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April 04, 2010

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Ad

I've already given my views on the context of public opinion and how it affects foreign policy. I explained it in plain English as well as I am able to. The fact is that I and others disagree with you and want to discuss this subject, obviouslly including the blog author. Pretty much end of story DG.

DG

It was a reference to rain dancing, drawing a parallel between appeals to the supernatural and appeals to the government on matters of foreign policy.

When the desired effect occurs, whether it's rain or policy change, the supplicant concludes that it's been brought about by their actions.

Since I've done you the courtesy of clarifying my point, perhaps you could return the favour and clarify your points about how public opinion affects foreign policy, and what the public should do to ensure the changes they desire come about?

Ad

'I'm sorry Ad, but I see nothing in your argument except belief and hope - the most concrete thing you have is speculation on why Obama and Brown mention timetables for withdrawal occasionally.'

Make what you like of it DG. I'm not going to go into it again as I will just be repeating myself.

'By all means keep banging the drum though - when the rain finally comes, the tribe will be grateful.'

You've lost me there.

DG

I'm sorry Ad, but I see nothing in your argument except belief and hope - the most concrete thing you have is speculation on why Obama and Brown mention timetables for withdrawal occasionally.

By all means keep banging the drum though - when the rain finally comes, the tribe will be grateful.

Ad

DG I've given a detailed response to your line of argument already. I've explained why I think it is an important and worthwhile subject for discussion. I see no sense in repeating myself.

DG

It's all very well to believe that rousing public opinion could change the situation in Afghanistan, but I see no evidence that it would. Over a hundred thousand people marched against the Iraq war. It changed nothing. Plenty of MPs, in common with their constituents (see link), were against the Iraq war. It changed nothing.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/2240420.stm

I'd be interested to hear what actions you'd like the public to take to further your aims.

HuwOS

Yup, I remember when it was first reported, loads of people jumping to the defence of allied action, despite an Afghan inquiry that had already determined what had actually happened but you know how it is, always give the benefit of the doubt to those who have been lying and been caught at it, repeatedly for the last 9 years.

Ad

'I was under the impression that Starkey investigated the murder of 2 women, 2 men and a girl which the american troops then covered up.'

Yeah I read about that one. Apparently the two women were pregnant.

'Did he also investigate the boys and teenagers that were slaughtered, I don't think he did, the americans did eventually admit in February that none of those were anything other than civilians.'

A good question Huw. It seems to me after looking into this one that Starkey was reporting second hand reports rather than visiting the village in question. Still, deserving credit I think.

Nevertheless the incident itself and the subsequent NATO admission are clear.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/afghanistan/article7040166.ece

HuwOS

I was under the impression that Starkey investigated the murder of 2 women, 2 men and a girl which the american troops then covered up.

Did he also investigate the boys and teenagers that were slaughtered, I don't think he did, the americans did eventually admit in February that none of those were anything other than civilians.

Ad

I'm more disturbed by the idea of an Afghan village being raided in the night by Allied gunmen, 8 innocent children being dragged out of bed and executed, NATO saying that they where running a bomb factory, journalist Jerome Starkey deciding to go 'beyond the call of duty' and investigate, and NATO being forced to admit the children where entirely innocent.

There are other incidents too, the tragic reality of 'the war on terror'.

HuwOS

I hadn't looked at the video on wikileaks until just now.

http://wikileaks.org/

What can be said.

I agree with DG that little is likely to happen ever, until the general public start to take some responsibility and demand it of their representatives.
I agree with Ad that the only way that will happen is if people who do care keep banging on about it.

Ad

Of course the system is not perfect. I agree with you that things would improve if the voting system was reformed. But I don't agree that foreign policy is invulnerable to criticism and questioning by fellow MPs, the media and the general public.

Decisions on troop increases have been taken with consideration of public opinion and reaction. Military and civilian casualties also affect government policy, largely because of the spikes in public resentment which occur. There is a line which the government has to tread both in the UK and the allied countries so as to not risk a large rise in public opposition. When there is a rise in troop numbers or casualties the government will invariably take the opportunity to emphasise its reasons for doing so, typically emphasising ‘the UK national security imperative’.

Another example is the noises made about exit strategies and timetables by Obama and Brown. Why did they do this? Because of growing war weariness and criticisms of the occupation amongst other factors.

One would also hope that good ideas and good sense will prevail, whether that comes from the governments fellow MPs, the media or organisations such as the Stop the War Coalition.

I think you underestimate public feeling on this issue. It is an important issue to a great many people. It is also only relatively recently that public support has been falling away considerably for this occupation.

