I have not read more than a few extracts of Christopher Meyer's
but that is enough to make me think this man should not have a job in
anything, let alone the Press Complaints Commission. If he had anything
useful to say on Foreign Affairs he should have said it at the time. He
obviously didn't, as he hasn't anything of interest to say even now.
His opinion of Jack Straw shows he hasn't a clue, any more than Malcolm
Rifkind has, that Jack Straw is the best Foreign Secretary of our
Meyer has been watching too much Pop Idol or X-Factor or whatever it
is. Perhaps he could take over from Chris Evans now Evans has become
well adjusted to 'push the envelope'. See
entry for December 15th 2007 below.
On the subject itself, while it is possible some things could have been
handled much better, the following is what counts; international
terrorism would have grown to be the problem it is now whatever had
happened, even without any attempt to remove the dictatorship of the
Taliban in Afghanistan, or that of Saddam in Iraq. It is a stage of
global politics that has to be traversed. It would have been far more
difficult for most people on the planet if at the same time Saddam had
remained in control of Iraq, having seen off the UN, the US and the
rest. If you think the world is dangerous now, you certainly would not
have enjoyed the alternative.
13 July 2007
Today we have been subjected to the media interpretation of a speech in
the US, to the Council on Foreign Relations, by Douglas
Alexander. The usual commentators have come out with their
'spin' on this, getting it all wrong as usual, some deliberately and
others by mistake.
There are those who claim the speech was for UK Domestic consumption
(reasoning: message to indicate UK is no longer Washington's poodle but
given by junior minister, to independent US audience, so at the top
table GB+GB all sweetness). This interpretation depends on the theory
that the speech itself was a criticism of US Foreign Policy and as such
a declaration of independence. Nothing could be a bigger
misunderstanding. It was about future foreign policy and a principle
which may indeed have not been uppermost in the minds of the grossly
US administration in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.
It is a simple matter of mathematics, science and social science to
work out that global peace and security in the 21st century cannot be
enforced militarily, unilaterally or by the professional forces of the
UN or even a 'coalition of the willing' regardless of geography. It can
only be achieved by political alliances that make regional stability a
logical aim and a practical possibility. That is what has brought
peace and prosperity to Europe after centuries of conflict. It is what
has brought peace to the North American continent. It is now essential
that an understanding of foreign policy in the age of global
communications and modern technology is taken on board, across the
There is not even a shadow of truth that the special relationship
between the US and the UK will be diminished in any way, shape of form.
What is needed is better communication between the US and the
International Community. That is what Douglas Alexander is talking
about and it is of fundamental importance. Foreign policy can be right
in theory, poor in execution and disastrous in presentation. When its
success is dependent on its acceptance by the movers and shakers of the
world's major powers, by their governments and in democracies by most
their citizens, then communication of that policy becomes the paramount
So there should be no doubt that the message of Douglas Alexander's
speech was not just to the US, it was to all the world's democracies
and all nations that aspire to democracy. We have to get it together if
we are to put an end to genocide, anarchy and terrorism. That calls for
construction and it calls for international alliance as the only means
to assure the security within which economic development can take
place. It is not about the past, it is about the future. It is not
about arguing for withdrawal or not from Iraq, it is about learning
from the terrible mistakes which have been made. Alexander was not
criticising US foreign policy because that its not necessary - we and
they know it has been a disaster. But unless the rest of the world
steps up to the stage and takes responsibility, we are not going to do
That is the meaning of this initiative, but all we are given to read is
the shallow, smart-arsed
comments of those who fancy themselves as 'spin decoders', and all the
BBC can do is report the useless comments of the commentators. Why does
our public service broadcaster and webcaster not just give us the speed
to read, and allow us to take it at face value?
Speech not critical of US - Brown
Downing Street has denied claims a
speech by a UK Cabinet minister was critical of US foreign policy.
Speaking in the US, International
Development Secretary Douglas
Alexander emphasised the need for "new alliances, based on common
He warned against unilateralism and
called for an "internationalist approach" to global problems.
Asked if this amounted to criticising
the US, Gordon Brown's spokesman said that view "was not shared" by the
He said Mr Alexander had given "a fairly straightforward speech on
It was "not some startling new insight", the spokesman said, adding
that the "interpretation", rather than the "content" had been the
Correspondents have described the speech as a "coded criticism" of
the policies of President George W Bush.
Earlier, Mr Brown told BBC Radio 5 Live: "We will not allow people
separate us from the United States of America in dealing with the
common challenges that we face around the world.
| Our place in the world depends
on us making choices based on values - values like opportunity,
"I think people have got to remember
that the relationship between
Britain and America and between a British prime minister and an
American president is built on the things that we share, the same
enduring values about the importance of liberty, opportunity, the
dignity of the individual.
