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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

My Guilty Little Secret

I grew up at a time when anything to do with Russia was inherently suspect and dangerous.  Anyone who read the "Morning Star" (a Marxist newspaper) was suspected of treachery.  Covert surveillance of the hard left in Britain was (and probably still is) commonplace.   If you were Labour then you read the Mirror; Tory? the Times or the Telegraph for you; Liberal? the Guardian of course.  This was a time when there were just 3 TV channels ... BBC 1, BBC2 and ITV.  Then there were "D" notices ... the State denying publication under the Official Secrets Act (a sort of Wikileaks before Wikileaks).  Public opinion was sustained by very limited media input and options.  All that changed with Cable TV and the Internet.

There were of course losses as well as gains.  The reliability of news on line was and is questionable.  In some ways opportunities for propaganda distortion and just plain dotty fancifulness have grown exponentially. However, the real game changers have been choice and access.  Today mostly everyone (except perhaps in China and Iran) can read whatever they want to read by way of news content and comment.

Shall I share with you my guilty secret?  It amuses me that today I tend to trust RT (Russia Today) more than I trust SKY and even the BBC.  Of course there is spin on RT just as much as there is spin anywhere else.  It's just that their take on the news is a healthy corrective to what would otherwise be a very unbalanced monochrome western perspective on home and world events.

Interestingly, when I talk to my friends I discover that they also watch RT.  It hugely amuses me that what the Politburo in Moscow could never achieve through Pravda after the War is now much more easily achieved (influence in the west that is) through the application of a little modern technology.  No wonder totaliltarian regimes everywhere try and control and even throttle information exchange on the internet.  The satellite dish has become the great democratic leveller.  The people really are in charge now.  It's just the politicians that need to catch up.

Monday, June 17, 2013

A lesson from history ....

The Peace of Westphalia ended the 30 Years War, a sectarian religious conflict that ravaged Europe in the mid seventeenth century. It  established a principle of international law persisting to this day that Mr. Hague would do well to revisit.  A sovereign state may not suffer military intervention from another state on account of internal domestic conflicts.  It was the lack of such a tempering principle that spread sectarian violence throughout Europe at the time.  
So, no matter how horrific the events inside Syria, proxy wars on behalf of combatants always spill over into regional conflicts (don't feed the terrorists) and can even lead to wider international conflicts.  Remember that we declared war on Germany only when it invaded Poland.  However, I am NOT saying that we shouldn't have done so if Nazism had confined itself to internal German affairs rather than try to build the Third Empire.  Systematic mass killing and genocide must always be resisted BUT (and we should take lessons from Iraq and WMD) only with due authority (one of the priniciples of a "just war.")  
Once again the US and the UK are beginning to act alone.  Short of a UN declaration, the Syrian government is the legitimate authority in Syria.  If there is a credible alternative to the present regime, colluding with armed insurrection and risking military hardware falling into the hands of jihadists is not the way to provide it.  
Yes, it's horrible to see so much suffering in Syria but the choice is whether we want to see yet more suffering by external as well as internal escalation.  The west needs to work with Russia in bringing the combatants to the peace table.  If Russia is arming the government rather than the militias, however unpalatable that might be to some, it has international law on its side.  This is not about sentiment but rather a hard nosed assessment of what will lead to a cessation of the violence and, thereafter, contribute to the long and hard business of healing wounds and building peace.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Sleep Walking toward the Abyss

A fire is raging. What do you do? Well, you get some petrol (gasoline) and you simply chuck it onto the flames.  Absurd isn't it?  And yet that is what many non-Syrian nations with their own agendas have been doing for the last 3 years.  America is simply late to the infernal party.

Desperate to see the "rebels" prevail with the Syrian government now pushing back into the "rebel" held north there are some in Washington and London who think that Assad can be eased out by threats and pea shooters. Maybe it's just for show; who knows.  What I do know is that "rebels" linked to Al Quaeda were apprehended at the end of May by Turkey in possession of a 2 Kg cannister of the sarin nerve agent that the west is now saying has been deployed by Syrian government forces, (WMD anyone?).  The Al Nusra linked faction was apparently planning to export its terror campaign into southern Turkey. Oh yes, and then there was that park in Istanbul.

Shouldn't we be more alert to what is going on here?  Terrorists always try and use violence to radicalise and divide otherwise peaceful movements so that the poison of their terror can spread by fear and loathing.  It matters little what the antagonists believe or what the colour of their politics or religion happens to be ... just exploit it.  Terrorism is always both parasitic and manipulative.  That's what they always want ... war; war on the streets, war between the nations ... war so they might prevail.

The Syrian conflict, aided and abetted by these demonic forces now has all the essential ingredients of an international conflict, seeded by a self righteous proxy war between the "not-so-great" world powers.  We may yet see a Third World War breaking out from this orchestrated nesting of evil.  The First World War started from an arguably much less contentious situation.  And what does the west do?  Divide the world up into goodies (the "rebels") and the baddies (the Syrian government). In this the hawks can always rely on the impressionable consciences of the liberal left.  Some American politicians are now actually talking about a "fair fight."  How on earth is this at all helpful in reducing tension, brokering peace and bringing the amenable to the table?  Arming one side against the other is just going to exacerbate and spread the conflict.  Israel is getting nervous, as is Turkey and Lebanon is already being dragged into the dark vortex of sectarian violence.

What we need now is less propaganda, less pulling at heart strings to justify violent intervention and more hard nosed, even handed diplomacy, eschewing self interest, intimidation and threats.  But who now has clean hands?  Everyone (just about) whiffs of petrol and most are standing far, far too close to the fire.  It does not look good.  It does not look good at all but there may as yet be enough time to stop this one spinning out of control.

Wake up!  Stop sleep walking toward the abyss!  Shut up ... stop performing to the media and your electorate and work hard, damned hard, for peace.  You know whom I'm talking to!

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