Thursday, March 26

Daniel Hannan's shot heard round Web 2.0, Rupert Murdoch reaches for the antacids; Britain's betrayal of the U.S. in Iraq

Well. I fully expect to see Glenn Beck bound and gagged during his appearance this evening on Fox. For those of us who were living in a cave on Wednesday, British MP Daniel Hannan extended his three minutes of fame at the European Parliament, during which he raked Gordon Brown over the coals and spoke in a manner that John Batchelor pegged as worthy of John Galt.

Daniel's speech began (and overnight he's "Daniel" to Americans starved for a political leader's uncompromising stand against socialism):
Prime Minister, I see you’ve already mastered the essential craft of the European politician, namely the ability to say one thing in this chamber and a very different thing to your home electorate.
He was just getting warmed up.

And because Daniel is not only a Member of Parliament but also a blogger and journalist, he is very media savvy; he knew that every newspaper/TV network owner who was trying to help highly globalized businesspeople and politicians hold the ancien regime together would studiously ignore his speech.

So he foxed them by getting his speech onto YouTube, where it went viral. At Wikipedia's last count (money says Daniel tends his own page at Wikipedia), his speech has been viewed 630,000 times in the past 24 hours and became the 'most viewed today' YouTube video worldwide.

This means Daniel's amazing speech is as much a testament to the power of Web 2.0 and alternate news media as it is to the rising fury of Britons about Labor government's policies.

As to what any of this has to do with Glenn Beck, it's one of those Typical Labyrinthine Globalization Tales:

Rupert Murdoch owns the company that owns Fox, which became Glenn's home recently after whatever happened between Glenn and CNN happened. Murdoch, as I explained in 2004 (British pundits get the jump on Americans and why we should care), supported the Labor government throughout the era of the Blair-Brown team, even though Rupert's associated with Conservative views and his idea of Libertarianism.

This was because Blair, as with President Clinton, was a proponent of Third Way politics, which is an attempt to meld socialist and capitalist economic policies.

Murdoch's critics have charged that he doesn't really have a political ideology, beyond doing whatever it takes to keep his global media empire together. To cut a story, I think it's fair to say that he lives in terror of Phillip Blond, and also any British politician who represents anti-globalist and anti-EU membership views. He supported Labor because it seemed safe to him; it represented stability and pro-EU and globalist policies.

So whatever Murdoch thinks of Gordon Brown today, and it's probably not much, the alternatives were unpalatable to him. At least up until earlier this month, he was still hoping that Gordon would somehow work a miracle for Labor.

And thus we return to Glenn Beck's show, on a day that Rupert Murdoch had been flogging media outlets he controls to register outrage at Barack Obama's handling of Gordon Brown's visit to the United States.

I don't know what greater honor an American President can bestow on another national leader than to allow him to speak before both sitting branches of the United States Congress. But maybe it dawned on Obama as an afterthought that because Gordon Brown had done nothing to be accorded such an honor, he should downplay the rest of his visit. This resulted in no state dinner for Gordon and his wife, an informal presser instead a full court press, and a rather offhand present to Gordon (CDs of great American films).

Coming on top of Obama's return of Tony Blair's gift to Bush (a bust of Winston Churchill)as soon as he got into the Oval Office, all this was read by Rupert as the grossest of insults to Gordon and the British people.

Glenn Beck reads enough U.S. milblogs to know what a truly gross insult looks like: Britain's betrayal of U.S. troops in Iraq and the Iraqi people, which resulted in many deaths and wounded among U.S. troops, Iraqi troops and police, and innocent Iraqi civilians.

Nonetheless, he'd barely arrived at Fox when Rupert had an aneurysm about Obama's failure to adequately fawn over Gordon's visit -- which, incidentally, is one of the few things Obama has done since coming to office that made me happy.

So Glenn called offstage, "How many papers does Rupert Murdoch own in Britain?" and then answered his own question: "All of them."

Then he turned back to the camera, hunched forward and told his viewers that at all costs they had to help smooth Britain's ruffled feathers. Then he held up a sign with the address of the British Embassy in the U.S., and said that everyone should call or write the embassy to tell them how much they loved Britain and Gordon Brown.

Of course Rupert doesn't own all Britain's papers -- and I note he doesn't own The Daily Telegraph, which is the paper that Daniel Hannan blogs for.

