Friday, 6 May 2011

Staking Out a Position on Libya: The Illusions of the Left.

Brian Whitaker has written in The Guardian about the divided opinion amongst the Western "liberal left" on the Western intervention in Libya ( The liberal-left are at odds on Libya, Thursday 5 May 2011 )
Military intervention in Libya, like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is dividing public opinion. Many critics see all three as part of the same neo-imperialist project – to install puppet governments and assert western domination over oil supplies.

That certainly seems to be the view of Tariq Ali and many who post in the Guardian's comment threads. A constant refrain is that the conflict in Libya is "all about oil".

But the dividing lines over Libya are not exactly what they were with Iraq. Significant voices that opposed the invasion of Iraq are more equivocal about intervention in Libya or even support it.

Professor Juan Cole, one of the most prominent American critics of the Iraq war – and who still calls it illegal – takes an entirely different line on Libya. At the end of March, he wrote on his blog:

"The Libya intervention is legal and was necessary to prevent further massacres and to forestall a threat to democratisation in Tunisia and Egypt, and if it succeeds in getting rid of Qaddafi's murderous regime and allowing Libyans to have a normal life, it will be worth the sacrifices in life and treasure. If NATO needs me, I'm there."

In 2002, Hussein Ibish, of the American task force on Palestine, described war in Iraq as unnecessary, dangerous and completely unjustified. Last week, in contrast, he was robustly defending "Obama's limited engagement in Libya".

Intervention in Iraq was also widely opposed by the Arab public (as well as some of their leaders) and there were serious legal questions as to whether the UN security council had actually authorised war.

In Libya, the humanitarian aspect was more clear-cut and less complicated by other factors. The Gaddafi regime had made explict threats against its population and there were reasonable grounds for believing a bloodbath would ensue.

Also, between the outbreak of the conflicts in Iraq and Libya, the UN had adopted the principle of "responsibility to protect" (supported by various humanitarian organisations) and, in effect, Libya was the major first test of its effectiveness.

Another difference in the case of Libya is that the balance of Arab opinion favoured intervention and the security council clearly authorised it (by "all necessary means"), even if there are disagreements as to whether that includes targeting the Gaddafi regime.

Unlike the runup to the war in Iraq, the Libyan crisis blew up suddenly – which weakens the idea that intervention was part of some preconceived western strategy (despite many claims to the contrary). Unlike George Bush, Barack Obama was initially reluctant to get involved.

Chris Doyle of CAABU acknowledges that oil may have been a background factor, but doesn't see it as the main one. "If Libya has no oil there would be very little interest, but I'm not convinced it's about an oil grab," he said.
The problem with "liberal-left" responses to the civil war in Libya and the NATO intervention is that attempts to explain why the war is happening and why the Western powers are involved always involves looking at the "motivation" of the Great Powers as if its either "all about oil" or a genuine humanitarian response.

The truth is that the far left ( that is those who espouse the StWC line such as Galloway, Pilger, Milne, Ali etc ) have reduced the military intervention in Libya on the side of the rebels only to some form of atavistic oil grab, one that will benefit oil corporations, the elites and the politicians. i.e "rapacious power" as Pilger calls it.

Aside from the fact that the Western powers did not directly cause the crisis in Libya, though Blair had decided to re-establish relations with Gaddafi in 2004 with lucrative oil and arms deals negotiated, the far left fail to grasp the fact that if all conflicts are about oil, then what alternatives to oil can be found.

The decision to invade Iraq in 2003 as David Strahan documents in his Last Oil Shock was undertaken mostly due to "geostrategic desperation", the fact North Sea oil production peaked in 1999, the high price of petrol causing the road haulier strike of 2000 and the public backing the oil tank drivers.

The contradiction is clear: most people who might even declare themselves anti-war are in their lifestyles dependent upon diminishing supplies of oil and gas. Seeing only guilty corporations and foolish politicians as the reason for blundering into wars from Iraq to Afghanistan and now Libya is facile.

