Today most of the UK government sector is on strike. They are reluctant to accept pension changes that (in my opinion) are reasonable and necessary for a sustainable fiscal track into the future. The exchanges in Parliament exemplify the skill of both Cameron and Miliband in debate.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
The attack on the UK embassy in Tehran is another indication of the instability of the region. The UK Government should cut diplomatic relations with Iran. There is simply no point in talking to a regime that at the moment at least, has no interest in constructive dialogue. These tensions will continue to grow in the context of Iran nuclear program. As I have noted, Israeli is likely to attack Iran's nuclear program in the coming months. Today's action by Iran damages the notion that Israel could tolerate an weaponised nuclear capacity.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Friday, November 18, 2011
Republicans in congress have a clear choice between common sense compromises on revenue or, an illogical orthodoxy that will paralyse the country's finances, gut the military and render the party totally divorced from the values of compromise, national interest and reason on which it was formed. In terms of the national interest, reforming the tax code by lowering rates and eliminating deductions, is very literally a small price to pay for a comprehensive deal. Refusing such a deal on the basis that more revenue is inherently wrong, is not just illogical in terms of the need for a debt deal, but serves only a small class of Americans- mostly ideologues like Norquist and tax lawyers working the system. Republicans must decide whether the party stands for an enlightened view of the national interest or for the whims of special interest groups detached from reality.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Although planned cuts to defence spending (around $450 billion/10 years) are necessary in light of the US fiscal situation, the fall-back cuts that will occur if Congressional debt negotiations fail will be catastrophic. As Secretary Panetta noted in his letter, such cuts would pose a real burden on America's force posture capabilities. These cuts would weaken dramatically our ability to deploy on short notice to high effect around the world. Further, the cuts would damage our ability to apply decisive force on major operations. As a party that has heavily supported US military action over the past decade and continues to regard itself as the national security party, for Republicans to sacrifice these cuts at the altar of an anti-revenue ideology, would be a moral and strategic failure of major proportions.
Reports surrounding american security engagement with the UK over the 2012 olympics should not be a cause for concern. The US has traditionally sent security teams to escort athletes at major sporting events- including football world cups and previous olympics. These teams, predominantly from the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, work within an agreed framework alongside the host nation, supporting but not leading the security effort to protect competitors/officials involved. Previous US involvement has never been a cause for incident but instead has served to provide a valuable addition to the overall security effort. The resources and capabilities of the US government, especially with reference to event security and VIP protection are unparalleled. In this regard, while some might seek to portray an american desire to send security agents to London as arrogant and unwarranted, these agents can provide crucial support to an extraordinarily complex security challenge. Contrary to public attitudes, the US will neither seek to ignore english laws or to take over the UK's security control. Rather, in allocating specialist teams towards limited security concerns, the US will free up UK security resources and help to maximise the likelihood of the olympics proceeding without major incident.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Obama's trip to Asia is a long overdue step towards re-establishing american influence in the region. Since 9/11, american foreign policy has been obsessed with the middle east and islamist extremism to the detriment of compelling interests elsewhere. The rise of democracy and economic growth in Indonesia, a country with around 240 million citizens, is an area where american foreign policy can play a positive supporting role. In attending the ASEAN summit in Bali, Obama will also be able to improve american relations with states like Vietnam and the Philippines that are concerned by Chinese expansion and perceived bullying on the part of that country. Obama's trip also plays a bigger purpose in that it will provide the signal of american commitment to the free movement of goods and services across the Indian Ocean. Supporting democracy, peace and economic growth in Asia serves both American and regional interests, Obama should be praised for this strategic endeavour.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
The police did a great job at today's protest. They contained the protest along the agreed route march, they dominated ringleaders with targeted snatch squads as here and they stopped an occupation of Trafalgar Square. The protesters were able to make their voices heard in a way that didn't infringe on the freedoms of other Londoners to get on with their lives. This was policing resource intensive and a protest low in violence. Incidentally, I suggested this would be the case in my post yesterday ;). Loving the people who are complaining there were too many police. Who complains that there are too many police unless you want trouble?
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
On Wednesday, the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts will march through London. While the protest will likely centre around a peaceful majority marching in pursuit of their beliefs, the news that a large number of police officers will be assigned to the march, some armed with riot guns, should not be a cause for alarm.
The violence at last year’s student protests, the TUC protest in March and the summer riots were in large part, the result of groups of committed, violent individuals who were focused on hijacking peaceful movements in order to create chaos. These individuals inflicted substantial harm on the agendas of the protests they invaded and caused substantial injury to people and property alike. In responding to these offenders, the police were at the ground level often courageous, but also hampered by a blunt, rigid strategy that was too often predicated on kettling, stand-off pursuit and after-incident investigation. These weaknesses needed to be addressed and yesterday’s announcement shows that to some degree, they have been.
