Monday, 24 October 2011

Just Another Business Deal or How I Met Ghaddafi

So the boys with the briefcases are being urged to get back into Libya as fast as they can. Is this their finest hour? Or is it NATO’s?
I have been in doubt, since the first French Mirages entered Libyan airspace on their mission of mercy, about the validity of NATO’s participation in Libya’s tribal struggle. To create a ‘no fly zone’ to protect the civilian population wasn’t it? That has seemed a transparent excuse for getting into this fight. Clearly NATO forces were fighting against Ghaddafi’s superior weaponry, and civilians were being as much injured and killed by the rebels and by NATO as by the dictator’s army.
Now that Ghaddafi is dead, I am in even greater doubt about NATO’s intervention. Clearly without it the rebels would have failed to gain any advantage. They lacked the firepower and organisation of Ghaddafi’s forces. I have not watched the apparently horrific visuals of war in this conflict. But I have become more and more disturbed by the involvement of NATO in this civil war. I have thought that the Western powers had no idea what they were getting into and I am now even more sure that they did not know it: or even that they know it now.
When Obama backed off, no doubt on the advice of the CIA, and his opinion pollsters he left the field open to Cameron and Sarkozy. The latter appeared to be pursuing a private revenge against Ghaddafi. The former seemed to believe he was doing something noble. But now Cameron urges the briefcase brigade to do their stuff among the ruins.
Of course, Ghaddafi was a legitimate target thanks to his involvement in terrorism—the IRA and Lockerbie. He was an individual target, an enemy and a nuisance. Much better to let other Libyans kill him, and to help them do it, than to use assassins.
I have long taken and interest in Ghadaffi, since the day in August 1969 when I met a Libyan diplomat on a train and was invited to meet him again later for a drink with some of his friends in a Grosvenor Square hotel bar. I was a very young journalist. The group I met were all young Libyan officers and our host was the managing director of an important British arms manufacturer. I was also in politics as a Liberal Parliamentary candidate and I may have mentioned this. I think the arms salesman spotted me for the trouble I might cause. Anyway, I did not see my train buddy again, but two weeks later, on September 1st, I heard that King Idris of Libya had been deposed in a bloodless coup and that a group of young officers led by Muhammar Gaddafi had taken over the country.
The penny dropped. The MD of the British armaments company had been making the necessary hardware available to the young officers for their coup. Was Gaddaffi among the group? Yes, as a lissom 27 year old Major. But the British arms salesman, a well-fed forty something with a jolly laugh, was just another man with a briefcase.
Somehow, the wheel has come full circle.

Monday, 17 October 2011

A Walk in The Woods

A Walk in the Woods

Shortly before Christmas in 2004 I was walking in the woods on the fringes of the Forest of Rambouillet, west of Paris. It was beginning to get dark and I realized that I was lost. I took a narrow path in the direction of the fading Western sky and found a large sign, which directed me to the house of Jean Monet.
The house lay in a hollow on the side of a road. An L shaped manor, it is since Monet’s death. a museum, but as it was now past 4.30pm I was not able to visit it. I took directions from the caretaker and walked back along the road to the house of friends where I was staying. But the next day, I returned to Jean Monet’s house and visited the museum. Monet, the son of Monet the painter had a romantic history and love story but his greatest claim to fame lies in his role as the idealistic founder of the European community.
I walked through the house, not a large one, but a charming place. I saw letters that moved me, from De Gaulle, and from Winston Churchill, who at that time advocated a union of France and Great Britain. I’m rather glad that never took place: the war would in any case have made it impossible to pursue.
The political developments after WW2 among those nations who wanted to avoid any such catastrophe in the future have led to the present predicament, namely, the European Union, a monster of burocracy without effective democratic controls.
As someone who was a candidate in the first Parliamentary Elections to that European Union and a believer in European democracy, I am now disheartened.
But I have been disheartened for many years. The EU has become a mega-catastrophe. The democratic element is pathetic. The rapid enlargement is causing enormous problems and the expansion of the Eurozone may turn out to be fatal, not only to Europe but to the entire world.
The creation of multiple billion funds to bail out overspending governments is one thing, but when those proposed bail out funds reach the multiple trillions, we must know that so much capital is being withdrawn form the global market place that enterprises must become the poorer for it. Enterprises must also suffer from lack of investment. So must the Third World and so must the individuals who want to borrow to buy a place to live at today’s exorbitant prices.
This past weekend the G20 finance ministers met in Paris. One heard barely a squeak from their deliberations.
Harking back to the previous meeting in February, this is what Reuters reported:
‘The ministers stated in February that they wanted to see medium term fiscal consolidation plans that are differentiated according to national circumstances, the pursuit of appropriate monetary policy and the enhancement of exchange rate flexibility, sustained global demand, increased potential growth, job creation, global rebalancing and measures "to reduce excessive imbalances and maintain current account imbalances at sustainable levels by strengthening multilateral cooperation." They agreed on a set of indicators for focusing on persistently large imbalances that require policy actions. Work continues on indicative guidelines against which each of the indicators will be assessed. They want the guidelines to take into account national or regional circumstances, including large commodity producers’
OK. This makes mega-sense. While there are pressures inside the EU to make Eurozone countries part of a fiscal and political union, this communiqué does not suggest that the disparate economies of European nations should be subjected to tight surgical conformity. Would it not be even wiser to admit that a community of individual nations with widely differing economic and political structures and goals should not belong to a single currency block that limits their use of such devices as Exchange rate flexibility?
Clearly, the Eurozone must face these issues and those governments whose leaders are desperate for their own survival should be dissuaded from trying to persuade the others that political and fiscal uniformity are the solution to irresponsible economic  mismanagement.
Jean Monet, I apologize, but your ideals have hit the reality rocks.