Paradoxically, the radical criticism that the decision to get "regime change" Libya or Iraq is "all about oil" is not just obvious but it is also re-assuring and comforting. The myth is by getting rid of these corrupt politicians and "warmongers" and challenging corporate power "we" can change the world.

This line of reasoning appeals to infantile consumers of radical theories and evades the obvious fact that in the boring consumer wastelands of lands such as Britain, with its motorway towns, demand for supermarket produce all year round and low petrol prices, cheap oil must flow.

So wars such as Iraq and being drawn further into the Libyan quagmire ( "mission creep" ) are essentially conflicts over the oil needed to preserve the consumer lifestyles even anti-war activists take for granted ( unless as individuals they have stopped driving, never fly EasyJet and refuse to buy out of season fruit ).

The stark fact is that unless the West reduces its dependence upon oil , then there will be more military interventions to secure oil supplies and, the logic of strategists in the West is that if the West does not secure the oil, then China will without even the pretence of trying to promote democracy.

The reason the Western powers have not tried to push "regime change" in Bahrain is that though the regime has murdered protesters demanding democracy, if it is seen to back them too much then the Saudi regime will feel threatened too and this could effect oil supplies.

A large oil price shock would hit the already faltering economic recovery happening in the wake of the global economic crash of 2008 and no Western government, which serves both the powerful and has to take into account democratic popular opinion, is likely to call for regime change in the Arabian Peninsula.

Libya is not a "oil grab" as the invasion of Iraq was if by "grab" there is the sense of trying to get rid of Gaddafi just to control it all, which would be impossible anyway given Russian and Chinese stakes in the oil field blocks. It is an intervention to secure one of the most important oil supplies to Europe.

Partly, this is about energy diversification and the fact that Gaddafi had lost control of Libya and besides his armies seeming set to create bloodshed in Benghazi, the calculation no doubt was prior to intervention that this would in any case lead to a major source of the world best quality low sulphur oil being disrupted.

"Democratic Geopolitics" is formulated according to the idea of enlightened self interest, though whether it is "enlightened" is one that has to be judged according to the facts in each case and the record from Kosovo, to Afghanistan , Iraq and now Libya shows one of consistent failure.

Those on the left need to stop providing rationalisations for being "anti-war" or "pro-liberation", refrain from what Orwell termed being a "cocksure partisan" who believes that they can shift the world their way by espousing the correct line or framing the way world events must be seen.

Facing unpleasant facts is difficult. Yet unless what is really at stake in wars such as that in Afghanistan are understood ( and it is about the geopolitical benefits of the TAPI pipeline and hegemony in Central Asia-the New Great Game ) then the future looks increasingly bleak.

To avoid being necessarily embroiled and dragged into conflicts such as Libya, then alternatives to oil need to be found and where possible democracy promoted in Arab nations tactfully and diplomatically. The problem with Western foreign policy towards the Arab states is contradictory.

On the one hand the need to maintain secure oil supplies leads to the notion of accepting despots and dictators and, in Britain and the USA's case especially, in arming them and on the other to try to promote democracy by force or by intervention when its seems possible.

The reason is that democratic Arab states would actually be better partners for the West as China tends to prefer to reinforce dictatorships in oil and resource rich regions without bothering even hypocritically to raise notions of human rights or not using force to repress dissent.

In that sense, China has a competitive advantage over the West as it does not get a bad press for having double standards because it holds to no standards other than getting the resources it wants and not even pretending to be interested at all in whether the regime will be "open" or "transparent".

The invasion of Iraq was an oil grab intended to outflank China by installing a democracy that would be more amenable to Western interests and to lead to the sort of domino effect toppling Arab dictatorships in the Middle East and to reduce dependence upon a dysfunctional Saudi Arabian regime.

Now that has happened as a result of the Arab peoples rising up against corrupt autocratic regimes without Western backing, apart from Libya, the West is taking a "wait and see" posture. Western governments cannot take risks with the oil supply by backing democrats who might fail.

