Wahey! Won the pub quiz yesterday, found a fiver down the back of the couch and to cap it all off, those lovely Tories have obliged with yet GCSE politics essay to point at and laugh. Life is good.
This time it's about the Falklands. Sort of. Recently, those Tories have been prattling on about the conflict and why it denoted the greatness of Thatcher, the weakness of Blair and the clarion call for Britain's demise as a superpower. A few bloggers have penned short pieces on the subject, but Tim Montgomerie, founder of Conservativehome.com has helpfully gone into more detail, setting out the right-wing arguments behind their South Atlantic article of faith.
It's a long way from Port Stanley to the Shatt-al-Arab waterway
Today is the 25th anniversary of Argentina's invasion of the Falklands. The recapture of the Falklands became the defining event of the Thatcher years.
Ah, "the defining event". This is ALMOST a great piece of Esperantory, but for the important fact that it's a phrase used across the political spectrum. Lefties, for example, see "the defining event of the Thatcher years" as the crushing of the Miners' Strike. Rightwingers see it as the crushing of the enemy within (i.e. the Miners' Strike). Ma*k That*her sees it as the time he had the whizzer idea of flogging a load of guns to the Saudis. Everyone else sees the defining event as the little matter of the end of Communism and the cold war. But no matter. I'll shut up and let you read in full the gushing prelude to the article from britainandamerica.com:
A nation that had been in decline since WWII found a new confidence. As Robin Harris wrote in yesterday's Independent on Sunday, the Falklands campaign restored Britain's status in the world and provided Margaret Thatcher with the authority she needed for her domestic reform programme and for her to become Ronald Reagan's leading ally during the Cold War. A quarter of a century later the role of aggressor is being played by the much more deadly Iran. On this morning's television screens, for the fourth successive day, we watch kidnapped British sailors being humilated by their Iranian captors. Former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind is surely right to say that more should be done to put pressure on the regime in Tehran. His suggestion of a suspension of EU nations' export credits to Iran seems an immediate and minimum necessary response. For the longer-term, however, what this current crisis exposes is the decline of Britain as a serious power. In these early years of the war on terror, Tim Montgomerie, Editor of BritainAndAmerica.com, lists ten key factors that have contributed to Britain's vulnerability in 2007.
An overstretched and under-resourced military:
Britain's armed forces - although made up of brilliant individual servicemen - are small in number and under-resourced. Recruitment rates are down and 'quit rates' are up. As Conservative defence spokesman Liam Fox has noted: "This year we will spend only 2.2% of our GDP on defence. This is the smallest proportion of our national wealth that we have spent on defending our country since 1930." You see, with Tories, all Public Spending is BAD, unless it's spent on Guns n Ammo, which is GOOD. If Argentina reinvaded the Falklands today the Royal Navy would be unable to send a task force to free them.
Well that's a stupid bloody sentence because:
1. They won't invade, because Blair has shored up the shaky relationship between the UK and Argentina (or, as it's known in the trade, "diplomacy")
2. We wouldn't need a task force because there is a permanent deployment of 1200 troops, ships and RAF Tornados on the islands... unlike in 1982 when the Argentinian invasion was preceeded by the MoD removing practically all the island's defences
3. The Argentinians are no longer ruled by a tinpot despot shored up by our bezzie mates the Americans
The Iraq war. Although this blog was and is a supporter of the decision to topple Saddam Hussein it cannot defend the subsequent campaign. Britain and America attempted to prevail 'on the cheap' CHEAP!?. This might have been forgivable at first but when it was obvious that Rumsfeld's light footprint doctrine er, I think that should be "light fingers doctrine" was failing there should have been a change in strategy. US Senators McCain and Lieberman were calling for extra troops in early 2004 but their calls fell on deaf (and stubborn) ears. On the other hand, Former Secretary of State James Baker was calling for a drawdown in troops at the start of this year (but that's not helpful right now) President Bush's troops surge is a belated attempt to re-establish American authority. Britain's withdrawal from southern Iraq only reinforces the view of our enemies that we lack either equipment or resolution to prevail.
