Missing the Soprano 131

I had the chance to catch up over a few drinks with an old friend just retired from the diplomatic service. I guess I too would have been doing that around now, had I not stumbled upon extraordinary rendition and torture and quixotically attempted to stop it.

My friend wished to impress upon me how much less fun the job is now than when we were young. That is certainly true in many ways.

Even before I retired, the job had become much more about form-filling and accounting than it had about actually doing anything useful. Diplomats were becoming ever more confined to their circle of diplomatic premises and luxury hotels, and less and less connected to the country in which they were posted.

My friend’s complaint was somewhat different.

He said that there was now a real sense of diplomatic isolation. Being British Ambassador had always carried enormous prestige within the diplomatic corps. The weight of imperial history multiplied the effect of representing what is still one of the world’s largest economies, bolstered by the prestige of originating the language of international communication.

A few weeks before my friend’s retirement, the Italian Ambassador had hosted a soiree for a visiting minor opera star, who there trilled some Verdi. This is the trivia of diplomatic exchange, fostered by national cultural institutes.

My friend, as British Ambassador, had not been invited to the soprano soiree.

Now I know that sounds ridiculous to anybody outside the peculiar world of diplomacy. But to two former Ambassadors having a natter, the very notion conveyed a world of meaning. The UK is no longer one of the inner circle. Even the Italians snub us.

This is of course, in part, a product of Brexit. Indeed, had the UK still been in the EU, he would automatically have got an invite along with all the other EU Ambassadors.

But that is not the whole explanation, because the Italian invited several non-EU Ambassadors.

The UK’s fall from diplomatic grace matters, not least because Scottish Independence is going to have to be achieved in the teeth of Westminster opposition.

There is only one determinant of Independence and it has nothing to do with legality in domestic legislation of the state you are leaving.

The only thing that makes you an independent state, is recognition by other independent states.

There simply is no other criterion that makes the slightest difference.

And the UK is hated. Lots of countries would like to see it broken up.

The EU hate the UK because of Brexit. It sends an excellent message from their point of view, that the cost of leaving the EU is dissolution.

The developing world hate the UK because the Tories have absolutely slashed the development aid budget and perverted it to other uses. They hate the UK because of the history of colonial exploitation and slavery which is only now becoming fully acknowledged.

The international institutions hate the UK because of its rogue state decisions: the invasion of Iraq, and the refusal to obey the UN and the International Court of Justice by decolonising the Chagos Islands, being only two.

Even the United States is not the dependable supporter of the UK it once was, with Joe Biden’s political background in Irish American politics a key factor.

My friend despaired that the UK’s reaction to this isolation was a series of increasingly wild moves to try to gain relevance.

The UK was out in front in declaring China a threat and an enemy, which FCO professionals view as neither justified nor of obvious benefit. The UK is indulging in peculiar, and almost entirely unprovoked, military threat towards China with its declared US/UK/Australian alliance and extraordinary reorientation of UK defence strategy to the Pacific.

As if the UK has any ability whatsoever to constrain China’s growing world pre-eminence.

On Ukraine, too, the UK sought to be noticed, by trying to be the most “out there” country in promoting the war, wanting to be the always the first to push the next weapons escalation, with depleted uranium shells, with long range missiles, with battle tanks.

It all amounted to a policy of shouting “Me, me, me” loudest, with zero substance behind it.

My friend had another gin and tonic. He was glad he was retiring. He would have liked to see the soprano.


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131 thoughts on “Missing the Soprano

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  • Tom Welsh

    “The only thing that makes you an independent state, is recognition by other independent states”.

    While that may be true in the world of government and diplomacy, to a logical mind it is utter nonsense.

    If enough other nations announced that they no longer considered the USA to be an independent nation, but still a British colony, would that make it so?

    More within the scope of feasibility, if enough nations at the UN were to say that Russia is not an independent nation, would that make the slightest practical difference in the real world?

    The proposition also completely disempowers the people of the nation in question. Surely they should be the arbiters of independence?

    Take Taiwan, for instance. As far as I know, it has been part of China for centuries – except for when it was forcibly taken over by Western nations. Surely the main criterion for deciding whether Taiwan is part of China or a separate nations should be the wishes of its citizen.

    The same applies to Crimea.

    • deepgreen

      I dont follow your logic about the USA. There must be a directionality. Once independence is established it is unlikely to revert to a lesser status although coercion by larger powers is possible as well as a recognition that independence may not be viable – having experienced that state of independence. I suppose it is possible, if unlikely, that Texas might secede from the US. Many states are made up of parts. The stability of these unions/alliances is variable. Security and economic hegemony seem to me to be the defining factors that maintain otherwise unfavourable relationships. That irritating probable majority of unionists in Scotland persists because they fear the loss of their income or a greater vulnerability to attack from larger/stronger entities.
      The essence of the post is the declining influence and political or economic agency of the UK state in international terms. Despite being a strong remainer I have to recognise that Brexit is a process which is still in its early phase. I suspect that the UK is in serious decline but strange forces may alter that. Despite regretting no longer being part of the EU I won’t be surprised by a reversal of the fortunes of the EU in the near future. Financial conditions around Europe including UK are perilous and the Ukraine war has and the UK’s focus on promoting the war is a potentially hazardous strategy. The outcome is far from certain, but the UK’s position in relation to the war means that a Ukraine failure could leave the UK very exposed. My problem is that I see no decent future under the current Tory-dominated regime and see no change arising from Starmer’s ascent. My hope is that the fragility of the current archaic forms of ‘undemocracy’ will lead to a fragmentation of the UK with England divided into two or three self-governing provinces. The current shambles unfolding now cannot continue.

      • Stevie Boy

        Au contraire, dg, the outcome in Ukraine is certain. Russia cannot fail, its future depends on the outcome. The only uncertainty is when Ukraine will come to its senses, and I’d guess that will be in the next 12 months – upcoming western elections being a major factor. So, your point is correct, the UK is very exposed, as is the EU, and USA and its puppets. Probably, major distractions will be manufactured so that the emphasis moves to the Pacific for another ultimately, embarrassing, genocidal fiasco.
        And, IMO, we cannot really say Brexit has failed because the Tories haven’t delivered Brexit. The dogs dinner we have at the moment is BRINO thanks to the shenanigans with the Windsor agreement and other bad policies.

        • Tom Welsh

          Things are even worse than your comment suggests, Stevie Boy. You write, “The only uncertainty is when Ukraine will come to its senses”; but there really is no such thing as “Ukraine” right now. Like Oakland, “there’s no ‘there’ there”.

          When politicians and journalists refer to “Ukraine” and what it thinks, wants, or plans, they are almost always referring to the small criminal clique in Kiev that is masquerading as a government. (Obviously there has been no legitimate government since 2014). But that clique is nothing but a facade, as the Kiev creatures take all their orders from Washington. (Or occasionally from London, when Washington wants plausible deniability or prefers that any meaty Russian reprisals come to Blighty instead of the USA).

