you are looking for a direct quotation of a senior US Commander calling the Iraqi’s ’sub-human’, I’m afraid I can’t give it to you….but one only has to look at the way this war has been managed and the way implications that the population were ‘in prison’ under Saddam has been amplified to give credence to the War-Makers and their media effort to convert the case for war onto a more positive axis.

    So in other words, you’re making things up?

    And feel free to tell the 98-odd% of Iraqis that weren’t favoured by Saddam that their suffering was “amplified”?

    Bleh, I’m still having trouble with that phrase you used earlier, about Iraq being a a “democratically-elected and internationally recognised government.”
    Where did you read this? In what way do you believe it to be true from your own knowledge and experience?

    Hells bells, Nyrone – its internationally recognised by all the major world institutions, the UN, even the OIS, and it was democractically elected. See here for the elections in detail, which were regonised by all the major world institutions. In fact, the turnout in elections in Iraq since 2003 puts the UK to shame.

  45. El Cid — on 14th August, 2007 at 3:57 pm  

    Pragmatism may be a dirty word for some of you, but politics is the art of the possible, and nowhere more so than in intrernational politics.

    Get out of your bubbles and into the real world

    What was it that other fellah said:
    “Power without principle is barren, but principle without power is futile.”

    My principles may be slightly different to his, but in broad terms he’s right on this one you know

  46. douglas clark — on 14th August, 2007 at 4:15 pm  

    Wow! This debate has hottened up hasn’t it?

    The invasion of Aghanistan was a direct consequence of the refusal of the Taliban government of Afghanistan to surrender Osamah Bin Laden, who let us not forget had claimed by then to have been behind 7/7. I do not think that invasion would have gone ahead if OBL had been given up to the International Community. It was the most naive blunder imaginable to think that the USA could not get a consensus for that invasion. Immediately after 7/7, even one of the French Newspapers said ‘We are all Americans Now’. It had, as I recall, almost universal approval from the International Community. It had bugger all to do with oil, oil pipelines or any of that stuff. It is IMHO one of the true disgraces of our times that we didn’t fulfill any of the promises that we made to the Afghan people after the Taliban were defeated. Equally it was a total cock up to not have pursued OBL, wherever he went. The failure to sort Afghanistan out was an obvious precursor to the total lack of post invasion planning that we were to see in Iraq.

    I, for one, have never really understood why we invaded Iraq. To be honest, if we had to do something and it is worth remembering that the sanctions regieme itself was killing folk, it would have been better to use the CIA to fund insurgents against Saddam Hussein, but the Yanks had already blown that option back in the ’90s when they asked folk to rebel and then didn’t support them. Lots more dead people. If you are the aggressor, you can pick you time, you can pick your methods. Saddam wasn’t going anywhere, lets face it. And it can’t have been all about the oil, as Iraq was exporting oil and it was going through the usual markets. Oil for food programme. I still think it had something to do with son trying to outdo father, but that is moot.

    So, yes the invasion of Afghanitan was justified, then we failed to follow through, and God knows why we invaded Iraq at all.

    It would look as though the UK is heading for an early withdrawal from Iraq, and if Neil Clark hails that as a victory for his version of the anti war left, I think I’ll probably be sick. We are, and we ought to be honest here, withdrawing in ignominy without any say whatsoever in the carnage that will almost inevitably follow. It is probable, in my view, that there won’t even be an Iraq on the geographical boundaries it currently enjoys and the chances of a three state outcome seem high. Although, if that is the way it goes, we certainly haven’t seen the end of the death toll.

    I agree with Nyrone that there is more than a touch of racism in the way that this whole bloody mess has been pursued. The UK and the USA know, to the last man or woman, who has been killed on their side and won’t even allow an accurate count on the Iraqi side. So, there is an element of Imperialism about it all. I don’t think a comparison with Europe is exactly fruitful though, when the Germans invaded, they bloody well invaded without even a fig leaf of justification.

    It also knocks into a cocked hat any early implementation of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, which I think has a lot of merit.

  47. Nyrone — on 14th August, 2007 at 4:16 pm  

    Dear Common Humanist,

    This is rather ironic, but I’ve spent the last 5 weeks actually editing/shot-listing/watching/uploading films on Afghanistan and Iraq at the distribution/production company I work for!

    http://www.journeyman.tv/
    I also put 100 Iraq/Afghanistan films into a list on our youtube channel playlist, so if you are interested:) There are more going on everyday.
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=journeymanpictures

    @Bleh

    I am not defending the actions and ideologies of the Taliban, but did you support them when they fought against the soviets? When they protected their mothers, fathers and sisters against invaders? They were probably human beings to you then, but now they are just islamist caricatures, who operate like un-thinking beings…I simply don’t think that by ridiculing all of them collectively and their legitimate problems (security ETC) we are going to come to any actual solution.

    I certainly don’t think that conning a country and then bombing it back into the stone ages, is going to help anything in any way. What gave RISE to the conditions that allowed the Taliban to exist? Why was there a political vacum, for the Taliban to come along and fill?
    The US has definite ‘accuracy’ problems, and every time it bombs a wedding full of human beings living their lives, there is going to be a demand for a blood price. In Iraq, when marines go and gang-rape a 14-year old girl, stamp on her skull tell it cracks, shoot all members of her family in front of her and then walk out the door as if nothing happened, what are the relatives and loved ones of these people to do? What would you do if that happened to your sister?

    and regarding:
    “However, regarding “The beast of terrorism is born in swamps of poverty”, wasn’t there studies done that revealed most suicide-bombers were in fact middle-class and from financially well-off backgrounds?”

    But isn’t suicide bombing a fractional act of terrorism compared to the terrorism, in a general global perspective? These men are off-the-scales, but are we really saying that this can’t be prevented by anything else than just killing them? I cannot accept this.

  48. Sid — on 14th August, 2007 at 4:16 pm  

    Pragmatism may be a dirty word for some of you, but politics is the art of the possible, and nowhere more so than in intrernational politics.

    And what was pragmatic about not planning for an exit strategy?

  49. Nyrone — on 14th August, 2007 at 4:21 pm  

    “So in other words, you’re making things up?”

    erm, well, I’d rather think from my own intelligence than back-up everything I say through links to Wiki.

  50. Bleh — on 14th August, 2007 at 4:31 pm  

    In other words, you’re making things up, Nyrone.

  51. The Common Humanist — on 14th August, 2007 at 4:32 pm  

    “It also knocks into a cocked hat any early implementation of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, which I think has a lot of merit”

    Agreed. I worry that the next time something like Rwanda happens the rest of the world will sit idly by whilst the slaughter goes on.

  52. The Common Humanist — on 14th August, 2007 at 4:34 pm  

    Nyrone.
    Thanks for the links. Ain’t timing the oddest thing sometimes. Youtube night tonight then!

  53. Jagdeep — on 14th August, 2007 at 4:35 pm  

    I heard it a while ago, and it always stuck in my head: “The beast of terrorism is born in swamps of poverty”

    BULLSHIT

    One of the biggest falsities in circulation and an intellectual catastrophe of high magnitude.

    Many spots of evidence, but one to begin with:

    Why are some of the most poor people in the world, the Hindus and Buddhists of Asia, the Christians of Africa and Latin America, not blowing themselves up?

  54. Bleh — on 14th August, 2007 at 4:37 pm  

    I am not defending the actions and ideologies of the Taliban, but did you support them when they fought against the soviets?

    Given how the first military action of the Taliban was in 1994, some 6 years after the Soviets left, I’m calling shenanigans on you. I think it is clear that, despite your proclaimed familiarity with Afghanistan, you don’t have the first clue about it in reality – indeed, your preference for repeating urban myths that have been debunked for years should have clued me into this abeforehand.

    Douglas, what are your thoughts on a three-state version of Iraq?

  55. El Cid — on 14th August, 2007 at 4:38 pm  

    And what was pragmatic about not planning for an exit strategy?

    Yeah, that was shit

  56. douglas clark — on 14th August, 2007 at 4:38 pm  

    Bleh,

    Nyrone is not ‘making things up’. The attitude of the Americans to Iraq, from Paul Bremner onwards has been to blame them for the coalitions own shortcomings. An invading force becomes reponsible in International Law for the security and wellbeing of the people it has taken over. On that criteria alone, this is an enormous mess.

