Jeremy Corbyn prescribes a security and foreign policy with integrity and human rights at its core

July 25, 2017

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Professor Paul Rogers’ reference to the Corbyn’s Chatham House speech in May, in his recent article: ‘Corbyn’s Labour: now look outwards’ prompted a search for a transcript, found on The Spectator’s website.

In his Chatham House speech, Jeremy Corbyn set out how a Labour Government he leads will keep Britain safe, reshape relationships with partners around the world, work to strengthen the United Nations and respond to the global challenges we face in the 21st century. Edited extracts follow, added emphasis and links.

In his final televised 1950s address to the American people as President, Eisenhower gave a stark warning of what he described as “the acquisition of unwarranted influence by the military-industrial complex.” “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry”, he said, “can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

You are either for or against what is presented as “strong defence”, regardless of the actual record of what that has meant in practice.

Too much of our debate about defence and security is one dimensional. Alert citizens or political leaders who advocate other routes to security are dismissed or treated as unreliable.

My generation grew up under the shadow of the cold war. On television, through the 1960s and into the seventies, the news was dominated by Vietnam. I was haunted by images of civilians fleeing chemical weapons used by the United States. At the end of the cold war, when the Berlin Wall came down we were told it was the end of history. Global leaders promised a more peaceful, stable world. It didn’t work out like that. Today the world is more unstable than even at the height of the cold war. The approach to international security we have been using since the 1990s has simply not worked.

Regime change wars in Afghanistan Iraq, Libya, and Syria – and Western interventions in Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen – have failed in their own terms, and made the world a more dangerous place.

This is the fourth General Election in a row to be held while Britain is at war and our armed forces are in action in the Middle East and beyond. The fact is that the ‘war on terror’ which has driven these interventions has failed. They have not increased our security at home – just the opposite. And they have caused destabilisation and devastation abroad.

Last September, the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee concluded that the Libyan intervention led to political and economic collapse, humanitarian and migrant crises and fuelled the rise of Isis in Africa and across the Middle East. Is that really the way to deliver security to the British people? Who seriously believes that’s what real strength looks like?

We need to step back and have some fresh thinking. The world faces huge problems. As well as the legacy of regime change wars, there is a dangerous cocktail of ethnic conflicts, of food insecurity, water scarcity, the emerging effects of climate change. Add to that mix a grotesque and growing level of inequality in which just eight billionaires own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion poorest people and you end up with a refugee crisis of epic proportions affecting every continent in the world, with more displaced people in the world than since the Second World War. These problems are getting worse and fuelling threats and instability. The global situation is becoming more dangerous.

A Labour Government will want a strong and friendly relationship with the United States. But we will not be afraid to speak our mind. The US is the strongest military power on the planet by a very long way. It has a special responsibility to use its power with care and to support international efforts to resolve conflicts collectively and peacefully.

No more hand holding with Donald Trump.

The new US President seems determined to add to the dangers by recklessly escalating the confrontation with North Korea, unilaterally launching missile strikes on Syria, opposing President Obama’s nuclear arms deal with Iran and backing a new nuclear arms race.

Waiting to see which way the wind blows in Washington isn’t strong leadership. And pandering to an erratic Trump administration will not deliver stability. When Theresa May addressed a Republican Party conference in Philadelphia in January she spoke in alarmist terms about the rise of China and India and of the danger of the West being eclipsed. She said America and Britain had to ‘stand strong’ together and use their military might to protect their interests. This is the sort of language that led to calamity in Iraq and Libya and all the other disastrous wars that stole the post-Cold War promise of a new world order.

I do not see India and China in those terms. Nor do I think the vast majority of Americans or British people want the boots of their young men and women on the ground in Syria fighting a war that would escalate the suffering and slaughter even further. Britain deserves better than simply outsourcing our country’s security and prosperity to the whims of the Trump White House.

A Labour Government will conduct a robust and independent foreign policy – made in Britain

A Labour Government would seek to work for peace and security with all the other permanent members of the United Nations security council – the US, China, Russia and France. And with other countries with a major role to play such as India, South Africa, Brazil and Germany.

