Tag Archives: russia

A new propaganda

Very nearly every political movement since the late 18th century has its roots in the enlightenment, from American constitutionalism to the rational imperialism of Napoleon. It is hard to overstate its influence on every strand of modern political thought, from conservatism to socialism to liberalism. All built on this revelation: that facts matter more than faith, and reason is greater than fear.

The fascism of Italy, that spread like wildfire across Europe and then the rest of the world, was not built on the foundations of the enlightenment. It was instead a rejection of the values espoused by it, a direct reaction to reason and humanism. Fascism dictates that acting as one is more important than what is actually true, and that the truth dictated by those in power is supreme to any other, no matter what evidence might say. As Sartre said: “ have chosen hate because hate is a faith to them; at the outset they have chosen to devalue words and reasons.”

I recently finished reading Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev, a harrowing account of the post-Soviet media under Putin’s regime. He describes how the propaganda under Putin, like that of the Nazi Party and the Italian Fascists before it, works not by espousing a single version of the truth, but by undermining the very concept of truth. It calls into doubt all sources, until the public believes none, and instead sees all truth merely as an act of faith. Evidence is not of intrinsic worth in a such an environment, but is instead perceived to be a rhetorical tool like any other.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 40 Comments

Observations of an ex pat: Tough for Trump

Donald Trump is in a no-win situation as regards  Russian hacking vs. American intelligence agencies vs Donald Trump.

Putin, as we all know by now, has been accused by all the American intelligence agencies (and several foreign ones) of hacking into the computers of the Democratic National Committee and leaking the contents to help Trump win the US presidency.

The Russian President has denied this as he has denied many other misdeeds. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, he channel for the leaks, has backed him up. So has Donald Trump.

On the other side of the fence are, not surprisingly, a Democratic Party in search of a scapegoat to explain the inexplicable and America’s spy nerds.

Trump can’t really say that he agrees with the intelligence agencies. To do so would leave him branded as Putin’s poodle and undermine his mandate to govern. 

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Aleppo must be a wake up call

Amid the humanitarian catastrophe that has been the siege and fall of Aleppo, both supporters and opponents of earlier calls for military action by the West against Assad have been claiming vindication by events. Perhaps some are relieved that the TV pictures of bloodied children in rubble can be attributed to Russian bombs rather than Western ones.

And perhaps we are guilty – as the EU is supposedly guilty of welcoming closer ties with Ukraine – of seeing a potential for good in the Arab Spring. Torment nobody with the promise of freedom and democracy unless you can deliver it, at gunpoint if necessary? Don’t start a civil war you can’t win, however bad your government?

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Lib Dem peer takes part in World War Three

Kishwer Falkner has taken part in a gripping and chillingly realistic BBC Two TV programme.

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‘Iraq 2’. Why the Lib Dem’s Syria conflict position in parliament is militarily and politically unwise

On Tuesday, Tim Farron expressed the party’s position on the coming ‘Syria conflict’ vote in parliament in a letter to PM David Cameron.

It set out five conditions for Lib Dem support for an escalation of British involvement in Syria. It will no doubt be taken by the UK government as conditions for Lib Dem support for a general major escalation.

The first ‘condition’ was that military action against Islamic State in Syria should follow international law. The letter expressed acceptance of UN Resolution 2249. This UN resolution however does not authorise actions against IS, nor does it provide a legal basis for the use of force generally against IS in Syria or in Iraq. It only supports states in doing what they are already doing under existing international laws, specifically on IS-held territory. As such this supports existing Russian and Iranian military involvement as much as existing Western involvement.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 28 Comments

Hawks and doves: equidistant foreign policy?

Five years ago, the Liberal Democrats held the centre ground in the coalition formation negotiations between left and right. Equidistance is a loaded word, one that cynics will laugh at as vacuous. However, five years later, neither of the two main parties seem sufficiently interested in foreign affairs.

This party could be equidistant between doves and hawks in foreign policy. To illustrate the dove-hawk twin hybrid, below are three examples. I am not necessarily endorsing the following as solutions and they are not exhaustive in terms of detail. They are merely prompts for a debate.

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Russia, ISIS, globalisation and the EU – Norman and Tim answer foreign affairs questions

LDV recently put some questions on foreign affairs to the two leadership contenders. Here are their responses.

1. Can you summarise in around 100 words what a liberal foreign policy looks like in your view?

Tim Farron:

Liberals are proud and passionate internationalists because we believe in the rights of all people – no matter what they look like, what they believe or where they are – to live in peace, free from poverty, ignorance and conformity. We understand that only by working with other countries through strong international institutions can we make that a reality and build a fairer, greener, freer world.

It is in neither Britain’s interests nor the world’s to close ourselves off, but also that intervention abroad must be rooted in international law, decided through international institutions and clearly justified on humanitarian grounds.

Norman Lamb:

Our Party is proudly internationalist. Our leaders have often been lone voices, Paddy demanding rights for British citizens from Hong Kong, Charles opposing the Iraq War, Nick in taking on Nigel Farage‎

I share these courageous liberal values‎. Liberal values are universal – they do not respect borders.

For me Britain should play a global role and prompt Europe to do more for peace, in tackling poverty and climate change, and in standing up to oppression.

We must also be able to defend those who need our protection, our allies, and ourselves. Enduring adequate funding for our armed forces means debating Trident’s future when our world is far more threatened by terrorists and cyber attacks than by nuclear war, and pursuing reform to make sure our forces are effective and efficient.

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