Intervention and Syria

August 27, 2013

There have been calls for Western military intervention against the Ba’athist regime in Syria since it began its murderous repression of the protest movement. These calls have escalated in the last week since the regime (again) used chemical weapons on its own population. Yet, I have to register my deep concerns that intervention is a most unwise course of action to counsel.

My first concern is with the outlines of any military intervention. We have yet to hear, from the advocates of intervention, what would be the desired political objective of the campaign. Is it to be removal of the chemical weapons arsenal held by the regime, the removal of the regime or an Iraq-style solution whereby the entire regime is uprooted and a colonial administration establishes a new regime by force?

The first objective is actually difficult to achieve with a air campaign. Targets would need to be assessed, the regime might simply go into full scale attack on rebel-held areas or, worse, result in al-Qaeda et al gaining control of these weapons. This would likely be politically successful but would not bring down the regime. Arab regimes boast that survival is a form of victory.

The second objective could potentially be achieved, although our erstwhile allies might attack us while doing so and would certainly run into other issues.

The third objective would require a massive military and economic mobilisation on the part of the Western powers. If the mistakes of Iraq are to be avoided, massive combat forces would need to be committed to take control of the cities, the borders and the road networks to ensure security, close down the militias and destroy the resistance and terrorist networks. I do not believe for one minute that there is the political will for this level of commitment and certainly not for the length of time that this would require.

The other issues are critical to evaluating any such decision and need to be raised.

Whom are we supporting? Even if we merely attack the regime, we are objectively supporting the Syrian rebels, yet these are not pro-Western forces. Dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, the best troops of the rebels are in fact al Qaeda Islamists. These have already been enforcing strict sharia law and have been conducting ethnic cleansing against the Kurds who have remained neutral. If the regime is toppled, do we then intervene to prevent unrestrained communal warfare? Do we remember what happened in 2006-2007 in Iraq? That took place with our forces trying to stop it (eventually successfully). We cannot engage in warfare and expect a reasonably secular, multicultural regime to magically appear in Syria given what we know is happening and what we know of the actors.

Russia and China, especially the former, have been actively backing the Assad regime. Iran has been doing likewise, but we’re not really scared of Iran. Russia is the real support for Assad. Furthermore, Russia has banked heavily on sustaining the regime. If the West moves for war, will the Russians up the ante? Will we see Russian troops intervene? Russian aircraft operating over Syria? Or Russian SAM crews appear around Latikia and Damascus? Are we willing to risk open war with Russia? What about China? Prestige is at stake here and we are operating in the realm of empires.

Finally, we have a major obstacle in Syria to an Iraq-style solution. There is no political grouping which is either acceptable to Western interests or strong enough in Syria to provide a stable regime.

We need to be engaged in a rational, hard-headed discussion of strategy, options and outcomes. We should not be engaged in an emotive discourse dominated by pictures of dead children. That is not conducive to good statesmanship.


An Egyptian Civil War?

July 3, 2013

Some brief thoughts on events in Egypt.

If the Egyptian Army has any sense, then it will recognise that the Muslim Brotherhood aim to establish a totalitarian regime in Egypt. This aim requires that power, once attained, is never ceded and, consequentially, the Brotherhood will have to eliminate its opponents in order to gain this objective.

The Army has made an enemy of the Brotherhood by threating intervention. If the Brotherhood pass this crisis intact and in power, expect to see the Army officer corps undergo a prolonged purge.

The Army should move towards a coup d’etat, in which it arbitrarily arrests the Brotherhood leadership and senior cadres, takes control of the security situation and imposes martial law. The first measure should be accompanied by trumped up charges of treason, sedition and so forth, the trials held in secret and executions imposed. This is a life or death situation for Egypt and the Brotherhood have to be set back by at least a generation.

The second measure will be required to grant legitimacy to any post-Brotherhood government. The third measure will be required because the Brotherhood activists and the salafist groups will go over into immediate armed opposition. Provided that the overt opposition is crushed, then these will go over into terrorist warfare, which can be crushed through robust action and police informers.

If the Brotherhood can be crushed, then Egypt desperately needs to reform its economic situation. Land reform may be required, which will also need to matched by investment in farming, so Egypt can move towards food independence and so reduce the balance of payments deficit. Industry will have to be made competitive as well.