This would only lead to autocratic regimes in the Middle East being courted by China and Russia. Another paradox of the liberal left or many leftists, no less than staunch neo-imperialists, is the illusion that Europe and the USA is still the centre of global policy making and can determine the future of the world.

The left in the West, indeed all those who want a future without resource wars, emergency states, increased terrorism and global proxy conflicts over oil and gas, even the possibility of global war, need to look at pragmatic measures in the longer term to reduce dependence upon oil.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Propaganda Needs to be Explained and not seen as Mere Media Manipulation.

Adam Curtis who produced the film The Power of Nightmares writes,

The horrific thing about Osama bin Laden was that he helped to kill thousands of innocent people throughout the world. But he was also in a strange way a godsend to the west. He simplified the world. When communism collapsed in 1989, the big story that had been hardwired into citizens of western countries – that of the global battle against a distant dark and evil force – came to an abrupt end.

Understanding the world became much more complicated until, amid the confusion of a global economic crisis in 1998 and the hysterical spectacle of the Monica Lewinsky affair, Bin Laden emerged as the mastermind behind the bombings of embassies in east Africa.
Bin Laden's demise was but one event that justifies the continual war on terror. As a media event, it bolsters the notion the war in Afghanistan is about defeating Al Qaeda. Despite the fact Bin Laden was already a has been as regards the global operation of this "network of networks".

The continuation of war in Afghanistan is inextricably bound up with the New Great Game for control over the pipeline routes from the Central Asian republics. The TAPI pipeline runs through Helmand where the Taliban is still fighting. The completion of the mission depends on this geopolitical aim being fulfilled.

This is precisely why Cameron, Clinton keep going on about finishing the global war on terror as it provides a rationale for the quest for hegemony in Eurasia. This stark fact is never analysed even by the likes of Adam Curtis, though he is good on the mechanisms of propaganda.

The reality that the Afghan War is a resource struggle through trying to gain hegemony over oil and gas pipeline routes is one few want to face. Yet almost every day the reality is there in the 'back pages' of the FT and business pages of Indian English language media such as this,

Construction of the pipeline is due to start in 2013 and is targeted to be completed and operational by the end of 2016. For this, all the four nations will form a consortium that will build and operate the pipeline.TAPI is being pushed by the US as an alternative to the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline, while the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is the Lead Development Partner of the project.

Tescopoly and the Destruction of Independent Retailers.

Peter Wilby has written a critique of the way large supermarket corporations are driving out small independent retailers.
Across the country the small retailer is being wiped out. In the whole of Britain there are fewer than 1,000 specialist fishmongers, 7,000 butchers and 4,000 greengrocers, and barely 3,000 independent bakeries. In all these categories, the number of specialists has fallen by 90% since the 1950s, and at least 40% in the last decade alone. They have been driven out by supermarkets, which now sell 97% of our food, with four chains accounting for 76%.

Next to the motor car, nothing else has so radically changed the look and texture of our environment over the last half-century – creating what the New Economics Foundation calls "clone-town Britain" where every high street has the same shops. Next to the motor car, nothing else has so radically changed the look and texture of our environment over the last half-century – creating what the New Economics Foundation calls "clone-town Britain" where every high street has the same shops.

The age of the motor car is responsible for the decline of the small independent retailer with out of town supermarkets and banal retail parks. With peak oil, increasing global competition for diminishing supplies of oil and high oil prices the high octane consumerism of the times will soon become less viable anyway.

In 2011, the predominance of the supermarkets, the proliferation of Tesco Metro's and Sainsbury's Local's is a threat not only to diversity on the high street too ( a buzzword beloved of trendy leftists ) but will diminish the quality of community life as even check out assistants are being replaced by self service machines.

