Latest Dec 15th 2007
 I have not read more than a few extracts of Christopher Meyer's book, 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 times. 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 too 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 overconfident 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 board.

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 of their citizens, then communication of that policy becomes the paramount factor.

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 much better.

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 values".

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 PM.

He said Mr Alexander had given "a fairly straightforward speech on development".

'Common challenges'

It was "not some startling new insight", the spokesman said, adding that the "interpretation", rather than the "content" had been the problem.

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 to 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, responsibility, justice
Douglas Alexander

"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 world".


"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 Prime Minister Gordon Brown's closest allies, also said "empowering women must be a priority for us all".

He said: "The economic, social and political position of women in many countries is actively preventing us from reducing child and maternal mortality, and stopping the spread of HIV/Aids."

'Not easy'

Mr Alexander said winning support for this approach was "not easy" and work had to be done to make them "the accepted norm".

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 South Africa."

Mr Alexander also called for "core values" of "opportunity, responsibility and justice" to tackle global poverty.

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 have 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 effective dialogue.

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 spokesman Michael 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 sense 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 usual.

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 garbage.

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 him,