Corbyn on foreign policy: the pros and cons

May 26, 2017 at 7:58 pm (Clive Bradley, Human rights, immigration, imperialism, internationalism, iraq war, labour party, Middle East, posted by JD, Stop The War, Syria, terror, war)


Above: Corbyn’s speech today

This piece was written by Clive before Corbyn’s speech today (26/05/2017) on foreign policy. In this speech, Corbyn – whilst making it clear that the terrorist perpetrators are the ones guilty of the acts they perpetrate – seemed to reiterate the simplisticblow-back” view of foreign policy held by his friends in the pro-Taliban/Putin/Assad Stop The War Coalition. Clive – characteristically – is scrupulously fair to Corbyn: I, personally, think he’s too fair:

The limits of Labour’s multilateralism

By Clive Bradley

There has been some recent media attention on Jeremy Corbyn’s alleged past links to the IRA and the claim that he is a “pacifist” — meaning, he is opposed to any and every kind of military intervention, even around “humanitarian” issues.

Corbyn does have a record of support for the Republican movement in Ireland (that is, not the IRA as such, but the nationalists fighting for a united Ireland), and he was long involved with the Stop the War Coalition, which did indeed oppose — sometimes, in Workers’ Liberty’s view, with terrible arguments — the major military interventions involving Britain since the Iraq war (Libya; Syria); the key forces within it including Corbyn, also opposed intervention in Kosova.

But in both cases, while Corbyn’s own politics are influenced by a left-wing tradition of political “softness” towards noxious movements simply because they are at odds with “the West”, his record is probably more concretely connected to a desire to resolve conflicts through negotiation and diplomacy. (This is true, I think, even of his more controversial statements about, for instance, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement). And this commitment to diplomatic solutions comes top of the Labour manifesto promises on foreign policy. “We will put conflict resolution and human rights at the heart of foreign policy, commit to working through the UN, end support for unilateral aggressive wars of intervention and back effective action to alleviate the refugee crisis,” it states, boldly.

Referring to “ongoing wars across the Middle East, unprecedented numbers of refugees, global terrorism, climate change, the threat of nuclear conflict, a devastating food crisis across East Africa and beyond, an erratic US administration and a more combative government in Russia…” it insists that: “We [must] exhaust diplomatic solutions alongside international, regional and local partners within the framework of international law.”

Though describing the Trump administration as “erratic” seems a bit of an understatement, here Labour is at least prepared to call into question a “special relationship” that previous Labour governments (Blair, obviously, but going back long before that) have embraced. The statement goes on: “When [Trump] chooses to ignore [our shared values] whether by discriminating on the basis of religion or breaking its climate change commitments, we will not be afraid to disagree.”

On one key conflict, Syria, Labour promises to “work tirelessly to end the conflict and get the diplomatic process back on track” — which is implicitly critical of recent military actions. It is unclear what this implies regarding the ongoing, less high-profile Western military involvement in the Syrian conflict. And Corbyn personally does not have the best record on denouncing Syria’s murderous president Assad. But as far as it goes, Labour’s policy is unobjectionable. “Labour is committed to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on a two-state solution — a secure Israel alongside a secure and viable state of Palestine.” This for sure is the only basis upon which peace can be
achieved.

The Party also promises to address other conflicts — it mentions “Kashmir, Libya, Nigeria, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.” Indeed on Yemen — where the Tory government has backed a brutal Saudi-led war, Labour demands “a comprehensive, independent, UN-led investigation into alleged violations of [human rights] in Yemen, including air strikes on civilians by the Saudi-led coalition. We will immediately suspend any further arms sales for use in the conflict until that investigation is concluded.” This would be a welcome change indeed in British foreign policy. A more comprehensive look at arms sales in general would have been more welcome still.

Many such conflicts pose sharply perhaps the most vital issue facing Europe and the Western world — the refugee crisis, which is driven by wars and poverty and shows no sign of abating. On this, Labour is vague: “In the first 100 days of government, we will produce a cross-departmental strategy to meet our international obligations on the refugee crisis.” That is an improvement on the Tories’ utterly lamentable record.

