The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

The Realpolitik of International Affairs

Posted by The Futility Monster on September 3, 2009 @ 06:28

What a fine cartoon!

What a fine cartoon!

I don’t know what it is, but I really can’t get excited over the continuing developments regarding the release of the Lockerbie bomber. The only prediction I made was that the Scottish government wouldn’t fall over the issue, as a certain newspaper suggested, and otherwise, it really wouldn’t be the storm that the media are making it out to be.

Well… perhaps I was wrong to a limited extent. There has indeed been quite a deep narrative to this story, enhanced by Gordon Brown doing his usual disappearing act when something controversial arises, which then allowed the London-centric media to do their worst to turn it into a story about Labour.

And so we’ve seen days of leaks, claims, counter-claims and endless publication of documents to try to prove who said what to whom. Once it gets to that stage, I am certain that 90% of the country has tuned out. For them, the story is merely about more political mendacity, more petty politicking, and most of us will choose the part of the story we like that fits our existing prejudices.

In fact, much like anything. It’s not certain many minds have been changed over the issue. Despite majorities opposing the decision, it is extremely unlikely to be the defining issue of any election campaign. Let’s face it, no one’s vote is going to be voting based upon whether the Scottish Justice Secretary has a different definition of “compassion” to everyone else.

This is why the issue hasn’t really captured my imagination. Are we surprised that politicians take decisions in the national interest, that realpolitik is not the order of the day in international affairs? Of course we aren’t. That’s why most of us didn’t believe the prospectus for the Iraq War. That’s why we are now so sceptical about Afghanistan. Because what is in it for us? What are our soldiers dying for?

Like it or not, principles tend to go out the window when other countries are involved.  That’s why Robin Cook’s “ethical dimension” to foreign policy, which he tried to make so much of when he became Foreign Secretary, was not all it cracked up to be when we soon learned that arms sales to oppressive regimes were still continuing.

As a result, I don’t believe that any other government would have taken any other decision on al-Megrahi. Even the Americans. This one is very convenient for them; it allows them to complain on the sidelines while having to bear none of the responsibility. But they will sure reap the reward when Libya continues to enhance its new ties to the West, both in terms of oil and intelligence sharing.

And just to prove my point, this morning Alastair Darling has ordered the world to “keep spending” – mainly because it would benefit us the most for that to happen by making us look less like the debt-laden nation we are.

National interest? Twas ever thus.

(Cartoon from:


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