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.
THE PAPER AND ITS CLAIMS
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.