“Never let Germany walk alone”, Francois Mitterand apparently used to tell his military commanders. But two decades after the end of the Cold War, Germany has slipped away not only from France’s embrace, but also from its traditional role within the EU. On a range of issues, Germany is going-alone, even if doing so is detrimental to Berlin’s own interests and corrosive of alliance relations.
On Russia, for example, Germany has been almost hysterically concerned that the Baltic states would push the EU towards an anti-Moscow stance. In NATO and EU discussions, it has often been German diplomats who have debased the debate, accusing those, like Britain and Sweden, who want a tougher post-Georgia policy towards Russia as wanting to start a new Cold War.
To The Economist, these mishaps are a function of Germany’s political situation. Facing a general election next year, Chancellor Angela Merkel is locked in a battle with the SDP’s likely front-runner and current Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, making every foreign policy issue a battle for domestic advantage. Things have not been helped by the notoriously poor relationship between Mrs Merkel and France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who’s frenetic diplomatic style cuts against the German chancellor’s measured ways.
But the problem runs deeper and may not be solved by the future German elections or the recently held U.S ones. For while the polls show the CDU in the lead, they are sufficiently tight to be able to force another so-called “grand coalition” between CDU and CDU, which would see a re-run of all the foreign policy battles.
The election of Barrack Obama in the U.S is also unlikely to make a big difference. On Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq — trouble-spots that will to occupy the Obama administration’s time —Germany’s position is at best awkward. Germany’s industry still has strong links with Iran; last month Germany’s ambassador to Iran, Herbert Honsowitz, told his Iranian hosts not to worry about Berlin’s announcement that it would reduce trade links as German companies would use the United Arab Emirates as a middleman for more than $4 billion in commerce.
And everyone expects President Obama to ask Germany to send more troops to NATO’s Afghan mission and deploy some of those 4500 soldiers already there to the war-torn south. German diplomats are furiously compiling arguments that would counter such a request –- and may offer police officers instead — but these are unlikely to make too much of an impact when President Obama makes the public case and Secretary Clinton does the follow-up.
Then there is climate change? Mrs Merkel was once seen as of the key reformers, even at one point dubbed “the climate chancellor”. But she is now pushing for parts of Germany’s industry to be exempted from emissions trading. This may put her at odds not only with the Obama administration, but also Congress, now that Democratic congressman Henry Waxman has taken the reigns of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Running through all these issues is one big question: what role does Germany want to play in the world? Does it want to be a large Switzerland – unarmed, mediating between all sides, but unwilling to take bold positions, devote resources and make sacrifices? Or does it want to be a key ally for the U.S, Britain and France, a motor of the EU and a pillar of the Euro-Atlantic community?
On my recent visits to Berlin I have become convinced that many of Germany’s politicians know current policy is not working. They also know that many of the world’s problems –- from Russia to Iran –- can only be solved by Germany’s active involvement. However, a large proportion of the public does not want to accept the price that has to be paid for Germany’s freedom, security and prosperity. And German politicians of all hues have been unwilling to make the case as forcefully as required, in part –- but not exclusively — because of the political situation. However, neither Germany nor its allies can afford for Europe’s largest country to walk alone. December 2, 2008 at 12:43 pm | More on Europe and Central Asia | Comments Off
In the last couple of weeks there has been more attention heaped on little Bosnia than has been the case for years. First, Paddy Ashdown and Richard Hoolbroke argued in The Guardian that the situation was deteriorating rapidly. Immediately afterwards, William Hague travelled to Sarajevo to see things for himself followed by Foreign Secretary David Milliband.
Now the NATO Deputy Secretary-General is touring Bosnia-Herzegovina while the EU’s two foreign policy supremos -– Enlargement Commissioner Oli Rehn and Javier Solana, the foreign policy “czar” – have issued a document that underlines the bloc’s determination to “sort out the situation in Bosnia-Hercegovina,“ while double-hatting EU Miroslav Lajčak as head of the European Commission office too.
Though this renwed attention on Bosnia is welcome, a new report (pdf) by the Democratization Policy Council makes clear more will have to be done to put Bosnia back on the right track.
(more…) November 18, 2008 at 12:34 pm | More on Conflict and security, Cooperation and coherence, Economics and development, Europe and Central Asia | Comments Off
The rumour that Barack Obama may appoint Hilary Clinton as his top diplomat has filled the Sunday papers. Personally, I think she would be a better Defense Secretary or a nominee to the Supreme Court, although she is bound to do well as Secretary of State too.
If she were given the State Department, she is more likely to follow Colin Powell’s management style -– which a place like Foggy Bottom sorely needs –- than emulate Condi Rice’s neglect of the department. At the same time, she is likely to play a key role in foreign policy, unlike General Powell, as President Obama is compelled to focus on the economy.
It is just that I think Senator Clinton would do better at the Pentagon. She supported the Iraq War, which will make her better at coaxing the military into a draw-down of forces and a shift of focus onto Afghanistan. Though the officers and soldiers will accept the democratic transition from Bush to Obama, a military that has gone to war twice, suffered both casualties and reputationally, and seen itself as the sharp end of U.S foreign policy for eight years will need to be helped to make the switch by someone they trust. With her hawkish views, time on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and work on Unified Action, a large U.S military exercise, the New York senator is well placed to take this role on.
(more…) November 17, 2008 at 9:41 am | More on North America | Comments Off
No issue has been the source of greater trans-Atlantic division during the last eight years than international law and counter-terrorism. The policies associated with the Bush administration’s “war on terror” — including detention of “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo Bay, coercive interrogation rising to a level that most Europeans would see as torture, the holding of prisoners in secret “black sites” or their rendition to countries that are know to use torture — have undermined the U.S reputation as a supporter of international law, alienated European publics and, arguably, worked as a recruiting sergeant for the very people the policy has aimed to defeat.
With an Obama administration now likely, many Europeans can’t wait to see Guantanamo Bay closed and for the U.S to adopt a different, less kinetic counter-terrorism policy.
But Europeans would do well not to get too ahead of themselves. The Illinois Senator has made clear that if he is elected he will continue to target terrorists where necessary. Last year, Senator Obama said he would “wage the war that has to be won”, with a strategy that includes “developing the capabilities and partnerships we need to take out the terrorists” while also “engaging the world to dry up support for terror and extremism”.
In other words, his administration is likely to adopts what Anthony Dworkin of the Crimes of War Project calls a “a mix of crime and war”, a hybrid model that combines existing legal norms from American constitutional law and the laws of armed conflict. In an essay, Dworkin – son of noted American legal philosopher Ronald Dworkin – lays out what Obama’s counter-terrorism policy will likely look. For example, an Obama administration may restrict all US personnel, including CIA agents, to those interrogation techniques listed in the Army’s interrogation field manual.
But Dworkin goes further, underlining that an incoming administration is likely look to its European allies for tangible assistance. For example, if the US closes down Guantanamo Bay what should be done with those detainees – around 50 – that the US would like to release, but who cannot be returned to their home countries because they would be likely to be tortured? “The US will look to Europe to absorb some of these men”, says Dworkin. He suggests that European governments should offer to take symbolic numbers of these prisoners, for example the Uighurs, as long as the U.S takes some ex-prisoners too. This could serve as the opening of a new chapter of trans-Atlantic cooperation on counter-terrorism.
The key, though, to success is for Europe to make small positive steps rather than making unrealistic demands and expecting them to be acted on immediately, like demanding that the U.S immediately join the International Criminal Court. Instead, Dworkin suggests beginning with “a wider reaffirmation of common principles”.
This, the war-crimes fighter thinks, could include the following principles: no one can be held for an extended period without charge except in situations of national emergency or armed conflict; no prisoner should be held for an extended period without his name and place of detention being publicly confirmed; no prisoner should be subjected to torture or cruel and inhuman treatment; no one should be transferred to any country where they face a real risk of being tortured; no one should be transferred to another country if they will be detained without due process.
Such declaration, to work, would – in my view – have to be wrapped together with a clear reaffirmation of the need to confront terrorism and not only through judicial means. But to my mind, Dworkin is beginning to do what few others have until now, namely lay out a practical way forward for trans-Atlantic counter-terrorism policy. October 30, 2008 at 2:49 pm | More on Conflict and security, North America, UK | Comments Off
In today’s Guardian there is a story about Reggie Love, the so-called “man behind the man”, Barrack Obama’s aide and confidante. Or as the U.S media has referred to him, as Obama’s “body man”. A former basketball player and Political Science major, Love manages Obama’s day, carrying the candidate’s pens, buying his snacks and drinks, sorting out the podium before Obama steps out etc.
