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JImmy Carter Mk II

Will the Saudi embassy entertain Al-Qaeda dissidents aganst the Saudi regime ?

Will the British Ambassador in Moscow drink Polonium-210 tea with dissidents the FSB is hounding ?

Will the British Consulate in Islamabad host Kashmiri separatists ?

Will the British Consulate in South Africa host those opposed to the ANC, or in Zimbabwe those dissenting from Robert Mugabe ?

Good. Lets reclaim human rights from the left and their ambulance chasing lawyers.

Human rights means the right to make choices for oneself and ones family, not the right to be a burden on society as many on the left like to claim.

An interesting and well produced report. I'm very glad that it re emphasis the view that military action should only ever be used as a last resort.If the events of the last few years have proved anything it is that imposing our will through military force is (a)exceptionally difficult and (b)often leads to unintended consequences.
The idea of financing and promoting democracy movements is a good one 'though if handled with skill.
Not too sure about the idea of creating yet another minister.As Conservatives shouldn't we be looking to reduce them? If that leads to existing ministers having to make difficult choices,well isn't that what being in government is about?

I had many doubts about William Hague in the Shadow Cabinet. I would have preferred Malcolm Rifkind who speaks so well on Iraq.

BUT Hague has done an admirable job and I welcome this report. Human rights are incredibly important and Hague is putting them where they should be - at the centre of a liberal Conservative foreign policy.

I would have liked to go to the report launch, but my 5-year old's starring role as 6th narrator in his nativity play was a more compelling fixture. I am delighted to see that this Liam Fox-launched commission is continuing to prosper.

I share Malcolm's concern about appointing another minister though. The danger is that, if one minister is responsible, the others can go easy on or even ignore this.

Instead I would prefer to see an unequivocal commitment to democracy & human rights at the very top of the Foreign Office's mission statment (currently "The purpose of the FCO is to work for UK interests in a safe, just and prosperous world. We do this with some 16,000 staff, based in the UK and our overseas network of over 200 diplomatic offices."). Similarly with DfID ("leading the British government’s fight against world poverty").

We need recognition throughout the apparatus of government that promoting freedom, democracy good governance & the rule of law are integral to the furtherance of UK interests & fighting world poverty. Indeed, without that recognition it is difficult to see how sustainable long-term progress can be made. Unless we do this, everything else is about reactive symptom control.

Quick! Invade the Maldives, that will increase Army recruitment!

Sam, what does the table in your post indicate?

Where is the UK in this league table? According to the European Commission on Human Rights, the UK is the worst violator with Italy coming second. It is based on those cases judged by the European Court of Human Rights. The UK has twice as many violations found against it compared with Italy. Moreover, the Joint Committee on Human Rights in its 13th Report lists 50 cases in which the UK has failed to remedy its human rights violations under its obligation to the European Convention.

Daniel, I indicated higher up the article that it was the overall rankings. If you check out the report there are also rankings specifically for the worst violators of: freedoms, the rule of law, and human rights.

John, this league table only covers 18 countries that the Commission is currently specialising in.

You would do well to make a distinction between the human rights discussed in this report and the trivial "rights" the ECHR seems to preoccupy itself with. The latter have caused many Conservatives to still be turned off by talk of "human rights" even though this report is about important issues such as violent persecution against political opposition.

"Daniel, I indicated higher up the article that it was the overall rankings. If you check out the report there are also rankings specifically for the worst violators of: freedoms, the rule of law, and human rights."

Oops, will pay closer attention in future!

Dictators do not make the best allies. Where does that leave China and Pakistan then?

How often the ECHR finds against a government is absolutely no indicator of the state of human rights in a European country.

Apologies in advance for the length of this post but I don't think I have been this annoyed for a long time. Firstly, the list of countries on the watch list appears to be a group of minor countries who need us more than we need them (the absence of Russia (with the exception of Chechnya), China (with the exception of Nepal), Pakistan, Poland (treatment of Roma), Columbia, Brazil, I could go on and on). How does this provide a coherent outlook?

Secondly, the idea that you can assign morality to foreign policy annoys me intensely (but let me first admit to belonging firmly in the classical realist school of thought). Foreign policy is about managing the interests of your country to maximum effect with the absence of emotion (always has been always will be). We are moving towards a period of intense global competition for limited resources which inevitably necessitates having to deal with some unsavoury characters if we as a country require resources that they possess. If you accept as I do that countries are sovereign then you also accept that the internal workings of these countries are not open to external intervention (as defined by the Treaty of Westphalia).

