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Keith E Rice's Integrated SocioPsychology Blog & Pages

Aligning, integrating and applying the behavioural sciences

Iraq’

‘Radical Islam’ and the Return of Tony Blair

Wow, Tony Blair sure is back in the news in a BIG way! First the Gordon Brown-bashing memoirs, then having eggs and shoes thrown at him in Dublin on Saturday and being a star guest yesterday on the inaugural showing of the new breakfast programme, Daybreak. And, of course, in the Sunday Telegraph both he and Brown were bashed by former Chief of the General Staff General Sir Richard Dannatt for failing to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq adequately. (Dannatt was in uncompromising mood, blaming Blair and Brown explicitly and personally for needless deaths.) Perhaps the most interesting set of comments to emerge from the seemingly endless round of interviews the former prime minister has conducted were those to do with ‘radical Islam’ and the threat that would be posed by a nuclear Iran. Talking about radical Islam in general, he described it to ABC News as “…the religious or cultural equivalent of [Communism] and its roots are deep, its tentacles are long and its narrative about Islam stretches far further than we think into even parts of mainstream opinion who abhor the extremism but sort of buy some of the rhetoric that goes with it.” Blair told the… Read More

‘Liberal Conservatives’: new politics?

The first day of the Tory/Lib Dem coalition we had Nick & Dave: the Love-In in the Rose Garden which more than a few commentators likened to a wedding, such was the bonhomie and adoring gazes between the principals. Yesterday we had Vince Cable, the Lib Dems’ voice of sensible moderation, and William Hague, the conservative of the Conservatives, sharing the walk along Downing Street to David Cameron’s first cabinet meeting. Not to mention the bizarre spectacle of Lib Dem anti-nuclear spokesperson Chris Huhne taking charge of implementing the Tories’ plans to build more nuclear power stations! Today, of course, Cameron’s at war with a number of his own backbenchers over the intention to fix the level at which Parliament can be dissolved prematurely at a vote of 55% of the House of Commons (up from a simple majority of 51% and making it that much more difficult to get rid of them). At least the Lib Dems are only being berated for this ‘stitch up’ by members of another party (Labour)! Undoubtedly the week since the general election results were declared has been one of the most interesting in modern British politics! The 55% no-confidence level stitch-up is, in fact, a key plank… Read More

Afghanistan: Sex or starve! What’s the Issue?

If the stories are true – and there does seem to be some confusion in the accounts – then Hamid Karzai’s government sneaked into law on 27 July an amended version of the Personal Status Law for Afghanistan’s minority Shi’ite population. (Around 15% of the country’s 30 million citizens – the vast majority of whom are Sunnis, to whom the new law does not apply.) The coming into law of this measure certainly does seem ‘sneaked’. With the likes of Barrack Obama, Gordon Brown, France’s Human Rights Minister Rama Yade and NATO boss Jaap de Hoop Scheffer joining the international chorus of protest against the original version of the bill in the Spring, Karzai promised to review the measure before implementing it. Now, just days before the increasingly tightly-contested elections, he appears to have sneaked it into law with some different words but the same meanings. Human Rights Watch says it has seen a copy of the final law that requires Shia women to satisfy their husbands’ sexual appetites at least every 4 days, an article which critics have said could be used to justify marital rape. It enshrines a husband’s right to withdraw basic maintenance from his wife, including food, if… Read More

Why We must win in Afghanistan

The West simply cannot afford to lose its war in Afghanistan. As the soldiers’ bodies come home in ever-increasing numbers, pressure will inevitably grow for a withdrawal. Already an unpopular war in continental Europe, it will become increasingly difficult for the American and British governments to keep their resolve if media and public pressure focus on the costs in terms of lives and money and there is little sign of real progress. Unfortunately military experts anticipate 2-3 years of hard combat and several more years of Western military presence if the South of the country is to be stabilised. But, if we don’t pay those costs, then the Taliban are likely to take over government again in Kabul. It is thought that, in spite of their apparent significant defeat in the Swat Valley, their eyes are set next on Islamabad and the prize of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. Even if Pakistan doesn’t fall, Afghanistan will continue to flood the West with heroin (in spite of the Taliban officially being against opium production!) and it will almost certainly go back to being a training camp for al-Qaeda terrorists. What do we need – another 9/11 or 7/7 – to remind us what British… Read More

Israeli Stupidity in Gaza!

Want to seem like brutal stormtroopers butchering children? Want to undermine a relative moderate (Mahmoud Abbas) and turn his people against him? Want to have Arab governments with no sympathy whatsoever for Hamas forced into denouncing you by the protesting hordes flooding on to their streets? Want to swell the ranks of al-Qaeda with bitter young men and women dedicated to killing Jews and Americans? Want to have massive anti-Israeli demonstrations in the capitals of all the countries you used to call your friends? OK, let’s really go for it: want to seem like the SS in the Warsaw ghetto? Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni could not have got it more wrong. Of course, Livni is right: Hamas need to be destroyed (“toppled” is the word she reportedly used). As do all terrorist organisations locked into rigid RED-BLUE thinking – see the feature, Killing the Terrorists in the Global section. But this brutal onslaught on the Gaza Strip, one of the poorest and most populous places on the planet, is not the way to do it. The Israeli military are doing their best to keep foreign journalists out of Gaza; but, in these days of the internet and video uploads from… Read More

Should the Democrats have chosen Hilary?