Personal aides like Reggie Love are common in American politics. John Kerry had Marvin Nicholson and Hillary Clinton’s ”body woman” was one Huma Abedin. Wikipedia already has a description and list of such body men. However, we rarely hear about these aides, even though they exist in British politics too and can be immensely influential.
In my experience, such aides – let’s dispense with that odd, butler-sounding term “body man” – not only ensure that “their man” looks good and has what he needs, they often act as confidante, sounding-board and even gate-keeper. Like Charlie Young in the television series The West Wing.
When a senior politician needs a second opinion, after all the officials and subject-matter experts have left the room, he may turn to his personal aide. Often such aides give views not only about policy, but about people. Whom to trust, whom to be wary of etc. Equally often, officials will talk with personal aides, seek their advice, before presenting a senior politician with an issue. Personal aides often know the moods of “their” boss better than anyone else and can advise on how best to present a case.
The Civil Service does not like the notion of personal aides, preferring Ministers to have either Private Secretaries – who are officials – or Special Advisers. But personal aides – different from a secretary or an assistant – can play a very important role in the management of a minister’s work-load. No doubt their employment needs to be covered by some form of regulation. But hopefully talk of Reggie Love’s role in the Obama campaign will put attention to the British experience of such “body men”. October 29, 2008 at 10:06 am | More on UK | Comments Off
A couple of weeks a go I ran into Geoffrey Nice QC, a former prosecutor in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic at The Hague. The British barrister told me why he thought the International Court of Justice had been less effective than it could have been. The reason, he said, was because it the Court was not surrounded by any other accountability mechanisms, which make sure national judicial systems worked – Parliament, bar associations, and, of course, the ever-inquisitive media.
I thought of Nice’s comments as “Yachtgate” started rolling and questions were raised about Lord Mandelson’s contacts with Oleg Deripaska. The Russian oligarch is said to stands to benefit from three decisions made at the time Lord Mandelson was a European trade commissioner.
Though it is clear that the Business Secretary has been less than forthright about his relations with Mr. Deripaska – for example when he first met the Russian – he denies any wrongdoing. And in this he is backed up by the EU’s top trade official, Irish diplomat David O’Sullivan, who insists that there had been “no political interference” from the then-Commissioner when the EU cut aluminium tariffs – saving the Russian oligarch huge sums.
But this takes me back to Nice’s comments. How come this is the first anyone hears about this? Even if, as Lord Mandelson contests, there is no improper relationship between him and Mr. Deripaska why did this not come to light before? Was it, like the problems surrounding ICTY, because the EU still has not developed the kind of accountability mechanisms require in a normal society?
Days after the British media started the story, the European ombudsman ruled that Mandelson’s office had been “wrongly blanking out the names of industry lobbyists” in documents released to the public. It went further, saying that “disclosure of names of individual lobbyists is essential”. But why was this not examined before?
I know, I know… there are no good answers to this. Or at least no answers beyond the fact that there is a European political class even though there is not yet a European “demos”. And without a “demos”, which includes a vibrant civil society and press corps, the very notion of accountability may be a mirage. But that, of course, does not explain the paucity of official oversight. The real question may be why has the EU system of governance not even been able to create the necessary oversight mimicry? October 28, 2008 at 1:10 pm | More on Europe and Central Asia | Comments Off
As conflict continues to rage in Chad and Afghanistan and the threat of terrorism at home persists, maximising the effectiveness of the current European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) remains a high priority. With the United States calling for a stronger, more cohesive approach, is it time to redefine European security priorities? How can a collective European security and defence strategy take into consideration the capabilities, weaknesses and resources of individual member states?
In this submission to the IPPR National Security Commission I argue that to create the necessary civilian capabilities in crisis situations for both common and unilateral use, the UK and like-minded allies should consider establishing a European civilian reserve – a reserve corps of 2,000 civilian specialists – with European citizens on stand-by for deployment. October 21, 2008 at 2:25 pm | More on Conflict and security, Cooperation and coherence, Europe and Central Asia | Comments Off
Developing effective indigenous forces has turned out to be one of the most important counter-insurgency tasks , whether in Afghanistan or Yemen. Yet it is a task that both the U.S and NATO allies struggle with.
