Hayek’s guidance for western politicians on MidEast

Freedom fighters

In his final book, The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism, Freidrich von Hayek wrote that: “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design”.

Few people are more in need of one of Hayek’s lessons than western politicians.

Nearly two and half years ago civil unrest broke out in a number of Middle Eastern countries. An excitable western media, this generation of journalists eager for its own Fall of the Berlin Wall, soon christened it the ‘Arab Spring’.

How misguided this characterisation was quickly became apparent. Whereas the Prague Spring of 1968 had actually been about freedom the ‘Arab Spring’ saw unpleasant secular regimes elbowed aside only to be replaced with at least as unpleasant Islamist regimes.

Every use of the phrase ‘Arab Spring’ became an insult to those Czechs and Slovaks who had risked their lives for freedom. Eventually even the credulous journalists who had coined the phrase stopped using it.

While the regimes in Libya and Egypt quickly collapsed, the one in Syria put up a fight. A civil war broke out and settled into a bloody stalemate. On one side are the relatively secular, bloodthirsty Ba’athists led by Bashar Assad, on the other are the equally bloodthirsty Islamist; Al Qaeda inspired rebels.

There are deeper currents swirling in Syria. Assad and his Shia followers (as well as the non-Muslims who back him fearing the fate of their co-religionists in places like Morsi’s Islamised Egypt) are on opposite sides from the Sunni rebels of a schism that divides the Muslim world as the Thirty Years War did the Christian world.

Behind them, on either side, stand the Muslim world’s great Sunni power, Saudi Arabia; and its leading Shia power, Iran.

Of these two contending sides in the civil war in Islam, it is not immediately clear that we should be celebrating the victory of militant Sunnis. It is even less clear that we ought to be intervening to ensure it. Nevertheless, that is what we now appear to be drifting towards in Syria.

It is happening with a notable lack of enthusiasm in the west. When Britain went to war with Russia in 1854 a song became popular in music halls which went:

We don’t want to fight but by jingo if we do,

We’ve got the ships,

We’ve got the men,

We’ve got the money too

There is no such excitement now. Jaundiced western electorates seem to have a clearer appreciation than their leaders of the fact that in 2013 we have neither the ships, men, nor money for this adventure.

But politicians in the west have incredible faith in their own power. They are constructivist rationalists in the tradition of Descartes, possessed of the belief that with the judicious application of their power they can construct an optimal social order.

Armed with this belief David Cameron and Barack Obama appear to believe they can topple Assad, replace him with Syria’s version of Herman van Rompuy, and watch the country turn into West Germany.

This was the central fallacy of neo-conservatism. Contrary to Hayek, who believed that successful social orders emerge, neo-cons believed that order could be imposed or consciously constructed.

Despite the evidence of the last few years, our leaders’ Cartesian faith appears unshaken. There is a very real danger that in striving for an unattainable optimal solution they end up landing us with a situation which is worse than we have now.

This article originally appeared at The Commentator


We need to talk…about Galloway, Government spending and Syria

I was on my first podcast talking about the issues of the day. I sound camper than I do in real life but here it is if you’d like to listen…Podcast

Why the left fell out of love with Gaddafi

The hottest love is the soonest cold

A quick scan round the left wing blogosphere will teach you that Colonel Gaddafi is a very bad man. Over on counterfire we learn that he presides over a “murderous dictatorship”. Socialist Worker had him as guilty of “vicious repression”.
This is all a little bit strange. I am just, barely, old enough to remember when the left loved Colonel Gaddafi.

During the miners’ strike of 1984 – 1985, Arthur Scargill, bone fide hero of the left, sent a representative of the National Union of Mineworkers to Libya to see if Gaddafi would give them any cash. This came less than a year after one of Gaddafi’s thugs had shot dead 25 year old Police woman Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan Embassy in London so they cant pretend they didn’t know what a murderous scumbag he was.

Two years later, in 1986, a bomb planted by a Libyan agent went off in a Berlin disco killing three people; a Turkish woman named Nermin Hannay and two American servicemen, Kenneth T. Ford and James E. Goins. Ronald Reagan, about the most evil man in the world at the time according to the left, decided to hit back by bombing Libya in an attempt to topple the man he called a “mad dog”. The left excoriated Reagan for this, the dupes at the African Union protesting the attack on the “Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya”. No one was going to mess with their comrade in Tripoli.

The same year as left wingers were attacking Reagan for his ‘terrorism’ their friend Gaddafi was sending weapons to the IRA. Among the machine guns, rocket launchers and flamethrowers sent by Gaddafi to Northern Ireland was the explosive semtex. Some of this was used in the bomb the IRA detonated at a Remembrance Day memorial service in Enniskillen in 1987 killing 12 and injuring 63.

All is changed utterly now of course. The possible fall of Gaddafi is causing jubilation on the left. What changed?

In 2003 Gaddafi did a deal with the Bush White House in which he gave up his nuclear program and owned up to his various crimes in return for a normalisation of diplomatic relations. Tony Blair announced that Gaddafi was “very easy to deal with”. It would, perhaps, be a cheap shot to note that Blair had been a contributor to Marxism Today in the 1980’s.

From this moment on the Colonel’s card was marked in the eyes of the left. From standing up to Reagan he had become an American lackey.

