Nick Cohen has a piece in the Norwegian daily VG, which he helpfully translates for us here:
The war in Libya is destroying the illusions of Europe’s liberal middle class. Think back to how its spokesmen and women talked about international politics in an Oslo or London television studio until only a few months ago, and notice how everything they assumed to be true has turned out to be false.
They agreed that it was an outrageous breach of international law for America and her allies to overthrow Saddam Hussein – a far worse tyrant than Muammar Gaddafi, incidentally. Now they have a war that meets their demands of “legality,” we find it to be a cruel and dishonest campaign that cannot meet its objectives.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 authorised “all necessary measures” to protect Libyans from the threat of attack.
It all sounded so reasonable. Gaddafi is the world’s longest serving dictator who has subjected his population to 42 years of corruption, oppression and indoctrination. (Imagine having to repeat and pretend to respect for all your adult life the deranged ideas of Gaddafi’s Green Book, which Libyan children had to learn by rote, and you will get some idea of the humiliation he imposed on his people.)
When he threatened them with massacre, the UN had an anti-totalitarian duty to intervene.
But the UN’s legal authority is treacherous....
Unlike the EU, unfortunately, the United Nations is a club without membership rules. On the Security Council sits Russia, aptly described by the US State Department as a “mafia state,” and the representatives of the Chinese Communist Party. Such are the arbiters of international law. And to get them to agree to the action in Libya, Europe, the US and their Arab supporters had to promise not to overthrow the regime or put soldiers on the ground to support the use of air power. We are now in the absurd situation where we can offer the rebels air support but not the military units they need to win the war. We cannot target the dictator personally, because his life must be protected, while the wretched people of Misurata suffer and die. We may have to live with the fact that Gaddafi will survive – and by clinging on to power give hope to the region’s embattled dictators and depress the morale of their opponents. What is the point of a humanitarian intervention that prolongs the conflict and leaves the abuser of human rights in charge? None that I can see. But apparently it is legal.
Christopher Hitchens was making a similar point last week:
In effect, this half-baked approach leaves the initiative with Qaddafi. It also means that the mounting death rate, which recently included the lost life of my much-admired Vanity Fair colleague Tim Hetherington along with several others, is not justifiable by any commensurate military or political gains. These are lives that are being frittered away. Hetherington's last tweet described what he saw in Misurata the day before his death: "Indiscriminate shelling by Qaddafi forces. No sign of NATO." How shameful. What is utterly lacking in Libya, still, is an entrance strategy.
Spread out in newsagents across the land, the front pages of today's papers are, inevitably, covered with photos of the happy couple.....except for the Independent, where Britain's premier artistic talent, Tracey Emin, has produced her own simple yet deeply moving sketch of the magic moment which captured a nation's heart, revealing a mastery of line and sureness of touch reminiscent of Picasso at his finest.
The perfect souvenir of the perfect occasion.
[You can better appreciate this classic work here]
So where was everyone this morning? Barely a soul down by the Lea:
Victoria Park deserted:
Ah, something's happening here:
I did in fact watch more than I intended of the day's events. All ready to go off on the bike, but then it wasn't really a very pleasant morning weather-wise until later, and the TV was on, and....ooh look, there's William and Henry setting off....and the queen. Might as well wait for Kate to appear.....and arrive at the Abbey.....and walk up the aisle. I left when the bearded one with the big hat started speaking.
It must be reported, with no little sadness, that the trip to North Korea by Jimmy Carter and the Elders has not been a resounding success. For the second time running Carter was snubbed by the Dear Leader.
Carter and his Elderly chums were nevertheless keen to continue publicising the view most congenial to their North Korean hosts - that the current problems there are due to their South Korean neighbours, and, of course, the US:
Former President Jimmy Carter, after a 48-hour visit to North Korea, sharply criticized the United States and South Korea on Thursday for their refusal to send humanitarian assistance to the impoverished North, saying their deliberate withholding of food aid amounted to “a human rights violation.”
Mr. Carter, who was not traveling on behalf of the United States government, had been invited to North Korea for discussions with senior political and military officials as a way to perhaps ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula, which he said were “at rock bottom.”
Mr. Carter, 86, traveled with two other former presidents, Mary Robinson of Ireland and Martti Ahtisaari of Finland, and former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland of Norway. All four are members of the Elders, an independent group of world leaders established by Nelson Mandela.
Mrs. Robinson echoed Mr. Carter’s concerns about what she called the “very serious crisis” over food supplies in North Korea because of a harsh winter, severe flooding and an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. She said the withdrawal of American and South Korean food shipments had aggravated the already-dire situation, which had become, she said, “a matter of life-and-death urgency.”
Dr. Brundtland cited a lack of running water in hospitals, even in maternity and pediatric wards, and a deep shortage of what she called “essential medicines.” She said a third of all North Korean children were stunted because of malnourishment, which “also permanently affects their brain development.”
Nothing to do with the Dear Leader and his nightmare regime, then. Or the refusal to take responsibility for the sinking of the Cheonan and the shelling of Yeonpyeong-do. Or the fact that the North Koreans have always insisted on taking control of any food aid, ensuring that the vast bulk, if not all of it, goes to the military. Or the recent botched currency reform which decimated any small savings which desperate North Koreans had managed to put aside.