Reverse the failed ‘bomb first, talk later’ approach to security

I am often asked if as prime minister I would order the use of nuclear weapons. It’s an extraordinary question when you think about it – would you order the indiscriminate killing of millions of people? Would you risk such extensive contamination of the planet that no life could exist across large parts of the world? If circumstances arose where that was a real option, it would represent complete and cataclysmic failure. It would mean world leaders had already triggered a spiral of catastrophe for humankind.

The best defence for Britain is a government actively engaged in seeking peaceful solutions to the world’s problems 

Labour is committed actively to pursue disarmament under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and we are committed to no first use of nuclear weapons. But to protect the safety and security of our people and our country, my first duty, I know I will have to work with other countries to solve problems, defuse tensions and build collective security.

I am not a pacifist. I accept that military action, under international law and as a genuine last resort, is in some circumstances necessary. But that is very far from the kind of unilateral wars and interventions that have almost become routine in recent times. I will not take lectures on security or humanitarian action from a Conservative Party that stood by in the 1980s – refusing even to impose sanctions – while children on the streets of Soweto were being shot dead in the streets, or which has backed every move to put our armed forces in harm’s way regardless of the impact on our people’s security.

And as the security threats and challenges we face are not bound by geographic borders it is vital that, as Britain leaves the EU, we maintain a close relationship with our European partners alongside our commitment to NATO and spending at least 2% on defence. Deep cuts have seen the Army reduced to its smallest size since the Napoleonic wars. From stagnant pay and worsening conditions, to poor housing, the morale of our service personnel and veterans is at rock bottom.

Working with our allies to ensure peace and security in Europe, we will work to halt the drift to confrontation with Russia and the escalation of military deployments across the continent.

There is no need whatever to weaken our opposition to Russia’s human rights abuses at home or abroad to understand the necessity of winding down tensions on the Russia-Nato border and supporting dialogue to reduce the risk of international conflict. We will back a new conference on security and cooperation in Europe and seek to defuse the crisis in Ukraine through implementation of the Minsk agreements.

The next Labour Government will invest in the UK’s diplomatic networks and consular services. We will seek to rebuild some of the key capabilities and services that have been lost as a result of Conservative cuts in recent years.

A Labour Government will refocus Britain’s influence towards cooperation, peaceful settlements and social justice, while Theresa May seeks to build a coalition of risk and insecurity with Donald Trump. To lead this work, Labour has created a Minister for Peace (Fabian Hamilton, MP for Leeds North East) who will work across the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We will reclaim Britain’s leading role in tackling climate change, working hard to preserve the Paris Agreement and deliver on international commitments to reduce carbon emissions.

The life chances, security and prosperity of our citizens are dependent on a stable international environment. We will strengthen our commitment to the UN. But we are well aware of its shortcomings, particularly in the light of repeated abuses of the veto power in the UN Security Council. So we will work with allies and partners from around the world to build support for UN reform in order to make its institutions more effective and responsive. And as a permanent member of the Security Council we will provide a lead by respecting the authority of International Law.

There is a clear choice at the next election

Do  we continue with the failed policy of continual and devastating military interventions, that have intensified conflicts and increased the terrorist threat, or be willing to step back, learn the lessons of the past and find new ways to solve and prevent conflicts. As Dwight Eisenhower said on another occasion: If people “can develop weapons that are so terrifying as to make the thought of global war almost a sentence for suicide, you would think that man’s intelligence would include also his ability to find a peaceful solution.”

A Labour Government will give leadership in a new and constructive way and that is the leadership we are ready to provide both at home and abroad. In the words of Martin Luther King “The chain reaction of evil – hate – begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark days of annihilation”. I believe we can find those solutions. We can walk the hard yards to a better way to live together on this planet.

See the video here: Chatham House speech and/or read the full text with more on Syria, arms exports and nuclear weapons downloaded from The Spectator.

