29 November 2008

Damian Green

Some general thoughts:
  • I suspect that Green's releasing stuff in "the public interest" was also because it further served the Tory interest
  • I believe that Brown and Smith weren't told about this beforehand- Diane Abbott said that there had to be political cover and I think not telling them was that
  • If this was a Labour MP doing this, the Daily Mail et. al would not be so much in arms
  • I hope there was a very good reason for this- I suspect there's something more than the Tory story.
(Edit 3.10pm - this is my 200th post)

Winning The War On Terror

This is the first part of an ongoing series where I try to solve the world's problems and probably fail miserably. Nevertheless, it's the trying that counts.

My first such topic will be on the war on terror. Now, this is the obvious conflict that is going on and one we'd all like to end, whether it be bringing our relatives who serving in Iraq and Afghanistan home or just not having to remove your shoes every time you go through airport security.

One cannot win the war on terror by military means alone. Some argue that it cannot be won at all.

Jesus said "love your enemy". This might be a good approach.

One thing we have to remember- Muslims are not our enemy. Those who distort that religion for their own sick ends are. However, there's no reason why we should not also treat them with love.

It's going to be important for President Obama to close Guantanamo Bay down. While I strongly suspect that some of the abuses there have been exaggerated by people for their own purposes, its existence is a recruiting sergeant for disaffected Muslim youths. Those there need to be placed on trial in a system that combines transparency with security- i.e. not releasing information that must remain secret.

On the subject of disaffected Muslim youths- the Muslim community in this country do feel that they are being excluded. This one is going to be a bit controversial, but I think, provided all parties agree in advance, that sharia law courts should be allowed.

The anti-immigrant rhetoric of the Tory press must stop.

We need to tackle the Middle East problem starting now, not after Obama takes office. It is the single key issue that "Al-Qaeda" gets most of its support from and we need to show the Muslim street that we care about them.

This also applies, as I've already mentioned, to the corrupt governments in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia in particular.

Global poverty needs to be dealt with, recession or no recession. I'm rather curious as to how much of China's foreign debt (if it has any) British people actually own. One way to deal with that is eliminating all tax havens, so uncaring rich people have nowhere to run. Lewis Hamilton (not saying he's uncaring) could pay a little more tax for a start. I also favour the Tobin tax.

These will show that we love all people, regardless of their skin colour or beliefs.

Of course, it may end up being the most loving thing in some cases to drop a 500-lb bomb on someone's head, sadly.

Your thoughts are welcome.

27 November 2008

Speaking of Tories...

Boris may have scrapped The Londoner. Havering Tories haven't scrapped their bi-weekly paper.

In other news, my long-planned 1980s espionage RP for AJJE Games, Covert-81, should be going up soon.

I'll give you more details when the page is created.

Boris Johnson talks the talk on the environment...

But then scraps the Dagenham Dock DLR extension and is going to scrap the C-Charge extension.

I didn't vote for this guy and I think people who voted him in because he's amusing should examine his record before 2012.

Mumbai Attacks

I suppose you've already heard about it. Nasty, that's for sure.

Let me make one thing clear to those cowards who don't even have the bravery to attack military targets- as long as I have anything to do with it, you are not getting one iota of what you want.

22 November 2008

Comments Policy

I've revised the comments policy- anyone can now contribute, but I reserve the right to remove offensive posts.

Thanks to Alun for pointing that out- Blogger has upgraded since I last the policy.

Remembrance: Legacy and Peace

The Legacy of the Second World War

The First World War was supposed to be the war to end all wars. As is blatantly obvious, it didn't exactly live up to that name.

The war changed the world, basically. The old European militaristic "glory of war" attitude was effectively destroyed for most people by trench warfare. Women got the vote, the class structure altered radically and the political structures of Europe were altered forever.

Of the countries in Europe most effected, Russia and Germany stand out for obvious reasons.

The Treaty of Versailles is rightly considered as a major cause of the Second World War. It made several crucial mistakes- being both too harsh and too soft on Germany.

General Pershing, despite his stupid decision to continue attacks on German troops after the Armistice had been signed (it was signed at 5am, but did not come into effect until 11am), commented that it should have been made abundantly clear that Germany had lost. If not, people could claim they had not- as Hitler did.

That said, blaming Germany for the whole of the war was wrong and its military should not have been limited in the way that it was (the Weimar Republic was already in breach of the military provisions before Hitler came to power). Germany should, as was done after the Second World War, been gradually reintegrated into the international community.

The biggest impact, which still resonates 90 years on, was the creation of the USSR. No USSR, arguably no Hitler, or at least no consideration of expansion. The support of the Western states of the anti-Bolshevik forces coloured Soviet perceptions of them for a long time, playing a factor in the Cold War and probably today.

Gavrio Princip's shots still echo today.


