May 31, 2006

President Bush should heed Tony Blair’s advice (EJ Dionne, 5/31/06, Seattle Times)

Imagine where British Prime Minister Tony Blair would be if he hadn’t joined with President Bush in prosecuting the Iraq war. […]

You wish, at least, that the prime minister could have edited Bush’s rhetoric. More important, you wish Blair would have pushed Bush much harder to approach the rest of the world in a way that would have left us with a few more friends and allies.

The reality is that most of the political damage that Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair sustained from the war is a function of the latter’s insistence (along with Colin Powell) on trying to sell it to the international community and to do so using the WMD argument. Had the P.M. just accepted the President’s assessment that the UN wasn’t going to be any use and that it was up to enforce their resolutions for them he’d have nothing to apologize for today. Though his heart is generally in the right place, Mr. Blair continues to stumble when he makes himself believe his own backbenchers, the continental Europeans, and the UN are interested in the same causes he is. The transnationalist project is aimed at stopping men like Tony Blair as much, or more, as stopping those like Saddam.



May 26, 2006

As Bush admits making mistakes over Iraq, Blair offers a new world vision (Alec Russell, 27/05/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Tony Blair last night challenged the world to unite around a policy of “progressive pre-emption” as he sought to shore up his legacy by linking the invasion of Iraq to a range of problems, from global warming and poverty to immigration.

In a speech in Washington just hours after he and President George W Bush made strikingly frank admissions of mistakes in their handling of Iraq, the Prime Minister called for the world to help the new government in Baghdad. On his visit to Iraq on Monday he had seen a “child of democracy struggling to be born”.

He also called for radical reform of the United Nations and its sister bodies, the IMF and the World Bank, arguing they were out-of-date and incapable of confronting the financial and security threats facing the world.

PM’s foreign policy speech – third in a series of three (10 Downing Street, 26 May 2006)

This is the third of my speeches on the challenges facing the international community. In the first, I argued that the global terrorism that menaces us, can only be defeated through pulling it up by its roots. We have to attack not just its methods but its ideas, its presumed and false sense of grievance against the West, its attempt to persuade us that it is we and not they who are responsible for its violence. In doing so, we should stand up for our own values, asserting that they are not Western but global values, whose spread is the surest guarantee of our future security. In the second speech, I argued that such values would only succeed, however, if they were seen to be fairly and even-handedly implemented; that this required a unifying agenda for global action, which was about more than the immediate security threat but was also about justice and opportunity for all.

In this speech, I contend that now is the moment for reconciliation in the international community around such an agenda and I outline some of the key policy priorities and reforms of the global institutions to make such an agenda happen.

Underlying all these arguments, is a world view. We all agree that the characteristic of the modern world is interdependence. We haven’t yet thought through its consequences.

In Government, I realised this first at the time of the Asian financial crisis shortly after taking office. Within weeks, all of us who had been initially holding back, waiting for the market to correct itself, wondering how a market meltdown in Thailand could possibly destabilise our own economies, were coming together, agreeing packages to prevent contagion, supporting Brazil and others who looked like they might be the next to go. In the process every conventional doctrine about markets was amended to prevent catastrophe.

A year later, Kosovo happened and the spectre of ethnic cleansing returned to Europe. We put pressure on Milosevic. We threatened diplomatic action. We eventually took military action by air strikes. But it was only when, with considerable courage President Clinton indicated – and it was only an indication – he might be prepared to use ground force, that suddenly Milosevic collapsed and the crisis was resolved.

What these two events taught me was that the rule book of international politics has been torn up. Interdependence – the fact of a crisis somewhere becoming a crisis everywhere – makes a mockery of traditional views of national interest. You can’t have a coherent view of national interest today without a coherent view of the international community. Nations, even ones as large and powerful as the USA, are affected profoundly by world events; and not affected, in time or at the margins but at breakneck speed and fundamentally. Why is immigration the No.1 domestic policy issue in much of Europe and in the US today? What are the solutions? The answer is that globalisation is making mass migration a reality; and only global development will make it a manageable reality.

