Monday, March 26, 2018

Melanie Phillips: West pays the price for its decades of folly

What’s that deafening noise of squawking and screeching and flapping that we can now hear all around us? Why, it’s the West’s chickens finally coming home to roost.

In Britain, a retired Russian spy and his daughter, Sergei and Yulia Skripal, remain critically ill in hospital after being poisoned earlier this month in the quiet cathedral city of Salisbury by a rare, military- grade and deadly nerve agent.

Skripal was a double agent who had worked for British intelligence. The poison used against him reportedly could only have been produced by Russia. Although there’s no conclusive proof of Kremlin involvement, Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May told Parliament the attack was an “unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the UK.”

In 2006, another former Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko, died after being poisoned in a London hotel by a rare, highly radioactive isotope – a murder that a British public inquiry decided was likely ordered by President Vladimir Putin himself.

There has been a subsequent string of suspicious deaths in Britain of Russians and others who may have fallen foul of the Kremlin – mysterious suicides, heart attacks while jogging, falls from buildings. Yet only now is Britain looking again at these bizarre coincidences.

It has been all too keen to host an influx of Russian oligarchs – some of them allies and some enemies of Putin – who moved to London, buying up British assets such as football clubs or newspapers, hosting fawning politicians on their yachts and bringing with them unimaginable wealth, including dirty money, on which the City of London has been happily floating.

So Britain allowed itself to become a kind of offshore island of the Russian mafia state. It was a case of never mind the gangsterism, just pocket the cash. Is it surprising, then, that Putin now curls his lip in contempt? The EU has said it will support Britain against Russia. Since the EU is hard-wired against confrontation, this is likely to cause Putin less discomfort than a pot of caviar past its sell-by date.


As for the once-mighty British lion, it is now a mangy and malnourished creature.
For Britain has run down its defenses to the point where military top brass say that in a confrontation with Russia, Britain would lose.

In 2011, it disbanded its Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Regiment which specialized in dealing with attacks like the one on the Skripals. In 2010 it shut down the Defense Ministry’s Advanced Research and Assessment Group which studied Russia.

It did all these things because the West believed the Cold War was over and the received wisdom was that no one believed in war anymore. Instead, the West would embrace “soft power” – conflict resolution, negotiation, peace processes.

In 2012, then-president Barack Obama sneered at presidential candidate Mitt Romney for exaggerating the Russian threat. “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years,” he scoffed.

Obama believed that rogue states and non-white individuals did terrible things to the West because of the terrible things the West had done to them. That’s why in 2009 he launched his “reset” with Russia to make nice with Putin. That’s why he empowered Iran through the shocking nuclear deal and turned a blind eye to Iranian expansion into Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

So Russia annexed Crimea, invaded eastern Ukraine, tried to disrupt the American presidential and other Western elections and systematically sowed confusion and chaos on social media and in foreign conflicts.

In Syria, according to a defector, Iran is building missiles with chemical warheads while Russia and Iran are using President Assad to expand their own power in the region.

The West’s soft-headed belief in soft power meant that – incredibly – it believed Russia when it said it had destroyed its chemical weapons arsenal. It believed the nuclear deal would bring the Iranian fanatics back into the fold. And it believed North Korea in 1994 when it promised to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

Having thus empowered these enemies of civilization, the West turned its fire instead upon Israel. It thought that throwing Israel to its mortal enemies would pacify the Muslim world. On the contrary – it encouraged the Islamists to seek not just more Israeli blood but Western blood too.

Iran and North Korea are now out of their box, China is on the march and Russia is out of control. And the person left holding the parcel as the music stops is Donald J. Trump.


Now Kim Jong-un has performed a stunning volte-face and invited Trump to face-to-face talks about denuclearization.

This sign of weakness by Kim is the result of Trump’s strategy of ramping up sanctions against Little Rocket Man’s regime, tightening the thumbscrews on its patron China and threatening to destroy North Korea altogether.

Of course, there’s every risk that Kim intends to repeat the Iran debacle by appearing to give ground while playing the US for suckers. Trump should therefore not be aiming for a deal over denuclearization at all. The only deal to be struck is over whether Kim leaves office voluntarily or as a result of the destruction of his nation through devastating sanctions or US missiles.

