Greater Surbiton

The perfect is the enemy of the good

Better hostile democracies than friendly dictatorships

The democratic order that has reigned in Western Europe since World War II, and that has since expanded to include the Iberian Peninsula, Eastern Europe and the Balkans, owes its existence to our wartime alliance with one of the most murderous totalitarian regimes in human history. It was Stalin’s Soviet Union, heavily supported militarily and economically by the US and Britain, that bore the brunt of the fighting that destroyed Hitler’s Third Reich, thereby enabling the liberation of Western Europe from Nazism. In the cause of this war-effort, Allied leaders Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt befriended Stalin and hobnobbed with him; their medias extolled the virtues of his regime. It was not a pretty thing to do, as Stalin’s Western-backed forces carried out genocidal crimes of their own against Chechens, Crimean Tartars and other Soviet subject nationalities during and after the war. It defeated one mortal enemy of the democratic world, only to raise another in its place; one that took nearly another half-century to bring down. Yet history has generally looked favourably upon our wartime alliance with Stalin, as one born of necessity.

In the sixty-six years that have followed the defeat of Hitler, the dilemma has been posed again and again, as successive Western leaders have felt compelled to ally with one monster to contain or defeat another. Nixon brokered a rapprochement with Mao Zedong’s China so as better to contain the Soviet Union. Henry Scoop Jackson quashed a Congressional motion directed against Marcelo Caetano’s Portuguese dictatorship as the price for the use of a base in Portugal’s Azores Islands to transport military supplies to Israel during the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Margaret Thatcher enjoyed crucial support from Chile’s Augusto Pinochet during the Falklands War of 1982 against Argentina’s Galtieri dictatorship.

These dealings with dictators often burn the hands of the Western statesmen who engage in them, or return to haunt them.The US tilted in favour of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq against Khomenei’s Iran during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s; Donald Rumsfeld’s handshake with the Iraqi tyrant during his 1983 visit to Baghdad was widely publicised by his enemies during the 2000s. The US’s alliance with Islam Karimov’s Uzbekistan collapsed following US criticism of Karimov’s massacre of protesters at Andijan in 2005. Most recently, Tony Blair’s dealings with the now-embattled Muammar Gaddafi are being loudly trumpeted by his critics, despite the benefits they brought to Britain and the US in the War on Terror.

Those ready to condemn Blair over Gaddafi should ask themselves whether they would equally have condemned Churchill for his support for Stalin in the 1940s. Or whether Britain was wrong to go to the aid of Ioannis Metaxas’s fascist dictatorship in Greece, when it was attacked by Benito Mussolini’s Fascist Italy in 1940. Or whether we would have done better to have left undemocratic Kuwait to Saddam Hussein in 1990. The reality is that, so long as the world is largely made up of tyrannical regimes, the West will be forced to collaborate with some of them. The alternative would be for the US and Britain to abandon foreign policy altogether and become like Switzerland or Sweden. Nobody should need pointing out that it was the US and Britain, not Switzerland or Sweden, that defeated first Nazi Germany, then the Soviet Union.

There is, however, no getting away from the fact that collaboration with dictatorships is discrediting and morally corrupting for the Western statesmen who engage in it. It may be imposed by necessity, but it should not be chosen by preference. Nor do such alliances work well in the long run. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Arab tyrannies may be long-standing allies of the US, but it was they that spawned al-Qaeda – led by the Saudi Osama bin Laden and the Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri. Pakistan, with its dysfunctional parliamentary system and history of periodic military rule, may be a traditional US ally, but its weakness in the face of Islamic extremism and the collusion of parts of its security forces with the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan makes it a much graver security risk for the West today than traditionally pro-Moscow but stable democratic India.

