Saturday, August 25, 2007

Kurdish muslim editorial on Jihadists

Via British blogger Mick Hartley

comes this item from a liberal Muslim commentator.

In Wake of Massacre of Yazidis: Iraqi Kurdish Liberal Hussein Sinjari on Minorities in Iraq and Middle East

"In Kurdistan, and in… Kirkuk, Sinjar, and Khanaqin, the vile terrorists are trying to reserve front-row seats in Paradise, which is becoming more crowded day by day with scum, murderers, and conscienceless, malicious fanatics. This has reached the point where it will be perplexingly [difficult] for the management of Paradise, in this state of affairs, to provide the overwhelming numbers of female angels and boy-servants to these barbaric criminals who are so hungry and thirsty for sex…

"They want to buy a ticket to Paradise with the blood and agony of innocents. What teachings, of what belief system - what verses permit all of this killing, destruction, and hellfire, with all its agony? The obscurantist suicide bombers, who hate life, hope, beauty, love, happiness, construction, and development in this life, hate those 'others' who do not resemble them in their religion, habits, customs, ways of thinking, ways of worship, and in their robes and beards.

Earlier, in a July 4, 2007 article in Al-Ahali, Hussein Sinjari wrote on the fate of minorities in Iraq and in the Middle East in general:

"Religious minorities in the Middle East - Jews, Christians, and Baha'is - played a pioneering role in the blossoming of the sciences, philosophy, music, song, linguistics, lexicography, the press, and in ideological associations and parties… as well as in spreading the call for gender and ethnic equality and democracy, as well as in banking and in the economy - and I could go on. Whether in carpentry, metalwork, education, or medicine, the religious minorities made pioneering, creative contributions in all walks of life in the region.

"Today, the Christians are leaving these countries - their countries - after having lived in them generation after generation, with open minds, open hearts, and open arms. And before them, [it was] the Jews [who] left the Islamic countries.
"Following the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the Jews, Baha'is, and Christians left the country, and those who are left are still trying to get out, because of the discrimination, the racism, and the repression.

"In Turkey, following the Turkish genocide against the Armenians in 1915 and the other massacres and repression of Christians [and] Yazidis, the Assyrian and Chaldean Christians emigrated from their villages in their historic regions, just as the Yazidis emigrated, to the extent that today they no longer have any significant presence in the Turkish Republic.

"The emigration of the religious minorities is an indication of the decline of the culture of tolerance and the rise to prominence of its opposite: religious fanaticism, hatred of the other, and the spread of ideologies of obscurantist extremism.

"Religious or nationalist fanaticism is a grave epidemic that affects individuals as it affects societies. The virus causes the death of its carrier and transmitter and [anyone] who contracts it, whether an individual, a group, or a people (umma). The fanatics who claim a monopoly on the truth, on Allah, and on Paradise, are dead in their hearts, their brains, and in their humanity. Their consciences are dead.

The fanatics spread this most dangerous of epidemics, this fatal virus, in our [Middle] East, just as they spread it all over the world.

"Whose responsibility is it to stop this madness? Al-Azhar? [The seminaries in] Najaf? Qom? The muftis? The school curricula? The political leaders? The Friday preachers and the mullahs?

"Who is responsible for the premeditated suicide of entire peoples and for deciding that they will live outside of history, outside of civilization, and outside of humanity?..."

Friday, August 24, 2007

The asymmetry of Anti Americanism.

James Forsyth in the Spectator records Sarko's advice to Condoleezza Rice:

When Sarkozy met Condoleezza Rice, she said, ‘What can I do for you?’ And he said, bluntly, ‘Improve your image in the world. It’s difficult when the country that is the most powerful, the most successful—that is, of necessity, the leader of our side—is one of the most unpopular countries in the world. It presents overwhelming problems for you and overwhelming problems for your allies. So do everything you can to improve the way you’re perceived—that’s what you can do for me.’

The reigning culture of abuse for the US depends critically on an undeclared democratic discount. America is disproportionately abused because it is a democracy operating under a rule of law whilst its most conspicuous opponents get a free pass from America’s fiercest domestic and European critics precisely because they have no such constraints. The glib excuse that we should hold America in Iraq to a higher standard then the resistance is no more than a tacit admission that America is the only party that can be held to any sort of standard at all.

The notion that an intelligent response to the explicit challenge of ruthless fascisms is to ratchet up the moral barriers for democratic military response and to leave the fascists themselves unmolested by anything other than pro forma censure is the self destructive impulse that underlies anti Americanism and undermines the Western liberal project itself.

Therefore this process isn’t about talking truth to American power so much as us telling ourselves lies about real and existing fascisms. It’s an internal dialogue in which the opposition literally plays no part. Only American actors and actions are the proper object of censure and Americans are to blame not only for their own conduct in the field but for the indiscriminate slaughter practised by their enemies. All casualties in Iraq are American casualties. All 14 (chapter 7) UN resolutions against Saddam are legally void except for the one that wasn’t passed. A 40 nation coalition is American unilateralism. Guantanamo is compared to the gulag, deposing a genocidal dictator (a two time regional invader) and replacing him with a democratically elected government is imperialism. Providing twenty billion in reconstruction aid is exploitation and of course America is the greatest threat to world peace.

The fact that all of these anti American propositions are both false and prejudicial has not prevented their Goebbels like repetition and this is because the attractions of a safe prejudice easily trump the attractions of a dangerous integrity.

The self evident falsity of this delusional thinking will, in time, come to be regarded as one of the great follies of history. A lemming like determination to make the best the enemy of the good will be seen by our successors as emblematic of the lazy prejudice and cowardice of our shallow, self regarding and superficial era.

Condi Rice should have told Sarkozy that if he couldn’t find a political vocabulary that challenges cheap anti Americanism in France then he also lacks a vocabulary to defend the pillars of French democracy itself. Anti Americanism is western moral cannibalism – and if westerners eat themselves only fascists at home and abroad will prosper.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Make Poverty History

Pommygranate has a post on what steps should really be taken to make poverty history.

Read it....

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A new use for old absolutes?

Chris at “mixing memory” has unearthed a study conducted on Princeton undergrads which provides an insight into how much weighting of “objective truth” we assign to our ethical positions. Read it all here

The surveyed respondents established a scale from agreed objective fact (Mars is the smallest planet in our galaxy) through matters of opinion (CNN better for news than fox) and matters of convention (wearing pajamas to lectures) to matters of ethics (discharging a firearm on campus) against which to measure the objective content of their ethical judgements.

It turns out that we are much more likely to believe our ethics to be objectively true if we are Religious then if non Religious.

“In sum, then, there don't appear to be very many (if there are any) ethical beliefs for which everyone believes there is an objective justification. Instead, for some beliefs, a majority of people believe they have an objective justification, but for others, very few believe that to be the case. It would seem, then, that while some people are more objectivist than others, few if any are objectivists about all ethical beliefs. Religion is the most reliable predictor of objectivism, though even it can't turn people into objectivists with regard to all ethical beliefs. Pragmatism and "self-identity" also lead to some level of ethical objectivism.”
Western religious people are therefore more likely to define some (though never all) of their ethical positions as objectively true whilst non Religious people tend towards subjectivism i.e. they see ethics as being more a matter of opinion.

History – mother of ironies, now provides us with a religious group who have no objective basis for their belief retaining a strong bias in favour of the objective truth for their ethics whilst Atheists who have a strong objective basis for their non belief but who nonetheless exhibit a strong bias in favour of subjectivity in their ethics.

At a time when Dawkins, Grayling and Hitchens have renewed the assault on God and the objective falsity of Religious belief this is an interesting confirmation of the second line Religious defense – the risk of a great ethical unmooring.

G.K. Chesterton’s tag “Those who don’t believe in God don’t just believe in nothing they will believe in anything” is the opening line of many of the replies from the western religious to the new militancy of atheists.

Roger Scruton has isolated the human need for the “sacred” which cannot and will not be provided by an exclusively rational construct but which underlies (inter alia) this anchored ethical foundation.

