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A Suez-type moment?

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Paul Mason | 23:32 UK time, Thursday, 17 February 2011

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If you know anybody from the babyboom generation who was involved in politics, and ask them the year that everything changed, it is not 1968 but 1956 they will cite.

That was the year the British establishment broke over its failed military adventure in Egypt; when it became clear that power had really shifted in the world; that the Soviet Union would crack down on dissent in Eastern Europe; the year in which, despite labelling Gamel Abdel Nasser another Hitler, the Brits were eventually forced to back down from confrontation with him.

I've spent the day following up the Bahrain crisis. I was on Twitter at 2am UK time, as it broke, and my screen erupted with near-live photo feeds of what was happening at Pearl Square.

Since then I've spoken to Middle East experts, global risk strategists, protesters, and old British "hands" in what's left of this country's great game east of the Suez Canal (i.e. not much).

The risk people are right now monitoring such tangible signals as the amount of flour in bakeries from Casablanca to Tabriz; the words used in the sermons of small-town Imams, and the loyalty of various junior officers to various regimes. The old hands persist in their belief that democracy cannot be allowed to come to the "immature" countries that are now demanding it. But what's really interesting is the way it's starting to look to global strategists.

Ian Bremmer, of the Eurasia Group, told me tonight he believed the crisis illustrates there is a G-Zero situation - that is, not the G7, G8, nor G20 is really in control of things; that the Obama administration does not have a "doctrine" for the Middle East - that, in other words the question: "What does the State Department do now?" is for the first time in living memory not the most important question in world affairs.

All this, to me, is redolent of the Suez moment - when the Brits realised they did not rule the roost anymore, and that America did. Only now we're beginning to feel in global politics what business consultants have known for half a decade: it's a "multi-polar world" (copyright Accenture plc).

I've asked several people whether, at CENTCOM, the USA's strategic HQ in Qatar, they would have a plan for what to do if the entire backyard of absolute monarchies that they were supposed to be defending against Iran suddenly melted down into chaos at the very moment the Iranian regime also became engulfed in a revolution. Nobody knows. But my guess is it was not the front and centre scenario they train for.

And so this year of fire blazes on, into the unknown.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Yes, this is the beginning of changes to the political landscape that reflect the underlying economics.

    Firstly, it is an expression of US decline.
    As devout preachers of 'democracy' they cannot continue to prop-up dictators against the people.
    The problem for the US is the people don't want US imperialism & so in 'free & fair' elections will not elect US puppets.
    In Egypt the US wants the military coup to ensure come the elections that the Muslim Brotherhood don't run Egypt.
    In Gaza, 'democracy' resulted in 'terrorists' coming to power.
    In all these Arab countries the newly elected 'representatives' will be looking east as much as west; US political domination is on its way out.

    Secondly, it's more than US decline.
    The underlying economics no longer supports a system based upon profit.
    Capitalism cannot feed, house & give dignity to the majority.
    A world where a few super-rich have private jets, numerous homes, vast amounts of jewellery & fine art while most spend their entire life trying to pay for their roof over their head, or go years, even decades without work & have no future, is not sustainable.

    It's the beginning of the end of US domination & hopefully the beginning of the end of capitalism.

  • Comment number 2.

    Of course the Americans don`t know what to do next Paul...their entire world view is based on Hollywood and the fantasy that they are the definitive good guys rescuing the rest of us savages from our evil misguided selves.

    It hasn`t dawned on them yet that they are a bunch of homicidal loan sharks and that their prosperity and supremacy owes more to the Godfather than Pollyanna.

  • Comment number 3.

    #1 (and Paul)

    Both very good posts and I agree with Pauls assessment 100%.

    I would add.

    Paul,

    One dynamic not mentioned, all it would take is even a reasonable ammount of middle east instability and supply disruption for the price of oil to sky-rocket towards 2008 levels, the fragile western economies would then collapse like a pack of cards if that situation carried on for even a short while..... A big hike in the price of oil seems like quite a v likely outcome at the moment wouldn't you say?

    What is the feeling in the City about the above highly likely dynamic?

    #1

    Agree but I would not want to see the end of capitalism per-se. There is a reason why it 'defeated' communism.

    I would like to see some form of baseline 'living credit' for everyone in return for sensible decisions on population control. There is no excuse for families to go on without basic sustainable ameneties in any country anymore.

    The rest, outside of a basic living credit should still be traded in the capitalist style. I dont really have a problem with Bill gates wealth ( and he seems to be responsible with it too) as he created something of value (just go with me on that for now!!!). I have a massive problem with the wealth of those which has been generated without providing any value to society be it entertainment value or useful new technologies or being a highly experienced surgeon. I am of course talking about 'the money changers' whom periodically seem to take over the temple and have to get turfed out. Non of this is new..just the scale of it is now global and its victim is the planet itself.

    Capilatism is good at generating innovation and dynamism, which we enjoy as a species. It is lousy at creating a stable system.