Conversely, though the US may have prickly relations with some of the world’s democratic states, most notably in Latin America, these states do not pose any major security risk. Hostile president Daniel Ortega of democratic Nigaragua may cause annoyance with his support for Russia’s dismemberment of Georgia, but this cannot be compared with the security threat posed by some of our own ‘allies’. Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez may be more of a threat, with his collaboration with Russia and Iran, but he is the exception that proves the rule, since he is an authoritarian demagogue who has eroded Venezuelan democracy since coming to power. Even so, it is not Venezuela, any more than Brazil or Argentina, that is generating a global jihad directed against the West. Authoritarian Latin America did generate radical anti-Western movements (or radical movements perceived as anti-Western), from Fidel Castro’s 26 July Movement to FARC, the Shining Path and the Sandinistas; the region has ceased to do so as it has democratised. And at the end of the day, we can live with the hostility of an Ortega or even a Chavez, but God save us from allies such as Saudi Arabia or Pakistan !

The current upheavals in the Arab world have been variously described in terms of the fall of America’s Middle Eastern empire, or the revival of Arab self-determination. Yet ’empire’ – if that is indeed what the US exercises in the region – is a burden not a privilege, and should be relinquished just as a soon as there are Arab democracies capable of assuming responsibility for the region, even if we do not always agree with how they do it. Nor should Israel fear this change; it was dictatorships that attacked it in 1973, as it was a dictatorship that attacked our Falkland Islands in 1982. Today, democratic Argentina pursues its dispute over our ownership of the islands by peaceful means. Israel’s best chance for permanent security lies in the democratisation of the region – even if a democratic Egypt proves to be at times less straightforward to deal with than was Mubarak’s dictatorship.

Better hostile democracies than friendly dictatorships. Yet Arab democracies do not have to be hostile. We would do well to assist the Arab struggle against the ancien regime as best we can, so as best to ensure good relations with the Arab leaders who will emerge from this struggle. In Libya, this means doing our best to hasten the complete defeat of Gaddafi’s already moribund tyranny and restricting its ability to slaughter its own citizens, through the imposition of a no-fly zone. We cannot ensure that the battle for democracy in the Arab world will be won, but we can stop fearing its victory. For its victory would represent for us a burden lifted, not privileges lost.

This article was published today on the website of the Henry Jackson Society.

Sunday, 27 February 2011 Posted by | Marko Attila Hoare, Middle East | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Saif al-Islam Muammar al-Gaddafi and the London School of Economics

Courtesy of Dan Murphy in the Christian Science Monitor, we learn that Colonel Gaddafi’s son and intended heir Saif al-Islam, whose recent speech warned Libyans to ‘Be ready for a new colonial period from America and Britain’ and pledged that ‘We will fight to the last man and woman and bullet’, had received his PhD from the London School of Economics in 2008 for a dissertation entitled ‘The role of civil society in the democratisation of global governance institutions: from “soft power” to collective decision making ?’

According to The Guardian, ‘While studying for his PhD, Saif enjoyed a life of considerable luxury in one of London’s wealthiest and most prestigious suburbs. In August 2009 Gaddafi bought his son a £10m house in north London. Inside the neo-Georgian eight-bedroom mansion, Saif could relax in his own swimming pool sauna room, whirlpool bath and suede-lined cinema room.’ After graduating, Saif al-Islam gave the LSE’s Centre for the Study of Global Governance a grant of £1.5 million, via an NGO that he headed. Professor David Held, one of the directors of Global Governance, was quoted at the time as saying ‘This donation will support us as we work to increase understanding of global problems and to encourage interaction between academics and policy makers.’ Held went on: ‘It is a generous donation from an NGO committed to the promotion of civil society and the development of democracy.’ Furthermore, it was reported that Saif al-Islam ‘had requested Professor Held’s assistance in developing a Centre for Democracy and Civil Society in Tripoli’. The late Professor Fred Halliday was alone among LSE staff in cautioning against acceptance of the donation. Saif al-Islam also gave a lecture entitled “Libya: Past, Present, Future” at LSE in 2009 as part of a series on the future of global capitalism, according to the Times Higher Education.

In light of the recent regime violence in Libya, the LSE has severed its ties with the regime and halted all activities funded by Saif al-Islam’s grant. The LSE students’ union responded by saying ‘We welcome the school’s decision to take no further funding from the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, however, we believe that this does not go far enough. The school should take action to ensure that the money that was stolen from the Libyan people for our benefit is now used for the benefit of Libyan people.’ It called on LSE to ‘work towards creating a scholarship fund for underprivileged Libyan students using the £300,000 that LSE has already accepted.’

