The voice of young liberal democrats

Cameron Needs a Geography Lesson by georgeinwashington

Cameron’s mistake could not have been mere slip of the tongue, as, whilst speaking about the need to stop redrawing ‘lines on a map’ he placed parts of Moldova and Georgia within the Russian Federation. During his visit to Washington last week, David Cameron visited the Brookings Institution to give a speech on the Balkans. Brookings, an influential and highly respected think tank always draws many of the top experts to its events and the question and answer is guaranteed to be thorough. It was here where David revealed his shaky grip on some of the major problems facing Europe. Mr Haltzel of the Center for Transatlantic Relations of John’s Hopkins University asked Cameron’s opinion on Russia’s attempt to relate the situation in the balkans to Transnustria Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Cameron answered,

You’re absolutely right, there should be no parallel between what is happening in Kosovo — where, clearly, the Kosovo people are not going to accept being part of Serbia. There’s no parallel between that, which is a special situation, and anything that might be happening in parts of the Russian Federation. And we should reassure the Russians about that. There should be no linkage between those things.

Unfortunately, as someone flying to Washington to give a major speech on foreign policy should know, Transnistria is in Moldova and Abkhazia and South Ossetia are break away republics of Georgia.Later he was asked about the ideas floated about partitioning Kosovo above the Ibar. His reply again,

There are a large number of ethnic Serbians, if you like, living in Kosovo, but not in areas contiguous to Serbia, so an attempt to redraw the boundary doesn’tsolve that problem.

The Mitrovica region, which the questioner was referring to, and contains the largest proportion of Serbs, borders Serbia. This is of course a very difficult region to master, but if you do have to take the trouble to fly to Washington to talk about it, some swotting up in the plane would have been a good idea.The full text of the speech and question and answer session can be found here


Nuclear Policy by georgeinwashington
October 23, 2007, 5:47 am
Filed under: Foreign Affairs, nuclear weapons, US/UK relations

London Liberal,

Firstly I would note that our debate seems to have moved to British nuclear policy, an issue far more worthy of debate in this forum.

Nuclear war, is the single greatest catastrophe that could happen to the human race short of the earth being hit by a meteorite that destroys all human life and reunites us with the dinosaurs. In 1960 CP Snow, the British scientist and politician was quoted on the front page of the New York times as saying that “unless the nuclear powers drastically disarmed, thermonuclear war within the decade was a mathematical certainty.” Although this did not happen, the point remains that even in peace time, the mere existence of nuclear weapons is a great danger. The best solution for world peace, is to pursue the goal of a world free from nuclear weapons.

This is I believe the main difference between our positions. You do not believe that a world without nuclear weapons is either possible or perhaps even desirable, otherwise how could you argue that one reason to keep them is to keep our seat on the UN Security Council? If you really believed that Britain should pursue a policy of a nuclear free world, we would have to give them up at some point and so the argument is mute. Even so, although it is frequently said that Britain has a seat on the Council only because it is a nuclear power, neglects the fact that the seat preceded the power. If this were really the case, why is not India, the worlds largest democracy with a billion people and also a nuclear power not on the Council also? When an expansion of the Council was proposed, the names put forward were both nuclear and non nuclear states. Indeed your whole argument on sovereignty and legitimacy would lead one to the conclusion that once gained, no nation would ever disarm at all. In fact one has, at the end of the apartheid regime President De Klerk announced that South Africa would dismantle its six nuclear warheads, at a time when South Africa was increasing its international legitimacy I might add. Furthermore, you seem to argue that some nuclear weapons give the international system stability. I would argue that the cold war example that you use, is unique and cannot be generalized.

All the same, I would like to argue that a nuclear free world is indeed possible and should be the center of the UK’s foreign policy. Firstly I would like to make the point that although international agreements are not working right now, this does not mean that their ideals and their pursuit should be rejected out of hand. Indeed even though India and Pakistan are not signatories of the NPT, does this not demonstrate even more that for 180 signatories, in fact the rest of the world, that the NPT does work?

Furthermore your assertion that international agreements prohibiting nuclear weapons cannot work out of hand through the prisoners dilemma is simply false. The fundamental assumption of the prisoners dilemma is that both parties do not know what the other is doing, there is no possibility for monitoring. However you can not hide nuclear weapons, they require technology, resources, and above all testing that is impossible to hide. The sheer technological feat that nuclear weapons require means that no country can develop them in secret, and although Israel does have a “secret” nuclear weapon, the fact that I am writing about it simply proves my point. All this means that a non proliferation regime is possible, with commitment from nations such as the United Kingdom.

There is strong case for moral pressure here also. Do you really believe that the US and UK’s hypocrisies, by abetting and aiding a nuclear Israel really do not count towards Middle Eastern public hostility on this issue. If you were an Iranian would you too not ask yourself why you were not allowed to develop nuclear technology when the world does nothing about a nuclear Israel?