"I will continue to work, as Tony Blair
did, very closely with the American administration."
Mr Alexander's speech came as the
Democratic-controlled House of
Representatives voted in favour of pulling most combat troops out of
Iraq by April next year.
The vote happened despite President
Bush's threat to veto any timetable for withdrawal.
In his address to the Council on Foreign
Relations in Washington DC, Mr
Alexander said isolationism "simply does not work in an interdependent
"In the 20th Century a country's might
was too often measured in what
they could destroy. In the 21st Century strength should be measured by
what we can build together," he said.
"And so we must form new alliances,
based on common
values, ones not just to protect us from the world, but ones which
reach out to the world.
"There is no security or prosperity at
home unless we
deal with the global challenges of security, globalisation, climate
change, disease and poverty. "We must recognise these challenges and
champion an internationalist approach - seeking shared solutions to the
problems we face.
"Multilateralist, not unilateralist
means a rules-based
international system. Just as we need the rule of law at home to have
civilisation so we need rules abroad to ensure global civilisation."
Mr Alexander, who is seen as one of
Gordon Brown's closest allies, also said "empowering women must be a
priority for us all".
He said: "The economic, social and
of women in many countries is actively preventing us from reducing
child and maternal mortality, and stopping the spread of HIV/Aids."
Mr Alexander said winning support for
this approach was "not easy" and work had to be done to make them "the
He said: "This means persuading
political leaders, indeed community
leaders, faith leaders and civic leaders to actively support these
principles - whether they are in Europe or the US, China, India or
Mr Alexander also called for "core
values" of "opportunity, responsibility and justice" to tackle global
BBC correspondent James Westhead said
the speech appeared to suggest
that Britain was distancing itself from US President George W Bush.
Our correspondent said: "Some observers
interpreted this as a coded criticism of a president seen by some as
high-handed and unilateralist."
But Mr Alexander stressed to the BBC
that Gordon Brown
had already spoken to the president and was committed to a strong and
He said he made "no apology for
speaking forcibly about
the need for the whole international community to work together to
tackle international poverty".
Liberal Democrat foreign affairs
Moore said: "Douglas Alexander's comments may hint at a fresh
relationship with the United States.
"However, the prime minister's
hasty efforts to play
down the speech only remind us that this is the man who signed the
cheques for the Iraq war."
There is of course no need to be 'joined at the hip' as the
circumstances have changed. During the approach to and execution of the
removal of Saddam there was no way playing the independence card could
have done anything other than cause chaos. Now, a plurality of views
and overt diplomacy is clearly the way to bring eventual consensus.
DECEMBER 15th 2007
Should our troops leave Iraq now?
I have to say that today I am listening to Christopher Meyer talking
some sense, in a symposium apparently called Intelligence2
, about the future of Iraq. Andrew
Neil seems to be in the chair. William Shawcross is on next. I gather
from him that Benn was speaking earlier - I am really glad I missed
that, Meyer is still as usual saying and acting in a way to look after
his own career of the moment. He no doubt thinks that because 80% of
the population of Basra are now saying that the effect of British
troops had been negative, that that judgement is true. The fact is
there is no way individual Iraqis polled in Basra today could say that
they, the Iraqis, were so useless that they needed the British to be
there and the whole of the last few years had been unfortunately
necessary. They all agree it was necessary for the overthrow if Saddam
and the capture of Chemical Ali, but such are the complexities that
what was required of our military was beyond their considerable
capabilities to do it and be appreciated. But we did it.
Rory Stewart is now to speak from experience. I know what he is going
to say. He supported the invasion. He now regrets it. To me that is not
likely to lead to the right decision on what to do next. Now, Dr
Allawi and an American soldier, then Lt Pete Hegseth, who talks more
than all the others put together. What a great man! A
clear, clear thinker, a man of action, to me a hero.
I was for the removal of Saddam, for regime change. It had to be done
the way it was done, but what took place after his removal was a litany
of mistakes beyond belief which took place while incompetents in the US
were in overall charge. There was no excuse, as they were being told at
the time where they were going wrong. Where was Meyer then? Trimming as
Thank God many speakers gave Tony Benn the drubbing he deserved. I
understand as well or better than Benn how poor people who are
dispossessed can turn to terrorism, but what Benn has to say is pure
Once again, Meyer is a 'trimmer'. To hell with him, even though much of
what he said tonight (if it can't be tonight, I must be watching a
recording) is right..
02:28am: The vote is in. Meyer and Stewart's "Quid-pro-quo" motion won.
Hegseth and Shawcross "Stay-the-course" came second. Benn came last
thank God - he really makes me ill. That he could even get one third of
the votes tonight means that people either share his limited
comprehension or have not rumbled his intellectual and moral
dishonesty. One look at his face and body language these days tells us
he does not find it any more easy to live with himself than we do with