Someone once said, si vis pacem, para bellum (if you want peace, prepare for war). President Theodore Roosevelt said "speak softly and carry a big stick".

I can't recall the quote, but someone once commented, in essence, that an entire peaceful nation would be a sitting duck for one with warlike intentions.

There are around 210 geo-political entities on this planet. Even if 209 were entirely peaceful, just one could cause serious problems.

Certain people on the left place much of the blame on the current world situation on the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Sure, they have to share some of the blame, but it does not all rest with them by any extent of the imagination.

"Al-Qaeda" (I use the term in speech marks when I refer to the entire movement on a collective level) and the Taliban are the source of much of the trouble in Afghanistan- for example firing from civilian-occupied buildings, a violation of the principles of war.

We cannot defeat these people solely by arms that fire bullets, but we also need to use arms that provide hugs. We must put major pressure on the Middle Eastern states to allow freedom of speech and democratise- allowing people to affect politics in other ways. We also have to wean them off their dependence on oil as a revenue source, just as we have to do it as an energy source. On a related note, selling Eurofighter Typhoons to Saudi Arabia is a bad idea.

I have a saying- Perception is nine-tenths of a war. People start wars out of fear or because they misread others, more than anything. Saddam's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 is an example of the latter- he thought the USSR would prevent UN action, which it didn't do.

We need to understand the cultures of others- and explain our own to them.

I don't imagine it will be easy by any stretch of the imagination- there will always be a few war-lovers, people who glory in causing mass destruction, out there. We just need to make sure that they are contained.

While this concludes this series, I want to explore certain aspects of this in my blog in the future.

21 November 2008

The continuation of this blog

The Remembrance post will follow tomorrow or Sunday.

That said, I am seriously considering mothballing this blog. I do not seem to be getting any visitors at all and I do not fancy speaking into thin air.

I will let you know my decision in two weeks.

16 November 2008


The two final Remembrance posts were due on Monday and Tuesday, but I had internet connection problems.

They will be posted as one post, probably sometime next week.

09 November 2008

Remembrance: The Sea War

I intend to do two more posts on the subject of the First World War- one more on its legacy and a second on peace in general.

The First World War is not as well known in the naval area as the Second. There was only a couple of large sea battles in the course of the war- Jutland being the most famous.

However, this war set a lot of elements that would make the later Battle of the Atlantic in the second war so bloody for all concerned.

Submarines had been around for a long period and used in war for about half a century. They were more submersibles at this point, spending most of their time on the surface.

Initially the Germans adopted the Prize Rules of the period (specifically from the two Hague Conventions)- challenging merchant ships, allowing the crew to get to a place of safety, which didn't count lifeboats, then sinking the ship. A British Admiral, John Fisher, worried about the Germans going to unrestricted submarine warfare- as a sub could not take the crew of a merchant ship. Churchill, then thought that a civilised nation would never do it.

Fisher was right- Germany did go unrestricted, in response to an effective Allied blockade of Germany. During this process it sunk the Lusitania- that, other attacks and the later Zimmermann telegram, brought the US into the war, leading to Germany's defeat.

For both sides, submarines were noisy, dirty and cramped. Being sunk could lead to a highly unpleasant death.

Some of the U-Boat commanders committed atrocities (others didn't) and there was considerable public hatred of them in the Allied countries.

Depth charges and sonar appeared in this war, to be perfected later.

Being on board a sinking ship, flooding rapidly, while possibly injured, must be an awful way to die. Knowing also that your family won't have a real grave to go to either. Those who served in the naval and merchant ships in both wars were truly brave men and women.

08 November 2008

Remembrance: Conscientious Objection

The First World had conscription on nearly all sides after willing volunteers ran out.

However, for some people, the whole idea of war was wrong. They refused to fight in the war, preferring to go to prison rather than compromise their beliefs.

Some played a valuable part in helping the wounded in No Man's Land. Others refused to take part in that, arguing they would be helping to prolong the war by fixing people up.

It sometimes takes more courage not to fight than it does to fight. If I had been around at the time, I suspect I probably would have gone to war. I was briefly a pacifist, but lost that a long time.

Sadly, it is sometimes necessary to go to war- it will be until the Second Coming. But I respect those who disagree provided they are genuine about it and not biased in who they criticise.

Don't buy white poppies- the money does not go to help those who have been injured. If you don't want to wear a poppy for whatever reason, just put a quid in the poppy box. It still helps people.

06 November 2008

Remembrance: The Eastern Front

One of the most important impacts of the First World War was the end of the Tsarist regime and the Bolshevik popularly-supported coup that led to the creation of the USSR- with all the historical implications that had.

Arguably, Russia's reaction to Austria's threats to Serbia was a major reason why war broke out in August 1914. "Slavs united" has been a force in Russian policy for quite a while (Kosova in 1999 for example).