          What is “the Ukrainian people”? In 2014 it was split between those of Russian language and culture, those who consciously set themselves apart from Russia, and some “neutrals” in the middle. Today, at least 5 million have fled to Russia and even more to the EU – only a handful of the rich and influential to the USA. Most of the pro-Russians are now inside Russia, with the Russia-haters concentrated in Kiev and Western Ukraine.

          What is Ukrainian culture? Essentially nothing but savage, visceral hatred of Russia and the Russians. It’s purely negative.

          So Ukraine cannot come to its senses – partly because there is no such solid, permanent political entity as “Ukraine”, partly because all decisions flow from Washington and London to Kiev and are never made by the Ukrainian people.

          • Yuri K

            “What is Ukrainian culture? Essentially nothing but savage, visceral hatred of Russia and the Russians. It’s purely negative.”

            This is not their culture but their national idea.

    • Steve Peake

      I don’t have quite the level of experience as Craig when it comes to international law and politics, but I did study it for some time at a half-decent uni and then came very close (but not quite) to following Craig into the Foreign Office.

      While recognition is indeed important to establishing the independence of a seceeding state, it’s not the only thing.

      If a seceeding state doesn’t have control of its own borders or does not enjoy a monopoly on the legitimate use of force within those borders, then I’m not sure it can be said to be properly independent. So, Scotland could declare independence and gain recognition from other states, but if the police and army don’t obey the commands of the new Scottish government, but continue to obey London, then the new Scotland would not be fully independent.

      Conversely perhaps, most states shy away from recognising Taiwan as a fully independent state. But they enjoy all the hallmarks of full independence, it’s just that others don’t want to antagonise China and provoke conflict by stating the obvious.

      I worry Craig may be oversimplying when he says that other EU states would love to see the dissolution of the UK and, by implication, would recognise Scotland if she issued a unilateral declaration of independence. I would have thought that the issue of Catalonia would be on their minds.

      Many states, particularly in the developing world, are delineated by totally arbitary lines drawn on the map by the former colonisers. But those running these states don’t want to relinquish control over the centralised state by allowing parts of the state to splinter off. So they don’t want to encourage a culture of self-determination by recognising seceeding nations / aspiring states from other states for fear of encouraging the same at home. It’s therefore a rare examaple of secession taking place peacefully.

      I would be interested to learn more about whether Unionism in Scotland is stronger or weaker within the police service and the army. I would imagine it woud be stronger, but I’m just guessing.

      If a nationalist Scottish government declared UDI without a referendum (and therefore unlawfully in the eyes of Westmister) would the police / army support secession or crush it by arresting the leaders? I suspect this question would be as, if not more, important than whether other states recognised it – which I am far from certain they would, without a referendum.

      • Fazal Majid

        Even after the UK was defeated at the Battle of Yorktown, it took long negotiations before the UK recognized the US’ independence with the Treaty of Paris (where George III cheekily claimed to be King of France). France had to yield almost all its claims to India to sweeten the deal.

      • Annie McStravick

        Re Steve’s mention of Catalonia: the Catalonian leaders who had promoted independence (at least 10 of them, I think) were put on trial for sedition, no less, and received very harsh prison sentences.

  • Tom Welsh

    “The developing world hate the UK because the Tories have absolutely slashed the development aid budget and perverted it to other uses”.

    But haven’t “development aid” budgets of Western nations always been merely the thin end of the wedge of commercial exploitation? Getting rid of them is a first step towards putting nations on an even footing with one another.

    “The international institutions hate the UK because of its rogue state decisions…”

    That seems to me supremely naïf. The USA is far and away the greatest rogue state and practitioner of state terrorism, and it is never indicted by “international institutions” for the simple reason that it owns them lock, stock and barrel.

    “Even the United States is not the dependable supporter of the UK it once was…”

    Statements like that really make me laugh. The USA has never been a “dependable supporter” of anyone, ever, anywhere, under any circumstances. Not only is the US government the supreme practitioner of realpolitik, doing always exactly what suits it (and its owners); it also engages in the slimy practice of explaining its selfish and cynical acts as disinterested altruism. In short, a hypocritical thug. Not only has the USA never been any kind of “supporter” of the UK, from 1900 onwards it systematically undermined and harmed the UK in every way it could. FDR’s apparent help for the UK during WW2 concealed an elaborate plan to destroy the Empire and take over all its assets.

    “My friend despaired that the UK’s reaction to this isolation was a series of increasingly wild moves to try to gain relevance”.

    HMG (or what passes for it nowadays) is presumably aware that the UK is now a third-rate power rapidly approaching third-world status. That has made it desperate for attention and respect, which it pursues by trying to outdo even the USA in arrogance, entitlement, and presumption – trying to be more Catholic than the Pope. To the rest of the world, it is nothing more than Brer Polecat trying to shoulder aside Brer Wolf in order to attack Brer Bear and Brer Dragon. The worst possible outcome would be if it were to succeed in this fatal attempt – a military version of lemmings jumping into the sea.

  • Fazal Majid

    Well, being the US’ poodle means if they want anything they will go straight to the actual decision-makers, not His Master’s Voice. The only question is why it took so long, after all, Suez and the UK’s slavish allegiance to the US (and deluded belief in the existence of a special relationship that only Israel and possibly Ireland actually have) was over 60 years ago.

    • Fazal Majid

      Also the EU don’t hate the UK, that’s a Brexiteer canard I’m surprised you would repeat, Craig. Not even the French.

      Exasperated, yes, disappointed, often, amazed at how low a once great nation has fallen, certainly, but actual hatred? The only country I can think of would be Iran; even India or Kenya, who bore the full brunt of British imperialism don’t hate the modern British.

      • joel

        If you frequent BBC News you would think the rest of the world admires Britain for its values and principles and welcomes its moral lectures.

        • Fazal Majid

          The BBC definitely gives the UK soft power amplification that, say, the US failed to achieve with the VOA, and it is effective at preventing foreigners from realizing just how feudal the UK remains.

          It is also true the capricious Common Law that led Craig to be imprisoned or Julian Assange held incommunicado in gulag, remains inexplicably respected, despite its primary purpose being to preserve the feudal order (witness the quashing of the Unexplained Wealth Order against Kazakh dictator Nazarbayev’s daughter, or the super-injunction granted to Trafigura to shelter them from accountability for their chemical waste dumping in the Ivory Coast).

          That said, China doesn’t hate the UK despite the Opium Wars. Contempt is more the order of the day, specially considering the servility Cameron and Osborne courted them with.

          As for the UK’s alleged principles, they were known to be a sham in Northern Ireland, or Iraq and it’s a good thing its dwindling capabilities are reducing opportunity for mischief abroad. Suella Braverman has shredded whatever illusions any but the most gullible still held on the UK’s humanitarian principles, so what’s left?