Which is the issue that has rocketed up the agenda of most political leaders in a way barely foreseen even 3 years back? Energy policy. China and India need energy to grow. The damage to the environment of carbon emissions is now accepted. It doesn’t much matter whether the issue is approached through energy security or climate change, the fact is we need a framework, internationally agreed, through which the developing nations can grow, the wealthy countries maintain their standard of living and the environment be protected from disaster. And this is not a long-term issue – though its consequences are long-term. It is here and now.

The point is that in respect of any of these challenges, certain things stand out. They affect us all. They can only be effectively tackled together. And they require a pre-emptive and not simply reactive response.

Here is where it becomes very difficult. In the old days – I mean a few decades back – countries could wait, assess over time, even opt out – at least until everything was clear. We could act when we knew. Now we have to act on the basis of precaution.

What is more such action will often require intervention, far beyond our own boundaries. The terrorism we are fighting in Britain, wasn’t born in Britain, though on 7th July last year it was British born terrorists that committed murder. The roots are in schools and training camps and indoctrination thousands of miles away, as well as in the towns and cities of modern Britain. The migration we experience is from Eastern Europe, and the poverty-stricken states of Africa and the solution to it lies there at its source not in the nation feeling its consequence.

What this means is that we have to act, not react; we have to do so on the basis of prediction not certainty; and such action will often, usually indeed, be outside of our own territory. And what all that means is: that this can’t be done easily unless it is done on an agreed basis of principle, of values that are shared and fair. Common action only works when founded on common values.

Therefore, to meet effectively the challenge that faces us, we must fashion an international community that both embodies, and acts in pursuit of global values: liberty, democracy, tolerance, justice. These are the values we believe in. These are the values universally accepted across all nations, faiths and races, though not by all elements within them. These are values that can inspire and unify. So, how, at this moment in time, in an international community that has been riven, do we achieve such unity around such values?

Let us go back to the immediate issue: Iraq. We can argue forever about the merits of removing Saddam. Our opponents will say: you made terrorism worse and point to what is happening there. I believe differently. I believe this global terrorism will exploit any situation to further its cause. But I don’t believe that its cause is truly to be found in any decision we have taken. I believe it’s cause is an ideology, a world-view, derived from religious fanaticism and that had we taken no decisions at all to enrage it, would still have found provocation in our very existence. They disagree with our way of life, our values and in particular in our tolerance. They hate us but probably they hate those Muslims who believe in tolerance, even more, as apostates betraying the true faith.

They have come to Iraq because they see it as the battleground. The battle they are fighting is nothing to do with the liberation of Iraq, but its subjugation to their extremism.

I don’t want to reopen past arguments. I want to advocate a new concord to displace the old contention.

It is three years since Saddam fell. It has been three years of strife and bloodshed. But it has also seen something remarkable. Despite it all, despite terror, sectarian violence, kidnapping and the exhibition of every ugly aspect of human nature, a democratic political process has grown. Last week, a new Government was formed. This Monday I visited it in Baghdad, I sat and talked with the leaders, chosen by the people, Sunni, Shia, Kurds, non-aligned, and heard from them not the jarring messages of warring factions but one simple, clear and united discourse. They want Iraq to be democratic. They want its people to be free. They want to tolerate difference and celebrate diversity. They want the rule of law not violence to determine their fate.

They were quite different from the Interim Government of 2004 or the Iraqi Transitional Government after the elections of January 2005.

This is a child of democracy struggling to be born. They and we, the international community, are the midwives.

You may not agree with original decision.

You may believe mistakes have been made.

You may even think how can it be worth the sacrifice.

But surely we must all accept this is a genuine attempt to run the race of liberty.

These are not stooges. Or placemen.

They believe in their country.

They believe in its capacity to be democratic.

They are fighting a struggle against the odds but they are fighting it.

And in their struggle is a symbol of a wider struggle.

Listen to what the new Prime Minister says and the new Government’s programme.

Tell me where their vision differs from ours except that ours is based in experience and theirs in hope.

