Love Will Tear the British Union apart…

Nora Connolly 

Image© The Scottish Government

The SNP`s commitment to the principles enshrined in the British post-war settlement appear to be the motivating factor propelling Scotland toward independence. The party which oscillated between the left and the far right during the 1970s is now the party of consensus, promoting a benevolent nationalism whilst campaigning on a progressive social democratic platform. This seems reasonable and persuasive, especially given the SNP propensity to campaign in the poetry of Burns, whilst governing Scotland in the prose of Keynes and Beveridge. Bevan is also close to the SNP leadership’s heart, the Welsh architect of the British NHS. This is then, big tent inclusive nationalism, seemingly devoid of any racial component, anti-English rhetoric or sentiment. After all there is an estimated 400,000 people of English origins living in Scotland with a projected 10% of this cohort supporting the SNP. Of course Scotland is no egalitarian utopia. And while the country may exhibit more social cohesion and solidarity than other parts of the UK, it’s far from perfect and it would be naive to suggest otherwise. If you have ever attended an `Old Firm` game then you will quickly appreciate my point. Read more of this post

Has the Nobel Prize Committee Ignored the European Elephant in the Room?

Dave Scotford 

Image © Horia Varlan

The European Union has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize after they were credited with six decades of work in advancing peace and stability across the region. While announcing the decision, the Norwegian prize jury praised the union’s “advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights.”

Senior leaders within the EU are overjoyed with the decision and avid supporters of the union are no doubt breathing a sigh of relief. Council President, Herman Van Rompuy, said the award recognized the EU’s work as “the biggest peacemaker in history,” and Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso said that it was “a tremendous honour.”

Though there’s a problem. To speak frankly, to suggest the last sixty years across Europe have been decades of peace and harmony is simply wrong. Did the awarding committee forget about the violent breaking up of the former Yugoslavia or about the decades of violence which threatened to bring Northern Ireland to its knees? How about the stand off between Greece and Turkey on the island of Cyprus or the vast social unrest which marches through European capitals in the modern day?

Even if the committee acknowledged these conflicts, surely they understood that it was not the EU who played any major role in bringing, or attempting to bring, them back under control. Since the creation of NATO in 1945, it is they who have been tasked with keeping the peace when trouble has flared. We should also remember NATO was built up under the control of American generals in response to the Cold War, and not the EU.

The advancement of human rights is based solely on the European Convention of Human Rights which was first introduced in 1950, 43 years before the EU was founded. Strictly speaking, the EU has only been in existence since 1993 and its predecessor, the European Economic Community was set up twelve years after the end of World War II as a trading organisation.  Read more of this post

The Falkland Islands: How much has the game changed?

Daniel Crump 

Image © Tiger 2000

It was announced this week that the residents of the Falkland Islands will hold a referendum on their political status in 2013. The main focus of which will be their links with the United Kingdom, with 1,600 registered voters on the Islands deciding whether to remain under British rule or back Christina Fernandez’s view that ‘Las Malvinas’ should be a part of Argentina.

Views are mixed as to the seriousness of the escalated tension between the British and Argentine governments over the last few months. Some see the situation as harmless sabre rattling which should have been anticipated given that 2012 is the 30th anniversary of the 1982 War. Others are choosing to read more into the rhetorical exchanges between David Cameron and Mrs. Fernandez. Governments are rarely prepared to answer too many questions on their willingness to enter into global conflict through fear of provoking unnecessary alarm, but what can we divulge from the rhetoric so far, and what are the main areas of concern?

A different kind of Cold War?

Whilst categorically denying that their own country is willing to enter into a new conflict, both governments are doing their best to show that the other one might be. Britain is accusing Christina Fernandez of pandering to the staunch nationalists in Argentina and using bullish language, on the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War, to increase her approval ratings. For its part, Argentina has accused Britain of stepping up its military presence on the Islands and viewed Prince William’s recent visit as an obvious sign of disrespect.

Underlying all of this, the Falklands dispute has always involved, to a certain extent, concerns over natural resources, particularly oil. According to Argentine observers, the Falklands are an important strategic asset for the UK and give them an important route into Antarctica, which is seen as a potentially crucial area for future oil extraction. Many Argentines also recognise the cost of allowing the British to seize important natural resources so close to their own shores. Indeed, a significant part of the Military Junta’s reasoning 30 years ago was the possibility of improving their economic situation at home, and turning public opinion in their favour as a result.

The Dangerous Mrs. Fernandez?