Unfortunately parliament and the media sometimes only give attention to the issue of troop equipment because that has become a point of contention between the government and opposition. But that is not to say there are not strong opinions and an interest in the occupation generally. In what has become a long, bogged-down and bloody conflict the objectives and futility of the occupation have become increasingly scrutinised by the media and the public over the last year or two

It is important to discuss and evaluate the important questions on Afghanistan. Or are we supposed to just listen to what the government and military says and keep our mouths closed?

I believe the government (on foreign policy) IS affected by their fellow MPs, the media and general public opinion. I also believe this subject IS a very important one. I also believe it IS worthwhile and necessary to discuss this subject and reach informed conclusions.

Having stated your opinions, perhaps you should leave future discussions on this subject to those people who are interested in it.

DG

I don't know why it [foreign policy] should be any different, Ad. But given that policy decisions in this area seem to made independently of public opinion, and other areas of policy are formed with focus groups and an hawk-like eye on the opinion polls, I don't think it's an outlandish conclusion.

Speculating on people's motives doesn't add to the discussion.

Ad

'Because the government are persuadable by criticism and questioning in other policy areas, as you say above.'

Well I believe that includes this issue too, why should it be different? I know you happen to have a different opinion on Afghanistan anyway, but I don't see why you attempt to single this issue out as not worth discussing. Perhaps because YOU are not interested you want others to leave it alone is that it? Well it doesn't matter DG because I and others think this subject is a very important one and will continue to believe that despite your incoherent attempts to dismiss it.

DG

"Why discuss any subject on which the government and opposition front bench are in agreement then?"

Because the government are persuadable by criticism and questioning in other policy areas, as you say above.

Ad

Why discuss any subject on which the government and opposition front bench are in agreement then? Lets just discuss the issues where they are not in agreement because everything else is a complete waste of time?

DG

That's a good argument, but I don't think whoever pulls the foreign policy strings in the UK is bothered about the democratic reaction, especially since both the main parties are singing from the same hymn sheet. You can't assume responsibility without power and, as the Iraq war demonstrated, the voters are powerless in this area. Electoral reform would probably help.

The situation in European countries like France, Germany and the Netherlands is different, again illustrated by Iraq.

I'm interested to know what strategy the CIA proposes to prevent the collapse of support in Europe (will read the doc later). Hopefully it involves casualty limitation rather than European regime change!

Ad

I disagree. There is only so much criticism and questioning a government can take from fellow MPs, the media and the general public before it either has to change its position to a logical and justifiable one or suffers a democratic reaction.

Nevertheless, it is still wrong to say 'this shouldn't be discussed at all, lets move on and ignore it' etc.

I read a summary of a CIA document leaked to Wikileaks, I'll quote a couple of sentences from the linked article:

'the CIA has put together a strategy proposal to prevent what it fears could be a "precipitous" collapse of support for the war in Afghanistan among European allies.'

"The fall of the Dutch Government over its troop commitment to Afghanistan demonstrates the fragility of European support for the NATO-led ISAF mission," the document states. "Some NATO states, notably France and Germany, have counted on public apathy about Afghanistan to increase their contributions to the mission, but indifference might turn into active hostility if spring and summer fighting results in an upsurge in military or Afghan civilian casualties."

http://uruknet.com/index.php?p=m64569&hd=&size=1&l=e


DG

Public opinion did nothing to stop the war in Iraq, why would it change policy in Afghanistan? It's not apathy, it's realism. Neither the public nor backbench MPs like Paul have any say in foreign policy - it's pre-decided at top level and then packaged up in whatever PR wrapping fits the current narrative.

Ad

'Ad, I don't change the subject as I think we should never have gone into Iraq or Afghanistan.'

To sum up your earlier post 'Afghanistan unfortunately is not high up on most people's agenda unlike national insurance contributions and the general election', which is what your post proceeded to discuss. All well and good Tony but that is called changing the subject.

'The stuff I get from Amnesty shows many many civilian deaths as part of these wars.'

The reports by Jerome Starkey in the Times and the charity Save the Children are a couple of recent stories which show the figures for NATO's contribution to civilian deaths is understated.

'But you tell me which of the parties likely to win this election are going to pull us out? None.. the Lib Dems will do a deal on this and the Labour/Tory consensus will continue .. so its not like I have much of a choice so I rtry and focus on what minimal differences their are'

So change the subject to national insurance etc. because there is no point discussing Afghanistan? Well there is Tony. The likes of Paul Flynn can challenge the government and question them as can the likes of journalist Jerome Starkey. A public opinion as dismissive and apathetic as yourself will no doubt ensure that the 'Labour/Tory consensus' will not be challenged or criticised.

