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Showing posts with label Pakistan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pakistan. Show all posts

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Azeem Ibrahim, the Defence of Scotland – and the Scotland Institute. Part Three


I’ve taken two fairly long blogs to explain why I think the Scotland Institute is anything but “bi-partisan” (their description) and to speculate on what drives and influences Azeem Ibrahim.

Dr. Ibrahim has now responded to critics of his Defence and Security in an Independent Scotland paper by responding to six criticisms he says were made. These are not quite straw men set up to be knocked down – something like these points have been made by others, although the SNP response still remains – well, underwhelming. However, since I have not yet tackled the content of the paper itself, I now have the luxury of responding with the benefit of Azeem Ibrahim’s attempt at rebuttal.

Faced with Dr. Ibrahim’s degrees, intelligence, high-level contacts and friends, not to mention his stellar (which universe?) array of academics, titled personages, former defence secretaries and academics, do I feel inadequate in addressing this task?

Not a bit of it, because I come to it as a Scottish voter, a proud member of a unique group, the Scottish electorate, which at the end of the day – which will be September 18th 2014 – will evaluate all the stuff that has been thrown at them by polarised, and possibly well-remunerated(?) experts, then will decide the future of Scotland for generations, perhaps centuries. They are the jury who will listen to the witnesses and the competing ‘expert's’ from both sides, then will decide. And no judge can direct their verdict or overrule their decision.

This is democracy – the power of the people – something that Scotland and France virtually invented between them, and it scares the powerful shitless when it operates unintimidated and unencumbered. The UK’s flawed and partial democracy can’t blur the line and frustrate or fudge this one. If they try to, they will reap the whirlwind, and not just from Scotland.


I had always planned to start with Major-General Andrew Douglas Mackay CBE, Chair of the Panel of Experts, but on looking closely at his foreword, there is no real need to go further. (I have read the full paper several times very closely indeed.) Others better qualified than I can pick away at the detail, but since almost all of the flawed assumptions they rest on are contained in the General’s foreword, I see no need, as a voter, to go beyond them.

As can be seen from his Wikipedia entry, the General is a brave, capable, widely-experienced Scot, and deserves to be honoured for what he has done and achieved. (I just wish it had not been by the British Establishment, but that’s how the system works.)

He is also, de facto, a loyal member of that British Establishment and one major purpose of such honours is to cement him into that establishment and its values, which do not include the independence of Scotland.

Let me pick quotes from his foreword to the Scotland Institute report.

I approached this task with a full understanding of how political, public and emotive an issue this might be and sought to ensure that the report’s analysis would be bi-partisan.”

Even I would have expected to get well into the report before finding evidence that the General’s aim had not been achieved. But consider this from the foreword itself.

“… the evidence and conclusions weigh heavily on retaining the Union to safeguard our collective security.”

There’s nothing like cutting to the chase, General, as a no-nonsense military man should! We’re only in the third paragraph of the foreword and already we know the purpose and the desired outcome.  It’s not about defence and security in an independent Scotland, it’s about the collective security of the UK as an entity and whether or not the Union should be retained to serve that purpose.

The Scottish electorate don’t really need to actually read the report – the message, decoded,  is here, in para 3 of the foreword – don’t vote for independence, it threatens the UK’s defence and security policy!

Now we’ve got that sorted out, we can forget all the constitutional, economic and social aspects of Scotland’s independence, not mention the historical and cultural aspects, and we can forget any question of the morality of nuclear weapons of mass destruction or criticisms or the shackling of UK defence policy to right-wing neocon US foreign policy that led to the 12-year folly of Afghanistan (and its current ignominious approaching end) and the crime of Iraq, the death, destruction and destabilisation of the entire Middle East.

Just don’t vote for independence, Scotland,  because a group of politicians old and new, academics and military men, embedded in the system, feel you must “to safeguard our collective security.” Note that use of “our” – it does not refer to Scotland, it refers to the Union that has rewarded many of them so handsomely.

After a paragraph celebrating his Scottishness, the Scots as a “warrior race” and a recognition of the disproportionate contribution to the UK armed forces – but not of their disproportionate sacrifice in blood and death to the Union (it could have been written by Sir Walter Scott in his most fawning-to-King-and-empire style) - the General goes on for another few paragraphs with some history and some current harsh realities, namely that the UK sadly can no longer afford its pretensions as a global power and its ridiculously inflated defence budget (4th largest in the world).

Then he comes to this …

“It is of course highly unlikely that Scotland will ever come under existential threat of invasion or subjection.”

Given that guarding against “existential threat of invasion or subjection” is the primary purpose of the defence forces and defence policy of any nation, the General has to move swiftly to qualify this frank, factual admission which, if left to stand, would lead inevitably to the conclusion that an independent Scotland would be more than capable of discharging that primary responsibility to its citizens.

He does this by trotting out “the list of tasks in a world of hybrid conflict and multiple threats”, i.e. the list of either deeply wrongheaded or blatantly imperialistic involvements that got the US under Bush and his subservient partner, the UK under Blair and Brown into such deep doo-doo – the USA’s idea of itself as global policeman (which Obama is trying to distance himself from in face of screams of pain and outrage from the Republican right and military/industrial complex who profit handsomely from it) and Britain’s attempts to pretend it is still a global Empire, masking naked greed and exploitation of other nations and peoples as noblesse oblige.

In a nutshell, the General is acknowledging that Scotland could perfectly well defend itself – and do more – but he wants to keep it shackled to this failed and destructive global role and policy under the Union.

There is also the little matter that virtually all of the terror threats were brought to Britain by US/UK foreign policy and Iraq and Afghanistan – as acknowledged by a former UK Intelligence High Heid Yin.