Appeasement of Iran. Tehran has watched Britain and America consistently fail to respond to its militancy thing is, Tim, we're already fighting two wars in the Middle East, and we're a bit, well, tied up at the moment . Its subversive agents have - until recently - been unchallenged in Iraq that's because - until recently - Iran's subversive agents were being more than adequately challenged by Saddam Hussein and the Taliban. Until the Neocon geniuses in the Pentagon got rid of them. I mean, what's a good Iranian subversive agent to do on a Saturday night? Sit around kicking his heels? HELL NO! Go out and blow shit up! (I'm sure a good neocon like Tim could understand the attractiveness of this option.) It bore no cost for its material support of Hezbollah during last summer's Lebanon conflict. There appears to be no limit to the EU nations' commitment to a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear ambitions which is, apparantly, a Bad Thing. While the talk goes on and on Iran could be less than a year away from realising its dream of becoming a nuclear power. Yes, it could be. Or it could not be. Either way, declaring war against a nascent nuclear power is Not a Good Thing. Of course, we would have been in a much stronger position to argue for international consensus if we hadn't neutered the UN a couplathree years back...
Appeasement of internal threats. The 7/7 bombings showed that within the home-grown population there were people who hated Britain so much that they were willing to kill themselves and their fellow countrymen in suicide bomb attacks. Although the situation is beginning to improve from the darkest days of 'Londonistan' That would be the Melanie Phillips polemic that was rejected by 20 major publishing houses, right? That was three years out of date before it hit the shelves? That one? the British authorities have for many years tended to encourage extremism by only dealing with the more extremist 'representatives' of Britain's Muslims Now, I understand that rejecting diplomacy on the international stage is kind of possible if you've got the biggest guns. And I understand that there's some pretty extreme extremists out there. But what I don't understand is how the hell you're supposed to stop bomb attacks from within the home grown population if you stick your fingers in your ears and pretend they're not there.... As Michael Gove MP has written, Michael Gove, eh? Shit. **gives up and goes home** this effective cold-shouldering of moderate voices is a repeat of the way Tony Blair promoted Sinn Fein's status at the expense of the SDLP during the Northern Ireland peace process. Yes, and we all know what a dramatic failure the Northern Ireland peace process has proved. Eh? Oh. And would that be the same SDLP whose leader, John Hume, sat on the Labour benches in the Commons?
The weakness of the transatlantic relationship. The special relationship between Britain and America has been historically central to Britain's national interests but is now in danger... because everyone from Number 10, the Foreign Office and the MoD right down to the man in the street has seen what a stupid bloody idea it is to follow the Americans in their Project for a New American Century. As Professor Victor Bulmer-Thomas of Chatham House puts it, there was no evidence Mr Blair had been able to influence the Bush administration in "any significant way... loyalty in international politics counts for nothing". Washington sees Tony Blair - rightly - as a staunch ally but he will soon leave Downing Street and his successor will inherit the leadership of a country that is overwhelmingly hostile to the Iraq war - a war that many see as a war of choice and chosen by George W Bush and America...er, your point caller? It was a war of choice and it was chosen by George W Bush and American Neocons. And who or what is "Washington"? Didn't Bush's Republicans just get annihilated at the polls? Bush may see Blair as an ally, but the Democrats who control the Senate and the House, and shortly the White House, see him as inextricably tied to Bush. Contrast with Brown, whose Democrat connection are impeccable and... wait a minute, I think the editor of Conservative Home has just outed himself as a Brownite.... Tony Blair has found it difficult to combine support for America with necessary criticism of US policy failures. Er, I think you'll find that's "US and UK policy failures". Or are you saying that we just do what we're told? Not much of a "special relationship"... The British people want In case, you weren't aware, editor of Neoconservativehome.com Tim Montgomerie is officially the voice of the British people. That means you, citizen now to see a reassertion of Britain's national interests and the challenge for Britain's next government is to persuade voters that US and UK interests are closely connected. So... that's a reassertion of British National Interest through subsuming British National Interest into a Foreign National Interest. It really is very simple...
By the way, you'll notice how the Falklands theme has been dropped by this paragraph. That's cos it's quite hard arguing for the Special Relationship view on the Falklands when the Reagan cabinet were split over the UK action. Reagan himself couldn't understand why two US allies were arguing the toss over "that little ice-cold bunch of land down there". Or, to quote Robbin Harris (as Tim does in his opening paragraph, above): "The Reagan administration could have signalled much earlier its opposition to such a mad venture. It preferred to equivocate, so as to retain the bibulous and unpredictable General Galtieri as an ally in its wars in Central America."
Decline of NATO. Membership of NATO was once a pillar of Britain's defence strategy yerrrrs, but so was the defeat of the Soviet Union. Or Spitfires. Or the application of blue face paint before battle. THINGS CHANGE. but NATO is a shadow of its former self. Many of its member states have been unable or unwilling to make any serious contribution to peacemaking operations in Afghanistan. And many have - 37 countries and 30,000 troops. And anyway, weren't we talking about the Falklands? What were the serious contributions made by NATO there?