The commitment to “conflict resolution”, if it led to anything in practice, would be a part of any meaningful solution to the crisis. But only part. Immigration is at the heart of the political debate. The issue was clearly central in fact to the Brexit vote. It is the issue which, above all others, the Corbyn leadership finds it hardest to challenge mainstream prejudices. On one level this is hardly surprising — given the toxic stream of anti-immigrant propaganda delivered daily by so much of the media (the Daily Mail being an obvious example). If Labour took an unequivocal line supporting free movement it would be savagely attacked in the press — and many of its core voters, those who voted for Brexit and so forth, would prove hard to win over in the short term (certainly before the election).

While Labour this time certainly avoids the idiotic pandering to these prejudices which marked the Miliband campaign in 2015, still it is backtracking from earlier, stronger statements. Labour is, of course, better than May’s Tories. But a general sense of good-will towards immigrants and migrants, and promises to “meet obligations”, do not equal a policy.

And on defence policy, Labour’s current commitments are a very long way to the right of what might be expected from the Corbyn team. Labour will support Trident. More: “Conservative spending cuts have put Britain’s security at risk, shrinking the army to its smallest size since the Napoleonic wars”.

Labour, by contrast, commits “to spending at least two per cent of GDP on defence [to] guarantee that our Armed Forces have the necessary capabilities to fulfil the full range of [their] obligations.” No doubt this reflects compromises with Labour’s pro-NATO right wing.

There is certainly much to support in Labour’s manifesto commitments on foreign policy, but the broad sweep of it is pretty “mainstream” — multilateralist, favouring diplomacy over armed intervention, with some commitments to the rights of immigrants (whether from EU countries or refugees), but nothing hugely specific, and nothing which could be construed as particularly radical. It is, nonetheless, for sure, a step forward in comparison to the Blair years.

20 Comments

  1. Mick said,

    This guy IS too kind to Corbyn, a man who indeed actively supported the IRA so much that he contributed to a magazine praising them, declared their armed force made the UK sue for peace, was arrested by cops in order to probe him over ties, held silences for terrorists and even today ‘condemns’ the British Army and state on TV, instead of the IRA. And so forth.

    He’s a man hostile to the USA anyway, says we fought no worthwhile war since 1945 and refuses – despite the security implications – to declare plans for solid controls on immigration. That the man is now such a top brass socialist simply shows the calibre of the Left in general.

    He hates the pigs and the troops, so any declarations of service to them are lip service. The saboteurs will be crushed, however, so concern for Corbyn has a more limited worth beyond a warning for history.

  2. Glasgow Working Class said,

    Corbyn wants to be PM but wants to hand part of the UK to the PIRA former terrorists. The war on terror can only be won by using force the same force that was used against the Nazis, totally brutal and uncompromising.
    Corbyn is not Kosher.

    • Mick said,

      He wants to hand Israel to terrorists, the most bloodthirsty ones too. The man is a freakazoid, plain and simple.

      He’s a man of peace but breaks bred with psychopaths, Probably because he has traits in common, least of all the left wing staple of broadcasting victimhood and living in a siege mentality echo chamber.

  3. Paul Canning (@pauloCanning) said,

    On refugees.

    The manifesto is plainly disconnected from the movement which supports refugees and asylum seekers. The priority for that movement is indefinite detention, that is in there but Cooper in 2015 Manifesto backed ending that and arguably went further: The *LibDems* have made similar declarations.

    If they actually had any connection to this black British led movement they would have signaled by including shutting down Yarls Wood, which they did not. There is a lot of signalling in the manifesto, this wasn’t one of them.

    It was plain as day to me, and reflected in reaction from that movement to Corbyn Labour manifesto as well, that Momentum etc are just as disconnected from them as everybody else is. Vague waffle from them (Fisher/Abbott) in manifesto signals that.

    This moan will just not register with a huge slice of people reading this. They will assume that ‘the Yarls Wood people’ should just agree a Corbyn PM must be better.