    What the world now needs is a sustainable communist type system for energy and all basic needs and a capitalist one for everything else which must exist under the constraint of the former i.e. it must be sustainable.

    It can be done and it would actually work...


    but hey..what do I know?

  • Comment number 4.

    3 Excellent post Jeriboam...I will have some of that.... if the BBC can organise it .....after ridding itself of its current sycophantic Voice of America culture?

  • Comment number 5.

    One thing that is notable is the almost complete lack of involvement of "the Islamists" that Blair, Bush and the "inevitable war of religions" punters hysterically warned us of.

  • Comment number 6.

    Paul I accept that the world has substantially changed. But before we all get carried away...Having studied the dynamics of revolution (and I think we will see this in many cases) there will be counter revolution (as briefly seen in Egypt)and the conditions and asymmetry of power will not automatically lead to a domino effect, some in power are better tooled up. It was not an accident that US invaded Iraq to secure future oil reserves.
    As far as multipolar world goes, I still think we are actually talking bipolar. US and China are so dominant in economic terms (wealth, potential, population) in a kind of death spiral where each needs the other to co-exist.
    Nature also says the world is bipolar as streams of solar particles head for Earth and long may that continue, so the magnetism attracts the harmful solar particles to the respective poles rather than temperate London in springtime.

  • Comment number 7.

    What will be surprising will be if these countries end up as parliamentary democracies with or without a constitutional monarchy. More likely it will some form of military government that the US and Israel would be able to tolerate or even sustain. And all the words of freedom and democracy will be swept aside. Is there an opportunity for China to extend its influence and economic tentacles as they have done in sub Sahara Africa thus squeezing the benefits the West have farmed from the Middle East.

  • Comment number 8.

    I'm not sure, I think all this overthrowing the old order is playing into the US landgrab that is going on in the middle-east.
    Tunisia was fairly moderate and laid back, not a threat to anyone really but it did provide a catalyst.
    The uprising had the effect of emboldening dissent in neighbouring countries, the biggie is Egypt.
    With the Egyptian military now occupied with the task of running Egypt they are less of an external threat and the overthrow of the old order is promoting dissent in the rest of the region, in particular Iran.

    I think the US is happy to ditch the old alliances for control of Iran
    With Iraq and Afghanistan already in the pocket, Saudi just a puppet and the Egyptian threat minimised it just leaves Jordan and Syria squashed between Isreal and the US (mid-east division).

    Big Macs all round. (US foreign policy is driven by the money)

    Robert Skidelsky has an interesting take on the situation (which is nothing like mine :) on his blog.

    http://www.skidelskyr.com/site/article/unsettling-america/

  • Comment number 9.

    7 Exactly watriler...they will end up being just like our "democracies" but hopefully without all the pretence of reflecting public opinion.

  • Comment number 10.

    The basic underlying dynamic is that these countries are now dangerously unstable because no one will tackle overpopulation and their unsustainable birth rate in a rational way.

    The USA is concerned about Israel and oil ...and these revolutions are an attempt to rehabilitate Israel/USA in people`s eyes.... while dumping those excess young men into the CIA/Soros run EU ....which is obliged to take them because of all its Soros imposed humanitarianism.

  • Comment number 11.

    I wish I knew more of Bahrain, its Shia peoples and the nature of the ruling elites. I heard a report that Sunnis had been brought in to the country to reinforce the governing elites. I dont know whether this is true. I do not see this in terms of a decline of US influence, rather than an awakening of peoples who are now questionning their own governing elites. I agree that the US will need to tread very carefully between its inevitable support for an uprising of the downtrodden and protection of its strategic interests. This is where the fault-line will develop.

    I heard William Hague try to do this balancing act this am on Today. I am sure extreme factions in all quarters are waiting to see how the cookie crumbles before plying their own trade and surrogates of competing powers will be at work.

    Sorry to mention it, but exploding commodity prices might well be the spark which travels to the powder keg. In turn, I would be interested to know how QE money is providing the drivers.

  • Comment number 12.

    #6

    Very poetically put, I enjoyed that (ref to van allen belt / solar storms).

    I may take issue with your 'domino effect' though. You may be right in the purest social dynamic sense but we are already seeing the effect on oil prices, it will not take much uncertainty to keep them high and that will have domino like consequences of its own with the world economy (especially the west) being in such a fragile and hypersensitive state to any form of shock.

    We shall see.

    #4

    Thanks for that... appreciated.

  • Comment number 13.

    "Multi-polar" has been around for a long time, I first discovered it on the back of the box of Balance of Power, (1990 edition) where the game went from being simple "cowboys and Indians, (Russia vs America) to a game where you spent far more time trying to manage outcomes and reacting to the behaviour of the other countries, than directly deciding what you were going to do yourself.

    It's a fascinating game that teaches you a lot about the nature of projecting power, recommended.

  • Comment number 14.

