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PM: ‘Come Dine with me’ Cameron’s authority on the wane?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Are Cameron’s political fortunes beginning to wane?  The difficulty and unpoluarity in passing the Health and Social Care Act 2012 , Osborne’s budget, the Craddus affair involving for ‘Cash for Access’ at No. 10, the leak of the controversial ‘NHS Risk Register’ document the and the shambles over petrol in the face of a possible strike by tanker drivers have all added up to tarnish Cameron’s authority.

Cameron’s tendency to rely on a small clique of trusted confidants, instead of the Tory Party as whole has seen David Cameron’s Coalition, his leadership ability and his choice of associates have taken something of a political kicking.

Two interesting articles to follow up on this:
1. Daily Mail’s The knives are out for David Cameron. He should watch his back  Which includes the line:

‘In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way’.

2. Peter Oborne in The Telegraph: The Conservative Party can save Cameron, but only if he lets it.  Which asserts:

The Prime Minister’s proxies and cronies must go if he is to re-establish confidence.

The article starts:

For many governments there comes a desperately sad moment after which nothing is ever quite the same again, when trust and confidence evaporates and all that remains is a long battle of attrition.
For Harold Wilson, that moment struck with the devaluation crisis of 1967; for John Major, it was Black Wednesday in 1992. Tony Blair’s came with the realisation that Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction and that his casus belli for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a lie.
There is now a strong possibility that historians will identify the events of the past two weeks – the lethal combination of George Osborne’s shambolic Budget with the shocking revelation that access to the Prime Minister and government policy is up for sale – as the climacteric of the Cameron/Clegg Coalition.

Oborne puts this reverse in the PM’s fortunes down to:

There are only two reasons for the collapse of this Government’s fortunes: the first is Cameron and Osborne; the second is the decision made in 2005, when Cameron was elected leader, to govern as much as possible without the Conservative Party.

Global Issies: Conflict ~ Afghanistan: A war that can never be won?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

‘Why are asymmetrical wars difficult to end?’, was a recent exam question for Unit 4. Tying in with that theme is an excellent recent article in the Scotsman entitled Afghanistan: A war that can never be won? where Dani Garavelli [amother Italian Scot?]  writes “One fatal disaster after another has left the coalition’s hopes of succeeding in Afghanistan at an all-time low”.  The article hits the nail on the head, especially in terms of grasping the nature of dealing with a full blown insurgency and the issue of creating a viable and resilient state in Afghanistan.

A must read, but few significant exerpts are:

Do we now have to confront the possibility that withdrawal may ultimately be synonymous with defeat? Have allied forces done enough to ensure the gains made in Afghanistan will be sustained, or will the troops’ departure signal the country’s implosion into civil war? And, as Nato is met with a cascade of unexpected challenges, is the much-vaunted exit strategy – in the words of Henry Kissinger – “all exit and no strategy”.

One of the difficulties with assessing “victory” or otherwise in Afghanistan is that the endgame has never been precisely defined. Initially, a war of reprisal, aimed at ridding the country of al-Qaeda, punishing the Taleban for giving them quarter and ensuring they could never flourish there again, the emphasis has shifted over the years to counter-insurgency and securing a better future for the people of Afghanistan – a concept that has been increasingly difficult to sell to the US and British publics, especially as the death toll has mounted.


The academic recounts the Taleban slogan that dates back to the Soviet invasion: “‘While you have the watches, we have the time.’ In other words, while you have great firepower and technology, we have all the time in the world,” she explains. “While for you this is just a misadventure, for us it’s a serious war for political gain, for political survival.”

The truth of this may become all too apparent in the next few months. “The snow is melting across the Hindu Kush now – this is the fighting season opening,” Crow points out. “The Taleban commanders will come in from neighbouring Pakistan ready to fight – and I don’t know to what extent our domestic public’s going to be willing to put up with many more losses.”


