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"We admire the development of the peace movement around the world in the last few years. We pray to God to empower all those working against war." - Saddam Hussein, February 2003

Saturday, March 15, 2003  

Link of the Week

BEFORE I GO, I shall update the link of the week. The next is to 'Why I am not an Objectivist' by Michael Huemer. To anyone at all familiar with Ayn Rand's 'philosophy' and ideas, it can be fascinating. In great detail, he shows just how contradictory and awkward Rand's theories of selfishness and objectivism are, how individual rights are incompatible with egoism, and how no one who claims to be operating logically can reasonably be an Objectivist.

If you'd rather not read the whole thing, start from 'Is Egoism Self-Evident?' and work down.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 06:16 | Permanent Link |

Friday, March 14, 2003  

Short break ahead

BARRING DISCOVERY OF a cheap internet cafe, there won't be any updates for a couple of days, as tomorrow morning I am off to the 2003 Conservative Spring Conference in Harrogate. As the blogosphere's official Tory Party Conference Correspondent, if anything interesting happens, I'll be back with a full report on Sunday evening or Monday.

If you're also going and you see a smartly-dressed young man embarrassedly handing out leaflets promoting this site, it is indeed me.

[Edit: I may take advantage of the one free audio-blogging post this weekend, so keep checking the page in case I do just that. Hopefully I'll find something interesting enough to report on the spot.]

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 08:18 | Permanent Link |

Brown as PM, Short as DPM?

ACCORDING TO LABOUR MP DIANE ABBOTT and others, the latest gossip in Westminster is that Clare Short may have so strengthened her position with the Labour left in the last week, that should anything happen to Tony Blair, the dream ticket combination to follow him would be Gordon Brown as Labour leader with Clare Short as his deputy. Considering Brown's willingness to divert plenty of taxpayers' money towards Short's International Development department, and his careful cultivation of his party by portraying himself always as more of a Labour man than Blair himself, there is no reason the two could not team up. As a way of reconciling the whole party, it could even be as rational and effective a combination as Margaret Thatcher and Willie Whitelaw.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 08:15 | Permanent Link |

President Bush 'till 2009?

AFTER THE 5 NOVEMBER ELECTIONS, in which the Republicans captured the US Senate and made major gains in Congress, I took it for granted that Bush would be elected President in 2004. But more and more I keep reading from informed sources that this is not a certainty by any means. Looking over the Economist's predictions for 2003, which may have gone to print prior to the mid-term elections, I see the same - Bush will win if the US economy gets back on track by the end of this year. If not, he will go the way of his father.

Have I been over-confident? What sort of factors will influence this election? What are the views of more experienced commentators? Can Bush win again? And this time, can he do it with more votes than the Democrats?

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 07:59 | Permanent Link |

Thursday, March 13, 2003  

How an aging population could be good for the Tories

DISCUSSING DECLINING NEWSPAPER circulation, Stephen Glover mentions where he thinks the Telegraph is going wrong:

My feeling is that it frets too much about not having enough young readers, and sometimes panders to them at the expense of its core readership. After all, with all the advances of modern medicine the old are going to live for ever, and all young people sooner or later become old.

This is a concept that hasn't occurred to me before, and it has political implications. If modern medicine does live up to optimistic expectations and the average lifespan by 2050 is 110 years or so, that leaves far more old people around to vote - and a disproportionate number of them tend to be Conservative. I think this is partly down to a lifelong gratitude to Churchill, but there are other factors that are not related to a particular generation. Simply put, as you age, you grow up a little. John Jay Ray has covered leftist idealism in youth admirably, and I find his ideas regarding the family extremely persuasive. He argues that when someone first begins as an adult, it seems frightfully unfair that he should suddenly have to earn a living for himself, having for two decades relied on others. This basically communistic aspect of the family ensures that socialist ideals begin in many young people. Equally, when you are adolescent and hormone-driven, loveless, recreational sex unrelated to any moral concerns seems a wonderful thing. To have the slightest objection seems stuffy and backward.

But all this changes as one matures a little. He becomes used to working for a living, and earning his fair share. He starts to care about his local community and its traditions, beginning to care directly about the sort of world his grandchildren will grow up in. He sees crime and disorder blighting the daily lives of ordinary, decent people like himself, and including himself. His hormone-driven attitude to the opposite sex that seemed so unambiguously good from 15 to 25 seems very different when he has daughters of his own who are prey to just such an attitude. His support for an egalitarian education system is met by the reality of his bright son or daughter struggling to break past statist restrictions on talent and ability. His wish that all benefit from the state comes up against his own excessive contribution to the pot from which all beneficiaries take.

