Fresh from watching Niall Ferguson analysing the decades through his TV documentary summary of his tome 'Collossus' (about the 'rise' and "fall" of the American "Empire"), I feel like I've been in a debate.
He gave three reasons why the US would fail to maintain its power (he scarcely mentioned the WoT with a kind of donnish disdain they drip-feed into the Oxbridge water):
Being too fat ('decadence' was the word he used).
Being Mummy's boys (or, preferring to stay at home rather than live abroad).
Having A.D.D. (or, losing concentration with so many media distractions- Ferguson argued this in a recent Telegraph article, too).
Niall Ferguson's one of the best and most positive British historians, and one of the few who tries to engage with America, and yet this, essentially (I have brutally summarised his fairly brutal summary), was the best he could come up with. It seemed superficial, anecdotal- without any really good anecdotes- and almost wishful (I think I might go back to my Oxbridge water theory over that one). There's been an interesting exchange in the opinion columns of the Telegraph about this seeming wishfulness between Mark Steyn and Ferguson (click a name for an example). Yet if Ferguson's (speaking relatively in the UK context) on the decisive right, what can be expected from the BBC and co. on the obsessively multipolarising left?
He did offer support for the US war against Iraq, but basically because he sees nothing wrong with a Liberal sort of Empire.
On the other hand, when you agree with him it's a lot of fun.
After making clear that he didn't consider France, Russia and Germany as the last word in multilateral diplomacy, he faced the camera squarely, paused for drama, and asked quizzically concerning the Second Iraq war, 'Unilateral (sarcastic pause, chuckle)? I don't think so', which was the highlight for me of a stimulating time.
That Ferguson's regarded as a right-wing historian shows just what a problem Bush and the WoT has been for the left in the UK. On the other hand, he illustrates the fact that politically in Britain we don't (today) have a functioning party that combines a heritage of the principles of humanitarianism, responsible sovereignty and interdependence to deal with the issues that have been raised by the Iraq war. That's why both sides of the political spectrum have been split.
In the US, both sides of the political spectrum can lay claim to it, and as everyone has remarked, if Bush hadn't been for the WoT, many Democrats wouldn't have been against it.
Here's an interesting article from the Policy Review which shows how entrenched the values are that GWB is currently tending to embody, explaining how 'We hold these truth to be self-evident'... and all that, relate to the WoT. I think the effect of that is possibly what Ferguson misunderestinates.
Saturday, June 05, 2004
Posted by ed thomas at 8:07 PM
Friday, June 04, 2004
There's nothing like a World War II commemoration to produce a news vacuum- which is how it feels just at the moment. The BBC has been mixed today: they did report several apparent good news stories for the coalition.
A lot of 'hailing' was going on, as the new Iraqi PM, Iyad Allawi, used his first TV broadcast to the nation to 'hail' the coalition and urge Iraqis to support them. Meanwhile the UN's human rights watchdog (for what it's worth) 'hailed' the end of Saddam's regime in Iraq (better late than never, I say).
On the other hand, the Beeb regarded its top headline for the afternoon that protestors had gathered in Rome in large (but dramatically disputed- 25000 if you're a policeman, 150000 if you're a protester) numbers to heckle Mr Bush as Mr Bush was chided by the Pope over the war in Iraq- facts which left me, er, unsurprised to say the least. I'm waiting for the BBC to acknowledge that across Europe there are people who live the protester lifestyle, and to whom any opportunity to heckle the leader of the economically advanced world is oxygen for their fevered moonbat minds. Harry's Place has shined a sidelight from the New Statesman on the relationship between the BBC and the moonbats- and how the editors at the Beeb have suppressed scrutiny of the anti-war alliances. It's a bit skewed, but it's interesting.
You know a holiday season beckons when the moonbats start to gather in large numbers, but also when you find the latest Harry Potter film to the fore. Jonathan Last in the Weekly Standard 'hails' the latest Potter as the best yet. Erin Montgomery, meanwhile, notes a classier kind of moonbat gathering- one which contained people who know how to make money- notably George Soros and Hilary Clinton. It's fair to say there was a certain lack of gravitas at the very expensive Take Back America conference in Washington. Contributions to the dialogue like
'* "George Bush is nuts."
* "I don't care if John Kerry is a sack of cement; we're going to carry him to victory."
* "Battling the bastards [conservatives] is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on."'
tell me that the silly season- business as usual for some- is gathering momentum amidst the surreality of George Bush having to visit the Pope and Jacques Chirac in the same weekend.
Oh, and Tim Henman lost (no link).
Posted by ed thomas at 6:11 PM
Thursday, June 03, 2004
Ever at pains to paint a picture of a historically illiterate President Bush, today the BBC contributes to Bush's image problem by a misleading report which states that 'President Bush has strongly defended the US-led war on terror, casting it as a struggle between freedom and tyranny similar to World War II... he said they were fighting the same war as those who battled the Nazis.'
In fact Bush was saying something much more subtle than that. Elsewhere in the speech, unquoted by the BBC, he made the point that 'In some ways, this struggle we're in is unique. In other ways, it resembles the great clashes of the last century', and he foregrounded it by drawing points of comparison including one the Beeb mention, that
'Like the Second World War, our present conflict began with a ruthless, surprise attack on the United States'.