Conservative governments & perception

May 4, 2012

Extreme: a point or quality as far from the perceived moderate centre as is possible.
Extremist: someone takes a position diametrically beyond the normal variety of positions.

Cameron’s coalition restricted disabled benefits. This is described as ‘extreme’ and he is therefore an ‘extremist’.
There are good reasons for this to be classified as hyperbole as the situation can only be defined as extreme by ignoring the possible extremities beyond the current position.
I have noted before that Cameron is not perceived within the Conservative Party as a radical and by certain conservative writers as a ‘wet’ or a soft liberal Tory. Indeed, there is an explicit comparison made with Ted Heath (‘the Eton Grocer’).
If Cameron were an extremist Conservative (he’s also called a Thatcherite), then he would have abolished disability benefits in their entirety!
THAT would have been an extremist position. A minor cut does not make one an extremist unless one is only prepared to consider one’s own position as the sole and rational norm, in which case, one has become close-minded and prejudiced!


The LSE and Leftist thinking

February 17, 2012

A professor at the LSE, James Hughes, in a December lecture said:

I can’t think of a more radicalised government than the Bush administration….well…maybe North Korea.

I cannot think of a more stupid statement from someone of age, experience and learning. Compare this to the Russian doctrine on the use of military force in foreign policy:

Alexei G. Arbatov, The Transformation of Russian Military Doctrine: Lessons Learned from Kosovo and Chechnaya, Marshall Centre Papers 2 (Garmish-Partenkirchen: George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, July 2000).

The main lesson learned is that the goal justifies the means. The use of force is the most efficient problem solver, if applied decisively and massively. Negotiations are of dubious value and are to be used as a cover for military action. Legality of state actions, observation of laws and legal procedures, and humanitarian suffering are of secondary significance relative to achieving the goal. Limiting one’s own troop causalities is worth imposing massive devastation and collateral fatalities on civilian populations. Foreign public opinion and the position of Western governments are to be discounted if key Russian interests are at state. A concentrated and controlled mass media campaign is the key to success.

This is classical Russian thinking, redolent of Clauswitz: massive force, the irrelevance of the question of legitimacy and the need to have an objective and to stick to that aim. The result might be a hard war or massive civilian casualties but the aim of a war fought for clear national interests is to achieve the political objective set. And the result is that Russian borders states, though turbulent in places, are subservient to Moscow’s interests and even Chechnya has seen the withdrawal of Russian troops.

Now compare this to the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Both were fought with the aim of overthrowing a hostile regime deemed to threaten US national interests and both were fought to rapid and successful conclusions. The occupation stages saw a transformation of US military tactics and strategy towards a much more decentralised, “boots on the ground” mode in order to defeat a dangerous insurgency, which broke into civil war in Iraq. The US was able to defeat one insurgency and has badly damaged another without adopting the Russian doctrine of massive force.

So how is the Russian doctrine as applied in Chechnaya, Georgia and the salient states less radicalised that that of the USA?  Perhaps the professor was referring to international law?

Well in this case, we can compare Iraq, which is cited as the most egregious example of US aggression and Georgia. Russia justified its intervention on the grounds that the South Ossetians were Russian citizens – yet those citizens DID live in Georgian territory and even if the territory was de facto independent, Russia had no grounds under international law to go to war as this did not count as self defence. By contrast, the US argument that Iraq was in breach of obligations, which reactivated the UN Security Council Resolutions dating back to the Gulf War, made use of international law and precedent.

In the language of the time, Russia was behaving as a rogue state. Yet, it attracted very little criticism beyond a short period after the fighting in Georgia ended. By contrast, the rancour over Iraq has yet to fully cease.

Russia has actively pursued and murdered dissidents and critics around the world including an attempt to kill a US journalist in New York. By contrast, the US since 2001, has actively pursued, captured or killed Islamic terrorists around the world. The differences in these two imperial policies ought to be stark to anyone. The Russians have hunted down internal opponents, including the case of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006. The US has pursued active enemies belonging to terrorist groups.

If James Hughes meant internal politics, he could not be more wrong. He accords the US administration under President Bush second place in the most radicalised state on the planet, reserving first place for North Korea. I cannot think of a more stupid comparison or one which reveals his own prejudices more starkly than this.