While riot guns evoke understandable emotional discomfort among a British population expectant of ‘consensual policing’, a logical analysis of riot guns establishes that they can provide an important policing role. They can do so in enabling the police where necessary, to apply reasonable force in a manner that is both discriminate and decisive, while minimising the risk of injury to the surrounding public. Combined with the Met’s assertion that they will ‘act swiftly and decisively if people do engage in criminal acts’, we can infer that the police will move to prevent the rolling violence that has characterised earlier protest hijacks. It is this strategic element that forms the first part of why we should welcome yesterday’s announcement. Improving police capabilities allows the police to tailor their operational strategies to particular circumstances, mitigating risks and hopefully improving outcomes. Lines of riot police armed only with batons are inherently limited in how and to what effect they can operate. However, improved capabilities are not alone sufficient. It is also important to remember that the police are still bound to the stringent reasonable force test under English law. This requires that any use of baton rounds will have to be justified subjectively and objectively under the law. Riot guns will serve as a means of counter-escalation rather than of standard application.
We are right to hold our police to high standards and to demand investigation when they fall below these requirements, but asking police officers to go into potentially violent situations without the tools that they need to defend themselves is profoundly illogical, morally repulsive and a cowardly dereliction of our public contract with these public servants.
There is however, a second point that explains why we should welcome yesterday’s announcements.
Beyond the strategic need for improved police capabilities, where we lack a police force able to safeguard our protests effectively, we cause simultaneous damage to our democracy. Where a violent minority can perpetually hijack free speech and turn the streets into war zones every time a protest takes place, the protesters themselves are unjustly framed in the same deeply unpleasant picture as the violent offenders. In such situations, news debates on government spending are inevitably lost to a sea of violent imagery perpetuated by 24 hour news cycles. This in turn obfuscates public debates and reinforces vested interests who desire the labelling of protesters as idiotic thugs.
The central point is that we need protesters who are able petition government freely, in a way that is inclusive to all, including those who wish to attend with children. Protecting the rights of these individuals and those around them requires police strategies and capabilities that might at first appear unpleasant but are in fact proportionate and necessary.
Monday, November 7, 2011
With regards to the Israel-Iran nuclear crisis, Obama's options are limited. It is highly improbable that Obama could prevent an Israeli attack simply by demanding to Netanyahu that he not proceed. Israel regards an Iranian nuclear weapon as a precursor to a second holocaust and thus as a situation absolutely irreconcilable with their national security. The importance of this determination outweighs even Israeli attitudes towards maintaining strong relations with the US. Correspondingly, the US is left with a single line of approach: increasing international pressure for sanctions and preparing for the aftermath of an Israeli strike. The US has no interest in directly participating in an Israeli operation but has every interest in preventing any Israeli strike from leading to the outbreak of a regional war (which is as I suggested, unlikely). Obama's real choices will come after an Israeli strike - ie - what response the US takes if Iran retaliates against US interests. How would Obama confront an Iranian attempt to mine the straits of Hormuz? or an attempted attack on the US Navy? Or on US forces in the region?
Saturday, November 5, 2011
Israeli military action against Iran is likely to occur but unlikely to lead to a regional war
The growth of Iran's nuclear capability means that an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities is becoming likely. However, while the repercussions of an Israeli strike would be extremely serious, such a strike would be unlikely to escalate into a regional war.
Although the US and EU remain deeply concerned by Iran's nuclear program, for Israel, the perceived threat runs much deeper. Put simply, Israeli nuclear security strategy is indelibly hardened by the experiences of Auschwitz and Treblinka. Israel regards an Iranian nuclear weapon as a precursor to a second holocaust and thus an outcome that cannot be tolerated. Indeed, unilateral Israeli strikes against an Iraqi nuclear facility in 1981 and a suspected Syrian nuclear facility in 2007, provide clear evidence of Israeli attitudes towards perceived regional nuclear threats. The Israeli government believes that even if Iran were unlikely to use a nuclear weapon, the very possession of that capability would enable Iran's leaders to wage unrestrained aggression against Israeli interests. This could either come through encouragement to allies like the Lebanese Hizbollah, directly through Iran's intelligence services, or through a combination of both.
The central point is that Israel believes that a nuclear Iran would inevitably translate as an Iran that cannot be deterred.
In practical terms and contrary to popular opinion, effective Israeli military options against Iran, though highly complex, are not impossible. The Israeli Air Force has advanced 'bunker busting' bombs capable of penetrating hardened facilities and the Israeli Air Force regularly trains for long duration, deep penetration operations. Critically important also is the fact that Israel's sunni arab neighbours are terrified of a nuclear Iran. These states may well provide logistical support to 'quietly' facilitate Israeli action.
It is true that if Israel attacks Iran, the consequences would likely be serious. In the aftermath of Israeli strikes, Iran would probably attempt to attack Israeli interests worldwide while encouraging HAMAS and Hizbollah to launch attacks against Israel from Gaza and Lebanon. In addition, Iran might attempt to close oil transit routes through the straits of Hormuz. These actions would create regional instability, civilian casualties and would cause significant economic disruption. However, at the same time, the Iranian leadership also know that if they were to engage in major retaliation- for example by attempting to ignite a regional war or using chemical weapons against Israel, this would result in an escalatory dynamic that they could not survive. Iran is fully cognizant of the fact that the US would not allow Israel's survival to be threatened and that any substantial attack on US interests would incur an overwhelming American response. While the Iranian leadership are right in judging that there exists no American appetite for a ground invasion of their country, they also understand that In the event of a war, the US Air Force has the capacity to launch devastating attacks against Iran with relative impunity.
Ultimately, both Israeli and Iranian policy will be born of distinct, changing but rational analysis.