So jobs will be lost and gained or preserved only in the floodlit wastelands of whole deracinated zones of warehouses where produce is imported from around the globe to provide the consumer with out of season fruit and vegetables all year long.This again is oil intensive and environmentally cretinous.

As is the fact that supermarkets are supremely wasteful of so much food that has supposedly passed its "use by date". The wastage of food can be afforded by huge supermarket chains. But it is a colossal waste of food on an overpopulated planet.

Also, the principle of "economies of scale" works not only to entrench large supermarket corporations. Small bakers were put out of business by chains such as the appalling Greggs and Wenzels which offer bleached flour rubbish. Public taste, the pace of life has led to the decline of small retailers.

Britain is a land where depersonalisation, the disconnection between consumers and the natural environment is being accelerated and ultimately the coming epoch of resource conflicts, high oil prices and global instability will put an end to the infinite supermarket growth retail Utopia.

Unfettered "free markets" are not actually free markets if the power behind the oligopolies depend on the role of government, both local and national, genuflecting to the power of large corporations. If they are given tax breaks, as in neoliberal economies in Central Europe, e.g Poland, it is a rigged market.

In Krakow, there are now special buses provided to ferry people to the Tesco there. Small retailers are closing down. Tesco has the unfettered power to achieve this though money power and the collusion of supine politicians who are the middlemen between corporate power and "the people".

There is nothing natural about these distortions of the free market as the level playing field does not exist. Adam Smith was scathing about such distortions and lived in a period when most enterprises depended on family businesses and limited corporations subject to the same rules of competition as others.

Terms such as 'the free market are abstractions if they are not placed in a historical, political and economic context. That's why evidence about the way Tesco and other supermarkets drive out free market competition need to be based on the empirical evidence regarding how they actually operate.

The Mob Celebration on Bin Laden's Death: Tribalism not Patriotism.

The jubilation in the USA that greeted Bin Laden's killing was vulgar and unseemly. But certain journalists have tried to use it to discern some systemic malaise connected to the idea of being loyal to a nation. Gary Younge makes some good points and states today, (Osama bin Laden's death: The US patriot reflex, The Guardian 3 May 2011 ),
The national unity that Barack Obama has sought to harness following the announcement is indeed eerily familiar. Albeit in joy rather than sorrow, it's the same kind of unity that followed 9/11. It is also the same kind of unity that rallies around flags, dismisses dissent and disdains reflection.
But he writes,
The patriotic impulse in American society is intense and pervasive. The kind of national fervour reserved elsewhere for occasional events like royal weddings, World Cup victories or major tragedies is a dormant reflex waiting for a trigger.
The mob reaction in reaction to Bin Laden's assassination is more akin to "tribalism" or nationalism which is different to patriotism which has often led to an impassioned and sceptical questioning of power, not only of government but of those whom Orwell called "transferred nationalism".

The fact that the neoconservatives used terms such as "Patriot Act" to impose measures that curtailed civil liberties in the USA should not detract from the fact that the word "patriotism", as in "patriot missile" is an Orwellian misappropriation of the word. In the same way that Soviet communist regimes were termed "people's republics".

Younge conflates nationalism with patriotism due to the adherence to the ideology of anti-colonial discourse that derives from the 1960s Leninist radicals and those such as Franz Fanon. Nationalism is only good if it is yoked to victim nations or to hyper identities such as militant Islamism.

It is quite possible to be simultaneously against US global policy, even "neo-imperialism", without being scathing about the ordinary ties and loyalty to a country and being against those who write drivel about "the Iraqi resistance" or support Islamo-Bolshevik movements such as Respect.

Such movements fall under the rubric of what Orwell called "transferred nationalism" and are conditioned by the same power hunger, fanaticism and hatreds that are fomented by bad governments that those who care for their own countries seek to bring an end to. Nationalism is not the same as patriotism. To conflate them is disingenuous.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Gadaffi Foundation Members Rediscover their "Ethical Foreign Policy"

Benjamin Barber, a member of the Gaddafi Foundation until February 2011, has accused those promoting the war against Colonel Gaddafi's forces of "hypocrisy" after one of the Libyan dictator's sons was killed in a NATO bombing raid.