Unsurprisingly, after this grotesque performance in appeasement, Koreans are not overly impressed. The Daily NK:
During his self-appointed mission to North Korea this week, former President Jimmy Carter engaged in yet another sanctimonious effort to impose his vision onto U.S. policy. His trip was the latest iteration of a predictable pattern of coddling dictators and blaming the shortcomings of those regimes on the United States and its allies.
Once again, Mr. Carter has demonstrated a dangerously naïve misunderstanding of international affairs. Carter’s approach ignores important principles such as adhering to UN resolutions, complying with international law, and not committing unprovoked acts of war.
The Chosun Ilbo:
It was Carter's third trip to the North and the second during which Kim could not be bothered to meet him. Nonetheless, after telling reporters prior to the trip that South Korea is responsible for the North’s food shortage and saying he wanted to meet the reclusive leader, he came back with the message that Kim is "always ready" to hold a summit with President Lee Myung-bak, as if that was a great revelation.
During his stay in Pyongyang, Carter blogged from Pyongyang, "We are hearing consistently throughout our busy schedule here in Pyongyang that the North wants to improve relations with America and is prepared to talk without preconditions to both the U.S. and South Korea on any subject." He wrote that it is a tragedy that the two Koreas have not signed a peace treaty even though more than 60 years has passed since the Korean War. The objective of his visit to Pyongyang was to discuss with Kim Jong-il the scrapping of North Korea's nuclear weapons program. This did not happen, but for some reason he is still parroting the North Korean line that it will not give up its nuclear program without a peace treaty. Did these eminent former leaders really have to travel all the way to Pyongyang to hear a message they could have found on Google?
Well you've got to make the effort, haven't you? Hartley Towers is festooned in bunting, and everyone has the day off. I can already hear the sounds of celebration from the servants' quarters. Oh dear - I imagine it'll be cold leftovers from the fridge for us tonight! - unless Mrs Danby can be persuaded to heat something up in the micro-oven thingy, that is.
Not that one minds, of course. It's been an especially difficult year for the staff, what with the sad decision - only reached after much soul-searching - that we had to reduce their wages by 20%. With the recession, something just had to give. We all have to tighten our belts, don't we? Such a shame. Which is why one is only too happy to give them the opportunity to let their hair down. As long as it's just for the one day.
What music to select for this happy occasion? A reminder, perhaps, from Mr. Jerry Reed, that, as I found out to my cost with my first wife the Hon. Letitia Hartley, née Whistleton-Smythe, (sadly no longer with us after that unfortunate skiing accident in Klosters), mistakes can be made, and can prove expensive:
[On Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour, Weddings featured early on, in episode 8 - see the list of songs here - followed the next week with episode 9, Divorce. Since, as we know, the devil has all the best tunes, the Divorce songs are generally the better bunch. Though a special mention should go to Lloyd Price for his title, Where were you (on our wedding day)? And, of course, any excuse to hear Etta James.]
Always distrust utopian thinkers. People who believe they can deliver us to happiness for ever are bound to think, rationally enough, that the means will justify the ends. If it will bring the peaceable kingdom to pass, then break the eggs to make that everlasting omelette! And I think utopian radical Islamism or jihadism is a smaller and more scattered version of what so powerfully dominated the 20th century. The jihadi preference for instant rage, slaughter and martyrdom repels everyone, including nearly all Muslims. And the list of radical Islamist dislikes is too long, too much against the grain of human aspiration for their cause to have much appeal in the long run – sexuality, free thought, music, gays, evolutionary biology, unveiled independent women, pluralism, democracy, curiosity, fun, tolerance, fashion, humour…
I saw a demonstration along the Euston Road in London the other day – about a hundred chanting fellows in beards, with the women well to the rear, as you’d expect, head to toe in burqas, and many carrying banners demanding ‘Sharia law now’. The rush-hour traffic was edging round them; no one was paying much attention. They were a minor nuisance, like a failed traffic light. They didn’t look threatening so much as comically hopeless. How marvellous: no one was shouting or throwing stones at them, no one was much bothered. They were exercising their well-protected (I hope) right to demonstrate. A right they would surely never grant to others, if they had their way. They seemed not only puny but politically illiterate – some of their banners said ‘Hands off Gaddafi’. Well, he’s been a scourge to Islamists in his own country, so how on earth they thought he was someone they would want to support, I don’t know.
I wish I could be as sure as McEwan about "nearly all Muslims" being repelled by the jihadists. I suppose it's a necessary formulation now for a novelist entering these turbulent waters if you don't want to be accused by the likes of Terry Eagleton of being a BNP thug. But still, yes, that's surely right: in the long run radical Islam is "too much against the grain of human aspiration" to have any chance of success. It's the short term that's a worry, though.
This, from last month, may be the demonstration he's talking about (though it's Oxford Street, not Euston Road), with the women in black sacks marching separately behind. "Comically hopeless", yes. But slightly chilling, too.
These structures were commissioned by former Yugoslavian president Josip Broz Tito in the 1960s and 70s to commemorate sites where WWII battles took place (like Tjentište, Kozara and Kadinjača), or where concentration camps stood (like Jasenovac and Niš). They were designed by different sculptors (Dušan Džamonja, Vojin Bakić, Miodrag Živković, Jordan and Iskra Grabul, to name a few) and architects (Bogdan Bogdanović, Gradimir Medaković...), conveying powerful visual impact to show the confidence and strength of the Socialist Republic. In the 1980s, these monuments attracted millions of visitors per year, especially young pioneers for their "patriotic education." After the Republic dissolved in early 1990s, they were completely abandoned, and their symbolic meanings were forever lost.