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Are they listening to themselves?

Posted by Helen Thursday, February 10, 2005

It is a long time since we ran that series but one quotation from the BBC programme that featured Sir Stephen Wall, Europhile extraordinaire and Neil O’Brien of the No campaign, meticulously transcribed by my colleague, caught my attention.

As our readers will recall, one of Sir Stephen’s arguments in favour of the Constitution ran as follows:

“We’re going to have to develop a relationship with China, which will be the big emerging superpower of this century. We have to manage the issue of climate change. We’re seeing in Sudan the first war of climate change over access to resources. We have to deal with Iran, which is developing nuclear weapons. You can’t deal with these issues through force, you have to deal with them by influence and the European Union through its aid and trade relationships is a huge democratic force for beneficial change in the world.”
My goodness, is this what they teach them in elite diplomatic establishments? In my days as a tutor at a less than elite establishment I would have given B- for that piece of reasoning.

So we are going to have to develop a relationship with China, eh? Presumably, we do not have one at the moment and cannot possibly develop one without the blessed EU.

After all, the EU’s idea of a relationship with China seems to be lifting the arms embargo. Incidentally, when Secretary of State Rice remonstrated with European leaders yesterday, she was told by Commission President Barroso that the proposed lifting of the embargo
“… would not increase the quantity or quality of arms going to China.”
Excuse me? Is Commission President Barroso listening to himself? Did we have an embargo or not? If not, then what was all the fuss about after Tienanmen Square? If yes, but we were still selling arms, then how do politicians justify their supreme hypocrisy? (OK, I didn’t really ask that. Am I listening to myself?)

If nothing will change then why bother to lift the embargo, sending the wrong message to everyone: Americans, Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese?

Unsurprisingly one of Rice’s officials muttered that Barroso’s assurances “strained credibility”.

Iran, of course, is a very fine example of European achievement. So far, nothing has been achieved through all those carrots and sticks. The mullahs swallow every concession and decide that actually, like Richard III, they are not in the giving mood.

Even President Chirac has apparently told some American senators that he did not trust the government of Iran, it not being possible to negotiate with Shias, according to him, only with Sunnis. L’Empereur Jacques seems to look at these matters from point of view that is different from everybody else’s.

But the most interesting comment was the one about Sudan. We have already written about the lack of evidence that climatic conditions cause wars. They might cause low-level temporary hostility but just as likely to cause agreements.

The idea that the war in Sudan (which war, incidentally, the one in the south or the one in Darfur, or does Sir Stephen not know the difference) is somehow now caused by climate change, having raged quite spectacularly for some years because of other reasons defies logical thinking.

What is Sir Stephen’s evidence? Why should climate change encourage people to murder, rape, pillage and enslave other people with quite so much abandon?

What of the other wars? Is there no climate change in Eritrea, DR Congo, Rwanda or Uganda? Are there no wars there? What are they caused by?

Are we to understand from this that signing up to Kyoto and stifling our own economic development will somehow miraculously bring the Sudan conflicts to an end? Or, maybe, just one of them, the one that is caused by climate change?

No doubt, this could be used as an argument to force the US to sign up, but what of China, India and Brazil? Big polluters all and non-signatories to that wretched protocol. Should they not sign up to create peace in Sudan?

Apart from that, what has the EU done to help solve the situation? Well, it has sent several high-level and, no doubt, expensive commissions of enquiry and it has pumped money at a great rate. Not a penny of that has been accounted for and we have no idea how much has reached the people of Darfur or southern Sudan, how much was appropriated by the Sudanese government and how much went on arming the militias.

What shocks me more than anything that Sir Stephen Wall was allowed to get away with this tripe both by his opponent, Neil O’Brien and by the interviewer, James Naughtie. But then again, what can one expect?