18 September 2009

Obama is shortsighted to scrap missile defence

President Obama yesterday announced that the United States would scrap its planned deployment of a sophisticated missile defence system in Eastern Europe.

The move had been predicted for some time but the clumsy timing of the announcement was not missed by many, coming on September 17th, the 70th anniversary of the Soviet attack on Poland in 1939.

The move had been anticipated following President Obama’s letter to Dmitry Medvedev in early 2009 implied that a United States missile defence may be rendered unnecessary if Russia were to drop its intransigent opposition to sanctions against Iran. This was therefore simply further tangible action in ‘pushing the reset button’ on relations with Russia.

Alongside the aim of securing Russian cooperation in tackling the Iranian regime, there are numerous additional short term benefits to abandoning the so called ‘son of Star Wars system’ - a project that has been around since the Reagan presidency. Its cost in the middle of the global recession are difficult to justify and questions over its use in Americas conflict against the Taliban and insurgents within Iraq are just a few of the immediate concerns about the project.

However, the move by the White House seems short sighted and naïve when viewed in terms of the potential threats developing in the coming decades and the ever increasing significance of Eastern European allies in the face of Russian hegemony in the region.
The missile defence system was to consist of two key military installations in Poland and the Czech Republic. Both nations have long sought to unshackle themselves from Russian influence and establish themselves as secure states. It was this rationale that led Poland and the Czech Republic to sign deals with the United States immediately following the war between Russia and Georgia over the renegade republic South Ossetia.

Many ‘transatlanticist’ politicians in both nations invested vast amounts of political capital to support the programme, which developed during the height of the Bush administrations international unpopularity. To facilitate the agreement, politicians from both nations weathered strong domestic criticism. According to Foreign Policy Magazine around 70 percent of Czechs opposed the idea of hosting the radar system for the missile shield and the final treaty faced strong opposition in parliament.

The Czech and Polish governments saw the presence of a U.S. facility on their soil as a bulwark against an assertive Russia and an extension of US protection as a reward for their loyalty in the war on terrorism. Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski expressed his nations disappointment when, during a visit to Washington, he remarked that “we paid quite a political price for the agreement, both in terms of internal politics and in our relations with Russia” adding that he expected the United States to honour the commitment.

The change in policy will raise fresh doubts over American commitment to Eastern Europe; will the continent now feel able to resist pressure from the Kremlin, whether it is in military matters or in the supply of oil and gas? The jubilation felt in Moscow would certainly suggest that Russia may begin reasserting its authority in what President Dmitry Medvedev has described as a sphere of Russian “privileged interests”.

President Obama has claimed that the plans have been shelved due to the downgrading of the threat from Iran. However, an April report of the National Air and Space Intelligence Center noted that "with sufficient foreign assistance, Iran could develop and test an ICBM capable of reaching the United States by 2015."

Others have claimed that technological limitations trump any grand international plans, arguing that the weaponry is ineffective and untested. However, recent tests have shown that 37 of 46 intercepts have been successfully completed in realistic conditions since 2001 by land-mobile, sea-based and silo-based interceptors. After such results, there is no reason to believe the European elements would not work as planned.

The United States maintains that it is committed to ensuring that no nation feels the need to develop nuclear weapons. But this stand must be made from a position of strength. It must be made clear that resources spent on nuclear weapons and missiles will be wasted because the U.S. possesses both the means and the will to block them.

But above all the plans should not be abandoned simply to adapt to current military challenges. In 1999 the United States biggest security challenge was instability in the Balkans. Just a decade later it finds itself embroiled in conflict on numerous fronts against a hidden Islamic terrorist network. To delay or dismantle plans for a sophisticated defence system on the premise that current security threats do not warrant the investment is short sighted. If America is to maintain its military supremacy it needs to be able to defend itself against hostile states in the future. The idea that the military of the U.S. will remain preoccupied with rag tag militant groups rather than state-to-state conflicts in the foreseeable future does not stand up to historical precedent.

At best the change in policy will warm relations with Russia and squeeze Iranian ambitions. But at worst President Obama has denied America a strategic trump card that could have secured its military supremacy for decades to come, making it better able to contain hostile states in the future. Of course, only time will tell.

US condemned for pre-emptive use of Hillary Clinton against Pakistan

15 September 2009

Reason number 1,376,981 to hate George W. Bush

He called Hillary fat!!
... that is according to a new 'tell all' book by former White House speech writer Matt Latimer, who claims the 43rd President was convinced the former First Lady would win the Democratic nomination, remarking 'Wait till her fat ass is sitting at this desk'.

Bush allegedly also slammed Barack Obama for being too inexperienced for the office and asked if Sarah Palin had served as 'Governor of Guam'

Full story here.

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Obama: He's a jackass

Mr. President throws his two cents in to the Kanyegate affair

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There now follows a party political broadcast...