I came back from Iraq not less daunted by the responsibility on our shoulders to help them succeed. But I did come back inspired by their determination that they do indeed succeed.

This should be a moment of reconciliation not only in Iraq but in the international community. The war split the world. The struggle of Iraqis for democracy should unite it.

There was a moving moment when I was talking to the new Prime Minister in his office in Baghdad that he told me, with a smile, used to be the dining room of one of Saddam’s sons. We were on our own with the interpreter. He leant across to me and said: “if we can change Iraq we can change this region and the world”.

The terrorism that afflicts them is the same that afflicts us. Its roots are out there in the Middle East, in the brutal combination of secular dictatorship and religious extremism. Yet in every country of the region there are people, probably the majority, who are desperate for change. In Kuwait, as I boarded the plane for Iraq, they told me how they were planning elections for the first time with women voting. Across the Gulf states, in the Lebanon, in the steps, however difficult, Egypt is taking, in signs of change in nations as different as Jordan or Algeria, there are possibilities for progress.

These are the true voices of Muslim and Arab people, or more true than the voices of hate, with their poisonous propaganda that seeks to divide.

They need our support. In Iraq, of course, people want to gain full control of their own destiny. The MNF should leave as soon as the Government wishes us. As the Prime Minister said we need an objective timetable. By that he means one that is conditions-based ie as Iraqi capability is built up. But don’t be in any doubt. No-one, but no-one I spoke to, from whatever quarter, wanted us to leave precipitately. An arbitrary timetable ie without conditions being right, would be seen for what it would be: weakness.

Here is where we have to change radically our mindset. At present, when we are shown pictures of carnage in Iraq, much of our own opinion sees that as a failure, as a reason for leaving. Surely it is a reason for persevering and succeeding. What is the purpose of the terrorism in Iraq? It is to destroy the prospect of democratic progress. In doing so, they hope to deal us a mortal blow. They know victory for them in Iraq is defeat not just for Iraqi democracy but for democratic values everywhere.

So they kill our soldiers even though our forces – with incredible heroism and dedication – are and have been in Iraq for three years with full United Nations support and are there now with the free consent of Iraq’s first ever fully democratic Government. They kill ordinary Iraqis for wanting to join the police or build the country or just for being of one religious persuasion not another. Theirs is a strategy drenched in the blood of the innocent.

Should their determination to do evil eclipse our desire to do good? By all means debate the tactics and strategy of how we succeed. But I ask: how can we possibly, in the face of such a struggle, so critical to our own values, not see it through and do so with renewed vigour and confidence? If Iraqis can show their faith in democracy by voting for it, shouldn’t we show ours by supporting them in it?

By “we” I don’t mean the countries of the MNF, I mean the entire international community.

Doing so would signal a dramatic step of reconciliation.

There are two “ifs”.

“If” the international community could see the struggle for security in Iraq as part of the wider global struggle against terrorism. And “if”, we would commit the same energy, engagement and raw political emotion to the rest of the agenda which preoccupies the world at large.

Throughout the past years, ever since I saw 9/11 change the world, I have believed that the greatest danger is that global politics divides into “hard” and “soft”. The “hard” get after the terrorists. The “soft” campaign against poverty. The divide is dangerous because interdependence makes all these issues just that: interdependent.

The answer to terrorism is the universal application of global values. The answer to poverty is the same. Without progress – in democracy and in prosperity – security is at risk. Without security, progress falters.

That is why the struggle for global values has to be applied not selectively, but to a global agenda.

The agenda is there. It is largely agreed. But it needs passion as well as policy.

We must act on global poverty, most of all in Africa. We have a plan that last year’s G8 agreed. Each aspect is important: aid, cancelling debt, education, tackling disease, especially HIV/Aids, governance, conflict resolution.

We must act on climate change. The G8 +5 process, whose next meeting is in Mexico in October, offers a way forward, building on Kyoto, which can involve America, China and India.

We must deliver an ambitious world trade round, for the poorest nations but also for ourselves.