  • AndrewR

    As a centre for money laundering? (Unless that is still a convenience for some.)
    EU – perhaps a wariness that our lowering of environmental standards, trade rules, taxation etc., will undermine them.

  • glenn_nl

    “It all amounted to a policy of shouting “Me, me, me” loudest, with zero substance behind it. “

    That’s the attitude that gives rise to the empty bragging about everything the UK undertakes being “world beating”, when – in reality – we’ll be lucky if it transpires at all. Even Labour is in on this nonsense now. Just being reasonably adequate would be a welcomed result these days. The only “world beating” aspect of the UK is its hype, bluster and deluded sense of importance.

    • Pigeon English

      OAfter Brexit UK is a “world beater” in tulips.
      I was raised that bragging is bad and this “nationalism” in general reminds me of a fascism. I am kind of for Scottish Independence but I am very uncomfortable with a name SNP.
      Regards from my new home XXX?
      Of course I agree with your comment just in case to avoid misunderstanding.

  • Carl

    Britain is also the largest supplier of weaponry to apartheid Israel for the purpose of murdering Palestinians. The showy pushing around of Russia and China is ludicrous but nothing new. In the 2000s the Blair government assured Washington that the British Army was the world’s premier counterinsurgency force and would take care of the men on bicycles in both Basra and Helmand. As we know they had to be bailed out by the Yanks in both arenas. That fact was suppressed by the UK media and thus memory holed, allowing the politicians to forget. I fear what form the latest reminder is going to take.

  • David W Ferguson

    I attended a party hosted by the Mauritius Embassy in Beijing last week to celebrate the half-century of diplomatic relations with China. The British and US Ambassadors were both invited but oddly neither of them turned up…

  • Stevie Boy

    “Even before I retired, the job had become much more about form-filling and accounting than it had about actually doing anything useful.”
    My words exactly when I retired early, and I’d guess this applies to many sectors in the UK economy. Years of decay, profiteering and bad government are catching up.
    We now have a uni-party state, run by people and organisations that haven’t been voted for by the people, enacting policies that haven’t been approved or assessed by the electorate. Parliament, and the government, is filled with second-rate yes-men who have no connection with the real world or the real people and actually don’t want any connection with the great unwashed riff raff.
    We are going to hell in a handcart …

    • Antiwar7

      “Years of decay, profiteering and bad government are catching up.”
      Absolutely true in the US, as well. And there are no plans to make it better.

  • Philip Patrick

    Quite a good argument for Brexit in that post I would have thought. To be shunned, petulantly, by a corrupt global elite – quite a compliment.

      • Pigeon English

        No I did not. Farage and JRM BJ & co. Are representing Stevie Boy and the working class (I mean “hard working people”).
        Stevie Boy Brexit is neoliberalizam on steroids.
        Brexit is market economy on steroids!¡!!!
        Long story short.
        Industry that can not Compete on the world stage has to die and the industry (Imo financial sector/industry has to be supported) cos is one of the most competitive.
        I believe that UK lefties in the EU had the better chance to make a difference than you and your comrades under Sir Starmer. Txs God Starmer will “make Brexit work”.
        Heil Starmer!

        • Pigeon English

          Corbyn was in the EU parliament addressing so-called left wing parliamentarian and at his entrance he had standing ovation of course never rapported in MSM. Don’t have time to find a link, and he is history anyway out of Labour. Txs God. Sorry but you Red wall are deluded ars .,…
          Brexit can not work. UK is fuking out and You talk about BRINO.
          What is out out for really?
          We are in and out and do what the fuck we want.

          • Pigeon English

            Adolf was the one to understand where The Real problem wàs. Bring the the working class with us.
            ẞir I have a great idea.
            National Socialist!

  • dearieme

    “The developing world hate the UK because the Tories have absolutely slashed the development aid budget”

    In other words it’s now harder for corrupt tyrants to pocket UK taxpayers’ money. Hip hip hurray.

    As for Geriatric Joe, we should just leave NATO. Being the perpetual US poodle is horrible.

      • mickc

        Not the British people though…my experience is they’d (we’d ) much rather be peaceful and prosperous leaving others alone…

        • Tom Welsh

          We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.

          “Why, of course, the people don’t want war,” Goering shrugged. “Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.”

          “There is one difference,” I pointed out. “In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.”

          “Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”
          — Conversation with Hermann Goering in prison, reported by Gustave Gilbert

      • Bramble

        No Nato member/US ally is independent. Those countries which are neither are, of course, uncivilised enemy states run by despots who must be demonised at every opportunity. So that’s the Rest of the World put in its place.

      • Bayard

        “Being a NATO member/ US poodle is integral to Britain’s inflated sense of itself.”

        Lord Ismay memorably said that the purpose of NATO was to keep the Americans in, the Russians out and the Germans down. What he didn’t say was that it was also to keep the British up.

  • Postkey

    “I suspect that the UK is in serious decline”
    Not just the UK?

    No ‘BAU’?
    ‘Most’ ‘economic thinking’ is ‘short run’ and ‘redundant’? ‘It’ ignores the ‘supply side’? ‘Growth’ {and ‘civilisation’} depends upon ‘cheap’ F.F. – those so called ‘halcyon days’ are ‘over’. ?
    “The crisis now unfolding, however, is entirely different to the 1970s in one crucial respect… The 1970s crisis was largely artificial. When all is said and done, the oil shock was nothing more than the emerging OPEC cartel asserting its newfound leverage following the peak of continental US oil production. There was no shortage of oil any more than the three-day-week had been caused by coal shortages. What they did, perhaps, give us a glimpse of was what might happen in the event that our economies depleted our fossil fuel reserves before we had found a more versatile and energy-dense alternative. . . . That system has been on the life-support of quantitative easing and near zero interest rates ever since. Indeed, so perilous a state has the system been in since 2008, it was essential that the people who claim to be our leaders avoid doing anything so foolish as to lockdown the economy or launch an undeclared economic war on one of the world’s biggest commodity exporters . . . And this is why the crisis we are beginning to experience will make the 1970s look like a golden age of peace and tranquility. . . . The sad reality though, is that our leaders – at least within the western empire – have bought into a vision of the future which cannot work without some new and yet-to-be-discovered high-density energy source (which rules out all of the so-called green technologies whose main purpose is to concentrate relatively weak and diffuse energy sources). . . . Even as we struggle to reimagine the 1970s in an attempt to understand the current situation, the only people on Earth today who can even begin to imagine the economic and social horrors that await western populations are the survivors of the 1980s famine in Ethiopia, the hyperinflation in 1990s Zimbabwe, or, ironically, the Russians who survived the collapse of the Soviet Union.” ?