I hate to admit it, but ConservativeHome have reeled out an excellent YouTube clip which (according to The Spectator) could form an extremely effective election theme for the Conservative party.

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Total Politics top blogs...

Total Politics magazine has today concluded its rather mammoth task of compiling the top political blogs in the United Kingdom.

As previously blogged, I was delighted to come in at a rather respectable 35th in the top 100 'left of centre' blogs. In addition, I was ranked 18th in the top 100 'Labour' blogs!

TP magazine today released its list of the top 100 blogs from every political leaning. I had been hoping to scrape in to the top 100, but just missed out - coming in at (a still excellent) 102nd place in the UK! Top 100 next year!!

I really was genuinely really pleased with this! So I want to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who took the time to submit a vote for my blog!

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Why Gordon Brown's apology matters

First posted at NextLeft and LabourList

Gordon Brown last night offered a heartfelt apology to World War II hero Alan Turing, who was forced to undergo chemical castration by the courts after a conviction for ‘gross indecency’ in 1952.

Turing famously worked at Bletchley Park during the Second World War to crack the German Enigma code machine, ultimately turning the tide of the conflict in favour of the Allies and potentially saving thousands of lives.

However, despite his invaluable work Turing was charged with gross indecency in 1952 after a relationship with another man became known to authorities. He was subsequently forced to be chemically castrated to avoid a prison sentence and suffered the indignity of having his government security clearance removed, thus barring him from continuing with his cryptographic consultancy for GCHQ.

Following his conviction and ensuing suffering, Turing took his own life on 8 June 1954 at the age of 41 – simply because he was gay.

This apology should remind us all that we must not forget the persecution and hatred faced by gay men and women just a generation ago. This apology is just a small way in which the Government can seek to atone for the suffering inflicted on so many by such barbaric laws.

It is also crucial that we refocus our attention on the international injustices still faced by so many simply due to their sexuality. With Panama decriminalising homosexuality in 2008 and Burundi for the first time in its history criminalising homosexuality in 2009, the world now counts 80 countries with State-sponsored homophobic laws: 72 countries and 3 entities (Turkish Cyprus, Gaza and Cook Islands) punish consenting adults with imprisonment, while 5 countries (Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and parts of Nigeria and Somalia) punish them with the death penalty.

The apology has received a warm welcome not just in Britain, but across the world. It was particularly welcomed by Michael Cashman, MEP and Patron of LGBT Labour who has long been campaigning for the apology:

"The government's decision is a brilliant reminder of Labours commitment to equality and it's courage to put right the wrong decisions of the past. This news will be welcomed across the globe."

The Downing Street Petition had attracted some 30,805 people; the Prime Minister made the following statement in today’s Daily Telegraph:

“2009 has been a year of deep reflection - a chance for Britain, as a nation, to commemorate the profound debts we owe to those who came before. A unique combination of anniversaries and events have stirred in us that sense of pride and gratitude which characterise the British experience.

"Earlier this year I stood with Presidents Sarkozy and Obama to honour the service and the sacrifice of the heroes who stormed the beaches of Normandy 65 years ago. And just last week, we marked the 70 years which have passed since the British government declared its willingness to take up arms against Fascism and declared the outbreak of World War Two. So I am both pleased and proud that, thanks to a coalition of computer scientists, historians and LGBT activists, we have this year a chance to mark and celebrate another contribution to Britain’s fight against the darkness of dictatorship; that of code-breaker Alan Turing.

"Turing was a quite brilliant mathematician, most famous for his work on breaking the German Enigma codes. It is no exaggeration to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of World War Two could well have been very different. He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war. The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely. In 1952, he was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ - in effect, tried for being gay. His sentence - and he was faced with the miserable choice of this or prison - was chemical castration by a series of injections of female hormones. He took his own life just two years later.

"Thousands of people have come together to demand justice for Alan Turing and recognition of the appalling way he was treated. While Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can’t put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him. Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted as he was convicted under homophobic laws were treated terribly. Over the years millions more lived in fear of conviction.

"I am proud that those days are gone and that in the last 12 years this government has done so much to make life fairer and more equal for our LGBT community. This recognition of Alan’s status as one of Britain’s most famous victims of homophobia is another step towards equality and long overdue.

"But even more than that, Alan deserves recognition for his contribution to humankind. For those of us born after 1945, into a Europe which is united, democratic and at peace, it is hard to imagine that our continent was once the theatre of mankind’s darkest hour. It is difficult to believe that in living memory, people could become so consumed by hate - by anti-Semitism, by homophobia, by xenophobia and other murderous prejudices - that the gas chambers and crematoria became a piece of the European landscape as surely as the galleries and universities and concert halls which had marked out the European civilisation for hundreds of years. It is thanks to men and women who were totally committed to fighting fascism, people like Alan Turing, that the horrors of the Holocaust and of total war are part of Europe’s history and not Europe’s present.

"So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work I am very proud to say: we’re sorry, you deserved so much better."

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Gordon and the 'C' word

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