By radicalised, it is clear that Professor Hughes means “on a path towards totalitarianism”. North Korea is the most totalitarian and vicious state on the planet. The US had the Patriot Act. You could probably number on one hand, the states which are less totalitarian than the USA.

This brings us to the title and the implicit question: why do leftists in general, and leftist academics in particular, view a Republican administration in the US as a totalitarian (radicalised) force?

In part, I believe, this stems from an inability to analyse Republicans in any but the most prejudicial terms. Republicans are characterised as “neocons”, “warmongers” and “Christian fundamentalists” and this attitude is so ingrained in leftist prejudice, that any calumny can be associated with Republicans and believed. For a comparison, note the language used about the Tea Party movement (racist, religious fundamentalist, angry white men etc) and the language used when examining the #Occupy movement (protesters, progressives, grass roots). Both terminological sets are not descriptive but prescriptive: the Tea Party is conservative, it must be racist etc.

The language is motivated by a desire to demonise and the same desire is present in the lazy presentation of the US under Bush as only less totalitarian than North Korea. The aim is not to describe a reality but is one of wish fulfilment. A Republican administration is routinely watched for signs that it is about to turn into a totalitarian fundamentalist regime, hence cries even in 2002 of “Take our country back!” from the radicalised wing of the Democratic party. Note that I am using radicalised in relation to the Democratic party as a reference to the leftist radicals and activists who dominate the socialist/liberal wing of the Party.

A fantasy is being routinely acted out, even by people who should know better (academics) and here I am forced to turn again to Richard Landes’ theme of millenarianism. Demonisation forms a part of millenarian beliefs and doctrinal structures. If believers value the ideas which will lead to a better world (even if these consist of the wished for absence of something), then doubters, sceptics and political and cultural opponents are deeply ignorant (of the Truth) or deeply wicked (for rejecting the Truth).

There is another aspect to this as well. What we broadly call leftist or left-wing ideologies have largely collapsed, though Marxist prejudices retain a very strong hold in academia (especially in the USA) and left-wing political thought is, by and large, reactionary, in the sense that it is against secular developments. So a leftist can be against capitalism or against globalisation or against war, but except in the latter case (a nebulous belief in ‘peace’), this system does not require the believer or activist to be for anything in particular. In a certain way, this is very appealing as it returns the individual to the ‘dream’ stage of political thinking in which the object (political objective) becomes subliminal and thus immune to criticism, even if it remains too vague to articulate.

Thus an OWSer activist in New York can campaign against “the banks” or against “capitalism” and still retain a sense of destiny because what replaces the present wickedness will inevitably be better. However, unlike classical reactionaries, the political object remains future-orientated and not located in a past which is shared both historically and in folk memory. These are not conservative reactionaries. Indeed, one might call them radical reactionaries as they wish for change as an end because they no longer are able to imagine the means without becoming subjected to scepticism or doubt. Analysed through a millenarian perspective, this is a resort to preaching as a format, naming that which is desirable and that which is wicked and calling upon the faithful to take this knowledge into their hearts.

It is possible to understand leftist prejudices constituting a series of articles of faith, forming the basis of a pseudo-religion with a common set of assumptions, prejudices and moral precepts. And as a community bounded by a religious or customary set of moral principles, precepts, abjurations and evocations, the leftist political community is as many other political and civil communities are, partly defined by opposition. Yet, as outlined earlier in this piece, the leftist community places itself in opposition to a vanished or even fantastical opposition and applies the demands of fundamental resistance to its own attitudes towards those who do not share their beliefs. In part, this would shed some light on why leftist political groups are highly inclined towards internecine warfare and splitting into new political factions.

Given these weaknesses as a community, the sense of oppositional definition in times of weakness is accentuated as a subconscious means of protecting the political community on the Left. Hence, James Hughes described a Republican administration as the nearest thing to a totalitarian regime in the West. A domination of the political world by a political faction which is not a part of their community (i.e. not Leftist) is treated as a catastrophe of gigantic proportions and one which cannot be reconciled with the assumptions, prejudices and beliefs of the Leftist community. Given that Leftists routinely treat conservatives as moral and intellectual degenerates, there can be no questioning of Leftist superiority complexes and the Left must then go over into rhetorically violent opposition, when criticism of a Republican president becomes in the hysteria of the day, an act of patriotism and of “speaking Truth to Power” in which the Leftists fall into two not incompatible roles: those of prophet and of revolutionary opposition.