To an outsider looking in, it seems astonishing that on 4 November 2008 John McCain might actually be voted the next president of the United States of America. According to the latest Gallup Poll, Barack Obama has a slender lead of 2 points (47:45) but running mate Sarah Palin is said to be stealing large numbers of female voters over to McCain’s side. How, I ask in wonderment, is this possible? This election terminates one of the most woefully-inadequate American presidencies in modern history. Think about just how incompetent and/or deluded George W Bush has been. One vital military victory (Afghanistan) derailed by 5 years of not winning another, totally-unnecessary war (Iraq), with world-wide sympathy for 9/11 and tolerance of the Afghan invasion turned to detestation of the United States as the world’s bully boy. (A perception only just begiining to change as Russia is now up for the title!) Incompetence reflected in Bush’s simply not knowing what to do as the federal government’s inaction cost lives in New Orleans 3 years ago – reflected in the federal government’s missupervision of the sub-prime lending market becoming a catalyst for a partial meltdown of America’s – and thus the global – economy.… Read More

The Sons of Iraq – a Step towards Stratified Democracy?

The level of violence in Iraq has decreased to the point where troop withdrawals by both the British and the Americans are once again being discussed seriously. Iraq and the United States have reportedly set a preliminary timetable to start withdrawing American forces from Iraqi cities from next June, according to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari last week after his meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. The Zebari-Rice agreement would link troop reductions to the achievement of certain security milestones. But, given how cautious President George W Bush has been to committing to a timetable for American withdrawal, for his Secretary of State to agree to one at all is an indicator of how much better things have become. And, of course, a few weeks before, Prime Minister Gordon Brown made a statement to Parliament announcing the intention to further reduce British troops in 2009. Who would have thought it a year ago? So, what’s changed the battleground so much in the past 14 months? Partly the much vaunted ‘surge’ of American troops in Baghdad, while merely displacing many insurgents to other parts of the country, did create short-term some of the essentials for peace at least in parts… Read More

Tribal War in South Ossetia

As the Russian-Georgian conflict in South Ossetia inches towards a volatile, dangerous and perhaps quite short-lived peace, it is a good time for those who would intervene – ‘soft cops’ like France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy and ‘hard cops’ such as American Vice President Dick Cheney – to study the nature of such conflicts, how they arise, how they can be managed, hopefully resolved and, better still, prevented. Better informed, their interventions may have a chance of working. With ethnic Russian breakaway forces in Abkhazia equally determined to resist Georgian attempts at reintegration and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pronouncing that Moscow cannot work with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, with both armies bloodied and ready to resume combat at the slightest provocation, with civilian dead estimated in the thousands and the two governments hurling accusations of ethnic cleansing and would-be genocide at each other, there is every potential for an awful lot more lives to be lost in the next few months. At root South Ossetia is a conflict of PURPLE tribalism. The PURPLE vMEME seeks security in belonging; in belonging to some, it demarks itself from others – all too easily leading to prejudice & discrimination against those who are “not… Read More

Iran: Jaw, Jaw or War, War?

Early in June the Israeli airforce carried out an exercise – sending 100 F15s and F16s out over the Eastern Mediterranean and Greece – supported by aerial tankers for in-flight refuelling. It was an impressive logistical feat and is being portrayed in the media as a dry run for bombing the Iranians’ principal nuclear facility at Bushehr. Interestingly it was not the Israelis or any of the other Middle Eastern states which ‘leaked’ the story but the Americans – with the spin that the Israelis were demonstrating to Tehran that they do have the capability of getting as far as Bushehr. As the news leaked (June 20), the Israeli government stepped up the war of words with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (struggling to regain domestic credibility after more corruption allegations) saying: “Iran will not be nuclear.” Even more ominously Deputy Prime Minster Shaul Mofaz told journalists a strike on Iran was now “unavoidable”. Arch neocon John Bolton, one-time US ambassador to the United Nations, has gone on record as saying he believes Israeli will strike in between the presidential election in November and the inauguration of the new President. A strike before the election might influence it unduly; if Barack Obama… Read More

Tariq Ali gets Benazir Bhutto wrong!

So that old agent provacateur extraordinare, Tariq Ali, has attacked the naming in Benazir Bhutto’s will of 19-year-old son Bilawal as her successor as leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, describing it as “a digusting medieval charade” (His article was the front page lead story in the New Year’s Eve edition of The Independent – and he appeared on that morning’s editon of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, reiterating his position.) In describing the succession of Bilawal as “medieval”, Tariq was spot on! Moreover, his description of Asif Zardari, Bhutto’s widower (and Bilawal’s father), as a “feudal potentate” – a Lord Chancellor or Grand Vizier? – who will run the party until his son is old enough, is also pretty close to the mark. Where Tariq misses the point is to call it “disgusting” and a “charade”. He goes on to say: “How can Western-backed politicians be taken seriously if they treat their party as a fiefdom and their supporters as serfs, while their courtiers abroad mouth sycophantic niceties concerning the young prince and his future?” The point is: this is very much how the politcians in Pakistan must act if they wish to design an alternative government to the military dictatorship… Read More