There's only one thing to do when you've already made a fool of yourself at the UN: go one better and do much the same on the Letterman show. Supposedly appearing to promote British business when it's clear to everyone that Cameron was just doing what Boris already had because that's how ultra competitive Old Etonian rivals roll, he didn't know who composed the dirge squeezed out for the last night of the Proms, or that Magna Carta in English means Great Charter! What a pleb! Did she die in vain after all?
Of rather more importance ought to be the similar crapola Dave served up before the general assembly. This time last year the splendid NATO intervention in Libya was still going on, with the civilians in Beni Walid and Sirtre being "protected" through bombing raids and Gaddafi yet to be pulled out of his sewer and sodomised to death, so naturally we heard of how wonderful bombing countries with copious natural resources was. 12 months on and the best that can be said about Libya is that the militia allegedly responsible for the murder of the American ambassador Chris Stevens was flushed out of Benghazi with just 9 deaths in the process reported. According to Cameron, this popular uprising was "inspiring", although strangely he failed to make mention of the deaths or how it reflects rather badly on the Libyan security services that it was armed individuals rather than themselves who carried the burden of doing so.
Mostly though Cameron dedicated his speech to setting up straw men arguments about the Arab spring and then knocking them down. Anyone would have thought that as a country we had supported the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt from the very beginning, instead of all but ignoring the overthrow of Ben Ali and then only dumping Mubarak when his fall from power seemed inevitable, such was Cameron's fervour for what a wonderful thing the downfall of these authoritarian regimes had been. We don't though support the complete democratisation of the Middle East, as that would obviously be against our interests. Search for a mention of Bahrain in Cameron's speech and you'll find there isn't one, despite Cameron trying to claim that Somalia's election of a new president is somehow related to the protests that began last year. That his election was by, err, other MPs rather than by the people themselves also went curiously unexplained.
Every country, you see, takes its own path. Occasionally we intervene to help them along that path, but others can be left to make progress based around tradition and consent. In Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE for instance, stability has been brought through either oil wealth, allowing the United States to use the country as a glorified naval base, or making certain areas a Westerner's playground, so long as they don't do anything silly like enjoy themselves too much in public. That in all of these nations minorities or citizens as a whole are horribly repressed doesn't matter, as they're our friends and allies.
By far the most egregious part of Dave's sermon was this section:
The fact is that for decades, too many were prepared to tolerate
dictators like Gaddafi and Assad on the basis that they would both keep
their people safe at home and promote stability in the region and the
wider world. In fact, neither was true. Not only were these dictators
repressing their people, ruling by control not by consent, plundering
the national wealth and denying people their basic rights and freedoms,
they were funding terrorism overseas as well.
Now, can you possibly think of a country that fits this description exactly? No, not Iran, as only relatively recently has that country lost all vestiges of being democratic. It's the House of Saud's rule down to a T. Except, Cameron can't possibly mean the Saudis, as we seem more aligned with them than ever. Just as in the 80s when the Americans joined forces with the Saudis to fund the mujahideen in Afghanistan, so now we're promoting Sunni dominance of the region as a bulwark against Iran. That this means equipping jihadis in Syria to battle against Assad, hijacking what had been a non-sectarian uprising, is just one of the compromises we have to make if we're going to ensure that stability remains. It also means we'll have to turn a blind eye to the shooting dead of protesters in restive regions of SA, just as we said next to nothing about the crushing of the protests in Bahrain.
Quite how Cameron had the nerve to stand up and say the UN was stained by the blood of children killed in Syria is though something else. No one can deny that the Assad regime bears full responsibility for the situation in the country as it stands, but to completely ignore the atrocities also being committed by the opposition forces we're supporting is an outrage. Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, embedded with the FSA, reported this week on how a 16-year-old who said the wrong thing to the rebels was brutally tortured in front of him; if they're prepared to do that to someone who merely spoke out of turn, and in front of a Guardian journalist, then how they are treating those they're supposedly fighting for when there are no witnesses around? The blocking of resolutions on Syria by China and Russia is partially down to how they were misled on Libya, when the imposition of a no fly zone was used by NATO as the authorisation for regime change. The blame ought to be shared out equally, not just pinned on those who've dared to point out our hypocrisies.
Only then in this bizarro world of Cameron's imagining could it be Iran that's set "on dragging the region in to wider conflict". The Saudi and Qatari funding of the FSA
seems designed to weaken Iran, which in turn is undermining the stability of Lebanon. Add in how Israeli politicians have been agitating for an attack on the country now for the last couple of years, with Benjamin Netanyahu today reaching new heights of fantasy
, describing a nuclear armed Iran as comparable to a nuclear armed al-Qaida, and it's clear the exact opposite is the case. Iran is trying to consolidate its position in the region while our allies and ourselves are doing everything we can to push it back.
At least on Letterman Cameron only embarrassed himself. Let loose on the world stage, delivering speeches in which he claims to be a liberal Conservative rather than a neo-con, he comes across as positively dangerous. An independent British foreign policy seems as far away as ever.
Labels: Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, David Cameron, foreign affairs, foreign policy, Iran, Israel-Palestine, Libya, Syria, United Nations