The Special Relationship Renewed?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

It’s been a breathless few days for devotees of the ‘Special Relationship’.  The Sunday Times’ perceptive columnist Andrew Sullivan describes its warm dynamics in his column today (behind the paywall here.) Who can doubt that, once again, the US president and the British prime minister get along famously.  And it can’t have hurt that David Cameron’s visit came just after a distinctly less comfortable summit with the distinctly more prickly Israeli prime minister.  You couldn’t really see Obama and Netanyahu heading over to a college basketball game to discuss the pros and cons of bombing Iran after all.  But as David Cameron returns to the realities of domestic politics, having effectively endorsed Mr. Obama and heard giddy words of political love in return, he may want to cast an eye over the fate of previous British prime ministers who thought they, too, had a special relationship.

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The Presidency and the Power To Persuade

There is no “power to persuade” for a US president.  That is the conclusion in Ezra Klein’s fascinating recent New Yorker article, drawing heavily upon data-heavy research by George Edwards of Texas A and M University.

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Politics resource sharing group in Bromley area

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Colleagues teaching A Level Politics in the Bromley area might like to get involved in a new group which Sarah Murphy (HOD at Hayes School) is organising.  Sarah suggests that the group should operate informally, sharing ideas and resources for the teaching of Government and Politics.  Sounds like a great idea - If you would like to get involved, then contact Sarah directly

Global Issues: Human Rights: ICC’s bench mark ruling convicting Congo War Lord

Friday, March 16, 2012

The conviction of Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo by the International Criminal Court is a milestone in the search for international justice.  Chatham House’s Elizabeth Wilmshurst provides some expert comment and analysis - [click here]. The trial ends a 10 yesr legal process and is the ICC’s first conviction.  Wilsmhurst writes:

Lubanga was convicted of the war crime of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 years and using them to participate actively in hostilities. Lubanga was the commander of the Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC) and its armed wing, the Forces patriotiques pour la libération du Congo (FPLC), at a time when many armed conflicts were taking place in the mineral-rich eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The trial chamber, presided over by British judge, Sir Adrian Fulford, found that Lubanga had encouraged children to join the army and had personally used them among his bodyguards. He and others had participated in a common plan to build an army so that the UPC/FPLC could maintain political and military control over Ituri, a plan which resulted in the recruitment of children, whether voluntarily or by coercion, and their use in various ways in the hostilities.

However, does this herald a new dawn in upholding and enforcing international justice.  Well enthusiasm needs to be curbed…some critical comment is proved in the Econmist, which argues that:

Since it was set up in 2002 to try genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, the court has been lambasted for its glacial slowness. Some critics cry bias, too: all 15 cases now before it concern African countries: Uganda, Congo, the Central African Republic, Sudan (Darfur), Kenya, Libya and Côte d’Ivoire. Yet—except in Kenya—the court intervened either because the countries themselves asked it to, or because there had been a UN Security Council resolution.

The court’s statutes say it may take on only those cases where the country concerned is either unwilling or unable to do so. That, sadly, applies to many African states, where courts are still woefully partial, corrupt or otherwise inadequate. And Africa is also the scene of the sort of wars that bring the atrocities over which the ICC has jurisdiction. Of the 120 countries that have now signed up to the court 33—the biggest single group—are from Africa.

One of the difficulties faced by the court is its lack of any kind of enforcement mechanism. It has to rely on its individual members to arrest and hand over suspects, as required under its statutes. Some African states have proved unwilling to do so, however. Indeed, the African Union has specifically ordered its 54 members not to co-operate with the allegedly pro-Western ICC’s arrest warrant for Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir, one of only two sitting presidents ever charged by the court. The other was Libya’s Colonel Muammar Qaddafi.