    Obama do you see me ? It's all been leading upto this, all you can do is call it

  • Comment number 15.

    The Independent has a good article on the 'butcher of Bahrain' which led me last night to do some googling.

    The website Democracy Now has a very informative interview with an analyst about how wheat prices are being manipulated by the likes of Goldman Sachs which is resulting in people going hungry around the World.



    'The Food Bubble: How Wall Street Starved Millions and Got Away With It'

    http://www.democracynow.org/2010/7/16/the_food_bubble_how_wall_street



    Problem being that the above was broadcast in July of last year long before the most recent price hikes in food and fuel.

    I have posted on here before, the Bernanke's QE and Dollar devaluation policy is creating thousands of new anti-American Bin Ladens around the World.

  • Comment number 16.

    `The risk people are right now monitoring such tangible signals as the amount of flour in bakeries from Casablanca to Tabriz; the words used in the sermons of small-town Imams, and the loyalty of various junior officers to various regimes.'

    This sounds very much like what is now called `localism'. Are the little people now able to take control? If they do then matters will be determined by a new-found conservatism rather than radical change.

    I also can't get out of my mind that Belgium has gone 250 days without a government and nobody has noticed.

    It all sounds like a political program to me. Why not grow our crops and live out out lives in peace without all this frenetic nonsense about money and power?

    It reminds me of that old joke that one way to end up with a small profitable company is to start with a big one. Perhaps one way to end up with minimal government that works is to start off with one that does everything badly.

    The more it changes the more it stays the same.

  • Comment number 17.

    PARTIES INDUCE VOTERS TO CHOOSE 'ROSETTE' NOT 'INTEGRITY'

    Governance - on any scale - reflects the personality of those elevated to power. In UK they are rosette-carrying ciphers - poor in spirit, and clever rather than wise. All else follows.

    One look at Tony tells all.

  • Comment number 18.

    How are these unemployment figures gathered please and how do they compare with the UK?

  • Comment number 19.

    Just as the United States seems to have resolved one huge Middle East problem i.e. the soft military coup on Egypt, enabling the old regime to survive (with its Peace Treaty with Israel), there emerge several more hotspots, Bahrain being one.
    US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed "deep concerns" about the deadly attack on hundreds of sleeping anti-government protestors carried out by Bahrain’s security forces at a central square in the capital, Manama.
    The incident, in which at least five civilians were killed and many more injured, is certain to raise political tensions in the tiny, but strategically located Kingdom in the Gulf, which happens to be the location of the American Navy’s Fifth Fleet and of course happens also to be a neighbor of oil giant, Saudi Arabia.
    The attack can do nothing but escalate the demands of the opposition – a coalition of liberal Sunnis and leaders of the majority Shi’a population, and these demands will be for major overhaul of the monarchy headed by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa.
    Unfortunately, some upperlings do not yey understand that violence begets violence, as well as increased polarization.
    The violence in Bahrain comes at a bad time for the White House, which is already struggling to cope with unprecedented uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East. Gone are long-time distators & US allies – Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Even if the United wanted a soft military coup in Egypt, the Egyptian People will not accept the continuance of the old regime for long.
    Uprisings - Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Iran, Libya and Yemen. Yemen has been another American puppet regime receiving tens of millions in US military and security assistance intended to defeat Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
    Apparently, Obama has ordered his advisers to produce a report on the "prospects for popular revolt" against distatorships throughout the Middle East, including Bahrain, Yemen, and other key countries. The report is to include methodology on how to get these regimes to implement reforms in time to avoid uprisings which could turn violent.
    The report will also balance US strategic interests in the region against demands by opposition forces for democratization.
    More tolerant than its Gulf Arab neighbors, and having an elected parliament (with quite limited powers), Bahrain remains under the control of the Khalifa royal family. This royal family has ruled @ 300 years! It has marginalized and discriminated against its Shiite majority population.
    Shiites make up some 70% of Bahrain’s roughly 540,000 citizens. More than 600,000 non-nationals also live on the island. Tensions began rising in August, two months before parliamentary elections, when the government began arresting scores of Shi’a activists; then came the indictments in September of 25 prominent Shi’a politicians on charges of destabilizing the country through sabotage.
    Post elections, Hilary Clinton visited Bahrain; she praised it as a "model" for the region. When asked about the arrests and torture, Clinton said: "I think the changes that are happening in Bahrain are much greater than what I see in many other countries in the region and beyond."
    In an attempt to pre-empt a new outbreak of unrest, the king announced that each Bahraini household would receive the equivalent of nearly 2,700 US dollars. But the gesture did not work. After the most recent attack, the government banned all public gatherings and most opposition MPs resigned.
    Clinton and Pentagon Chief, Robert Gates called Bahrain to urge restraint on the part of the government’s security forces. Clinton expressed American deep concerns about the actions of the security forces. Describing Bahrain as a "friend and an ally," she stressed that "all people have universal rights, including the right to peaceful assembly."
    The American Administration would appear to have no designed plan as far is the Middle East is concerned. It appears to be flying by the seat of its pants where the brain is not located.
    If Bahrain keeps deeply enough effected, what will happen to the naval base? It could be lost.
    Would Americans attempt to hold onto the unpopular military bases at all costs, thereby deepening anger, or would the White House drop support for this repressive Sunni regime and simply get out.
    Wothout a doubt the US needs to drop support for autocratic distators, soft military coups, and other repressive actions. In the Middle East and North Africa, the winds of change are blowing, and the US needs to acknowledge the change, rather than plot, connive, media-spin and otherwise resist these moves.
    In short, Washington needs to but out!
    But if Wasgington buts out, what becomes of all those political-military assets? Will the US pull them?
    As far as Bahrain is concerned, there are also the Saudis to consider; the Saudis are highly unlikely to tolerate unrest in Bahrain, primarily because the Bahrain Shiites are related by kinship to Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority; that is, the portion of this minority that owns the oil fields in the Eastern Province. About 15% of Saudi Arabia’s population are Shi’a Muslims, a large majority of whom live in the Eastern Province.
    There are times when respectful watching (from afar) is the best possible course of action. As far as the White House is concerned, these uprisings may be of those times.