Norman Geras has countered that such a sense of anchored ethics can be generated out of the (a – religious) solidarity of humanism.

If the evolution of aesthetics is any guide to the future evolution of ethics then Scruton may have won the point. God may not have the best arguments but he still has all the best tunes.

British Socialist Humanists of a previous era assembled singing Blakes “Jerusalem” – Christians have never generally felt the need to open proceedings with the “internationale”. The aesthetic achievement of Mozart and Bach’s masses have no discernable equivalent in the humanist movement and nor do the paintings of Michelangelo, El Greco and Caravaggio.

As a prototype for the benefits of dissolving the sacred (and with it the objective criteria of excellence) and replacing them with the secular (and therefore a subjective criteria of excellence) Aesthetics offers little encouragement to the development of a Godless but “anchored” ethics of the type Norman Geras posits.

This doesn’t mean that retaining an objective core to ethical criteria is dependent on the “sacred” but it is suggestive of a strong connection in my opinion.

Of course a final judgement cannot be pronounced on what is after all an unfolding process. The historical interlude in which Humanist ethics have had a significant role to play is tiny when compared to the long stretch in which Christian ethics has dominated. Even in aesthetics it is hardly true that the art of the early church matched the glories of the Rennaissance centuries later.

Perhaps the ceasefire between believers and non believers in the West was based therefore on no absolute victory but rather an unacknowledged contract. In this settlement the Religious tacitly abandoned revelation as the sole and final source of truth. Most conceded not only the truth of scientific discovery they even accepted the absolute human value of its predicates in rationalism and free enquiry as well as in its methods of falsification. Meanwhile non religious humanists were happy to concede the ethical basis of much of the Mosaic law and even to publicly endorse the ethics contained in the Beatitudes.

Thus a constructive “respect” opened a safe historical space for the development of the storm proof anchorage for the godless ethics that Humanists were aspiring to create.

But the matter has become both urgent and divisive once more because of the rise of extraneous obscurantism both religious (Islamic pre modern) and secular (secular post modern). Whatever fond hopes may have been held by liberal humanists for the future of godless, but objective truth, the present is clearly not that time.

The wrath of Jihadist Islamism has no contemporary equivalent in Western Christianity (unless fundamentalist Christians conducting suicide bombings or beheadings in the American mid west are unreported). Osama specifically proclaimed the inevitable victory of his armed assault on the West precisely because the West believes in nothing but life and his followers believe in dying for God. He says that an objective belief in a something will always win in a fight with a subjective belief in a nothing. This view and the violence it has underwritten provides an exhibition of the inhumane lunacy of absolutist religious belief. This has only confirmed the prejudices of the humanists even if it has also horrified most Muslims and Christians.

The response of Grayling, to take but one example, is to kick the domesticated Christian dog for the farting of the feral jihadist wolf. So Grayling is, in the end, only a very timid sort of iconoclast - safely harsh on the Pope and prudently silent on the Ayatollahs. The object lesson of Salman Rushdie, Theo Van Gogh and the Danish cartoonists has been quietly absorbed in both common room and editorial suite. This fear has generated the unwarranted silence and even "respect" inadequately concealed under the newly minted pseudo doctrine of "islamaphobia". Hitchens, Geras and others honourably excepted, this cowardly misdirection of abuse is all too emblematic of the Western humanist response to the Jihadist challenge.

Simultaneously a systemic attack on objective truth has been successfully mounted from within Western academe itself. Cannibalising it’s greatest achievement, sections of Academe have proclaimed Scientific truth to be a myth and (worse) a “power construct” and has supported the claims of the "disciplines" of the "dispossessed other", including the hocus pocus of herbal remedy, which are "re-evaluated" and pronounced to be the full equals of the demonstrated scientific valour of “western” medicine.

Meanwhile the same slippery tropes are used to invalidate liberal and humanist ethics. The beliefs of the jihadist “other” are not only beyond criticism by liberals but they are even placed beyond legitimate academic examination or exposition as these formerly sacred enterprises of knowledge in liberal education are now properly to be seen as an “imperialist plot” to subjugate the “other”.