This, of course, is a specific and accurate point of comparison (to an attack from the Japanese, not the Nazis), not a general attempt to compare the WoT with WW2. The Beeb fail to mention that Bush also said 'The terrorists of our day are, in some ways, unlike the enemies of the past.' , and then went on to articulate this point, too:
'The terrorist ideology has not yet taken control of a great power like Germany or the Soviet Union.'
It is really the BBC who is being historically illiterate, since it is they who are saying that when Bush mentions 'the murderous ideologies of the last century' he is referring to Nazism, when in fact it's clear he means Communism as well- but the Beeb seem to ignore that point. It's strange, really, because the Beeb are usually quite keen to explore the parallels between Iraq and Vietnam (a battle against popular communists).
Not only that, but the word 'Nazi', in my quick scan, appeared only once- unsurprising really since America spent much of its energies in the Far East during the period 1941-45. Japan's ideology was somewhat different to the Nazi's, although compatible.
Actually, as I write, the BBC report seems even worse than I thought. I mean, why would Bush have referred to the struggles of the 'last century' if he meant a four year period (or a bit longer, if you include reconstruction) in the 1940's? The BBC reading of it is a pure wilful misreading of a powerful, intelligent and articulate speech.
There is no link from the BBC report to Bush's speech to dispel the fog, but fortunately it can be found here.
Posted by ed thomas at 9:53 AM
Are you tired of all the thoughtless negativity over Iraq? Do you feel let down by the moaning minnies at the BBC whose biases are so strong that good news immediately sends them into a tailspin, ditching previously stated views without acknowledgement?
Try David Warren, a model of concision with a shrewdly balanced range of 'Essays of our Times'- one of Mark Steyn's favourites and his fellow Canadian.
Posted by ed thomas at 7:44 AM
Wednesday, June 02, 2004
Pot Calls Kettle Black, Shock.
There's always something to wind me up in a Paul Reynolds article. It may not be much, but riling it nonetheless is.
Says Reynolds on good news from Iraq: 'However, before London and Washington start bringing out the old metaphors about "turning the corner" in Iraq, there are many obstacles to overcome.'
Yep, you read correctly, BBC journalist accuses politician of eagerness to use tired metaphors. The same journalist who borrowed the rather tired old metaphorical term 'quagmire' to describe war in Iraq (the BBC imports it whenever they get the chance, and the thing mushroomed up substantially on the web from the reporting of Reynolds)
Another point of rilement (I make up words on this blog quite wilfully) occurs when Reynolds says 'Ideally, the US and UK would like the resolution [the UN resolution on the transitional Government] approved by the time of the D-Day celebrations on 6 June, and certainly by the start of the G8 summit in the US on 8 June. The Western allies could then present a united front after their deep divisions.'
The notion that France will really unite behind the Coalition Iraq strategy, or that Germany will be seen as an ally on June 6th, is too surely too far-fetched (or even that the old-fashioned term 'Western allies' has much meaning when Japan and Korea have been more steadfast than Spain, and France actively opposed the war diplomatically), and equally it'd be crazy to imply there were 'deep divisions' between the US and UK- crazy except for a certain kind of stirrer. Maybe Reynolds is that sort.
Anyway, for some reason Reynolds feels he needs to offer 'a word, though, of caution', and informs us that a political schedule for elections and handover in Iraq does not necessarily mean a military schedule, or 'Ending a mandate and withdrawing are not quite the same things'.
And then I notice the prophet of gloom (Reynolds) observing that US voters might be pleased by a timetable suggesting 'troops out' by 2006, and concerned that this illusory date of completion might be 'not a bad thing... for a US President on the election trail'- hence the warning.
Well, thanks Paul, on behalf of all my US friends, but I thought you thought that the US was verging on pulling troops out to escape the quagmire of Iraq? Less than a month ago I recall you saying 'Events in Iraq have been spinning out of control - and out of control of the spinners - so fast on so many fronts that the W word - withdrawal - is now being mentioned.'
Presumably the 'spinners' have now regained control sufficiently to stage events like the D-Day commemorations.
Posted by ed thomas at 5:28 PM
Tuesday, June 01, 2004
Back To Sudan.
A while ago I'd the temerity to write about the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan. I've spent time in east Africa and something about the BBC coverage made me uneasy. In large part it was the reluctance to report the Sudanese Government's responsibility for the genocidal activities in Darfur. There was also a reticence about the Islamic fundamentalist nature of the regime.
This Telegraph article reinforces some of these fears, if you keep in mind that the BBC World Service -the main engine of overseas BBC reporting- are funded directly from the Foreign Office. Patrick Smith says
'Government has remained remarkably reluctant to criticise Sudan's Islamist government for gross oppression in Darfur'- a criticism I levelled at the BBC two months ago.
Smith, a respected authority, has no hesitation in saying 'Sudan government forces and their allies have continued to bomb and burn their way across the western region with impunity. The tragedy unfolding there is of Khartoum's political design.'