.... it is the plain stupidity of the Nato commitment to assassination and violent regime change that is most disconcerting. What on earth is the endgame?

The ultimate endgame is control over Libyan oil, just as it was for those fawning on Said Gaddafi before 2011, including those such as Benjamin Barber who lauded the dictator's son as a force for human rights and progress through collaborating with his Saif Foundation which states lots of worthy NGO style guff and public relations.

Such efforts to rehabilitate Gaddafi's regime from Tony Blair to his Third Way guru Anthony Giddens and others associated with the financial largesse of the Gaddafi Foundation in the LSE and within the ranks of New Labour grandees. As Giddens absurdly claimed ( My Chat with the Colonel )

Will real progress be possible only when Gadafy leaves the scene? I tend to think the opposite.... My ideal future for Libya in two or three decades' time would be a Norway of North Africa: prosperous, egalitarian and forward-looking. Not easy to achieve, but not impossible.

A Guardian report made clear the "ethics" of Blair's entourage in this respect,

Lord Giddens, guru of Labour's third way, twice met Gaddafi on trips in 2006 and 2007 organised by Monitor Group, a US lobbying firm. Leaked documents show at least one trip was disclosed in advance to Abd Allah al-Sanusi, blamed for atrocities in the present uprising.

Giddens, 73, was LSE director for six years until 2003, is the author of 34 books published in 29 languages, and is credited with devising the "third way" political philosophy taken up by Tony Blair.

Monitor Group was paid more than £2m by the Libyan government in 2006 to conduct a "cleansing" campaign of its image, according to leaked documents.

A letter sent in July 2006 by executives at Monitor Group to Sanusi, also known as Abdullah Senussi, is about targeting influential academics to emphasise the emergence of "the New Libya".

Once Gaddafi had lost control of Libya, it was clear "regime change" was sought most by Cameron in the UK and Sarkozy in France.

The foreign policy strategy of both those in Demos in the US, or the liberal left in Britain who rationalised closer trade ties with the dictatorship in order to gain oil concessions, such as the deal with BP negotiated by Blair in 2007, and those who saw the breakdown of his power as a chance to get "regime change" is concerned with oil interests.

The charge of hypocrisy lies as much with those who were part of trade delegations selling arms to the Gaddafi regime after he committed a volte face after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 created havoc and made the necessity for oil diversification even more pressing.

In the longer term, Europe needs to wean itself off dependence upon oil and gas supplies from dangerous lands where politics is a pathological struggles over who controls the oil revenues. The reduction of reliance upon the car and a high octane economy is vital to avert a future of resource conflicts

A Rationalisation of Bin Laden's Terrorism.

Let that be it. The killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan is a fork in the road of world politics.

One way lies a fundamental rethink of US and British policy towards the Arab and Muslim worlds, a chance to drain the swamp that bred 9/11.

That way is the end of the "war on terror" launched in the aftermath of Bin Laden's atrocious crimes of September 2011. His act of violence became first the cause and rapidly the pretext for many more such acts, vastly more costly in terms of lives lost.
Andrew Murray, ( Bin Laden's death is a fork in the road The Guardian, 2 May 2011 )

Murray, chairman of the "Stop the War Coalition" in Britain has used the killing of Bin Laden to trot out the usual line that Al Qaeda terrorism is merely a reflex action to US and British foreign policy. Despite the fact Al Qaeda fighters have been active in places outside the Arab and Muslim World such as Indonesia and Chechnya.

There is no need to take the propaganda claims of the Bush administration and the "war on terror" at face value, for if 9/11 was a pretext to go in to Afghanistan and, partly, into Iraq, Al Qaeda's commitment to terrorism and the USA/UK's quest for energy security pre dates both what are essentially resource wars.

