What Emma Lazarus Would Write Today

Christine Webb is a British poet of great accomplishment and also a close multi-generational family friend.

I feel honored that we are able to share this magnificent poem that Christine has written in response to recent actions taken in the name of the United States.  It is an almost unbearable reminder of the contrast between what our country used to be seen as, and what we are now doing.

We can only hope that the millions around the world who have been inspired by the best in us, even as they always saw our defects, will remember that this is in no way a majority Presidency, and that what is done in our name is not what the majority of us tried to choose.

webbI am certain that Emma Lazarus would have welcomed these words, even as she cried with us. (Statue of Liberty plaque poem here.)

 

The Scope of the Constraints that NATO will Put on President Trump

It has been bedrock since the late 1940s that  under Article 5 of the NATO Treaty):

The Parties [members of NATO] agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

So, Trump’s threat back over the summer to not help some countries would be a direct violation of our obligation under international law.

Moreover, under Article 8:

Each Party declares that none of the international engagements now in force between it and any other of the Parties or any third State is in conflict with the provisions of this Treaty, and undertakes not to enter into any international engagement in conflict with this Treaty.
(Bold added)

Now the Trump bromance with Putin requires us to remember that we are still bound by these treaty obligations, and many would argue that they can not be abrogated without the formal treaty process being followed in the US senate (I do not believe that this issue has been tested).

In any event the two top quoted articles would appear to put very serious limits on what Trump can do, at least with respect to NATO members.  While Ukraine is not in NATO, the language of the Treaty would oblige the US to come to the help of any NATO member whose country, or forces in or over any NATO county, were attacked including in response to intervention in Ukraine.

So, NATO, unless withdrawn from, prohibits Trump from “enter[ing] into any international engagement in conflict with this Treaty,  ” which given the breadth of the common defense language, would appear to be a very significant limitation, since it prohibits any limitation on our prior assistance obligations.

Some might find sadness and an underlining of our pending abandonment of the international leadership in Article 13, which gives a special role to the US in the recording of renunciations of the Treaty:  ”  .  .  .  any Party may cease to be a Party one year after its notice of denunciation has been given to the Government of the United States of America, which will inform the Governments of the other Parties of the deposit of each notice of denunciation.“)  Some might also argue that the language above means that the US is so central to the operation of NATA that it, and it alone, cannot withdraw from it.

While Trump  and Putin would attempt to obfuscate every aspect of fact and law, it is hard not be believe that failure to comply with these obligations would be viewed by enough even Republicans to trigger an immediate impeachment or Twenty Fifth Amendment process.

The Politically Legitimate Path to Reverse Brexit

Many seem to feel that Brexit is somehow irreversible because “the people have spoken.”

While the UK, of course, has no written constitution, making this all much more complicated, there actually is a clear constitutional and legitimate path to reverse Brexit.

If a party were to campaign on a promise to hold a second referendum on Brexit, and that party were to win the next election, and conduct a referendum, then there would be no doubt about the legitimacy of the process and result.

I would even go further and say that were a party to campaign on a promise to only enter a coalition if its partners promised to conduct such a referendum, and that party’s votes were needed to form a coalition, then the result would be nearly as legitimate.

The problem is that neither of the remaining “national” parties is sufficiently united to run such a campaign.  The Liberal Democrats could, but they have such little credibility after the coalition debacle that their path would be uphill.  The Tories are here out of the question, which leaves Labor. Only two paths here, either the willingness to take the risk of losing a major slice of their supporters in return for the hope that they would pick up the liberals who defected to the conservatives last election, or Labor splits, and one wing links with the Liberals to form a clearly EU party.

I suspect that the last option is the most practical.

There is a point about timing.  Really that is in the control of the Government.  If whoever the new PM starts post-Art. 50 negotiations soon, then things might be well advanced by the time of the election, and a firm stance from the EU would raise to costs of secession for England and the UK.  If the election were to happen before the negotiations, a lot of uncertainty might be avoided.