Morality is the one thing that cannot exist in foreign affairs and it is incredibly frustrating that our politicians continually attempt to inject it into an amoral environment. To those who disagree with me I welcome your comments but first request that you think about the following statement. "Make it a requirement and objective for diplomats and embassies to support dissident groups against rogue governments". Then ask yourself whether this legitimises Iranian and Syrian support for terrorist groups abroad? After all they would be undertaking the same actions that Hague suggest our own diplomats undertake it’s just a question of perspective.

Deputy Editor: I don't think that the European Convention deals with trivial rights, the right to life, the right to liberty, the right to be free from torture. Perhaps this is why these violations occur because they are trivialised in some people's minds?

Sean Fear: I think it is a good indicator. The problem is that the Committee of Ministers does not appear to have the teeth of an effective watchdog. And, the Joint Committee on Human Rights can only report to the violators which is rather pointless.

Agree with you completely anon 13:42

the UK is the worst violator with Italy coming second.

Most Italian cases relate to the inordinate delays in bringing cases to trial, and the failure of Italian authorities to implement judgments of the ECHR..............in fact it is a topic for the European Council of Ministers to take action against Italy for non-compliance with judgments of The Court

"anon", I'm sorry if this wasn't clear without reading the report itself but the chosen 18 countries aren't meant to form a coherent outlook per se as they are not meant to represent the top 18 worst offenders in the world. The 18 were chosen for a mixture of reasons - countries which were thought needed more attention and those that HRC members have expertise on were first in the queue. Rankings will be much more useful next year when they are compared to this year's.

Whilst fully supporting the primacy of the nation state I believe that your notion of national interest is out-dated. My theoretical thinking is this...

More than ever before what happens on one side of the world has knock-on effects on the other - what goes around comes around.

It is entirely in our interests to live in an as peaceful and prosperous world as possible. The more democratic states there are, the more likely it is we will have reliable and less agressive partners as allies in the fight against terrorism/ drugs/ organised crime/ human trafficking etc. I'm being simplistic to be concise, but you get the gist of the principle.

If we help another nation up when it's down then they will be more inclined to help us in the future when we are down. I see the nations of the world as a melting pot, a community not a competition.

If you're the type of Conservative who beliefs in little other than survival of the fittest, we're not going to agree on this because we have a different worldview.

I see the world similar to that of a highly decentralised nation of 193 people (I'm including Taiwan but not Vatican City). I respect and value the freedom those people have over their actions, but I also believe they have a moral imperative to help eachother.

Deputy Editor thank you for taking time out to respond. Whilst I am not a believer in the 'survival of the fittest' neo-conservative sense, I do accept that national and international politics are perhaps two separate beasts and need to be treated accordingly.

The benefits of the theoretical notion of helping another nation whilst it is on the way up are well placed but let’s look at a current example. Nuclear power is a clean and efficient source of energy. The Iranian government would like to develop this technology as it has would meet its future energy requirements. Do we as a developed nuclear power share our knowledge and expertise with Iran on the assumption that they will use this knowledge as intended?

Following your theoretical statement then the answer is not only would we, but we are obliged to do so. The assumption is that by doing so we assume that the Iranians would utilise the knowledge for good (i.e. nuclear energy) and not for bad (i.e. nuclear weapons).

Anon, I recommend that you have a read of Stephen Krasner's Sovereignty: Organized Hypocrisy (sic) if you get the chance.

The normative value of sovereignty (in the 'Westphalian' sense) has always been overstated in relation to its observance in practice, and other norms like human and minority rights have long overridden adherence to the principle of Westphalian sovereignty at the convenience of key actors in international politics.

Daniel VA you are of course quite correct, Sovereignty is one of those philosophical terms used to cover a grey area.

As Mao Tse-Tung used to say Political power comes from the barrel of a gun and it is the ability to control territory against internal and external threats that defines sovereignty. The power to fight and win.

Denmark and Norway both had sovereignty until German troops invaded, then it was a legal fiction as governments in exile relied upon Bomber Command to enforce their claims.

Conversely a Government may give its claim to sovereignty away to a foreign power, but if its People considers itself to be sovereign the government is simply acting without sovereign authority and cannot control.

Serbian Sovereignty over Kosovo was destroyed by the US and UK and Germany which proposed at Rambouillet to destroy Serbian Sovereignty over Serbia itself........

Britain is no longer a sovereign state - it cannot enforce its border controls, it cannot enforce its own language, it cannot enforce its own laws, it cannot eject foreigners who breach its laws.................it is in fact a non-state.