The same is true of Russia's role in the war against Chechen insurgents with connections to Al Qaeda. In fact, the assassination of 'Moganned', Al Qaeda's main Saudi born militant in Chechnya occurred recently on April 22nd 2011 and who had entered the Northern Caucasus since 1999 and by 2005 emerged as the handler of foreign funds for the jihad.

Hence Andrew Murray's crude "either-or" interpretation of the relationship between "the West" and "the Muslim World" is an inversion of the clash of civilisations idea: that Al Qaeda is simply the most extreme and violent form of reaction against Western Imperialism in Arab and Muslim lands.

This crude Leninist propaganda line denies the agency of Arab peoples themselves unless they fit into the notion that they are anti-Western as opposed to against the autocrats that dominate them e.g decayed secular dictatorship of Egypt was created by military power under those such as Colonel Nasser.

The absurdity is that one of the greatest admirers of Nasser is none other than George Galloway, an erstwhile ally of Murray in the myriad of groupuscules that try to hi-jack anti-war sentiment amongst British people into support for fanatical ideological agendas-including that of Respect.

Galloway's hero in Nasser executed Sayyid Qutb, the intellectual progenitor of modern militant Islamism in 1966, one reason the alliance between the hard left and the MAB, influenced very much by Qutb, is based only on hatred of the West as opposed to a principled criticism of Western foreign policy.

Al Qaeda has its own history and agenda: it's original raison d'etre under Bin Laden was less to do with Western foreign policy as such but with antagonism to the corruption of the Saudi regime and not being permitted to fight in the First Gulf War of 1991 against Saddam Hussein and which was blamed later on the US and it's 'occupation' of the Holy Land.

Murray is active in campaigning against the governments cuts: but the British economy and hence living standards would collapse without a steady and secure supply of oil from Saudi Arabia, one reason why the British government simply cannot give decisive public backing to democracy activists in Bahrain.

Obviously, as Malise Ruthven wrote in A Fury for God on 9/11 the long term interests of the Western powers are in having stable democratic regimes across the Middle East. The Arab Uprisings at least provide an opportunity that this could be brought about.

Ruthven also sensibly argued that Islamist solidarity always works negatively: the interests of Arab nations and the political groups within them from Bahrain to Libya and Saudi Arabia to Palestine and Lebanon are diverse and to yoke them all as "anti-Western" is to accept precisely the narrative of Al Qaeda.

This narrative accepts the concept of an Islamic hyper identity in which "the Muslim World" and the ummah is largely united in opposing Western "crusades", a term used repeatedly by neurotic and self promoting radical journalists such as John Pilger who want to motivate Muslim youths as new force for militant challenge to Western power from within.

The rationalisation of terrorism that has continually been offered since 9/11, whether by Pilger, Milne or Galloway, has acted as a ruse to ramp up militancy against the system in Britain as a substitute for the decline of the forward march of the labour movement which has petered out and fragmented.

It is true that it is both vital and justified to criticise the foreign policy and the dangerous over dependence upon the oil that fuels Western high octane car and supermarket societies and that leads to contradictory and botched entanglement and meddling in the Middle East.

But equally so, it is necessary to understand that Al Qaeda was not caused wholly by "the West" but as a spin off from the dysfunctional Saudi regime's investment in the Arab Afghan campaigns against the Soviet Union and an ideology that has an existence in its own right, one rejected in the recent Arab Uprisings.

Bin Laden's Demise, Afghanistan and the War.

Jonathan Steele has written on Bin Laden's assassination by the CIA and US special forces that,
Osama bin Laden's killing is a huge victory for the Obama administration and it will go a long way towards giving closure to Americans. But will it also revive the 10-year-old question about the wisdom of the war in Afghanistan, in which half as many Americans have already died as Bin Laden killed on 9/11, not to mention the many more Afghan civilians who have lost their lives in the attack that George W Bush launched on their country in October 2001?

