The cruel farce of ‘humanitarian intervention’

April 8, 2017

Simon Jenkins: “It is a war crime to disable, maim or poison a victim by chemical or biological means, yet it is permissible to blow them to bits. Dropping chlorine evokes howls of horror. Dropping bunker busters does not. Cluster munitions, the most horrible of delayed action weapons, remain in the arsenals of NATO armies.

Many of us are now applauding this ‘aid to Syria’

Jenkins reflects that not a week passes without some new horror emanating from the vortex of the Middle East: “So called ‘wars among the peoples’ are, like all civil wars, distinctively terrible. Cities deaden the impact of an infantry advance. Reckless bombing takes over and accidents happen. Saudi Arabia bombs a funeral party in Sanaa. Russia bombs an aid convoy and a hospital in Aleppo. Western planes bomb friendly troops outside Mosul. There is no appetite for British troops on the ground. All talk is of bombing, intervention lite”.

Britain has already contributed too much to Syria’s hell:

  • It helped America create a power vacuum in neighbouring Iraq where Isis could form and flourish.
  • It then encouraged and gave material support to the rebels against Assad in 2012, ensuring that he would need support from Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.
  • American and RAF aircraft killed 80 Syrian soldiers protecting the town of Deir Ezzor from Isis.
  • British ‘intelligence’ has given America information, enabling them to kill many civilians alongside their stated targets.

Syria and the cruel farce of ‘humanitarian intervention: “Affecting to save people by bombing them from a great height is not just ineffective but immoral”

 Walking through Aleppo now

Jenkins gave many examples of this immorality and ineffectiveness – just four follow: ”Some 12,000 coalition bombing sorties have been directed at Isis in northern Iraq in the past two years. Tens of thousands of civilians have died in the ‘collateral’ carnage. In Syria, the human rights network estimates that Russian bombs have killed more Syrian civilians than Isis. Last year the Americans bombed an MSF hospital in Afghanistan. Bombs are unreliable. Stuff happens”.

He explains the appeal of airborne weapons to politicians down the ages

“For rich aggressors against poorly armed foes, they have glamour and immunity to counterattack, and have found new life in so called precision targeting and unmanned drones. In reality they have proved almost useless against fanatical soldiers with mortars and AK 47s. But they look good on television back home. They are ‘something being done’ “.

Jenkins describes the disintegration of the Middle East as a tragedy for Islam, but not the West’s business. Here we disagree, seeing it as a result of Anglo-Saxon West intervention, using soft and hard power.

The Scotsman reports that Alex Salmond, the SNP’s foreign affairs spokesman, joined Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn who is calling for greater effort to achieve a negotiated end to the conflict: “The British government should urge restraint on the Trump administration and throw its weight behind peace negotiations and a comprehensive political settlement.”

Corbyn: “Reconvene the Geneva peace talks and exert unrelenting international pressure for a negotiated settlement”

The Labour leader said: “Tuesday’s horrific chemical attack was a war crime which requires urgent independent UN investigation and those responsible must be held to account. But unilateral military action without legal authorisation or independent verification risks intensifying a multi-sided conflict that has already killed hundreds of thousands of people.

“What is needed instead is to urgently reconvene the Geneva peace talks and exert unrelenting international pressure for a negotiated settlement of the conflict.”

Jenkins: Nations and peoples do have a humanitarian obligation to aid those afflicted by war, to relieve suffering, not add to it, to aid those trying to comfort war’s victims and offer sanctuary to its refugees, not to take sides, guns blazing, in other people’s civil wars:

“British politicians would do better to spend their time organising relief than shouting adjectives, banging drums and dropping bombs”.

 

 

 


Social media: for militarising the young and pacifying the attacked

March 3, 2017

The blurb: “Social media has become an increasingly vital tool for the armed forces in the 21st Century.

“Not only in order to reach out to a wider and younger audience globally for recruitment and information purposes but as a new front in warfare. What soldiers, airmen and sailors post online can be crucial to winning the hearts and minds of local populations, weakening the enemy’s narrative and as an instrument in the proliferation of cyber warfare”.