Yet, given the absence of political programmes and articulated beliefs (it remains my contention that much of what is expressed as opposition is a reaction to another’s rejection of their subliminal political tropes) and in the aftermath of the political emasculation of the Left, all that is available to the Leftists is overt opposition and insistence on the primacy of shared narratives. This can be seen in the fantasy of peace in Palestine, in the dissatisfied sacralisation of international laws and institutions, the reaction to political arguments which do not place the state at the centre of economic and social life and the confusion over collectivism and individualism.

The utopian dreams of the Left have not collapsed as such but aspects of the articulated forms of these have subsided back into the collective unconsciousness of the Left. The appeal is still strong to the believers but the ideas are in flux or increasingly irrelevant to the present. The superiority complexes of the Leftist political community have left them dangerously vulnerable to cognitive dissonance and perilously tempted by a series of sentimental political tropes and certainties which collectively represent a political dead end. I will end with an analogy: even a stopped clock, tells the correct time twice a day. Thus it is with the Leftist political community.


Inequality and Social Injustice

November 24, 2011

In a recent post, Norman Geras  correctly takes Heather Stewart to task for regarding communities as the prime arbiters of moral disputes but one could challenge the idea that inequalities of birth are morally objectionable.

If A is born into a family which is loving, educated and wealthy then, yes, A has a fundamental advantage in life compared to B who was born to parents in poverty and without education. But is this really a moral injustice? It’s not a fault which could be laid at the feet of A when he reaches adulthood. He is a responsible free agent, he is free to choose how to conduct his life. Instead to fit the scenario of origins into a moral injustice paradigm, we subscribe to placing the fault at the feet of society. Society is not a free agent but a collection of free agents in relationships (which constitute this and that) who are individually free to choose how they might regard the posed question of social injustice.

To place this ‘moral injustice’ of B’s relative disadvantage at the feet of us all is itself an act of moral violence. We are each then implicitly accused of creating or sustaining a partial notion of injustice and asked to intervene ‘collectively’ though the state, which action is predicated on the fiction that this represents the collective will of society or the collection of free agents in a series of relationships with one another. This also disregards the autonomy of the free agent as a collective solution lacking consent then becomes the tyranny of either a minority over the majority or vice versa.

Is this notion that inequalities of birth are inherently morally objectionable actually an attempt to ennoble resentment at another’s fortune of birth? Are we attempting to use B as an excuse to pull down A to an ‘intermediate’ level and thereby satisfying our own envy of another’s fortune? These are questions which we must pose to cut through the mire of moralising resentments which have afflicted public thought in recent times.


The human panda…!

October 4, 2011

“You will remember how the Germans brilliantly destabilised Russia in 1917, by sending Lenin in a sealed train from Zurich to the Finland Station in St Petersburg. We could send the human panda to Beijing, in the same spirit of discreet sabotage.”

Boris Johnson suggests sending Edward Milliband to China to destabilise their economy and boost our own. Brilliant! “the human panda”!
H/T to Benedict Brogan.


Exploiting Dead Children

July 26, 2011

From Harry’s Place by an old friend:
***

Edmund Standing, July 26th 2011, 11:23 am

Since the atrocious attacks carried out Anders Breivik, a position seems to be emerging in various left-wing quarters that basically claims that because Breivik held extreme forms of some broadly speaking conservative positions, any kind of conservative position is now intrinsically invalid and irredeemably tainted, and can be held to be somehow ‘linked’ to terrorism.

This kind of argument essentially constitutes yet another logical fallacy – the ‘argument from terrorism’ it might be called. It goes something like this: Breivik was obsessed with Muslims, believed in a Marxist conspiracy, and was radically opposed to immigration, consequently anyone who opposes Islamist groups, left-wing intellectual positions, or unfettered immigration is intrinsically tied to Breivik and to terrorism. It’s an easy way to dispose of conservative thinking in one fell swoop, but it’s also logically incoherent and grossly exploitative of a terrorist outrage. Essentially, this argument uses dead children to score political points, which is pretty sick.