Bin Laden's haven in Taliban country was a short-term marriage of convenience, which the Bush administration made no real effort to break other than by its rhetorical demand that the Taliban hand him over or else they would be punished.

Al Qaeda and the Taliban were never always so tied together and often hostile to each other. Now that Bin Laden has been disappeared into the depths of the ocean or "buried at sea", the "war on terror" pretext for continuing involvement in Afghanistan is going to be harder to maintain.

Though the Taliban have sought to use Bin Laden's liquidation as a reason to up the ante with its struggle with the USA and NATO in Afghanistan, the continued killing of civilians by drone bombers and continuation of a futile war that cannot be won will continue to give the Taliban a level of support.

The need to defeat the Taliban permanently in Helmand and the dogged struggle against NATO in areas such as Helmand reflects the underlying geopolitics of the Afghan War: the need to secure the region in order to facilitate the construction of the TAPI pipeline.

In recent months Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders have given numerous hints that they would be willing to break formally with al-Qaida as part of a peace deal that involved a full departure of US troops from Afghanistan. Will Barack Obama now finally put his weight behind exploring that option?
This is unlikely precisely because US troops will not depart until the Afghan security forces are trained to guard the pipeline agreed between the regional powers which will bring gas from Turkmenistan through to India and forms part of the US strategy of hemming in Iranian influence from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is not exactly a "war of choice": it is a geostrategic imperative if the West is to gain a commanding stake in controlling the supplies of oil and gas from Eurasia. The fact is that whilst Iraq was a oil grab, Afghanistan is a more sophisticated gambit in the New Great Game.A recent update from the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis states,

Despite problems, if the pipeline does succeed in being constructed, it will be due to the US’ uncompromising support for the project. While Washington’s raison d’etre is that it will help stabilise Afghanistan as well as assist the country in its development, not least by allowing it to earn around USD 300 million per annum in transit fees, it would also allow the Central Asian countries to find an alternate market in the east and thereby lessen their dependence on Russia as well as feed the energy-starved South Asian nations.

However, the US’ main objective is to ensure that the IPI project is effectively killed, thus denying Tehran much-needed revenues for its nuclear programme that will accrue from selling gas to an expanding South Asian market. This is not the first time that the US has pushed through a pipeline project which had appeared unfeasible both from political and business perspectives.

In 2005, despite substantial opposition by business and political circles in both the US and the Caspian states, the hugely expensive and logistically challenging BTC pipeline from Baku in Azerbaijan to Ceyhan in Turkey, transiting a fractious Georgia, was built by a 11-member consortium led by BP under pressure from the US government.

The reason: Washington was seeking to provide a route that would not only circumvent transiting through Russian territory and break Moscow’s stranglehold over the European gas market, but would also assist in diminishing Russia’s strategic hold over the Caspian region.To overcome the reluctance of business in underwriting such a costly project and whose economic viability was questionable, the US government made financing from government agencies, such as the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the US Export-Import Development Bank, available.
Naturally, the reading public in the UK watching body bags of troops coming home to Wootton Bassett are never allowed to get any real sense of why Britain and NATO are out there and will not be as the electorate, that is the children, must be fed easily digestible sound bites about wars on terror and opium"

Anti-Royalism and the Left.

With the Royal Wedding, there have been the usual voices calling for a British Republic, though usually this is based less on coherent arguments for a republic but merely loathing for monarchy as representing class society and privilege. Toynbee opined ( This royal wedding is Britain's Marie Antoinette moment, The Guardian Friday 29 April 2011 )

Of course Tony Blair and Gordon Brown had no invitation, being the prime ministers who held back the forces of conservatism for 13 years. Notwithstanding repellent sniggers of the Eton set who call the Middleton girls "the wisteria sisters" for their social climbing, or the "doors to manual" giggle at their former air steward mother, the Middletons belong in the top 0.5% of earners.....Besides, Kate Middleton, Samantha Cameron and the Hon Frances Osborne all went to the same school.

