We have a problem on the allotments. A chicken has damaged its leg and the others are constantly crowding around to peck it. We thought that such behaviour was confined to the tabloid press but it seems that there are other creatures on earth as spiteful as man. We have to find a quick solution, one more effective than Albert’s which comprises hurling his cap at the offenders. Hopefully Messrs Obama and Cameron are also considering the possibility that violence should be the option of last resort rather than the first.
So far as one can gather the two men have struck up a good relationship. On the face of it they are an odd couple. One has emerged from what we would call a working class environment, the other from a very privileged one. But both are relatively popular amongst their countrymen despite both facing considerable problems in enacting what they see as the way forward. Interestingly, opinion polls show Obama retaining a 70% approval rating over here, and he is recorded as being admired for his vigorous steps to fend off recession and for his having the will to confront the health industry lobbyists. In that respect he is clearly different to Cameron but, by and large, both men are regarded well on the world stage.
Well, part of the world stage. Unfortunately the inital voice of them both that suggested reason and sobriety in foreign affairs has been drowned out by their respective failure to stand up to their Generals. They are experts in promising politicians glory, but in reality never deliver. They are truly bulls in the interventionalist china shop. Proof positive, if it were needed, is provided by the fact that the main issue on their joint agenda today is how to intensify the bombing of a north African state that threatens neither of them. To many in Britain, American foreign policy under Obama has come to seem Bush-like, while Britain’s seems Blair-like. And that is an opportunity missed on a grand scale.
What is surely exhausted is the policy the Britain and American uniquely share, of bringing about regime change by military aggression. Yesterday the two men attempted to distort the reality by talking of the ‘Arab Spring’ and saying that “it is not our place to dictate the pace and scope of such change”. Why then are they trying to dictate it in Libya?
For the first time since the fall of the Berlin wall, nations forming a significant regional grouping have seemed on the brink of freeing themselves from oppressive regimes. They are doing so not through outside intervention or military coup but through the delicate process of insurrection. They have demanded great sacrifice and loyalty from their people to the cause of freedom. But their cause has derived its peculiar potency through being “bottom-up”. Such regime change can be aided from outside via media, overseas contacts and an expatriate diaspora. It cannot be aided by blundering military intervention and aerial bombardments which strengthen rather than weaken the resistence of the bombed.
Military intervention by ‘world policemen’ paid no part in regime change in Tunisia or Egypt, while its deployment in Libya has been counter-productive. It has simply not worked in Iraq or Afghanistan and neither leader seems prepared to accept the reality that an unstable Afghanistan is unfortunate, an unstable Pakistan a disaster. Military might has failed to deliver peace in Iraq or security in Afghanistan and it has destabilised Pakistan and spread al Qaida’s influence even into this country. Today London and Washington are fortress cities.
Sadly the war drums of Bush and Blair rumble on. Until Obama and Cameron use what they chose to call an essential realationship to talk and practice peace, the idea that they will in some way gain traction in the Muslim world is a fantasy. Recent revelations in the New York Times by the widow of the US envoy Richard Holbrooke, indicate deep scepticism among diplomats to the continued belligerence toward the Muslim world. The reliance on assassination, drone attacks and bombing of innocents are, it seems, creating despair amongst those who strive for peaceful interactions.
This is really a moment of truth for the two leaders. They could together be a force for good. But we must surrender the dream of telling everyone else how to run their societies and, unless we are threatened, must put out lethal toys to one side.
TODAY’S EGGHEADS QUIZ QUESTIONS; GENERAL KNOWLEDGE
1. Cetewayo, Dingaan and Chaka have all led which people? 2. Whose one and only hit was ‘Move Closer’ in 1985? 3. Which injured player did Ian Woosnam replace in the 1995 European Ryder Cup team? 4. Which Suffolk town was the first in Britain to have a woman mayor? 5. Who played Yvonne Hartman, head of the Torchwood Institute in Doctor Who? 6. What is the correct name for chickenpox? 7. Which top-selling band featured Richard Jones on bass? 8. Who is the elder – Phil Collins or Robbie Coltrane? 9. In the 80s which building did Prince Charles compare to a “nuclear power station”? 10. Which US actor’s autobiography was titled “Never Have Your dog Stuffed“?