In time it may evolve into a Russian-style state with wealthy bosses aligned with the ruling party and repression to control the rest of the populace. In fact I think Russia is probably the future of Europe as a whole

I think it should be a policy aim to promote liberty and the rule of law overseas, although this can't be an absolute. I would prefer to avoid the hypocrisy where we pretend that some evil regimes aren't so bad because they're our allies, and exaggerate the evil of others because they're our enemies.

Also, and this is important, we should avoid thinking of ourselves as in some Olympian position where we can act upon others without being affected in turn. The legitimacy and coherence of the nation state is declining all around the world. I believe the great crisis of the 21st century will be the struggle not to impose universal human rights everywhere, but to maintain order and civilisation anywhere. It is a struggle between law and chaos, and chaos so far has been making all the running.

The more we involve ourselves in sources of disorder such as the middle east, the more we bring that disorder upon ourselves.

"Britain is no longer a sovereign state - it cannot enforce its border controls, it cannot enforce its own language, it cannot enforce its own laws, it cannot eject foreigners who breach its laws.................it is in fact a non-state."

While this is a slight exaggeration, I agree with the point. The EU is deliberately destroying the legitimacy and coherence of the European nation states in its pursuit of a pan-European empire. It is destroying what were generally functioning sources of order, and as yet is putting very little in their place. The situation is more mixed in the post-fascist Mediterranean states (Portugal, Spain, Greece) and post-communist eastern Europe, but certainly it is profoundly harmful to what had been functioning rule-of-law democracies in northern Europe - for Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark it has been disastrous.
If the world in 2050 resembles Mark Steyn's dire predictions of America Alone, the EU will have been in large part responsible.

Daniel VA I will obtain a copy of the text that you recommend. I do not dispute that the concept of sovereignty is a flexible tool to be utilised when it suits ones political ends. My objection is and continues to be the idea that you can somehow assign morality in what is an amoral environment. This is what a number of British Governments have attempted to do (and indeed Hague himself appears to be attempting to do once more).

Whilst the concept of an ethical foreign policy is a wonderful idea, it is my assertion that it is not workable in practice. If you look at the Deputy Editors stance based on morality then the response to my question regarding the Iranian nuclear debate would have to be (and this is a based on adhering to the theoretical construct was outlined) that we would undertake to help the Iranians. In fact if you follow this thought process to its logical end we would provide everyone with nuclear energy and the ability to make nuclear weapons as this would create a lower level of global instability since all actors would be able to destroy one another. This would be the moral choice (but such a conversation inevitably leads to interesting discussions as concepts of what is moral vary for person to person).

It is for this reason why a moral approach to international relations is almost impossible since at some point the actors end up faced with the Prisoners Dilemma in which the best response is always to optimise ones own chances and damn the consequences for everyone else.

Tom Tom, I am not certain I share your future shape of Western Europe. The inevitable competition for scarce resources amongst states will no doubt weaken those already weakening ties within the EU. In addition to this we should remember that the generation who remember the reasons for the EU's existence in the first place are becoming less influential. However, the impact of globalisation of the concept of statehood has been phenomenal and severely eroded the traditional power base, but the concept of the super-corporation has yet to materialise. That is not to say that it might not happen but I would suggest it remains doubtful. However, stranger things have happened.

John Hirst:
"Deputy Editor: I don't think that the European Convention deals with trivial rights, the right to life, the right to liberty, the right to be free from torture..."

The rights stated in the ECHR are entirely unremarakable from a British perspective and had been fully protected here for nearly 300 years when the convention was created, since the early 18th century. The problem is that there is a European Court of Human Rights which interprets those rights in such a way as to expand its own powers and force social engineering on the Convention states in line with the political goals of the appointees. The US Supreme Court does the same thing. And in recent years the UK judiciary have been even more extreme than the European Court itself; as in the case over whether a school could ban a student from wearing the jilbab as part of its uniform policy.

Looking at the report's recommendations above, it looks like the aim is to entrench neoconservative intervensionism as the guiding principle of UK foreign policy. While this is likely to be popular with the Jacobins of both left and right, I don't think it's a good idea.

Simon I agree with you and share you concerns about the idea that somehow we are "Olympian" and can export our ideas without being impacted in turn. I am not certain that I agree with you that the importance of the nation state is diminishing. In fact one of the outcomes of globalisation has been to bring about the rise of nationalistic ideas around the globe. The current state boundaries might be under threat but I remain to be convinced that the state model is yet to disappear.

but the concept of the super-corporation has yet to materialise.