Finally I would add that the pro-nuclear position in the UK, arguing that the retainment of nukes augments our position in the world by increasing our power and influence is absurd. It neglects the fundamental fact that the British nuclear deterrent is not independent, we are entirely dependent on the US for the production and maintenance of the weapons. They are even under a joint NATO command and so face restrictions in their use, except in the “extreme national interest”. If this is about sovereignty, why does Britain not develop a truly independent deterrent? It seems to me silly to argue the case for sovereignty with a missile that is inoperable without the US, under a joint NATO command and even divides the burden of patrolling our seas with the French as we do not have enough submarines.

The time has come for the UK to take a courageous stand. A nuclear free world is possible in our lifetimes if we take positive steps today. A great leap forward can be made simply by discarding a nuclear capability that is neither relevant or necessary. Working towards a nuclear free world should be at the center of our foreign policy.


Labour, Still the Republican Poodle by georgeinwashington
October 4, 2007, 4:46 pm
Filed under: Foreign Affairs, iran, Iraq, US/UK relations

On Monday a shocking article was released by the acclaimed journalist in the States, Seymour Hersh. In it he says that early in the summer detailed plans had been formed to conduct air strikes against Iran and that the British were “on board” He later goes on to say that the most enthusiastic supporter of the new Bush plan was none other than our own Gordon Brown.

Seymour is no hack, his journalism is of the highest quality. He was the man that uncovered the Abu Gharaib scandal and his article on the preparations of the US administration’s build up to the war in Iraq was passed on  by then British Ambassador Christopher Meyer to Downing street as a “pretty accurate picture of whats going on”

Whilst Brown is portraying himself in public as an in independent minded actor distancing himself from the slavish relationship towards the US of his predecessor. In reality, the fundamental premise of our foreign policy remains the same. Blindly follow the US into any of its misadventures rather no matter what the consequence for us or indeed the opinions of the British people.

Labour not Blair must be stopped.

Lib Dems, The Suggestion Party by georgeinwashington
August 21, 2007, 12:22 am
Filed under: Foreign Affairs, Iraq, Liberal Democrats, Party Matters, US/UK relations

When Ming Campbell took over the Liberal Democrat Party, he stated that we would no longer be making polite suggestions from the sidelines but hammering on the doors of power. Todays letter from Ming to the PM sadly showed that there has been little change in this direction. Far from hammering down any doors down, Ming “urged a reappraisal” of strategy, he asked the government to think again.

Whilst I am not against polite political discourse the time to ask the government to simply think again has long passed. They should have thought again before the conflict, they didn’t and after four years of failure it is time to start demanding action.

This requires more than a letter to the PM asking him to reconsider his Iraq strategy. We need to propose a credible and workable alternative. To think of bigger solutions than a simple request for a redeployment to Afghanistan. This debate is already happening in the US with presidential candidate Joe Biden proposing a federalising of Iraq into three entities, like the Dayton agreement that brought peace to Bosnia. Despite the fact that Senator Biden is not one of the front running candidates in the election his ideas are now being adopted by the others. The same Senator Biden, in his capacity of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee met with the Ambassadors of the Permanent members of the Security Council where they supposedly all agreed to support a UN sponsored Peace Conference if the US proposed one.

Although the war has been deeply unpopular we in Britain can not escape the fact that we stood side by side with President Bush in his march into Iraq and continued to say nothing during the catastrophic errors in the occupation that have left an incredible mess that is Iraq today. Responsibility and leadership now demand that we make some contribution to its solution, at the very least diplomatically. Why is Britain, as a major partner in this war suggesting the same or proposing a peace conference itself as a permanent member of the Security Council.

If the Liberal Democrats could come up with some dynamic and innovative solutions to the problems in the Middle East, rather than asking the government to do it for us, we would be seen more as capable leaders rather than a party of polite suggestion, and if we can manage to do that, we will be far more likely to be hammering on the doors of power in the near future.

Supporting America isn’t Supporting Bush by georgeinwashington
May 25, 2007, 3:52 pm
Filed under: Foreign Affairs, Iraq, US/UK relations

The President of the United States, George Bush has an approval rating in the low thirties and has done for a long time. This is the lowest level of support that a president has enjoyed since Nixon was impeached for corruption, and it was said that all this proved that you can fool 30% of the American people all the time. As a Brit who has lived in the US for the last year and indeed grown very fond of this country it seems to me increasingly strange that we should continue to frame our support for America in terms of supporting the policies of a man that very few Americans find agreeable.

This I believe has been one of the underlying flaws to Blair’s foreign policy, and it is not without its consequences. To many Americans, Blair is viewed as no better than Bush, which isn’t a good thing. Blair has projected the image of Britain abroad as one of subservient, and unimaginative, all too willing to act against our own interests for a photo opportunity with the US President. We have lost the respect we once had abroad as a leader in international relations. Even in the eyes of those we slavishly support.

The politicians in Britain need to understand that in this particular moment in History with America being lead by someone who is viewed by his own people as deficient and dangerous, we will not lose the support of Americans if we hold back our support of America.

To illustrate this point I will leave you with Jon Stuart of the Daily Show’s take on the farewell visit of Blair to Bush, well worth watching and can be found here: