The sovereign can no longer say, "You shall think as I do on pain of death;" but he says, "You are free to think differently from me, and to retain your life, your property, and all that you possess; but if such be your determination, you are henceforth an alien among your people."

(Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1835)

Friday, 23 April 2010

Why I would vote for Clegg

  1. Clegg questions US ties. I think it's about time that the UK emancipates itself form the US. As should all the rest of Europe, by the way. It is hard to understand that the relationship to the country that brought down the mighty British Empire is considered to be 'special' to begin with. Clegg said that the Iraq invasion "was a war about Tony Blair and Gordon Brown doing America's bidding". I couldn't agree more.

  2. Clegg speaks out against the "like-for-like" replacement of the Trident submarines capable of carrying nuclear ICBMs. During the first of the leaders' debates Nick Clegg repeatedly asked how Gordon Brown or David Cameron "could justify or afford £100bn over 25 years on a nuclear missile system, which was designed specifically to flatten St Petersburg or Moscow", and said "the world has moved on and I think you two need to move with it". I think that is a valid point. Furthermore, I would argue that capabilities such as nuclear deterrence as well as aircraft carriers should become EU assets anyway.

  3. On the Middle East, Clegg said: "On Israel, my view has always been that whilst the ideology of Israel's enemies in Hamas . . . is odious, and the use of terror . . . unacceptable, I also feel that it is simply not in Israel's long-term interests to have 1.5-1.8 million people in a state of wretched grinding poverty in a tiny, tiny sliver of land in Gaza seething with ever greater radicalism, extremism and hatred right on your doorstep and that the military methods used in Operation Cast Lead were disproportionate." Making peace in the Middle East is simple: total withdrawal of Israel to the borders of 1967, Jerusalem capital of both Israel and Palestine and compensation for the refugees. Time to put pressure on the parties to get their act together.

  4. He is a graduate of the College of Europe.


  1. I disagree on Clegg's Trident argument completely and here are some reasons why:

    1) The U.K. is playing quite a positive role in shaping some of the nuclear disarmament debate and, ironically, it is only in a position to do that because it has nuclear weapons itself. That the fact that it would be relinquishing them for financial reasons means that it would lose any argument that it is 'leading by example.'

    2) And related to the first point, I think it could actually have the effect of slowing other disarmament measures that are perhaps more important for arms control. I'm particularly thinking about the U.S. removing nonstrategic nuclear weapons from Europe. Given that the U.K. Trident system is more heavily tied into NATO that France's deterrent, its disappearance would make states such as the Baltic nations more loathe to agree to any withdrawal of the U.S. gravity bombs from Europe. I think this is bad for arms control in the sense that it would slow the process of both the U.K and Russia reducing their tactical nuclear weapons arsenals.

    3) I do think it's irresponsible in the face of the Iranian threat. That is particularly the case given that if Iran did go on to develop nuclear weapons then this is likely to make the U.K. more and not less reliant on the US.

    4) This is only because I'm British, but leaving France as the only nuclear power in Europe is a very very bad idea. I'd like to see them both disarm eventually but I think this is a case when it should be done together.

    There might be some U.K. bias factoring in here so I await your rebuttal Frederik :)

  2. I mean "US and Russia reducing their tactical nuclear weapons" on the 2nd point

  3. Finally I get to answer you:

    I find it an interesting approach to argue that the UK needs nukes to play a role in the negotiations to abolish nukes. Either you think you need nukes in which case you keep them or you think you don't need them in which case you get rid of them.

    Your arguments do not really contradict Cleigg's point of view, provided that I understood him well. He doesn't want to get rid of nukes, he just wants to replace the Trident submarines by cruise-missile with strategic nuclear warheads. So the UK would remain a nuclear power, but loose the capability to level Moscow. If I remember correctly, those cruise-missiles could be launched from the new Astute submarines.

    Generally, I think Europe, not the UK nor France as nation states, needs nukes as deterrent. I don't see much evidence that Iran is a threat but we don't know how the geopolitical landscape will look like in the future and hence where the threat will be coming from.

    But the capabilities should be paid for by all EU Member States since we all profit from it. So why not making them an EU asset? I know, the attempt to build a French-British aircraft-carrier didn't really work out, but maybe is the financial crisis a good motivation to try it again.

  4. The LibDem arguments seem confused and flimsy, and I think Clegg is a little disingenuous particularly about trident and entry to the euro.

    Clegg says that he would be against like for like replacement of trident but when asked what he would like to replace it he says ' i dont know'. And this is a potential Prime Minister?? He quotes the £100bn figure of savings from this idea but fails to mention that any replacement would of course cost money. It's rather creative accounting; it even includes arbitrarily doubling the new procurement figures, on the basis that it might overrun by that much! So he's not being completely straight with his figures. Here's Clegg getting a mauling on several issues on the Radio 4 Today programe:

    I was struck by his ineptitude and lack of clarity regarding numbers. He even states at one point that he didnt want to be drawn into numbers..
    The whole 'special relationship' term is overplayed and is more of a soundbite that has been quoted by politicians over the years. Having said that, there is a special relationship on several levels, particularly intelligence sharing. Clegg's argument is merely a populist approach in my view.

  5. I understand what you mean about the Astute Class and fitting them with cruise missiles, this is something that he has suggested. But there is a big problem with this idea - to fit nuclear warheads to the cruise missiles on Astute class subs at a time of crisis (which is what he is suggesting) is incredibly destabilising, whereas an SSBN going about its daily business isn't.

    The point about the UK in disarmament is that if it unilaterally disarms then it will lose practically all influence over the disarmament process. It is in a position where it can really push the 'multilateral' disarmament agenda by keeping them until the point where a number of countries disarm simultaneously, something that will be much more stabilising. In this sense, keeping nuclear weapons while promoting disarmament isn't really contradictory.

    I think the European asset idea is a good one in theory, but the problem is that it completely goes against some of the key articles in the Nonproliferation Treaty. You would be making even more European states custodians of nuclear weapons and it could cause the entire nonproliferation regime to collapse.