Gazprom is to Russia what The East India Company would have been had it survived beyond 1856; Jardine-Matheson would have become; and which Standard Oil, Duke Tobacco, The DuPont Family & General Motors; IBM or US STeel might have become had the Trustbusters not succeeded................in the case of Russia the threat of Gazprom taking over BASF, GEA, or other major corporations may be enough to lead to acceptable mergers in The West between Shell and BP to produce super monoliths under State patronage

Doesn't it depend on how we export our ideas? There is a big difference between invading any states which are run by tyrannical dictators and imposing our will by force or supporting democracy movements with finance and propoganda expertise and if the situation is really desperate, (Darfur) with arms.

"In fact one of the outcomes of globalisation has been to bring about the rise of nationalistic ideas around the globe"

I think globalisation has helped undermine the concept of the trans-ethnic* sovereign nation state that had existed since the 1648 Peace of Westphalia. Instead we are seeing a rise in ethnic and religious nationalism - ius sanguinis (law of blood) rather than ius solis (law of soil).

*More accurately, the Westphalian state was typically neither multicultural nor mono-ethnic, but rather had a single central culture with room for other minority cultures whose citizens still participated fully in the life of the state.

"and if the situation is really desperate, (Darfur) with arms."

I haven't seen any evidence that the Darfur rebels are liberal democrats? Their main difference with the Islamist government in Khartoum seems to be racial-ethnic, that they are 'black' rather than 'Arab' in Sudanese terms. It seems to be a common fallacy to ascribe virtues to people we see as victims - "They're the victims, so they must be the good guys, so they must be democrats!" I'm always amazed by how many people think Poland in 1939 was a liberal democracy, applying this same reasoning, rather than the military dictatorship it actually was.

Tom Tom - I do not dispute that Gazprom is moving rapidly to becoming the East India Company of today. When I referenced the super-corporation I was referring to the idea that has been mooted by some that we might eventually see a Corporation would take over weakened nation state for its own purposes. I agree with you that we are likely to see the rise of new "national champions" of some sort to compete with state backed companies from Russia and China.

Malcolm - It cannot depend on our ideas as these are based on our specific worldview. For example the Syrian worldview is that it is acceptable to meddle in the Lebanon. Our worldview is that this is not appropriate. Who is right? Why are they right or wrong? Essentially comes down to who decides and why. The issue here is that you quickly move into a moral discussion which I argue is not applicable in an amoral environment. Simon Newham is correct that we need to move away from a good-bad perspective since this is neither helpful to any party since it frequently ascribes non-existent virtues to people who do not necessarily deserve them.

Simon - I failed to make myself clear and apologise for not doing so. When I was talking about nationalism I was referring to the concept of ius sanguinis rather than ius solis. You are also correct to note the rise in religious extremism of all sorts as people react to elements that are seen as being beyond their control.

Sorry anon, I don't understand you.Do you believe it wrong for Britain to argue its 'worldview' case around the world? If so anyone, anywhere, could do anything, and our only response could be 'not my problem,guv'. I sincerely doubt the British people would thank us for that nor stand for it.

Malcolm I don't dispute that Britain should argue its worldview globally. In fact I would argue that it should do whatever is necessary to promote and secure its position, and if interfering in Darfur was beneficial to our interests then so be it. However, what does sit uncomfortably for me is that idea that we should somehow morally justify our actions. My position is that if it is in our interest then we pursue it, and if it is not then we do not.

This is no different to the position adopted by many growing regimes (China, Russia, and India) that are looking to secure competitive advantage as opposed to concerning themselves with whether something is morally acceptable or whether we have an obligation do something.

The problem for many is that this boils down to an argument as to whether it is acceptable to ignore the potential to benefit the many in preference to the benefit of the few. Classical Realists would accept this position since the ends justify the means, and is supported by the assertion that from a Hobbesian perspective live outside of an organised structure (such as the state) is nasty, brutish, and short. However, others such as the Deputy Editor disagree with this perspective. This is not to say that my internal political outlook is anywhere near as strident, but merely that different environments require different methods of operation.

Still not sure I understand, you've lost me in the paragraph about Classic Realists etc.I'm with you on the fact that our foreign policy should enhance British interests but I also believe that this should have a moral perspective and that when Britain is able to do good in the world,it should.

Malcolm. I think it’s your last sentence where we disagree. I do not believe that our foreign policy should have a moral objective. It should focus on achieving whatever objective is necessary to enhance our current global position. If our actions result in our doing some good then in my eyes that is an added bonus, but if it does not then we should not get hung up about it, since that was never our intention in the first place.

