MAY 22 2007
It seems we have now entered a new and distinct phase in global politics, not unconnected with the general phenomenon of 'globalisation' which modern communications and transport in the hands of government, business and ordinary citizens has brought about. It is one of the Undeclared War.

Governments or 'regimes' such as Iran allow (either because they endorse or cannot prevent) elements of their citizenry, industry and military to pursue their own plans and operations. They may of course go further and stimulate such action; but the essential point is that it is deniable. We should not be so shocked: after all many years ago the British Empire expanded through the use of independent initiatives and quite recently the US turned a blind eye and/or allowed right hands to do what the left hand did not know.

However, now that this has become a standard operating procedure throughout the Middle-East and parts of Asia, with modern weapons and technology in the mix, we need to establish some protocols and modi operandi. We are not officially at war with Iran. After they foolishly nabbed one of our customs inspection teams and had to give them back ignominiously by concocting a ridiculous story which our sailors had to play along with (equally ignominiously), we should have carried on exactly as before with the customs inspections. Unfortunately the British media, run by psychologically  and educationally challenged owners and editors, decided that we should cease operations or only continue if armed to the teeth. Big mistake. We should have replaced the crew and continued exactly as before, equally vulnerable but with the prepared backup of a retaliatory strike, should they have repeated their behaviour, of serious consequence. That would have taken us down a very much better route than threats and menaces and the implication that at some time in the future Iran would have to be nuclearly neutered. It would force Iran either to declare war the UK or to support UN operations and our part in carrying these out.

There are other governments who use the undeclared war as a means running with both hare and hounds and holding onto power by one means or another. Sometimes it is relatively harmless, but the time has come when some transparency and formality is called for..In short, now that the idea of undeclared war as an acceptable method of conducting foreign policy has gone global, it will have to be explicitly defined as unacceptable. This is true of all human activities. As soon as any behaviour, fashion or technique use to obtain advantage becomes universal it is unusable. Very annoying for the latest comers of course to be told 'game over' but that's the way it is. We should therefore behave, towards all nations not at war with us, as if we were at peace with them. We should be open and vulnerable, while remaining vigilant and alert. The alternative is to arm and protect everything, including trains, boats, planes and even buses full of tourists. Only by being vulnerable can we build mutual trust.

"Trust, but verify" was one of Ronald Reagan's wise counsels. The other was: "You can get anything done in this world providing you don't insist on taking the credit for it".