    • mickc

      The oil producers wanted to be paid a proper price for their product. The US dollar was devalued when Nixon closed the “gold window” and no longer was the dollar guaranteed at 35$ per ounce of gold; effectively the USA defaulted on dollar debts and the dollar became merely a fiat currency.
      Kissinger then arranged with Saudi Arabia that oil was sold in US dollars, thereby creating demand for dollars, despite it being merely fiat.
      Now the USA has decided to dispense with oil the producers will be friendly with those who want the product ie the East…China and India etc.
      The US Empire is in decline and the USA will eventually return to isolationism, only the timing being in doubt. Of course, declining empires can be very dangerous…to others.

  • Pears Morgaine

    I thought everybody hated us before the aid cuts.

    The biggest recipient of UK aid was Pakistan. Sure, there’s dreadful poverty in the country but it can find $11 billion annually to spend on defence, (4% of GDP) has nuclear weapons and its own space programme.

      • Stevie Boy

        As a fairly good indicator of right and wrong, if ‘we’ support something it’s generally wrong. Sad but true !
        Israel, Ukraine, Saudi, USA, …

    • Tom Welsh

      “The biggest recipient of UK aid was Pakistan. Sure, there’s dreadful poverty in the country but it can find $11 billion annually to spend on defence, (4% of GDP) has nuclear weapons and its own space programme”.

      That sounds as if they were slavishly (sorry!) imitating us. Except of course for the space program, which the UK can’t afford.

    • Bayard

      The purpose of foreign aid is to give away sterling, safe in the knowledge that the only place it can be spent is the UK, and look benevolent while doing it. Yes, giving it to a relatively rich nation doesn’t look as good as giving it to a much poorer one, but, essentially, all that is merely window-dressing.

  • mickc

    The EU is failing and will probably disintegrate.
    The Eastern European states don’t trust the Western EU states to either look after their economic interests or their security.
    The EU GDP has grown, but not near as much as the USA’s, and the USA is now re-shoring industry and giving massive subsidies to do so, whilst the EU no longer has cheap Russian gas to support its economy. It’s not likely to be an economic dynamo any time soon.
    Quite clearly the EU’s foreign policy has failed, with the Minsk Agreements being a dead letter, probably from the start.
    Unfortunately the EU’s record is one of failure, whilst harbouring a delusion that it is a major player.
    As for the UK, it would be helpful if we had some competent leaders in any political party; we don’t and haven’t had for years.

  • Maggie Chetty

    Always interesting Craig and particularly in a piece like this when you are catching up with a diplomatic pal who can give some insights into the current gossip out there in the field.What is utterly astonishing is how remote the current Westminster lot are from the views of other countries. Not a scooby about how hated they are and how crass their behaviour was over Brexit. What does sadden me however is the impact of cultural imperialism in Scotland and how it has appeared to sap courage and confidence. If only we had a Scottish Indy leadership who had a sense of how Scottish cultural values and intelligence are admired in the world then we could be rapidly considering taking our place within it!

    • Tom Welsh

      “What is utterly astonishing is how remote the current Westminster lot are from the views of other countries”.

      Not really, when you realise how utterly they disdain and despise all other countries and their people. (And actually British people too).

  • Ian Chisholm

    It’s been obvious for years that Scotland could get recognised as a returning sovereign state… I just don’t understand why we don’t test that by revoking the Treaty of Union. From a Provisional Government in Edinburgh drawn from an all party elected Scottish MPs cohort.
    We seem too feard. Why…? If we get no backing to draw RUK into serious separation negotiations…We are no worse off…indeed better off because we will then be seen as a colony.

    • Tom Welsh

      The UK government usually takes its lead from Washington – and always does so in important matters.

      Remember when a large part of the USA decided to invoke its God-given right to secede and become independent? The government in Washington, led by the sainted Abraham Lincoln, immediately attacked the Confederate States of America and eventually subdued it after a lengthy war costing over a million casualties and over 700,000 dead. Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence be damned.

      As Lincoln said in 1847, “Any people, anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right, a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world”.

      Anyone used to crooked lawyers spot the weasel words there? Anyone? Yes, that’s right: “having the power”. Lincoln actually declared that you can have independence if you have the military strength to make it stick. But if you have that power, of course, why would you need any airy-fairy “right”?

      • Fazal Majid

        Er, it’s the Southern slavers who fired on Fort Sumter, not the other way round. The UK supported the South and after the war agreed to pay reparations in a historical first.

        • Courtenay Francis Raymond Barnett


          ” The UK supported the South and after the war agreed to pay reparations in a historical first.”

          Pay reparations – to whom?

          • Pears Morgaine

            Only partially true. The UK never recognised the Confederacy and most of the population supported the North. Reparations were made for the damage caused by blockade runners built in British shipyards as private ventures.

        • Tom Welsh

          Yeah. And it was the UK and France who declared war on Germany in 1939, not vice versa.

          So what?

          In any case, Fort Sumter is in South Carolina – one of the states that seceded from the USA and became a founder state of the CSA. What would you expect its government to do when the US armed forces continued to occupy a strategically placed fort within South Carolina’s territory, despite repeated requests to leave?

          • Jimmeh

            Yes, it’s South Carolina, not North. I thought it was South, I briefly checked WP, and I misread it.

            > despite repeated requests to leave?

            It was a US government army base; the USG didn’t accept that the secession wss legal. More generally, it’s uncommon for any government to accept unilateral secession, and promptly comply with requests to abandon its military installations.

            Note that you’ve changed the basis of your argument, without saying so: you said the Union started the conflict by attacking the Confederacy. That wasn’t true. Moving the goalposts like that is a dishonest way of arguing. By comparison, whether it was South or North Carolina is neither here nor there. And I’m happy to admit my mistake.

          • Tom Welsh

            Jimmeh, I resent your imputation of dishonesty. I start from the assumption that the CSA was legitimate because the states that formed it had the right to secede. Therefore, from the moment when the CSA was created, the US soldiers on its territory were there illegally.

            You apparently choose to argue that the secession was illegal and hence invalid, and that therefore the soldiers’ presence was legitimate.

            A simple difference of basic assumptions.

      • Jimmeh

        > The government in Washington, led by the sainted Abraham Lincoln, immediately attacked the Confederate States

        In point of fact, the first shots of the Civil War were fired by the Confederates, who besieged and stormed Fort Sumter in North Carolina. If you’re going to give us history lessons, check your facts first; this fact isn’t in dispute, like a lot of history is.

      • Lapsed Agnostic

        That ‘immediately’ in your second paragraph appears to be doing quite a lot of heavy lifting, Tom:

        Dates of secession of the first southern states to join the Confederacy: South Carolina – Dec 20, 1860; Mississippi – Jan 9, 1861; Florida – Jan 10, 1861; Alabama – Jan 11, 1861; Georgia – Jan 19, 1861; Louisiana – Jan 26, 1861; Texas – Feb 1, 1861.

        Start of US Civil War – April 12, 1861 (when, as others have pointed out, the Confederates fired on the Union-occupied Fort Sumter).

        States may or may not have a God-given right to leave the Union, but they don’t have a Constitutional right to unilaterally secede, as outlined in Texas v White (1869) which, rightly or wrongly, remains the law over there.

