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09.10.12

Time to get off Tony Blair’s foreign policy bendy bus

I had this on Labour Uncut last week:

I’ve tried to watch West Wing but, pace Westminster, always found it too hackneyed to endure. It may be an equally unutterable thing to say, at least within the beltway, but Armando Iannucci’s the Thick of It is becoming tired and predictable.

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29.12.09

Yes, we still can (but leadership and disciplined support are needed)

The striking thing about the most powerful person in the world, as he approaches one year in office, is how, err, lacking in power he appears.

Disappointed and, according to Mark Lynas, insulted by the Chinese in Copenhagen.  A Health Care Bill that isn’t yet on the statute; is much delayed on his original timetable; and, by his own admission, is only “nine-tenths of a loaf” – some would say that half a loaf is nearer the mark and it comes with lashings of pork barrel whatever way you look at it. An Afghan strategy that even he doesn’t seem wholly convinced by and the backdrop to which Andrew Sullivan commented upon by saying:

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20.05.09

I am a European … What does that mean?

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a former French finance minister, argued that “on Saturday 15 February (2003), a new nation was born on the street. This new nation is the European nation”.  This conclusion was drawn, notes Timothy Garton Ash, “from the simultaneous demonstrations across Europe on 15 February 2003, protesting against the Bush administration’s advance to war with Iraq … That summer there (also) appeared in many European newspapers an appeal for ‘the rebirth of Europe’, co-signed by Jacques Derrida and Jurgen Habermas, two of the continent’s most famous living philosophers”.

“What Habermas argues with philosophical density”, Garton Ash went on to note, “and Strauss-Kahn with eloquent political hyperbole, is that Europe is different from the United States, that in these differences Europe, is on the whole, better than the United States, and that a European identity can and should be built upon these differences – or superiorities. Europe, in short, is the Not-America”, as the David Bowie below song almost goes.

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10.04.09

We should all be worried about David Cameron, not just the Foreign Office

The Foreign Office is worried about David Cameron, apparently. It is “most concerned about the effects Cameron’s anti-EU European policy will have on the UK’s chances of effecting outcomes”, the Guardian claims. Labour Councillor Bob Piper has also spotted this claim reported on the Sky News website.

We should all share the concerns of the Foreign Office. It is only in and through the EU that the UK can best serve our national interests and values. Bizarrely, Tory MEP Roger Helmer describes it as “indefensible, humiliating and wrong” that David Cameron has not yet fulfilled a promise to form a new grouping in the European Parliament with other parties that have been described as “openly and unashamedly racist and homophobic”. This promise suggests an inability to understand modern British values, let alone take them forward within the EU.

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31.03.09

The global citizenry still need governments to cooperate

“While government cooperation has declined”, writes Paul Collier in a fascinating article in the RSA Journal, “there has been an acknowledgement that global problems can only be addressed by common responses”. Gideon Rachman provides illustration of this decline in government cooperation in today’s FT. “If you look at Mr Obama’s top priorities, you get a sense of just how little the Europeans are prepared to give him. More help in Afghanistan? Most Europeans will do the bare minimum. A co-ordinated fiscal stimulus? Sorry, Europe is out of cash as well as troops”. If this really is the “most pro-American European leadership in living memory”, as Gordon Brown recently told a joint session of Congress, they have a funny way of embracing “the president that Europeans hoped and prayed for”, as Rachman correctly describes Barack Obama. It seems to me that European leadership presently provides more support for the thesis of Collier than that of Brown.

“Fortunately”, however, as Collier writes, “while the ability of governments to cooperate has declined, the ability of citizens to cooperate has increased. The Obama campaign was a spectacular demonstration of this at the national level, but there are examples internationally. It may be that cooperation at the level of civil society can be a substitute for that between governments in introducing common responses to global problems”. The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) is an example given by Collier to support an argument that has much commonality with David Miliband’s thinking on the – apologies for the jargon – “we can” generation. Essentially, this is about citizen-centric policy on a global scale, which is all very exciting, but apologies for layering jargon upon jargon.

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11.12.08

“Daft” rhetoric on Afghanistan

Very striking comments from Kim Howells, until recently a Foreign Office Minister, on Afghanistan. It seems increasingly clear that a radically changed approach is required in that country.

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11.12.08

"Daft" rhetoric on Afghanistan

Very striking comments from Kim Howells, until recently a Foreign Office Minister, on Afghanistan. It seems increasingly clear that a radically changed approach is required in that country.

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02.11.08

What's at stake in the US presidential election?

The New York Review of Books has an absolutely wonderful feature on what is at stake in the US presidential election. Fourteen leading thinkers give their views.

Darryl Pinckney is amongst those who see parallels between Barack Obama’s campaign and Robert Kennedy’s bid in 1968. “Kennedy was on his was to the nomination and if he had survived the country could have taken a different path. This election has the same feeling, the sense that we are at a fork in the road, and must go one way or the other”.

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02.11.08

What’s at stake in the US presidential election?

The New York Review of Books has an absolutely wonderful feature on what is at stake in the US presidential election. Fourteen leading thinkers give their views.

Darryl Pinckney is amongst those who see parallels between Barack Obama’s campaign and Robert Kennedy’s bid in 1968. “Kennedy was on his was to the nomination and if he had survived the country could have taken a different path. This election has the same feeling, the sense that we are at a fork in the road, and must go one way or the other”.

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02.11.08

Thinking the unthinkable in Afghanistan – and elsewhere

Paul Collier’s the Bottom Billion is a hard hitting and sobering analysis of development – and seems all the more so in view of recent tragic events in Afghanistan.

Collier begins by setting out the issue that his book addresses. “For forty years the development challenge has been a rich world of one billion people facing a poor world of five billion people. The Millennium Development Goals established by the United Nations, which are designed to track development progress through 2015, encapsulate this thinking. By 2015, however, it will be apparent that this way of conceptualizing development has become outdated. Most of the five billion, about 80 percent, live in countries that are indeed developing, often at amazing speed. The real challenge of development is that there is a group of countries at the bottom that are falling behind, often falling apart”.

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