  57. Jagdeep — on 14th August, 2007 at 4:42 pm  

    Number two:

    Why do so many terrorists come from middle class, educated and prosperous backgrounds?

  58. Bleh — on 14th August, 2007 at 4:43 pm  

    Douglas, she claimed that we viewed Iraqis as “barbaric savages” (her words), yet when asked to substantiate her claim, she couldn’t. Indeed, for a documentary film firm to employ (presumably) someone as willfully ignorant, muddle-headed and prone to belief in fanstastical conspiricies as she has turned out to be, does not bode at all well for the prospects of said documentarty film firm.

  59. The Common Humanist — on 14th August, 2007 at 4:43 pm  

    If only the Bushies had been pragmatic rather then ideological rightists, they might then have planned something to do the day after the dictator fell….

  60. Sid — on 14th August, 2007 at 4:43 pm  

    Why are some of the most poor people in the world, the Hindus and Buddhists of Asia, the Christians of Africa and Latin America, not blowing themselves up?

    Ever hear about the Tamil Tigers?

  61. Bleh — on 14th August, 2007 at 4:45 pm  

    One grouping out of how many, Sid?

  62. Sid — on 14th August, 2007 at 4:49 pm  

    The point is, suicide bombing is almost always a reaction to disputed territory and not race or religion. But because you’re an idiot who would like to reduce it to specifically an Islamic problem, this bound to be rejected by you.

  63. Jagdeep — on 14th August, 2007 at 4:52 pm  

    Are they doing it because they’re poor Sid? It’s ideology that makes them kill people, not poverty.

    Why are the slums of Calcutta, Bangkok, Lagos and Rio de Janeiro not producing poor children blowing themselves?

    No, terrorism isnt about poverty — terrorism is about the bourgeoisie, the middle class self-pitying inadequate, the ideological extremist from prosperity and privelige. And like so many bourgeoise activities that try and hide what they are, it’s proponents are as vulgar as hell.

  64. Sid — on 14th August, 2007 at 4:54 pm  

    Are they doing it because they’re poor Sid? It’s ideology that makes them kill people, not poverty.

    Yes, but you’re committing a non-sequitur on your own premise aren’t you? Unless you’re working towards the same muddle-headed conclusion as Bleh.

  65. The Common Humanist — on 14th August, 2007 at 4:55 pm  

    Everyone should read ‘Fiasco’ by Thomas E Ricks. A really good, well sourced and authoritative account of the buidl up, war and aftermath.

    I would also recco ‘The Assassins Gate’ by George Packer – covers similar ground, more from an Iraqi perspective.

    Also read ‘Taking the Hard Road to Bagdhad: the wars against Saddam’ by John Simpson.

    I think these three books should be required reading for both pro and anti war types.

  66. Jai — on 14th August, 2007 at 4:57 pm  

    “The beast of terrorism is born in swamps of poverty”

    Not necessarily true. OBL and al-Zawahiri are both extremely highly-educated professionals. OBL is from a very wealthy family background indeed, and (generally-speaking) doctors worldwide are well-paid, so I doubt al-Zawahiri was exactly poverty-stricken either. One of the most senior members of the Islamic Jihad group in Egypt — and a former active supporter of AQ (he’s just written a book renouncing AQ’s terrorist ideology) — is also a doctor. And let’s not forget the medical professionals who were recently implicated in the attempted London/Glasgow attacks.

    A more accurate statement would perhaps be “The beast of terrorism is born in the swamps of environments which support the concept of the ends justifying the means, especially when there is an excess of intelligence and self-righteousness, and a deficit of moral scruples and empathy for innocent targets. And, in some cases, an excessive need to feel that one ‘matters’ and ‘is important’ combined with a fear of one’s existence during one’s earthy lifetime ultimately turning out to be pointless in the grand scheme of things”.

  67. Jagdeep — on 14th August, 2007 at 5:00 pm  

    Yes, but you’re committing a non-sequitur on your own premise aren’t you?

    I don’t have a clue what you mean Sid.

    POVERTY DOES NOT CAUSE TERRORISM.

    Ideology and extremism causes terrorism, not poverty.

    When people use that line, they seek to excuse and ennoble terrorism by using quasi mystical socialist righteous justifications, when in reality, terrorism is the cause of the prosperous and bourgeoise, the unimaginative, the stupid, and the fanatical.

  68. Sid — on 14th August, 2007 at 5:10 pm  

    I don’t have a clue what you mean Sid.

    You said it babe.

  69. douglas clark — on 14th August, 2007 at 5:12 pm  

    Bleh,

    “Douglas, what are your thoughts on a three-state version of Iraq?”

    Can I go off at a tangent here for a moment? I think that any other main agency apart from the USA, finding itself in the position of having comprehensively won the Shock and Awe or whatever it was called, would have immediately implemented a three state solution, as in seperate states, not federalism. The reason the PNAC boys didn’t is because they are wedded to their own countries history, where let us not forget, you have a civil war, shake hands and forget about it whilst singing chorus’s of Star Spangled Banner and eating Moms Apple Pie. You apply your own experience to others and forget about the likes of Yugoslavia, which is probably a better comparator. You are in effect culturally blinded. What the Americans have done is attempt to make Iraq into a mini USA by the Indian Ocean.

    To directly answer your question is difficult. My heart says that any democracy, however flawed, should be supported. Will we, for instance see the likes again of the Iraqi women holding up their purple fingers, with any other solution. I think not, and you realise that that is shorthand for a lot of other stuff that comes with a pluralist democracy. My head says that stopping the fighting and people being alive to argue about things like that in their own wee states is probably a better option. I think there is some hope for Kurdistan and not a lot for the other two. I think they will both revert to failed states.

    Although what that doesn’t take account is the smaller sharks like Iran, KSA, Turkey and Syria who might find their own excuses to play the imperialist game, if and when the US withdraws.

    However, my biggest concern, right now, is that we have not seen the last of the madness of King George.

  70. Don — on 14th August, 2007 at 5:13 pm  

    On a purely practical matter of FP, Monty had it right.

    ‘The U.S. has broken the second rule of war. That is, don’t go fighting with your land army on the mainland of Asia. Rule One is don’t march on Moscow.’

  71. Leon — on 14th August, 2007 at 5:17 pm  

    Although what that doesn’t take account is the smaller sharks like Iran, KSA, Turkey and Syria who might find their own excuses to play the imperialist game, if and when the US withdraws.

    That would another good reason for the UN running things. Stack the place with UN peace keepers and that could keep them at bay.

    Any attempt against them would bring international condemnation (even anti war people in my vein would join in that one).

  72. Nyrone — on 14th August, 2007 at 5:20 pm  

    @Jagdeep

    ..and now that we know you like to re-state points by Wafa Sultan, why must you categorically conduct case studies disproving my point, rather than look to the plethora of global proof that leads us to believe that poverty and lack of education leave human beings in a vunerable state, in which their lives become less valuable to themselves and they are drawn toward extremism.

    Leave out the one-off case studies of Zawharri and Bin Laden, I’m talking in a general, mass sense. I can’t believe anyone would seek to ridicule this common-sense point that could be made by a child.

    “Why are some of the most poor people in the world, the Hindus and Buddhists of Asia, the Christians of Africa and Latin America, not blowing themselves up?”

    You are confusing my statement with suicide bombing, which I agree has roots in a distorted intepretation of Islam, but is also probably connected to poverty and hardship too.

    “Given how the first military action of the Taliban was in 1994, some 6 years after the Soviets left, I’m calling shenanigans on you”

    Thanks for that, text-book Man, you managed to entirely avoid my question by smugly pointing to a factual error (although, are you saying that people who fought the soviets did not go on to becoming members of the Taliban? Because I disagree with that)

    “Number two:
    Why do so many terrorists come from middle class, educated and prosperous backgrounds?”

    Jagdeep, you got Iraq on the mind, and I respect your point about Koranic doctrine and extremism, but in the totality of extremism, do you fail to see that the roots of much ‘terrorism’ is poverty created by unfairness and inequality? Think about these nutters you are impying, how quickly the support for them and their madness would die out if we lived in an economically just world.
    Poverty is not the only thing that causes terrorism, but is it a big factor? Yes, of course!

  73. douglas clark — on 14th August, 2007 at 5:34 pm  

    Bleh @ 58,

    Nyrone is a she? Anyway, the Abu Ghraib snaps for the family album say it all for me. Along with the preinvasion remark by Madeleine Albright that the deaths of half a million Iraqi kids through sanctions was a price worth paying.

    So, okay, you have to look between the lines a bit, but the sentiment is certainly there.

  74. douglas clark — on 14th August, 2007 at 5:41 pm  

    Leon,

    I think the US is trying to involve the UN, but I’m not sure of the details. I’d worry that the UN would be seen by the locals as a proxy for the US and experience similar problems. Although I’d like you to be right, obviously.

  75. Nyrone — on 14th August, 2007 at 5:43 pm  

    I am a guy! Jeez

  76. Ravi Naik — on 14th August, 2007 at 5:56 pm  

    “Jagdeep, you got Iraq on the mind, and I respect your point about Koranic doctrine and extremism, but in the totality of extremism, do you fail to see that the roots of much ‘terrorism’ is poverty created by unfairness and inequality?”

    In my view, terrorism, where people kill themselves and others by blowing up and the sort, cannot just happen with poverty. Africa, India, South America have pools of abject poverty, and you don’t hear these occureences. Injustices? Civil movements in the US, India, Gandhi, MLK, Mandela.

    Terrorism, is another beast. You need money, lots of money, people, well-organized network and resources. You need people to spread hate, to instill hate, to brainwash… for committing something so unnatural as suicide, and to feel completely numb to the killing of others. It takes time, preparation, and money. The 7/7 killers had everything.

  77. soru — on 14th August, 2007 at 6:54 pm  

    Poverty is not the only thing that causes terrorism, but is it a big factor? Yes, of course!

  78. soru — on 14th August, 2007 at 6:54 pm  

    Poverty is not the only thing that causes terrorism, but is it a big factor? Yes, of course!.

    Really, it isn’t. Lots of poverty before the 19C, no terrorism. Lots of poverty in Africa, little terrorism (most of that committed by outsiders). Comparitively little poverty in 1970s Japan and 21C UK, both have terrorism.

    You might as well say poverty causes trips to Disneyland or yachting: on a global scale, terrorism is a leisure activity of the rich.

    More relevant is that terrorism, in the sense of unregulated warfare, certainly can cause poverty.

  79. Sunny — on 14th August, 2007 at 6:55 pm  

    Whoa, I didn’t realise this was going to blow up.

    I think let’s get a few things out of the way. I may be for liberal intervention, I’m just not in favour of the US version (especially GW Bush’s version) of this strategy.

    The Americans have mangled up Afghanistan and Iraq and pretty much every time they’ve tried this. I’m not going to deny that. But I think philosophically some case can be made for this.

    I don’t think the US went into Iraq or Afghanistan for humanitarian reasons. If they really believed their own doctrine, they would have gone into Congo or Darfur ages ago.

  80. Leon — on 14th August, 2007 at 7:06 pm  

    Whoa, I didn’t realise this was going to blow up

    You’re kidding right?! PP can’t do FO without it turning into a thread with a million comments!

  81. raz — on 14th August, 2007 at 7:12 pm  

    SUNNY YOU ****! WHERE IS THE ARTICLE CONGRATULATING PAKISTAN ON ITS 60TH BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!!! RAZ IS NOT HAPPY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    PAKISTAN ZINDABAD!!!!!!!!!!!

  82. El Cid — on 14th August, 2007 at 7:28 pm  

    Coz he’s waiting for the big one: India!
    Only joking, only joking, only joking.
    C’yam down, c’yam down.

  83. TheIrie — on 14th August, 2007 at 7:31 pm  

    David Miliband should read this post by Craig Murray, and pledge to move the FCO out of being an instrument to protect and project the vested interests of a very small number of people, to being an instrument to serve the genuine interests of the British people, and the people of the world – which are for a world where we co-operate with one another in our mutual self interest (i.e. genuine globalisation). The FCO is an institution with its roots in administering the world, under the British Empire, for a domestic elite. Its glory days are over, but old habits die hard. I truly believe that the FCO and its corporate allies like BAe, are the most undemocratic, shady, sinister and illegitimate entities in modern Britain, and the time has come to finally reform them, or be rid of them altogether. DFiD should take over from the FCO as far as I’m concerned.

  84. El Cid — on 14th August, 2007 at 7:33 pm  

    Department of Foreign Intervention and Democracy?
    Am I right?

  85. Nyrone — on 14th August, 2007 at 8:07 pm  

    Thanks for the link Thelrie!

  86. Jai — on 14th August, 2007 at 8:11 pm  

    I think some commenters here need to differentiate between the terms “terrorism” and “suicide bombers”. There’s obviously an overlap between both, but some of the motivating reasons are probably different.

    For example, you don’t see many of the extremist “clerics” or leaders of AQ strapping on some explosives themselves in their supposed eagerness to enter paradise as a reward, despite exhorting others to do the same.

    Does poverty cause terrorism ? Not necessarily, as several of us have pointed out. However, poverty may be a factor in motivating suicide bombing if the person concerned is miserable enough with their earthly life and is looking for a way out (and an entry to a supposedly far better afterlife). But there are plenty of exceptions to that too; I guess it depends on what the person thinks they stand to lose and gain by taking their own life in this way, whilst simultaneously deliberately killing others in the process.

    To paraphrase Bill Clinton, “It’s the ideology, stupid”.

  87. Nyrone — on 14th August, 2007 at 8:47 pm  

    When I say ‘poverty’ I really hope people don’t assume I mean a dude walking up to the cash machine, only to find he has no cash left.

    I’m talking, being born into poverty, with no education, under threat, under siege, constantly afraid, being pulled in various directions, hopeless, a nomad, with no permanant home or place of safety, no refugee from the crush of economic strangulation, having no rights, being kicked from street to street like a piece of shit, having to deal with the sociological consequences of it all, feeling burdened and in pain every single day but having no access to health-care facilities, being humiliated, stigmatized, down-trodden, having no childhood and fading into obscurity while others stamp on your face, never having enough to even feed your limbless family and then seeing people around you on with all the material things. Geographical poverty, mental poverty, physical poverty…I am talking about people in these conditions, and I believe that terrorism would decrease overnight if fairness, equality, justice and some sense of economic balance would wash over people who are prone to be lead to some alternative ‘sense of purpose’ if they cannot see the opportunities for themselves in their lives.

    Look at how much poverty there currently is in Gaza at the moment. Are you telling me that THIS is not fuelling resentment towards the men who keep them in that large open-air prison? When you have nothing to eat, are you not likely to get angry and demand food?

    I think it was Socrates that said all anger is born from the feeling of being slighted.

  88. douglas clark — on 14th August, 2007 at 8:52 pm  

    Jai @ 86, Poverty of imagination, possibly.

    The Irie @ 83, thanks for the link.

    Sunny @ 79, I agree. Responsibility to Protect (R2P) has to meet specific criteria, one of which is UN (Security Council) approval, IIRC.

    http://www.iciss.ca/report-en.asp

    It was perfectly clear that the invasion of Afghanistan was for the express purpose of capturing and killing OBL, which could be legitimised under other articles. It had nothing whatsoever to do with liberal interventionism, which was hijacked and subsequently abandoned by the spinmeisters of that particular war. Leaving a failed state in it’s wake.

    The UN never specifically approved GW2, and the legitimacy of action under the various outstanding Resolutions on Iraq is still very much a moot point. Again, good intentions – the outstanding Resolutions – were hijacked for bad ends.

    That is the problem with having the US as a loose cannon.

    If the FCO really wants to do something useful it should support the whole R2P agenda. And probably the ICC as well. It might well reign in some, if not all, of the military backing for economic advantage.

    Given that

  89. El Cid — on 14th August, 2007 at 8:55 pm  

    Socrates was a dickhead if he said that, assuming you haven’t taken his words out of context, which you probably have (think about it)

  90. douglas clark — on 14th August, 2007 at 8:55 pm  

    Scrub the ‘given that’.

  91. soru — on 14th August, 2007 at 9:52 pm  

    I’m talking, being born into poverty, with no education, under threat, under siege

    And, once again, such people don’t become terrorists in much the same way they don’t become hydrographers or technology consultants.

    Look at how much poverty there currently is in Gaza at the moment.

    And in fact, terrorism rates there are low right now. no suicide bombings, just the occasional rocket, if that even counts as terrorism.