Greater Surbiton News Service

Monday, 21 February 2011 Posted by | Middle East | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sanela Diana Jenkins, misogyny and anti-Balkan racism

Sanela Diana Jenkins is a highly successful businesswoman and philanthropist, and the founder of the Sanela Diana Jenkins Human Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her interviewer for The Observer, Carole Cadwalladr, has this to say about her: ‘She was born Sanela Catic to a humble Bosnian family, but there’s no doubt that Diana Jenkins is a classic romantic heroine: beautiful and bright, resourceful and determined, who rises above her background through sheer grit and force of will, and whose final apotheosis is achieved by a good marriage.’

Diana’s husband Roger Jenkins, one of the richest bankers in Britain, says ‘I wouldn’t be where I am today without her. I can do anything now. I surrender to her better judgment on people and business.’ He maintained this opinion of her even after their separation was announced, saying that if they divorced, ‘Will she take half my money? Of course. And quite rightly so. I will happily give it to her.’ In Cadwalladr’s words, ‘although he was well off by most people’s standards, when she met him he wasn’t the insanely rich mega-banker that he’s become.’ According to The Daily Mail, ‘he credited his wife with charming the Qatari royal family into parting with £7.3billion last December. The Middle East investment deal rescued his employer Barclays at the height of the credit crunch.’ Residing in California, she mixes with the highest rank of the global elite, including celebrity friends such as George Clooney, Cindy Crawford and Elton John.

Jenkins is, in short, a self-made woman and success story by anyone’s standards. However, in the eyes of the London circles to which her husband belonged, there were three things wrong with her: 1) she was good-looking; 2) she was blonde; and 3) she was from Bosnia. The Daily Telegraph paraphrased her has saying that ‘society snobs drove me out of London’. In her own words: ‘They treated me like I was an Eastern European mail-order bride. I realised that, unfortunately, with social girls, if you have a big diamond ring they will talk to you, so I wore a diamond ring. Well, actually, when we could afford it, my lovely husband bought me a diamond ring. It hurt him to see how snobbily I was treated.’

A woman who is both young and beautiful and highly successful is likely to provoke a misogynistic reaction in many quarters, including among women (you only need to read the comments of Daily Mail readers or watch the Jeremy Kyle Show to see that men have no monopoly on misogyny). But for a certain type of English person the resentment will be much greater if the woman in question comes from a ‘lowly’ background, and being Bosnian will place her some way below the working classes and below most other white foreigners, without even the guilt over racism than might at least make the resentful ones a little embarrassed if she were black or brown.

I can confirm from personal experience that anti-Balkan racism is, indeed, a relatively acceptable form of prejudice in Britain. I recall one colleague at an institution where I once worked asking me to suggest a guest speaker for a seminar programme, and sneering when I suggested a Croatian name. One young man’s first comment, when I told him at a party that I was working on the history of the Balkans, was that I must clearly have a high tolerance for blood. A Serbian friend of mine recalled to me that when she worked as a waitress, a customer asked her where she came from, and when she said ‘Serbia’, he replied ‘I’ll get my gun out, then.’ A Bosnian friend of mine used to tell people at parties she was from Belgium, to avoid the dampening of the conversation that would frequently result from telling the truth.

It is testimony to the pervasiveness of anti-Balkan racism, in the UK and the wider English-speaking world, that when the American left-wing celebrity Michael Moore gave vent to this prejudice in his international bestseller Stupid White Men, it passed virtually without comment. Moore wrote:

‘This godforsaken corner of the world has been the source of much of our collective misery for the last century. Its residents’ inability to get along – with Serbs fighting Croats fighting Muslims fighting Albanians fighting Kosovars fighting Serbs – can be traced to the following single event: in 1914 a Serb anarchist by the name of Gavrilo Princip assassinated the Archduke Ferdinand. This incident kicked off World War I. Which led to World War II. Over fifty million people died from both wars. I don’t know what it is about these people. I mean, I don’t go around killing Texans. I don’t go burning down whole villages in Florida. I’ve learned to live with it. Why can’t they?’

