european diplomacy

i don’t think the resolution of the british hostage situation was any kind of success for diplomacy. if so, iran certainly didn’t get that message.

here’s why (hat tip: lgf):

Hardliners in the Iranian regime have warned that the seizure of British naval personnel demonstrates that they can make trouble for the West whenever they want to and do so with impunity.

The bullish reaction from Teheran will reinforce the fears of western diplomats and military officials that more kidnap attempts may be planned.

The British handling of the crisis has been regarded with some concern in Washington, and a Pentagon defence official told The Sunday Telegraph: “The fear now is that this could be the first of many. If the Brits don’t change their rules of engagement, the Iranians could take more hostages almost at will.

“Iran has come out of this looking reasonable. If I were the Iranians, I would keep playing the same game. They have very successfully muddied the waters and bought themselves some more time. And in parts of the Middle East they will be seen as the good guys. They could do it time and again if they wanted to.”

Americans also expressed dismay that the British had suspended boarding operations in the Gulf while its tactics are reassessed.

iran knew exactly what it was doing, and the release of the british hostages had nothing to do with anything tony blair said to ahmedinejad. surely prime minister blair is smart enough to know this, but for some reason he chose to go along with iran’s propaganda stunt. iran has done this before, and if they continue to get away with kidnapping people without any reprecussions, there’s no reason to believe that they won’t do it again in the future. iran learned that no country is willing to hold them accountable for their behavior, and that the UN won’t be able to stop whatever they want to do. this is a dangerous path we are on with iran.

it would be bad enough if iran kept kidnapping foreign sailors for propaganda purposes, but now they will have nukes too, and the UN will not stop them.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Monday the country’s nuclear fuel production program had reached “industrial” levels, setting Tehran on a fresh collision course with Western governments over its atomic ambitions.

A U.S. State Department spokesman said the announcement was “another signal Iran is in defiance of the international community.” Iran has already faced United Nations sanctions over its refusal to back down from developing nuclear fuel.

“Iran has succeeded in development to attain production at an industrial level,” said Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, addressing an audience at the Natanz nuclear facility as part of a ceremony marking the anniversary of the start of uranium enrichment at the plant.

“With great pride, I announce that as of today, our dear country, Iran, is among the countries of the world that produces the industrial level of nuclear fuel.”

Ahmadinejad vowed the fuel would be used for energy, “and for the expansion of peace and stability.”

it’s to our credit, i guess, that we are not buying the argument that iran will only use nuclear fuel for energy. we have been here before. the question is: what should we do next? if i’m the leader of a country with a stake in the outcome of this, i would insist on independent inspectors to keep tabs on iran and their progress to ensure that iran is only producing this nuclear material for peaceful purposes. i would also send to the UN a proposal for penalties to be assessed for non-compliance. the problem is that there seems to be no indication that the UN could credibly threaten iran, especially based on what we have seen from the UN in the past.

europe better wake up to the threat iran poses, or iran will continue to defy the international community and suffer no consequences for that defiance.

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kidnapped. not rightfully stolen.

iran has released the british hostages. president mahmoud ahmedinejad says that even though these british sailors deserve to go on trial, he is willing to forgive them and set them free as a “gift” to the british people. sure. why not? he has gotten what he wanted out of this kidnapping, and has proven britain’s new weakness.

i agree with this NRO editorial:

…If there is a glimmer of hope in this shameful denouement, it is the possibility that the sheer brazenness of the kidnappings will shatter some of the widespread naïveté — particularly in the British and American diplomatic corps — about the nature of the Iranian regime. It has never been reasonable to think that this regime, whose guiding purpose is to export its particular brand of Islamism, could be made to act in accordance with the West’s interests. Its latest exercise in hostage-taking-as-foreign-policy underscores the unreasonableness of that view.

