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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

As has been apparent I have had only very little time to update my blog. This is mainly due to job-related time constraints and very sporadic internet access. This is not going to change for some time unfortunately. In fact it’s possible I might shut down for good. Either way I will know by early November when I’ll be back, either in full swing or to say goodbye to blogging.
In the meantime I will try and put some stuff I’ve been writing up on my thus far empty writings page.
See you then.

I will flesh this out properly one day but given some discussions I have been party to recently I though I might as well make my key points again:

There are differing views by legal experts. I have no legal training so I am not qualified to examine all relevant documents in the correct manner.
It is true that the accusation is often raised that those who support the legality of the invasion are or have been in the employ of Government. However, this does not refute any of their arguments, and it is only logical that experts who share the Government’s view would also work for and support the Government.
In an equal manner, those legal scholars who claim the action was illegal are -just like anyone else- not some completely neutral opinion-free minds; they have their own personal political views and agendae too. In part this is due to professional reasons. Lawyers like to change the world by laws, so when laws fail and military force takes over they are understandably disappointed. Psychologically it is of course far more pleasing to blame Governments’ behaviour than accepting that one own profession has only limted abilities.
The other factor to be considered in international law experts is their basic motivation. How many of them became international legal scholars because they see themselves as internationalists trying to make a better world by making rules that instinctively favour the weak? And how many of them turned to this field because they wanted to serve Queen and Country and give international power politics a more sensible framework? Given that many of these experts tend to be involved in left-wing political activism, such as CND, their political biases must also be factored into the evaluation of their judgements.

So far to the experts’ background. There are two points to be made about the actual issue as far as I can see it.
Firstly, before turning to the real meat, there is the unaddressed issue of the Genocide Convention. This convention requires all signatory states, practically the whole globe, to take all measures necesary to put an end to genocide. These measures include war, and thus the convention puts the protection of human beings above state sovereignty. It also demands that all countries seek to bring the perpetrators to justice, and this requirement does not cease once the genocide is over. The Saddam regime’s war against the northern Kurds in 1988 is generally accepted by virtually all experts as being genocidal. Indeed Saddam is currently being tried for this in court. So the situation in 2003 was that Saddam Hussein was a perpetrator of genocide, and it was a legal requirement upon all signatories to the Genocide Convention, including of course the US and the UK, to bring Saddam to justice. The only way this was feasible was by invading Iraq and toppling his regime. So, whilst this is not generally used as an argument because it is only incidental to the question of the invasion in 2003, this could nonetheless be used an argument that shift the balance of doubt towards the coalition.

Secondly, and this is the real argument is the question of legitimacy. This is a more political and moral category than legality but it is an easier way to approach the issue for non-experts. First of all it is important when the Iraq war started, namely in 1990 when Iraq occupied Kuwait. So the war that we are to some extent still stuck in was initiated by Iraqi aggression. This aggression means that responsibility for the war lies with the regime of Saddam Hussein. After the coalition’s first round of operations a ceasefire was put into place. Iraq then spent the next 11 years violating the conditions of the ceasefire. As it is up to the aggressor to step down for peace to ensue, the coalition was entirely in its right to resume military operations against the aggressor.
Some of these circumstances were codified by UN-resolutions, which lead to the argument that an explicit UN-Security Council agreement had to be reached on going back to war. There are differing interpretations as to whether this was necessary, or whether the fact of Iraqi aggression and previous UN-resolutions were sufficient (the US administration’s view). There was an argument that a more up-to-date UN edict was necessary and an explicit choice for offensive military force desireable (the UK Government’s view). This is in turn in doubt as it would make the UN Security Council the highest legal authority in Britain, thus overriding the sovereignty of Parliament; a position hardly tenable for a mere diplomatic forum. However the sceptics’ view says that existing British legal frameworks, by being member of the UN, incorporate the need for giving precedence to the UN. Additionally there is the argument that because the legalitity/legitimacy of the war was, at least in part, in the hands of the UN, it could not be taken out of the UN process.
On a specifically British point one could also point out that in granting independence the UK guaranteed to Kuwait its existence and was thus bound by treaty to regard Iraqi aggression against the emirate as aggression against Britain.
To summarise, it could be said that the legal onus lay on Iraq as the aggressor, but it could also be argued that the switch from defensive to offensive military operations could only be authorised by Security Council mandate, thus rendering the coalition’s action legally dubious. I suppose, being of a somewhat conservative bent, I don’t have much time for transnationalism to begin with and am so inclined to share the Bush Administration’s view. Indeed I would say that this is a case were classical arguments on resisting aggression apply, which are unwritten laws of international order and are universally accepted. Thus there would be no further need for any other treaties or conventions to come into play. But, as I said, that a somewhat right-wing view and is certainly not widely shared (ahem).

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I know I have these sorts of moans every once in a while. Recently I have been having one of those phases again, where everything just seems to be going wrong for no good reason and people who should know better don’t.