‘Then Tito died, and all hell broke loose. Croats started killing Serbs. Serbs killed Muslims in Bosnia. Serbs killed Albanians in Kosovo. Then the United States bombed Kosovo, to show them that killing was wrong. In the past few years there has been peace, then war, then peace again, and now war again. It never stops. These people are addicts.’

Moore’s advice to the former Yugoslavia was to ‘Admit that you are powerless over your addiction to violence, and that your lives have become unmanageable.’ Had he described African Americans as having an ‘addiction to violence’, it is difficult to imagine him getting away with it, but for the Balkan peoples, such language is apparently acceptable.

Nor is Moore unique in his prejudice. The New York Times concluded an editorial in 2005 with the opinion that ‘In the Balkans, the default mode is violence.’ Julie Burchill wrote in The Guardian – yes, The Guardian ! – back in 1999, ‘Croatia’s not a country; it’s a bloody division of the German armed forces – scratch a Croat, find a Kraut.’ Nebojsa Malic of described the Kosovo Albanians as ‘medieval barbarians’ – of course, Malic is from the Balkans himself, but he was published by an American website.

Many serious scholars have commented intelligently on the pervasiveness of anti-Balkan prejudice, including Maria Todorova and Tom Gallagher. Here, I would just like to add my own brief personal observations.

Anti-Balkan prejudice now means something specific for the former Yugoslav lands. Bulgarians and Romanians may be subject to anti-East-European prejudice in the UK similar to that experienced by Slovaks or Poles. Turks may be subject to anti-Muslim prejudice. I have no personal experience of how these groups fare in the US. But the prejudice directed against former-Yugoslavs is of a kind that transcends the borders of Western nations. It is related to the wars of the 1990s and to the stereotype of violence, primitivism and tribalism that that conflict rejuvenated; former Yugoslavs would not have experienced the same degree of prejudice before the 1990s. It is a prejudice for which journalists bear their share of the blame for repeating and publicising cliches, as do Balkan nationalists themselves for manufacturing negative myths about each other’s peoples – hence, the stereotypes of the Serbs as violent and nationalistic, of the Croats as pro-Nazi and of the Albanians as criminals.

However, the Bosnians in some ways come off the worst, and this is related to the perception of them as weak and pathetic; as being a people without a proper country or functioning state. Their suffering during the war of the 1990s, followed by their defeat in the war (albeit one snatched from the jaws of victory by US diplomacy), followed by the long, continuing and humiliating international supervision of their country, has cemented the stereotype of them as perpetual victims unworthy of respect; in some sense, equivalent to actual homeless people. I suspect that if Jenkins had come from Russia or Ukraine, she might still have been sneered at as a ‘mail-order bride’, but she would not have been despised as a refugee from a virtual country as well.

To end on a positive note: these stereotypes are widespread but they are not universally held. There are plenty of circles in multiethnic London that would not be snobbish about someone on account of their nationality; where someone with a background like Jenkins’s would be the norm rather than the exception. The snobs who drove Jenkins out of London may be representative of part of the London financial elite, but in cultural terms they represent a primitive, ethnically homogenous anachronism in our cosmopolitan city. They are worthy of the same sort of contempt as the average participants on the Jeremy Kyle Show. Primitivism and vulgarity span the class divide.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011 Posted by | Balkans, Bosnia, Britain, London, Marko Attila Hoare, Misogyny, Racism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

‘Aaronovitch Watch’ – The Daniel Davies factory for malicious gossip

Daniel Davies (who writes under the names ‘Bruschettaboy’ and ‘Dsquared’), proprietor of the blog ‘Aaronovitch Watch‘, printed a ‘correction‘ after one of his anonymous pet trolls falsely accused me of having been a member of Gerry Healy’s ‘Workers Revolutionary Party’. Since Healy was a gangster, rapist and cult-leader who received money from the regimes of Saddam Hussein and Muammar al-Gaddafi, and was complicit in Saddam’s murder of members of the Iraqi Communist Party, this was fairly serious lie to tell. However, since Davies’s rather more ethical fellow blogger Dave Weeden (‘Chardonnay Chap’) had already deleted the comments in question after I pointed out that they were false, and since I had not requested any further action, Davies’s printing of the ‘correction’ was not motivated by considerations of decency. In fact, the ‘correction’ was a flimsy excuse to justify his pet troll’s attempted smear, and to launch a further personal attack on me.