Further comment can be found here:
Economist: Bench mark: ICC’s first verdict

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PM and Exec: All hail President Dave?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Steve Richards in the Independent has penned a speculative article, which might be funny except it seems to ring rather true:
Coalition will be harder now for a PM who yearns to be a President He asserts:

There is nothing quite so intoxicating in its theatricality. Cameron has had a ball in the US

Richards argues that Cameron will love to recaste himself into a more presidential mould - he starts:
David Cameron will return from the United States a slightly different leader from when he left. The Prime Minister has never been one for the hard grind of policy detail but has always displayed a fascination with the choreography and theatre of power. To some extent, he shows a mastery of both, too. There is nothing quite so intoxicating in its choreographed theatricality than standing shoulder to shoulder with an American president laying on the biggest of big welcomes. Cameron has had a ball.

Ad another excerpt is:

The change that will arise from this visit relates to Cameron’s outlook when he returns to the UK. For three days, Cameron has been a prime minister unencumbered. He has been hailed and revered by a president, rock stars and on the US news networks. Briefly, he will forget that he is the first British premier since Harold Wilson in February 1974 to fail to win an overall majority. For a time, he will feel fleetingly presidential and, being human, will enjoy the sensation.

And a nod to the fact that underneath it all a PM is still subject to the usual constraints no matter how Presidential in style they may wish to appear:

In his joint press conferences with Bush, Tony Blair seemed to forget altogether that he was not a president and was, in humdrum reality, a mere prime minister dependent on the support of parliament, a fuming Chancellor breathing down his neck and his party. Similarly, in a different international context, Cameron could almost forget briefly about Nick Clegg and the constraints of coalition as he was treated like a prime ministerial superstar

Worth reading in full….

Global Issues: Humanitarian Intervention ~ R2P: RIP?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The ongoing and bleak situation in Syria is calling into question the doctrine of humanitarian intervention and its hand maiden doctrine of the ‘responsibility to protect’.  After the the 2003 intervention in Iraq by the US, some argued quite unequivocally that humanitarian intervention was dead, and we killed.  However, subsequent interventions in Cote de Ivoire and Libya seemed to breathe life back in the doctrine and more importantly its practice.  Yet in Syria the stakes are high, the regime is entrenched and international positions and opinion are spit.  So has the doctrine once again run out of steam? 

Elliot Abrams, analyst of the US international affairs think tank CFR seems to think just that in a pithy article: R.I.P: R2P.  Is starts:

It was during Kofi Annan’s tenure as Secretary General of the United Nations (1997-2006) that the “Responsibility to Protect” became a major item on the international scene.  That is no feather in his cap, because the urgency of “R2P,” as it came to be called, reflected the various mass murders that had taken place during his watch ( Darfur, 400,000 dead; Kosovo, 800,000 displaced and 12,000 killed) or just before it (Rwanda, 800,000 killed) when he was an Under Secretary General and latterly the Special Representative for the Former Yugoslavia.

What is R2P? A resolution adopted at a world summit in 2005 and then by the UN Security Council in 2006 holds that governments must protect their people, not commit war crimes and genocide against them, and further than other nations may intervene in extreme cases, through regional bodies and the UN.

This week several UN officials and one former official spoke about the slaughter in Syria. Here is a BBC item about the UN’s chief of humanitarian affairs, Valerie Amos, who had just visited Syria:

“The devastation there is significant, that part of Homs is completely destroyed and I am concerned to know what has happened to the people who live in that part of the city,” Baroness Amos told Reuters news agency.

Activists said troops committed massacres after they went in to the district, but Damascus blamed the rebels for many deaths.

The BBC’s Jim Muir in neighbouring Lebanon says activist groups continue to report the summary execution of men from Baba Amr, the butchering of entire families, and the systematic mass rape of women.

In counterpoint this is what Mr. Annan had to say, before visiting Syria in his new role as peace envoy of the Arab League and the UN:

“I hope no one is thinking seriously of using force in this situation,” Annan said. “As I move to Syria, we will do whatever we can to urge and press for a cessation of hostilities and end to the killing and violence.”

Whatever happened to the responsibility to protect, one wonders.