The U.S Army is therefore thinking about creating standardized units to undertake the training tasks while in Britain, the head of the army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, has argued that the British army needs to be restructured, grow bigger, and acquire new peacemaking and reconstruction skill, including by establishing specialized reconstruction units as part of eight “organic” manoeuvre brigades.
But what is lacking is a NATO “chapeaux”, which could help build capabilities elsewhere, ensure greater interoperability and guarantee that the new security assistance mission is a priority for all NATO allies. Creating a 2000- person NATO Military Advisory Force supported by a Military Advisory Centre,would be the next logical move to achieve this. Read more about this idea in this article in World Defence Systems October 16, 2008 at 10:26 am | More on Conflict and security, Cooperation and coherence | Comments Off
British defense officials must be squirming. While it is common knowledge that parts of the US establishment government are unhappy about Britain’s role in Basra and Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki is almost contemptuous about British forces, now analysis about developments in the southern city do not even feature Britain.
Writing for the New York Times, three well-known American security analysts talk about their recent fact-finding visit to Basra and how they “glimpsed a model of post-American Iraq.” The words “British” and “Britain” are not mentioned once while the analysts note that “recent Iraqi operations in Basra, Sadr City and Mosul would not have succeeded without American military support.”
So much for Britain’s remaining soldiers and development workers. September 9, 2008 at 4:36 pm | More on Conflict and security, Middle East and North Africa | Comments Off
As the Gulf Coast gets ready to evacuate and plans for the Republican Convention have been throw into disarray, an interesting question has emerged. To what extent can the Obama campaign use its well-established, grass-roots network to assist the official recovery effort?
Yesterday in Ohio, Senator Obama said he would mobilize its e-mail list of supporters to encourage them to volunteer or send contributions:
We can activate an e-mail list of a couple million people who want to give back. I think we can get tons of volunteers to travel down there if it becomes necessary.
Helping victims of crises can be politically-expedient, as well as the humanitarian thing to do. When Russian-Israeli tycoon Arcadi Gaydamak used his money to build “refugee” camps for victims of Hezbollah’s rockets he wrote himself into Israeli politics.
Barack Obama does not have money, but it is common knowledge that his campaign’s e-mail/grass-roots network is the largest in political history, and campaign team expects to raise $1 billion online during the 2008 campaign, 12 times as much as John Kerry raised through online fundraising in 2004. Many analysts believe that Obama, despite what the national polls say, will eventually pull ahead of McCain because of the national, internet-aided network.
But the idea of using this network for national, non-partisan purposes is novel, though logical. If it is eventually used to help victims of the hurricane and if Obama is elected to the White House could this network be “federalised” or serve as a nucleus of a new Kennedy-style Peace Corps or a way to take the newly-established Civilian Reserve Corps a step further? August 31, 2008 at 6:59 pm | More on Cooperation and coherence, Influence and networks, North America | Comments Off
Since the Russian invasion of Georgia there has been a lot of discussion about the media war and who won it. The Guardian’s Peter Wilby, like many others, think “the Georgians played the PR game more skilfully.”
But another aspect seems to have received a little less attention – namely the nature of the media’s coverage and how it differed from other wars. Or, as a future PhD thesis might be titled: “The Media Coverage of the Georgian War: A Comparative Perspective.”
Let’s start with the Iraq War, which, like the Bosnian War before it, was a milestone in journalistic history. The tactics of the early Iraqi insurgency – indiscriminate killings, road-side bombs, kidnappings etc. – as well as the occasional Coalition aerial attack made the war the deadliest for the media. The war and its deadly aftermath have cost more reporters’ lives than any other conflict.
But reporting, too, seemed to undergo a transformation from its earlier Balkan incarnation. The Iraq War initially took the embed concept to the extreme. Viewers were up, close and personal – yet at the same time removed, as reporters were placed under different forms of censorship. We, the viewers, knew what the soldiers felt, could hear the whizzing bullets and could see their ghostly green silhouettes during night-time raids, but were left in the dark about the larger picture.