    Why did the manifesto not reference Dubs? Why did it not commit to a number of refugees the UK would accept?

    Why? Because this so called transformative movement is not actually connected to the most marginalised in the UK. It just isn’t.

    (There is an bleedin obvious connection, for me, with how Syrian refugees who have called foul on Corbyn have been treated.)

    I also recall how when I was supporting LGBT refugees when the last Labour Gov was telling them to ‘go home and be discreet’ that a huge swathe of practical support came not from socialists but from Liberals.

    There is no history or form which suggests Labour should be trusted and what Momentum etc is saying isn’t helping.

    • Mick said,

      The views of different lefties and Labourites mean absolutely jack crap. Reality doesn’t tally with them, making them irrelevant in practical terms.

      The wider trouble is that Labour burned their boats with migrants. ‘Rubbing the Right’s nose in Diversity’ with historically huge influxes by the millions had destabilised services, increased the strain on the jobs market – a huge achievement for the Tories to cope with – ghettoised many communities, denuded the housing stock and fragmented relations in society. Peterborough councillors even wrote to Gordon Brown in the end, saying no more could be done to accommodate incomers.

      People care less whether incomers are refugees or whatever they are, saying simply that we already took our share.

      Especially when the EU says most refugees aren’t bona Syrians fleeing trouble anyway, as crimewaves in Europe proved. David Cameron did the right thing in cherry-picking refugees and even HE got bogus asylum seekers pretending to be kids and criminals mixed in.

      • Paul Canning (@pauloCanning) said,

        Actually, Mick, you will find endless examples of the ‘good refugee’ sprawled across right-wing papers. Some man/woman/child who why the F the bureaucrats did not accept! Maybe we should surrender to them?

        You’ll also find examples from history.

        NB: You’re reinforcing my point on not knowing what Yarls Wood is/means.

    • Paul Canning (@pauloCanning) said,

      This movement which can turn out people outside Yarls Wood in hundreds thinks ending free movement is racist. That has zero resonance on UK left. None. That’s how disconnected we are from it.

    • Paul Canning (@pauloCanning) said,

      Momentum? Apparently not.

    • Paul Canning (@pauloCanning) said,

    • Mick said,

      I never said all people don’t care, nor do I care about what Yarls Wood is – barring the prison inspector thinks it should do better and that lefties try and block due process by clogging the doors and harassing staff.

      Though it is ironic that we do have worthies who get booted out, while crims can’t be, on account of ‘human rights’. Both scenarios championed by the last Labour government, yes. I remember the Gurkha.

      So go return to the point, Theresa May is right to be pissed off when she pointed out that Jeremy Corbyn said that terror attacks ‘are our own fault’.

      • Paul Canning (@pauloCanning) said,

        My point is the manifesto and actual Labour promises.

      • Mick said,

        Indeed, too. They’ve promised what the grassroots hate and deliver what the public hate.

  4. Andrew Coates said,

    The policy on conflict resolution, we are talking of a government not a left solidarity movement is fine. This very welcome, “Labour is committed to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on a two-state solution — a secure Israel alongside a secure and viable state of Palestine.” This for sure is the only basis upon which peace can be
    achieved.

    The warmth of the statement on human rights is welcome as well.

    But this, “Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries, such as Libya, and terrorism here at home.”

    What exactly are the “connections”?

    Well I do not know what experts this means but, “Over the past fifteen years or so, a sub-culture of often suicidal violence has developed amongst a tiny minority of, mainly young, men, falsely drawing authority from Islamic beliefs and often nurtured in a prison system in urgent need of resources and reform.”

    Islamists have been murdering people, starting with the left, feminists and trade unionists, for a long time, since the Iranian revolution crushed the left in 1979, fact, but I will also cite this,

    ” 1995 bombings in France were carried out by the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), who were broadening the Algerian Civil War to France. In total, these attacks killed eight and injured more than 100 people. The assassination of Abdelbaki Sahraoui, a co-founder of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) who opposed attacks in France, was a prelude of this extension of the Islamists’ terrorist campaign to France”.