I, for example, argue that leftist hegemony in post-war Western intellectual life has been a bad thing. The fact that Breivik believed that there is some kind of Marxist conspiracy in the West doesn’t invalidate my position.

My view is that the answer to leftist intellectual hegemony is to create a conservative intellectual counter-culture, and this is being done. Standpoint magazine, for example, offers a forum for views contrary to the left-liberal consensus, as do websites such as ConservativeHome, as do various think-tanks such as Policy Exchange, the Centre for Policy Studies, the Institute of Economic Affairs, and the Social Affairs Unit.

The key difference between this view and that of Breivik is that it is not underpinned by a belief in an evil conspiracy to be battled through violence, but rather is based on the idea that bad ideas should be confronted democratically and in a civilised manner through a battle of ideas. That is how normal, well adjusted people deal with differences of opinion. What normal, well adjusted people don’t do is go out and massacre people. To claim that because Breivik apparently held an extreme version of a perfectly legitimate political and intellectual position means that this position is automatically invalidated or is somehow linked to terrorism is absurd and disingenuous.

Certainly, there are arguments from the Right that lend themselves all too easily to adoption by extremists and to a growth in hatred, and in my view the relentless promotion of paranoia about ‘Islamisation’ is one of those, as is the kind of immigrant-bashing promoted by groups such as the BNP. But that doesn’t mean that criticism of Islamist groups (which is in fact not a left or right-wing position, but a position held by sensible people across the political spectrum, as Harry’s Place shows) or promotion of immigration controls are somehow ideas that should now be beyond the pale simply because a terrorist had an obsession with Muslims and immigration. To claim, as some are, that because Breivik promoted conspiracy theories about Muslims anyone who opposes Islamism can be placed in the same bracket as him is frankly outrageous.

Those who promote such a view from the far-left apparently have very short memories indeed, as their own ideology could be linked to numerous terrorist outrages.

The fact that anti-Capitalism and Socialism have spawned numerous violent, terroristic movements, including the Red Army Faction, the Red Brigades, Front Line, and 17N doesn’t mean that everyone who opposes Capitalism or promotes Socialism is a potential terrorist, or that their ideas can be discounted because some people who shared versions of them have gone on to carry out bombings and killings. However, the ‘Breivik believed something similar to some conservative positions and therefore conservatism can be linked to terrorism’ line, or ‘Breivik was obsessed with Islamists, therefore anyone concerned about Islamist groups can be connected to a terrorist hate ideology’ line does exactly that.

The irony is that the kind of hysterical anti-Capitalist rhetoric that emanates from some left-wing quarters arguably actually does border on, or constitute, outright incitement. Consider the writings of Roobin at the SWP-supporting Lenin’s tomb blog, for example. In ‘The just-about-Gramscian theory of successful rioting’, he writes:

The good news is, given preparation (the opportunity for which, of course, is normally denied), the average citizen can match a police officer blow for blow. A police officer has access to hand arms, in particular clubs, but the ordinary citizen can get and/or easily improvise these. The same is true of body armour and self-defence. The police have roadblocks, the people barricades. The police can use sturdy, powerful vehicles, so can the public. The police can use tools such as water cannons to disperse a crowd but a resourceful crowd can use similar devices to reverse effect. The police can use small firearms. Even in Britain it is not impossible for a member of the public to get hold of some. Any weapons won from the police in battle can immediately be used against them.

[…]

Current mass movements should be organized, their experience generalized so their achievements are not lost so when the big break happens we are not starting from zero again.

Or consider the kind of slogans regularly spouted by the far-left, with dehumanising cries about ‘Tory scum’. Here’s what happened at one anti-cuts protest last year:

More than 80 activists took part in the demonstration at Speaker’s Corner – in which they burned a two-faced effigy of David Cameron and George Osborne to demonstrate their anger at the cuts…

At the end of the protest – organised by the group Mad Pride – the effigy of Cameron and Osborne, which had been hanging from a tree, was lowered to the ground, disembowelled and set on fire.

This kind of thing doesn’t make protesting against the policies of the Conservatives and the cuts intrinsically violent or hateful, and I wouldn’t tar all protesters with the same brush because of incidents like this. However, when leftists point to legitimate conservative positions and then claim that ‘Breivik believed something like that too’ so therefore those positions can be inevitably linked to terrorism and extremism, this disgracefully exploits a tragedy for political purposes and is frankly sinister.