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Global Issues: Changing Nature of Conflict ~ The changed psychological dimension of modern conflict

The unfortuante killing of 16 Aghan civilians (including 9 children) in their homes by a ‘rogue’ US soldier has prompted a thought provoking article by Giles Fraser in the Guardian - Afghanistan and the soldiers without a safety catch .  He argues that:

We should think harder before we deploy troops. They are dehumanised by training, and made to kill

Fraser points to the psycholical conditioning that modern soldiers undergo to break down the in built human aversion to killing and in effect create ‘killing machines’.  He asserts:

The enemy is demeaned as less than human and their culture is ridiculed. And since the second world war two psychological categories in particular have been folded into the design of military training: desensitisation and conditioning

Thus a key new aspect of modern conflict is the psycholical dimension:
“A new era has quietly dawned in modern warfare: an era of psychological warfare – psychological warfare conducted not upon the enemy, but upon one’s own troops,” writes Lt Col Dave Grossman, a former psychology lecturer at West Point.

And in conclusion:

Following this latest massacre in Kandahar there will be much talk of a lone gunman going off the rails. But the truth is more disturbing. One cannot set in place the conditions for easy killing, removing the inbuilt human safety catch, and then simply blame an individual soldier who flips out. And there is no way to ensure that such things do not happen again. This is what happens when soldiers are subject to a systematic process of dehumanisation. The modern idea of a clean and humane war is a total myth. Which is precisely why we ought to think a great deal harder before we start them.

For background the following article might be helpful: Afghanistan killings: gunman hunted families as if they were military targets.

This is blog is dedicated to Mystic MAG…

Ideologies and Parties: New Labour and Liberalism

Really interesting article in today’s Guardian by Patrick Diamond [author of ‘Reassessing New Labour’ and a former head of policy planning at No.10] and Patrick Kenny entitled “Labour’s Lost Liberalism “ in which they assert that:

Now that Blue Labour has come unstuck, the party should reconnect with its orange heritage.

The Labour Party needs to reconnect with ideas pertinent to liberal social democracy if it is to have traction and relevance to the arguments been raised by the curretn government.

Certainly worth a read from an A2 Ideologies perspective in term’s how how the various ideologies impact on contemporary politics and inform the ideological and policy make up of the various parties.  Also, from an AS Unit 1 perspective it gives a valuable insight into the current dilemmas facing New Labour in terms of setting out its ideological stall.

The article goes on to say:

What do the health bill, David Cameron’s veto at the European summit, disagreements over the forthcoming budget, reform of the House of Lords, and the battle over a Scottish referendum all have in common? The answer is that these issues of major significance are defined by arguments occurring within the coalition government. Labour may have interesting insights to contribute to each, but very few of us, it appears, are listening.

And concludes:

The real “values” question which Labour needs to tackle is not communitarianism versus liberalism – that most overplayed and false of philosophical choices. It is what kind of liberal social democracy the party wants to espouse. It ought to rediscover the insights of early 20th century progressivism: welfare and equality as the basis of a society where all have the freedom to flourish; redistributing power from corporate and bureaucratic elites. On the questions of our age, – how to reform British capitalism and redefine the role and purpose of the state – progressive forces must work together to forge a new “coalition of ideas”. Circumstances can always conspire against the best ideas – but without ideas, there is no hope.

There is a further article, also in the Guardian, which is worth cross referencing: Labour must steer clear of vapid form of leftism, warns manifesto author Former Blair adviser Patrick Diamond says Labour is making a negligible impact on the major issues of the day.  The article states:

Labour will be shut out of power for a generation if it succumbs to “a vapid form of leftism” that appeals only to its core supporters, one of the main authors of its manifesto for the 2010 general election has claimed.

In a powerful critique of the party, Patrick Diamond warns that Labour is making a negligible impact on the major issues of the day and is pointing “in different directions simultaneously”.

Diamond, a former No10 adviser to Tony Blair who worked with Ed Miliband on Labour’s manifesto for the election, writes: “If Labour detaches itself from the complex and contradictory currents of popular sentiment, it risks drifting towards political irrelevance and repeated defeat.”

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