Unlike the Western Front, the Eastern Front was a war of movement, with advances and retreat, going over much the same ground as in the Second World War.

Russia lost this part of the war- mainly because it was badly organised. Nicholas II (and later the Provisional Government) ended up between a rock and hard place with regards to continuing the war. Neither decision would improve things- a true dilemma.

Ultimately the Bolsheviks ended the war, the Germans moved their troops and launched their offensive- but the Americans were there. The decision of the Provisional Government to continue the war was, probably, the right one.

But, to honest, it shouldn't have had to be made. The Tsarist regime should have reformed earlier. Their error was to all our cost.

04 November 2008

Remembrance: The Air War

The First World War, although not quite the first conflict to involve the use of air power (that occurred a couple of years earlier), was certainly the first big one.

One does recall Blackadder and the Twenty-Minuters at this point (Blackadder Goes Forth is a brilliant series), but there were elements to this. For a start, pilots didn't have parachutes and there were no ejector seats.

Most of the inherent concepts of air combat were initially drawn up in that war- the Dicta Boelcke, for example.

The Air War saw German Zeppelins bombing London and other cities in the UK- civilians were no longer safe just be being far away from the front-line. An impact of this that none of us like.

To my American readers

Don't forget to go vote today. People sacrificed everything to ensure that you could.

Every vote will have an impact on the elections today.

(NB An analysis post will not be put up until the weekend at least).

03 November 2008

Remembrance: The Western Front

This is the second post in my short series on the First World War.

The Western Front is the most memorable part of the Great War- primarily for the blood, mud and stupidity.

Spending a good couple of weeks (units were rotated, if I recall correctly) in a muddy trench with frequent shelling, rats and gangrene for company must have been an awful experience. It's a credit to the British soldiers that they didn't generally mutiny when told to go back.

For one who has never seen combat, I can't pretend to begin to understand what it's like to charge a machine-gun post. It's not something I can imagine doing myself, but who knows- I might well have gone on autopilot when the whistles blew. It's certainly not rational to charge towards someone with a machine-gun, but rationality goes out of the window in a war.

It seems from the records that these attacks were "successful" at least for a little while- a machine-gunner can only gun down so many people before he/she is overwhelmed by numbers.

As a person who hates mud and the cold, I don't think I'd cope in the trenches. I'm glad that it's unlikely I'll ever have to face that.

For your clean tomorrow, they gave their dirty today.

02 November 2008

Remembrance: The Origins Of The First World War

In the lead-up to the 90th anniversary of the Armistice, I thought I'd make a few posts on the subject of "the war to end all wars".

A while back I read a book by Barbara Tuchman called The Guns of August. The argument of the book was that the military plans of the powers of Europe went into autopilot and no-one was able to stop the process because of fears of the other side. A very interesting book- I recommend it.

The trigger that led to this global conflict was of course the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, but there was already tensions ongoing in Europe at that time.

In particular there was an arms race between Great Britain and Germany, particularly in the naval front. Now, while guns don't kill people on their own, they can serve to turn a tense situation into a full-blown fight. Perhaps this should have been spotted.

Germany, definitely not a democracy as we would use the term today at that point in history, should not take all the blame for starting the war. It should take some though- it didn't need to invade Belgium or attack France at that point. The conduct of German troops in Belgium, although exaggerated by Allied propaganda was pretty bad at times.

I don't think Austria needed to start a war with Serbia (did they have evidence Serbia was involved? I don't think they did).

Really, the tragedy of the First World War is that it really shouldn't have happened. The end of the First made the Second almost inevitable.

The US Election

It's two days to go until the US Presidential Election, so I'd better post my thoughts here.

I think Obama, bar the polls being massively wrong (possible, but unlikely) or a game-changing event in the next two days (unlikely), is going to be the first black President of the United States. He'll win by a fair margin, at least 7 points in the popular vote and getting at least 300 electoral college votes.

McCain has ultimately suffered from being the candidate of a party that just got hit by a massive economic crisis, led by an unpopular President who has generally been rather incompetent. His own campaign hasn't really helped things (Palin should have been better prepared for her Veep candidacy role, for example).

While I would welcome an Obama victory, I cannot escape some nagging doubts about the man.

Firstly, his lack of experience- four years at national level. Kennedy had twelve, for comparative purposes.
Secondly, his willingness to distort McCain's voting record and views for his own campaign purposes, which does not seem to me to indicate a new style of politics.

Thirdly, some aspects of his policies concern me. I don't think a tax increase on the rich during a recession is a good idea. It should be pointed out that rich people's earnings don't all disappear into a Caymans bank account. They buy food, drink, cars- all money that keeps the economy going.

Fourthly, I have this worry that Obama's going to turn out to be a sort of Jimmy Carter Mark II. Russia, China, Iran or someone else might decide that he's weak and try something that will have nasty consequences on the local level at least.

I hope I'm wrong.