Thursday, September 13, 2007

Britain overspun

Today saw Mrs Thatcher visiting Downing Street, welcomed by Gordon Brown. Gordon has clearly learnt a few things from Tony Blair.

This convenient publicity gives Gordon the chance to wrong-foot the Conservatives, that much is clear. It also, I think, demonstrates that the repeated disloyalty of the Conservatives to the substance of the 80's transformation means that Mrs T. has no reason to side with them against Gordon.

Mrs Thatcher, it's true, was barely middle class in the context of Britain when she was growing up. Middle class for Grantham, yes, but that was a town well down the pecking order of desirable societies.

So if Mrs T. welcomes opportunities to have meetings with the marketising socialists, it's no real surprise. She isn't a Tory, like Cameron, after all.

But if she imagines that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown actually oversee a real continuation of her approach to society, she's quite misled (and anyway, we know there's no such thing as society). Not surprising, at her age.

One interesting indicator of Gordon Brown's approach came today as the UN adopted a treaty on "native rights". There was a very plain group of countries voting against- the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Is it conceivable that under Margaret Thatcher Britain wouldn't have voted with them? Well, almost, but only as a tactic and a short term one at that.

It's not clear whether the UK might have abstained, and it is a non-binding agreement , but it's interesting to note that many countries who have at least as much to lose as the four who voted against the agreement must have voted for it. Countries in South America, for instance. Heaven knows what "indigenous peoples" might mean when applied to Europe.

And that's the thing- most of the countries that voted for the agreement would lose something were they to follow the rules they sign to- non-binding really just means that there will be no mechanism for enforcement. Thus it must be, either we have a lot of selfless neighbours in the world, or most have signed in blithe bad faith. The latter is my guess, which is why we need the anglosphere. Which is why it really means something when we ignore them. Which is why I say that the direction of this country is basically heading towards hunkering down in a hypocritical, two-faced, socialist Europe. That sucks, actually.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The deeply impressive Petraeus

I managed to catch about 90 minutes of Gen. Petraeus' testimony to the Senate committee yesterday- I couldn't believe it when I heard them say how much there was left; those sessions are incredibly long.

One little glitch I noticed was his Bush-like slip where he talked of the terrorists' global war on terror- which of course should have been of terror.

I was interested by this short clip via HotAir of a bit I hadn't seen, later in the session, where he corrected that slip very pointedly.

That self-correction comes amid another self-correction- he is explaining how the war in Iraq is making America safer, having been non-committal on the point in answering an earlier question. It's easy to understand why he didn't answer immediately- is it a soldier's job to survey the whole world like some latter-day Alexander the Great? According to the Senate committee you would think so.

Yet Petraeus, like any army man, has a sense of territory. If you keep it, no-one else can except someone you permit to inherit it from you. That, strangely, is why in this non-state war it is so vital not to give up territory. It's because you wish to prevent a group of people who don't respect territorial sovereignty from getting their own territory, which they personally don't care for, which is for them merely a launch pad for infiltrating more territory, causing more chaos, increasing their power base, reach, influence and prestige.

Petraeus knows all that instinctively. Others need to learn it.

Oh, and btw, I think that what Petraeus is doing will make the UK a whole lot safer than it would otherwise be as well. Certainly winning in Iraq would have that effect, though any such judgement is a finely balanced one in the grand scheme of things.

From not-always-quotable-Norm-

"what a lot of useless claptrap postmodernism is. For, while (as I've said) I don't know what the truth of this particular case is, one thing that's clear to everyone is that there is a truth about it: something really happened, an event took place involving Madeleine"

It's just common sense really. From an academic. Today. Talking about the Madeleine McCann case is something of a departure for me, and actually I am not going to do so here.

What happened to Madeleine was no doubt a very specific train of events which resulted in A) tragedy, and B) mystification. Any conclusions I could draw would be terribly politically incorrect and practically speaking indefensible. I do think however that our era is rich in the qualities that made Greek drama tick. I think that's a strong hint, actually.

Monday, September 10, 2007

U.S. Can Do

I there's one thing I'd like the US to take away from recent Iraq experience as presented by General Petraeus, it would be that there's nothing they can't do in Iraq. That's not the same as saying they can impose order everywhere at will- it's that whole regions can be tamed when the US is concerted in its approach. More than anything, when it shows that it just won't back down.

Here's a nice graphic from Petraeus' presentation:

(click to enlarge. More graphics here)

You can see the rising tide of violence, a slow wave rising in various particulars of violence, interrupted and brought back to levels that indicate one thing- respite. The product of the so-called "surge".

It's interesting to me, because it not only confirms that commitment brings success, but also that I was right in thinking that the violence had been on a gradual but steepening incline from the end of 04 (with a small break after the Iraqi general election- were some of the Islamofascists holding their breath, waiting to see if...?).

If you couple it with stories like this one from Michael Yon, it begins to look as though commitment wins success, fighting works, and Iraq is no quagmire- though it's the kind of unruly beast that requires constant discipline mixed with reassurance.

It's not a great deal of information, admittedly, but it's of a lot more value than the latest BBC-Iraq poll. The complexities of such an undertaking when asking detailed questions according to western priorities ought to be obvious. I wonder what the Arabic for "surge" is?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

"Isn't it obvious?..."

It seems to me these are the three most common words which occur to a conservative minded person.

Conservatism seems to be a habit of mind, in a way. Because it is a habit of mind, the idea that something ought to be obvious is often dismissed as thoughtlessness by the liberal establishment (the idea that today we have a liberal establishment is really a banal observation, given that great efforts have to be made to make the common view assent to the ministrations of that establishment. Good examples would be the death penalty, and EU membership, where the public feeling must be routinely turned aside by a combination of media, legal and political types). A "habit", after all, sounds rather boring, instinctive, not at all the grand effort of mind which humanistic liberals like to imagine.

And this, in turn, leads to a kind of self-censorship, especially today.

It might be better to call conservatism a discipline. Sometimes self-imposed, sometimes imposed by reality. Best when the two are combined. Most people have a bit in them somewhere.

I was thinking of this in response to reading about the latest film from Brian De Palma, a smash hit at the Venice Film Festival (inaugurated by Benito Mussolini, by the way). It's called "Redacted" and it's an Iraq war "expose", and the Financial Times raves about it here.

Well, knowing De Palma (The Untouchables), it'll be blood and guts and moral fervour, just as the FT describes.

But how about that reality? It comes from all directions, you know. In addition to the insecure, unstable and ill-disciplined, we have the disciplined, incredible and the brave, the understanding and the educated, the vainglorious and dishonest- and, the thing that real conservatives never forget, the enemy. And, under it all, the fallibility of things, which we all forget sometimes.

It was always going to be that way. Nothing has surprised me so far about the Iraq conflict. I am not pessimistic, but I will end on a conservative note:

As Bad as a Mile

Watching the shied core
Striking the basket, skidding across the floor,
Shows less and less of luck, and more and more

Of failure spreading back up the arm
Earlier and earlier, the unraised hand calm,
The apple unbitten in the palm.


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