  • Comment number 20.

    While people ignore our refusal to read the warnings about the effects of overpopulation nothing will change and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse will never be allowed to retire.

    The two main enemies are religious ideas promoting population growth and extremist capitalism of the sort seen all over the world now in countries like China and the USA.

    Britain/USA is not a real democracy and human rights are just an excuse for western cultural imperialsm.We need some new ideas and some joined up global governance that isn`t just western/capitalist piracy in disguise.

  • Comment number 21.

    ..The old hands persist in their belief that democracy cannot be allowed to come to the "immature" countries..

    like the uk? it is even against the treason laws to suggest any other principle but hereditary be used for head of state?

  • Comment number 22.

    iraq and afghanistan shows the usa is not 'in charge'?

    the dictators messed up because not because people want democracy but because they want jobs.

  • Comment number 23.

    Now this is prejudice on my part, so please tell me that I'm being unreasonable if you disagree. BUT - the more I see Hilary Clinton, the more I feel that I am looking at a cold face of evil, as she comes to bestow her dubious blessing and advice on her country's client Kings. One phrase which comes to my mind is "El Beso del Cayman" (The Kiss of the Crocodile - a play by the Peruvian Sebastián Salazar Bondy - I think it's a reference to a Judas kiss).

    Another unpleasant thought I can't get rid of is that of a spiritual resemblance she has to Kissinger's fictional dark side. I see her a "Lady Strangelove".

    ♩♫♭♪♬♯♩♬♩ "We'll meet again, don't know where ....etc :-D

  • Comment number 24.

    Dear Paul, I watched your grim report from Portugal tonight, and had a few thoughts.

    There really is no point to monetary union if there aren't to be fiscal tranfers from the wealth industrial counties like Germany to the periphery. The Germans (including some Ossi relatives of mine who want to retire there) are part of the cause of Portugal's failed boom anyway.

    Krugman's analysis here explains how such transfers are part of the system in the US:

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/29/ireland-nevada/

    The factory which has lost/outsourced production to China demonstrates to me the case for protection. The market is rigged, and it's ludicrous as a society to outsource production if there is no net reciprocal benefit.

    Here is his take on Merv's speech BTW, though I don't entirely agree. I think Merv was being more subtle, but probably too much so.

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/18/mervyn-king-greenspans-himself/

  • Comment number 25.

    It's not planned by USA in anyway (or foreseen) but it is an American revolution in the Middle East. They are all Americans now. And when the hypermeedja revolution roles into China (as it is the worlds greatest and most fertile hypermeedja market orientated democracy)...well then the American global revolution and dominance will be made. How ironic it will have been created by the chaos and creativity of it's technology and media sector rather than by geopolitical planning. The American story isn't over! It is reinvigorated and powerful...and the recharge will be complete when hypermeedja revolution completes in USA (whatever you think of the Tea Party, and it's incoherence so far, it is the same hypermeedja revolution as Egypt).

    Its exciting and good (messy and stressful of course). And as a glorious side effect we will benefit from needing to grow up about energy.

    Hurrah for the global hypermeedja revolution. There is no turning back now....we shall overcome, we shall overcome..

  • Comment number 26.

    "the US is not in charge" but we all will follow it and it will adapt (Borg like) to lead

  • Comment number 27.

    25 and 26 Well get your mojo working on this thought then......how much longer will it be before the global capitalists and their hypermeedja revolution stop using us and our money and our military and our meedja.....and move away to other less fastidiously liberal and humanitarian and democratic regimes than ours are?

    Here`s a guess...the extremist capitalist "revolution" is far more at home in nations like modern Russia and China and Saudi Arabia and Israel than it is here....now dwell on that and ask yourself if that`s what you want for your grandchildren?