A euro crisis… but also an opportunity for Britain

July 21, 2011

A new eurozone bond looks the most likely solution to stop the euro blowing apart.

 

By Daniel Hannan
9:03PM BST 20 Jul 2011

While Britain was chuckling about custard pies this week, the debt cancer was metastasising across the Mediterranean. Bond yields in Spain and Italy have surged, leading to doubts over whether those countries can meet their existing liabilities. For the first time since the euro turmoil began, EU leaders are panicking. While Greece takes up just 1.9 per cent of the EU’s economy, Spain and Italy account between them for 24 per cent. A default in Athens might be a controlled explosion, but Rome and Madrid cannot repudiate their debts without blowing the entire European banking system to smithereens. The effects of such a blast would be felt far beyond the eurozone. The Bank of England, dispensing with its normally staid vocabulary, describes the turbulence as a “serious and immediate risk” to the United Kingdom. The IMF frets that, if EU leaders carry on with hand-to-mouth bailouts, the resulting crash might trigger a global recession.

The markets are starting to anticipate a euro break-up. The reason that borrowing costs in Spain and Italy have shot up is not that those countries are inherently destitute, but that investors are demanding a premium to compensate for the possibility that they might revert to devalued and inflationary currencies. Such fears have a way of becoming self-fulfilling. Italy must roll over €69 billion in August and September; it needs €500 billion by the end of 2013. If it cannot borrow at lower rates, it will struggle to remain solvent, and the entire European monetary system might become unsustainable. This is the tempest long foretold, slow to make head, but sure to hold.

EU leaders are meeting in emergency session today, groping for a way to prevent an unplanned collapse of EMU. They have two options: one is to oversee an orderly unbundling of the euro into more manageable units; the other is to establish what José Manuel Barroso calls “fiscal federalism”. Economic logic points to the first option. The reason Europe is in this mess is that it turned out to be ruinous to apply uniform monetary policies to widely divergent economies. The low interest rates dictated by the needs of the core economies were calamitous for the periphery, encouraging an artificial boom and a crash. Now, as the wheel turns, those countries are getting high interest rates just when they need low ones.

Sundering the single currency would allow Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and Greece to export their way back to growth. One idea doing the rounds in Brussels is that, rather than expelling the southern countries, Germany and its satellites might withdraw and establish a new, hard currency, bequeathing the legal carcase of the euro to the Mediterranean states (and possibly also to Ireland, though a currency link with sterling would almost certainly suit Dublin better).

Monetary union, however, was never about economic logic. Rather than admit that the euro was a mistake, EU leaders are preparing the mother of all bailouts. One-off grants are no longer enough. What Euro-federalists now plan – what, indeed, they have been demanding for years – is a single eurozone bond market. Holders of junk national bonds will be invited to exchange their debt for new EU-backed bonds. The European Central Bank, or perhaps some new legal entity, will assume the bad debts of some of the stricken governments.

Such a scheme will be expensive: it’s hard to see it costing less than a trillion euros. It will also be colossally unpopular: taxpayers in the donor countries will resent being made to pay for more profligate governments, while voters in the recipient countries are already protesting about the loss of economic sovereignty. Most serious of all, it will be illegal. Article 125 of the European Treaty could hardly be clearer: “The Union shall not be liable for or assume the commitments of central governments, regional, local or other public authorities, other bodies governed by public law, or public undertakings of any Member State.”

No one even pretends that such bonds are permitted under the existing rules. As Angela Merkel put it last year: “We have a treaty under which there is no possibility of paying to bail out states.” Now, though, she is taking a different line. “Europe,” Mrs Merkel declared on Tuesday, “is unthinkable without the euro.” One wonders what existed at the western tip of the Eurasian landmass before 1999, but leave that to one side. The Chancellor’s point is clear. The survival of the single currency is a political goal for which she is prepared to pay any economic price – or, rather, to make her people to pay.

Some analysts believe that Germany has an interest in keeping the euro going, so that its exporters continue to benefit from an artificially cheap exchange rate. What suits Germany, they argue, is for the euro to struggle on, battered and cheapened. This underestimates the reverence that politicians of Mrs Merkel’s generation have for the European ideal. They are so used to citing the EU as the antidote to fascism and war that they cannot bring themselves to re-examine the premise. Younger Germans don’t fall for it, but their constitution was more or less explicitly designed after 1945 to be immune to public opinion.