In each of these areas, there are powerful reflections of nation’s interests but also vital tests of commitment to global values. If we believe in justice, how can we let 30,000 children a day die preventably? If we believe in our responsibility to the generations that come after us, how can we be, knowingly, indifferent to the degradation of the planet we live on?

How can we have a global trading system based on unfair trade?

Indeed, even in respect of that part of the agenda that naturally preoccupies my country and yours, there is a breadth we must address.

Earlier I described the fledgling movement toward democracy across the Middle East. As I said, I believe success in Iraq has an importance far beyond the borders of Iraq.

But I would put it higher than this. I now think that we need a far more concentrated and concerted strategy across the whole region. The United States rightly began this with its Broader Middle East Initiative. However, the more I examine this issue, the more convinced I am, that to protect our future, we need to help them to theirs. For example, I don’t believe we will be secure unless Iran changes. I emphasise I am not saying, we should impose change. I am simply saying the greater freedom and democracy which, I have no doubt, most Iranians want, is something we need. There is a choice being played out in the region: to be partners with the wider world; or to be defined in opposition to it. If Iran leads the latter camp, the results will be felt by us all. The most effective way of avoiding that is to encourage and support all nations and people in the region who share our belief that freedom is the best route to peace and prosperity. This cannot and should not be the responsibility of the United States alone. The EU, in particular, needs to be fully engaged. But country by country, in every way we can, with every means we can properly deploy, the international community should be the champions of those who want change there. And wherever those who strive for that freedom are in danger, we should be at their side.

They would be hugely empowered and encouraged if we were able to offer hope on Israel and Palestine. At so many levels, this is critical: for ordinary Israelis and Palestinians, of course, who suffer the depredations of the conflict. But far wider than that, this is a dispute which casts a shadow over all attempts at reconciliation. Under its cover, global terrorism recruits. Because of its darkness, moderate Muslim opinion is put on the defensive. And shut out is any enlightened sensible view of what we in the West really stand for and believe in.

The frustrating thing is that whatever people say, everyone knows the following: the state of Israel is here to stay; the Palestinian people aren’t going to disappear; and the only possible solution is two states, side by side. In fact, when President Bush became the first US President openly to articulate this, everyone more or less accepted it. The problem we have had in Northern Ireland is that there has never been agreement on the basic nature of the final outcome, one part wanting Union with the UK, the other with the Republic of Ireland. Nonetheless we have achieved extraordinary progress, by relentless working at it through every stop and start. In the case of Israel and Palestine, we do now have agreement as to the basic nature of the settlement: two states. Yes, there are innumerable difficult aspects, not least Jerusalem and of course a negotiation about territory; but the constitutional outcome is essentially agreed.

There is only one way through. Clear acceptance by Hamas that the two-state solution is the only one; a renunciation of all violence; and then a move back into the Road Map, with a speeded up pathway to final status negotiations. It will require heavy engagement by the US and the Quartet. But there is not a better time than now, to break out of what is otherwise a continuing descent into despair.

The scale of this agenda is enormous. It means that today’s leaders of nations must analyse, cope with, deal with, a vast array of international problems as well as the myriad of challenges thrown up by each of our systems of healthcare, pensions, welfare, law and order. Except that, these problems are no longer simply international. They intrude into domestic politics. There is globalisation in politics, too.

All of the issues raised today, require immense focus, commitment and drive to get things done. Increasingly, there is a hopeless mismatch between the global challenges we face and the global institutions to confront them. After the Second World War, people realised that there needed to be a new international institutional architecture. In this new era, in the early 21st century, we need to renew it.

I want to make some tentative suggestions for change.

First, the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has done an extraordinary job in often near impossible circumstances. He has also proposed reforms of the UN that should certainly be done.

But a Security Council which has France as a permanent member but not Germany, Britain but not Japan, China but not India to say nothing of the absence of proper representation from Latin America or Africa, cannot be legitimate in the modern world. I used to think this problem was intractable. The competing interests are so strong. But I am now sure we need reform. If necessary let us agree some form of interim change that can be a bridge to a future settlement. But we need to get it done.