Tony

Ad, I don't change the subject as I think we should never have gone into Iraq or Afghanistan. My point is that people just don't seem to think of it in those terms.
The stuff I get from Amnesty shows many many civilian deaths as part of these wars.
But you tell me which of the parties likely to win this election are going to pull us out? None.. the Lib Dems will do a deal on this and the Labour/Tory consensus will continue .. so its not like I have much of a choice so I rtry and focus on what minimal differences their are

Kay Tie

"The Tories cruel and cynical exploitation of fear of cancer"

Is your synthetic outrage about the cruelty, the cynicism, or that you didn't think of it first? Because the Tories have no monopoly on such games. The difference is that your lots have their hands in the public coffers and are quite happy to blow hundreds of millions on buying votes in marginals.

Ad

'the death rates are not enough to raise it up the agenda of most people and its being fought a long way from here ..sad , but true '

So you helpfully change the subject when it does arise?

And who knows about the death rates? The numbers are higher than we are led to believe for civilians. NATO has long been obfuscating and tampering with evidence to cover up the civilian deaths it is responsible for. A series or reports in the Times by Jerome Starkey have caught out NATO. For example:

'December 26th, 2009: US-led forces, (whether soldiers or "security contractors" (mercenaries) is still uncertain), raided a home in Kunar Province and pulled eight young men out of their beds, handcuffed them, and gunned them down execution-style. The Pentagon initially reported that the victims had been running a bomb factory, although distraught villagers were willing to swear that the victims, youngsters, aged 11 – 18, were just seven normal schoolboys and one shepherd boy. Following courageous reporting by Jerome Starkey, the U.S. military carried out its own investigation and on February 24th, 2010, issued an apology, attesting the boys’ innocence.'

If Starkey hadn't refused to take NATO’s word and gone and investigated the incident this would never have come to light.

Furthermore the inadequate provision for those routinely displaced by NATO operations leads to deaths through exposure and malnutrition.

'According to a March 3, 2010 Save the Children report, "The world is ignoring the daily deaths of more than 850 Afghan children from treatable diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia, focusing on fighting the insurgency rather than providing humanitarian aid." The report notes that a quarter of all children born in the country die before the age of five, while nearly 60 percent of children are malnourished and suffer physical or mental problems. The UN Human Development Index in 2009 says that Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, second only to Niger in sub-Saharan Africa.'

http://counterpunch.org/kelly03302010.html

Kay Tie

Makes a change from Che T-shirts. At least Gordon Brown isn't responsible for many deaths. Except our troops. And Afghan civilians. And Iraqi civilians. Hmmmn.

Tony

Mind you I did like the t-shirts in the Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/competition/2010/apr/03/poshboy

Tony

I really do appreciate the comments regarding the foreign wars ..BUT.. the death rates are not enough to raise it up the agenda of most people and its being fought a long way from here ..sad , but true

The majority of people are more interested in the job prospects they have in the next year and which of the patheon of heros we are being offered at election time will help them keep that job .. and raising NIC's does not seem to be a positive move I have to say ..

And why are Labour behaving like an opposition party in this election so far ?- the Tories, like it or not, are setting the discussion agenda and Labour seems to be on the back foot most of the time. There are some good things to report on 13 years in office - so might be worth mentioning those (there is some truly awful things but hey, you can't win 'em all)

Interesting point though is when asked about the election (could you call it and just get it done please ..) and voting intentions, well over half the people are not sure about the Tories but seem quite sure they don't want 5 more years of Brown ..

rwendland

Paul, have you read this Newsweek article about Afghan police training? Backs up what you have been saying:

http://www.newsweek.com/id/235221

Here are some quotes that caught my eye.

"crooked Afghan cops supply much of the ammunition used by the Taliban, according to Saleh Mohammed, an insurgent commander"

"America has spent more than $6 billion since 2002 in an effort to create an effective Afghan police force"

Lt. Gen. William Caldwell,: "You constantly hear these stories about who was worse: the Afghan police that were there or the Taliban."

"Our recruits are unemployed youth with no education and no prospects," says Police Col. Mohammad Hashim Babakarkhil ... Only the Interior Ministry can flunk a candidate, and that rarely happens.

Americans are only now in the process of trying to create a database that will positively identify and track recruits. Without such data, it's more than difficult to catch "ghost" troops who exist only as names on the payroll

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