It’s right to be glad that the young Britons are headed home. But into that humanitarian feeling irrupts the darker realization that their good fortune comes at an unacceptable price. Unless Britain and her allies act quickly and cleverly to show that they are, appearances notwithstanding, powers to be reckoned with, a great many lives will be at risk for a long time to come.

if we are waiting for this incident to wake up europe and britain to the untrustworthiness of the government in tehran, we better pack a lunch, because it’s not going to happen any time soon. this whole affair doesn’t reflect well on prime minister tony blair, but i’m not sure how much differently the situation would have been handled under the leadership of gordon brown or david cameron. europe has a serious problem with being tough on islamic radicals, and they need to recognize that, and deal with that problem before something more serious happens.

not so fast

for those who would like to characterize tony blair’s withdrawal of british troops from basra as an admission that he was wrong about iraq, here’s an opposing point of view.

gerald baker:

The first point to note, is that, as the prime minister himself said in his statement to the House of Commons, the British troop presence in Iraq – unlike the US – has been on a steady downward trajectory since the initial phase of the war ended in May 2003. At one point total UK military personnel in the region numbered close to 40,000. By the end of 2004, the number stationed in the UK-command sector of Iraq – around Basra in the southeast of the country – was just over 9,000. Two years ago it was reduced to the current level of roughly 7,100. With yesterday’s announcement , the new total will be about 5,500.

This is, obviously, well below the 150,000-plus troops the US will have in Iraq once the new counter-insurgency strategy is fully under way but it is still a long way ahead of the next largest contingent of the coalition, Poland at around 2,000. It hardly represents a retreat or a surrender, still less an abandonment of the US.

more at real clear politics. the brits have been withdrawing troops without anyone noticing it for years now. this is nothing new, and it doesn’t represent a policy shift by the blair government. mr. baker goes on to argue that the basra mission was a different challenge than securing baghdad, and the british troops experienced some success in stablizing that area. that’s good news. there’s still more work to do, of course, but we should give credit to the brits for the work they have done in iraq.

he also mentions that the withdrawal frees up more manpower to continue the struggle against the taliban in afghanistan.  somehow afghanistan has become the forgotten battleground. iraq gets all the headlines, but there are still battles to be won in afghanistan.  we need to finish what we started there.


should tony blair step down?

for some reason i feel compelled to comment on this. 😉

the recent charges against members of blair’s labour government in the cash-for-honours scandal are troubling. it’s hard to imagine how so many people involved with this current scandal could be arrested without cause to do so, which is why it’s surprising that no charges have been brought against those accused of breaking the 1925 Honours Act. when there is an accusation that contributions to a political party directly bought titles or influenced a policy decision, those accusations should be seriously dealt with. no votes should be bought.  the amount given to a political party should not determine who holds positions of power in the party.  in a perfect world, this would be the case, but we don’t live in a perfect world. those with the money have more control over political parties than those who don’t.  that’s just the way it is. 

as for the unfortunate prime minister, it seems to me that the british people have found him guilty until proven innocent.  tony blair has been prime minister in the UK for 10 years. that’s a long time. they want and need an excuse to get rid of him. he has been questioned about this scandal several times now and each time it was as a witness, not as a suspect in the case. he has not been charged with anything, and of course, denies doing anything wrong. i believe him. i’m probably the only one who does. if he is innocent, as i suspect, then he should welcome the investigation.

the bigger question to me is: who will replace tony blair when he chooses to step down? will it be blair-lite david cameron, fan of the nanny state?  will it finally be gordon brown’s turn to live in number 10? will it be some unknown stealing the spotlight from both of these men? the only prediction i feel confident in making is that the next PM probably won’t be a LibDem.



that’s the only accurate way to describe what has happened to british prime minister tony blair recently. some labour MPs are resigning, threatening resignations, writing nasty letters– all to force blair to announce when he is stepping down. it is understandable if the UK was suffering from a bit of blair fatigue. after all, he’s been in office since 1997. this is just not the best way to transition to new leadership of the labour party. all this revolt is doing is emphasizing the deep fissures in the party between blair’s new centrism (“new labour”) and those who hold a starkly different view of foreign and domestic policy. this divide has always existed, but because of blair’s past electoral success, most labour MPs have grudgingly accepted what he’s done.