But talk about threading the needle. It was a great moment in television, and the more you knew of the background, the funnier the moment was. I liked Glenn Beck from that moment forward, and he'd have to screw up big-time before I'd change my opinion of him.

For Americans who're just learning that Britain betrayed the United States in Iraq -- the story did break through into the mainstream media, very briefly, a year or two ago, and it made it into at least one British paper at that time. But Americans who closely followed the war in Iraq, which includes all the milbloggers, knew at least as early as 2004.

I remember a British reader who was horrified at the news; he wrote in a British paper's comment section that this couldn't be the work of Britain's troops, that they were very brave. Yes they are very brave, but they were under orders to look the other way, as terrorists and crack Iranian army fighters piled men and weapons across the southern border. The U.S. command in Iraq and the Iraqis are still struggling to undo the damage.

The British command had worked out a 'softly, softly,' rationale, as one U.S. military analyst termed it, to justify their studious blindness to the situations: be nice to the Iranians, don't rile the natives, listen to us, America, because we ran things in this part of the world for a long time and we know how best to handle these people.

While Iraqis and U.S. troops got cut to pieces by Iranian-made weapons and roadside bombs.

No, there was no way to stop the British command and I doubt they would have left even if the U.S. command had told them to quit. They were running their own shop in Iraq. And the U.S. needed warm bodies in the south to ride herd because we didn't have enough troops in Iraq. Another thing I'll never forgive Donald Rumsfeld for.

Behind the 'softly' approach in southern Iraq stood Britain's business interests in the Middle East, including Iran; their fear that the American way would eclipse whatever power they had in that part of the world; and the Labor government's desire to tamp down anti-Muslim sentiment.

In short, they were looking out for their own interests first, which I spent considerable time in 2005 warning Americans about. This was no cause to hate the Britons, which I stressed in a 2005 essay titled Even Wendy had to grow up.

I pointed out that the United States needed to adopt a clearer-eyed view of our allies in the post-Cold War world, and wise up about the very nature of alliances, if we weren't to bounce between the extremes of bitterness and blind trust.

If a person betrays you once, that's his fault. If he keeps betraying you, that's your fault. The same applies to alliances between governments.

Alliances do not mean "best buddies."

Just because I'm your ally doesn't mean I'll put my interests above yours. Knowing that, you take precautions and play hardball behind the scenes when you need to, to make sure I don't trample you, because trampling can get to be a habit.

I interject that many Britons would turn that argument around. Just recently a British reader complained to me that Britain was having to kiss the Americans' arse, as he put it.

As you may recall many Britons saw Blair as Bush's "poodle." That was a crock. All the while Americans were getting misty-eyed over Blair's support for us in Iraq, the 'Softly' approach was going full-throttle in Basra. However, few Britons knew the story at that time.

The truth is that the U.S.-Britain alliance went from obsessive in 2003 to toxic for both nations in 2005, when the country's foreign office wanted to restart the Cold War with Russia and the 'Get Russia' faction in Washington said, 'Why stop at a cold war?'

So it came down to a day in August 2008, when I banged out a post titled To any and all U.S. forces in Georgia: STAND DOWN The savage humor I deployed did not betray my fear -- at least I don't think it did -- but over the next agonizing week of waiting, anyone who knew of the tinderbox situation was a fool not to be afraid.

The biggest concern was that Mikhail Chernoy and other ex-Oligarchs would persuade the more irrational elements in the 'Get Russia' faction that the changing of the guard in the USA was the last and best time to start a war with Russia.

I have blanked out the names in this story, but the worst moment came when a U.S. envoy told a Russian counterpart that if Russia they didn't back down in Georgia the U.S. would "have to do something."

The Russian replied wearily, "What could you possibly do to us that you haven't done in the past 13 years?"

There is nothing worse than Russians in a maudlin mood. As long as they're snapping and being sarcastic and threatening, it's okay. But if they get maudlin -- that is bad news.

Clearly, things had gone too far, which cooler heads in London and Washington had already recognized. But backing away from brink was akin to that floor game with big spots where the players move from spot to spot and get tangled up in the process.

