Britain’s international standing

 Ever since the end of the British empire, some of us British have been pondering and picking over the question of what is our place in the world. For the British, it is so much part of the condition of being British that for the most part we don’t realise we’re doing it and, when it’s pointed out to us, we assume that it’s simply part and parcel of having a national identity. But it’s not. And our obsession with it says something about us. As our Parliament merrily implodes before our eyes, the question is coming back again but in the end the answer may be surprisingly banal. Continue reading

So far, new US security strategy seems odd mix of continuity and change

As we keep on trying to weigh up Obama’s now over-100-day-old presidency and its meaning for the world, maybe it’s useful to shift focus off the man and onto some other parts of his administration. The New Security Beat blog-site has usefully picked up an interesting speech by Under Secretary for Defense Michele Flournoy, which shows how old and new elements are might be blended in the US security strategy. The mix thus far combines encouraging and thoroughly disappointing elements. Continue reading

Obama in power (6):policies clarifying, pattern still hazy

By the time Obama was inaugurated, he had promised so much, there was a risk that he could only disappoint. Let’s not get too carried away in these tough times, but there is some much needed good news: perfect his administration is not, but the first signs in foreign policy are far from negative. This extended post surveys the key issues. Continue reading

Obama in power (5): does he need to be bipartisan?

Obama’s approach to the challenges of government is fascinating. Not yet 100 days into power, he seems to retain that combination of the cerebral strategist and the practical politician that, combined with clearly enunciated principles, made him such an attractive looking candidate. Whatever else you’re going to say about him, however you’re going to characterise him, “Same old, same old” is not it.

Continue reading

G-20 outcomes and winners

Thursday’s G-20 summit communique was followed by an immediate hailstorm of judgements. The term “new world order” has been used more than once, which in principle is not out of order when the leaders of countries responsible for 90 per cent of world output are gathered together, and you know there is some kind of success when major world leaders queue up to claim the credit. Continue reading

Obama in power (4): challenges, doubts and the G-20

Barack Obama comes to London this week – the heads of 20 other governments do too because G-20 has suddenly grown into G-22 but of course it’s Obama who sets the pulse racing. Everybody knows his host, Gordon Brown, needs the G-20 to be an all-out success; anything less – mere solid achievement, for example – will be spun as failure by the UK government’s army of critics. But is Obama in a similar situation?

Continue reading

G-20 summit: Brown revives Blair’s old Euro-Atlantic dream

So Gordon Brown went to Strasbourg and told the European Parliament that the EU is uniquely placed to provide world leadership in the economic crisis. Is this the Gordon Brown who deliberately avoided EU ministerial meetings and designed impassable tests the UK economy had to pass if he was to let it join the Euro? Why the change? Continue reading

Four issues at (or not at) the G-20 London summit

It looks like there will be some serious demonstrations to welcome the G-20 summiteers to London on 2 April. Protests will reflect anger at the human costs of the recession and a conviction (or hope) that the system has not only failed many ordinary people but is failing full stop. And there will be a lot of sympathy for the protests because it is hard to see the G-20 straightforwardly addressing the big problems. There are four in particular that could do with high-level attention. Continue reading