I didn’t hear William Hague’s interview on the Today programme – I am a silence person first thing – but the avalanche on twitter suggested he didn’t do terribly well. I thought I would offer a word in his defence.
It is not easy being Foreign Secretary when an international storm is raging. When someone like Gaddafi decides to tough it out in the way that he has, and when different countries are taking different positions in the way that they are, what any one government can do is limited.
But of course the public and the media expect you to have a view and then when you express it they complain that it’s all words, words, words. It has always struck me as an odd complaint. Words are fundamental to diplomacy, so the words you choose, and how you deploy them, are important.
However, when a foreign leader does not play by rules we would deem acceptable – most Western politicians probably thought Gaddafi would have gone by now – it means you are relying on the same words for longer than you planned. It seems an age since Hague indicated – probably wishful thinking – that Gaddafi was all aboard Air Force Mad Dog to Venezuela. So he has had to stretch out the anger, the concern, the condemnation, the words words words that give voice to a government position.
Throw in the seeming mess-up over a plane not taking off from Gatwick, with much of the media racing as quickly as they can to the most British angle they can find, and you have all the makings of a bit of a firestorm for Mr Hague, whose only recourse is trying to get a grip on the difficult business of extracting Brits who want to be extracted and the uttering of more words words words.
Meanwhile David Cameron continues with his rather odd trip – if it’s Wednesday it must be Qatar and a q and a about homophobia in football – without a clear or enduring voice on Libya or anything else. Whereas Hague is getting ground down by Libya, Cameron is bouncing from country to country, message to message, issue to issue like some Pick n Mix Premier not entirely clear about why he is there or what he is meant to be saying.
Ultimately that is Hague’s problem, the lack of clarity of thought about what is happening in other parts of the world, and how it impinges on UK interests. I can also tip him off about another problem coming his way. Some of the oil companies are trying to get people INTO Libya, Libyans based here who are worried about their country and their families. They have been trying to get the Foreign Office engaged but without much success.
When he became Foreign Secretary William Hague probably thought he would be dealing with great affairs of state. But Cameron having decided to reduce foreign policy to an extension of trade policy, the brief has shrunk. And it means that for the next bit, Hague needs in his own mind not to be a statesman or diplomat, but to develop the mindset of a customer liaison official at an airport grounded by strike action – prepare for lots of moaning, but try to do your best to grip the things you can grip so that people will stop moaning, while the Libyans try to sort themselves out.
One final point. The occasional comment has appeared on my twitter feed to the effect that Cameron and Hague ought to prepare a dossier saying Gaddafi has WMD, and then mount an invasion. I get the point. If I may answer the jibe with a serious point – Gaddafi did have a WMD programme, and gave it up, partly no doubt to seek to end his Pariah state reputation, but also because he had seen the seriousness of intent with which the issue of Saddam and WMD had been tackled.
He may be back to Pariah mode. But at least he doesn’t have WMD which, given his recent actions, would seem to be a good thing.
The number of people complaining that Hague should send in a Hercules plane and a troop of SAS to rescue oil workers from the middle of the Libyan desert have all probably been watching too many Hollywood movies.
Very true. Though personally I think the real WMD is the AK47 and the other various mass produced guns that you can find all over Africa. As for Cameron on foreign policy I don’t really see any substance at all. Does he even have one besides, ‘democracy is good’?
If anybody doubts the actions that removed Saddam then look no further than Libya today. If Saddam were still around in power and in possession of WMD could one really argue that he would not use them to defend himself against the sort of uprising we are seeing sweeping the Middle East?
Blair is and was right.
As uncomfortable as it may be for some to admit, it is simply unacceptable for autocratic dictatorships to have access or intention to posses WMD.
And that includes Iran.
Cameron prancing round the region with Major in tow flogging weapons doesn’t exactly help either.
” If Saddam were still around in power and in possession of WMD ….”, and if my Uncle had titties he would be my Auntie! Warmongering regime changing was a sport for Bush and his chums in Whitehall, but is against International Law. Full stop.
So why are we so constrained when other European countries do not seem to be, in terms of getting people out? Also – FCO did not even have a working phone numnebr 2 days ago, it seemed, would not confirm if out of order or busy, just said keep trying, which was fruitless. Abysmal if cannot even get phone line right.
I’m sure Capita or Serco would do international rescue much better than Whitehall, eh Dave?