        FAO Jimmeh: If everyone checked their facts before posting, I’d wager there’d be far fewer comments here – which reminds me I still need to get back to you on the effects of racemic MDMA on dopaminergic neurons, but that can wait for another time.

        • Tom Welsh

          “States may or may not have a God-given right to leave the Union, but they don’t have a Constitutional right to unilaterally secede, as outlined in Texas v White (1869) which, rightly or wrongly, remains the law over there”.

          So you are arguing that when the Declaration of Independence says “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness”, that had no legal basis in the USA?

          That when the colonists declared their independence from Great Britain and set up their own new nation, that was legally a once-and-for-all event that could never happen again?

          As for Texas v. White (1869), the date speaks for itself. One of the defeated states, whose right to secede had been denied not by legal arguments but by overwhelming brute force, failed to make its case in the courts of the nation that had crushed it.

          Joining the USA has always been emphatically a one-way process, like a bug getting trapped in a bottle. “It’s a kopeck to get in, but a rouble to get out”.

          • Lapsed Agnostic

            Thanks for your reply Tom. The US Declaration of Independence has very little, if any, legal basis in the US* – their foundational legal document is the Constitution. When the colonists rebelled against Great Britain, they were acting illegally, but the British couldn’t – or wouldn’t – come up with enough force to defeat the rebellion, so the colonists won their independence. Ultimately, the rule of law in all countries (not just the US) is underpinned by force – including, if deemed necessary, lethal violence.

            * Not surprising, as it contains a considerable amount of nonsense. For example, inter alia, it claims that men (though not women) have been endowed by their creator with the inalienable rights to life and liberty. If the Declaration of Independence was considered to be a legal text, this would mean that American men have a right to live forever doing exactly what they want.

          • Tom Welsh

            “Ultimately, the rule of law in all countries (not just the US) is underpinned by force – including, if deemed necessary, lethal violence”.

            In that case, Lapsed Agnostic, we are in fundamental agreement. I always maintain that the last word in politics and history was said by the Athenians in the Melian Dialogue.

            “For ourselves, we shall not trouble you with specious pretences – either of how we have a right to our empire because we overthrew the Mede, or are now attacking you because of wrong that you have done us – and make a long speech which would not be believed; and in return we hope that you, instead of thinking to influence us by saying that you did not join the Lacedaemonians, although their colonists, or that you have done us no wrong, will aim at what is feasible, holding in view the real sentiments of us both; since you know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must”.

            In the simplest terms, force is the ultimate arbitrator, and nations negotiate or invoke laws only when they do not feel strong enough to win a war.

            Which, of course, means that all the pious chatter about rights, democracy, freedom, etc. is conscious hypocrisy and quite meaningless.

          • Lapsed Agnostic

            Thanks for your reply Tom. I was thinking more about domestic law, rather than international law or the laws of war, which of course usually only apply to the losing side. In most of Europe, intentional lethal violence by agents of the state towards their own citizens is generally only carried out as a last resort in extreme situations, such as terrorist attacks etc (although not always – see West Yorks Police’s recent record: obviously shooting drug dealers dead at the behest of rival drug dealers is just par for the course with them, but trying to kill three of *their own* officers with fire was a particular low point, if you ask me).

          • Lapsed Agnostic

            Thanks for your reply Yuri. In his original comment, Tom stated after a large part of the US (e.g. Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina & Florida) seceded from the Union, the North ‘immediately’ attacked the South. In fact, over two months passed before the war began, during which various actors were trying to resolve the crisis. In the early stages, Tennessee & North Carolina, like Virginia, were hedging their bets, before eventually deciding to throwing their lot in with the Confederacy.

  • John Giles

    Imagine how we Australians feel. A Quisling PM and political class and an imperial master using our country to fight a war on China.

    • Courtenay Francis Raymond Barnett

      “using our country to fight a war on China.”

      Please complete the sentence.

      “using our country to fight a war on China.” after having fought one against the Aborigines.


      • Stevie Boy

        Don’t think it was a war ! Abuse and oppression, maybe, as the empire of the West enacts everywhere it exists. Those in glass houses …

    • Bramble

      Imagine how the Ukrainians feel, having given Zelensky a landslide victory on the promise of making peace with Russia only to find he was a front for the Nazis and their American backers.

  • A2

    “He would have liked to see the soprano.”
    Presumably the Soprano also does public performance. Might one suggest he buys an Opera ticket?

  • AG

    stupid me: I initally thought “Oh, the Sopranos”.

    Anyway. Still another film association comes to mind, the late Netflix series “The Diplomat”.

    I wonder if there was any research done for that at all (I wouldn´t mind if they did not). But the series is in fact about the new US Ambassador dispatched to GB.

    Hardly none of the personnel is pictured particularly sympathetic (especially not the fictional British PM, played by Rory Kinnear who it seems has secretly staged an attack on a British warship in Iranian waters in order to start a war.)

    The show is not perfect, a volatile mixture of political drama, thriller and soap opera.
    First rate cast though and high production value.

    I do find these shows and films noteworthy in a political context since they reach millions worldwide and do shape the audience´s view on such matters.

    Hardly anyone watching this would read diplomatic scholarship, I would assume.
    But nonetheless after watching these shows they will surely have an opinion.

    The British Ambassador not being invited to a soprano´s appearance could as well be part of such a show.

    The Diplomat, info

    p.s. not by accident has Washington always kept Hollywood close. The power of propaganda.

    Anthony Blinkens´ step-Dad was one of the major movie lawyers and actors´ agents in L.A.

    • Tom Welsh

      Done! The UK should also get rid of all thermonuclear and nuclear weapons. And chemical and biological if (as I strongly suspect) HMG retains them.

      WMD are not weapons of war, as if they are used everyone dies. As Bertrand Russell put it, “War doesn’t decide who is right; only who is left”. And in the case of thermonuclear war, that would be no one.

      These islands are a particular stupid place to try to defend with thermonuclear weapons. If they were used against us, the UK would rapidly become completely uninhabitable.

      • Lapsed Agnostic

        A year after a full-scale nuclear exchange between NATO and Russia and/or China, Tom, 90-95% of people in those countries will probably be dead, but most people in the world would still be here. Don’t believe the apocalyptic predictions of global nuclear winter spouted by Brian Toon & co. For people with adequate initial food reserves, sleeping bag & tent, and long-term survival skills, most parts of the UK will be perfectly inhabitable a week or two after the exchange, as radiation levels from any fall-out will have fallen to near background. The only issue will be avoiding the ravenous hordes in the first month or so.

        • Stevie Boy

          I don’t share your optimism, a full-scale nuclear exchange would probably involve all nuclear powers. It may not be as bad as some think but it would be worse than we could imagine.