We should give the UNSG new powers: over the appointments in the Secretariat – it is absurd they have to be voted on, one by one, in the General Assembly; and over how the resources of the UN are spent. We should streamline radically the humanitarian and development operations so that the UN can act effectively as one agency in country: single UN offices, with one leader, one country plan and one budget. There is even a case for establishing one humanitarian agency that allows for better prediction of an impending crisis; for swifter action to remedy it; and sees the different aspects, from short-term relief to longer term development as linked not distinct.

We should also strengthen the UNSG’s powers to propose action to the Security Council for the resolution of long-standing disputes; and encourage him in doing so.

Second, the World Bank and IMF. These institutions together play an important role in global stability and prosperity. There is a case, as has been argued before, for merger. But in any event, there is certainly a powerful case for reform.

The IMF, and the international monetary and financial committee chaired by Britain’s Gordon Brown, is developing plans for change. To fulfil its role in ensuring the stability of the international monetary and financial system, the IMF must focus on surveillance, both of individual countries and the wider system, that is independent of political influence. It also must become more representative of emerging economic powers and give greater voice to developing countries. The World Bank must remain focussed on fighting world poverty.

Finally, reform, including to appointments and administration, is needed to make the Executive Board more effective.

Third, there is a strong argument for establishing a multilateral system for “safe enrichment” for nuclear energy.

The IAEA would oversee an international bank of uranium to ensure a reliable fuel supply for countries utilising nuclear power without the need for everyone to own their own fuel cycle.

Fourth, the G8 now regularly meets as the G8 +5. That should be the norm.

Finally, we need a UN Environment Organisation, commensurate with the importance the issue now has on the international agenda.

I do not, for a second, under-estimate the hazardous task of achieving these changes. But I am sure it is time to make them.

I want to take one example as a test case: Sudan. There are hundreds of thousands who have died. The dispute between different groups has every dimension of strife in it: ethnic, religious, territorial. If it gets even worse, the knock-on consequences will stretch across the middle belt of Africa and beyond. And we have watched it, with intermittent bursts of activity, for the past two years. The seeds of it were, of course, sown years before that.

This is not a condemnation of world leaders. On the contrary, most of us have devoted what time we can and are doing so now. But in reality, we can’t do it all. What it needs is an empowered international actor; the capacity to intervene militarily; and a properly orchestrated humanitarian response. And we needed all of it, from the beginning.

Leaders should do more. But it’s the system itself that is at fault, not because of indolence but because of time. Occasionally I look at our international institutions and think as I do about our welfare state: the structures of 1946 trying to meet the challenges of 2006.

What’s the obstacle? It is that in creating more effective multilateral institutions, individual nations yield up some of their own independence. This is a hard thing to swallow. Let me be blunt. Powerful nations want more effective multilateral institutions – when they think those institutions will do their will. What they fear is effective multilateral institutions that do their own will.

But the danger of leaving things as they are, is ad hoc coalitions for action that stir massive controversy about legitimacy; or paralysis in the face of crisis.

No amount of institutional change will ever work unless the most powerful make it work. The EU doesn’t move forward unless its leading countries agree. That is the reality of power; size; economic, military, political weight.

But if there is a common basis for working – agreed aims and purposes – then no matter how powerful, countries gain from being able to sub-contract problems that on their own they cannot solve. Their national self-interest becomes delivered through effective communal action.

Today, after all the turmoil and disagreement of the past few years, there is a real opportunity to bring us together. We all of us face the common security threat of global terrorism; we all of us depend on a healthy global financial system; all of us, at least in time, will feel the consequences of the poverty of millions living in a world of plenty; we all of us know that secure and clean energy is a common priority. All of us have an interest in stability and a fear of chaos. That’s the impact of interdependence.

Above all, though in too many countries and in too many ways, global values are not followed, there is no dissent about their desirability. From the moment the Afgans came out and voted in their first ever election, the myth that democracy was a Western concept, was exploded. The Governments of the world do not all believe in freedom. But the people of the world do.

