Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Withdrawal Method

As requested in the comments to the last post, let's talk about Dave. (It's a good job that subeds are responsible for the headlines, because Someone wake me from this nightmare of withdrawal is simply terrible and not justified by the text at all. DA does use 'Everywhere the fantasy of disengagement was being dreamt.')

Pretty much everything is wrong with this particular column, IMO. DA's talent seems to have deserted him. (What does 'nervously content' mean? Or 'Americans were also distancing themselves from themselves'?) His trademark these days seems to be sniping at other (usually unnamed) journalists in publications Times readers are unlikely to have seen. So for reference, here is Mark Malloch Brown's interview in the Torygraph with Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson. (I'm not sure why that paper sends two female writers to do the job of one, but they often do get the goodies - the quotes which other papers then report.) And here's the fourth paragraph of that piece (which readers may judge for themselves):

Irwin Stelzer, Rupert Murdoch's right-hand man, called his [Mark Malloch Brown's] appointment, "appalling".

And a hatchet job appears as soon as possible in the Times! Now that's what I call a coincidence!

I read that piece at the weekend, and thought 'Good for Brown and Brown.' This view isn't shared by David Miliband, it seems.

Then David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, slammed the French windows shut again. America was our most important single ally, and being joined at the hip with it was an objective of foreign policy. "We are not into the game of hints," he told Sir Mark. So stop saying dumb things and go off and do the job we just appointed you to do.

As far as I can see, Miliband didn't say this to Lord Brown. I googled "We are not into the game of hints" and found the provocatively titled Minister of Malarkey.

Mr. Miliband, too, must have been surprised to read that his new subordinate sees himself as "the older figure, the wise eminence behind the young Foreign Secretary." Mr. Miliband wasted no time in giving an interview of his own in which he laughed out loud at Lord Malloch Brown's pretensions.

Asked if the British government had changed its tone toward the Bush administration, he replied, "No - a straight answer to a straight question. We are not into the game of hints. If we want to say something you will hear it from the Prime minister and you will hear it from myself."

I haven't yet found this interview, but New Labour watchers will no doubt rejoice the Broon regime is just as fond of ministers spinning against each other as Blair's was. It's like Alastair Campbell and Charlie Whelan all over again. There's a constitutional issue here, I think. Miliband thinks he and Brown can set policy; I'm not so sure. Brown wasn't elected, and Labour should still be 'bound' (if that's the word) by the 2005 Manifesto. It's quite something that they can treat a minister as if he were barely fit to photocopy their press releases. Where does Brownite policy come from? Not from cabinet discussion, it seems. Yet from Miliband commits to US 'special relationship' (The Times) we learn that Miliband has altered UK policy.

He slimmed down Britain's 10 major foreign policy objectives to just three: fighting extremism, climate change and a more effective EU.

"Fighting extremism" is a terrible way to say - whatever it is Miliband means. Putin could be an extremist. Gadaafi certainly is. So is Mugabe. Are we going to fight all of them? (I take it that 'fighting' applies to both 'extremism' and 'climate change' but not 'a more effective EU'. But I'm not taking odds.)

Far from not working, the surge has only just reached its peak, and even sceptical observers concede that there is real progress, one consequence of which has been a diminution in Iraqi deaths, though an increase in American ones.

The Initial Benchmark Assessment Report is too long and complex to summarise here (I've also only skimmed it), and it does say that there has been progress, but that isn't a good summary of its conclusions. Grauniad:

But it [the report] admitted insufficient progress on eight of 18 congressional benchmarks, mainly concerning political reconciliation. Results were mixed on two other political benchmarks, and "satisfactory" progress was reported in the remaining areas, which mostly concerned military issues.

Iraq's a mess. Best thing to do is slag off the New York Times. DA notes that there is "not one single word in the [NYT] editorial about what Iraqis themselves wanted the US to do". There is one sentence on what Iraqis want in his article: "The calls from Iraqi politicians, local leaders in Anbar, the Kurds and many other groups for the Americans to stay on for the time being were not even referred to." Now, George Galloway is a British politician, Iqbal Sacranie is a local leader - if I could just think of some faction to replace 'the Kurds' I could rewrite DA's sentence to suggest that lots of people in this country eagerly await the collapse of the Great Satan America. And it would be no less true.

I wrote this last night, and I'm not happy with it - especially the last para. So blast away, me hearties.


Blogger Matthew said...

I think it was so bad it's largely unwatchable.

If I was to have a go, I would suggest his concerns about unilateral withdrawal, saying the game is up, admitting the disaster, etc, are less that the US Army and the US government might do that, which I suspect doesn't really bother him much, and more his fellow pro-war columnists.

They're all, with the obvious and increasingly loopy exceptions (Phillips, Pollard, the H'S'JS), backing off it now, but they're trying to avoid whatever is the columnar equivalent of the helicopters on the roof of the Embassy. The technique most favoured now seems to be to issue some regrets, blather away for ages, mouth some platitudes about 'not leaving the Iraqis' and hope that will do.

7/20/2007 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

It doesn't matter anyway since they will have stayed the course and therefore won't be to blame (that'll be us, of course).

7/20/2007 11:18:00 AM  

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