    Back when they had more money, there was a lot more. The whole basis of Israel’s strategy is to make them too poor to be able to afford luxuries like terrorism. It appears to be working (on its own terms: I’m not saying I approve). If it does fail, it will likely because someone like Iran supplied extra money into the system to avoid the impoverishment of the relevant fighters.

    What it comes down to is that as a society moves away from absolute poverty, it has the opportunity to spend the new money on things it couldn’t previously afford.

    One of those things is a war.

    The logical consequence of that is that successful sustained economic growth requires one of two things:

    1. the ability to win the wars you start

    2. the ability to choose not to start a war

    Examples of all cases should be obvious.

  92. dollymixedup — on 14th August, 2007 at 11:39 pm  

    I think that the sense of inequality that living in either relative or absolute poverty can lead too,can make people turn to extremist groups (and indeed extremist groups prey on people who feel less equal) and turning to extremist groups can lead to terrorism or other extreme behaviour.

  93. Sunny — on 14th August, 2007 at 11:54 pm  

    Nyrone, Soru, dolly, douglas etc – I think all of you are right in many ways.

    The danger with those looking at trying to find the root causes of terrorism is to have a checklist of grievances and then tick them off if they don’t apply.

    Middle class boy blew himself up = poverty is not a factor.

    Terrorist was a doctor = education level doesn’t matter.

    I think this is too simplistic an analysis. Firstly, different situations apply in different countries, to different degrees to people who are individually absorbing brainwashing material in different ways.

    My feeling is always that a mixture of factors ‘tip over’ a person into terrorism. Sometimes poverty may apply, sometimes it doesn’t.

  94. soru — on 15th August, 2007 at 12:08 am  

    Inequality is right, but it is generally not inequality of money or physical resources. Much more often, it is inequality, or a share felt inadequate, of glory, of justice, of vindication.

    According to this study:

    ‘violent opposition to compromise over issues considered sacred is increased by offering material incentives to compromise ‘

    ‘people asked to trade-off sacred values for instrumental rewards tend to react with outrage and anger’

    Which is only common sense, but that’s lacking often enough it was probably worth them doing the study.

  95. dollymixedup — on 15th August, 2007 at 1:39 am  

    Soru i agree, “sense of inequality” should be replaced with “sense of injustice”.

    I can’t say much about poverty in the developing world but I know about poverty in manchester.

    I think that the awareness we have of others riches increases that feeling that the fact that many go without is “not fair” and thanks to the media we are aware of the super rich and the super poor.

    I think resource inequality creates anger – where I live gang culture and local violence is the main outlet for this anger, but under different conditions i think terrorism would thrive, in fact imho the next generation of disaffected youth will have bigger fish to fry than who deals drugs in crowcrft park. And thats partly to do with nulab foriegn policy, as much as home affairs.

  96. dollymixedup — on 15th August, 2007 at 1:41 am  

    Not just a sense of injustice for yourself, but for others.

  97. douglas clark — on 15th August, 2007 at 10:33 am  

    Sunny,

    I agree that a tick list is a nonsense. That, presumeably is what the FCO would like to have, an immutable algorithm that allowed them to do two things. Firstly, whatever they wanted, and secondly an electorate overjoyed at their wisdom.

    Ain’t going to happen.

    We: you and soru and dollymixedup and everyone else that contributes to this thread are just too damned cussed to let it. Which is a good thing. Else we would all be Harlan Ellisons’ Tick Tock men.

    As in “Repent Harlequin said the Tick Tock Man”. Which everyone should read, I think. Cue arguements why they shouldn’t…..

  98. Sofia — on 15th August, 2007 at 10:46 am  

    funny how the taliban were bush’s best buddies right up until 1997 when they were visiting his lovely texas ranch..weren’t they murdering mysogynistic b”£$ards then??

  99. soru — on 15th August, 2007 at 11:06 am  

    under different conditions i think terrorism would thrive

    Possibly, especially if more middle class and above people join in.

    Effective terrorism requires not just training, but months-long residency courses in overseas institutions equipped with lots of specialised facilities. Economically speaking, it’s much closer to becoming a mime artist than it is to joining a street gang.

  100. Ravi Naik — on 15th August, 2007 at 12:38 pm  

    “The danger with those looking at trying to find the root causes of terrorism is to have a checklist of grievances and then tick them off if they don’t apply.”

    Ah, but aren’t we applying the scientific method? We just need a larger checklist to validate our hypothesis. ( just kidding ;-) )

    Actually, I think in order to find the root causes of terrorism one has to define what terrorism is in the first place. Can anyone become a terrorist as opposed to just a common criminal? Granted, that these days if you have a muslim name and brown you are half qualified to be one. I think the whole point of terrorism is to commit mass murder, and in this process parallelise society. It is actually harder than one thinks, and as it was said, requires a lot of resources and expertise (something that the NHS doctors didn’t have). Religion and injustices are in my view made as excuses by this evil “elite” to justify their barbaric crimes. Suddenly, they are not fighting to end the injustices, but act on vengeance and hate, and thus are responsible for acentuating those injustices.

    My point is that I don’t believe that by simply removing injustices, that terrorism will disappear. There is no appeasement to terrorist organisations who I believe don’t really care about the plight of its people (or they would not resort to such extreme degrees of violence which they know the consequences). These organisations must be either destroyed physically, or bankrupt financially.

  101. Bleh — on 15th August, 2007 at 12:49 pm  

    funny how the taliban were bush’s best buddies right up until 1997 when they were visiting his lovely texas ranch

    Except they didn’t. That story is just an urban myth, Sofia. What actually happened was that some taliban officials visited Houston and UNOCAL Headquarters as part of the negioations over a proposed oil pipeline. Negoiations that broke down for varying commercial reasons.

    To repeat, the Taliban did not visit Bush at his ranch.

  102. Sofia — on 15th August, 2007 at 12:55 pm  

    an urban myth of the bbc?

  103. Sofia — on 15th August, 2007 at 12:56 pm  

    ok so it was taliban officials…who were in Houston..why weren’t they a problem then?
    It only suited the americans to demonise them when they couldn’t control them.

  104. Sunny — on 15th August, 2007 at 1:29 pm  

    While I agree with you Sofia, I think its only fair to point out that American politicians arent the only hypocrites around.

  105. Bleh — on 15th August, 2007 at 1:30 pm  

    Why don’t you ask Bill Clinton then? Why bring Bush into it at all?

    UNOCAL was part of a international consortium of companies from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Japan. A year later, UNOCAL pulled out of building the pipeline due to the war in Afghanistan, and indeed the US government shortly afterwards switched its support to a pipeline in Iran and Turkmenistan instead.

    As it happens, I truely believe that these dealings with the Taliban were wrong, just as our current abasement before the Saudi is equally wrong – we should have no truck whatsoever with reactionary mysogonistic theocrats, whoever and whereever they are, of whatever belief system, but your argument reeks of “damn the Americans whenever they deal with the Taliban, and damn them when they overthrow them.”

    Oh, Nyrone, I forgot to answer to question about the Taliban – apart from Mullah Omar, who was part of the mujahadeen, nearly all of the senior Taliban didn’t participate much in the fighting against the Soviets in the 80′s – they were either products of Pakistani-sponsored madrassas or directly ISI trained in the early 90s, after the Soviets withdrew.

  106. sonia — on 15th August, 2007 at 1:32 pm  

    Sunny: it depends on what the ‘liberal’ intervention is surely! wouldn’t you like to know what it is or are you just in favour of blanket ‘liberal’ interventions!?

    if the ‘liberal’ intervention is pounding people’s houses with mortar bombs – how can you be in favour of it?

    the point is surely – that politicians/theorists/military strategists talk in terms of abstract interventions ( ok the soldiers ‘implement’ it so they’re screwed too) which may certainly have ‘commendable’ goals attached to them – but the fact that they are delivered through violent means – should – register some dismay. If only because it might mean it actually gets in the way of the original aims of the intervention.

    you would need to do an analysis of each intervention wouldn’t you really – you can’t just be in favour of an intervention because someone branded it as liberal?

    the point is: when in favour of an intervention – better damn well be sure you know what the effects of the intervention are.

    i might be in favour of a neighbourhood renewal intervention – to improve health – and theoretically, i agree that ‘intervention’ is necessary.

    I might have health clinics in mind – someone else might have genetic modification in mind – we both agree on some intervention – but one might involve wiping out the current species and start again, end goal is the same : healthier human beings ( yes because they’re brand new ones) – and two completely conflicting approaches!

    do you see what i mean?