As one ages more and more, one becomes more vulnerable to crime, to the insecurities of ordinary existence, to the fears for one's children. More and more they begin to treasure the values, traditions and attitudes of their youth, slowly being swept away. As grandchildren are born, this process continues.

Now imagine an extra thirty years or so of this. More time to see great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren born, and feel concern for their future. Another few decades in which to have liberal attitudes to crime beaten out of them by the sadism of a street lout, in which to see one's past disappear further into memory and to treasure it more. Can anyone doubt that Conservatives would gain?

Whatever 'pension time bomb' threat modern medicine and an aging population may pose, it also carries the immense advantage of increasing the proportion of conservatives in a country. That can only be good for everyone.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 17:06 | Permanent Link |

A victory for life

ON THE BACK of recent Republican victories, the new US Senate has just voted 2-1 to ban the evil partial-birth abortion procedure (see right), which involves the abortionist murdering a child while she is being born. The operation, which necessitates turning the baby upside-down and pulling all but the head out of the womb, before smashing the skull with a pair of scissors, now looks set to be illegal within a matter of weeks. A ceasarian section can save the mother's life far better than this procedure, and it is in very rare circumstances that having given birth to the whole body, the head would be too much for the mother. Partial-birth abortion, then, is in reality only necessary when a mother would prefer her baby dead to having her adopted, or undertaking the responsibility of looking after her herself. But a provision for saving the mother's life was nonetheless included, hopefully existing only in literally those circumstances, and not forming a loophole through which the procedure can continue for any reason whatsoever.

This is a small step for civilisation and a blow for every decent person in America. This procedure, revealed recently to be frighteningly common, contrary to the claims of the abortion industry, has been a target for pro-lifers for eight years, but with Bill Clinton in the White House, insisting on amendments and loopholes to any partial-birth abortion bill that would in practice make it useless, this ban was long in coming.

This vote is perhaps the greatest victory for US pro-lifers in the thirty years since the unconstitutional Roe vs. Wade law was passed, when the Supreme Court suddenly discovered an absolute right to abort ones children. Let us hope it is the first of many.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 15:54 | Permanent Link |

Bush must follow in Queen Victoria's footsteps

ASTONISHINGLY GOOD COVER STORY from Daniel Kruger in today's Spectator. His thesis is complex, but essentially he argues that the West as a whole is divided fundamentally into foxes and hedgehogs. The foxes, hippy-dippy postmodernist intellectuals who don't believe in objective truth or ethics - the sort of people who can't bring themselves to use the word 'wrong' without speech marks - are represented by France, Russia, Germany, Belgium, the UN and the EU. The hedgehogs, more simple and single-minded in their ideals, comfortable with certainty and moral truths, are represented by the United States, the UK, Israel, Australia and Canada and NATO. These camps have existed side-by-side for a long while, mainly because of hedgehog American military support for fox France. But that cannot go on:

We stand at a parting of the ways. The coming war with Iraq is going to decide which side goes forward to face the next great threat to the West. If it goes badly, the foxes win. If it goes well, the 1990s myth of a post-modern order - beyond power, beyond war - will be finished. The day of the hedgehog will dawn.

He compares tomorrow's chief hedgehog - Bush's America - to that of the 19th Century - Queen Victoria's Britain, and sees a similar role for her. This role is the assertion of liberty, democracy and the rule of law - the morally superior values that prevail in the West but are the right of all. Just as the British Empire saw its duty as the enforcement of its ban on slavery, America's role is to fight for these values across the world, exterminating terrorists and stopping rogue states just as Britain used the Royal Navy to smash the slave trade. Neo-colonialism, he says, is America's future.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 15:54 | Permanent Link |

Quote of the Day

"Chris Patten, dripping with condescension, reflects on 'Margaret's quite simple views - balance the books, family values, national pride, rule of law, all policemen are honest'. Oh, my dear, how provincial can you get? The fact that those were precisely the attitudes that won her three elections seems to have passed him by." - Allison Pearson on Baroness Thatcher

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 12:44 | Permanent Link |

UN or not, the Conservatives back war

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH today left a Downing Street with Tony Blair expressing full support for the Prime Minister's position. Now the leaders of both main parties offically support war with Iraq whether or not there is an eighteenth UN resolution.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 12:26 | Permanent Link |

Moveable Type?