          • Lapsed Agnostic

            Thanks for your reply Stevie. I can’t see India or Pakistan involving themselves in any of that shit. I can’t see Israel being prepared to take a nuke or two for Uncle Sam either. In any event, the number of warheads possessed by those countries is probably less than 5% of the stockpiles of the US, Russia & China.

            But yeah, take your point, nuclear war will be very, very bad for everyone involved – and fairly bad even for the hermit of Loch Treig, if he’s still with us, as I don’t think he’s completely self-sufficient any more – plus now he’s been on TV, people know where he lives.

        • Pigeon English

          TXs for a good news!
          Txs God I have a tent and sleeping bag.
          How many cans of beans would you suggest? Was it for a week or Two?
          Is the tent in the front of my house more safe then my flat? Asking for a friend!
          Why long-term survival skill? Everything be over in a week or 2 and the shops will be open next days after nuclear Armageddon (no such a thing according to LA).
          And LA claims while I was just about to post “But yeah, take your point, nuclear war will be very, very bad for everyone involved – and fairly bad”
          If you don’t have a tent.

          • Lapsed Agnostic

            Thanks for your reply PE. You’re very welcome. You’ll need more than tins of beans, I’m afraid – they’re not complete protein. Oats are complete protein, plus they have carbs, fibre and omega-6 fats too (most of what you need, but not all – you’ll also need multivitamin & mineral pills, omega-3 capsules or milled flaxseed, calcium pills & salt). Two-and-a-half times your body weight will last a year.

            I wouldn’t recommend sleeping in your house/flat or garden/yard in the first few months after a nuclear war, unless you’re part of a close-knit group of friends/neighbours with guns & ammo, as there’s every chance you’ll end up killed, and possibly eaten. Lying low in the countryside for a fair while is your best bet.

            You’ll need (fairly basic) long-term survival skills, otherwise there’s a good chance you’ll die. I don’t want to die – or at least not yet. Obviously everything will not be over in two weeks. Armageddon means everyone dies; I say most people will die after in a full-scale nuclear exchange – but not everyone. Tents keep the rain off – if your clothes and sleeping bag are dry, they stay warm. Hope that helps.

          • Bayard

            Can’t beat a castle for surviving the apocalypse, preferably one with the walls still standing, gates and a roof.

        • Tom Welsh

          The nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima “released the equivalent energy of 16 ± 2 kilotons of TNT (66.9 ± 8.4 TJ). The weapon was considered very inefficient, with only 1.7 percent of its material fissioning”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_bombings_of_Hiroshima_and_Nagasaki

          The latest Russian ICBM, “[t]he RS-28 Sarmat will be capable of carrying about 10 tonnes of payload, for either up to 10 heavy or 15 light MIRV warheads, and up to 24 Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs) or a combination of warheads and several countermeasures against anti-ballistic missile systems”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RS-28_Sarmat

          A single Avangard is said to carry a thermonuclear warhead of up to 2 megatons (120 times the power of the Hiroshima bomb). Obviously if Russia sent even one Sarmat to the UK, it could deliver 24 of these 2 megaton warheads, which might seem adequate to destroy all appropriate targets. Or they might send 2 or even 3 Sarmats.


          It seems to me that the whole of the UK would be intensely radioactive for some time after – probably years – at a level extremely dangerous to human health. But your second point is even more apt.

          “The only issue will be avoiding the ravenous hordes in the first month or so”.

          Are you aware that the UK provides less than half of its food, leaving more than half to be imported? After the first month or so the ravenous hordes will only be much more ravenous, unless most of them have died of burns, radiation poisoning, starvation, or fighting for what little food and water there is. From then on things will get really bad, as government (such as it is) will have broken down completely and food imports will probably have ceased.

          • Lapsed Agnostic

            Thanks for your reply Tom. Few Sarmats have been built and installed so far. The ones that have are highly likely to be targeted at the US’s Minuteman-III silos in flyover country, along with the R-36 ‘Satans’ that they’re set to replace. The new-fangled Avangard hypersonic re-entry vehicles may be able to loop the loop at Mach 20 for all I know; however, it doesn’t really matter much as most of the Russians’ bog-standard ICBM RV’s will easily get through the US’s missiles defences (it’s possible that some may be intercepted by their Ground-based Midcourse Defence System – I’m sceptical – but in any case, the US only has around 60 interceptors).

            Most targets in the UK will probably be hit by airbursts from Kh-102 cruise missiles whose warheads are probably around 250 kilotons. Airbursts typical produce little, if any, fallout as the radioactive particles are too light to be significantly affected by gravity and just disperse on the breeze. Groundbursts, which are probably what Faslane etc will get, produce much more fallout, but since most of the fission products have short lifetimes, it will only be lethal/dangerous for a few days. This is all well established.

            I’m aware that the UK imports around half its food. After a full scale exchange, food imports will cease for months, if not years, as the global financial system along with the GPS will have been largely destroyed. Just how bad things get will depend on the time of year that the exchange occurs: at harvest time there’ll be more than enough grain in Britain for all the survivors, since most of it usually fed to livestock. Living on wheat is not nutritionally optimal (oats are far better), but it should keep people alive for a year at least. The issue then will be transportation when there’s little available fuel. On average the typical British household contains only 2-3 days worth of food – supermarkets / warehouses etc will likely all have been looted in the first week. After a month with no food, most people will no longer be ravenous – and even if they are, they’ll be too weak to do anything about it.

        • AG

          “Woe, destruction, ruin, and decay; the worst is death and death will have his day.”

          my favourite topic

          I assume most have heard of the latest study on nuclear winter from last year, so its not entirely new:

          “Nuclear Famine: Even a “limited” nuclear war would cause abrupt climate disruption and global starvation”

          report #1

          report #2

          The problem is already in the title

          “Global food insecurity and famine from reduced crop, marine fishery and livestock production due to climate disruption from nuclear war soot injection”

          Responsible Statecraft gave some quotes fom the study data:

          we learn that the soot is heated by the sunlight it is blocking. The heating of the soot (in the smallest exchange modeled) would destroy around 25 percent of the ozone, though up to 50-70 percent over the high northern hemisphere. This means the United States, Canada, Europe, and northern Asia, including parts of Russia and China, would be most impacted. A damaged ozone layer increases our exposure to ultraviolet radiation, which can lead to an increase of various health issues like sunburns, cataracs, and cancers.

          With all the sunlight blocked by thick clouds of soot and ash, crop production will plummet.
          depending on the size and amount of nuclear weapons detonated, global temperatures will drop anywhere between 1.3℃ in the most narrow case, to 6.5℃ in the most severe case. For context, climate scientists have been sounding the alarm for years that an abrupt rise in global temperatures by even 1℃ would have catastrophic consequences for humanity. Additionally, the last Ice Age that occurred was around 6℃ cooler than the temperatures we are experiencing today.