Many EU leaders see economic integration, not as an emergency response, but as a desirable goal in itself. As J M Keynes put it: “Who controls the currency controls the government.” Where, though, do such plans leave Britain? While keeping the pound saved us from Ireland’s fate, we risk being drawn into the maelstrom. Our EU budget contributions rose by 74 per cent in 2010, and we have additionally taken on liabilities of £12.5 billion – some £500 for every family in the land – to bail out Greece, Portugal and Ireland.

The Government’s first objective must be to end this exposure. While some British banks are vulnerable to sovereign defaults in Europe (just as Brazilian, Canadian and Taiwanese banks are), there is no need for our taxpayers to prop up a currency that we declined to join. More than this, we ought to establish ourselves as a haven for those fleeing the uncertainty of the euro – a position which, despite our advantages of size, geography, language and global commerce, we currently cede to the Swiss.

We need to withdraw from EU regulations that inhibit our recovery: burdensome employment laws, rules on mutual access to social security which inhibit welfare reform, the Common Agricultural Policy, the 48-hour week. We should, in short, aim for a form of associate membership, an amplified free trade deal as enjoyed by Norway and Switzerland. And we should make our agreement to the legal changes which the eurozone leaders want contingent on securing such a deal.

The trouble is that we have no list of demands. In the run-up to the general election, politicians in all three parties convinced themselves that even to talk about renegotiating our membership was extreme, swivel-eyed, blah blah. That, of course, was before the crisis hit; but they are now trapped by their decision not to quarrel with the EU in any circumstances. Our officials encourage this attitude, having confused their personal stature in Brussels with the national interest.

The events of the past week ought to have jerked us from our torpor. The calculations made before the election have been overtaken by events. A perfect opportunity is presenting itself; yet we remain convulsed in a row about events which took place under the last government. It is our besetting national vice to ignore what is happening on the Continent until almost too late. We shall pay a price for our complacency.

Daniel Hannan is a Conservative MEP for South East England


Daniel Hannan on the EFTA

July 21, 2011

The ever wonderful Claire Berlinkski

July 21, 2011

The following passage is reproduced from this Ricochet piece. I feel that this elegantly understands the appeal of socialism or rather of political utopianism, bound up as it is with collectivist thinking.

***

For a brief, perishable moment during the 1990s, it was possible to imagine that the great questions of history had been settled. But history did not, as Francis Fukuyama predicted, come to an end. Quite the contrary.

Socialism was buried prematurely. This fact has been little remarked, precisely because the world’s attention has in recent times been focused on the dramatic rise of Islamic extremism. Amid this anxiety it has been forgotten that the appeal of socialism as a political program is ultimately far wider, more seductive and more enduring than political Islam. To the vast majority of the secular world, Islam is alien and will always be alien. Islamic law is widely and correctly perceived as a recipe for immiseration. This is not so of socialism, a political movement that like fascism embodies the religious impulse in secular form, and is thus an ideology destined to rise again and again from the grave.

Wherever men are miserable – and that is almost everywhere – they will be vulnerable to those who promise Utopia, for if Hobbes expressed some portion of the truth, Rousseau expressed some portion of the truth as well. There is no inconsistency between the declaration that life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short and the declaration that man is everywhere in chains. That this observation is bleak is no reason not to think it correct. If for no other reason, I doubt the promises of socialism will ever lose their capacity to inspire. …

This conflict, even more than the divide between religion and secularism, will be the fault line of the coming century. How could it not be? It has been the fault line of political life since the French Revolution.

I cannot promise this … but I do strongly suspect that Margaret Thatcher’s ideas and personality will assume an even greater significance with time. Recognizing what she achieved in Britain – and coolly appraising the cost of these victories, which was considerable – is as essential for our generation as for hers. Every society confronting these historical forces will inevitably arrive at the same place. It is the place Margaret Thatcher found herself upon her ascent to 10 Downing Street.

She perceived these forces, and for a time she mastered them: This is why she matters.

These forces are still at work; they must again be mastered again.

This is why she matters to you.