Thursday, 20 April 2017

A Liferaft In Shark Infested Waters

The latest poll, and we know how we can trust those, suggests the Tories will get 48% of the vote in the general election. An unnatural symmetry at least since 48% of us voted to remain in Europe. If memory serves the Tories got their current majority with about 37%. I doubt they'll get 48%, but if recent months prove anything they prove that any kind of madness is possible.

If the 48% remainers and those European workers who live here, and pay tax here, and who can vote in general elections here, although they were denied a vote in the stupid referendum, all vote LibDem, we'd actually get a liberal minded, centre party in power instead of an extreme left wing party, or an extreme right wing party.

How refreshing would that be! And that's without the hope that a few people who voted Brexit realise they were conned and also vote LibDem. There may also be a few Brits living abroad with a postal vote who were also denied a referendum vote, who see a LibDem vote now as the only way to turn things around.

In her speech announcing the general election Mrs May stated that 'the country is coming together', it's only parliament that isn't according to her. Hopefully we can disabuse her of that gross assumption. She has done less than nothing for the 48%, add in the people with a moral right to vote in the referendum, but no actual vote and Mrs May is failing a full 50% of the population - utterly.

Whether it's worth trying to pull our bacon out of the fire depends a lot on whether the madness and chaos virus has infected the French. The Dutch bless them held on to sanity in their recent elections, but if, encouraged by Brexit and Trump the French vote for the extreme right and Le Pen then a united Europe could be a thing of the past anyway.

If a Le Pen France pulls out of the EU chances are there will be no single European market and there could be a world wide recession, centred on Europe, inspired by Farage, Johnson, Gove and Brexit. Then it almost doesn't matter if we have a right wing dictator in power as our goose will be cooked for years to come anyway. We could be sleepwalking towards an economic catastrophe and even war.

Tribalism has always been just below the surface in Europe and it runs especially strong in Britain, France and Germany. Remainers pointed out that the EU had been a force for peace, but Brexiteers never mentioned the subject, safe in the knowledge that after seventy plus years of peace in Western Europe voters all took peace for granted. Do we never learn?

Of course war between European nations is highly unlikely, even in the event of an economic disaster, but what of Trump and NATO? If Mrs May wins the election she will have more personal power than any British politician in living memory, and her version of Brexit, doing away with European courts and European checks and balances means the Tories can do what they like with our human rights, workers rights, our pensions, privatisations, you name it.

It won't stop her following whatever America tells her to do though, just what hold the USA has on UK governments I've no idea but Thatcher, Blair, Cameron and now May all smile and bend the knee. So war could come again. Funny isn't it that the USA was late to World War One and late to World War Two, in fact Germany declared war on them, not the other way around, and yet when they want us to sacrifice lives for causes they believe in we simply ask how many.

Europe discussed a European Defence Force, but we British scuppered that, looks increasingly sensible to me now. Trump's commitment to NATO is a worry, he might support the UK, but the idea he really cares about Poland or the Baltic states is doubtful at best. Then there's Erdogan and Turkey as NATO members they share our secrets and May has just sold them British military fighter jet technology for a paltry one hundred million pounds.

Erdogan has taken huge new powers, not dissimilar, although his methods are more extreme, from those Mrs May might end up with if she gets her way. Erdogan has accused the west of behaving like crusaders, he is not our best friend NATO or not. Anyway you cut it a European Defence Force looks smart. We of course would be on the outside.

It's interesting to speculate how Germany might react if France did a Frexit. On the face of it a huge problem, but Germany is the biggest and most successful economy in Europe, if it formed a new kind of federation with The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy and some of the eastern European countries, it could become a real superpower.

Lets hope the madness hasn't infected the French as it appears to have and for goodness sake vote LibDem here. The Labour party have ruled out inviting the people to vote on a European deal, so the only hope is a LibDem government. They themselves aren't aiming that high, their aspiration is to become the main opposition, that would be too little too late. The LibDems are a fragile, inflatable liferaft in a huge, shark infested storm, but they are at least a liferaft, there is no other.