  • Comment number 28.

    And before any of you brainwashed slaves of London uberliberalism get too carried away with Islington revolutionary zeal just take a look at the lads in that photo at the head of this thread ....and you won`t see any smarty-pants feminists and greenwashers among them....they could be the Middle Eastern version of the EDL or BNP!

  • Comment number 29.

    @24 Sasha
    There really is no point to monetary union if there aren't to be fiscal tranfers from the wealth industrial counties like Germany to the periphery. The Germans (including some Ossi relatives of mine who want to retire there) are part of the cause of Portugal's failed boom anyway.

    This is an interesting story if it can be told in the right way.

    The "poorer" nations of the EU were enormous beneficiaries when they first joined. The development finds that were available have made a huge difference to the poorer parts of these countries - with the development of decent road infrastructures, etc. The idea at this time was to raise the level of development of these countries up to that of the core EU.

    But the second phase has seen monetary flows go in the opposite direction. The eurozone and single market rules have benefited all companies, but has benefited "efficient" German companies the most. As people like Krugman point out, such trading imbalances require some kind of fiscal balancing. But because of the crisis we have had a reassertion of economic nationalism inside the eurozone so Germans, although they have profited enormously from the single market, are refusing to recognise this by providing that fiscal balancing.

    This brings us on to topics like the democratic deficit in the EU, and the contradiction between monetary union and no political union ...

  • Comment number 30.

    29 George...What it "brings me on to" is when was any of this discussed with the British electorate....and never mind how it benefits Germany and its global capitalist investors....what are WE getting out of it?

  • Comment number 31.

    @29 George - I agree completely. Although, in principle, I am in favour of monetary union, it won't work without a fuller political and fiscal union. Either Europe is a proper family of nations or it is not.

    Britain is likely to carry on sitting on the border fence for some time. However, British transatlanticism is likely to be put under strain by the increasingly bizarre and polarised politics in the US. Which brings us back to the point of Paul's blog. The internal and external US political agenda is increasingly being set by groups whose worldview is based on faith and not reality. Even President Obama, in principle a reasonable man, cannot operate ouside these constraints.

    The lessons of Suez crisis were a bitter pill for many of Britain's ruling elite, and the end of illusions of greatness for many of the populace. But on the whole the lessons were learned and grudgingly accepted.

    US foreign policy is strongly influence by a set of collective myths, often mutually contradictory, which amount to a national psychosis. Thus many US actions, like the latest UN veto on the Israeli settlement issue, are akin to self-harm. This veto will certainly pull the rug further from under their embattled Arab allies.

    If it is a new "Suez moment", then the US is still in the denial phase.

  • Comment number 32.

    @30 Jim

    Well we don't have the same situation, being outside of the eurozone, although I have to confess that I would have been in favour at the time - before I realised the potential pitfalls.

    To be honest, I'm pretty sanguine about the EU, because we have enough of a democratic deficit with our own parliament - despite Cameron's protestations his policies would only have been marginally different from New Labour as they are both captive to the neo-liberal consensus. So whoever you vote for, you get the same old economic policies. And I'm pretty positive about the European Court and Human Rights legislation.

    It's not what we can get out of it (and we get a lot - Europe is our biggest trading partner and the single market has helped that). We need to get out own house in order first.

  • Comment number 33.

    The UK caught with it's pants down along with France, Israel in the Suez war of 1956 when the Americans and Eisenhower pulled the plug on an invasion, I just hope history doesn't repeat itself....

  • Comment number 34.

    worcesterjim, so many assumptions, so many theories and conspiracies. Who knows what the people in the picture think or what the current view of London uberliberalists, Uist wee frees, smartypants feminists, dumbbum misogyniss, greenwashers, dogwalkers, middle englanders, little englanders, commies, pommies, mummies, yuppies, puppies or your particular cult is.

    The point is that demonstrations globally are more 'organic' than they ever have been, not directed by theorists with agendas like yourself. Of course people like you are lurking round the edges - some with good intentions (utopian) and some with bad. But the agenda appears to be a collective desire for freedom, recognition of worth and role, disgruntlement with the current, want for work etc. It is not alien to americans...it is very american, or British, French, Swedish, etc. They want we want...its a bit of incoherent of course...but in society incoherence is strength. Disorganisation provides robustness and survivability over time. Its what america will be back or will catch up with what is going on...it is why they and we are great and will remain great. And it is superb that others will join us...of course it will take many a long time and many will fall.