HAVING HAD A proper web host for some time, I do sometimes wonder whether I should move over to moveable type blogging software. The advantages would be an ability to slot posts into categories and one, short, web address, rather than the short one that redirects ( and the long one that is off-putting to type ( Are there any other advantages I should consider? Would I be able to keep a similar design? Would I be able to transfer all my previous posts over? Does anyone have a clue how to install it?

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 12:25 | Permanent Link |

Wednesday, March 12, 2003  

A common sense start to improving the health service

NHS WAITING LIST TARGETS have been indirectly responsible for much death and misery. For the sake of good government figures, doctors across the country have felt forced to give priority to patients easy to treat rather than the most serious and urgent cases. In response, the Conservatives have now wisely promised to scrap all waiting list targets. As well as ensuring better treatment of patients, this would hopefully make the way we look at healthcare a bit more reasonable. After all, as far as waiting goes, it doesn't matter how many people are on a list with you. What matters is the time you wait. The focus should be on average waiting times for each operation, not waiting lists.

The NHS's monstrous bureaucracy has also been targetted. With New Labour unbelievably ensuring 117 hospital managers for every 100 hospital beds in the NHS, this can only be a measure absolutely necessary in building a better health service. As Liam Fox has noted, employment positions within the NHS should be a way of improving patient care, not a job creation scheme for bureaucrats. The Tories believe they can reduce the size of Department of Health by between 20 and 30 per cent by taking an axe to superfluous bureaucracy.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 17:48 | Permanent Link |

Is the special relationship special for Britain?

A DAY AND A HALF after it was revealed, I still find it hard to believe that the business contracts for the rebuiling of post-war Iraq have all been given to American companies. It isn't that the war itself has not yet begun that concerns me - planning for after it is over is just sensible forward-thinking. It is the blazen disregard for a loyal ally, and indeed for Iraq itself, which surely can be better served by a greater variety of countries bidding to offer the best services. On what authority were such decisions made? Doesn't the next Iraqi government deserve a say?

Such actions are not only indefensible and petty, but they help put skin on the bones of paranoid conspiracy theories about the war being fought for the sake of US business interests. Just as these were finally being shown for the nonsense we knew them to be, every opponent of war is armed with a fresh arsenal of argument and some solid evidence.

I do not doubt for a moment that this war is right, but this incident alone has made me ask myself why Britain should not merely give America what America gave us as we fought the Battle of Britain single-handedly - our best wishes. Certainly, ending the Baathist Socialist regime in Iraq and disarming its weapons of mass destruction is in Britain's national interest. But if the United States is going to do this anyway, why not allow them, support them and stay out?

I suppose part of the answer is Britain's excellent training and special forces, which are of particular use where brute force and military might are not as effective as something more subtle. We can potentially make this war less bloody for the allies and end it more quickly. And by giving our help and making this an international force that is disarming Saddam, we show ourselves again to be the closest friends of the leading world superpower, which can only be a good thing.

But incidents like these do shake me, and make me ask rationally just what we gain from the special relationship. America's support made an immense difference in the Falklands, certainly, but that was over twenty years ago - and if we are going back decades it seems rather to have been cancelled out by Eisenhower's folly at Suez in trying to curry favour with the Arabs by opposing Britain, France and Israel - a ploy that failed miserably.

If the IRA starts up again in a few years time, will the US help us exterminate terrorism in Ulster the way we helped them in Afghanistan? They'll do their bit with regards intelligence, certainly, and it would be unfair to expect America to fight a threat to Britain alone the way Britain treated a threat to all of Western civilisation. So perhaps it would be unreasonable to expect such help. But that still leaves unanswered the question of what we get out of it. I certainly support the United States and the Bush Administration, but active support is another matter altogether. I think if Britain is to engage in active support for the US, it is right to expect some active support in return. Yesterday's revelations shook my confidence that we do receive such a thing. If they are a freak occurrence, they can be forgotten at once. But if, as is possible, they represent a more general trend, some serious questions need to be re-examined.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 17:27 | Permanent Link |

What allied bombers are dropping on Iraq right now

THE LEAFLETS PRESENTLY being dropped on Iraq in preparation for war are interesting and varied, but get the point across. They warn (or, as the BBC says, threaten) against fighting coalition forces and make clear that the Iraqi people themselves are not the enemy.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 16:27 | Permanent Link |

In defence of France

FRANCOPHILE ROD DREHER opposes the policies of the present French government, but his love of the country itself continues, and he writes well in its defence in the National Review. John Derbyshire last month gave the case for the prosecution with equal eloquence.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 14:17 | Permanent Link |

It had to happen - PC Watch

JOHN J. RAY and I have launched a new blog - PC Watch. We plan an Instapundit-style look at politically correct stupidity around the globe, and so far we've not been short of material. Check it out.