    15 years ago may the time when Corbyn’s advisers woke up but some of us were well aware of the murders carried out by Groupe Islamique Armé in the mid 1990s.

    Then there was Al-Qaïda au Maghreb islamique (AQMI) which is now…

    So what if there the link between “wars our government has supported” and Libya, the roots of the Islamist killers in the Maghrebian are far deeper.

    Take Mali for example.

    Somebody should get his ‘advisers’ and “experts” to watch this film.

    • Mick said,

      Also, Islam DOES give Muslims the authority. The Koran literally tells Muslims to terrorise people: http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/quran/says_about/terrorism.html

      LISTEN to the terrorists, Left. Don’t just say ‘Pfft, my Muslim friends say that’s irrelevant.’

      Those terrorists may be whackjobs but they know the Koran and Hadith more intimately than you and more casual Muslims can ever know.

  5. John Rogan said,

    “Corbyn does have a record of support for the Republican movement in Ireland (that is, not the IRA as such, but the nationalists fighting for a united Ireland)…” – Clive Bradley.

    “[N]ot the IRA as such”?

    Jeremy Corbyn was part of that Labour Left who gave solidarity and critical support to Sinn Fein, the IRA and other Republicans. That is, while disagreeing with some of their methods (e.g. bombings of civilians), the Republican Movement, in his view and others (e.g. McDonnell and Abbott), represented the movement of an oppressed people against British Imperialism.

    That this has now come up in the middle of a General Election campaign is inconvenient, to put it mildly, for those people who would like to see an alternative Govt to the Tories.

    We’re now entering “Tommy Sheridan” territory now, though. Namely, Jeremy Corbyn is using smoke and mirrors’ language to try and confuse people as to his views during the IRA campaign. His belief reflected the Sinn Fein one at the time that the only way to end the conflict was British Withdrawal and an end to the “Unionist veto” i.e. the British state, instead of fighting the IRA, was to play a part in forcing the Unionists into a united Ireland.

    So, now Corbyn and his election team are trying to re-write history and a myth is being built up that Corbyn paved the way to the Good Friday Agreement. The PLP are keeping quiet as they run their campaigns to try and keep their seats – for the most part keeping Corbyn off their election literature and keeping it local, either at a constituency or regional level (e.g. Welsh Labour).

    Depending on what happens on June 8th, I expect the Northern Ireland issue will come up in any Leadership election that may occur then. The PLP didn’t make it an issue in either of the Leadership campaigns in 2015 or 2016. Maybe they foolishly thought the Tories would give Labour the time to get rid off Corbyn before 2020. Well, they didn’t.

    The funny thing is, though, Corbyn’s actually doing better than I thought he would considering the historical baggage. He is, of course, helped by how utterly incompetent May is.

    • Mick said,

      Yeah, inconvenient! His Stop The War mantra is ‘Stop the oppressor, even if the oppressed are oppressors too!’

      That is a real thing from the boss of Stop The War. If Corbyn wishes to confuse things, that only shows how even HE knows how out of touch, dangerous and utterly deluded he is. Even other people on the damn LEFT recognise that! And this hasn’t sprung from nowhere in the election, we learn more all the time.

      But even there, lefties are themselves TERRIBLE judges of character. Remember when the public were alarmed at how many ‘child’ refugees were strapping, tall, unshaved hunky young bucks? Well the left were offended too but at the public. After all, leftists bellowed, it’s racist to check their teeth because kids just look older around the world, don’t they! Ravages of life, mate!

      And the rapewaves don’t put them off either! Just let everyone in, like Merkel wisely did!

      It’s more than just Corbyn making up the loony left.

  6. kb72 said,

    Corbyn is trying to sell himself as a negotiator. He has never negotiated anything in his life. I’d bet he didn’t negotiate his mortgage agreement.

    • Mick said,

      What on earth can ISIS offer that he can possibly use, let alone the nation?

      Lefties! They put him in charge.

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