          No matter the scenario, the drastic drop in temperatures would demolish crop production, and severely diminish livestock and aquatic food production
          In the smallest scenario of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan, calorie production from crops would decrease seven percent within five years of the conflict, and up to 50 percent in the largest scenario. Mass starvation would ensue. To provide context, a mere seven percent global calorie decline would be unprecedented. This decline would surpass the largest decrease ever recorded since the United Nations began tracking this information in 1961.

          Again, those most directly impacted would be the United States, Canada, much of Europe, Russia, and China. However, many regions like the Middle East, Africa and East Asia rely on these regions for food imports, so the effects would undoubtedly ripple to the rest of the world.
          It is important to note, though, that this doesn’t account for other effects like radioactive fallout or ozone layer depletion. Australia and New Zealand would also likely have to contend with a massive influx of refugees from Asia and elsewhere.

          • Lapsed Agnostic

            Thanks for your reply AG. A PhD may not be the royal road to fame and fortune, but it does, or at least it should, teach you not to believe everything you read in a scientific paper. Owen/Brian Toon & co just assume that in a full-scale exchange millions of tons of soot will end up in the stratosphere and run their models from there which, if nothing else, makes for dramatic reading. Toon’s PhD supervisor Carl Sagan used to think similarly, then he watched what happened with the Kuwaiti oil fires in the first Gulf War and changed his mind. Freeman Dyson didn’t need to change his mind since, being a genius, he’d already clocked the nuclear winter theory, even in the days when nuclear arsenals were much larger, as being “an atrocious piece of science”. Anyway, nuclear war will be bad enough without nuclear winter.

  • fonso

    “The UK was out in front in declaring China a threat and an enemy, which FCO professionals view as neither justified nor of obvious benefit”

    You hardly need to be an FCO professional to see that. Most children of secondary school age can see it and could tell you the declaration was made solely to impress old Biden and other DC chickenhawks, psychos n oddballs.

    • Bayard

      “Most children of secondary school age can see it”

      and realise it to be the behaviour of the kid who is desperate to be “one of the gang”, but whom the gang members despise.

  • Alf Baird

    “There is only one determinant of Independence and it has nothing to do with legality in domestic legislation of the state you are leaving. The only thing that makes you an independent state, is recognition by other independent states.”

    Recognition by other states is surely a potential political outcome and aspiration of national independence, rather than a ‘determinant’ per se. A people must first become independent and declare themselves so before they can be recognised as such; to believe otherwise would render the nation’s independence as rather hypothetical – awaiting the stamp of approval by other nations, failing which they revert to colonial status?

    Independence for a colonised people is primarily about their self-recovery from oppression and reclaiming sovereignty; recognition is therefore another matter entirely and can only logically follow on from national independence.

    The nine socio-political determinants of Scottish independence are set out here in a theoretical framework that is developed and built upon well-established theory on the subject, and particularly postcolonial theory:

  • Wally Jumblatt

    If I had a different passport to the one I carry, I would have a very strong opinion that Westminster, the City of London, the UK Diplomatic Corp, the BBC and Fleet St Press, were all useless and not worth bothering with at all.

    I would suspect that most of the politicians were being blackmailed by Washington or Langley, and those that werent, had been manouvred into in place by the self-same, or were being groomed for a position by WEF.
    I think the ‘formal’ UK position on everything, is cowardly and not honesty held. That goes for Skripal, Afghanistan, Syria, Israel, Covid, Ukraine, Nordstream 2, EU, Hong Kong, Taiwan, slavery, LGBGT everything, and the climate fantasy.
    I think Britain hasn’t pulled it’s weight for over 75 years and is hopeless at negotiating anything, It is, futhermore still given far more respect than it deserves, because of some perception of honesty and integrity that it perhaps merited way back in late Vistorian times.
    I suspect the late Monarch attracted international respect, and she’s dead and gone now.

  • AG

    …am looking into the list of British Ambassadors to Germany and apparently current Jill Gallard (from Northern Ireland) is the first female ever on that post.

    (Yesterday I learned from the movies again, the Republic of Ireland prohibited Allied ships to enter its ports during WWII, which is the reason why in some bars no Irish Whiskey was served post-war.)

      • AG


        Excellent! Thank you.

        (…I assume the movies are primarily there to not loose my mind…or as German movie director Rainer Werner Fassbinder famously wrote “films are there to free one´s mind”. Now admittedly, that might appear as old-fashioned, artsy and escapist especially from today´s POV. In fact I am quarrelling with myself sometimes when taking refuge in films this way…on the other hand they can be an unexpected incentive for looking something up or reading about a particular subject.)

  • Crispa

    My only experience of diplomats was in Moscow at the turn of the century when I was invited as a member of a visiting working party, which was, as I have appreciated since, aimed at helping Russia along with its money to convert to western values, to a lecture at the British Embassy and a meal afterwards with the ambassador and his entourage. This seemed to consist of a hareem of deputy ambassadresses all clutching at his shirt tails in order to obtain a coveted ambassador’s position somewhere in the world and a leery press secretary who probably reported anything untoward to the secret services.
    I seem to remember the lecture was in given by a British academic to a mixed Anglo – Russian audience, who gave the impression that the British understood the Russians better than they did themselves and Britain would be better than Russia to solve its many problems.
    This was just before Putin started to challenge the arrogance of the collective west and to make its mark on it. No surprise that the British establishment has been crying spilled milk ever since.

  • SleepingDog

    I’ve watched recently colonial-history popular blockbuster movies from China and India where the British colonialists are (rightly) portrayed as bad guys to point of becoming the stock international equivalent of nazis, but even the USA regularly unleashes critical popular cultural works where Brits are villainous, or more indirect critiques of British institutions like hereditary monarchy.

    As movie and games industries develop in countries previously colonised or invaded by the British, expect more of the same. European empires are hardly racing to apologise to the world, but in comparison the British authorities seem to inhabit a reactionary timewarp. I suppose NGOs like the National Trust will have to set the limited pace for now, if they can ride the gammon tide.

    Being a trusted schooler of the children of dictators is not my idea of international prestige.

    • Tom Welsh

      “…even the USA regularly unleashes critical popular cultural works where Brits are villainous, or more indirect critiques of British institutions like hereditary monarchy”.

      The Yanks (the small minority of them who matter) are always delighted to have their cake and eat it. Ever since the little trouble in the mid-18th century, they have hated Britain and everything it stands for – or, more exactly, they have despised it and planned carefully to steal from it everything of value that it possessed. Today they own most of it, having filtered out the real valuables and thrown away the rest. But they still love the ambience of royalty, nobility, and gentry even though they have theoretically rejected it on ideological grounds.

      I was watching an episode of “CSI” last night and was amused to see the careful description of the debutantes’ coming-out ball, copying in almost every detail the real ones in London long ago when the monarchy meant something. Apart from an actual monarch, nothing seemed to be missing. The horsey, entitled young women were certainly there, and a sufficient complement of Hooray Henries (or maybe Rah-Rah Raymonds).

