...a blog by Richard Flowers

Friday, June 27, 2008

Day 2731: The Chihuahua That Roared


And by "Chihuahua" I mean our esteemed leader, who is happy to be associated with the little dog that doesn't let its size stop it standing up for what it believes in.

Mr Clogg has made a KEYNOTE SPEECH to Chattering House about Liberal Democrat foreign policy and the need to get internationalism back on track after the disaster of the Monkey-in-Chief's administration.

The main area of the speech is, of course, about ZIMBABWE, but Mr Clogg does start out by mentioning EUROPE and THAT Treaty.

And you know what – it looks like I may have CONVINCED him that the consent of the people is more important than the process.

He says:
"Of course I am disappointed that Lisbon was rejected by the Irish people…"
Me too, Mr Clogg, me too
"But if you ask me what is more important at this stage: a strong sense of support and legitimacy for Europe, or the minor reforms of the Lisbon Treaty, I have to come down in favour of the former."
This is JUST what I was saying the other day! Particularly when he goes on to say:
"It is now clear that for the EU to have meaning, legitimacy and resonance with its voters, it will have to win respect through its actions, through its relevance to daily lives."
Mr Clogg goes on to point out that the problem is NOT about Europe versus the people OF Europe, it is much wider (and WORSE) than that. It is a problem of DISCONNECTION between the people and ALL politicians. Far from being an endorsement of the anti-EU froth-o-phobes, it is a REJECTION of the ruling classes, whoever they are and whatever they say.

It stems from a growing sense of POWERLESSNESS, brought on by national governments that take decisions in their own interests but rarely in the interests of the people, and from the growth of globalisation, leaving us all as tiny grains of sand in the BIG cogs of the MACHINE.

What Mr Clogg wants is to turn the Union around and make it part of our ANSWER to globalisation, rather than seeming like another SYMPTOM of it!

It is a total misunderstanding of Liberalism to think that it is JUST about the freedom of the INDIVIDUAL to do whatever the heck you want. That is LIBERTARIANISM – and there is a reasonable question to ask whether there is a new Libertarian Party trying to squeeze its way out of the Old Conservatories. Mr Davis David might be a symptom of that.

But TRUE Liberalism is about empowering the individual AND the community AND the county AND the country AND the world… it is about creating networks that support each other, and finding solutions at the appropriate level. A European Union that works PROPERLY, works FOR the people than is imposed ON them, would be just another level in the network, the appropriate level for addressing regulation of the globalised corporations, or for tackling the urgent issue of pollution and approaching climate-geddon.

It is only by working TOGETHER that we can tackle international crises.

Mr Clogg refers to Mr Gladstone who was the first to say:
"the sanctity of life in the hill villages of Afghanistan among the winter snows, are as sacred as our own."
A hundred and thirty years later, that is why we are in Afghanistan AGAIN.

Mr Clogg then looks at how, following on from Mr Gladstone, there gradually evolved a fragile and tentative framework of international laws and bodies, based on the idea that we could intervene on HUMANITARIAN grounds and not just for national self-interest.

True, we have a serious self-interest in Afghanistan too: we don't want to see it return to a Taliban theocracy pumping out terrorists and opiate as fast as poppies grow. But more importantly that that, the only way the world is going to get better is if we work to make it get better.

Wars these days, whether it is the brutal election-stealing behaviour of Mr Mugabe's forces in Zimbabwe or the perpetual civil wars in Somalia or the ongoing genocide in the Sudan, they are no longer between nations but between peoples. And you know, this is often driven by the shortages of resources that are brought on by the very changes in climate that can ONLY be tackled on a GLOBAL level.

Now Mr Clogg admits that we cannot know what the strategic situation will be ten years from now. But equally, he says, worrying about the war we don't know about is not a good reason to lose the war we DO know about, the one that's going on right now!

So, he says, it's time Great Britain had a Defence Review, time to stop spending billions on Cold War defences, and way past time to start spending on the equipment our soldiers need for peacekeeping.

But he wants to go much further than that.

Thanks to Lord Blairimort and the Monkey-in-Chief, Britain and Americaland have sacrificed a whole lot of their MORAL AUTHORITY for a great deal of nothing. So it's been left up to the Canadians to carry on the work of developing responsible international law.

Mr Clogg points to their work on "Responsibility to Protect" or the clunkily labelled "R2P". (Which sounds like it should be a droid from Star Wars!)

This principle would fit with the idea that somehow the NATO war in Bosnia to save the Bosnians from the Serbs was somehow GOOD while the Monkey-in-Chief's Middle Eastern Adventure was self-evidently BAD.

Mr Clogg laid out how it should work:
First, any intervention should be based on just cause.

Second, it must have the right intention, rather than serving hidden ends.

Third, intervention should always be a last resort.

Fourth, it must be sanctioned by legitimate authority.

Fifth, a response must be of proportional means to the breach.

Sixth – and this must not be forgotten – any intervention must have a reasonable chance of success.
This last one is why – in spite of the MORAL case for doing so – we could not consider a military intervention in Zimbabwe. There is simply no local support.

We were, at least in part, ABLE to invade Iraq because we could start from bases in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. In part because of Iraq, we can't do that in Southern Africa. (Plus there's that whole business of stealing their continent for a century or so.) So even if we wanted to put an army on the ground in Zimbabwe, we wouldn't have anywhere for them to STAND.

Having mentioned Zimbabwe, Mr Clogg also went on to reiterate what he said on the Politics Show, that while we can't intervene militarily, we should still do all we can to defeat Mr Mugabe's evil reign of terror. In particular, we should be cutting off the regime's access to foreign cash (even though we know it will also hurt the ordinary Zimbabwean). We should put pressure on South Africa to come off the fence. If the South Africans cut off the electricity supply then Mr Mugabe will be dramatically weakened.

But, Mr Clogg would go even further than obvious cases of violence and oppression like Zimbabwe. He said that he thought that the INaction of the Burmese Junta after the cyclone earlier this year was ALSO cause for a "R2P" intervention.

Personally, I think we would need to be VERY VERY careful before we start to consider THAT sort of intervention. But really that is what Mr Clogg is proposing: VERY VERY careful consideration, so that we can set up the bodies that COULD intervene and the terms that would govern HOW they could intervene.

In conclusion, then, he said how strongly he believes in Britain's role as a force both for PEACE and for JUSTICE in the world. Of course we should continue to defend our own national interest robustly; but we should also seek to lead the debate on how to develop Responsibility to Protect and the United Nations, and how to do the best for the whole world.

And do you know what, I think maybe HE has persuaded ME too!

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