Christina Fernandez is not leading a military junta. As a democratically elected figure, she is accountable to the people of Argentina and has historically shown her support for international law. There is also an unwritten rule in International Relations theory that democracies have much more to lose from war, and are therefore less likely to instigate a conflict than dictatorships, say.  Read more of this post

Afghanistan and the false moralising of liberal intervention

Oliver Hotham

Image © isafmedia

A problem, at least it seems to me, is that as soon as you get yourself involved in other people’s business you have a responsibility towards them. Once you’ve intervened and influenced things, all of a sudden everything that happens in your responsibility and you have an obligation to see things through to the end, whatever that end might be.

This problem is highlighted by the Taliban’s declaration that they will retake the country when NATO leaves. They’re probably right, unfortunately. Once NATO leaves, the current government (if it can even be called that, it behaves like a nepotistic crime syndicate) will collapse, with most of its members defecting to the Taliban, and the psychopathic, sexually repressed lunatics in charge of the insurgency will roll into Kabul, triumphant in their victory. More than ten years of foreign occupation will have not made one bit of difference to what will ultimately happen in Afghanistan, except perhaps that our governments will be poorer and those in Afghanistan who did not take the side of the occupation will be angrier. Women will undoubtedly suffer at the hands of their rulers, and much of the relative progress that has been made in the country since the invasion will be undone.

We already have a model of how Afghanistan deals with a prolonged military occupation – the invasion in the 1980’s by the Soviet Union. They too were attempting to instil their preferred model of government in the country but could not sustain their military presence faced with a growing Islamist insurgency and impending bankruptcy and economic recession. The Soviet Union left Afghanistan in rubble, with the Taliban strengthened by their apparent victory. Whatever good came of the Soviet presence, secularisation of society, education for women, and an improved infrastructure was vastly outweighed by the damage the occupation inflicted on Afghan society.

Read more of this post

Demanding an End to World Hunger

Mohammed Mesbahi

All the commentary from expert analysts about the crumbling financial system is almost useless to understand what is really happening in the world today. Countless articles are written about how to fix the economy and restore growth to the system, but they are only relevant to a system that was never sustainable and is now coming to an end. What we call the ‘system’ has become so complicated that it appears to have a life of its own, and not even the most sophisticated banker understands what is going on anymore. Few economists or politicians speak in terms that mean anything to the ordinary person who is struggling to find or keep a job, make ends meet and provide for their family. But at the same time, something profoundly new is happening throughout the world that requires a much simpler way of looking at things if we are to comprehend what it means.

The protests now taking place in almost every country are a magnificent sight, but we must look closely at what it means when we cry for justice. There are many stories now being reported about the accumulating wealth of the richest people in the midst of a worsening economic crisis, which of course leads to rightful anger against bankers and the unbridled greed that has been sanctified in modern-day society. But which is the greater sin: the banker’s bonus, or the fact that thousands of people are dying from hunger each day in a world of plenty? The global economy is sinking and so the people’s voice is rising, but why are there no demonstrations in our city squares when people are dying from hunger? Read more of this post

Rethinking Afghanistan

Andrew Noakes

Image © The US Army

This year’s upcoming Bonn Conference will mark a decisive shift from international engagement in Afghanistan to a policy focusing on withdrawal and, it is hoped, peace with the Taliban. The reason for the change is obvious: the West is tired of war. Public support for the NATO campaign in member states is rapidly declining; by 2010, only 37 percent of the British public and 40 percent of Americans supported the presence of their military forces in the country. The elite consensus in the West, which has hitherto been in favour of international engagement, has also become increasingly fragile. In Britain, it is likely that Liberal Democrat support for the war is conditional on withdrawal and pursuit of a peace deal. Meanwhile, according to leaked US diplomatic cables, the European Union president, Herman Van Rompuy, recently summed up the feelings of European elites by telling a US ambassador that ‘no one believes in Afghanistan any more’.

In the lead up to Bonn, it is quite clear – not least to the Taliban – that NATO countries are falling over themselves to get out of Afghanistan. We might be inclined to welcome this news, but a few words of caution are necessary. The first thing to point out is that the Taliban do not have the support of anywhere near the majority of Afghans. A recent survey by the Asia Foundation revealed that only 29 percent of the Afghan population have some level of sympathy with armed anti-government groups. Meanwhile, 73 percent of Afghans (an approval rating Western leaders could only dream of) are satisfied with the performance of the national government. For many who have been assuming that NATO forces are simply propping up an unpopular regime against a popular insurgency, this may come as a surprise. Read more of this post

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