So, why were other European countries not constrained as we seemed to be in effecting transport out? Andy FCO office absolutely abysmal, cd not even get thru on phone, no explanation offered
Realism prioritizes national interest and security over ideology and moral concerns. The overriding national interest of state is its national security and survival. Injection of morality and values into international relations causes problems.
But I do believe that there are universal principles which all states can use to guide their actions.
David Cameron has invented his own “Third Way” foreign policy. In Kuwait he rejected the realist school view that the west should support despots in the Middle East in the interest of stability.
But Mr Cameron is not a neocon either. The neocons believed that the US should spread democracy around the world, including Iraq.
Instead, Mr Cameron supports LIBERAL CONSERVATISM. He is against Tony Blair´s “liberal interventionism” first outlined in Chicago in 1999. Mr Blair thought that it was OK to challenge sovereign governments in certain conditions.
Cameron´s approach is classically Conservative. He says it is right to encourage democracy in the Middle East. But this should be done in evolutionary way.
Britain´s weapons exports to the Middle East amount to £7.2bn a year. Sales of arms to dictators are justified by saying that if we do not sell them someone else will.
George W Bush had his famous freedom agenda. Is this behind the current revolutionary spirit?
It seems that neoconservatives were wrong to assume that people in Arab countries cannot overthrow dictators themselves. After Hamas won there was less calls for democracy and freedom.
Perhaps the west should still use more soft and smart power rather than hard power.
China is a vast marketplace. Britain faces a dilemma between trade and human rights there. Authoritarian Russia also causes foreign policy problems to Britain.
Libya normally produces 1.6m barrels of oil a day. Because of the unrest the Brent crude rose to $105 a barrel, highest since September 2008. Libya is Africa´s third largest producer. Will the unrest spread also to Saudi Arabia, the world´s largest oil exporter?
Libya´s proven oil reserves of 44bn barrels are the largest in Africa.
Libya´s overseas investments include 3% stake in Pearson which owns the FT. The LIA has assets of $70bn. Libya owns 2% of Fiat and 7.5% of Juventus FC.
So the neocon notion that Arabs are hostile to democracy has gone. When Nasser nationalized the Suez canal, Britain, France and Israel invaded. The pro-British monarchy in Iraq was toppled in the 1958 revolution.
Israel´s1967 victory ended Arab nationalism. Conflicts in Syria and Iraq led to Ba´athists power.
Current Arab revolutions were triggered by economic crisis. It is important to notice that Islamism has lost its monopoly on dissent. Failings of Islamic governments in Iran, Sudan and Afghanistan have been clear to see.
As for “solutions”, it is impossible to say much as we cannot tell the future. Change can be for good or for worse.
Cameron is a small-town lightweight. It’s entirely predictable that his only activity on the world stage would be to further arms deals.
The most amusing development recently was Marine Le Pen expressing approval of his ideas on Islam.
I didn’t think that a little issue of no apparent WMD would be enough to stop Western governments from taking action should they deem it necessary.
But then the real issue is probably whether the the oil rich govenrment is amenable to keep the West in oil supplies.
If you’re on the receiving end of WMD I don’t think it matters much whether they were lobbed by an autocratic dictatorship or a democracy. Japan was on the receiving end of WMD in July 1945 and I don’t think the resulting mass pain and destruction were assuaged by the sender being ‘the greatest democracy in the world’. One democracy in the Middle East, an aggressive and expansionist state, has had WMD since the 1970s, but apparently that’s OK. During the UK General Election last May David Cameron and other Tories were fond of quoting Adam Smith: ‘The first duty of a government is to defend its people’. The logic of that in this day and age is nuclear proliferation. If one nation has any kind of WMD, other nations – including Iran – have a right to defend themselves. And how do they do that but by developing their own WMD?
I am more and more convinced that Cameron actually believes in nothing, apart from the doctrine that the private sector is the answer to everything and maintaining the unfair balance of wealth in this country .
That’s why we have this “pick and mix” world tour that you mention in your blog and why there is such a lack of vision in anything this Government is doing. Cameron “stands for” whatever he thinks he needs to “stand for” on that day – I can imagine him saying to his advisors in his morning briefing: “what am I being passionate about today”?
Witness the farrago with his Big Society – a meaningless and unexplainable concept held up by hot air as our public services and third sector are dismantled with back-slapping zeal.
at least no WMD – but has the threat of new and worse Pariah mode reached his noggin? this was never a man to hold close, oil meant we did.
…and it’s not as if we were trying to get to Majuba again is it?
(Google Majuba – an astonishing Victorian exploit though somewhat over the top.)