Also, if you have an interest in perhaps being a contributor now and then, please email me. We're basically looking for anyone who keeps up with the news enough to spot such stories, and who can summarise them in a few lines.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 12:41 | Permanent Link |

^¬_¬^ Online

GOOD ONLINE CHAT with John Redwood in yesterday's Guardian Online section. He didn't avoid all the tougher questions the way it is so easy to do, and he stayed to answer them for a full hour. My own ranged from the gushing ("Who are your favourite political columnists? Which is your favourite newspaper?") to the somewhat snide ("Do you regret your attempt at a Nazi-Soviet pact with Ken Clarke in the 1997 Leadership election?"). Two of mine he answered rather well.

Why do you consider yourself a conservative rather than a libertarian? What do you think makes the conservative outlook the better one?

I am both conservative and freedom loving. A conservative needs a case for change before obliterating traditions and institutions. It is no crime for a hospital or university to be old if it also good. It is not wrong to wish to keep the finest landscapes and buildings as part of our great tradition. It is still possible to believe in liberty and in these things. Many of the threats to freedom come from innovation and the wish to change, not from the freedom loving inheritance.
Does the idea of Oliver Letwin at some stage being Conservative Leader appeal to you?

I was Oliver's boss in the PM's Policy Unit when he first worked in politics. I formed a high impression of his integrity, energy and enthusiasm. Oliver tells me he does not wish to be party Leader, but I am sure he has an important continuing role to play in our party's evolution. I find there is far more agreement about the big issues - public service reform, taxation and even Europe, than the press would have us believe.

Some good answers on the whole. Read it all.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 06:16 | Permanent Link |

Tuesday, March 11, 2003  

The flaws in the case against war

RATHER THAN MAKE the case for war, Mona Charen answers liberal arguments (or cliches) against it, and does so extremely convincingly. Violence is wrong? War never solves anything?

Apart from securing American independence, ending slavery, and defeating Nazism and communism, war has never solved anything.

What about the UN?

For liberals, the war against Iraq offends cherished fantasies -- such as the idea that the United Nations represents a disinterested distillate of world humanitarianism, rather than a cushy diplomatic posting for nations pursuing naked self-interest. But even if the U.N. were everything liberals wish it were, wouldn't justice be advanced by punishing defiance of the U.N. resolutions?

The United Nations has legitimacy as something of a global government?

[The UN is not] anything remotely resembling a world democracy. Five nations on the Security Council have veto power. So even if three dozen nations support the United States and Britain in wishing to overthrow the menace in Baghdad (as they do), France, Russia or China can prevent the United Nations from acting with the flick of a pen -- and for the most cynical of reasons.

A very convincing piece, and I think Charen proves with the ease with which she dismisses these arguments that those who favour Iraq's liberation should do more to answer the contrary case, as well as make their own.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 12:56 | Permanent Link |

A good maxim - live by it

AS JOHN BERCOW urges fellow Tories "not to oppose for the sake of opposing", I hope only that he can learn to apply this sage advice to his own attitude to his party.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 12:30 | Permanent Link |

40,000 extra police - it's with policies like these that Conservatives once won elections

OLIVER LETWIN HAS promised to use £2.1 billion per annum, saved by a quota on asylum seekers, to recruit more police officers. The Shadow Home Secretary's target is 40,000 extra by the end of a second four-year term of government. Eight years may be a long time in which to achieve it, but then it is an especially ambitious proposal. I think highly enough of Letwin to believe he can do this, given the chance. If these policemen are freed from bureaucracy and paperwork and are sent patrolling once again, I can't imagine a measure with greater potential to improve quality of life for all decent people.