  107. Bleh — on 15th August, 2007 at 1:35 pm  

    I think its only fair to point out that American politicians arent the only hypocrites around.

    Call me cynical if you wish, Sunny, but I think hypocrisy seems to be a prerequisite for a politican of any stripe or shade.

  108. Bleh — on 15th August, 2007 at 1:37 pm  

    Sonia, how would you have proposed to got rid of Saddam?

    (this is not a dig at you over support or otherwise to his removal, btw, I want to see how you expand your thinking into areas of non-consequentiality)

  109. Sunny — on 15th August, 2007 at 2:22 pm  

    do you see what i mean?

    Yes of course, I agree. Which is why the only kind of liberal intervention I prefer is my kind

  110. Bleh — on 15th August, 2007 at 2:37 pm  

    Yes of course, I agree. Which is why the only kind of liberal intervention I prefer is my kind

    Sunny, thought about doing a post on it? i.e. expand upon your preferred kind of liberal intervention in detail, with examples and so on?

  111. Sid — on 15th August, 2007 at 2:41 pm  

    Sonia, how would you have proposed to got rid of Saddam?

    How about invade a sovereign country on manufactured evidence, in order to bypass international law and render the attack as “legal” in UN terms. Then destroy Iraq’s infrastructure, dismantle its judicial institutions, its cultural legacy and then play the three main religious groups against each other and create three mutually offensive vassal states and sow the seeds for future wars and instability. Defend the Oil installations and forget about the Iraqi institutions, civilians etc. Embark on a war against civilians and minor acts of genocide. Commision corporate proxies and mercernary private security companies from USA and Europe to win back the money that is earmarked for “reconstruction”. Then accidentally “lose” $9 billion of Iraqi funds that international audit organisations will overlook. Finally enforce a democracy to elect an Iran-facing theocracy all with the loss of close to a million lives! Result, one less tyrant and a huge loss in credibility. Brilliant!

    Oh, but that’s what we’ve done anyway.

  112. Bleh — on 15th August, 2007 at 2:57 pm  

    Sid, why is it you, and many others who where against the removal of Saddam cannot string more than about a sentence together without it being full of falsehoods, misquotations and general rubbish? So I repeat the question: how would you have gotten rid of Saddam?

  113. Sofia — on 15th August, 2007 at 2:59 pm  

    what i was trying to point out is hypocrisy in general…and i specifically cited the americans as they are most vociferous in their condemnation of the Tabliban…what have british or american troops done in afghanistan so far? not much…apart from killing and getting killed..
    i remember them going on about osama, well theyve really found him…and then when that didn’t work as an excuse to invade another country they used womens rights as the reason they were going for them…its a load of shite …
    maybe Britain shouldve invaded america for harbouring ira arms suppliers…
    or maybe we should cut off links with saudi for its rather dubious links and general mysogyny…i just find it incredulous that we use such pretexts to go to war and people fall for it and then come up with..well what else did you want us to do…
    Saddam was a creation in part of the US desire to exercise control in the region, which went wrong…all i want to know is where are the wmd…and what’s plan b in the face of a civil war in iraq? or did our defence gurus not think that far??

  114. Sid — on 15th August, 2007 at 3:10 pm  

    Bleh, I don’t think there is anything I’ve said in #111 which has not occurred. I would challenge you to say what you think is a falsehood, you noxious little man.

  115. Bleh — on 15th August, 2007 at 3:23 pm  

    Come on, Sid, your claim about “manufacturing” evidence, for starters (heck, even Saddam’s own generals thought he had WND). Or your claim about “destroying Iraq’s infrastructure” for seconds, given the fact that Iraq had pretty much a non-existant infrastructure in the first place (and what it did have was solely devoted to maintaining Saddam and co in power). And that’s just your first two sentences. Need I go on?

    Frankly, if you think granting democracy to people is such a bad thing, then your moral compass is so skewed your by petty hatred of the US and the UK ,that you are utterly and totally irrideemable. Think about it, Sid – you opposed the overthrow of a genocidal fascist regime. Orwell would have had a choice few things to say about pretend progressives like yourself.

  116. Sid — on 15th August, 2007 at 3:28 pm  

    Orwell would have had a choice few things to say about pretend progressives like yourself.

    And he went to Spain to fight ####suckers like you.

  117. Sofia — on 15th August, 2007 at 3:36 pm  

    Bleh..the thing about democracy is that it’s about people having choice…not being imposed by others from the top down…and plz..granting democracy..wat the hell is that??? you don’t grant people things that are their rights…its a bit rich isn’t it..
    we all know Saddam was a dictator and we all know who helped him stay there…while he was gassing kurds, we still gave him money and arms..so don’t give me “granting democracy”

  118. douglas clark — on 15th August, 2007 at 3:50 pm  

    Bleh,

    Hans Blix and his team couldn’t find any WMDs, could they? I agree with you that Saddam Hussein was a nasty little dictator, but the pretext for going to war, it seems to me anyway, was a complete stitch up. Why were the weapons inspectors not given more time?

  119. Bleh — on 15th August, 2007 at 3:57 pm  

    Sofia, two points:

    Firstly, we didn’t give Saddam weapons and money. It was Russia, Czechoslovakia and France who gave him money and arms. It was Germany who gave him the materials for chemical weapons. US and British aid was restricted to satellite imagery and things like that (which was wrong anyway).

    Secondly, I’m sure the inhabitants of Germany, South Korea and Japan will be puzzled by your claims that democracy can’t be imposed from the top down. My point is this: Saddam had such a death grip on Iraq that the only way the Iraqis would have had a chance of democracy was for him to be overthrown by external forces, which is what happened.

    Sid, oh how original. I’m sure your insult would have looked better in the original German.

  120. Sid — on 15th August, 2007 at 3:59 pm  

    go away you creep.

  121. Bleh — on 15th August, 2007 at 4:05 pm  

    Douglas, Blix made it clear in his book, that he would have been happy to spend the next thirty years talking with Saddam about process, nevermind WMDs (he was mocked so well in Team America). He was the wrong man for the wrong job. Plus, if you really want to go down the UN route, Saddam had broken the 1991 ceasefire agreement on multiple terms.

    Personally, that Saddam was a genocidal tyrant was enough reason for me to support his overthrow. I will never forget the way Bush 1 betrayed the Iraqis, and I wasn’t going to support Bush 2 doing the same, being bullied into it by the likes of the bloody-hands of Chirac and Putin.

    And for people going on about “International Law”, sod “International Law”, because “International Law” led to Rwanda, it led to Srebrenica, it led to Burma, it led to Mugabe, it leads to hundreds of millions of people the world over being oppressed by genocidal fascists who get a free pass just because they have a seat in the UN General Assembly.

  122. Sofia — on 15th August, 2007 at 4:06 pm  

    Bleh…you see you completely missed my point..please highlight where i said democracy can’t be imposed from top down???? plz read what i wrote instead of assuming…

  123. Sofia — on 15th August, 2007 at 4:07 pm  

    and maybe i should elaborate on “we”…

  124. Bleh — on 15th August, 2007 at 4:12 pm  

    Sofia,

    the thing about democracy is that it’s about people having choice…not being imposed by others from the top down

    If you meant to say that democracy doesn’t involve governments being imposed, then I utterly agree with you (and apologise for misreading you). But the Iraqis have freely chosen their government, as backed by the UN.

  125. Leon — on 15th August, 2007 at 4:22 pm  

    “Hans Blix?! HANS BLIX?!?”

    Sorry…just had a Team America flashback…

  126. Sofia — on 15th August, 2007 at 4:25 pm  

    no i meant although they can be imposed, or that the concept can be brought in from a foreign source, the notion that we can “grant” democracy is not something I am comfortable with…how many other countries would we do this to in the name of democracy…and i don’t believe that true democracy exists anyway, more like a truncated bastardised version of it…

  127. sonia — on 15th August, 2007 at 4:41 pm  

    well actually bleh i have direct experience of his brutality, and the region, so don’t get smart with me.