This is entirely characteristic of Davies’s mode of operation. His blog is, simply put, a non-stop sectarian hate-fest, in which his readers are actively encouraged to sneer at other left-wingers of whom they disapprove – specifically, members of the Eustonite or Decent Left. This sneering frequently takes the form of outright malicious gossip, the factual accuracy of which is only sporadically checked by Davies. He is someone for whom clean political debate is systematically eschewed in favour of ad hominem attacks on individuals. The particular objects of his animosity are the British journalists David Aaronovitch and Nick Cohen, every one of whose articles over a period of several years has been picked to pieces by Davies and his circle in a quite unrivalled display of personal obsession. But it is a wholly unrequited obsession, as Aaronovitch and Cohen very sensibly ignore him.

As for me, Davies has been attacking me from practically the day I launched my own blog. I made the mistake of thinking that he was someone with whom it was possible to have a constructive discussion, in consequence of which, I have become another butt of his inner rage. Frequently abusive and sometimes libellous comments are posted about me on Davies’s blog. As I have discovered on this occasion, if one complains – even if Davies is forced to acknowledge the legitimacy of the complaint – it provides the occasion for him to make a further personal attack. The only possible deduction is that Davies is attempting to deter me and perhaps others from complaining about the sort of filth that appears on his blog. Because without the ad hominem sneering and the malicious gossip, Aaronovitch Watch would have no raison d’etre.

The basis for the smear that I was a member of Gerry Healy’s ‘Worker’s Revolutionary Party’ (WRP) was that in the 1990s I collaborated with members of a related but different group called the ‘Workers Revolutionary Party’ and contributed articles to its newspaper, ‘Workers’ Press’. I was not a member of this WRP either, but worked with some of its members in the context of a much broader trade-union-backed movement of solidarity with the people of Bosnia during the war of 1992-92. The movement was called ‘Workers Aid’, and most of its supporters were not WRP members. I shall say more about this shortly. Here, I note Davies’s claim that his pet troll’s smear, that I was a member of Healy’s WRP, was ‘most likely an honest mistake’. Yet Davies is very well aware that it was not an honest mistake, as the original WRP broke up into multiple fragments in the mid-1980s, when I was  in my early teens, and Healy himself died in 1989, when I was seventeen. Davies’s pet troll’s accusation was an attempt to smear me by deliberately conflating the two different groups called ‘WRP’, and associating me with Healy’s. After I had already pointed out that it was untrue, Davies’s troll repeated the allegation – not the behaviour of someone who had made an ‘innocent mistake’. Anyway, what sort of person makes these sort of out-of-the-blue ad hominem allegations while themselves hiding behind anonymity ? (Answer: the sort of person that is drawn like flies to ‘Aaronovitch Watch’ by the offal put out to attract them).

Having whitewashed his troll’s attempted smear-job, Davies then tried to blame me for it: ‘Marko did not do himself many favours by not clearing this up himself and leaving it to others to mention the Workers’ Press articles’. What he is saying, is that he is providing a forum for anonymous trolls to tell whatever stories they like about me and other people they don’t like, and that the onus is then on us to correct the falsehoods that these invariably involve, by volunteering information about our personal backgrounds. Would you want to volunteer information about your personal background on that kind of blog ? Of course, if one does then post comments on Davies’s blog to correct the falsehoods, one is then subjected to further personal attacks – as happened to me in this case.