The last Conservative government managed a net increase in police officers of 16,000.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 12:30 | Permanent Link |

Matt on the Ron Davies scandal

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 09:52 | Permanent Link |

Sensible welfare reform changes behaviour for the better

WHEN CHANGING WELFARE RULES IN 1996, Newt Gingrich's Congress was warned of the terrible effects of such policies - poverty and misery would apparently be widespread among millions. What in fact happened is that huge numbers of former welfare mothers went out to find jobs, nearly doubling their household income, and nearly all lifting themselves out of poverty. Their children meanwhile turned out to have fewer behavioural problems and feel less anxiety, with their schoolwork also improving.

When Tony Blair came to power, he famously instructed the Social Security Minister Frank Field to think the unthinkable on welfare reform. He did just this, but was then sacked for his radicalism. Now, the sort of common sense changes that improve the lives of those presently on welfare - the primary test of any such reform - are anything but unthinkable. Welfare reform works. Let's put it into practice here.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 09:21 | Permanent Link |

Tonge to retire

JENNY TONGE, a rather mouthy Liberal Democrat MP and Clare Short's counterpart, has announced her intention to retire at the next election. Like Short herself, Jenny Tonge has been a leading leftwards influence on her party, opposing military action in Afghanistan and even the Blair government's feeble criticisms of Zimbabwean genocide, which she said sounded "colonial". With a majority of less than 5,000 in her Richmond Park seat, it's a shame the Conservatives won't now get the chance themselves to retire her at the next election.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 08:36 | Permanent Link |

We've both learned from history

IN AN OKAY PIECE, Bill O'Reilly comments on the similarities between the appeasement of seven decades ago, and the appeasement of today:

Back in the 1930s, millions of people the world over simply did not want to think about the evil Hitler was brewing up. France and Russia were the chief appeasers, as they are today on the Iraq question... Britain went along with France in the '30s, but now it seems the United Kingdom has learned from its historical mistakes.

Well, this is a fair comment, but the tone suggests that while Britain went wrong in its dealings, America knew about Hitler's threat from the start. In fact, as we know, the United States waited more than two years longer than Britain (and France) to go to war with Germany, and then only through being forced into it. It is probably just British influence, but it is very odd that even in America, Neville Chamberlain is seen as the arch-appeaser for letting Germany off the hook until September 1939, whereas Franklin D. Roosevelt is not, despite a similar appeasement of Germany until December 1941.

The comparison is not exact, because Roosevelt was arming the British before Pearl Harbour, and Germany was not in the late 1930s the direct threat to the United States that it clearly was to Great Britain. But even so, while it's good if people in this country are finally coming to see the dangers of appeasement, we aren't the only ones who had to learn that lesson.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 06:55 | Permanent Link |

A nuclear response to nuclear proliferation?

VERY INTERESTING NATIONAL REVIEW article from John Derbyshire. He goes much further than I am presently willing to in suggesting that nuclear weapons may - and should - be used selectively in the war on terror. But his analysis is provocative and interesting. He notes the infamous response of Chamberlain's Air Minister Kingsley Wood to Leo Amery's suggestion that Britain bomb Germany's munition stores shortly after the invasion of Poland: that it would be wrong as they were private property. Of course, within a matter of years, we were bombing German civilians by the hundreds of thousands, and in general only the likes of David Irving tend to protest the decision. Could we see the same elevation with the war on terror, he asks?

I think the key is not to lose sight of what must remain an essential objective - a missile defence system that will protect America and her close allies from nuclear attack. I seem to be the only person in the world who has realised this, but not only would this protect us against nuclear missiles, but also against the suitcase bombs everyone warns that our enemies will revert to as soon as the missile shield is established. If any country attempts a suitcase attack, then given a missile shield, we can nuke them without fear of retaliation in kind. They will know this, and will be far less likely to use a suitcase bomb in the first place. QED.

Ultimately, though, I think one of the main reasons I am so supportive of the war on terror is precisely the hope that it will prevent the world reaching the stage of nuclear attacks for a long time to come. To use nuclear weapons to prevent their proliferation may work, but it would be a very high price to pay.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 06:11 | Permanent Link |

John Major returns in spirit

IN PRIVATE EYE'S hilarious Secret Diaries of John Major, there is one entry on the cabinet "bastards" which rather perfectly parodied his leadership.

Sacking them would be a sign of weakness. The real strength is in keeping them in government in case they cause trouble on the backbenches.

Is a better assessment of Tony Blair's reaction to Clare Short's comments possible?