Having a WMD doesnt protect you against being attacked with one, in just the same way that carrying a gun doesnt protect you from being shot.
Dont get me wrong, the world would be a far better place without nuclear weapons in it but until diplomacy brings that about (which I’m confident it eventually will), we have to live with the world were born in.
For that reason, I’d much rather have David Cameron, Barack Obama, even George Bush behind the big red button. Because at least I could be 99.99% sure that if I held a protest in front of their house, they wouldnt use it.
Can the same be said for Gaddafi? Mubarak?
Do I recall the statistic that as little as 3 nuclear weapons are needed to destroy the world? (for us anyway).
Do you think there arent that many people in the world who would think it was worth it?
Sorry Rob, I can’t say whether I agree or disagree with your points because I’m not clear what you’re saying.
i think David Cameron and Barak Obama need to start rewriting their middle east foreign policies.they can condemn all they want but these uprisings are not finished yet.I think they start putting the UN to better use and let mr hague focus on extracting british citizens.
Dave; Slaphead, it’s me your PM and leader, look I’m advised that we need to get some of our people out of Libya.
Hague; Yes prime minister, the UK oil companies are already flying their workers out.
Dave; Oh, why didn’t we think of that?
Hague; I don’t know prime minister, things are quite confused out there.
Dave; What about the other Brits?
Hague: We’re chartering a civilian airline.
Dave; Not BA, we can’t have those lefty luddites helping out.
Hague; We may need to use the military too prime minister, but…….
Dave; Great! That’ll get us some good PR, send an aircraft carrier out there.
Hague; We can’t prime minister, you’ve scrapped them all.
Dave: Oh, well isn’t another ship available?
Hague; Luckily prime minister, HMS Cumberland is nearby.
Hague; Yes, prime minister, she was on her why to be decommishioned, this will be her final voyage.
Dave; Well put some of those SAS chaps on standby. Is Bruce Willis available? We might need to send them in on a rescue mission, or something like that. That’ll take the cuts off the front page.
Hague; Well prime minister. I’m advised they’ll need air cover and….
Dave; Yes. I know, no carriers.
Hague; And prime minister, they’d need electronic surveillence overhead.
Hague: We’ve just scapped the Sentinels and the Nimrods.
Dave: Well what about flying some of our chaps down to Gibraltar and patrolling from there?
Hague: I don’t think we’ve enough planes prime minister. We’ve scrapped the Harriers, cut the Tornadoes in half and sold some of the Typhoons to Oman to balance the books. That leaves the UK airspace unguarded, Putin will send over his spyplanes and if there is a terrorist alert we’ll have nothing available to shoot any airliner down.
Dave; What do we do then?
Hague What we normally do prime minister, go cap in hand to the Americans.
Dave: Get me the Whitehouse.
The Oval Office, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC.
Hilary Clinton; Mr President, its’ the Lighweight Limey………
2 a T
Yorkshire ale does have long standing effects – ee-bah-gum, especially if you are trying hard to be an SE England hard core Tory.
The LAD will come to his senses eventually, ey, Alastair?
Libya is hugely difficult ground for any Labour supporter. Indeed, WMDs went but was there any need to befriend the madman, have your picture smilingly shaking hands with him and engineer the release of a mass murderer?
I much prefer Cameron sticking to world salesman mode rather than world statesman.
Like Dr Jim Swire I don’t share your confidence in the conviction of the ‘mass murderer’, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. Megrahi might well be guilty of a lot of things but I always suspected a frame-up was at work in his trial. I also always suspected that Libya had about as much to do with Lockerbie as Saddam Hussein had to do with 9/11. The recent revelation by Mustafa Jalil-Abdel, who has yet to come forward with the evidence he claims to have which links Gaddafi directly to Lockerbie, does not so far persuade me that I’m wrong. Of course I might be wrong – but it all sounds a bit too clean-cut, black and white, convenient. I always thought that Lockerbie was a revenge attack for the US shooting down of an Iranian Airbus in July 1988. Libyan hit-men may have been involved – or Syrian, or Palestinian – but who knows? Certainly neither you nor I know the truth – but you want to believe something so you just go on and believe. Like Dr Jim Swire I have a personal need to know the truth about Lockerbie – in the early hours of Sunday 18th December 1988 I shared a taxi with one of the victims, who talked excitedly about her forthcoming trip to New York.
Thought provoking as always – here is a different look at things…..http://gingerfightback.com/ginger-whingers/gadaffi-offered-big-society-role/