2015 12 – News From France


Cameron took advantage of the 13 November Paris massacres to gain a vote, long denied, for bombing in Syria.  The situation in France and England being different, Cameron will not reap the popularity that Hollande has, with his extra 20 points in the French opinion polls.  On the contrary, emotion being more or less absent, a lot of good arguments were aired in the house of Commons and in the media and will stick in people’s minds.

The Spectator, and Simon Jenkins in the Guardian approved Corbyn’s stand. A lot of good points were made in Parliament: Bombing supposedly does not make the UK a target for attacks but according to  Eliza Manningham-Buller, director general of MI5 during the invasion [of Iraq]:

“The bombing increased the terrorist threat by convincing more people in the region that Islam was under attack. It provided an arena for jihad.”

Attacks from the air will not destroy ISIL so we also need ground troops: Cameron mentioned 70 000 moderate troops ready to complete the mission.  The head of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee said this figure was a ‘revelation’ to him.

The UK has ‘unique’ weapons like the Brimstone, which will make a difference: but the Saudis have been using these very same weapons since February with no good result.

Two years ago Cameron wanted to bomb Assad, now he wants to bomb Assad’s enemies.

If the Chilcot inquiry had produced its report, we might have learnt something to help in the present situation.

Conservative MPs made good points: Kenneth Clarke (we should negotiate with Assad), Peter Lilley (there are no moderates in Syria) John Baron (we risk repeating the errors we made in our interventions in Iraq, in Afghanistan post -2006, and in Libya.) Gerald Howarth (the Prime Minister should intensify his discussions with President Putin) Bernard Jenkin (the US seem to be lukewarm against ISIL: whereas during the Bosnia conflict they made 130 sorties a day, in Syria it is an average of perhaps 7 sorties a day).  Edward Leigh (we have to co-operate with Russia, Assad and the Syrian army if we are to complete a bombing war and forward to the reconstruction after that.)   Richard Fuller (the Iraq war aggravated the separation between British Muslims and the rest of the British population.  Is the Prime Minister sure this will not happen again as a consequence of the decisions that he makes after today?)

There is an impression that the best and clearest points were made by Conservatives, unless their contributions stood out because they were speaking against Cameron.

The outcome of the vote will do nothing to weaken Corbyn’s position, on the contrary; the Prime Minister may have won, but public opinion is on the side of Corbyn.  On the day of the vote, 2 December, 54% of the country was reported to reject bombing.


COP 21

This is the UN Climate Conference in Paris, November 30 to December 11.  It could not have come at a worst time.  The Greats of the world are much more interested and involved in the Syrian events than in this conference.  ‘COP 21’ stands for ‘Conference Of the Parties’ to the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The conference is also known as ‘CMP 11’, ‘Meeting of the Parties’ to the Kyoto Protocol 2005.

The Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty, which extends the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that commits State Parties to reduce greenhouse gases emissions, based on the premise that global warming exists and man-made CO2 emissions have caused it.

The Conference does not address the unsustainable and wasteful use of resources by the Western world, only the emission of greenhouse gases.  This has the advantage of leaving unmentioned the real problems, and of projecting an aura of uncertainty over the discussions, since the public still has the impression that the issue is a matter for debate.

Moreover, since the solution is less production of coal, gas and oil, it would make impossible the Western way of life, and has therefore no chance of succeeding.

And finally, since the developing world is only holding out against the intention of the United States to create a ‘unipolar’ world, i.e. a world entirely dominated by them, by developing as fast as they can in order to be strong enough to withstand US pressure on them, they will not want to put themselves in danger by reducing production.

It is an occasion for the US to bully weaker countries however.


The Pope’s Encyclical on the Environment

The Pope’s Encyclical on the Environment ‘Laudato Si’ enjoins the world to look after our common home, the Earth.  It does not limit itself to ‘green house gases’, but properly addresses the wasteful Western way of life and recommends moderate consumption.

The Pope has God, and his mission, to keep him occupied.  What do Westerners have to keep them happy?  New shiny baubles, and the promise of perpetual upgrades.  (This is our ‘way of life’ which we bomb Syria to defend, according to Cameron and Hollande.)


The greasy pole

This absence of idealistic belief and this concentration on material goods is one cause of the radicalization of some young people in France.  What does France have to offer young people: a struggle up the greasy pole for jobs and money. Some can only look at others engaging in that struggle, with no way of getting even near the bottom of the pole.

Another cause is the sickening spectacle of wars led by powerfully armed Western powers against weak countries, as Thomas Piketty, economist and now adviser to Corbyn, explained in Le Monde of 21 November:

‘A few hundred dead in the Western coalition to give back the oil to the emirates and to Western companies [in Kuwait 1990-1] as against a few thousands on the Iraqi side; in the Iraq war between 2003 and 2011: around 500,000 Iraqi dead, as against more than 4,000 American soldiers killed.  There is also an extreme asymmetry in human losses in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  This reality serves as justification for the jihadists.’

Piketty goes on to criticize Western support for the tiny countries who sit on oil resources:

‘Oil resources are concentrated on small unpopulated territories.  If we look at the zone from Egypt to Iran, via Syria, Iraq and the Arab peninsula, that is around 300 million inhabitants, we see that oil monarchies gather between 60 and 70% of the Gross Domestic Product of the region, for just about 10% of the population, making this the most inegalitarian region of the planet. Yet we give our support to these monarchies and sell them our arms. Our propaganda for democracy can only sound hollow.’ ‘What we need is a development model that is social and equitable, both here in France and there in the Middle East.’

Meanwhile the chaotic situation in France helps the National Front gain votes; in the forthcoming regional elections, voters in 6 regions (out of 14) say they will vote NF in the first round.

The head of the Employers Federation (MEDEF or “Movement of the Enterprises of France”), Pierre Gattaz, made a speech to say the NF economic programme (pension age of 60, leaving the Euro, a higher minimum wage) would be a disaster.

Sarkozy, leader of his renamed party (the UMP is now ‘LR’ for ‘Les Republicains’), still has a slightly better foreign policy than Hollande; he is keen to work with Russia.  Hollande however is at the highest point in popularity since his election, thanks to the emotion created by the attacks of 13 November. It is doubtful however that it will be reflected in good election results for the Socialist Party.