However, Davies’s underhand attempt at throwing mud at me personally is far from the worst of it. He then attempts to attribute further nefarious motives to me for objecting to being associated with Healy, and in doing so builds upon his troll’s conflation of the two different WRPs, thereby smearing members of the latter by equating them with a gangster, rapist and paid informant of Saddam Hussein: ‘I think the problem is that, since the WRP(WP) had very similar politics to the Healyites, accepting that Slaughter-good/Healy-bad was more or less how it turned out would kind of make it impossible to slag off other people and groups based on their own embarrassing figures.’ Furthermore: ‘Depending on the circumstances, it might or might not have been a sensible idea to have been involved with the WRP(WP) during the relevant period. However, with the passage of time, it’s become slightly embarrassing.’

Those who are at all familiar with the history of the original WRP know that Healy was a sadistic thug who ran his Trotskyist sect as a cult, in which he psychologically and often physically and sexually abused its members. There were many members of this party that had joined as principled and committed left-wing activists but had then become victims – in the very real sense – of Healy’s abuse. The break-up of the original WRP began with a rebellion against Healy by those members who strongly objected to his methods; some of these had themselves been victims of Healy’s abuse. When the party fragmented, some of the fragments remained loyal to Healy’s legacy to various degrees. But the fragment with which I subsequently worked in the Workers Aid movement in the mid-1990s was made up of the people who had rejected Healy’s methods and rebelled against him. Davies has sneeringly and ignorantly conflated them with the gangster and rapist whom they rejected and overthrew, and who in some cases had personally abused them. He thus drags in wholly innocent third parties into his own petty little personal vendetta against me and the Decent Left. Members of the WRP/WP did not abuse their fellow members, or receive money from Saddam Hussein, or inform on members of the Iraqi Communist Party to Saddam’s secret police. Davies’s claim that ‘the WRP(WP) had very similar politics to the Healyites’ is therefore a smear of the worst kind.

The members of the WRP (‘Workers Press’) with whom I collaborated in Workers Aid were among the bravest, most principled and most committed fighters for social justice and political liberation that I have ever met. When the Bosnian genocide was at its height and when much of the rest of the Western left was either sitting on the sidelines or actively sympathising with the perpetrators, these people built the Workers Aid movement to bring aid to, and show solidarity with, the people of the Bosnian city of Tuzla. This was an industrial city with a proud left-wing and working-class history, whose own miners had supported the British miners’ strike in the 1980s and whose citizens maintained a social democratic administration in power throughout the Bosnian war. Members of the WRP/WP and other supporters of Workers Aid – sometimes risking their own lives as they guided their convoy of rickety lorries along the broken roads of a country at war and through sniper zones – built a movement of solidarity between British and European trade unionists and Bosnian trade unionists that defied the ethnic cleansers and their Western backers.

That is the WRP with which I worked in the 1990s, and to whose newspaper I contributed. Although I have since mostly lost touch with them, I remember with particular respect and fondness Bob Myers, Dot Gibson, Charlie Pottins, Bronwen Handyside, Cliff Slaughter, the late Geoff Pilling and others, some of whose names I don’t recall. It was an honour to have worked with them and to have contributed to their newspaper, and though I suspect they might not approve of my subsequent political evolution, I would do so again. So no, I don’t find my past association with them ’embarrassing’ (I have advertised my former involvement with Workers Aid in the ‘About’ section of my blog since the day it was launched); they represented what was best in the British left.

For someone like Daniel Davies, an armchair leftist whose sole political activity seems to consist of running a blog devoted to smearing and rubbishing other left-wingers, the same cannot be said. He is something of a pillar of London finance capitalism, being a stockbroker and financial advisor working for the Credit Suisse Group, and personally on record last year for complaining about the imposition of new taxes on European banks and other financial institutions, describing them as ‘about as bad news for the sector as it could have been… The hostile regulatory environment continues to move on, and will continue to generate unpleasant surprises like this one.’ He was also an early supporter of a US invasion of Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein – provided it wasn’t led by the Bush Administration. In his own words in October 2002:

‘I retain my original belief that improvement in Iraq is politically impossible unless there is some sort of shooting war in the area culminating in the removal of Saddam Hussein. I don’t set much score by “national-building”, and don’t really believe that what the Gulf needs is more US client states, and I never believed any of the scare stories related to the “WMD” acronym which is currently doing such sterling duty in picking out weblog authors who don’t have a fucking clue what they’re talking about. I just think that Saddam needs to go, because it’s just one of those Damned Things which Has To Happen. I’m a fatalist, not a moralist.