The SMi PR group held its 6th Annual Social Media Within the Defence and Military Sector in the Holiday Inn, Bloomsbury. Their programme:

  • to present the latest concepts and ideas on how to enhance the outreach of the military in the digital sphere,
  • the integration of social media activities within the whole spectrum of operations conducted by the military both at home and abroad,
  • to hear from some of the leading voices of social media within the industry and NATO and allied militaries,
  • to focus on the effects of social media on and off the battlefield through training and application,
  • to learn from the commercial sector on how to create an effective social media strategy,
  • to learn from the military about how they are utilizing digital media channels to project their activities to a wider audience,
  • to discover how social media is intertwining with other aspects of warfare to create a multi-levelled war zone both in the real world and the virtual one
  • and to discover how popular social media brands operate with militaries in a defence environment.

The only named sponsor: Thales, the French multinational company that designs and builds electrical systems and provides services for the aerospace, defence, ground transportation and security market.

 

 

 

 


Reinvigorate big power relationships or put an end to sabre-rattling?

November 4, 2016

lord2richardsReading more about General Richards – chief of the defence staff between 2010 and 2013 – gives rise to mixed reactions. In 2010 – to his credit – he said there was no desire to “open up another front” in the Middle East . . . an intelligence-led approach was the current strategy: “Clearly, the primary agencies dealing with this are our intelligence and security agencies. But the military are already helping with their [the Yemenis’] training. I don’t think we want to open up another front there and nor do the Yemenis want us to do that”.

Today the Times reports that General Richards said that Donald Trump would re-boot relations between Moscow and Washington, which are at a post-Cold War low.

By contrast, he thinks, Mrs Clinton would be more likely to set the West on a course for war if she pushed ahead with a safe zone for civilians in Syria: that might require US aircraft to shoot down the Russian fighter jets flying in support of the Assad regime.

Lord Richards, a cross-bench peer, told The Times this week that he believed the only way to prevent a further humanitarian catastrophe in the rebel-held east of Aleppo would be for the rebels to withdraw, removing any reason for Russian planes to attack.

In an interview with The House magazine, which appeared yesterday, he said: “In the Cold War era states coalesced and they had this understanding and it worked — even though there was a massive amount at stake, communications and mutual understanding between Russia and America wasn’t too bad . . . It’s non-state actors like Isis that are the biggest threat to our security. If countries and states could coalesce better to deal with these people — and I think Trump’s instinct is to go down that route — then I think there’s the case for saying that the world certainly won’t be any less safe. It’s that lack of understanding and empathy with each other as big power players that is a risk to us all at the moment. Therefore I think he would reinvigorate big power relationships, which might make the world ironically safer.”

The wisest words come from Dr Ian Davis (SIPRI):

dr-ian-davisDr Davis responded to a letter (FT: “How NATO can neuter Putin’s ‘shock and awe’”) by Dr Harlan Ullman, Senior Advisor, Atlantic Council, US. Dr Ullman acknowledged that Mr Putin “has no intent of starting a war or invading any Nato member”; nevertheless, he recommended turning a variant of shock and awe against Putin. Dr Davis saw this as both irrational and dangerous:

“[S]kilful mediation with Russia is needed in order to transform real antagonisms into pragmatic working relationships and practical agreements . . . The challenge is to see beyond historical positions and attempt to identify and then reframe key issues through careful dialogue. It will take significant effort, yet it may be possible to explore ways of moving beyond presumptions of strictly zero-sum, winner takes-all thinking in Russia-West relations. And put an end to the sabre-rattling of intrusive flights and large scale manoeuvres on both sides”.

 

 

 


‘Great’ Britain rampant – despite Chilcot the British prime minister hastens to aid our special friend

July 8, 2016

The UK is to take over the rotating leadership of Nato’s “very high readiness” joint task force, created after the last summit of alliance leaders in Wales in 2014. Three thousand British troops, based in Britain and Germany, will eventually make up the bulk of the 5,000-strong detachment, with forces from countries including Denmark, Spain, Estonia and the US.

nato troops

How many will survive to regret this?

Stripping away innuendo and insinuation, an article by Deborah Haynes in Warsaw records that five hundred British troops will be stationed from next year in Estonia and 150 will form an “enduring” presence in Poland. The forces will be “defensive in nature but clearly combat capable”, a Whitehall source said. They will be part of a commitment by NATO to station four new battalions, totalling about 4,000 personnel, as part of a reinforcement of NATO’s border with Russia. A further 3,000 British military personnel will lead a new emergency task force in 2017.

In a strategic use of terminology, the force will be described as a “persistent” or “enduring” presence, to avoid breaking a longstanding deal with Russia that Nato will not “permanently” deploy troops on its eastern flank.