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 04:49 | Permanent Link |

Quote of the Day

"Am I the only person who wonders why Labour MPs who protested against the (non-UN mandated) Serbia campaign to remove Milosevic were an 'absolute disgrace' according to Clare Short, whereas supporting action to overthrow Saddam Hussein is 'utterly reckless'?" - British Spin

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 04:02 | Permanent Link |

Monday, March 10, 2003  

An astonishing polling discovery buried by the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy

THE GUARDIAN'S FORUMS are an endless source of amusement. I don't necessarily blame the newspaper for this. I am told by internet experts that online forums for all newspapers tend to be filled with the worst sorts of people and the dumbest of debates. But given this, it seems the Guardian forums cater for the most left-wing of these types.

Here's part of the first post on one ingenius thread, attempting to prove that the American people oppose the President's policy to disarm Iraq.

"Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the situation with Iraq?"

All - 54% Republicans - 83%

The reason it's even 54 percent is because, 83% of the republicans agree with Bush. That pulls the average up to 54% for all americans.

Now look at his support for democrats and independents:

Democrats - 39% Independents - 45%

So far so good. Now here's the clincher:

If you throw out the 83% from the republicans, Bush has less than 50% of americans who agree with his handling of Iraq.

So in other words, sure, the American people as a whole may support the President on this issue. But ... if you only count the views of people who voted against him, you find a considerable level of opposition to his policies. Wow! Who'd have thunk it, eh?

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 14:56 | Permanent Link |

What explains the Mail's success with the ladies?

THE GUARDIAN HAS a long but very interesting profile of the Daily Mail and the paper's attitude to women. Vicious in its sneering at celebrities who have let their figures go, or working women who produce hellraising children, the Mail still manages to win a huge female readership, and is indeed the only national paper to have more female than male readers. Why? The column's purpose is to answer this question. Some interesting ideas are raised, but I think one of the most important, which probably never occurred to the author, is that being anti-feminist and being misogynistic are very far from the same thing.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 13:38 | Permanent Link |

An easy Anglo-American victory won't make things easy for Blair

STEPHEN POLLARD TAKES ISSUE WITH the commonly held view that should Britain emerge victorious from a short and relatively bloodless war with Iraq, Tony Blair will be entirely vindicated, and will be more powerful and dominant than ever.

I simply don't buy [this notion], which rests on the supposition that all his party cares about is what happens to Iraq. Certainly, if Iraq was the issue, then a triumphant liberation would indeed work for Blair. And in the country as a whole, it almost certainly will have that effect. But not within the Labour Party. As I explained here, Iraq is merely the pretext for the Labour opponents. Thus the simple act of backing the US outside of the UN could, on its own, be enough to trigger collapse - regardless of a triumphant outcome.

I tend to agree. For a start, I don't think winning the Kosovo or the Afghan War did much for Blair's popularity, anyway. The Falklands Factor worked for Maggie because it was a clear case of advancing Britain's interests and asserting our role on the world stage after so many decades of relative decline and absolute humiliation. But humanitarian wars - as in the Balkans - or those dealing with seemingly distant and indistinct threats - as in Afghanistan and now Iraq - do not win many hearts and minds. So it's not as if he can expect a great surge of support from the general public.

Perhaps more importantly, the quick-victory theory puts huge faith both in the idea that a liberated Iraq will be seen by many on the Left as a particularly desirable outcome ("it's just what the Americans want", they will reason) and in the Left's tendency to admit to have got something wrong. Can you name even three public figures since 1945 who have opposed a war, but then changed their minds after it was won? Those who thought the Falklands War unjust in 1982 continue think that way. Everyone who opposed intervention in Kosovo in 1999 still thinks it was mistaken. As I wrote last month, if you can willfully ignore the very strong case for this war in prospect, it's doubtful you'll be any more persuaded in retrospect.

If the substantial peacenik crowd cannot be persuaded of the case for war by the mountain of evidence already supplied about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, I doubt many of them will be any more convinced that the war was justified by a smug Prime Minister constantly reminding them that people were "dancing on the streets of Baghdad" when British and American troops liberated Iraq's capital.