 

 

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Divide and rule didn’t reach the hearts of most people in India and Pakistan

February 28, 2012

Expressing this writer’s experience in India, writer and journalist Fatima Bhutto wrote in the Financial Times recently:

“Despite our shared heritage, culture, history, languages and memories, both India and Pakistan have managed to create the impression that there exists a gulf between their peoples. Wherever relations between the two countries can be hindered, they have been. Our phones don’t connect to each other’s countries, for ordinary travellers to get a visa is a process so complicated it may as well include a physical obstacle course, we don’t trade freely and we have even managed to turn the most boring sport in the world – cricket – into a constantly tense encounter between our peoples.

“But that’s the outside. That’s not how Indians and Pakistanis feel when they are with each other. I can think of no country in which I am more warmly received than India. (And a Pakistani passport is not exactly a hot welcome card anywhere).

Imran Khan, pointing out that he is welcomed in India as Sachin Tendulkar is welcomed in Pakistan, recently called for a new era in the relationship between the two countries.

Few people know of the ongoing meetings between peace-loving people in India and Pakistan. The writer amassed a substantial file of cuttings about this during residence in India – 1993-2004.

These are ongoing. As the India-Pakistan Peace organisation reports:

“Common people in India and Pakistan will continue to strive for peace and friendship irrespective of what their political masters do. That was the mood at the India-Pakistan Peace Caravan that flagged off from Mumbai on July 28. The caravan reached the Atari border and met their counterparts at the Wagah border”. 

An account of this ‘peace caravan’: stressed:

“Whenever the common people of India and Pakistan get to meet, all reservations they might have about each other collapse and warm emotions of mutual affinity surge forth, very much like people of the same family meeting each other after years of separation. Enmity, hatred and distance melt away, warmth and friendship take over.

“In spite of the geographical boundaries forced upon us by historical circumstances, our common customs and traditions endure – our language, our music, our food and cuisine, the very mode of living on both sides of the border leaves no scope for scepticism in terms of our shared values and issues of common concern. The people are divided by borders but their hearts are one.” 

A few days later, more than a thousand enthusiasts, carrying the Indian national flag in hands, gathered near the Attari-Wagah border for a joint celebration of the 63rd anniversary of India’s independence. As happens years after year, the Border Security Force (BSF) exchange sweets with their Pakistani counterparts at the Attari-Wagah joint check post between the two countries in Punjab. BSF Inspector General (Punjab Frontier) Himmat Singh said:

“We are all brothers and sisters and this is our gesture to express solidarity and brotherhood with Pakistan. We hope that in the coming days all tensions will fade away between the two countries.”  

Through various people-to-people contact programmes governments of both the countries are being urged to reduce visa restrictions and increase free movement of people and goods across the borders. There is also pressure to cutback the huge defence budgets that have built a military-industrial complex with entrenched vested interests, dismantle their nuclear establishment and curb acts of terror on both sides of the border.

The young Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar is playing a constructive part in improving relationships between the two countries. Though the following words are not directly relevant, her clarity of thought and firm delivery impress.

Last Wednesday at Chatham House she said:

“Contrary to clever wordplay and cheap headlines, Pakistan’s position could not be more clear . . . We will support any . . . and I mean any, and all initiatives that are all-inclusive, that are Afghan-led, that are Afghan-owned and are Afghan-driven. This is our first and last prerequisite.”

Although Pakistan has complained about being kept out of the loop in ongoing U.S. talks with the Taliban, Khar said her country would do “absolutely nothing to block any other initiative that any country or any group of countries offers to Afghanistan or for Afghanistan, anywhere in the world.”

But Pakistan, she said, “will not lead. . . . We will only follow what our Afghan brothers and sisters decide to be the course of action they adopt.”

As an account of the 2010 peace caravan points out: 

“Economically strong India and Pakistan can bring about an era of peace and prosperity for the whole of South Asia. A spirit of give and take, of mutual co-operation, of creating an environment of friendship and peace rather than of jingoistic nationalism can see the two countries moving apace on a path of progress and development.”