      • SleepingDog

        @Tom Welsh, I don’t know what goes on the minds of USAmericans (generalised hate for Brits seems a bit strong) but they electorially don’t seem to have as much dislike for political dynasties as a supposedly meritocratic republic possibly should.

        • Tom Welsh

          My take is that all human beings have a deep instinctual need for hierarchy. All animal groups naturally sort themselves into “pecking orders”, and humans are no different. True, we have the ability to think consciously superimposed on those instincts, but in times of danger and fear the instincts tend to take over.

          • SleepingDog

            @Tom Welsh, I think the evidence from developmental psychology suggests the opposite, that humans have innate tendencies towards fairness and equality, and human socialisation has more typically been a conflict between cheaters and fair-dealers. Perhaps it is partly the nature of modern society that cheaters can thrive, psychopathy confers advantage, and short-termism undermines those who see bad consequences in this. Subsistence cultures generally have little use for hierarchies, neither do friendship or interest groups. Rather than instinct, hierarchies appear to be cultural inventions, often technologically- or doctrinally-assisted.

  • Anthony

    I think the personalities of those at the top are a factor in this toe curling British posturing. Sunak is a tiny man whose Indian background makes him exceedingly insecure in the world of Tory party politics. (He knows he attained the top job only by evading a vote by his own party’s members). His mistreatment by Biden at Belfast Airport last month – watching on as the POTUS instead greeted the lord lieutenant of Ballymena or somesuch – greatly heightened his sense of insecurity.
    He made this obvious on returning to London when he left Downing Street flanked by a mighty police cavalcade the size of which has never seen before, including guys running on foot beside his car.
    I have no doubt Sunak’s little-man-you’re-a-king mindset informs his effort to project British ‘power’ onto the world. Once again, ‘showing them’.
    We’ll see similar when the limp grey man Starmer assumes the role. He is another small man and will be determined to show the rightwing press he is as tough as any Tory on foreign policy as well as domestic affairs. We are cursed to have such ill-at-ease characters leading us in a period when the British elite are already more isolated and irrelevant than they have ever been in international affairs. It is a toxic, highly dangerous state of affairs.

          • glenn_nl

            Actually it was Walt Disney. IIRC, the sick bastard had some machine built to hurl the creatures off in order to make a spectacle for filming below.

            For some peculiar reason, this silly notion has stuck in the minds of many. Much like the notion that King Canut thought he was capable of commanding the sea, but was proven wrong. Or that Tories are capable of governing.

      • Anthony

        Nope, just observable reality. That cavalcade revealed a ridiculously insecure man. You can be sure it is also informing his daft efforts to intimidate Russia and China. This makes him not just a clown but a dangerous one, likely to be succeeded by another. Given the insecurity of their entire class about Britain’s place in the world these idiots are unlikely to be restrained.

        • Tom Welsh

          “Given the insecurity of their entire class about Britain’s place in the world these idiots are unlikely to be restrained”.

          From what I can see online, a lot of Russians are ready to take on that job. And Mr Kinzhal is ready and willing to execute – so to speak.

          • Anthony

            If it really escalates Rishi has forced the Russians to take a special interest in us.

          • Tom Welsh

            Thanks to the moderators if they added the explanatory text to the bare URL I posted. Sorry to have forgotten that rule.

      • Bayard

        “Quite a bit of discrimination at work in this post, Anthony.”

        Yeah, the way that Biden treated Sunak was pretty shocking.

    • Tom Welsh

      I can’t help feeling that, hard as it might be to imagine, Starmer would be much worse. To my mind, he has stepped straight out of “1984”; like O’Brien but without the sense of humour.

      • Anthony

        I’ve no doubt that feeling would be vindicated. Glenn Greenwald today labeled the UK the west’s most authoritarian country following its latest arrest of a journalist (Kit Klarenberg of the Grayzone). Starmer seems more authoritarian by instinct even than this current lot and his insecurities would make him anxious to prove it. It would not be an era of good feelings.

      • Stevie Boy

        If Starmer was to get in, the UK Government would be run by Tel Aviv and the British people would become their new Palestinians – and Assange would be off to the USA before you could say Untermensch.

  • Sam

    Whenever I think of British diplomacy, I think of the UK embassy in Chisinau (Moldova).

    The building itself is utterly forgettable, but on the grounds is a tiny, walled off plot of land where they grow and maintain a quintessential English (not British!) lawn of manicured grass. The “best” part is that nobody is allowed to ever set foot there – all you can do is gawk at it through an iron fence. Even the diplomats never use it because it’s far too small for a game of cricket or a reception or a picnic, etc.

    It is, quite literally, the stupidest f—ing thing I have ever seen. And yet British taxpayers diligently pay huge sums of money every year to water it and rake it and trim it and keep it shimmering green.

    • glenn_nl

      Come on, how much are we talking about here?

      If looking after that grass came to even 1% of the wine bill for that embassy, I would be very surprised.

  • Johnny Conspiranoid

    So, UK not as important as it likes to think it is. Isn’t the whole Western World faced with the same problem though?

  • Reza

    Declassified UK’s investigations of British foreign “aid” have concluded it is a scam, one that developed out of the institutions of formal empire. What gets reported as development aid is actually a massive subsidy to British corporations, a key mechanism for promoting neoliberalism and a tool for enforcing geopolitical control. A typical example that DUK have highlighted is Egypt where Britain is using its aid budget to support one of the world’s most repressive regimes to privatise protected sectors of the economy and sell them off to foreign investors.
    It is all quite intuitive given the nature of the British State virtually since its formation.

  • Jack

    Yes, not only UK but western powers have become weaker past decade but at the same time, the BRICS/multipolar world have not yet materalized and seems to be stuck in progress and is still too feeble compared to the western powers.
    Also we have a more belligerent EU that seems to be unhinged on a pro-war course, they have become total neocons lately.

    But in the global south they still remember the Iraq war and how no one in the west was persecuted for it and therefore they cannot take the arresting order against Putin seriously.
    2 good videos on this:

    Even in Georgia they speak the truth, here is the Georgian PM blaming Nato expansion for the russian invasion

    • Tom Welsh

      “…the BRICS/multipolar world have not yet materalized and seems to be stuck in progress and is still too feeble compared to the western powers”.

      Don’t be too influenced by appearances. As the BRICS and like-minded others are essentially peaceable and reprehend any resort to violence, their work proceeds quietly and is usually not noticed.

      Nevertheless it is going on steadily.

      Krak des Chevaliers is known to castle aficionados as the biggest and strongest Western castle ever built. It looked utterly impregnable. However the Sultan of Egypt, Baibars, captured it quite easily in 1271. Judo-fashion, he turned the castle’s greatest strength – its huge stone walls – against it by undermining a tower. The tower collapsed under its own weight, and soon after the defenders surrendered.

      Until the tower unexpectedly collapsed in a cloud of dust, they probably had not the slightest idea that they were under threat.

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