The business and energy considerations of the globalized era combined with defense and geopolitical issues and the EU's interests had turned foreign policy for the major powers into a kaleidoscope of ever-shifting alliances and counter-alliances. To haul in another metaphor, it was like Day 30 on Survivor.

All that is to explain, if you ask why you never read in the U.S. papers that the British had betrayed the U.S. in Iraq.

That also explains why several well-known U.S. pundits had a hissy fit over Obama's treatment of Brown -- and yet never spoke a word about the British betrayal in Iraq. Those same pundits support the 'Get Russia' faction on both sides of the Pond. Talk about tangled priorities.

Gordon Brown is set to return to the U.S. any day now, as part of his whirlwind tour of Europe, Latin America, and the U.S. The Guardian reported last week that he was zipping around the world to drum up support ahead of the G20 summit in London on April 2.

Mr Brown has already visited Washington this month to drum up support for his plan to deal with the economic crisis. So perhaps he's returning in hopes of snaring a full court press in the Rose Garden, complete with twin podiums; that, to show the British public and world media that he won't be insulted by an American President.

In any case, Pundita blog has arranged a little welcome present:
More on Perfidious Albion
by D. B. Light
August 08, 2008

Omar and Muhammad Fadhil [Iraq the Model and Pajamas Media bloggers] comment on the depth of the British betrayal of Basra:

"Britain’s war policy has been clear for the past several years: the country demonstrated no readiness to make sustained efforts in a prolonged war, nor did it act as a serious partner determined to win the conflict.

"There are three aspects in this British betrayal. First, striking a deal with the enemy; second, selling an Iraqi city to the enemy of their Iraqi hosts and partners; and third, by not informing their American partners of their plans, enabling the U.S. military’s reliance on an untrustworthy partner — something the British military leadership turned out to be.

"What’s worse — even assuming the “accommodation” was a thoughtful plan with good intentions — is that Britain upheld the deal even when the militias violated it. The militias did not renounce violence (attacks continued), and they did not switch to civil political activity. Still, the British didn’t take action.


"As residents of Basra for a year, we recall how the people perceived British troops. Basically people felt the British were both weak and largely indifferent to the situation. To the militias, that was seen as a golden chance to consolidate their power and take over the city; while among the ordinary people, it dealt a blow to morale and was a reason that people had little — if any — trust in the British.

"What’s even more humiliating for Britain is that British leaders couldn’t exploit the advantages they had over their American counterparts in terms of past history of military operations and involvement in Iraq. It’s not an overstatement to say that the British had been fighting on their own turf in Basra. When they returned to that city in 2003, they returned to the very bases they had built only half a century before. Moreover, they had accumulated comprehensive knowledge of the people and tribes of the region that even many Iraqis don’t have.

"Yet, their performance has been disappointing. British troops are not to blame for this poor performance; it’s the political leadership in London. The Americans handled places such as Baghdad and Anbar that used to be the most volatile parts of Iraq in 2004, and now, four years later, they largely succeeded in bring peace and order, making huge progress toward that goal. The British, by contrast, had been assigned what used to be the calmest parts of Iraq in 2004, but by spring 2008, under their watch, Basra became the most lawless city in the country. The British leaders managed to do this either with exceptional stupidity or exceptional and deliberate carelessness."

Read the whole thing here. It's damning.

Greyhawk has a wonderful assemblage of reports from Basra detailing the arrogance and imbecilic anti-Americanism of the British leadership who were absolutely convinced of the superiority of their policies even as the situation deteriorated toward disaster. It is clear that the guiding imperative of British policy was "don't do what the Americans do."

Read Greyhawk's posts here.
Welcome back to Washington, Mr Brown.

For a summary of the complex relationship between Russian and Britain, see this April 2008 article A Poisonous Ally: Growing Russo-British Tensions
This entry is crossposted at RBO.


Anonymous said...

There are no permanent alliances, only permanent interests.

Lord Palmerston

I'm not an optimist for the future of the world.


mls gta said...

What a delightful your gentleman. 3 cheers for Daniel Hannah! I have only seen him yesterday, but I had to subscribe to his youtube account for more. I wish we had our own Canadian Daniel Hannan. Of course the Labour party is calling him all source of names, but who cares?

Take care, Julie

Anonymous said...

1.7 million views, and 11,000 comments so far.

Pundita said...

Wow. Thanks for the update, Anonymous.