So, how can we square these beliefs a) that something has to be done and b) that if something is done, it will be a disastrous imperial adventure by George Bush. Here’s how, and it’s so simple it’s beautiful:

The official policy of D-Squared Digest [Davies’s personal blog] with respect to Iraq is now that we support a policy of containment until after the 2004 Presidential elections, and after that, we will support immediate war with Iraq if and only if someone other than George W Bush is elected.’ [emphasis in original]

This makes his obsessive hostility toward the Decent Left somewhat easier to understand: it is not the hostility of an ideological opposite, but of someone whose own politics are highly similar yet not quite identical. A type of hostility, in other words, in the tradition of the hostility of the People’s Front of Judea to the Judean People’s Front. As for me, Davies admits he has a ‘grudge’ against me, arising from my having revealed that a blogger whom he described as part of ‘Aaronovitch Watch’s extended family’ was in fact a sympathiser of a neo-Nazi party.

Hat tip: Neil Clark.

Update 1: And just when you thought the gutter couldn’t be scraped any further by Davies and his disgusting pack of trolls, here are some of their comments aimed against a visitor who was much more polite and reasonable than I would have been:

‘he sure looks like something that lives under a bridge and accosts under age goats.’

‘are you William Hague’s love child? A tragically precious 20 something, with the mind of an aging fogey? If so, yes its true, we have been too hard on you. We should have treated you with kindness, referred you to specialists who could help with your tragic condition.’

Update 2: Anyone interested in further information about Davies’s alignments should look here.

Sunday, 13 February 2011 Posted by | Bosnia, The Left | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Just fancy that !

‘Muscat – Foreign minister Vuk Jeremic announced in Oman that he greatly appreciates the policy of the Sultanate and expressed his gratitude to that country for supporting Belgrade over the question of Kosovo and Metohija.’

B92 News, 16 March 2010

‘Pristina – Oman is the 75th state to have recognised Kosovo, deputy minister of foreign affairs Vlora Citaku announced in Pristina. Vlora Citaku stated at a press conference that the note recognising Kosovo was handed to the Kosovar ambassador in Great Britain Muhamet Hamiti.’

– B92 News, 4 February 2011

Hat tip: Andrey

Saturday, 5 February 2011 Posted by | Balkans, Former Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Serbia | , , , , | 1 Comment

Egypt: The West faces another Bosnia moment

Josip Broz Tito and Gamal Abdul Nasser

Western policy during the break-up of Yugoslavia and the wars in Croatia and Bosnia of the 1990s was contemptible not merely for its moral bankrupcty – for its collusion with the dictator Slobodan Milosevic’s genocide and aggression – but also for its sheer blindness to the way that history was going. It should have been obvious when the war broke out in Croatia in the summer of 1991, both that Yugoslavia was finished as a state and that Milosevic’s attempt to replace it with a Great Serbia was a deeply regressive and destructive project that could only end in disaster. Western interests would have been best served by looking to the future and defending the Yugoslav successor-states of Croatia and Bosnia. Instead, the Western powers continued to support a united Yugoslavia that was already dead. This rapidly mutated into a policy of appeasing the Serbian strongman, which continued for four sorry years. Western diplomacy twice rescued the collapsing Serbian forces from defeat – in Croatia in late 1991 and in Bosnia in the autumn of 1995 – while calls for military action to halt Serbian aggression were fended off. In the end, the policy of appeasement was abandoned and Milosevic was militarily confronted and eventually put on trial for war-crimes. But only after the Western alliance had been seriously jeopardised and discredited, Milosevic had embarked on yet another round of ethnic cleansing in Kosova, and irreparable damage had been done to the Western Balkans.