This last phrase is particularly interesting. Smith thinks that the negotiations over peace with the south of Sudan have enabled the Sudanese government to turn its attention to Darfur, where the Jangaweed have been doing the dirtiest work backed by the Government forces with which they can at times be indistinguishable.
'The Security Council has declined to condemn the Khartoum government',
which is not surprising when Sudan is a member of the UN Human Rights commission.
Now, into this mix comes Hilary Andersson's latest bit of investigative journalism for the BBC.
To some extent this fills the gap in their coverage, but it's still rather confused. It seems the Beeb, having fluffed reporting effectively the nature of events and their origins earlier on, are still in the 'scene setting' phase. Hence we get a lot of atmospherics from Andersson and indictments that are sharp in tone but vague in focus:
'No-one in the refugee camps spoke of gun battles between soldiers, only of massacres of civilians by the Janjaweed militia - Arab militiamen often seen fighting with the Sudanese government - or of massacres resulting from aerial bombings of villages by Sudanese government planes. '
Other instances of the same thing from Ishbel Matheson in this article:
'For months, the Islamic government in Khartoum, together with traditional Arab militia, have been accused of pursuing a scorched earth policy in western Sudan.
Everything we saw, everything we heard, suggests that this is true.
...there is little evidence that the government is willing, or able, to rein in the militia.'
Despite appearances, this phrasing does not actually implicate the Sudanese Government in acts of genocide- the kind of thing that might bring momentum for a UN resolution or pave the media road to an International Courtroom for Sudanese apparatchiks.
As to the role of religion in this flourishing ethnic genocide, what is undeniable is that there is a radical Islamic, warlike government in Khartoum, one which oppresses its own people and strategises peace apparently to make war. The desire not to offend Islam appears a significant factor in the failure to report Darfur with the clarity that is available. Those looking to analyse the appalling actions in Darfur might look at general trends of oppression of blacks by Islam, and specific outbreaks of such trends in Darfur.
Instead, as Andersson ends with a good old-fashioned humanist lament- I woke up when the moon finally rose at three o'clock in the morning. I watched as it cast its pale ghostly light across the cursed land we had seen and wondered, after Rwanda and Bosnia, why Darfur is being allowed to happen? - I am left thinking that this has been an apology for not reporting, rather than a wholehearted attempt to report. Of course I am sympathetic to British diplomatic dilemmas, but I wish the BBC didn't make an eery echo of them in their reporting.
Well, each case is different, but it doesn't help when specific indictments are ignored in favour of mystifying nuances. If only they could bring themselves to be less nuanced when the bad guys are Arabs and not American 'cowboys' and other obvious villains.
Posted by ed thomas at 12:53 AM
Monday, May 31, 2004
David Frum seems to have the distinction between fact and fantasy well drawn. His conception of the modern kind of 'news' goes well alongside my earlier post about Mordecai Vanunu. It's the interweaving of 'accusations' alongside 'reality' that makes BBC journalism what it is. Frum mentions Amnesty International- which was another of the Beeb's favourite stories last week:
Sometimes it seems we live in two worlds, one of accusations and one of reality.
In the world of accusation, Amnesty International charges the United States and allied governments with carrying out the worst human-rights violations in fifty years in the name of anti-terrorism.
In the world of reality, it has taken the US and Britain 2 1/2 years after 9/11 to indict Abdul Hamza for involvement in terrorism.
In the world of accusation, a former Democratic vice president of the United States can explode in an eyeball-bulging, vein-popping rant against the “worst strategic and military miscalculations and mistakes in the history of the United States of America.”
In the world of reality, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president now vows to continue the principal security policies of that same allegedly disastrous administration.'
Posted by ed thomas at 7:53 AM
Sunday, May 30, 2004
Steyn Says: Think bigger, think calmer.
On Iraq: 'Iraq won't be perfect, but it will be okay - and in much better shape than most of its neighbours.'
On Bush: 'don't make the mistake of assuming that Bush's poll numbers on Iraq have fallen because people want him to be more multilateralist and accommodating. On my anecdotal evidence, they want him to be more robust and incendiary.'
On Kerry's 'destroy you' speech: 'the ne plus ultra of weathervane politicians, seems to have figured there aren't enough votes in sounding like Michael Moore...Does Kerry mean it? Probably not. The tough talk's a cover for what would be a return to the ineffectual reactive national-security policy of the 1990s - "I have here a piece of paper from Kim Jong-Il," etc.'
On Changing sides: 'The bleats of "Include me out!" from the fairweather warriors isn't a sign of their belated moral integrity but of their fundamental unseriousness.'
On Moving on: 'I am already looking for new regimes to topple.'
On Losing: 'I'm a relatively relaxed hawk. The US may be forced to suffer the perception of defeat, but it is Europe that will live with the consequences.'
I'm a relatively relaxed hawk too, because however the execution is lacking, the fundamentals were right. If Steyn's correct and Europe does 'live with the consequences' of this perception of failure, I remain relaxed on a personal level because a reasonable response to what comes next depends on having a good foundation.
Posted by ed thomas at 9:41 AM