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    Tuesday, July 15, 2003
    The centre left embraces internationalist military interventionism:
    This is rather interesting news. I'd be interested to see how the usual suspects will react to it:

    Tony Blair is expected to put his name today to a declaration justifying armed intervention against failing states.

    He and other Left-wing national leaders will expound the principle, which runs counter to traditional thinking about national sovereignty, at the end of a four-day conference on the subject of "progressive governance".

    The participants will issue a joint communiqué and, according to a draft leaked over the weekend, it will claim that the international community has a right to intervene in the internal affairs of failing states.

    The key section said: "Where a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling or unable to halt or avert it, the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect."

    I'm now in two minds about this issue. There can be huge costs to military adventurism and in principle I object to a nation acting alone taking upon itself the role to right all wrongs in the world as the costs of error can be high and fall on other nations besides the one that gets the 'intervention'. Thus I've tended, at least from the standpoint of unilateral policy alone, to favour a cautious realist approach to foreign policy which may in sufficiently compelling circumstances extend to acting pre-emptively. However if Blair et al are serious about establishing a principled framework and process whereby nations acting multilaterally can agree to intervene in troubled states then this may be worth considering - it would, for one thing, reduce the case for one nation acting alone (and therefore on presumably less information than many nations in conference) having to tie itself in Machiavellian knots to justify its actions in removing sources of future threats. At least under the multilateral approach, greater transparency and consistency can be introduced into the almost inevitable process of military interventions given the current environment.

    Perhaps I'm being a little unclear here - to put it bluntly
    1) 'failing states' can in the new environment of terrorist behemoths like Al Qaeda pose substantial negative externalities to the global community as havens of terrorism
    2) the US, given the shock to its system of S11 is going to act anyway to nip things in the bud if such situations crop up
    3) currently it is inclined to jump the gun and intervene whenever it wants to alone and on the basis of incomplete information because it thinks there is going to be a low probability that building a proper international coalition will succeed
    4) if something like what Blair is proposing can be built up and be sufficiently credible as a forum for considering interventions rather than producing a predetermined answer of 'No' each time then the US can be brought back into the multilateral system, and this may reduce the probability of its jumping the gun in any particular case and stuffing things up for everyone, resources for intervention and post-intervention can be properly set aside and apportioned accordingly in each case when a decision is made to intervene, and a precedent of coherent decision making and information, custom can be accumulated over time which improves the decision-making abilities of participants in such a system.

    I have no love for national sovereignty type arguments, and I regard international terrorism and failing states as an important future issue. If proper multilateral institutions can be evolved for monetary stability, why not this which is arguably as important? Now, the question is whether perhaps bringing the US back into the system this way may induce it to change its mind on international war crimes courts?

    Finally there is another reason to treat failing states as a source of negative externality - illegal immigration. If the utility of individuals from failing states is to be given any weight then they should either be taken in as refugees or things should be done to restore their failing states. However, to put things bluntly, a lot of the developed world is suffering from compassion fatigue nowadays and in any case, no country will ever have an open borders policy for refugees nor is it realistic to think that all people currently of refugee status will be admitted. If we're going to take a lot less of them in, then the least we can do is reduce the source of the refugee problem.

    Sunday, July 13, 2003
    Arnie the libertarian?
    Interesting profile of the politician to be (and yes I do think he is more than a B grade actor - he is a great comic actor. True Lies and Total Recall were great movies and he performed well in them):

    Influential Republicans have urged Arnie to run and he hasn't discouraged them. As a self-styled "compassionate conservative" - pro-gay, pro-immigrant, pro-choice in abortion and even pro-gun control - he won't alienate the liberal-minded ...

    In the US, he took business classes at UCLA and won a business degree by correspondence course from the University of Wisconsin. His economic views were defined early: "I am more comfortable with an Adam Smith philosophy than with Keynesian theory." (Not a line you expect to hear from Conan the Barbarian. Or then again...) In 1980, the year he became an American citizen, he bombarded friends with tapes of Milton Friedman's television series Free to Choose. Arnold himself felt free to speculate in property and real estate with bewildering success, or beginner's luck, during the 1970s
    Random thoughts spurred by London

    1) I tend to think highly of societies that honour their late, great scientists. Charles Darwin is found on the 10 pound note and just today I saw one monument to Isaac Newton in a park and another to Michael Faraday.

    2) The London summer is very uncomfortably warm, too warm for my taste - I miss the pleasantly cool and mild Australian winter. Yet few London establishments seem to have heard of a thing called air conditioning. It is almost impossible to even buy a properly chilled drink - drinks that one would expect to be in a refrigerator are just placed in an area that makes them vaguely cold.

    3) It is a great pleasure to get into a cab and be fully confident that the cab driver knows where he is going. In Sydney one almost needs to be a backseat driver when in a cab, a requirement that is very tough for a non-driver like myself. I would be happy to pay exorbitant prices if the supply of cabs were restricted by genuine quality controls like they seem to be in London, rather than arbitrarily set quantitative limits on licences issued.

    4) Almost all the newsagents and convenience stores are run by Indians and Arabs, even more so than in Sydney, while almost every Starbucks has at least one East Asian employee. (Disclosure - I am indeed an avid frequenter of Starbucks for the iced teas, an essential requirement in this hot weather. I could care less about the quality of coffee which I only consume for the caffeine - if this could be taken as a pill, so much the better).

    5) There is a statue of Abraham Lincoln somewhere in Parliament Square. I'm not denying that Lincoln deserves a statue, but what the hell is he doing there??!

    6) It is really weird seeing an old guy in a suit riding a bicycle on a busy street.




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