Saturday, 26 March 2011

Libya - history has shown us the horrors of western interference and non-interference

For my generation Iraq has been the defining foreign policy event. At twelve I was too young to understand the arguments for and against the war, but over time, as news stories flooded my consciousness with images of car bombs exploding in Iraqi cities, and coffins moving steadily through an English town, I came to the conclusion that the Iraq war was a mistake with terrible human repercussions. The message seemed to be that Western interference in other countries had ambiguous, possibly oil tinged, motives and was best avoided.

Iraq weighs heavily today in minds as the UK, alongside America and France and others, places a no fly zone over Libya and has launched air strikes against the forces of Colonel Gaddafi. Iraq is significant, but there are other experiences from history that can be used as a guide on the subject of western interference and the consequences of non-interference. The Economist has a fantastic article on how Bosnia and the West's failure to act soon enough still haunts many in a position of power. There is also of course the case of Rwanda in which 800 000 people were murdered by militias organised by the then government. The response of the UN and the west was a disgrace. When ten Belgian soldiers were killed, Western countries decided that the situation was too dangerous for their own troops and so left the country. They didn't seem to consider how dangerous it was to the people of Rwanda who were then butchered to death in their thousands. Kofi Annan, who was head of peacekeeping forces at the time, expresses his regret and says, 'The events in Rwanda 10 years ago were especially shameful. The international community clearly had the capacity to prevent those events, but failed to summon the will. . . . We must ensure that we never again fail to summon the will.'

Which examples in history are relevant in the case of Libya?

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Ed Miliband

What do I think about Ed Miliband?

I like the man. The fact that a nerdy comprehensive school educated man has got into high political office gives all nerdy comprehensive school educated men like myself hope. Well truthfully the reason why his personality appeals to me is that he is less slippery and manufactured than David Cameron or Tony Blair or possibly Nick Clegg (the jury is still out on Clegg - when you watch him he appears honest and straightforward but perhaps all we are watching is the greatest piece of political acting known to man). But the manufacturing of a political image can be successful even on a large scale. For all it may annoy those who deplore the man Cameron has developed that 'statesmanlike quality' in his way of coming across to the public.

Poor Miliband has not yet developed that 'statesmanlike quality'. When newspapers showed images of members of the Shadow Cabinet in Afghanistan it must be a bad sign for your public image when Douglas Alexander looks better than you in a flakjacket. It is in many ways terrible that in today's society image counts for so much and substance for so little, but it is the way that the world works and any party leader has to take that into account. I think most of the British public would agree that Ed does not look prime ministerial. If this is the continuuing image the public have in their heads and if the next election is a close call, many may vote for the man who (however artificially constructed) looks like he should be Prime Minister. This is not, at the moment, Ed.

He also needs some concrete policies. I know they're going through a process of policy review as we speak but his plan of opposing everything the Coalition proposes is getting rather annoying. If they arent cutting here here and here or raising tax a b and c where are they cutting or where are they raising taxes? This is a point of contention I have with Labour on a substantial level, however I can understand that stylistically it is very effective. The Conservatives went into the last General Election with about two half-baked policies and managed to almost win the General Election. An Opposition that says little but represents 'alternative' can have a lot of success.

I think that a true alternative to the Coalition is one that looks seriously at raising some taxes. The welfare state in Britain is one that provides countless important services and cuts are ripping away so many of them. We cannot help the poorest in society, we cannot create hope and dreams, we cannot turn broken communities into united ones without clear and longterm investment. This needs money and tax is the only way to viably do it. We have seen the option of 'cuts cuts cuts' and it is a grim one. Raising the higher rate of income tax is probably not a good idea because it is a huge deterrent to wealth creators however raising taxes on unearned wealth like land, houses and inheritance may be the first place to look in terms of safeguarding the welfare state. I will look at a new and better economic system for Britain in a different post when I have had done a sufficient amount of reading and talking to the experts. But here is the path I think Labour should travel. However I realise that running on a policy of  'Labour will tax people more' never goes down a treat, if history is to tell us anything...

I haven't really come to any substantive conclusions. I have only highlighted where Ed's PR problems lie and where I think the broad journey the Labour party should travel. There are problems with that journey but the current path of saying nothing and criticising everything will have to end one day

Update

I realise there has been a wait in between posts.

One of the promised articles is on it's way. I have been writing on what kind of religious belief is dangerous and it is turned into quite a biggie. It is also something I want to get right, because religion is something that provides great comfort and solace but also great terror and sadness. I want to try and demonstrate, to the best of my ability, the intricacies and nuances of religion and how we should respect alot of religious belief but also condemn  alot of it.

I have joined the team at Canvas, a political journal at my university.  You can read it at canvas.union.shef.ac.uk. What I write here is seperate from what I write there and although there may be similiar themes both blogs are independent of one another.

I promised a blog on what I thought about Ed Miliband. This going to be a short because he hasn't really told us very much of what he believes. It should be up here pretty soon.

Updating this update: The Ed Miliband article has been posted and it turned out not to be that short. One reader did describe it as 'random but relevent' because it flits between  the issues, however I think there are important points made about Miliband and the problems he faces in terms of PR and policy.