    This is not a revolution brought by theorists like you. This is true hypermeedja democracy in action. Hypermeedja democracy does not mean that we all vote on it...it is more powerful than that, as it is instant public opinion and accountability...and on that basis China is a far more vibrant democracy than people perceive...I wonder if the revolution can find its way there too (maybe not as maybe the collective is moving forward enough at the moment). I have great anticipation for how the revolution manifests itself here in the UK and the USA. Its powerful stuff this hypermeedja...sometimes we use it to our advantage and sometimes it controls us...but it is looking like its most important role is political

    I can't really be bothered with the point on extreme capitalism...maybe some other time...it is always extreme and in need of civilising...sometimes the balance gets very wrong but we adapt and mend. But you really don't have an idea that is better than people transact with each other do you?

  • Comment number 35.

    @31,@32 Jim and George.

    What's in it for us? I would say that as Britain's relationship with the EU has been one of c-interruptus, there is no reason why there should be anything "in it for us".

    Germany is King Pin in Europe because it has married a successful industrial strategy with a comprehensive social safety net, and the problems of reunification are slowly being solved. Ever since WWI, British industry has been hamstrung by the City and the financial sector, and since 1979 there has been no national industrial strategy at all.

    So far as I am concerned, the financial sector is the enemy of Britain's future, and that's the house which must be put in order, or perhaps the cancer which needs to be excised?

  • Comment number 36.

    PS the recent 'crisis of market capitalism' was really a crisis of the new hypermeedja era...the meta bubble above houses, credit, commodities, equities etc was the hypermeedja bubble...teething trouble with the new era

  • Comment number 37.

    (redo of post 35 as too many spelling mistakes...and little addition)

    worcesterjim, so many assumptions, so many theories and conspiracies. Who knows what the people in the picture think or what the current view of London uberliberalists, Uist wee frees, smartypants feminists, dumbbum misogynists, greenwashers, dogwalkers, middle englanders, little englanders, commies, pommies, mummies, yuppies, puppies or your particular cult is.

    The point is that demonstrations globally are more 'organic' than they ever have been, not directed by theorists with agendas like yourself. Of course people like you are lurking round the edges - some with good intentions (utopian) and some with bad. But the agenda appears to be a collective desire for freedom, recognition of worth and role, disgruntlement with the current, want for work etc. It is not alien to americans...it is very american, or British, French, Swedish, etc. They want what we want...its a bit incoherent of course...but in society incoherence is strength. Disorganisation provides robustness and survivability over time. Its why america will be back (even though its politics is dreadful currently) or will catch up with what is going on...it is why they and we are great and will remain great. And it is superb that others will join us...of course it will take many a long time and many will fail.

    This is not a revolution brought by theorists like you. This is true hypermeedja democracy in action. Hypermeedja democracy does not mean that we all vote on it...it is more powerful than that, as it is instant public opinion and accountability...and on that basis China is a far more vibrant democracy than people perceive...I wonder if the revolution can find its way there too (maybe not as maybe the collective is moving forward enough at the moment). I have great anticipation for how the revolution manifests itself here in the UK and the USA. Its powerful stuff this hypermeedja...sometimes we use it to our advantage and sometimes it controls us...but it is looking like its most important role is political. The great thing about hypermeedja is that the conventional media cannot always direct it (nor the politicians, corporations, pressure groups, spooks etc)...of course they must be messing about but they don't control (the front line in Bahrain is not 'embedded' journos)

    I can't really be bothered with the point on extreme capitalism...maybe some other time...it is always extreme and in need of civilising...sometimes the balance gets very wrong but we adapt and mend. But you really don't have an idea that is better than people transact with each other do you?

  • Comment number 38.

    I thought the interesting thing about watching the riots in Cairo was how few Women were visible with the anti-Mubarek rioters. The few who were apparent were dressed from head to toe in those black robes with only eye-slits showing any sign of their Humanity.

    But there were plenty of young, modern dressed Women in the pro-Mubarek protests. You can go back and look at the footage to see this. It was very evident.

    I find it fascinating therefore how much of our left leaning BBC, especially certain Female journalists, were obviously getting clearly exicted by the anti-Mubarek protests. In their eagerness to get the story of a regime toppling I wonder if any stopped and thought what perhaps might be happening?

    Be careful for what you wish for ladies. You can get on a plane and fly out of the Middle East. Hundreds of millions of Women cannot.

    How would tose same female journalists feel if such things came to this country?

  • Comment number 39.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 40.

    @38 tawse

    That is just so incorrect. Just type "anti-mubarak protests cairo" into Google images and see plenty of photos of "normal" women. This was a secular protest, not an Islamic one.

  • Comment number 41.

    30 George The possibility of getting our own house in order is far less while we are in the EU...I am in touch with people all over Europe and the whole thing is a major people traffiking scam for a start....and guess where they all want to go!
    You say it`s a major business partner...it would remain one if we were outside the EU...just like China and the USA do a lot of business with Europe.
    You are in good company being "sanguine" about the EU...but that`s possibly because you have been very cleverly denied information and hoodwinked into getting stuck in something you would be wise to understand more about.

  • Comment number 42.

    Mojo ..you remind me of me in the 1960`s...and I would no more have listened to my present self back then than you will now.
    It`s a nice feeling to be part of something wholesome like flower power or to be a minnow swimming alongside millions of others in a stream called the hypermedia.

