7 arguments against war in Iraq and Syria

1. It won’t work – and is likely to backfire.

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“What’s the harm of bombing them at least for a few weeks and seeing what happens?” muses neoconservative William Kristol. The media debate follows similar lines. Yet in Libya, former MI6 head of counterterrorism Richard Barrett points out, “military intervention without a proper plan to follow up had all sorts of unintended consequences and led to chaos and instability.” “It’s just reaching for a hammer because it is a hammer and it’s to hand,” he adds. Airstrikes “have to have a very clear purpose and objective … I’m not sure we have that”. Instead, we seem to be engaging in “gesture politics”. Continue reading

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Out with the old: on the radical case for Scottish independence

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Historic barely begins to describe it. If Scotland today manages to pull off what we’re hoping it does, it will be despite the most relentless ruling-class mobilisation in recent memory. Support for independence is running at about one third in the UK, yet not a single paper has backed it, and nor has a single major political party. In Scotland, only a single paper backs independence. The BBC’s agenda is solidly affixed to Westminster’s unionist consensus; when a Scottish academic exposed this systemic bias recently, the Corporation contacted his employer to complain. The business lobby’s scaremongering has been spectacular – familiar from the banks’ empty threats against regulation, but far, far greater in scale and intensity. Continue reading

Rip it up and start again

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On Saturday, Britain’s leading liberal paper called for Washington to annex Scandinavia. It called for Russia to annex Venezuela and Bolivia. Neither call was explicit, of course; but the logical conclusion was inescapable. Securing social justice is “the core political task facing all western societies today,” the Guardian argued – plausibly enough – “and it is surely better done when risks and resources can be pooled across a larger population than a smaller one. It is thus a task better undertaken in a Britain that remains united”.

We hear this argument time and again from left advocates of a “no” vote: to ensure social justice we must preserve the creaking, archaic institutions of Britain’s central state. It is both disingenuous and blatantly false. The first reason is size: if the US absorbed Scandinavia, we would gain no social-democratic America; rather, the larger US would absorb and water down the developed world’s most progressive nations. The second, more fundamental reason is institutional: if Russia absorbed Bolivia or Venezuela, the former’s autocratic gangster capitalism would subsume the latter’s popular democracy. Continue reading

Seven Jewish Children: not Mein Kampf; still problematic

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A local theatre group will be performing Caryl Churchill’s short piece Seven Jewish Children: a play for Gaza in Aberystwyth this week. After the performance, the group will show a recorded debate that followed a production in Melbourne, along with a panel and audience discussion in which I’ll be taking part.

The play comprises seven parts. Each portrays a family discussing what to tell a Jewish child at a particular point in Jewish – and, later, Israeli – history. The time and place of respective scenes are not identified, but appear to occur during the Holocaust (or another period of persecution); in the wake of the Holocaust; during an aliyah to Israel; after the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine; in the immediate wake of the June 1967 war; in a period of occupation and colonial expansion following the war; and during the massacre in Gaza in 2008-9. No parts are identified in the play, and different performers can assign lines as they wish.

Below are some thoughts on the play, and on the public response to it. Continue reading