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Saturday, 31 August 2013

The coming storm

I am struck by the similarity between two maps reproduced below. The first shows the divisions between the various authorities and sects of Christianty in the Thirty Years War and the second those between the various authorities and sects of Islam today. 

Of course our proclivity to either lay down our lives or have them taken unwillingly from us in the name of either Catholicism or Protestantism has gone, even in those parts of Ulster where faith is now just a proxy for power. The Thirty Years War left Europe devastated, with populations decimated, diseased and starving, infrastructure laid waste and the lands plundered by brigands while law and justice were ridden under the hooves of warhorses. Out of the mess came, after time, the second enlightenment and the changes that would make Europe dominant in the world. In the year 1600 the Christian and Islamic worlds were just about neck-and-neck in medicine, science, art, literature and technology. By 1700 we had left them as far behind as savages poking in the dirt with sticks. 

The Islamic world is packed full of young men of prime fighting age who have no jobs, no land and no futures. Median age in Europe is well over 40; in the Islamic world it's about 27. The Sunni - Shia civil wars have already started, and like the European battles of the 1600s the war will roll back and forth across the middle east, this year in Syria, next in Yemen, then the Gulf, then Lebanon again until even Turkey is engulfed in war and the battles reach Europe's borders. Millions are going to die. Whether it's better to be shot, blown up by a missile, gassed, decapitated by bread-knife or dismembered by rusty Panga I don't know but that's the fate of millions of Muslims in the coming years, until they reach an endogenous realisation that the nuances in dogma that separate the sects aren't worth the life of a single Muslim. 

Already the refugees are seeking Europe's peace and shelter. De Spiegel leads with the German reaction against the Afghanis, Iraqis, Egyptians, Libyans, Malinese. And now no doubt the Syrians are already on their way. The defence and foreign policy issues that face this government are far far greater than either Cameron or Miliband give any hint of understanding.

Friday, 30 August 2013

The Right Result

Yesterday's parliamentary vote, and the Prime Minister's response, was exactly the right result. 

1. The JIC report was not convincing
2. Even the extract of the legal opinion was too equivocal; it's the law officer's job to set out exactly what the criteria are, not jump to judgement on whether they've been fulfilled
3. Cameron has gained from this, Miliband the 'copper bottomed shit' has lost
4. This is not a surprise to the US as some asinine journos claim; exactly the same doubts prevail in the US - but Obama can ignore them
5. This is not about Syrian dead, it's about Obama's credibility, having told Assad 'Use chemical weapons one more time and we'll give you a smacking'
6. If the UK and US really wanted to hurt Assad personally, they'd hack his and his family's bank accounts and remove the billions he's stolen. Firing cruise missiles at his chemical dumps isn't going to do much.

My unlikely star from yesterday's debate was Egregious George - who spoke with real passion and eloquence. I may not agree with Galloway's content but by God can he make a speech.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Syria - What Parliament is for

Blair may drag his putrescent fly-blown corpse away from the millionaires' plastic palaces for long enough to pronounce that of course the UK should launch an illegal war against Syria, and Hague may convolut such weasel words to suggest that we can ignore the UN Security Council if they don't agree with us (so long as the government's legal officers give him a written sick note) and Cameron may make comforting ear-licky arse-sniffing poodle noises at Obama, but the fact remains that it shouldn't be their decision. Especially Blair - he's dead, and equality for Zombies is a step too far even for this government.

MPs are right in claiming this as an issue for Parliamentary debate - and not just the Commons. I'm in at least 650 minds over Syria, as many shades of grey as there are around the issues. If anyone thinks the matter is monochrome they're deluded. So it's time for one of those once-in-a-decade moments when R4 broadcasts a live debate from the Commons from mid afternoon until late at night and I can sit in an armchair and listen. 

It's not that MPs are wiser, more gifted or better informed than any 600 citizens picked at random. And having that idiot narcissist dwarf in the Chair is a drawback. But it's one of our most ancient methods of resolving a knotty issue and it's stood the test of time for precisely one reason - it works.   

Monday, 26 August 2013

Merkel's plan to steal UK cash for Greece

The poor German voter, though likely to vote Angela back into power next month, is becoming increasingly unwilling to bear the brunt of Greece's next bailout - likely, when it comes to it, to be significantly larger than the figure now being 'leaked' by the Commission. And since German investors also have the most to lose from a 'haircut' on the Greek banks this is not too popular an option either. The latest wheeze is to increase an EU handout of structural funds - ERDF as we know it in the UK - by the value of the bailout, allowing Greece to use existing domestic funds for the bailout. Except of course that non-Euro nations such as the UK pay for ERDF. 

ERDF has traditionally been the mechanism by which tax funds from northern Europe are transferred by the EU to the Mafia and other criminal organisations and to bent and corrupt politicians across the Olive belt. The remainder is used to build motorways going nowhere and unused airports. Greece is a nation notoriously infested with bent and corrupt politicians, who no doubt have recently been feeling the pinch in the proceeds of theft, fraud and peculation. The latest bail out will be designed to buy-back their loyalty to the Commission. Getting the UK to contribute to this is the icing on the cake for Merkel.