Where I worry about introducing morality into our foreign policy objectives is that it results in skewed thought and detracts from our achieving our objectives (i.e. securing whatever is the best position for the UK), and can potentially undermine our competitive advantage.

Bentham, former honorary citizen of the French Republic, who in later years claimed to be a Tory (!) described Human Rights (or rather "The Rights of Man") as "nonsense on stilts"

He was 100% correct. Such "rights" are nothing more than privileges arbitrarily conferred by some or other political power, and if the "power" concerned is the UN it is not likely to be taken very seriously.

The fact that a real power such as China thumbs its nose at such fripperies underlines the absurdity of the concept.

The international liberal left and of course our American friends have been sanctimoniously banging on about this hypocritical globaloney for years. As has been pointed out, Carter was the worst.

A pity that Hague agreed to take part in yet another Cameron stunt but as with the EPP fiasco Cameron seems to be lining him up as a patsy.

I'm basically a Benthamite utilitarian, although I think there's a danger in Benthamism that people assume they possess more knowledge and competence than they really do, and discard long-standing evolved institutions in return for new designs that may turn out worse than what already existed. So I'd advocate humble Benthamism.

Rights-discourse is a great way to impose our beliefs on others, not so great when it turns around and bites us, the way the European Court of Human Rights and the HRA are doing now.

"Do you believe it wrong for Britain to argue its 'worldview' case around the world? "

I think Britain should argue its worldview and support liberty and the rule of law worldwide. That does nor extend to attacking other countries, though. The main thing is "first, do no harm" - I don't believe the USA had a moral duty to intervene to stop the Rwandan genocide, but I do believe France had a moral duty not to support and facilitate the Rwandan genocide! And the US government did have a moral duty not to lie & pretend that genocide wasn't occurring.

"I do not believe that our foreign policy should have a moral objective. It should focus on achieving whatever objective is necessary to enhance our current global position."

I think foreign policy's primary goal should be the safety & security of British citizens, primarily those citizens resident in the UK and British territories. This is different from enhancing the power of the British state vis-a-vis other countries, which is what "our global position" makes me think of, though the two may coincide.

I would agree with you Simon

I agree 100%.

If we have allies who are behaving in a tyrannical and oppressive manner it's entirely appropriate to bring discreet influence to bear, if only to avoid international embarrassment.

Not that we ever attempted to exercise such influence with our Commonwealth (remember that?) "partners", unless of course they happened to be white South Africans or Rhodesians.

Now with the emergence of China as an amoral superpower, with India and Russia brandishing a couple of figleaves in the background, the future for any "ethical" foreign policy which is other than a colossal monument to hypocrisy looks bleak indeed.

So I'd advocate humble Benthamism.

Surely, as a Frenchman once remarked of the concept of un gentilhomme François, the animal does not exist?

I've always been rather tickled by Bentham's advocacy of mock hangings as a stern deterrent which avoided the danger of executing an innocent man.

As Dostoyevsky was to discover, Bentham's disciple Nicholas I was a keen enthusiast.

Simon, you are correct in that our viewpoints coincide. My referencing to "our global position" is precisely that the role of the state is to undertake those actions necessary to ensure the safety and security of the British people.

Tory Loyalist:
"Surely, as a Frenchman once remarked of the concept of un gentilhomme François, the animal does not exist?"

Maybe it would be more accurate to say I'm a consequentialist - I think we should weigh up the likely real-world consequences of an action before taking it. Machiavelli's dictum that it's better to take a wrong decision than no decision may have some merit, but often "do nothing" is the right decision, eg Kennedy's decision not to attack Cuba during the missile crisis. I'm against the ideological approach which says "The decision was right, only the consequences were wrong!" - US foreign policy over Iraq is the obvious recent example, but it's usually totalitarian communist & fascist regimes that have provided the most egregious examples. If something is likely to have bad real-world consequences, don't do it, even if the action itself appears 'virtuous' - I'd put attacking Iran & sending troops to Darfur as current examples.

Current examples of ongoing 'virtuous' but bad-consequences policies include state financial support for single parents, the open-door asylum policy, and 'building democracy' in Iraq.

An example from history - Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union was, from a realist evaluation of the likely benefits and risks to the Third Reich, a very foolish thing to do, but he was impelled to do it by his 'Lebensraum' ideology and thus to ignore the reality that conflicted with the ideology.

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