The irony is that by the standards of privilege in Britain, Toynbee is very privileged and had she not belonged to the right family, the Hampstead upper middle class intelligensia, she would not even be in the position to criticise the system of privilege. The lady who criticises those who complain about fuel duty whilst jetting off to her villa in Tuscany.

Polly Toynbee attended Badminton School Girl's School and later Holland Park School, a comprehensive in one of the richest parts of Central London also known as the "socialist Eton" and went up to Oxford University after getting only one A Level. Toynbee cannot change her family background but could have chosen not to send her children to fee paying schools.

Toynbee represents the inertia and sterility of public life and politics, even those on the gilded liberal left, is dominated by those with the "right connections" and elevate themselves to a position to pontificate about the class system that effectively ensures that they are where they are.

From a left wing or liberal perspective it was possible both to want to fight against privilege and the class system without necessarily abolishing the monarchy, even if it could be reformed and scaled down to that of Sweden, the Netherlands or Denmark.

George Orwell in The Lion and the Unicorn ( 1940 ), when calling for a transformation of the war effort to harness the patriotism of the British people and a democratic socialist state to then created after the defeat of Nazi Germany, did not call for the abolition of the monarchy. He wrote of an English Socialist government that,

It will not be doctrinaire, nor even logical. It will abolish the House of Lords, but quite probably will not abolish the Monarchy. It will leave anachronisms and loose ends everywhere, the judge in his ridiculous horsehair wig and the lion and the unicorn on the soldier’s cap-buttons.

Curiously, apart from the more unsophisticated and mulishly resentful "class war" bores, much Republicanism comes from the privileged middle classes and their "party" today in London did not excite much interest. Presumably a social democratic position could argue for a reformed monarchy

Just as Timothy Garton Ash argued ( Should a democracy have a King Wills and Queen Kate? You can do worse The Guardian, Thursday 28 April 2011 )

I don't think countries like Sweden, Holland, Denmark and Spain, all of which have monarchs, are worse off than those that have party politicians directly or indirectly elected to be president. Or would you rather have Buckingham Palace occupied by a President Blair?

With one brief interlude, when English revolutionaries experimented with decapitating one of them, there have been kings and queens in England, kings and queens of the English, for more than a thousand years. That is an amazing thing. It is the stuff of poetry. Imagine Shakespeare purged of all references to kingship. Before you abandon a thousand years of poetry, you should be very certain that you will fare better in prose.

There are damagingly undemocratic elements in the British political system – above all, the House of Lords – but the monarchy is not high among them. If we are talking about the power of a single unelected individual, Rupert Murdoch is a far greater threat to British democracy than our hereditary head of state.

According to the constitutional expert Vernon Bogdanor, no monarch has refused his or her assent to legislation since 1707. Some undemocratic obscurantism still derives from "crown prerogative", and the constitutional doctrine that sovereignty resides in "the crown in parliament", but the lawyer Richard Gordon has shown how the UK could have a thoroughly modern written constitution, firmly based on popular sovereignty, and still keep a hereditary monarch as head of state.

Sensible politics should in Britain entail reform of much of that which is decayed, against the interests on the long term future of the majority of the people, the rentier financial economy, decline of manufacturing in favour of over privileging the City and the reducing the country to a banal Heritage Theme Park.

The cloying media commentary on the Royal Wedding is annoying but it is merely for one day. It is of less importance than having an increasingly deracinated land where economic power and sovereignty has been ceded away and where the "leftism" is often associated with rather silly trendy poses and "identity politics".

The British are known for being a people given to cussedness. Tell them the Royal Family is merely a banal fairytale, that long term commitments to something as abstract as a "nation" are meaningless and to denigrate the entire history of the UK and people will instinctively rebel.

That means that sensible proposals that could challenge existing abuses of a dysfunctional political system, curtail the power of unaccountable corporations, bring about a change as regards the mindless deification of miraculous "market forces" and corruption is less rather than more likely to happen.