    What will happen is that if it becomes a politically effective phenomenon the powerful will find ways to control it or be replaced by well-intentioned people who eventually become corrupted and find ways to control it.Twas wever thus.

    If you are at all interested you might look up a concept called "continuous revolution".Act as fast as you can because that`s your main advantage.

    My guess is that the changes going on in the world are influenced by three factors:

    Overpopulation in relation to resources like food and energy.
    Wikileaks means the elites can`t tell as many lies...so things like the American interrogation centres in countries like Egypt and Cuba are now public knowledge.
    Global financial fraud and moneylending/debt is causing economic and political and social chaos.
    Good luck!

  • Comment number 43.

    35 Sasha...I agree with overall but there has been a distinct strategy since the Second World War bankrupted us and made us a satellite of the USA.

    The policy both here and in the USA has been based on:

    Mass immigration and the destruction of our industry ....or its export to the East...this was to weaken organised labour and make welfare unaffordable so that working people would be fearful uncomplaining and determined to not become a burden on the rich.

    West Germany and Japan were built up to show how inefficient and hopeless communism was compared with capitalism....and by-pass our industry if it got "expensive" (China/India now have this role)

    The EU is an American project with a view to bringing Britain into a United States of Europe and to take over the old Soviet Union...naturally at our expense...but for the benefit of American investors...and stop us Europeans fighting.

    The 2008 Crash is a rerun of 1929 and gives even more power to a global financial elite that is just as happy to ruin the lives of ordinary Americans as Europeans.

    I`m afraid our politicians will soon prove not to be ours at all...but the enforcers bailiffs and asset strippers they have been since Keith Joseph took Margaret Thatcher over to meet Friedman in 79.

  • Comment number 44.

    No mention of gender in all of this earth shattering reporting

    The high birth rate is the most noticeable feature of Arab societies now, and high birth rate correlates pretty closely to lack of women's rights.

    Although the BBC can always rake up some young eye-candy, English- speaking Arabic woman to interview, there is no denying there is something of a total overload of young men on the streets.

    The exception seems to be groups of black-clad shia women in Bahrain, active on religious grounds, though I suspect this is more indicative of the proclivity of the cameraman to focus on them rather than their force of numbers.

    But this is what the west should be doing, considering and supporting what, in this multiplicity of dualistic tensions of

    - shia /suni
    - democracy/military+despot
    - religious/secular
    - the ever present arab/israeli issue

    best supports women's rights, at least drawing attention to it as an issue and giving its arms length approval to it whatever is more supportive in this way. That would be something useful - rather than the what the stream of know-nothing old diplomats and academics have to say.

    Because this is the one thing that will affect the birth rate.

    There is quite a history of 'let's have the revolution now, you women be the little helpers, and we'll sort out women's rights later'.

    With very few notable exceptions, or one actually - Cuba, 'later' tends never to come, or, if women are really unlucky, especially with the shadow of Islam, things go backwards, as in Iran (where the birth rate is sky high!)

    How can this issue have been missed, when it affects half the population so much, and all of the future?

    0 marks to the smuggo BBC as it fails yet again to pick what matters and to take the lead it is in a position to take.

  • Comment number 45.

    44 The BBC have a television station beaming into Iran staycool...they might be doing their best about women`s rights....though is it our business?.

    I agree that education reduces the birthrate but frankly we can`t pussy foot around with the RC`s and Muslims any longer if mankind is to have any sort of civilised future.

    Also we have to stop allowing other countries to dump their excess people on us by misusing things like asylum and human rights and the EU to just pass problems on to our society when we are overpopulated as it is.

  • Comment number 46.

    The UK is a trading nation and our ill-founded invasion of Suez in 1956 was prompted by fears that the canal would be closed to western shipping.

    The reality of the time was the Cold War, which split the world up into "spheres of influence" @ the Yalta Conference. Nassar was backed by the Warsaw Pact - the Israelis were the US proxies in the Middle East.

    Now that the cold war is over, we need to avoid the same penduluum politics mindset - an anti-communist dictator should not be our automatic ally anymore.

    What worries me is that there is no reason why the deposing of dictators would lead to democracy - there's plenty of evidence that the more likely outcome is civil war leading to failed states like Liberia & Somalia.

    What does this mean for the UK? Well, more of the same - think the Somali pirates multiplied by an order of magnitude.

    I fear that in 5 years time we will regret the scrapping of so much naval hardware and those harriers, frigates and destroyers will be missed.

    Its all very well being against military intervention overseas, but what will we do when there's a shortage of food, fuel and all other goods we depend on?

    In the 1930s a right wing government made deep spending cuts in the military budget because of the level of debt - and we only survived the rise of the Nazis by the skin of our teeth - and the English Channel.