    CIA/ mossad/sass/ever heard of covert ops? espionage, pumping money into helping the people who were close to Saddam, the whole war has cost so much now you could have bought off the entire iraqi population. I’m sure we could come up with something different.

    if you need to bomb an entire fucking country into submission to get at one man, you have to be so dumb, you’re better off trying to look after your own failing healthcare system.

    and yes i lived in kuwait, and i can assure you that when the Allies came into Kuwait, they did not bomb Kuwait, they had bombed Iraq, most unfortunate for them, but very fortunate for us, so the situation in Kuwait could have been considered ‘liberation’ and maybe what a lot of people thought was going to happen in Iraq too. ( of course they weren’t going to be, given in Iraq they thought lots of people were Saddam supporters and they had to treat everyone with suspicion). So the hearts and minds situation – is necessarily going to be different. I understand the harsh reality of war – and that means – whether it is an American/Allied bomb on your head, or an Iraqi one – it makes no difference. Had the americans come into Kuwait the way they did into Iraq, no one would have been happy or considered themselves ‘liberated’. So yes, the situation on the ground is going to be very different – given the particular kind of intervention. this is what i was saying earlier : ‘interventions’ are not the same thing always, are they.

    and at the end of the day: consider the consequence of the intervention.

    if you have no idea how to get rid of Saddam any other way from firebombing an entire locale, then fine – but don’t consider yourself morally superior to Mr. S. because you have had to kill a heck of a lot of people along the way – so why the hell shouldn’t i come and blow your house down?

    its you people who don’t understand the consequences of war, who should think hard.

    to also get how ridiculous it is to think of ‘interventions’ as something standard, ( and the sneakiness of expecting violence to be included as a legitimate intervention) next time someone talks about how the government ‘needs to do something’ re: forced marriage, i might recommend the intervention that they bomb the neighbourhoods (*lets take southall as an example shall we?) where these men are holding their families hostage -after all we need to liberate them do we not? how can we possibly leave those poor women to rot with those horrible oppressive men? are you in favour of not toppling such autocratic family dictators! *express suitable moral outrage* and Sunny has already pointed out you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, so should i now expect him to support my liberal military intervention to protect asian women’s rights?

    what would people to say to that then? people would think it was ridiculous, and that i was some kind of crazy murderer. just cos the minute anything becomes inter-nation rather than inter-people – “violence” becomes an acceptable intervention?

  128. sonia — on 15th August, 2007 at 4:47 pm  

    “pumping money into helping the people who were close to Saddam” – to encourage them to rebel -would naturally include giving them asylum, like the petitions we are now signing to offer iraqi interpreter asylum here.

    we can use our brains and apply our logic to the specific instance we are allegedly ‘intervening’ into. each situation will demand its own analysis anyway. and if someone had a specific action plan, that should be critiqued on its own merit, and in the same way a business plan is, i.e. setting out what the hell it expects to do – and how the hell it is expected it will be done, the intended outcomes, any unintended outcomes, etc. with risks, and costs.

    can you imagine if the US/UK had been asked to provide a business plan of how they expected to achieve what they said they were going to in Iraq back in 2003? We interrogate business plans, oh but we don’t interrogate war plans now do we…

  129. Sofia — on 15th August, 2007 at 4:53 pm  

    Sonia – hear hear…

  130. sonia — on 15th August, 2007 at 5:01 pm  

    and finally Bleh – if we do not find a way to get rid of Saddam, well then we don’t find a way. there’s no sense in going in when you don’t know if you’re going to make it better, and you’re pretty sure you’ll make it worse for some people: that is what i call a foolish, un-thought out – clearly no market analysis/mapping done-type intervention. its pretty dumb as things go really – the blind leading the blind.

    on that basis, i will now endeavour to liberate you from the miserable life you so clearly lead in this den of inequality, racism, police state that is Britain – i shall announce my intervention any second now and you of course will be eternally grateful.

  131. sonia — on 15th August, 2007 at 5:04 pm  

    anyway back to the original point of the thread, david miliband is a nice man and everything, but as someone pointed out – the government has had plenty of recommendations already, so i do think this is another ‘fluffy’ exercise. still, at least it shows that they realise the public have a legitimate right to have some thoughts! ( even if they then decide to do what they wanted anyway)

  132. Bleh — on 15th August, 2007 at 5:06 pm  

    Sonia, don’t you think they tried that? As the recently-released archives show, the CIA and other organisations for decades tried constantly to get rid of dictators such as Saddam, but he and the Baath party had such a deathgrip on Iraq that it was impossible – he could not have been overthrown internally, and he had two psychotic sons ready and waiting to continue his rule for another 40 years. Anything else is just wishful thinking, Sonia. Would you have condemned Iraq to another 50 years of first Saddam and then Qusay and Uday?

  133. Sid — on 15th August, 2007 at 5:07 pm  

    I think the moral of the story for pro-War types is:
    Always launch an invasion on emperical evidence and not faith-based extrapolation. That is if you value your credibility and would rather not spend the rest of your career playing tu-quoque with some arsehole called George Galloway.

  134. Bleh — on 15th August, 2007 at 5:08 pm  

    And secondly, history has shown that as soon as western states take up the option of “pumping money into helping the people who were close to Saddam”, as you suggest, then they are condemned mercilessly by people like you for trying to overthrow dictators!

  135. sonia — on 15th August, 2007 at 5:09 pm  

    thanks sofia, i guess i went on a bit of a rant, but it does infuriate me so, all these years later, im a lucky human being for surviving and living a normal life, how most people who have no experience of ‘said’ intervention just glibly assume that the bombed out people would have agreed with them.

    its not wise karma to go around thinking its alright to bomb other peope, of course its just playing God really

  136. El Cid — on 15th August, 2007 at 5:22 pm  

    I think the moral of the story for pro-War types is:
    Always launch an invasion on emperical evidence and not faith-based extrapolation. That is if you value your credibility and would rather not spend the rest of your career playing tu-quoque with some arsehole called George Galloway.

    That’s not unreasonable

  137. Don — on 15th August, 2007 at 5:31 pm  

    Just for the record, I support liberal intervention but only on strict criteria. There should be a genuine humanitarian crisis which can be stopped by armed force, there should be no economic or strategic advantage motivating the interveners, it should be do-able and with the repurcussions thought through with humanitarianism as the number one priority. And an exit strategy. UN approval would be nice, but I don’t see it as proof positive of moral turpitude.

    By those lights Sierra Leone, Bosnia and East Timor were ‘good’ interventions. Maybe not perfect, but close enough for jazz.

    Rwanda, Darfur and Chad were good candidates, but it didn’t happen. Is anybody seriously contending that standing back during the Rwanda massacres was the morally correct position.

    Afghanistan is iffy, but I would tip in favour. Yes, some nations had a self-serving agenda, but it was widely supported, do-able (until Iraq) and carried clear benefits for the people. We should (and could) have flooded the place with well protected engineers, built roads, clinics, schools, power plants etc in the immediate aftermath. Instead those resources were poured into the bottomless pit of Iraq.

    China, Zimbabwe, Burma, no. Nasty but just not do-able without catastrophic and bloody consequences which outweigh the benefits.

    Iraq fails on the do-able count, too. But also on the economic and strategic agenda, the disregard for humanitarian issues, the exit strategy. As Sonia said, if you can’t do it then you can’t do it. Unfortunately they went ahead anyway.

    KSA, hmm. I suppose a case could be made. Now, if the US backed the overthrow of the House of Saud and replaced it with a true democracy, as least no-one could accuse them of pursuing their own advantage.

  138. Don — on 15th August, 2007 at 5:35 pm  

    Rectitude, not turpitude.

    Just been visiting mum and moral turpitude somehow stuck in my head. She believes in speaking her mind.

  139. sonia — on 15th August, 2007 at 5:41 pm  

    i would say some good points have been made by others but i would say that the problem is assuming there is always going to be a morally correct position, and that we have enough information to be able to tell what that is.

    i think we should try our best to find out as much as we can, if we seriously think we are in a position to make things better, rather than worse. the reality of Armed forces on the ground is NOT simple – so it is again – my point about violence as an interventin. Why is there a premise that intervention has to be violent in the first place? and even if you think it should be a violent one – why assume an army is the best means?

    these are again assumptions – that people need to consider. we are so in the dichotomy of to intervene or not, that in itself doesn’t recognise that non-military intervention is still a choice to make, and may well involves “intervention’ through other means – like offering refugees a place to live. this either or mindset is part of the problem in the first place.

    and again – even if you think something has to be ‘violent’ there are different ways of doing that, just like there is always going to be a difference between stepping in to break up a fight on the street, and a premeditated attack on a neighbourhood a la my description.

    it will always depend – hence my relativity – on whose life is in the balance.