The Murdoch Times reports that there is (American/NATO?) concern that countries such as Germany and France are seeking to build a European army rather than focussing their military resources on NATO.

The article twice anticipates a verbal rebuke from Moscow and records that NATO members who are neighbours of Russia are concerned that President Putin may seek to create unrest within their borders as well. 

David Cameron is reported to have said: “The UK is proud to be taking the lead role, deploying troops across eastern Europe.”

Many readers, however, will feel apprehensive – certainly not proud – echoing Germany’s foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in warning against “saber-rattling and war cries” directed toward Russia and joining the United States Conference of Mayors, in condemnation of NATO’s Anaconda War Games and massing of troops on Russia’s border.

 

 


NATO wargames condemned by the United States Conference of Mayors

July 4, 2016

 

The United States Conference of Mayors, town and city leaders administering populations greater than 30,000, condemned NATO’s Anaconda War Games on Russia’s border as increasing the threat of nuclear conflict.

NATO esthonia 16

“NATO does not seek confrontation with Russia”, according to Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary-general

But Sam Jones, the FT’s defence and security editor, reports at length on ‘European wargames’. NATO has been supporting Kevadtorm (“Spring Storm”): a military ‘exercise’ in which around 1,000 troops from Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, the US and Portugal, have been deployed to Estonia to train and ‘play the enemy’ (above).

Across the Baltic, under the alliance’s aegis, Latvia held “Summer Shield” with 1,100 troops, Lithuania has begun “Iron Wolf”, with 5,000 troops and in June, “Saber Strike” saw thousands of US troops airlifted into the entire region and in Poland, “Anakonda”, a 31,000-man war game closed a few weeks ago.

It is said that NATO is worried by Russia’s plans

More than 2,000 exercises and wargames, snap drills and rapid mobilisation exercises will be held, that could see tens of thousands of troops deployed in Russia’s western military zone. NATO’s defence ministers in Brussels will ask for 3,000 to 4,000 NATO troops, in four battalions — one American, one British, one Canadian and one German — to be stationed in the three Baltic states and Poland on a “persistent” basis.

The alliance’s political unity is being challenged by a divergence of views

Next week Warsaw’s NATO biennial summit will take place but some NATO members have other priorities: Southern European members are preoccupied by the Mediterranean migrant crisis and Jones reports that Germany, whose diplomats are known to have the closest ties to the Russian government, fears that NATO is entering into a wildly irresponsible game of military bluff.

With activity in Afghanistan winding down, the Wales NATO summit focussed on responding to the Ukrainian crisis, but ‘dovish voices’ in the alliance believed further mobilisation would be too provocative at the time.

Jones writes that Russia perceives the US game-plan as a military formula of “regime change” to topple or destabilise governments that do not bend to western economic and democratic values.

Russia says that its borderland military build-up is a response to NATO’s own growing military presence. In May 2014, Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian general staff, speaking at the Moscow International Security Conference, described NATO’s reinforcement of the Baltic states and Poland as part of a grander game to expand aggressively the alliance’s influence in Ukraine and, by implication, Russia itself. Successive conflicts after 1990, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and the Arab Spring were seen as part of a continuum, as were the Rose revolution in Georgia (2003), the Orange revolution in Ukraine (2004), the green movement in Iran (2009) and most recently, the Syrian civil war.

The Rand Corporation is a think-tank founded by the Douglas Aircraft Company and now funded by the US government, university collaborators & private sources, with clients including the CIA and Defence Advanced Research Projects. It has concluded that with its current forces, “NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members”.

However, one general says it would be unable to deploy “east of the Oder” in the event of outright war. It would simply be too vulnerable during transit and deployment and the logistical planning for the spearhead rapid reaction brigade VJTF would be hampered by:

  • private-sector ownership of infrastructure across Europe, which means NATO now has to deal with many interlocutors to shift even the most modest number of tanks around the continent;
  • military vehicles which do not comply with some countries’ exhaust emission rules;
  • special permits taking weeks to sign off, which have to be applied for before each exercise;
  • though the VJTF is supposed to deploy in no more than 48 hours, the truck drivers transporting its tanks and artillery still need to take their EU-mandated minimum sleeping hours and
  • it takes an average of five days to get the right clearances in place to move troops around Europe, far short of the promised 48 hours rapid response time.

us conf mayors

 The United States Conference of Mayors’ resolution added: “The Obama administration has not only reduced the US nuclear stockpile less than any post-Cold War presidency, but also decided to spend on trillion dollars to maintain and modernize its nuclear bombs and warheads, production facilities, delivery systems, and command and control”. It seems, however, that NATO, backed by the Rand Corporation is calling for additional expenditure to counter the alleged Russian threat.