As post-combat stability gave way to violence, insurgency and chaos, it became too difficult to report outside Baghdad’s Green Zone. Suddenly we were looking down the other end of the media telescope: it became easier to understand the big picture – the missing WMD, the faltering reconstruction, the developing insurgency – but much of the detail was became, or at least fragmented. Relationships and personal stories – a stable of Balkan reporting – seemed rarer. Footage was usually after the event; a bomb would go off, but by the time the crew would to shoot the scene the bodies had been removed.
But in Georgia, the business of war-reporting seemed to take a step back to its Balkan version. Reporting was on the spot and live again. Really live. Pictures were not only after the event, but during the happening. We saw the footage as it happened, to the people, to the journalists. Even to the soldiers. “Embedded journalism” was live, but controlled. This was live and uncontrolled. David Chkhikvishvili’s video images of Georgian rockets being launched towards South Ossetia were live – and the first most people heard of the conflict.
But the war also seemed a little grittier, a post-Iraq kind of Balkans War – more indiscriminate, and more dangerous for reporters. Before the Russian suspension of hostilities, a Reuters reporter’s vehicle narrowly escaped bomb blasts near Gori. Jon Williams, an editor for BBC News, went so far as to call the safety situation during the conflict “catastrophic”.
As the prospect of state-to-state conflict seemed outdated before the Georgian War, so journalism seemed to be in a permanent post-Iraq state. Things have changed and it will be interesting to hear the progression reflect on these changes in the weeks to come. August 24, 2008 at 8:10 pm | More on Conflict and security | Comments Off
In 2006 the U.S national security establishment “re-discovered” counter-insurgency, as General David Petraeus fresh from having published the Army/Marine COIN doctrine – set about implementing a COIN strategy in Iraq and his fellow-travellers in the State Department like David Kilcullen pushed for a COIN handbook to change the strategic way the US government does COIN.
Now it’s time for another re-discovery – namely of the proxy war. Proxy wars were common in the Cold War, and proxies were used in conflicts in Greece, Angola, Korea, and Vietnam.
But these wars have now come back. In the Caucasus NATO’s fighting Russia through Georgia, in Iraq the U.S is really taking on Iran, while Israel aims at Tehran but shoots at Hezbollah in Lebanon. In Asia Pakistan uses the Taliban inside Afghanistan to hit at India.
Meanwhile, conflict in the Horn of Africa is escalating rapidly as power struggles within Somalia are exacerbated by the military support that both Ethiopia and Eritrea give to the opposing parties there.
The West used to be good at these proxy wars. First, because of the “soft” power of democratic capitalism, which drew people to a cause not just a country. But in the new world where the enemies are often Salafist Islamists does the U.S and its allies have the necessary universal language and universal appeal?
Second, successful proxy wars depended on the proxies being authentic representatives of at least parts of their societies. Where they were not, they failed. Today, does an alliance with the U.S automatically exclude one as a legitimate representative?
As proxy wars look likely to be one of the predominant modes of warfare in the 21st century, the U.S will need to find answers to these questions and, as with the development of its COIN capabilities, gear its diplomatic, military and economic instruments to deal with the new challenge. August 21, 2008 at 9:11 pm | More on Conflict and security, Influence and networks, North America | Comments Off
Over on the Guardian website, Nick Brown, a senior Labour leader, is supporting Russia’s invasion of Georgia to make a partisan political attack against David Cameron. You have to read it to believe it.
No doubt there is cause to criticize Georgia – I certainly have. But at a time when civilians are dying, Russia has invaded a neighbouring country (refusing to honour a ceasefire agreement) and David Cameron stole a march on both Gordon Brown and David Miliband, the Labour Whip’s article is, frankly, pathetic.
RICHARD ADDS: it may be even lower than Daniel reckons. Check out Andrew Sparrow’s theory that this is all a coded attack on David Miliband. August 20, 2008 at 3:30 pm | More on UK | Comments Off
You know when you have bought something you weren’t sure you needed, but you were tempted beyond control? And anyway, the thing it was meant to replace – familiar but also past-its-prime- really did need to be replaced. In with the new out with old.