the war in iraq has caused the same damage to blair in the local polling that president bush has suffered here in the states. in the last general election, labour lost a huge number of seats in parliament, yet still managed to hang on to the majority, due to the inability of the tories to capitalize on perceived weakness. blair has survived so far, but when his party starts to desert him, that’s a sign that he’s in real trouble. it is also a sign that labour is headed toward chaos.

could they lose the next general election to the tories? i could see this happening. gordon brown may be a competent chancellor of the exchequer, but what do we really know about his ability to lead the country, or his willingness to continue blair’s reforms? we don’t know what kind of prime minister gordon brown would be. even with his experience in the current government, gordon brown is still an unknown quantity.

so what are the alternatives? david cameron (leader of the Conservative Party), doesn’t have any significant policy differences from blair. then there’s sir menzies campbell of the Liberal Democrats…who can’t be considered a serious challenger to either brown or cameron. if i was voting in the next general election, i would probably sit it out, because there are no desirable alternatives. maybe things will change in the next year or so.

gordon brown has been waiting for the opportunity to stand for tony blair’s job for years. he better hope that he will be running unopposed by any other labour challengers, or he might be disappointed yet again.

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new labour and david cameron–a perfect match?

meet the new boss….same as the old boss? when tony blair steps down as british PM, there will be a pitched battle to determine the next occupant of 10 downing street. the upcoming contest between david cameron (conservatives) and british PM tony blair’s hand-picked successor (chancellor of the exchequer gordon brown) may not be the fierce ideological struggle everyone may have expected. the message of “cameronism” sounds familiar– very similar in fact to blair’s “new labour”.

Cameron has put a stake through Margaret Thatcher’s legacy. New Labour has triumphed beyond its wildest dreams: this is Blair’s brilliant legacy – to be outflanked on the left is an extraordinary achievement he should mark as his glory moment. If anyone doubts that Cameron means it, just chortle with glee as the Daily Mail’s Melanie Phillips shrieks in pain: “This leaves millions of natural conservatives effectively disenfranchised – and, even worse, demonised as dinosaurs by the party that is supposed to represent them, but is now telling them to go hang while it tears up everything they believe in … The ideas in his advertisement appear to define ‘what is right’ as the distorted doctrines of leftwing propaganda.” Tebbit weighs in too. Imagine how the Cameron clan must be whooping as the Mail is left gasping and spluttering. This is exactly what it wants.

polly toynbee in the guardian

i think she’s right that cameron has “put a stake through margaret thatcher’s legacy”. many observers of british political history may see this as a good thing. the baroness would not have signed on to wealth re-distribution through government largesse, an emphasis on global warming, or the idea that “strict ideologies should be foresworn in favor of a flexible approach to politics”(cal thomas). we can argue the overall effectiveness of thatcher’s policies, but at the end of the day, politics will always be about ideology. those who ignore this and choose style over substance do not give the voters what they need, which is a debate on ideas, not on personality.

david cameron isn’t any different from tony blair, at least in any visible way. so maybe that kind of ideological debate can’t take place between blair and cameron. the real question here is whether gordon brown believes in continuing blair’s policies in a future labour government. if brown intends to stay with what has worked under new labour, then i don’t see how cameron provides much of an alternative.

if he really believed that the blair government was ruining the country, he wouldn’t go out of his way to help the PM get his school reforms passed. he talks about fighting global poverty, bridging the gap between rich and poor, and reducing carbon emissions to deal with global warming. the problem cameron has is that he has more in common with tony blair than margaret thatcher. we shall see if the conservatives will follow cameron to the left, or whether they will be resigned to re-electing new labour.
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