Malcolm Snook

Friday, 7 April 2017

Unilateral Military Action And A Bulldog Puppy

Last night President Trump took military action against Syria. His previous assertion that ISIS was the real enemy, out of the window. Of course he backed himself into a corner by ridiculing Obama for not taking action last time Assad used chemical weapons. The British Bulldog Puppy has promptly come to heel wagging it's tail in the form of Michael Fallon.

The British media especially the BBC has a long established air of credibility, but the idea that we know everything that's going on is of course laughable. So lets make some speculation and at least try to read between the lines. I think, on balance of probability that President Assad, whom, and to be clear where I stand, I detest, probably did use chemical weapons on his own people and not for the first time. He probably thinks that with Putin's Russia in his corner and the Russian veto at the UN in his pocket that he can act with impunity.

However, there has to be a few percentage points of doubt. Assad will have known that Trump had backed himself into a corner and would be forced to take action, or to look weak, so even with the Russian UN veto in his pocket the likelihood of a unilateral strike against him by the USA if he used nerve gas must surely have entered even his twisted mind. Then there is the official Syrian line that they have enough conventional weapons to get the job done in Idlib without resorting to chemical weapons. You'd have to say that they certainly do.

There have been reports that conventional munitions hit a chemical weapons dump belonging to the rebels, it's unlikely, but not inconceivable that the rebels got their hands on some Sarin formerly belonging to Assad, it may even be that Assad had some hidden Sarin in the area. He was supposed to have got rid of all his chemical weapons but we know what these people are like. There are a number of possibilities even before wandering into the realm of conspiracy theories.

Sadly, there are in this world people who think military action away from their borders is good business, especially those with shares in munitions manufacturers, like certain politicians. So a set up, a framing of Assad if you like, whilst being the least likely possibility is at least a possibility.

We don't know what the CIA, GCHQ etc know, maybe Trump didn't need to wait for an inquiry, perhaps he should have. Impossible for me to say. If the Austro Hungarians had dealt with the assassins of Archduke Ferdinand precipitately instead of waiting they'd have presented the Russians with a fait accompli and just maybe we wouldn't have had World War One.

The difficulty with hindsight is that we know what did happen after a certain action, we cannot be sure what the final outcome would have been from an alternative action, or even inaction. For example we know that Blair's British Bulldog puppy came to heel for Bush, the so called Arab Spring followed, with chaos and rebellions everywhere and a huge migrant crisis. Regime change in Iraq did not turn out so well.

Russia accuses the USA of using the Syrian crisis to deflect attention from civilian casualties in Iraq. It seems to me that British and Western media generally has never given us an accurate picture of the numbers of Iraqi civilian deaths either in the invasion of Iraq or since. More than eighty to ninety people though, maybe eighty to ninety thousand people, maybe many more even. How can we know? The Russians have certainly killed many more than eighty to ninety innocent men women and children in Syria and recently at that.

Of course, seeing people die in agony, foaming at the mouth adds another dimension to the horror, but the people blown up the Russians or by Western forces are just as dead. Russia says Trump's actions amount to an illegal attack on a sovereign country, technically that's true. Given that deposing Saddam Hussein went so well I do worry, as much as I detest Assad, about what will happen if we don't learn anything from deposing Saddam who I also detested.

There is also something to be said for maintaining the moral high ground and not killing more people yourself. From where I sit one of the biggest problems is the UN, when did the UN really achieve anything more than spreading disease through unsanitary military camps, letting down the people of Bosnia, failing to defend innocent victims half an hours drive from one of their bases and relying on Wonder Woman to bail them out.

OK that's unfair, they have distributed aid and responded to natural disasters and the front line people in those situations are heroes and heroines it is undeniable. However, what is the prime purpose of the UN? Surely it must be to end conflict between nation states and to that end it has failed utterly and continues to fail utterly.

The United Nations is constitutionally flawed, it was created in a post World War Two, emerging Cold War era with a Security Council of the world's so called Great Powers. Five nations who punch above their weight, have an unfair and unreasonable veto and who cling to it because they and their politicians cannot bear not to be Great Powers.

The UN could actually learn a lot from the EU, flawed as that is. What about a rotating presidency and what about an equal say for everyone? Responding to this atrocity but not that one, acting with UN approval when it suits and without when you can't get it is no way forward. The UN has to change and become effective or throw the towel in and become a disasters charity.