The country’s mayors are a voice of peace and reason in the face of mounting influence by the foreign policy establishment and defense lobbyists, and have rendered similar resolutions calling for the United States to pursue a less threatening foreign policy for 11 consecutive years.


The British government attempts to mitigate the effects of yet another disastrous military adventure

April 19, 2016

blair gaddafiIn September 2004, Col Muammar Gaddafi was finally considered to be “on side”. Oil and infrastructure deals were struck with Britain & other countries. Excited by the Arab Spring, in 2011, the UK and France (aka ‘NATO-backed forces’) led efforts to back rebels fighting to overthrow Gaddafi. The country has since descended into chaos, with two rival governments and the formation of hundreds of militias, some allied to the so-called Islamic State (IS).

One step forward

hammond libyan pmForeign secretary Philip Hammond has visited a Libya exhausted by five years of fighting. Speculation about UK involvement in a possible international military force is rife; the stated intention is to provide £10m for training support to the Libyan administration’s armed forces.

But a Moseley reader alerts us to another step backwards

In 2006, when he was opposition leader, David Cameron said trust in politics could only be restored if MPs had the final say on committing British troops to war – instead of the prime minister making the decision using royal prerogative powers.

Ministers have abandoned plans to introduce a war powers act that would institute a legal commitment to seek parliamentary approval before deploying British troops in combat.

Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, told MPs that such a measure would ”constrain the operational flexibility of the armed forces and prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of those forces” and that there could be accusations of acting in bad faith if unexpected developments were to require a different course of action.

However he later told MPs that ministers would “keep parliament informed and we will of course seek its approval before deploying British forces in combat roles into a conflict situation . . . This convention would not apply to British military personnel embedded in the armed forces of other nations”.

revolving door peopleDavid Cameron said trust in (defence?) politics could only be restored if MPs had the final say.

We add to this the need to close the revolving door between oil and armaments corporations.

Total trust would require many more reforms – Labour’s leader Jeremy Corbyn could do it.


Professor Robert Wade: the key to peace in the Ukraine

June 13, 2015

Robert Wade, Professor of Political Economy and Development at the LSE’s Development Studies Institute (DESTIN), worked at the World Bank, 1984–1988 and the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex from 1972–1995, undertaking fieldwork in a range of countries including Italy, India, Korea, Taiwan and Pitcairn Island.

prof robert wadeAt a  recent engagement at the University of Oslo to discuss the present and future of global financial governance

Professor Wade has responded to a FT editorial, following the recent visit of John Kerry, US secretary of state, to President Vladimir Putin in the Russian resort of Sochi, which asserted that deeper engagement with Russia is worth pursuing. It could integrate the US into the western diplomatic effort on Ukraine, involving Angela Merkel, and François Hollande. He writes:

“You are right that “America’s outreach to Moscow is justified but your longstanding view that the Ukraine crisis is an interstate war between (united) Ukraine and Russia is, at best, questionable. It leads you to place almost all the responsibility for securing peace on Vladimir Putin, as though the president is largely in control of the military fighting the Ukrainian army.

“The German weekly Der Spiegel published a report (March 7), based on sources in German chancellor Angela Merkel’s office and the Federal Intelligence Service, describing the US and Nato claims about Russia’s controlling role as a gross exaggeration. At the end of August 2014 eight retired US intelligence officers wrote to Ms Merkel saying much the same.

The conflict is more accurately understood as an internationalised civil war. Foreign states are engaged on both sides. But the primary dynamic is the resistance of the large Russian-speaking (by no means pro-Russia) minority, roughly 40% of Ukraine’s population, against forces in the Ukrainian-speaking majority seeking permanently to subordinate them.

The key to peace is that both the Kiev government and its western backers must remove the grounds for Russian speakers to fear that the Kiev government is using the civil war to get the west to underwrite the ascendancy of Ukrainian speakers.

Professor Robert Wade

London School of Economics

London WC2, UK