Of course, in his penultimate paragraph, the General trots out the familiar defence-as-job-creation-scheme arguments that UK uses to blackmail Scotland’s voters, and the report later uses the grossly inflated estimates that usually accompany such nonsense. Perhaps he wants us to emulate Pakistan’s grossly inflated military and defence budget? (Azeem Ibrahim is especially well-placed to comments on that, as policy advisor to Pakistan’s Prime Minister in waiting, Imran Khan.)

The Generals’ last two sentences sum it all up -

It is easy to argue from within the comfort of a nearly 300 year-old union that an independent Scotland would only require a small fighting force. It is not likely to be so comfortable after you have jettisoned your allies and you are on your own.”

The “nearly 300 year –old union” is a 306 year-old union, General, and it is anything but comfortable for a very large number of less privileged Scots than you, Azeem Ibrahim or your mainly rich contributors, who have profited nicely from it.

Independent Scotland has no intention of “jettisoning its allies” and it hopes to retain rUK as an ally, while remaining in the EU and exploring development of new alliances with the Northern countries. But it does not intend to be dragged along behind a failed and incompetent MOD and Foreign Office and an endless succession of Governments it didn’t vote for, financing their follies past and to come with, to use your favourite phrase, its “blood and treasure” – the blood and treasure of the Scottish people.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Azeem Ibrahim, the Defence of Scotland – and the Scotland Institute. Part Two

A question I can answer easily –

Has Azeem Ibrahim the right to use his formidable intellect and business acumen to contribute to the Referendum Debate?

Answer: Undoubtedly, yes.

Two questions I can’t answer so easily –

Has Azeem Ibrahim the right to use his wealth to contribute to the debate?

Does Azeem Ibrahim believe he is neutral – or undecided - in the debate or is he committed to YES or No?

Answering them is complicated by the fact that the questions are inter-related, and in the timescale for the referendum, subject to legal constraint. He is free within any relevant legal constraint to donate to political parties that reflect his position on YES/NO, if indeed he has one.

If he has no position or is truly undecided, or wishes to remain neutral despite holding a specific position, he is free to donate to all parties, and to both the YES and No campaigns, again within any relevant legal constraints.

What I would argue is that no person is free to present themselves as neutral, to invest substantial resources which they claims are to facilitate and inform the debate, while in reality holding a preferred position and loading the dice heavily in favour of one side or the other. To do that would be to try to deceive the electorate and to circumvent the electoral law.

Has Azeem Ibrahim done this? Would he do such a thing consciously? I have no means of definitively answering the first question, because in a rapidly polarising debate in which I am highly partisan as a YES, my perceptions are inevitably coloured by my position, as would be those of any but the most heroically objective of YES voters.

But I do have an opinion on the second part of that – I do not believe he would do such a thing consciously or deliberately, because I believe on all the evidence of what I think I now know of the man that he is ethical, brave (no one can be a reservist in IVth Para without being brave!) a caring humanitarian, and that he truly has the interests of Scotland and Scotland’s people at heart. He had – and still has – the potential to make a major positive contribution to the referendum debate.

Yet I am left with the fact that, on everything I have seen and heard, in my perception the Scotland Institute is, to all intents and purposes, part of the NO campaign, from its launch through to Monday’s media launch of the  Defence and Security paper, indeed it could almost be an extension of Ian Davidson MP’s Scottish Affairs Committee, which under the label of an objective UK Parliamentary committee, is openly partisan under a partisan Chair against what it calls the Separation of Scotland.

How can two such apparently contradictory beliefs of mine be reconciled?

The answer I believe lies in grand narratives, and I believe that Azeem Ibrahim, as he moved from being a successful businessman and financial entrepreneur and used his exceptional analytical powers to consider national and international politics, was swept into and ultimately seduced by the failed narratives of the US/UK/NATO military/industrial complex, and absorbed their flawed and dangerous values by a process of osmosis. I will go further, and say that exactly the same thing has happened to many academics and experts in the fields of strategic studies, international relations, departments of War studies, interagency, international security studies, etc. with the key difference that Dr. Ibrahim is rich enough to be immune to career and financial pressures.

Dr. Ibrahim is now Adjunct Research Professor at the Strategic Institute, and the US Army War College, served as an International Security Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and has recently been appointed as policy advisor to Imran Khan, the PM-in waiting of Pakistan – a nuclear state.

One might think Scotland was small beer in such exalted circles, but of course because of its strategic position as the postern gate of Europe and NATO’s crucial nuclear base, its possible independence and non-nuclear status, the removal of Trident WMD from Scotland and the consequential real possibility that rUK would be forced to abandon its nuclear deterrent,  the organisations and countries listed above - in which Dr. Ibrahim plays a significant role - are anything but neutral about Scotland’s referendum.

At the very least, I believe Azeem Ibrahim is influenced subliminally by them, by their positions and attitudes, and may even have assimilated their values and world view to the point that his is indistinguishable from theirs. In either case, his behaviour in deciding the Scotland Institute’s priorities and focus cannot in my view be neutral or wholly objective.

If he wants to end such a perception, then his path is clear – he should simply make large, legal and equivalent donations to both the Better Together Campaign and YES Scotland, and offer the benefits of his intellect and strategic perspective as a speaker at key events in both campaigns – and he should wind up the Scotland Institute and Scots Politics.

Alternatively, he can come out firmly for one campaign or the other – YES or NO – and throw his considerable talent and influence behind the one he chooses. If he makes such a choice, I would ask him to reflect on the choice made by a great man in 1947, Muhammad Ali Jinnah - محمد علی جناح - as he established the independence of Pakistan from India – and from the British Empire.

(My analysis of  the Defence and Security paper, planned for today or tomorrow, must be postponed in view of the length of this blog. My apologies!)