Look at the Lebanon war’s aftermath. The outcome of Tzahal’s very lacklustre performance has left the Hizb’allah in place, albeit weakened. But what is happening now is that Lebanese and international troops are going to moved into position in between the Hizb’allah’s fighters. As these forces are neither willing nor capable of disarming the militia, that means that inevitable there will be a second round of fighting at some point in the future. And when it comes to that Israel will find itself seriously hamstrung by the presence of these forces. Diplomatically this will make serious Israeli action nigh on impossible. The result will be that Hizb’allah will become ever more stronger and aquire ever better weapons from Iran with ever more destructive consequences. Tremendously stupid outcome. Peace will only come about when the Hizb’allah ceases to exist as an armed force. This should be clear to any decent analyst. Perhaps that is the reason why so far troop commitments have been so weakly.

But talking of which, if all these countries can stump up thousands of troops for a dangerously counterproductive mission in Lebanon, why not reroute them and deploy them to Afghanistan. Here there are some real difficulties, and here it matters as we cannot allow the Taliban to retake the country. With the highly unpopular prospect of German forces being deloyed beyond their breaking point, I wonder why the Italians and the French can send their forces further eastwards. On the other hand, I can’t avoid the sly suspicion that there are people, particularly in Paris, who wouldn’t mind failure in Afghanistan too much as it is currently a NATO-mission.

I remember Geoffrey van Orden warning that the possible failure by NATO would do massive and possibly irrevocable political damage to the alliance. Together with ever stronger anti-Americanism this could finally seal Britain’s fate by taking away our alternatives to being sucked into the EU ever further. Actually, I didn’t really expect much of a debate about this. Still despressing though.

Another point I have to raise is the possibilty that some of the Afghan troubles are due to Britain being the de-facto lead nation in the south. After the desastrous conduct of Britain in Iraq recently, the Taliban would be quite likely to conclude that this former lion was already half on the run. So why not prod and prick him a bit more and he might grant you a great victory by buckling under political pressure and doing a completely runner. And when you’ve got him on the run why not take a few more shots, he might even give himself up completely. There is no such thing as conciliation toward totalitarian and fanatical enemies. All such moves will be seen as weakness, which will simply invite more attacks. When will we learn?

And this is just the foreign arena. At home we have more immigration nonsense doing the rounds. I’m sorry but we if we let countries into the EU, we have to give them full membership. If we don’t they will simply go adrift and go slack on maintaining the already shaky membership conditions. The same will be the case for other potential new members. Once they start seeing that they will not be admitted properly they might stop trying. This will probably mean that they will also stop reforming their governance structures. The consequence will be less stability and security in the EU’s neighbourhood. This is exactly the thing the EU exists to prevent. That people don’t seem willing to see this simply point just annoys me.

If the consequence of more EU-migrants is wage pressure that is a problem that can and should be fixed at home. As for the real problem of poverty and unemployment in Britain, that is unrelated to immigration. This is down to economic overcentralisation withouth labour flexibility, to rotten educational and social circumstances of Britain’s poorest, who simply are either unwilling or unable to take up any kind of employment. This is the big problem underlying the current row. But nobody seems to be paying much attention to their plight.

Part of this is the media’s fault for pandering to headline grabbing tales of foreign welfare scroungers or alternatively of rampant racism in Britain. Because I’m in a bad mood I’m going to pick on the Daily Mail in particular. What we see here is a complete misunderstanding of some of Britain’s big challenges. We need to be engaged in the EU, and accepting migrant workers from new member states is a price we have to be wiling to pay, if indeed it is a cost, rather than an advantage. Ok, so I’m Eurosceptic too, but the Mail doesn’t seem to be serious about this. Sure it’s views on the EU are far more hostile than mine, by far. What matters however is the context in which this debate has Britain positioned. Because the one thing that really drives me bonkers about the Mail is its anti-Americanism, which certainly wouldn’t look out of place in the Indy or Groan. Now, fine you may say, the Daily Mail is for isolationism, which would certainly fit its generally closed-minded and parochial approach. Theoretically this is a legitimate view to take. However in practice this is simple nonsense. Spreading anti-Americanism is absolute poison for the Eurosceptic cause. The only political forces in Britain that can utilise anti-American sentiment are those of staunch Eurofederalism. Isolationism, for better or for worse, is a non-option in British politics. If you really want to keep us out of the EU, the attractiveness of the alternative avenues of influence, the special relationship and NATO needs to be fostered. In the current circumstances there is little emotional energy focused on the EU, but far too much on America. So if the Daily Mail wants to keep us out of the European superstate perhaps its commentary and reporting ought to reflect this. Blaming more and more of our ills from terrorism to trashy television on America will simply drive the British into the arms of Eurofederalism. Can the Mail’s chiefs really be so misguided as not to see this?

Just some things I needed to get off my chest. I’m feeling better already.

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Sunday, August 13, 2006

There is news now that "Dave" wants to change our logo. This incidentally reminded me of a little detail. Back in May I wrote a column* suggesting that Cameron was fighting the party's path back to power by the book. I observed then that this was not a metaphorical book, but was quite specifically Nicholas Boys Smith's True Blue. How Fair Conservatism can win the next election. So, what does Nick write about the current logo (p.60):
The current torch looks like a cross between a Stalinist poster and a gym advertisement.

So what should we have instead? Nick has thoughts on this as well:
We would be better off with something that has cultural or environmental overtones: a stylised map of Britain or an oak tree.

To be clear, Boys Smith may not be a new Tory super guru, but he's of the same generation and policy milieu as Cameron.
So... accordingly here is the proposed new logo as shown at ConservativeHome.com.

*Will be put up soon. I promise. . .


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