Unfounded faith in the United Nations: Large sections of the British public - led by the BBC BOO!! HISS!! - have come to see the imprimatur of the United Nations as necessary for any military action to be legitimate. Well, they're not really "led by" the BBC, more by International Law Experts, or indeed anyone that can spell the words "Geneva" and "Conventions". The people of Rwanda and Darfur know that waiting for the UN to arrive at a resolution is a very dangeous thing to do. The people of Iraq, on the other hand... Last week's UN statement on the Iranian kidnapping fell well short of London's hopes "they didn't do as they were told = they were wrong" and we should not have been surprised. Three of the Security Council's permanent members - China, France and Russia - have a track record of putting commercial interests and relationships with unsavoury regimes before the high principles of the UN's founders. Whereas the other two, Britain and the US, have an untarnished record of acting completely without vested interest in the greater interest of mankind as a whole. Can I bring up Galtieri's status as a US ally again here? Or the fact that the Argentinian Navy fought the Falklands War with British-built Type 42 destroyers? Conservatives who are rightly sceptical about the multilateralist EU are too willing to give a benefit of the doubt to the UN. Nice. "Hate the EU? Hate the UN too! It's much more fun!"
The BBC Oh. For. Crying. Out. LOUD. Although the BBC has given extensive coverage to the hostage crisis it has not reflected the breadth of opinion in many of Britain's newspapers trans: The Mail where there has been much impatience with the Blair Government's weak response to the Iranian situation. The BBC has certainly been a leading contributor to public opposition to the war in Iraq. That's right: opposition to the war in Iraq is the result of the BBC. 2 million antiwar marchers in London were only there because of top secret subliminal brainwashing in the middle of Countryfile. There has been a relentless focus on the failings of the Iraq campaign but next to no analysis of how coalition forces might ensure that their mission succeeds. Here's a thought Tim: Perhaps no-one has Any Bloody Idea how to ensure "the mission" succeeds. What even is the mission? Coverage of the campaign's failures cannot be questioned but the lack of a balance is a failure of its public service mandate. This is one of the constant weaknesses of the British landscape. Note how renaissance man Tim makes the seemless segue from geopolitics to physical geography there. I think he's claiming that the Peak District was formed not by periglacial movement during the last ice age, but by Robin Day giving Willie Whitelaw a hard time during the hustings for the 1979 general election. Sadly, the great man doesn't elaborate. The BBC's sympathetic treatment of the Argentinians' claim to the 'Malvinas' was a great source of controversy in 1982. In 1982, Balance was Bad. In 2007, Balance is Good. But this is IN NO WAY hypocritical. Got that?
Little strategic thinking. There are very few thinkers in Britain who are preparing for future threats. not like the Philosopher Kings of the Thatcher Government, who removed the only Royal Navy ship from The Falklands three weeks before the invasion. There is, for example, no appreciation of the likelihood of nuclear proliferation and there was me thinking that Trident was renewed last month and the need for missile defence as our only likely protection. That'll be the missile defence that doesn't actually protect Britain. At all.
A distracted Opposition. These weaknesses that Tony Blair will bequeath to his successors are an enormous burden. The Party of Margaret Thatcher Does he realise that those initials are PMT? has every chance of winning the next election and has decided that discussion of public services and climate change is much more likely to win that election trans: we're all cute n cuddly right now, but as soon as we get into No.10 we'll be breaking out the SA-80s and yomping across the Middle East like Suez never happened... That is understandable but is not likely to steel the British public for the sacrifices that future stages of the war on terror will undoubtedly demand "Steel the British public?" Sounds like Tim foresees a new Blitz... Anderson Shelters in the garden? Ration cards in Starbucks? Clockwork internet? It is also unclear if many British Tories have the strategic clarity that Tony Blair has shown since 9/11 But you just said that we are in the middle of a "weak response" to the Iranian situation. I'm confused. Oh wait, this is on britainandamerica.com, which means you can't criticise Tony Blair for the response to 9/11 cos the Yanks won't have it. Know Your Audience. A clarity that was never, sadly, translated into effective applications. "Tony means well, bless him, but he's a bit fick".
And what exactly are the Opposition "distracted" by? I think what Tim means is "A Shit Opposition". But he doesn't want to crap on his own doorstep.
And that is that... well thought out, meticulously researched and rhetorically flawless.
Well, my bit was.