In my nine years as Prime Minister I have not become more cynical about idealism. I have simply become more persuaded that the distinction between a foreign policy driven by values and one driven by interests, is obviously wrong. Globalisation begets interdependence. Interdependence begets the necessity of a common value system to make it work. In other words, the idealism becomes the real politik. None of that will eliminate the setbacks, fallings short, inconsistencies and hypocrisies that come with practical decision-making in a harsh world. But it does mean that the best of the human spirit, that which, throughout the ages, has pushed the progress of humanity along, is also the best hope for the world’s future. Our values are our guide.

To make it so, however, we have to be prepared to think sooner and act quicker in defence of those values – progressive pre-emption, if you will. There is an agenda for it, waiting to be gathered and capable of uniting a world once divided. There wouldn’t be a better moment for it.

Or listen to the MP3


May 22, 2006

New star power for Hong Kong’s democracy struggle (Robert Marquand, 5/23/06, The Christian Science Monitor

Audrey Eu] comes out of a grass-roots protest movement that rose in 2003 to demand self-rule and rights. Eu articulated why it made good business sense for Hong Kong to govern itself; indeed, she linked the idea to the survival of Hong Kong’s special identity.

Now, a central question is whether that spirit can be translated into an effective political party. The Civics want genuine democracy, not the watered-down version where Beijing controls the levers of power. That puts party leader Eu and her compatriots at uneasy odds with Beijing, despite their moderate nature.


May 22, 2006

Uganda Defies EU, Begins DDT Program to Fight Malaria (Paul Driessen, May 1, 2006, The Heartland Institute)

The African nation of Uganda has announced it will defy European Union threats and begin indoor spraying of DDT to battle rampant malaria.

Malaria kills more people in Uganda each year than any other disease, including AIDS and tuberculosis, which typically receive more media attention. Malaria accounts for 40 percent of all illnesses and 21 percent of deaths in Uganda’s hospitals. Every year the disease kills approximately 100,000 children under five years old in the country.

“We have to kill malaria using DDT, and the matter has been settled that DDT is not harmful to humans and if used for indoor-insecticide spraying,” Uganda Health Minister Jim Muhwezi told the East African on April 4. “It’s the most effective and cheapest way to fight malaria.” […]

European Union officials and nongovernmental organizations, who claim DDT spraying inside Ugandan huts may result in trace levels of the chemical being found on exported Ugandan crops, threatened to restrict the import of Ugandan crops in retaliation for the nation’s use of DDT.

Q: What kind of people defy bureaucrats just to save millions of lives?


May 22, 2006

Making Peace with the Colonel: By rewarding Libya with the resumption of diplomatic ties, the United States is hoping to transform Moammar Gadhafi’s regime from rogue state to model Muslim partner. With plenty of oil and a cosmopolitan elite, the country’s chances at rehabilitation aren’t half bad. (Bernhard Zand and Volkhard Windfuhr, 5/22/06, Der Spiegel)

[W]hat does the reconciliation mean for the power struggle in Libya? America’s diplomatic initiative could benefit the reformers in the bizarre jumble of contradictions that is modern Libya. Or it could be their doom in the place formally known as the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. The initial winners are clearly the urban elite of Tripoli, Benghazi and Tobruk, whose lives are already leaning to the West.

The oil boom has made them rich. Libya earns about $80 million a day and will take in more than $30 billion this year on petroleum. The wealth is now becoming palpable. Mid-size cars wait in traffic jams along the coastline near Tripoli. Gadhafi’s son Hannibal pilots a white Humvee, a military jeep that represents the US invasion of Iraq in other parts of the Arab world. The airport in Tripoli now has a business lounge even though elsewhere in the country Libyans refuse to sit in the back of a taxi, careful not to make the driver look like a servant.

The hip drink of the moment in the seaside towns along the Mediterranean is the macchiato, a remnant of the officially hated Italian colonial period. Today, the milk foam peeks over the edge of a paper cup, just like it does in America. But men’s fashion is all Italian — dark suits, light-blue shirts, thin brown shoes.