Ethics are thus rendered entirely subjective and situational (with no objective content whatsoever) and by and large the liberal humanists have proved amazingly defenseless against what, on the face of it, is an absurdly lightweight attack. Liberal Subjectavists are defenseless against post modern relativists. They seem to lack any vocabulary of conviction with which to defend their own liberal achievement. Whilst this generality certainly does not include Norman Geras it is nonetheless true that “right on” liberal humanists, in their tens of thousands resemble cattle gently ruminating their way through this post modern pap on their way to the abbatoir.

Meanwhile Western Religious believers contemplate this partial collapse of the humanist project not with satisfaction at the discomfiting of their old tormentors but with horror and mounting rage. Not for them the equivocations of the humanists, they have a ready made vocabulary and they not only know but can give the name to both evil and heresy when they see them.

So as the premodernists of Jihadist fundamentalism join in alliance with the post modernists of the West the liberal consensus of science and ethics is under strong obscurantist challenge. If we were to make an (inadmissable) extrapolation of Chris's findings above it may be that the majority of the vigorous defenders of the liberal tradition are either religious or from a religious background.

Dawkins and Grayling may think the religious are “small of brain” but they may yet have cause to be grateful for the fact that they are also “strong of arm”.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Respecting Caplan but defending democracy.....

I've seen a few references to Bryan Caplan's book "The Myth Of The Rational Voter" from Chris Dillow and Tim Worstall among others. It has even been hurled against me in the Europe debate on the Economist site. I've now read the pdf supplied by the Cato Institute and here are my amateur thoughts....

Being neither a trained economist nor a trained statistician I can only offer a layman’s challenge to Caplan’s thesis.

Caplan states here that democracy delivers sub optimal policy results but not because the “wisdom of crowds” thesis is untrue.

He accepts that despite a great preponderance of uninformed voters the process of aggregation can provide optimal policy outcomes and that this process of aggregation can be explained and justified statistically.

However he does go on to state and demonstrate that in practice the beneficial mean of aggregate judgment is counterproductively shifted by a strong secondary effect - namely systemic bias.

In other words the process of aggregating the decisions of millions of voters assumes that bias is randomly distributed among them and that the beneficial outcome of the democratic process is that the irrational random biases exhibited by millions of voters effectively cancel one another out so that like the housewives favourite brand of washing powder democracy washes whitest because it cleans all known biases.

However if the bias is systemic (i.e. common to millions of voters) it is not random and it survives this beneficial “washing” process because it can’t be cancelled out and it emerges intact from the aggregate wash at election time to inflict biased and therefore sub optimal outcomes in policy.

Caplan highlights four systemic biases which contaminate democratic effectiveness in this way. He says:

“People do not grasp the "invisible hand" of the market, with its ability to harmonize private greed and the public interest. I call this anti-market bias. They underestimate the benefits of interaction with foreigners. I call this anti-foreign bias. They equate prosperity not with production, but with employment. I call this make-work bias. Finally, they are overly prone to think that economic conditions are bad and getting worse. I call this pessimistic bias.”

His exposition of these biases and their effect on policy is masterful in my opinion. He is particularly strong in his description of the persistent irrationality and inconsistency of these biases.

But he also more or less states that these biases are not only a systemic feature but that they are ineradicable. They are like Edward Said’s magic kingdom of the oriental “other” in that, like Said, he perceives them to be culturally hard wired and immune to either external understanding or correction.

I would humbly suggest therefore that his own exhibited bias is cultural pessimism rather than the economic pessimism he attributes to the “crowd”.

I think that his pessimism is an irrational bias because it takes no account of time. His conclusions and the data set which supports them is a statistical snapshot and a snapshot distorts by suggesting that what it shows is fixed when in reality it is fluid, it misleads precisely because it takes a dynamic and converts it into a constant.

In other words the biases his snapshot identifies may indeed be systemic but that does not mean that they are either permanent or ineradicable. After all history shows an economic progress in democratic societies that simply could not exist if these biases were always operable and everywhere as decisive in their impact as Caplan claims.

Therefore whilst I obviously accept that his identified biases do exist and that they are systemic I don’t think that it necessarily follows that they are always exhibited but that, to the contrary, it is possible that they are only intermittently exhibited.

In addition my optimistic guess would be that over a long timeframe the biases themselves will modify and change and that in a democracy this modification will be in the direction of greater rationality.

In the short term I believe they be overruled entirely. To take one instance - the Thatcher revolution in Britain can be seen as having operated in the teeth of nearly all of the biases Caplan identifies.

The context of pre Thatcher economic failure clearly operated as a powerful suppressant of Caplan’s systemic biases insofar as voters abandoned their default biases and the party that represented them (Labour) because they accepted the emergency was a great one. They were shocked (or terrified) into a temporary rationality. As outgoing Prime Minister James Callaghan noted – something fundamental had shifted in the political landscape and maybe that something was the abolition or at least the suspension of Caplan’s systemic biases. A shift back to the beneficial mean?

So in a shorter timeframe these biases may vary in their effect from decisive to marginal and this variance may owe more to economic context and to the public’s need to concentrate their minds. In other words in comfortable times a tertiary hot house effect could apply which may permit these orchids of irrational bias to flourish as decorative illusions that the “crowd” believes it can afford. The biases will here be decisive in voting outcomes. In times of emergency however, the frost sets in and the hot house effect is gone and more robust considerations are brought to bear which diminishes, suspends or abolishes these biases altogether. Here the biases become marginal to voting outcomes.

Caplan states in his piece that economists now only disagree on the margins. Perhaps the crowd is only “irrational” at the margin (or within as yet not understood tolerances).

Secondly: Tim Worstall (in his Telegraph review) endorses Caplan's proposal "to move decisions from the political realm, where we are irrational, to the market one, where we are rational." But how are markets formed? Particularly markets in second tier demand i.e. luxury markets? Could demand not form around what a snapshot shows to be bias? Could the persistence of these biases not be seen as the pre articulate stage in the formation of a new demand and therefore a new market?

As Lord Salisbury once said of a mid Victorian Indian famine “the market in corn may correct itself in the long run but the Indian peasant starves and dies in the very short run”.

Life and money are both short and a rational long term decision may not only be irrational but also immoral (letting the Indian Peasant die)in the short term. Perhaps an understanding of this immorality provides a clue as to how these biases become systemic.

All of Mr. Caplans identified Biases could fairly be described as Biases of trust. People do not trust the rich to make their money honestly. People do not trust foreigners. People do not trust that “the invisible hand” of the market will provide a better job after they lose their current “make work” job. People do not trust the future.

Whilst in the aggregate this distrust is irrational in the particular it certainly is not. The broad river of market progress is full of such eddies in which altered local conditions apply to those which apply to the river as a whole.

However since those caught (and thereby disadvantaged) by these eddies are relatively few in number their bias against beneficial economic change should not affect the aggregate “wash” at election time. However if millions feel an empathy or solidarity with the plight of the disadvantaged minority then this solidarity acts as a multiplier and it will deliver the systemic bias that Caplan describes.

But might not this solidarity be better seen as a contract payment – the necessary consideration paid in return for the maintenance of the general culture of trust without which markets could not operate at all?

Trust formation in markets is not covered in Caplan’s survey. What makes us trust one another and therefore operate dependently but remotely from others for the same economic object? Without this trust surely the zero sum (lose lose) model of economic relations remains the default option?

Mostly it is experience, our own and that inculcated by family, that enables us to trust others. Trust is therefore learned behaviour and it may be counterintuitive in that our instincts may prompt us to be less trustful then we have in fact learned to become.

Creating solidarity with those outside the family has been the incremental achievement of centuries. So if widespread trust provides a fundamental economic benefit what is its premium? Could the motivation behind these irrational voter biases be a rational attempt to signal the price of trust itself? Could the voter’s systemic bias not be the first steps towards forming and growing a market in trust?

If the outcomes are economically sub optimal it may be because the rational demand for solidarity is expressed in the irrational language of bias by the “crowd”. As a consequence of this bad communication the “crowd” politically rewards supply failure.

The policy outcomes are therefore damaging to the general economic health and often even directly damaging to the interests of those they are intended to help but they still meet the minimum criteria of the solidarity demand i.e. they prevent Lord Salisbury’s Indian peasant from starving to death.

If so might this moral minimum not provide sufficient (though not efficient) incentive for the crowd to persistently renew its badly articulated demand for solidarity?

Might this not be an immature, even embryonic market, in which demand signals are strong but confused and supply solutions are consequently clumsy and expensive?

Perhaps the systemic bias Caplan has identified is only a prelude – baby talk for what will ultimately become a mature market that efficiently prices trust and solidarity into the economic equation?

If we assume that the basic market drivers of economic prosperity are now understood and that, as Caplan states economics is now only controversial at the margin then what value does the current consensus place on this trust? Is this an understood but negligible factor or is it not yet understood and therefore still outside the authoritative statements of the consensus?

Even if, as Caplan says, the economic consensus around markets is final - the knowledge of markets themselves is still far from complete. To paraphrase the satanic Donald Rumsfeld maybe what is an unknown to the consensus is a “known unknown” to the crowd and, with these biases, they are only performing their historical role of developing the signals & information necessary for the consensus to later integrate into formal knowledge.

Certainly it may not be irrational in times of plenty to select sub optimal economic solutions (reducing the profit in the national P&L account) in order to extend or repair this solidarity (rebuild the national balance sheet). In prosperity a strategy of income discount that optimises underlying capital assets may be an optimal economic outcome and it could certainly be described as a rational decision.

Thirdly: Even in the (likely) event that my speculations above can all be adequately addressed by those with greater expertise, I would still argue that in a tiny historical time span democratic societies have in fact developed a form of mass solidarity or trust which is unparalleled in any other system. So even if these voter biases are only an expression of irrational recidivism towards a more primitive economic logic, this is not necessarily surprising given the shortness of the period in which the current economic consensus has been fully established. Caplan’s study may therefore be demonstrating a “lag effect” or a “long tail” rather than (as he suggests) a permanent condition.

Fourthly: In addition Caplan’s new consensus does not enjoy a monopoly hold over either the media or the message that is necessary to transform it from being the consensus of economists into being the consensus of the public at large. After all it is only 20 years since the Marxist challenge was finally and absolutely discredited within the economics faculties of the academy. Meanwhile, down the corridor, in those conservative outposts of the humanities and social studies departments, the Marxist critique is actually still dominant. Caplan’s economic consensus is therefore daily denied in the scripts of plays, documentaries and soap operas written for the mass audience by the products of this unreconstructed Marxism.

Caplan has made a fascinating case but, in my opinion, his indictment of democracy has failed to demonstrate that his identified biases always operate decisively rather than conditionally, or that they might be an embryonic market of the type he calls for, or that they are always and necessarily irrational or that they are a permanent or “hard wired” feature rather than a ‘lag effect” distortion which will diminish over time.

But in the end all of the above may simply reflect my own irrational bias & belief that the building of public trust around the economic consensus is the job of democracy. To use the consensus as a lever to overthrow democracy is just way too counterintuitive for me.

Mind the gaps...

Well this is better – a substantive post by the Economist and not a lazy flick of the wrist dismissal of sceptics as types inhabiting a hysterical freak show. The Economist has at least taken up Richard North’s trenchant challenge.

The Economist states that, in law, the claim of eurosceptics that Britain is going to lose control of its foreign policy is false. The Economist states that the “unanimity lock” means that member states agreement is necessary before an EU foreign policy initiative can commence (point 34 according to Richard North).

Richard North & Helen Szamuely at EU referendum do not contradict this – they merely point to the new foundational principles which the treaty does embody and they suggest that these can be used to alter this legal status in the future. They also point out that the treaty permits the EU to "borrow" the British and French permanent seats at the UN and that whilst this does not mean (as some sceptics have claimed) the abolition of the French and British security council seats it does oblige them to stay silent and defer to the high representative on matters of agreed EU policy.

The EU foreign policy then is to be a “foreign policy of the gaps”. A “no objections” mandate is granted to develop foreign policy where the member states prior, unanimous and specific agreement is obtained. In this innocuous form and with fond wishes from family and friends a baby is born unto the world and his name will be High Representative.

We are hastily reassured that he will only ever be the high representative of low tasks – tidying up foreign policy lacunae, presenting a united EU front at harmless international boondoggles such as the conference of the regions etc. He will be just another pointless speechmaker in that home of pointless speechmaking – the UN.

But he is proud successor to a race of giants - Presidents of the European Commission, EU trade Commissioner, President of the European central Bank, President of the European Court of Justice and others whose modest beginnings have not prevented them from becoming mightier than their now anaemic nation state progenitors. He is a prince of the same incremental kingdom that gave us the “trade policy of the gaps”, “judicial review of the gaps”, the “currency oversight of the gaps” and so on, and on….and on.

In practise the gaps are quickly filled and the principles of “harmonisation” start to be urged. The helplessness of the puny nation state in a new world of hostile giants is the preferred rhetoric of dread. To this background orchestration of fear and loathing the clear note of a trumpet is sounded – salvation! The great ring of power can be forged by the high representative if the nation stations melt their puny rings of power in the sacred and cleansing flames of the European “pool”.

Here is where the currently anodyne words of article 9 cease to be aspirational and become the very bread and butter of practical power politics. They provide a legal basis to undermine, subvert and finally overthrow point 34 and with it the independence (inter alia) of British foreign policy.

And under the “ratchet clause” the Constitution (sorry treaty) provides the means to accomplish this without any of those troublesome summits with their “red lines” and vulgar brinksmanship. Now it can all be wrapped up elegantly and quietly by the “colleagues” behind closed doors - just business as usual – nothing to see here.

The Economist can claim that mine is only a forecast – and a pessimistic one at that. But it cannot do so with the sanction of history. It cannot deny that the EU “has form”. The words “ever closer Union” were an aspiration when they were written. Today they are a real and existing fact.

The Economist tells us that the gap between the “legalese” of the treaty and the “real politik” of nation state dominated power politics means that the treaty’s words are irrelevant. However the history of the European Union teaches us that these gaps between the de jure claims of the “project” and their de facto realisation are quickly closed and always in favour of the EU centre at the expense of the Nation State periphery.

I am also reminded of a tragic and romantic episode in the history of Ireland’s absorption into the Kingdom of England. Henry VIII persuaded the powerful chiefs of Ireland to acknowledge his suzerainty over them and granted them the anglicized rank of “earls”. At the time this was presented to the Irish chiefs as a harmless diplomatic formality as their power was greater in Ireland than his. But as Henry’s daughter, Elizabeth I, proceeded to make flesh his words against these overmighty subjects, one by one, she effectively relied on their “loyalty” oath (and heavy bribery) to keep them disunited. The end of Gaelic glory came when the last victims (O’Donnel & O’Niell) were forced to flee Ireland in the “flight of the Earls”. As they departed they may have ruefully reflected on their ancestor’s folly in accepting unenforceable legal claims of power instead of countering Henry’s de jure claim of authority with their united de facto power from the very outset.

The critics must fix the Treaty

Observer Editorial “The Tories have not said how they would change the treaty to make it acceptable. And if they think no treaty would be acceptable, they might as well be lobbying to quit the EU completely.”

This is the sort of cretinous circularity that routinely disfigures Europhile arguments. Unless you want more Europe you have to get out. Was the Observer demanding that France be expelled after the Non? – No it was not.

The critics of the treaty have no obligation to improve it. It is as valid for the British to say no as it was for the French & Dutch. It is also valid for them to state that no to “more Europe” really does means no and is not a flirts signal that can be cynically recast to mean “we really want more Europe please try again”. This rapists charter does greater harm to the image of the EU then any “myth” generated by the Sun could achieve.

The public in Europe are fed up of the EU claque pushing these dishonest options. It is a self destructive tactic since if they continue with it they will build a bigger “better off out” constituency then they will ever be able to handle.