    This is the era of asymetric warfare where the enemy may well not be a country's armed forces anymore and unless we maintain our naval and air defence capability, in an overpopulated world running out of fossil fuel, we may well need to fight for access to resources or to defend our shipping routes.

    What is happening in the Middle East has opened up since the coalition's defence review - IT SIGNIFICANTLY CHANGES THE SITUATION - they should think again about the resources required to ensure we have the capability to maintain our treade security in the region.

  • Comment number 47.

    Richard..you may well have a point but voters are carefully excluded from foreign policy considerations like this and so our society ploughs on into cloud cuckoo land without ever getting an opportunity to debate whether a majority WANT your ideas to hold sway.

  • Comment number 48.

    @46 Richard
    "The UK is a trading nation and our ill-founded invasion of Suez in 1956 was prompted by fears that the canal would be closed to western shipping."
    And by the fact that (thanks to Disraeli and the Rothschilds in 1875) the British Government owned 44% of the Suez Canal company."

    "Its all very well being against military intervention overseas, but what will we do when there's a shortage of food, fuel and all other goods we depend on?"

    Have you become an advocate of a new colonialism - where we just grab what we need? Apart from the moral aspects, you'd need a huge increase in military spending, and conscription. We'd be opposed by many of our present allies too!

    There are better alternatives. The most important of which is for the UK to aim for as much self-sufficiency as possible, and also to give science and technology and foreign languages much more prominence on our education system, for example reversing the closures of good university chemistry departments which have happened in recent years.

    My ad-hoc programme would be

    (i) Neuter the City of London. Stop financial games unconnected to real investment. Significantly increase progressive taxation.
    (ii) Husband and recycle all natural resources, from metals to faeces.
    (iii) Invest in renewables, energy storage, clean coal, and fusion power.
    (iv) Abandon our colonial and military pretensions. I would say no more international military adventures unless part of a UN force; but invest in small naval defence craft and military engineering.
    (v) Rebalance education towards useful things. I'm not a cultural Philistine, but I want it to be unacceptavle for any "educated" person to be ignorant of science and technology, foreign languages, or history and literature. Something like the old JMB General Studies course should be compulsory for all university entrants.

    (vi) - And finally - we can't bury our heads in the sand - this country (and indeed the world) needs a poulation control strategy.

  • Comment number 49.

    48

    Sasha.

    Sounds like a pretty good adhoc programme.

    I would add encourage more domestic food production. We import over 40% of our grub: this is not sustainable.

  • Comment number 50.

    @49 I agree! Funnily enough Stan, this was in my mind - when I mentioned faeces. :-D

    Faeces is a very valuable resource, for food production, and possibly as a source of energy. Too much just gets dumped in the sea, albeit after treatment these days. (That being said, I would like an environmental impact study about the effects of not doing so. The best place to catch mackerel locally used to be by the old sewage outfall!)

    I would also, as a one-off measure, import as much sand from the Arabs as needed to cover a significant amount of suitable horticultural land with glass, with a view to increasing our production of exotic fruit and veg. I would use faeces and micro wind-turbines to generate the extra heat and light needed.

    There is so much we could do if we had the will!

  • Comment number 51.

  • Comment number 52.

    48....Sasha consider yourself adored from far off Worcestershire....but the London Mafia are part of a global middle class and aristocracy (one of the reasons English democracy gets stifled while Kosovon independence is promoted).

    The Britain outside the South East might as well be on a different planet (so far as getting anything more than token consideration)(see the ideas of Parag Khanna).

    ."Our" (tee hee) financial sector is linked to Wall Street and a global network of financial institutions ....which together approach being a form of casino capitalist unjoined up global government with little interest in anything but power and profit and sustaining both of them into the future.

    Saving the planet or having sensible population levels in particular nations .....or any form of economic or financial arrangements that would create a sensible private/public mixed economy .....or give more power to national electorates ...just aren`t on their shopping list.

    My favourite was the old Scandinavian mixed economies ...but they wouldn`t please the capitalist extremists unleashed by neoliberalism.

    Do the Diamond Geezer test and ask yourself HOW you can stop him smiling... you will need a global movement to achieve it....and standing as an MP is going to "deliver" no power at all.

  • Comment number 53.

    48 Bravo Sasha!

    with such clarity comes hope. Time for a new rainbow coalition of groups bringing those involved in tax issues together with those involved in local food and women's rights, eco-housing, trades etc. The NEF does some interesting stuff. it's also time Greenpeace came down from its high seahorse and joined in with a broader movement of change. partnership-corporate models such as John Lewis are succeeding.

    faeces: from a scientific perspective, the most harmful thing that we do is to mix faeces with liquid the moment it leaves the body. this creates a high volume, heavy weight, of potentially lethal slurry. if faeces remain 'dry' they can be easily rendered harmless and more easily stored/transported through further dessication. and the liquid separated off can be neutralised and often reused. but to redo the entire sewage system is a cultural upheaval that would create a political nightmare.

 

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