  140. El Cid — on 15th August, 2007 at 5:56 pm  

    …unlike previous efforts

  141. Sid — on 15th August, 2007 at 6:20 pm  

    you talkin’ to me? you talkin’ to ME?

  142. El Cid — on 15th August, 2007 at 6:40 pm  

    if the cap fits..

  143. Sofia — on 16th August, 2007 at 10:50 am  

    i still don’t understand why “we” think it’s ok to impose “our” way of life onto another people..imagine if the House of Saud intervened to stop all the mugging, raping, killing in this country by imposing their way of life onto the British…not a nice thought, but it’s ok for us to say it to them or any other fascist regime? Maybe we should quit arming them and propping up the puppets and see how long they last..of course we won’t do that as there’s this little thing called oil getting in the way and the balance of power in the mideast..the saudis are shit scared of Iranian and Iraqi shiites which is why it suits them that the Americans are there.

  144. Sahil — on 16th August, 2007 at 11:09 am  

    Excellent posts by Sonia. There are too many people in international relations who view their actions as abstract concepts, they are almost desensitising themselves to the damage that their actions will actually cause. Or they keep telling themselves that whatever the outcome of intervention, at least they did it for a ‘good’ or ‘moral’ reason. This is BULLSHIT. If one intervenes they need to know or at least have an estimate of what could happen, and work backwards to decide their inital actions, i.e. Contingency Planning, anyone?? Isn’t this what the military is supposed to be all about? Liberal intervention had failed empirically it needs to be either changed or thrown into the dustbin. Otherwise all this is just ideology, and has little to do with ‘real’ welfare.

  145. douglas clark — on 16th August, 2007 at 11:29 am  

    Sonia makes some very good points. I think intervention is OK if it really is going to make a positive difference. Dropping bombs on the folk you are supposed to be liberating should not, really, be part of the tricks in the box. And, in any event it should meet the sorts of criteria that Sahil outlines. It would also be quite a good idea to try to resolve situations before they go critical. None of this is rocket science.

  146. Sahil — on 16th August, 2007 at 11:40 am  

    “None of this is rocket science.”

    Unfortunately its a whole lot more difficult :(

  147. Nyrone — on 16th August, 2007 at 11:51 am  

    We are facing so many problems at once, that it’s difficult to intellectualize the suffering sometimes, and yet still so many people who have made politics their hobby, their personal game, their interest, their fun-sport, are always waiting in the wings, attached to their armchairs writing ill-informed opinions for no reason than to disagree with somebody and stir them up enough to engage in a stupid, idiotic squabble about the ‘history’ of a social situation, because they probably feel lonely and enjoy having somebody cite their name in reference on a blog, even if it happens to be in a negative, confrontational way.

    It reminds me of so many family arguments, that are not born out of real disagreement, but out of aching, sheer loneliness and a desperate urge for people to have contact with others, even if it is an argument rather than an embrace. We have to overcome ‘arguing’ or ‘point-scoring’ as a merely intellectual excercise, or infomation-gathering adventure, and move onto a ground of common understanding between ourselves, and practical solutions and answers.

    I just read this post back to myself, and my head is hurting now. All this aqquired, borrowed knowledge is second-hand anyway. Do any of you fear we are making the same mistakes as our parents generation? Drip-by-Drip progress? When the current wars are over, new ones will arise, there seem to always be people ready to kill each other, what lead to this system being acceptable? Why is it that the unthinkable has become normalized, and that we are content with cosmetic changes, when what appear to need is a radical overhaul.

    Why are people so afraid to admit that they do not have knowledge enough to discuss some issues? Why is everbody an expert at everything these days?

  148. Sofia — on 16th August, 2007 at 11:59 am  

    i suppose blogs are a way of expressing ideas and learning..maybe “experts” should do the same..everyone is fallible

  149. justforfun — on 16th August, 2007 at 12:08 pm  

    Nyrone – you need a holiday or a drink. Stop reading the works of Donald Rumsfeld, if you know what I mean – but I know you know I don’t know what I mean, but I know you know what you mean and I agree with you :-)

    Justforfun

    Now if you want to make you head really hurt read this
    http://www.opendemocracy.net/arts-multiculturalism/article_2204.jsp

  150. douglas clark — on 16th August, 2007 at 12:23 pm  

    Nyrone,

    It is all opinion, at the end of the day. But the benefit of the internet is that you really can’t get your facts too wrong, else you will get lots of other, wiser posters correcting you. So ,the lie that was half way around the world before the truth was out of the kitchen, is not so easy to pass off now as it was, say twenty years ago.

    It seems to me to be a good thing that people are using their own critical faculties and experiences to illuminate a debate. There is a fair degree of give and take and consensus building on this site, for instance. If even one other person reads the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, I’d feel it had been worth posting about it, whether they agreed with me or not.

  151. Sid — on 16th August, 2007 at 12:38 pm  

    Prof John Gray rams it home in his very English and very sane way:


    Many will caution against throwing out the baby of humanitarian military intervention together with the neocon bathwater. No doubt the idea that western states can project their values by force of arms gives a sense of importance to those who believe it. It tells them they are still the chief actors on the world stage, the vanguard of human progress that embodies the meaning of history. But this liberal creed is a dangerous conceit if applied to today’s intractable conflicts, where resource wars are entwined with wars of religion and western power is in retreat.

    The liberal interventionism that took root in the aftermath of the cold war was never much more than a combination of post-imperial nostalgia with crackpot geopolitics. It was an absurd and repugnant mixture, and one whose passing there is no reason to regret. What the world needs from western governments is not another nonsensical crusade. It is a dose of realism and a little humility.

  152. douglas clark — on 16th August, 2007 at 12:53 pm  

    Sid,

    I wonder what the good Professor feels about Rwanda?

    If I remember correctly the proposed intervention in Darfur will be made up almost entirely of troops from African nations. This is not, really, an arguement about western liberalism. This is something that most nations and people could subscribe to.

  153. Bleh — on 16th August, 2007 at 1:25 pm  

    It is a dose of realism and a little humility.

    Whilst the Mugabes, the Kim-il-Jongs, the Khomeneis, the Castros and the Assads of this world continue to get a free pass…

  154. Sid — on 16th August, 2007 at 1:51 pm  

    I think Gray would suggest that Rwandan genocide came about as a result of deformations in tribalim, scarcity of water resources and the legacy of colonialism which could be solved by political pressure and conciliation. When he advocates Realism, he’s coming from the school of Sun Tzu, Hobbes and Nicolai Macchiavelli. I doubt he suggests the Democratic Realism of Krauthammer et al, with their menu of invasion, cleaving the state on racial and tribal lines and ransacking of it’s resources etc.

  155. Sid — on 16th August, 2007 at 1:53 pm  

    Whilst the Mugabes, the Kim-il-Jongs, the Khomeneis, the Castros and the Assads of this world continue to get a free pass

    None of whom have committed a Vietnam or an Iraq.

  156. sonia — on 16th August, 2007 at 3:21 pm  

    anyway, i’ve no idea what people mean by ‘liberalism’ and i strongly suspect that different people mean different things.

    in any case, i should probably point out that this is all in the context of the nation-state, which as far as i am concerned, the problem in the first place as it is the vehicle that legitimises violence as an ‘intervention’.

  157. sonia — on 16th August, 2007 at 3:43 pm  

    by that i mean: if we were just people standing around the street, our understanding of what constitutes ‘liberal intervention’ would most likely involve different moral standards – to when it is between ‘nations’.

    as i said, most people in Southwark would not think it was a very good intervention to go and bomb Lambeth because there was very bad man who was the head of Southwark Council who was keeping everyone oppressed.

    we could hear arguments that the people of Lambeth having the moral responsibility to the people of Southwark, and that may well be true, and we may well need to do something, but sending a gang of fighters in who we don’t know aren’t going to kill anyone else – is probably not the best intervention. and if there is a massacre going on, we’d call the police, but if the police were in the process going to bomb everyone else, you know what – we probably wouldn’t call them, especially if we KNEW they were going to bomb our own house too!

    in any case – regardless of what we think OUR moral position would be – we have the luxury of pondering upon that, if we make a mistake, well that’s not a big problem for us – we only lose the moral highground. We are not the Direct Stakeholders who are losing their lives thanks to our mistakes. So – again- my perspective is that it is not easy or straightforward to determine what is a good intervention or not – and also – that for me – that analysis will never be #complete# as it will be from MY point of view -and not necessarily the actual Stakeholders on the ground.

    and people on the ground will have different views – again, when it involves actual life and death situations – one needs to tread very carefully. there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ – it might seem like that on a discussion thread, when you’re comfortably enconsced in a pub, or on a debating society plaform, but real life is quite different.

    moral highground is one thing to try and aim for – when it is a life or death situation, its different – that is my main point. i don’t think we can say oh this was good, and this was bad in such facile terms. I really don’t. and what i don’t trust is that governments don’t tell you what their intervention will really be – so i can’t judge unless i actually know whats happening, and again, each situation will be different.

