The men with more cunning plans than Baldrick

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So, with all the exciting events in Burma, which could turn out to be either brilliant or horrible, what should be done? Let us turn for enlightenment to the people who have a plan for every country in the world, those Cambridge nerds playing at being neocons, the Henry “Scoop” Jackson Society, who are just getting a swish new website up. And I discover from their swish new website that they do indeed have one of their grandiose “strategic briefings” [pdf] out on Burma.

This is rather good in terms of hostages to fortune. Scoopie expert Ben Caldecott writes of the repressive nature of the Than Shwe junta, and notes that “Foreign exchange dollars, now primarily obtained from a rapidly growing oil and gas sector, are used to fund arms purchases from Russia, other former Soviet Republics, China and now India. These are almost undoubtedly used to violently oppress the Burmese people and enforce government authority.” Quite so, although Ben unaccountably fails to mention Israel as a major arms supplier.

Ben then ponders the possibility of a US-led invasion, or “armed intervention” in Decentspeak. He then rules it out for a number of reasons, notably Imperial overstretch, the likelihood of seriously annoying the Chinese (this could be the late Senator Scoop’s famous affinity for Maoist China coming into play) and the chronic weakness of the opposition, who don’t much look like providing a stable environment for investors. No, Ben has a better idea:

For this to be effective, a diplomatic compact should be created to push forward a political solution in Burma. This group would be made up from the most important regional stakeholders, such as China, ASEAN, Australia and India, as well as the United States and the European Union. The mandate of this group would be clear: to bring together Burmese stakeholders and facilitate a peaceful political settlement, that would transition Burma into a safe, secure, democratic and viable nation state.

Yup, a Contact Group. Never heard of that one before. And one involving Australia and the European Union, forsooth. Moreover, Ben goes on to posit that a successful transition would involve the Empire offering inducements to the Tatmadaw that their interests would be protected in the new Burma. Finally:

Of importance to all potential regional members of the compact, is a growing Burmese economy that provides stable access to its significant natural resources and large potential market. This would benefit all in the region and provide additional business opportunities for Indian, Chinese and ASEAN firms. The best way to ensure that Burma’s economic development proceeds is political change.

This might explain the general air of Grauniad drippiness, which is far from the muscularity we would expect from the Scoopies. It therefore comes as a relief to find our old friend Attila the Hun holding forth on the future for democratic geopolitics in Greater Europe. What this boils down to, when we cut out all the guff about Hitler, Stalin and Chomsky, is that Europe is gravely threatened by the twin dangers of “Russian meddling” and “Serbian expansionism”. There are a number of ways Attila proposes to deal with these threats. The first is to grant immediate sovereignty to the mafiosi currently running Kosovo. The second is to abolish the Bosnian Serbs’ autonomous republic negotiated at Dayton, although Attila is willing to let them keep the Serbian flag and Cyrillic alphabet. “Experience shows that it is precisely over such symbols that nationalism mobilises, and we should do well to defuse potential Serb resistance to Bosnian reintegration by avoiding giving offence in the purely symbolic realm,” opines Attila. Well, he’s convinced me. The Serbs who rose in arms against a Muslim-dominated government in 1992 would certainly acquiesce in it now, if only given some beads and feathers to occupy their little peasant minds.

And, following all this, a rump Serbia which accepts its place as an imperialised backwater and perpetual whipping boy of muscular liberals could be brought into the EU to further strengthen the cordon sanitaire against Russia. My God, he really doesn’t like his Orthodox Slavs at all. I expect the Bulgarians will be getting it in the neck before long.

I am also quite taken by the Scoopies’ online gift shop. For two pounds ten bob you can outfit yourself with a Scoop Jackson Society lapel pin, so other neocon nerds can recognise you at a glance, and for a mere fifty quid you can go to a gala dinner with Irwin Stelzer. Could you be bad to that?

11 Comments

  1. ejh said,

    October 2, 2007 at 8:10 pm

    On Serbian expansionism, I am struggling, off the top of my head, to think of a place that has contracted more, in recent years, than aforesaid expansionist empire.

  2. splinteredsunrise said,

    October 2, 2007 at 8:14 pm

    That’s because most people aren’t equipped with superpowered Attilavision, the paranoid worldview that lets you just know that if you turn your back for five minutes, the Chetniks will have occupied Austria and be massing on the Italian border.

  3. October 3, 2007 at 12:36 am

    […] The men with more cunning plans than Baldrick currently running Kosovo. The second is to abolish the Bosnian Serbs’ autonomous republic negotiated […]

  4. Wednesday said,

    October 3, 2007 at 6:31 am

    As a Serb who works with my brother-in-law in London put it: “When I left the country it was Yugoslavia. Then it became Serbia and Montenegro. Now Montenegro is gone. I’m afraid the next time I go home, it will just be my village.”

  5. Cian said,

    October 7, 2007 at 9:28 am

    “On Serbian expansionism, I am struggling, off the top of my head, to think of a place that has contracted more, in recent years, than aforesaid expansionist empire.”