Gaddafi hasn’t changed. He is brutalising the Libyan people and the left condemns him, but he was brutalising them all through the 1980’s when he was revolutionary flavour of the month. The difference for the left, as so often, is his relations with America. If you oppose the United States you can be as much of a bastard as you like, witness Hugo Chavez or Hamas. But be a pro American bastard and you are just a bastard.


The ignorance of youth

Apart from its undoubted ability to produce carnage, war also has the ability to provoke people into speaking an awful lot of rubbish. So it is with the war in Lebanon.

We have heard much since this war started about how the United States (and its loyal British lapdog) has been blocking moves at the United Nations to bring about a ceasefire in Lebanon. Such is the hysterical hatred for Bush and Blair that they have even been accused of bringing the UN to its knees.

This charge might carry more weight if the UN were not a busted flush already. Even if we ignore the UN peadophile ring which was operating among peacekeepers in the Congo and the corruption which reaches as far as the hopeless Kofi Annan, we are still faced with examples of sheer uselessness. In Darfur in western Sudan 2 million people have been forced from their homes to live in unsanitary refugee camps by a government sponsored militia. The US and Britain, among others, have pushed for UN action to halt this, as many have said should happen in Lebanon. It hasn’t happened though because Russia, a veto wielding member of the Security Council does a lot of business with the Sudanese government and is not keen to see it slapped down. If this were George Bush we would never hear the end of it, but because it is largely useless to the left in the west, the plight of the Darfuris is forgotten about.

Besides, there is no reason to believe that a UN resolution would make a blind bit of difference. In September 2004, the UN passed Resolution 1559 demanding that the Lebanese government disarm Hizbollah. In January 2006, this still hadn’t happened and the UN was forced to issue a warning to the government in Beirut and all this after repeated Hizbollah rocket attacks on Israel. It would be quickly pointed out that Israel itself is in breach of UN resolutions, but surely this just goes to show how pointless it is?

There has also been something of an outcry over the fact that US weapons flights bound for Israel have been passing via the UK. However, you will search in vain for much of an outcry over the fact that Iran has been supplying Hizbollah with the rockets they used to start this war.

The links between the supporters of a group who’s avowed aim is to wipe out the Israeli state and British left wingers has been dealt with in a previous blog, but when you read about the random murder of Israeli Arab children by Hizbollah, you have to wonder how even they can bear to look themselves in the mirror let alone carry placards claiming ‘We are all Hizbollah’. Still, they spent years as apologists for Stalin and Mao so the left and mass murder have a long standing relationship.

Another of the charges is that Israel’s response has been ‘disproportionate’, but this is a plainly silly and vacuous argument. After all, what would be a proportional response? For every one Israeli killed by Hizbollah, the IDF executes one Lebanese? At what number of dead does a response become ‘disproportionate’? There has been a very long queue of people lining up to criticize Israeli actions but a much shorter queue of people with alternative courses. Should the Israeli’s have continued to just sit there and put up with the rockets which Hizbollah has been firing across the border since 2000?

It is easy to see where this charge comes from, the civilian loss of life in Lebanon has been terrible and deaths like that Quana have shocked the world. But this is how Hizbollah works, indeed, it is how any guerilla or insurgent force works. From Ireland in the early 1920’s to Vietnam in the 1960’s, the enemy, militarily weaker than its opponent, provokes it by a series of small incidents into ever greater crackdowns which have the effect of generating support and potential recruits in the nation effected and political sympathy in the wider world. So it is in Lebanon. A Hizbollah fighter stands on top of a tower block and fires a rocket into Israel. Israel fires back at him and kills everyone inside the tower block.

So perhaps there should be a negotiated peace? That would surely be the best solution for everyone? Perhaps not. In its manifesto, Hizbollah claims that “We see in Israel the vanguard of the United States in our Islamic world. It is the hated enemy that must be fought until the hated ones get what they deserve” and “We vigorously condemn all plans for negotiation with Israel, and regard all negotiators as enemies” or even “our struggle will end only when this entity is obliterated”. In this light it comes as little surprise that Hizbollah legislator Hussein Haj Hassan responded to peace efforts saying “The international envoys have conveyed Israeli conditions. These conditions are rejected”. When Israel is faced with an enemy backed by the growing power of Iran and which claims that “We recognize no treaty with it (Israel), no cease fire, and no peace agreements, whether separate or consolidated”, who exactly are the Israelis suppose to negotiate with?

This brings us back to the question of the UN. Those who place so much faith in the ability of this rotten fiasco to rein in Israel and protect it from further Hizbollah attacks may like to note Hizbollah’s reaction to the last UN force which was dispatched to guard the border; “With special vehemence we reject UNIFIL as they were sent by world arrogance to occupy areas evacuated by Israel and serve for the latter as a buffer zone. They should be treated much like the Zionists.”

Hizbollah will keep firing rockets into Israel and it will fight a UN force if one is sent there to keep the peace. Israel will be faced with the choice of accepting these rocket attacks or doing something about which is the route they have been forced down by the intransigence of Hizbollah and the weakness of the Lebanese government. But it is a war that Israel cannot win so expect plenty more rubbish to be spouted about it yet.