    I think we would all hope anyone out there wanting to bomb our own neighbourhoods – for the sake of some intervention which in theory is a good moral position – would consider the same things.

  158. douglas clark — on 16th August, 2007 at 4:17 pm  

    Sid, Well you got me with Krauthammer, never heard of the guy! One of the themes of R2P is just what you say, early identification of potential conflicts and conflict resolution at that stage. The intent being at all stages of the process to avoid conflict if possible. The devil being in the detail of ‘if possible’. Still, the principle seems good to me.

    Although, as you are probably well aware, I am indeed a bleeding heart western liberal, so what the hell do I know?

  159. The Common Humanist — on 16th August, 2007 at 4:18 pm  

    Sid,

    Seriously,

    **Whilst the Mugabes, the Kim-il-Jongs, the Khomeneis, the Castros and the Assads of this world continue to get a free pass

    None of whom have committed a Vietnam or an Iraq**

    Like that makes those regime ok then……..

    Whilst am no fan of either of the two latter conflicts a statement like that is horrifying in its implications – it’s a murderers charter

  160. Sid — on 16th August, 2007 at 4:34 pm  

    Are you easily horrified or selectively horrified? Your statement presumes that I’m “a fan” of any of the listed enemies of the day.

  161. Nyrone — on 16th August, 2007 at 5:00 pm  

    I agree with that Sonia, and real life certainly is different. As Jiddu Krishnamurti pointed out, the description is not the described, the explanation is not the explained. Reading and analysing a text about what it is like to bite into a theoretical,delicious Mango, is different to the actual experience of biting into that juicy Mango yourself.

    On a thread, of course people are able to take positions about their respective stances, which are in-turn often based on a lack of factual knowledge and/or real-life experience in the first place.

    Empathy has become a cheap word, bandied about my large corporations and advertising agencies, but what does it mean? I have to continually force myself to re-understand in this word-drenched pseudo-environment, that discussion about what needs to be done cannot merely be an intellectual ego-boosting excercise to kill time whilst waiting for the train.

    People like Bleh talk about interventionist actions as if he is discussing an episode of an Eastenders plot line over a cup of tea, but how much of his blood would he be willing to spill for what he supposedly believes in? It is easier to discuss and theorize, when we are not in the thick of these situations, in the heart of darkness ourselves. I really feel we must collectively become more humble about our lack of real knowledge, and start to get away from this non-stop position-in-the-ground attitude we take, applying systems and sound-bite formulas to an endlessly organic process, that is variable every day, in every way.

    This post began with suggestions about our foreign policy, but in some ways, it almost feels like I am struggling to give answers because of the incongruous nature of the very question. From the outside looking in, a planet of people who simultaneously dump Meat and Butter into the Sea whilst 800 million human beings on the other side of the world starve to death, look illogical and brain-dead.

    How many of the disputes and arguments people have on these threads are actually real? and how many are time-killing ‘look at me’ excercises? I feel like we probably agree a lot more than we think, but everyone feels a strong impulse to mark out their view in the sand, or define their argument differently. If we could just take some time to gain a greater grasp of the definitions of words that we use, perhaps there would be less squabbling.

    Perhaps people just like to fight with each other.

  162. Leon — on 16th August, 2007 at 5:18 pm  

    Perhaps people just like to fight with each other.

    It’s often the easiest option. Much harder to work out a peace then it is to pick up a gun and keep shooting…

  163. Jai — on 16th August, 2007 at 5:19 pm  

    Perhaps people just like to fight with each other.

    Of course they do. That single sentence sums up one of the biggest tragedies of the human condition, now and throughout history. It’s one of the root causes of many, many problems.

  164. Bleh — on 16th August, 2007 at 5:57 pm  

    Nyrone, you a Heinleinologist or something?

  165. Ravi Naik — on 16th August, 2007 at 6:28 pm  

    “On a thread, of course people are able to take positions about their respective stances, which are in-turn often based on a lack of factual knowledge and/or real-life experience in the first place.

    Perhaps people just like to fight with each other.

    I have a less pessimistic stance than yours. As you pointed out, it is inevitable that all of us have a different points of view because of different life experiences, and hence different belief systems. We all try to make sense of this world, and it can’t be a bad thing for people to state their point of view, even if it is based on incomplete knowledge. Only a fundamentalist would claim to have all knowledge.

    We are not going to solve the world’s problems by making everyone agree with each other, but from my experience here in PP, people always seem to reach middle-ground, except of course when it comes to Israel/Palestine threads, but we will get there someday. :)

  166. douglas clark — on 16th August, 2007 at 7:06 pm  

    Nyrone @ 161,

    That was a heartfelt post, and I agree with much of the sentiment. I do however think that simply ignoring what happens inside a states borders, no matter how bad it is, is not a tenable position either. I am not of the mentality to think that as long as Saddam Hussein only gassed or shredded his own then we should avert our eyes and continue shopping, or whatever. In all honesty I would doubt very much that you could either.

    That we couldn’t react in a meaningful way to his failed state, and simply used the tools out of the 20th century’s blitzkrieg handbook suggests we have much to learn. In an increasingly joined up world folk who have loved ones or just intimate knowledge of a particular conflict zone are now able to prick the conciences of folk world wide.

    Perhaps trying to build solutions to conflict that do not involve warfare is at least worth exploring on forums like this?

  167. sahil — on 16th August, 2007 at 7:19 pm  

    From Brian Whitaker in the guardian:

    http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/brian_whitaker/2007/08/cheney_prophet_of_doom.html

    Things seem to have changed I thought people mellowed with age.

  168. Sofia — on 16th August, 2007 at 7:55 pm  

    Nyrone i don’t think you’re a pessimist. In fact when people question their own actions its quite heartening. A lot of opinions on this site make me think of what my stance is on foreign policy and intervention. Why was it ok to intervene in Kosovo, but not Iraq etc.

  169. soru — on 16th August, 2007 at 10:31 pm  

    None of whom have committed a Vietnam or an Iraq

    http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat2.htm

    North Korea (1948 et seq.)
    Communist regime:
    Rummel estimates that the Communist regime of North Korea committed 1,663,000 democides between 1948 and 1987
    North Korean victims: 1,293,000
    South Korean victims: 363,000
    Courtois, Stephane, Le Livre Noir du Communism: 2,000,000
    In Party purges: 100,000
    In concentration camps: 1.5M
    23 June 2003 US News & WR: 400,000 died in gulags in past 3 decades.
    The Center for the Advancement of North Korean Human Rights estimates that some 400,000 prisoners have died in labor camps since 1972. [http://www.nkhumanrights.or.kr/oldnkhuman/eng/nk/nknews12_01.html]
    Famine, 1995-98
    13 March 1999, Agence France Presse: (citing N. Korean defector) 3,500,000 deaths as of 12/98
    19 Oct. 2000 Guardian: 3M
    MSF: 3.5M [http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/publications/other/deadly_2001.shtml]
    19 Oct. 2003 NY Times: 2M died in preventable famine.
    10 May 1999, AP:
    The North Korean govt. estimates 220,000 famine-related deaths, 1995-98
    US Congressional delegation: 2M
    South Korean intelligence estimates that the population of North Korea fell from 25M to 22M.

    That makes the number of deaths comparable to the vietnam war, and way bigger than Iraq, even using the Lancet figures.

    Some people do seem to be under the impression that if it doesn’t show up on their TV screen, it doesn’t exist. Which is rather convenient for those countries that are in a position to disallow TV crews.

  170. sid — on 17th August, 2007 at 12:16 am  

    Damn those pesky TV crews. Would have been so much easier to reach the Lancet targets if they’d banned international news agencies in 1969 and 2004.

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