    Well that’s not really a counter argument. The same could be said of Russia/Germany post WWI, or Germany/Japan post WWII. Just because a country has failed to expand, and through defeat has contracted, doesn’t mean that they are no longer expansionist. I’m sure there are other counter-arguments, I simply don’t find that particular one terribly compelling.

  6. Korolev said,

    October 7, 2007 at 7:47 pm

    If “failure to expand” can be regarded as a possible sign of “expansionism”, then I can foresee a lot of trouble ahead in Europe…

    Advocates of armed intervention invariably cast the object of their military intentions as the new Nazi Germany, and everyone who opposes their plans as “appeasers”. In this regard, Serbia’s lamentable record as an expansionist power since, say, 1987, when all Yugoslavia was ruled from Belgrade, is highly relevant. Both the area under Belgrade’s control, and the area where Serbs can live without let or hindrance, have contracted pretty consistently over the last 20 years.

  7. Cian said,

    October 8, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    Hmm. How exactly did you get from: “just because a country has failed to expand, and through defeat has contracted, doesn’t mean that they are no longer expansionist.” to ‘If “failure to expand” can be regarded as a possible sign of “expansionism”…’ You seem to be having an argument with a figment of your imagination there.

    You can’t, as you just have, argue that a country is not expansionist in its aims merely because it has failed to expand (or indeed has contracted) – conversely you cannot argue that a country is expansionist on the basis of that (if such quixotic arguments are your thing). In fact you can’t argue anything about its intentions purely on the basis of the outcome.

    After all, if you could, then you argue that every business failure did not intend to get rich.

  8. splinteredsunrise said,

    October 8, 2007 at 2:18 pm

    Then you’ve got the two elephants in the room, Croatian and Albanian expansionism, the former running a big chunk of Bosnia as a satellite state, the latter being a serious threat to both Macedonia and Montenegro…

    It’s a bit like the North. You can construct a hypothetical argument about Irish Catholic irredentism, and unionism does, but you’re talking about a potential irredentism as opposed to the actual Orange irredentism that put Tyrone and Fermanagh within the North in the first place.

  9. Korolev said,

    October 8, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    OK… Nazi Germany was expansionist, so was Imperial Japan in the 1930s and 1940s. Both sought to grab as much territory as they could hold. Their actions were unambiguous, and their state ideologies were quite explicit about their aims. They were expansionist in principle.

    I can see no serious reason for believing the same about Serbia. It fought a rearguard action to try to maintain Yugoslavia (which Milosevic’s policies had done a lot to undermine), and when that had failed, Serb communities outside Serbia’s borders fought to resist becoming part of an independent Bosnia or Croatia. Serbia did not move to annex Krajina or Eastern Bosnia to Serbia proper. Since then, Serbia has, to all intents and purposes, lost Kosovo, and more recently the connection with Montenegro has been broken with almost no fuss at all. In the Serbian case, I think “failure to expand”, along with the lack of serious attempts to expand and the absence of any official expansionist ideology, can be taken as evidence that the Serbian state is not expansionist in any meaningful sense.

  10. Cian said,

    October 8, 2007 at 8:42 pm

    Splinter,
    Oh I agree about Albania and Croatia, and I don’t think Serbia is a threat to anyone, for fairly obvious reasons, whether it wanted to be or not. Its just that the argument about Serbia’s intentions based upon their success is a crap one – there are better arguments.

    I had a very distant cousin from, I think Tyrone, who according to my dad who was very supportive of the Union. He had land on both sides of the border and made a tidy sum from EU subsidies by moving his cattle across the border (it was “trade” apparently).

    Korolev,
    I wasn’t expressing an opinion on whether Serbia is, or was, expansionist. I was merely criticising a flawed argument which claimed they weren’t.

    If one makes the argument that “because Serbia has lost territory, Serbia is not/was not expansionist because it has lost territory” then one is making an invalid argument. Not because of either of the two statements in the clause, but because the first part of the clause does not, and cannot, prove (or disprove) the second.

    “Since then, Serbia has, to all intents and purposes, lost Kosovo, and more recently the connection with Montenegro has been broken with almost no fuss at all.”

    And without any external pressures, threats or military force. Truly a wonderful gesture. I mean maybe they would have without the bombing, but you have to make the argument. You can’t just ignore it…well not and be taken seriously. Attila’s a fool, but you’re not doing much better here.

    “the absence of any official expansionist ideology, can be taken as evidence that the Serbian state is not expansionist in any meaningful sense.”

    Yeah, nowhere ever is. South Africa wasn’t, Israel isn’t – its all about security. The US is just protecting the world. As for Japan? Well they were fighting western imperialism in SE Asia (and they were – I mean they wanted to replace it with their own far worse version of it, but its not as if the places they captured were independent states). Hell, Germany was defending itself from Poland.

  11. Korolev said,

    October 8, 2007 at 8:54 pm

    Could you give me your definition of “expansionism” please? I have a feeling we are not talking about the same thing here.


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