The style has been made popular by yet another son of Gadhafi – Seif al-Islam, 33, an eccentric but bright son who has trouble hiding his ambitions. He’s already confessed to having no interest in Libya’s presidency, not to mention becoming a revolutionary leader like his father. But as head of the organization that pays restitution for the Lockerbie and “La Belle” bombings, his intentions have become very clear.

In the spring of 2005, he invited Harvard Business School economist Michael Porter to Libya. Porter is a former economic adviser to Reagan and a leading expert on competition. Gadhafi’s son met him at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. For ten months, Porter and a 25-member team of international experts investigated Libya’s ministries, oil industry and economy. Recently, they published their report. “It is,” said an experienced European diplomat in Tripoli, “the most revealing document that has ever been written about the internal state of an Arab nation.”

The diagnosis is brutal. The bureaucracy, education system and health care sector come off far worse than they were portrayed in an earlier United Nations report. Only three percent of Libyans work in the oil sector, but they account for 60 percent of the gross national product. More than half of the population works in the service sector but make up just nine percent of the gross national product. Unemployment has crested 30 percent. Without oil, the country would be a disaster.

But the solution is heartening. Libyans were “motivated and open” when they spoke to one of the researchers, an experience “without comparison to what we’ve experienced in other countries.” The country’s energy sources are large with guaranteed reserves of 40 billion barrels of the lightest and most sulfur-free crude — all within proximity of oil-thirsty European markets. With smart leadership, Libya could become an exemplary country by 2019 — the 50th anniversary of the revolution — “egalitarian, productive, democratic and green,” according to the report.

The study’s preamble is a masterpiece of Middle East diplomacy that touches on the Achilles Heel of the whole experiment: “Our strategy attempts to improve Libya’s global competitiveness while maintaining its unique character as a government of the masses (jamahiriya).” This refers to Gadhafi’s theory that a government must only implement the decisions taken by an elite inner circle despite the convening of hundreds of people’s congresses — currently 468 — that meet for two weeks four times a year.

This raises yet another question, which the geostrategists in the State Department must also be asking after the debacle in Iraq — Can Arabic autocracies be reformed even if the autocrats and their regimes remain — at least temporarily — in power?

Because they can’t fix their economy without reducing autocracy, the autocrats who want a functional economy more than they do political power are worth working with.


May 22, 2006

Montenegro vote finally seals death of Yugoslavia (Ian Traynor, May 22, 2006, The Guardian)

Montenegro voted yesterday by a comfortable majority to split with Serbia and establish a new small independent state in the Balkans, killing off what remains of Yugoslavia. In a referendum that attracted a turnout of almost 90%, much higher than at any election since democracy arrived in 1990, voters decided by a majority of 56% to 44% to opt for independence rather than a creaking dysfunctional union with Serbia, according to a projection by an independent monitoring organisation last night.

A people who thinks of themselves as a nation is one.


May 18, 2006

Looking for a foreign policy, Mr. Harper? Try Australia’s John Howard (PAUL EVANS AND YUEN PAU WOO, 5/18/06, Globe and Mail)

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has a record that is the envy of conservative leaders around the world. Recently elected to a fourth term (with an enhanced majority, to boot), he has charted a distinctive and largely successful course for Australia’s international relations over the past decade.

As the Harper government begins to formulate its own approach to foreign policy, Mr. Howard arrives in Ottawa at an opportune moment.

Under Mr. Howard’s leadership, Australia’s ties with the United States have warmed considerably, stemming in large part from Canberra’s staunch support for U.S.-led anti-terrorism initiatives and the invasion of Iraq. Mr. Howard has a relationship with George W. Bush that Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin were never able to strike. In 2005, Australia signed a free-trade agreement with the U.S., joining an elite club of countries that have preferential access to the richest market in the world.

The most important lesson from Canberra is not the closer relationship to Washington. Rather, it is the way that Australia has burnished its credentials as a serious player in Asia and invested in a long-term strategy for commercial and diplomatic success in the region.