In any event, time is needed for  the pro-Europe group to solidify for this campaign.

P.S.  One plank in the platform would be allowing folks like me who have been away from the UK for a long time to vote, because we might lose our right to live and work in the EU.  The failure to do so is one the factors tending to de-legitimate the prior result.

 

 

I Went to School with Twits Like Blair and Cameron

I went to an English so called “public school” in the 60’s.

The behavior of first Blair and now Cameron comes as no surprise to me.  At the risk of seeming judgemental, I knew lots of these kids, and believe me, they all run to type.  (Not to say that all the kids at that school were like that, indeed no.)

These kids were (and remain) entitled, utterly self-confident, with a belief in their right and obligation to reshape the world.  This came from class, from socialization, and from arrogance.  (This is not the arrogance that defends against uncertainty which many of us might be accused of being guilty of, but rather the real, necessarily un-examined, thing.)

These kids really believed (and believe today) that their privileged education was some kind of earned reward.  To the extent that it might really be a reward to their ancestors, that was just as, perhaps even more, fine.

Moreover, that education prepared them to rule the world, again not so much as a matter of technique, but of utter self-confidence.

John LeCare, in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, perhaps got it best when he had Connie Sachs, the forced-out British intelligence research head (quote reconstructed from memory) say, with more sympathy than I can muster, even now:

“Poor dears, born to rule the waves, and now with a voice that hardly caries across the water.”

Its no surprise that being Bush’s poodle might have some appeal.  Nor that one might grossly misjudge ones ability to manage a referendum process.

The Brexit/Chilicot Juztaposition

Hard to ignore.

Two weeks ago, the Brits tell the world they can do better without Europe.

Today we learn, or rather relearn, that the Iraq invasion decision made in the face of European opposition, was indeed Britain’s arguably worst ever foreign policy mistake.

Some have described the Iraq decision as merely the worst since Suez.  That decision, was made, 60 years ago, with European complicity, and against American opposition.

Hmm.  Maybe these decisions need to be unanimous.  What a thought.

 

A Chilling Coincidence

Today we have lunch with a man who was telling us his memories, from being ten years old, of Krystalllnacht.

This afternoon, I saw this photo and article in the Guardian, showing how the Brexit referendum has authorized not just racism, but violent racism.  Headline:

‘A frenzy of hatred’: how to understand Brexit racism

Please look at the photo.  Looks just like Krystallnacht.

 

 

 

Brexit Contrarian Thoughts #2: The Result is a Consequence of Massive Political Campign Malpractice on Both Sides

Usually, in the days after an election, the winner does all they can to maximize the claims of mandate.  Here, you see the opposite, with the Boris Johnsons of the world basically denying everything.  If I were a leave voter, I am no longer sure what I have voted for.  So good campaigning is about getting a result without promising things for which you will be held to account.

The sins on the Remain campaign side are much worse.  In a proper campaign, techniques of micro-targeting would have caused every interest group to know about the specific grants that would be lost, the road and infrastructure projects that would be abandoned, the jobs that would be at risk.  Yes, even British plumbers would know of the risk — and British homeowners (particularly those who enter into home improvement contracts) would know of the likely increase of plumbing costs.  (I know that UK election rules are different from the US, but right now, at least, its hard to argue that they are better!)

Moreover, the absence of vision in either campaign was astonishing.

So, this suggests that no-one is qualified to lead the battle to reverse the result.  But is also suggests that a properly run campaign has every chance of winning, provided a way can be found to make it seem legitimate.  The question is whether the Liberal Democrats can summon the energy to do it right. A least they have the legitimacy.

I would point out only this.  At the time of the earlier referendum, there was no provision in the treaty for secession.  So the will of the 1975 voter, for a final non-reversible judgement, is being thwarted by this vote.  Anyway, if politicians are allowed to change their minds, why not voters?