There are ways in which this crisis could go wrong for Blair that are too obvious to need spelling out. But I can't actually see a plausible situation in which things could be said to have gone right for him. The Prime Minister is totally trapped - determined to do the right thing while leading a party equally determined for him to do the wrong thing. Whatever happens now, I think he will in a few months time be weakened to a degree that would have been unimaginable even two years ago.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 11:40 | Permanent Link |

When it comes to the unborn and abortion, we should err on the side of life and caution

SUSAN GREENFIELD, the Oxford Professor and Britain's leading neurologist, has hypothesised that consciousness in the unborn may develop long before we think, and long before the 24 week period allowed for abortion. Her suggestion is that the common perception of consciousness as being 'switched on' at some specific point in early life may be mistaken - instead, there may be gradual stages of consciousness, with no single moment between conception and adulthood being the defining one. As a consequence of this view, she makes a suggestion that all should take to heart.

Given that we can't prove consciousness or not, we should be very cautious about being too gung ho and assuming something is not conscious. We should err on the side of caution.

Sadly, erring on the side of caution in this case means putting our own selfish desire for sex without consequence second to the value we put on innocent human life. To even suggest such an attitude in this day and age is little short of revolutionary.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 07:31 | Permanent Link |

Clare Short puts her career in Chirac's hands

THE MEDIA FURORE over the threatened resignations of a handful of Parliamentary Private Secretaries now seems justified, with Clare Short also promising to resign if a war to liberate Iraq goes ahead without the support of an eighteenth UN resolution. An absurd position, however one looks at it. If a war is unjust, it is unjust with or without the UN. Equally, if it is just, the approval of China, France and Syria cannot change that. I can respect a resignation in opposition to a war, or in opposition to a peace, but not one dependent on the approval of the United Nations. If Clare Short can grit her teeth and support a war because the UN agrees with it, then one can only conclude that she thinks going against the wishes of the UN Security Council is a greater offence than fighting an unjust war. This is taking fetishism of multilateralism to barbarous new heights.

I also don't think she will be a particular loss to anyone but the old left, who - if Blair survives - may soon be sad to have lost their chief representative at the top table. The position of International Development Secretary is one of the most junior in cabinet, and she has been a constant embarrassment to the Prime Minister, not least in her description of him last night as "extraordinarily reckless". Blair may soon be glad to see the back of her.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 06:52 | Permanent Link |

Fewer economic migrants and more genuine refugees would be better for everyone

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH has suggested that Britain accept only 20,000 asylum seekers a year. As we currently take in 110,000 with around 90% of them being bogus, this sort of policy would be far better both for people already here, and for the genuine asylum seeker. We would take in fewer people as a whole, but a significantly greater number of actual refugees.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 06:52 | Permanent Link |

Saddam cannot be trusted; the United Nations has failed

A FEW INTERESTING COMMENTS in response to yesterday's post on the Second Gulf War. 'James' asks for evidence that Saddam is ready to pass on nuclear weapons to terrorists who threaten us. Well, obviously I cannot yet supply such evidence. But we know that Saddam does fund terrorism and is building a huge arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Given the man's track record, and that of Al-Qaida and the other Islamofascist organisations that threaten us, we can be sure that it isn't the niceness of either that stands in the way of this threat. To give them both the benefit of the doubt on this issue is taking an incredible risk, and we just can't trust either of them enough to do this.

Joseph Weir and David Jaroslav suggest that going through the UN was useful in showing once and for all its futility. I am inclined to agree that in this sense, the approach has been successful. Going down this route was not about giving Saddam one last chance, but giving the United Nations a final opportunity to prove itself fit to influence policy in a way that will build a safer world. If the eighteenth resolution against Iraq is not passed, we will know once and for all that it is not, its irrelevance forming a perfect platform for future dealings with the world.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 06:26 | Permanent Link |

Two cheers for the Caerphilly Labour Party

THERE AREN'T MANY parts of the country where Ron Davies' disgusting behaviour would still be condemned, but it seems Caerphilly is still one of them. Their Labour Party has forced his resignation as their Welsh Assembly representative. How sad that it took more than four lie-filled years for this to happen, and that even now it wasn't he who did the honourable thing, but his party, by forcing it upon him.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 04:55 | Permanent Link |

Sunday, March 09, 2003  

Quote of the Day

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse." - John Stuart Mill

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 05:04 | Permanent Link |

If you don't like it, don't steal in the first place

DAVID BLUNKETT HAS accepted Oliver Letwin's proposals to make it illegal for burglars to sue their victims for compensation when they trip over a box or the house-holder acts in self-defence or some such situation. Thank God for some common sense now and then.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 02:45 | Permanent Link |

This war could have been over long ago, but let's at least fight it now

LIKE JOHN DERBYSHIRE, Mark Steyn is now simply tired of waiting for the Second Gulf War to begin. A year and a half after calling for Saddam to be toppled, he doubts he's had anything original to say on the matter for months. Now he just waits yet again through further inspections, debate and pointless peacenikkery.