Even allowing for geography, Australia has outperformed Canada in a variety of areas.

The Canadians just need to accept that they’re a part of the Anglosphere/Axis of Good and not geopolitical virgins.


May 18, 2006

Australia boosts aid to its neighbors: The increase, to $3.1 billion from $1.9 billion, is part of Canberra’s sense of responsibility for the Asia-Pacific region. (Janaki Kremmer, 5/18/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

The amount of aid spending will jump to $3.1 billion by 2010, from $1.9 billion. The new spending will channel funds into humanitarian areas in the Asia-Pacific region such as health and education, while sustaining its current aid related to law-and-order projects. Among the few specifics available, the white paper on foreign aid unveiled late last month said that Australia will head an international bid to tackle malaria in the Pacific.

The effort is part of Australia’s moves since 9/11 to stake out more clearly Southeast Asia and the Pacific as its sphere of concern and responsibility, say analysts, who see in the new humanitarian focus a more comprehensive approach to fostering stability, development, and goodwill.


May 17, 2006

From Kennedy’s Cold War to the War on Terror: Gareth Jenkins looks for continuities in American foreign policy from the 1960s to the 2000s. (Gareth Jenkins, June 2006, History Today)

‘The United States is in the early years of a long struggle, similar to what our country faced in the early years of the Cold War. The 20th century witnessed the triumph of freedom over the threats of fascism and communism. Yet a new totalitarian ideology now threatens, an ideology grounded not in secular philosophy but in the perversion of a proud religion.’
–US National Security Strategy, March 2006

The US invasion of Iraq of 2003 is viewed by many as a historical watershed, as ushering in a new era in which the world’s only superpower feels unconstrained in resorting to pre-emptive military action to achieve its strategic goals. For the first time in more than half a century the term imperialism has regained common currency, and there is renewed interest in understanding the European scramble for colonies in the late nineteenth century.

No doubt the period we are entering does in many ways mark a new historical phase. Global power relations are accommodating rapidly to new economic realities – the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the rise of China and India and the emergence of structural weaknesses in the US economy. Nevertheless, as George Bush recently reminded us, there are many continuities with the past half century of the American exercise of power.

There have been continual assaults on the sovereignty of Third World countries, backed by covert and overt military interventions, throughout the period since the Cold War was launched. […]

The ideological underpinnings of America’s projection of its global power are very different today from what they were in Kennedy’s time. During the Cold War, Washington could at least point to an enemy that controlled a huge state armed with nuclear weapons. Today one is asked to believe that life as we know it is threatened from a cave in Afghanistan, or by Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction that no one could find, or by a civil nuclear programme in Iran that could, one day perhaps, morph into a military programme.

The ideological underpinnings never waver, only the


May 16, 2006

Mubarak’s Son Met With Cheney, Others: Secret Visit Came After Cairo Unrest (Peter Baker, May 16, 2006, Washington Post )

The son of Egypt’s president made a secret trip to Washington last week to meet with Vice President Cheney and other senior U.S. officials a day after thousands of Egyptian riot police broke up a pro-democracy demonstration back in Cairo, U.S. and Egyptian officials said yesterday.

Gamal Mubarak, 42, a powerful political player and widely considered a possible heir to his father, Hosni Mubarak, told the U.S. officials that Egypt is committed to further democracy but said it would be a long-term process that will include setbacks. “There was no tension at all,” Egyptian Ambassador Nabil Fahmi said in an interview. “They listened to his explanation of what was happening.”

But U.S. officials have publicly called themselves “deeply concerned” about Egypt’s recent actions and they used the opportunity to press upon Gamal Mubarak their views of what needs to be done to further genuine reform in Egypt, said a Bush administration official who was not authorized to discuss the meeting on the record. The administration has been impressed by Egypt’s moves to restructure its economy but disappointed at the government’s failure to open its political system more.

The great unknown in Egypt is whether Gamal Mubarak understands the future as well as Seif al-Islam does.