Maybe this meeting will never even happen. But by breaking with conventional geopolitical wisdom, Trump has achieved more on North Korea in just over one year of office than was achieved by all his predecessors put together.

He’s also been making the right noises over getting rid of the Iran deal; he’s told the Saudis they must reform; and who would ever have thought that Israeli officials would sit around the same table as their counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates as they did this week to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

By all conventional standards, Trump is the most unlikely individual anyone could have ever imagined getting to grips with all this. Which means he’s the most likely to do so.

Now that he’s appointed a secretary of state who’s on the same page, maybe there will be fewer contradictions in US foreign policy – provided Mike Pompeo can bring the State Department to heel, a Herculean challenge in itself.

But the scale of the lethal disarray caused by decades of conventional unwisdom may defeat them both. Not so much a chicken coop as the global Augean stables.

Melanie Phillips is a British journalist, broadcaster and author - you can follow her work on her website HERE


brian said...

Again “The March of Folly” circa Barbara Tuchmann.
Excellent article, it could be actually been taken from a 1930’s scenario, when the rise of Hitler/Mussolini and the menace of Communism mattered little to the public. Admittedly they had been appalled at the slaughter of World War 1; craved; and wished to believed naively in the concept that it was after all a “War to end all Wars”.
It is rightly namely Appeasement. In which Politicians avoid the hard decisions to ride a public wave of favour that all is right with our Planet.
Well the world has a true successor to President Ronald Reagan, much to the displeasure one has to admit of the Socialists/Democrats and Greens that inhabit our Media daily with their concentration on “humanitarian issues and demands” for extra monies for those “Democratic one party states in the third world.”
President Trump runs the USA as a business, which does not go down well with the ever expanding bureaucracy which now runs riot in Western Countries. It starts at the very top with the United Nations, followed closely by the E.U., (hence Brexit) the Washington swamp, and right here in New Zealand.
Melanie Phillips is quite right in our attitude towards Israel when openly the Muslim States would destroy us without a second thought if it was in their power. With Iran leading the charge, one can but wonder just how long it will be before some religious highly placed fanatic presses the button as the will of Allah?
Russia or rather Communism and China will be a menace now, and in the future and only leaders such as President Trump will succeeded in keeping this fragile peace. To quote a Communist “If you want Peace, prepare for War”.
Regretfully most of our Politicians play this game as a form of Russian roulette, and as history has shown down the ages it is impossible to beat the Bank!

Geoffrey said...

Keeping pace nicely with "Western" demilitarization, NZ is now reduced to being able to sustain the mid/long term deployment of a single reinforced Rifle Company.

Peter D said...

This is a very one sided article that has abandoned even the notion of critical thinking. Indeed it's an article in favour of Western domination of the entire world by force, the same thinking that has resulted in the destruction of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and swathes of Africa.
She sounds exactly like Madeleine Albright when she said that the deaths of 500K Iraqi children was "worth it".
Have a look on Wikipedia to find out who Melanie Phillips is and you'll soon understand why she writes what she does and for whom.

Dave said...

Agree that Trump is the first US President to stand up to little rocket man and now confronting Chinese on their takeover by stealth of the Western world financially. NZ is like most leftist western nations still with our heads in the sand pretending that if we all hold hands and 'talk' all conflicts will be resolved meanwhile the fanatics like rocket man, the Russians, Iran and China are full steam ahead in spending huge amounts on weapons... why?

Peter D said...

The country that leads the world in military spending by a considerable margin in the USA at well over US$800 billion.
Combine this with their huge arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the US$705 million given to Israel just recently for defense spending makes any other non western nation's spending look like a reasonable response to the US spend and stated US policy.
I remember the Vietnam war rhetoric when it was claimed that the communist tide was going to sweep over South East Asia unless they were stopped in Vietnam. Getting public support for it started with the false flag Gulf of Tonkin incident and we all know how it ended.
Now there are Western financed factories there.