I've read a few columns like this, and I absorbed the message and tended to agreed with it. But I didn't directly feel the way they did until a moment last Tuesday when the point really hit home. Sat in college considering the deeper points of Lockean philosophy, I noticed a young girl walking past wearing a huge "DON'T ATTACK IRAQ" t-shirt. They even have clothes for the cause now, I thought to myself. Well, exactly! The phoney war has gone on so long there's a small industry developing based on opposing it. The Stop the War Coalition has offices in London, full contact details, peace CDs, the works. These people are formidably organised for a war that still hasn't started. How could we have been so foolish as to give them this much time? Why wasn't there a bayonet in Saddam's throat before the peaceniks had time to appoint the mandatory ethnic minority lesbian to their t-shirt design committee?

A lot of it is down to Tony Blair. We must temper our praise for his new-found conviction in what is right and also be prepared to scorn the time and moral authority he has sacrificed through his determination to take the world down to the "UN route". Of course, the UN cul-de-sac is not now going to work, anyway, and even those who think a Chirac-backed war would be especially moral can see that so many months have been wasted on this. That he has helped dragged Bush into all this inspections and veto nonsense is a sad fact, but I don't think Blair can take all the blame.

Part of Bush's problem is that though his heart is in the right place, he is far too cautious in much of what he does. His determination to be an American President first and a Republican President second is admirable and right, but it isn't always the way to win the argument. After eighteen months of debating, how many people are really any more convinced of the case for war with Iraq now than they were back then? Argument and persuasion are good up to a point, but sometimes a leader must be willing to ignore substantial doubts on major issues, go right ahead with what he thinks is right, and then turn to his critics and ask "Howzat?".

John Derbyshire mentions the Falklands, invaded and then re-captured all within three months of 1982. I myself keep thinking back to issues like the abolition of exchange controls in mid-1979. They had existed under governments of both stripes ever since the Second World War. The conventional wisdom and certainly the Labour Party was warning of the terrible dangers of freely floating exchange rates. The compromisers instead feared that with Britain's greatest economic difficulties still ahead, the best time to do it was certainly not now. But almost as soon as it came to power, the Thatcher government grasped the nettle. Grave warnings were afoot. The Chancellor couldn't sleep at all that night. But the next day, all was well - indeed, all was better than well, and it was the first step on Britain's road to economic recovery. No one taken remotely seriously anywhere in the country now argues that exchange controls should be restored. Their abolition was radical and risky, but it worked.

Now imagine if the Thatcher government had instead waited until early 1981 to make this change - if they had spent eighteen months on a campaign of persuasion on the matter. They'd have convinced some, certainly, but they would also have multiplied the doubts of the rest. Given all this time, even the convinced and trusting would have started to notice a lack of nerve in their leaders. This is the position Bush is in now. His greatest caution has come on the wrong issue at the wrong time.

If we see a need to engage in some sort of war with North Korea once Iraq is dealt with, will we face the same situation? Will we once again see endless negotiation, persuasion, searches for token international support? George W. Bush has less than six years left in the White House. He just doesn't have time for this. Persuasion is fine on an issue where lots of people are open to be persuaded. But the rights and wrongs of warfare are usually decided retrospectively, and Iraq is certainly such a case. When Saddam's torture chambers are opened up to the world, when his weapons of mass destruction are juicily sucked up by the world's media, when the man himself is arrested or dead, a small minority will be those who still say it was wrong to act. We could have been at that stage already by now, had we not delayed the inevitable so long, by appeasing not only Saddam but the United Nations, all in the vain hope of seeming oh-so-reasonable. When the war is won will be the moment to carry the waverers. The time for action is now.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 01:03 | Permanent Link |

Link of the Week

THE LINK OF THIS WEEK is "Euro Not Working" at For each of the twelve EU member states who have given up their own currencies in favour of the euro, it surveys their economic climate, judging how Maastricht criteria and a common interest rate policy have taken their toll. Very interesting and sobering reading.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 00:05 | Permanent Link |
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