In the Egyptian crisis today, Western leaders face another Bosnia moment. Mubarak having launched his violent assault on the Egyptian revolution, they can now take decisive action to halt him – through demanding that he step down immediately in favour of a broadly based caretaker administration and permit free and fair elections, and by making clear that all US and European economic assistance will be withdrawn from Egypt unless he does. It makes no sense to say that the West should keep out of Egypt and mind its own business; the huge economic assistance and political support Mubarak has received from us up till now mean that we are already deeply and inextricably involved and responsible.

Or Western leaders can wring their hands and continue to vacillate, thereby effectively giving Mubarak the same green light they once gave Milosevic. In which case, they will be responsible for the bloodshed and repression that will follow, but they will not achieve the much vaunted ‘stability’. Mubarak’s violence and repression may start a civil war, or may simply warp and poison Egyptian and Middle Eastern politics for years to come, as domestic opposition to his regime, denied the chance to express itself through a normal democratic process and justifiably angry at Western betrayal, is channelled toward extremism and violence – think Algeria or Chechnya. Instead of an Egyptian democratic revolution starting to lift the Middle East out of its cesspool of dictatorship and religious extremism, a more repressive, violent and unstable Egypt under a crumbling, desperate regime will drag the region further down into the depths.

Saddam Hussein and Mubarak

The most murderous acts of state violence are often the work of remnants of decaying regimes that had previously, in their prime, appeared relatively moderate and benign. So it was in Bosnia, where the genocide was spearheaded by the Yugoslav People’s Army that had once served Tito’s enlightened despotism and, before that, had been born from a liberation struggle against the Nazis. So it was in Rwanda, where Juvenal Habyarimana’s dictatorship, previously stable and relatively benevolent in its treatment of the Tutsi, collapsed in a genocidal orgy that (almost certainly) first claimed the life of Habyarimana himself.

The Egyptian crisis has already forced us to confront some painful truths. I have long greatly admired Tony Blair, but his praise for Mubarak as ‘immensely courageous and a force for good’ – even if it was in relation to Mubarak’s input into the Israeli-Palestinian peace-process rather than a general description – was simply disgraceful. Reminiscent, in fact, of Blair’s unfinest hour back in 1999, when he endorsed Vladimir Putin’s fledgling tyranny while its murderous assault on Chechnya was at its height. And look what that got us – a vicious autocracy more hostile to the West than any regime in Moscow since the Cold War.

Unlike with regard to Blair, one expects very little from a hardline-nationalist brute like Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu, who has not only aligned himself with, but actually outdone, the monstrous Saudi regime in his support for the Egyptian dictator and his opposition to Egyptian democracy. The idea of Israel as a ‘beacon of democracy’ in the Middle East has always been wishful thinking on the part of its admirers – essentially the mirror-image of the myth, put about by the other side, of Israel as the root of all evil in the region. Israel is neither an angel nor a devil; it is a flawed democracy whose political classes are in the grip of an obnoxious nationalist mind-set, putting it roughly on a par with contemporary Turkey, Greece or Serbia. Of couse, the Israeli government has legitimate security concerns regarding how a post-Mubarak Egypt will behave, but there is also the rather less legitimate concern as to how its ongoing criminal policy of colonising the West Bank will fare without Mubarak to guard its rear. Hence, not so much a ‘beacon of democracy’ as a beacon for beleaguered tyrants. Arab oppression and Israeli oppression are two sides of the same coin and will fall together; both Israeli security and Palestinian independence will best be achieved by the democratisation of the Arab world.

Netanyahu and Mubarak

The Middle East is at a historic crossroads, and Western policy toward the Middle East is at a historic crossroads. Barack Obama and David Cameron have been less than glorious in their reaction to the crisis so far, but nor have they discredited themselves totally, as Bill Clinton and John Major did over Bosnia. There is still time for them to choose the right path. History will judge them.

Thursday, 3 February 2011 Posted by | Balkans, Bosnia, Egypt, Former Yugoslavia, Israel, Marko Attila Hoare, Middle East | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments