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Why are we Talking About Russia and Syria Instead of Brexit?

by John Brian Shannon

A civil war has been raging inside Syria since 2010 — a conflict with roots back to the Western-backed ‘Arab Spring’ which left all those countries in MUCH WORSE CONDITION and if you believe the press reports, great atrocities were perpetrated by some or all sides in Arab Spring nations and continue to occur in the Syrian conflict.

No surprise there. There hasn’t been a civil war in history where heinous crimes haven’t been committed and they are often committed by more than one side. Syria is nothing special in that regard.

Not that we should ignore those events. Far from it!

But most Western politicians are of the mind that when such atrocities are committed they should be countered with an appropriate military strike directed against the suspected perpetrators of such attacks — to act as a deterrent to prevent future heinous attacks. Except that it doesn’t work.

It’s a very human response that is typical of non-military minds to think that a military counter-strike will accomplish anything, but combat-experienced military people know that war isn’t over until it’s over, and that never happens until there’s a clear winner.

Less than twelve months ago, the United States used cruise missile strikes to punish those Syrians who purportedly used chemical weapons in an attack against combatants, non-combatants, and any civilians who happened to be within range of the chemical bombs dropped by helicopter and here we are again contemplating a Western-backed missile attack against Syria for its suspected use of chemical weapons.

READ: Timeline of chemical weapons attacks in Syria (Washington Post)

Which proves that occasional cruise missile attacks by the United States against the Syrian military and against non-state actors in Syria, doesn’t work. Because as soon as we turn our backs they’re at it again. Check that timeline link above and remember that timeline only covers the chemical attacks we know about.


Parallels With the Vietnam War?

Prior to the United States becoming involved in the Vietnam conflict, heinous acts were suspected to occur and was one of the reasons used to justify American intervention.

As usual, it wasn’t long before every side — including the Americans — were receiving bad press for purported wartime atrocities during the Vietnam War. It was a war that lasted exactly 10,000 days and during that time every side was lambasted by the world media for certain usages of force.

‘Agent Orange’ (a chemical defoliant used to strip the leaves from trees and plants to allow better ground surveillance) was used by the Americans and it’s plausible that enemy combatants could have been in the area during spraying and may have received lethal doses of the stuff — yet the chemicals used by the other side were even worse for plants, jungle life, and humans alike.

In the end, the Vietnam War, like any other war, wasn’t over until it was over — counter-strikes for chemical weapons use notwithstanding.

Which is a different way of saying that occasional military strikes prior to full involvement by the Americans in Vietnam did nothing to prevent suspected chemical weapons use and other wartime atrocities perpetrated by the North Vietnamese Army and its sidekick the Viet Cong militia group, but neither did full engagement.


What’s the UK’s Role in the post-Brexit World?

It certainly isn’t policing Syria. Nor is it patrolling or intervening anywhere in the Mediterranean Sea region which by definition is in the EU’s sphere of influence as it’s the dominant superpower in the region. And other than helping to protect longtime ally Israel, the Americans have no legitimate business in the Med either.

Launching into nebulous encounters with Syria, Russia and China over suspected small-scale chemical weapons attacks in Syria is begging for trouble. The kind of trouble that gets shiny new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers sunk for no good reason.

The UK’s role in the world is changing and it must evolve ahead of the curve, not behind it.

First and foremost must be the protection of the United Kingdom, which has thrived under both NATO and EU protection. And thanks to the UK’s longtime relationship with the United States, if things had got past the point that the UK and EU acting together couldn’t handle a particular threat, the Americans would’ve come to our rescue. Thank you again, America!

But in less than 352 days the UK can no longer count on EU protection (nor should it expect any special treatment from the EU) and with America turning away from the world, it’s well past the time to take a full spectrum view of UK defence and capabilities.

And before you can do that, you need to define the role the military is expected to play.


Priorities

  1. Protection of the land, sea and airspace, over, in, and around, the United Kingdom.
  2. Protection of and mutual aid agreements with; Norway (because of its proximity to the UK) with NATO countries (still close to the UK) and with all Commonwealth of Nations members.
  3. Mutual aid agreements with *potential* Commonwealth nations.
  4. Mutual aid agreements with any country with which the UK *has* bilateral trade agreements.
  5. Mutual aid agreements with any country with which the UK is *exploring* bilateral trade agreements.
  6. Humanitarian assistance operations approved by the UN.

In short, just like a policeman, every country has its own ‘beat’ — the territory it needs to defend.

The UK’s beat in the post-Brexit era must be limited to operations and mutual aid to partner countries in the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the South Pacific Ocean, otherwise the UK will need to purchase more aircraft carriers and other capital ships and severe UK budget cuts would be required to afford all that extra warfighting capacity.

I respectfully posit that protection of the UK, Norway and other NATO countries, and the Commonwealth of Nations is a sizable enough beat for the United Kingdom now, and will remain that way for many years to come.

Making 2018 the year to drill down to find what is, and what isn’t, of the utmost importance to the United Kingdom’s future.

Parts of the world that have only a passing socio-economic or military interest for the United Kingdom must remain off-limits, unless British taxpayers want to fund a military that is comparable to the U.S. military in size and scope.

Let the superpowers and the countries closest to the world’s various conflict zones assist those nations in crisis — Britain can’t be everywhere, cleaning-up everyone else’s messes.

Taking care of the UK, the Commonwealth, and upholding NATO commitments will be more than enough to keep the UK occupied for the balance of the 21st-century.

Brexit + Commonwealth & NAFTA Trade = Economic Powerhouse

by John Brian Shannon

Timid minds are wondering whether the UK should continue along the Brexit path that British voters approved in 2016.

But just imagine what kind of world it would be today if Winston Churchill had given in to timidity during WWII, or if Albert Einstein was too small a man for the job, or if Franklin Delano Roosevelt was too afraid of failing and thereby didn’t pursue his plan to ‘put a chicken in every pot’ in Depression-era America? We’d be living in a far different world now, wouldn’t we?

There is a thing about leaders and it’s this, if they don’t actually Lead they are useless baggage. And that’s all that needs to be said about that.

Prime Minister Theresa May was given a mandate by voters to take the UK out of the European Union, and whether it rains too hard on Sunday, or if Manchester United can’t seem to win a game, or even if the Russians are scaring us, Brexit must remain at the forefront of Britain’s To-Do List and everything else must be considered a distraction until the job is done.


How the UK can fulfill its proper role in the world

With a strong UK government the chips would fall into place rather quickly and completely bereft of excuses, the following would occur:

  1. Brexit (even a WTO or so-called ‘Hard Brexit’) or a sweet-for-both-sides Brexit would occur by the designated date of March 29, 2019.
  2. The UK would apply to join the (by then) recently renegotiated NAFTA accord — or perhaps all the parties would agree they’d be better served by partial UK membership in NAFTA. Hey, you never know until you try, but magic occurs when people of goodwill meet-up to plan mutual success!
  3. The UK would enter into trade negotiations with every Commonwealth member nation to see what the UK can offer those nations (expertise, financial services, high-tech) and what those nations can offer the UK (agricultural products, oil and gas, metals and minerals, perhaps even a source of low-cost seasonal labour for UK farms) and so much more! Again, you never know until you try!
  4. And remember, Theresa… the goal isn’t to say; “Well, at least we tried.” The goal is to secure a standardized free trade agreement, or a standardized low-tariff trade agreement with the Commonwealth nations and every non-Commonwealth nation — especially the NAFTA ones.

What’s to Gain?

By accomplishing those steps in the proper order, the UK economy would grow 5% over existing projections — or the government is doing it all wrong.

India alone will have 1.3 billion consumers by 2019, and the United States, the highest-consuming nation in the world, will have 331 million consumers by 2019.

Post-Brexit does not mean five or ten years after Brexit — it means one year after Brexit.

These goals are eminently achievable and there can be no excuses for not hitting these metrics by 2020.

Orchards full of apples will be missed for the sake of handfuls of grapes if the UK government is too ‘small’ for the job, or if it suffers from low ambition, or if because of timidity, it can’t grab the brass ring of destiny.

The time is now for the UK to take control of its future and to stop being distracted from the oft-stated goal of Building a Better Britain.

More power to Theresa May’s government for as many days, months or years they strive to meet the will of voters and continue to work to fulfill the UK’s rather obvious destiny!

Streamlining Towards Brexit

by John Brian Shannon

Time is running down on the Brexit clock (399 days and counting!) and the default path seems the only way that will allow a smooth and orderly Brexit in any sort of timeframe that could be construed as reasonable to British voters.

If the UK government chooses to simply photocopy existing EU trade regulations and then change those laws incrementally over a period of years, the UK should rightly expect to be invited by the European Union to continue their mutually beneficial trade relationship.

After all, how could the EU possibly be upset that the UK will voluntarily continue to follow European Union trade regulations in the pre-Brexit period?

However, this implies that until Brexit actually occurs, the UK will be obligated to consult with the EU on every incremental change made on those photocopied laws and regulations from now until the UK officially leaves the European Union on March 29, 2019. It’s not about polite diplomatic behavior, it’s about pragmatic self-interest.

The UK must begin today to re-prove that it intends — in all cases — to be a fair and reliable trading partner with the EU, and other countries are sure to be watching as this process unfolds. No amount of effort can be spared in this regard, because as so goes the UK trading relationship with the EU, so it will go between Britain and every other country in the world, after Brexit.


Trade After Brexit

Once March 29, 2019 has passed and the UK has officially left the European Union there will be no longer be any requirement for lengthy consultations with the EU on changes to British trade laws or regulations far in advance of them coming into effect.

That doesn’t mean that the UK shouldn’t continue to consult with the EU, it means that it doesn’t need to consult with the EU during the entire policy formation period. But once UK policy has been decided, the EU should continue to be the first to know about pending changes due to the bloc’s importance to the British economy.

As above, no effort should be spared in showing the EU every possible courtesy on even the most incremental of trade policy adjustments under consideration in the pre-Brexit timeframe.

And in the post-Brexit timeframe, a high level of communication and consultation must continue to define the relationship between the two sides.


Customs Law After Brexit

Unlike trade, the present customs union will end the day after Brexit which will be a very positive thing for the UK. After Brexit, the UK alone will be fully in charge of who can and can’t enter the country, and it should mount a Herculean effort now to identify and locate every single foreigner in the country, matching them to their home and workplace (or school) address.

Every non-British born resident in the country should be required to pay 100 pounds sterling per year, and also be required to provide their updated home and work/school address as often as it changes, no matter which country they originally hailed from. It’s the 21st century(!) all of this can be done on a UK.gov webform in less than 10 minutes per year.

Especially for those foreigners living in the United Kingdom anytime prior to Brexit day, the UK government should make the entire process as streamlined as possible.


Commonwealth Nations in the post-Brexit Timeframe

As the UK returns to its Commonwealth roots, immigration to the UK should thenceforth be sourced from Commonwealth nations.

Of course, there will always be a number of immigrants from the EU, America, and other countries. But as much as possible, the focus should be on the ‘all for one and one for all’ approach of Commonwealth nations — and one great way to keep that viable is by sourcing 2/3rds of the UK’s immigration requirements from the Commonwealth.


In addition, the UK should continue to spend .7 per cent of GDP on foreign aid — but spend it in Commonwealth nations exclusively.

This means that the British government must find other nations to take over its existing foreign aid commitments in non-Commonwealth nations so that Britain can concentrate on building a better Commonwealth.

Done right, every pound sterling spent in Commonwealth foreign aid should return a minimum of two pounds sterling to the UK, as a rising tide in a finite environment like the Commonwealth will lift all boats, which is quite unlike spending that same amount of foreign aid in the wider world.

One example of how Britain could benefit in the post-Brexit timeframe with a policy that favours Commonwealth nations is that UK universities, colleges and trade schools should see a vast increase in enrollment from the 2 billion citizens of Commonwealth nations.


Time is Tight

Although Brexit once seemed far-off, time is getting a little tight. Much needs to be accomplished in the remaining 399 days until Brexit.

The best way to do that is to harmonize UK trade law with EU trade law and then make incremental changes over time. That’s how not to lose.

How to win is to engage with Commonwealth nations as never before in ways that work to benefit both the United Kingdom and every Commonwealth member nation.

Keeping our EU friendships healthy on the one hand while updating our Commonwealth friendships for the 21st century on the other hand, is irrevocably in Britain’s best interests, thereby creating a new paradigm that will allow the UK to work to its strengths over the next 100 years.