Nasty foreign policy

Cartoon by Steve Bell for the Guardian newspaper.

A country’s foreign policy is often prone to contradictions as politicians try to balance a multitude of different interests. Factors concerning the economy and international trade often comes in conflict with humanitarian or ideological causes. In few instances is this more apparent than in Britain’s relationship with Islamic extremists.

The ambivalent relationship with extremism and tyrants is not Britain-only problem. Western powers, under the sigil of democracy and liberty, have a long record of strong alliances with corrupt and evil leaders and dictators. The shining armour often has a rusty backside

Western leaders has played the game of a many-headed hydra in the middle east. The Arab Spring has caused many changes of support over a short period of time. In January 2011 Cameron said the egyptian dictator Mubarak was a “friend of Britain”, at the same time Mubarak’s police attacked protesters on egyptian streets.

Last November David Cameron traveled on a tour around several gulf states, like Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates to promote the sales of British arms. These countries are close allies of Britain, and Cameron has no apparent issues their record of human right abuse.

During the hight of violent regime crackdown on democratic protest in Bahrain, Cameron welcomed their Crown Prince 10 Downing Street as a true friend. They even posed for photos together, shaking hands like old pals. In the late summer of 2012, Cameron hosted the visit of the King of Bahrain. The PM insisted he had pressed the king on political reforms, but the king received the same “best-friend” reception as his son.

The game of geopolitics is a complicated and intricate one. In bids to secure political and economic influence, states oppose or support other regimes or groups, depending on what is seen an most profitable. The middle east has been torn by this rivalry for centuries. Nato countries criticize Russia for it’s naval base in Syria, while the US maintain it’s own in Bahrain. Britain and the west could afford to oppose Gadhafi in Libya, but the oil wells in Saudi Arabia is to valuable to risk a conflict with the sheikhs.

The fact remains that Britain and it’s western allies, in wars like Libya and Syria, fight on the same side and in several cases also arming and funding the same Jihadists they claim is a threat to world peace.

The government is willing to send troops and material to fight Islamic extremists, to prevent them from imposing sharia law in countries like Mali, law that apparently is no problem being practiced in Saudi Arabia.

It is custom that those who oppose our military interventions is to be smeared as sympathizer of the enemy and a supporter of tyrants. The post-9/11 Bush doctrine still holds sway; either you are with us, or against us. Critiques of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is quelled as either pro-Taliban or pro-Saddam. Indeed, such argumentation is typical for the political elite responsible for military intervention, those who opposed the Vietnam war was denounced as communists. Such rhetoric effectively kills off any serious debate over our interventionist policy. This practice must end shall we hope to have a debate based on facts and honest arguments in the future.

In 2011 Der Spiegel reported that Britain had exported over $142 million worth of weapons to the Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi over the two previous years. In addition Gadhafi’s terror police was British-trained. It makes a morbid show how democracy activists in different countries are treated so differently by the west. Some receive support and funding, some even military intervention on their behalf. Others can only expect the same western countries to sell weapons to their oppressors.

It is a consistently characteristic for western nations who proclaim themselves a defenders of human rights and democracy, to seek close relationships with some of the cruelest regimes of our age. Sadly, the propaganda apparatus and the willing self censorship of media institutions prevents a serious debate and a well informed public. Economic interests still are more powerful than those of human rights and dignity. The leaders of the west strut of self confidence in their hypocrisy, it is due time they are unmasked.


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