But once you take the new thing home the doubts begin to set in. Did the thing really fit? Perhaps it was just the light in the changing room. Every day, little by little, the doubts grow. They grow until they are all-consuming. And you start thinking, extraordinarily, that maybe the old thing wasn’t half bad – even though it definitely was.
A lot of ordinary Londoners who voted Boris Johnson into office, thus ending Ken Livingstone’s Castroesque reign, must be feeling a bit similar now that the London Mayor has lost his second deputy. In spite of the fears of his colleagues and hopes of his enemies, Mayor Johnson has not been a disaster, racist or particularly buffoonish. In fact, he’s been perfectly sensible, occasionally innovative if a little hapless. The extra police officers on the Tube are making a difference while the alcohol ban was smart.
But, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to loose one deputy mayor may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness. As he hobnobs with Team GB in Beijing, Boris Johnson would do well to emulate that other replacement, Gordon Brown, and prepare for an Autumn re-launch of his own. He needs to get a top-notch Chief of Staff; someone who is brilliant, but low-profile and able to work with politicians and officials alike. As part of his reversal, he needs advice on how to reform City Hall including any legislative changes needed. Perhaps LSE’s Tony Travers could be asked to do a review.
The mayor then needs to focus on a few key issues. His administration feels a bit like the national government – many small initiatives but no over-arching narrative. It feels like the Brown government in other ways too – the top man wants to run everything himself and seems to find delegation to subordinates difficult. But leadership is about giving strategic direction and delegation.
Unlike the man in No. 10, Boris Johnson is likeable, is riding a Conservative upswing in the polls and has all the ingredients for a successful remake. But it will take serious re-thinking if he is to prevent voters from regretting their choice. August 20, 2008 at 3:05 pm | More on UK | Comments Off
With the Beijing Olympics about to be declared a success, attention will turn to London. One question is on everyone’s minds: can London 2012 match the power and fanfare of the Chinese Games?
But there is another lesson to take home from Beijing: how to sell your country abroad. Even before the Opening Ceremony, the world had been exposed to China for years. Eighteen months ago, the impressive Terracotta Warriors stormed London. Then came Kung Fun Panda, the Hollywood story of a bungling panda who aspires to be a martial arts warrior. China’s National Ballet performed “Swan Lake” at the Royal Opera House whilst 2004 was “Chinese Culture Year” in France.
Numerous TV commercials are using Chinese-looking script or placing mascots – like Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger – on a Tibetan mountains. Newspapers are filled with reports from Chinese villages whilst books on the Middle Kingdom are ensconced on the best-seller lists.
This is exactly what the Chinese government hoped for. The Beijing Olympics has been about sport, to be sure. But they were always going to be about more than just that. For the Communist Party, the 29th Olympiad was seen as China’s “coming out party”, an event to mark the country’s acceptance and recognition from a sometimes hostile family of nations.
Since their modern re-launch in 1859, the Olympics have been one of the best ways to show-case a country; the Greeks demolished half-a-century of stereotyping when they pulled off the Athens Games.
For Britain, the 2012 London Olympics can play a similar role. The event will be the single greatest opportunity to re-brand Britain since 1997 and following the image-destroying partnership between Tony Blair and George Bush. Until the Queen dies, no other event is likely to make people around the world focus on Britain.
In the book The Man Who Saved Britain Simon Winder argued that James Bond upheld the British ego while a once-great power was trying to come to terms with its diminished post-World War II role. The Games will offer a rare chance to do the same; to re-launch Britain’s image in the world. Forget the “cool Britannia” of the Blair era; what may be needed may is less naff but equally modern and positive.
But the Games offer an opportunity not only to promote Britain’s culture and values, but also to attract tourists, students and investors; and to promote British exports.
The country is heading towards a recession. Consumers are battered by declining purchasing power, plummeting house prices and falling credit availability. The only way out will be to increase British exports, much as in the 1990s. Whilst the volume of British exports will be determined by economic fundamentals – a weak pound and low interest rates – there is scope for government action.
Sadly, for all that potential benefit rather than seizing the opportunity, the 2012 preparations have been off to an uninspiring start. Google the words “London Olympics” and after three official URLs comes the heading “Olympic chiefs under fire for puerile logo”. Debate has mostly been about how much money the Games will cost.
In the Foreign Office, the enormous task of gearing Britain’s diplomatic network to promote the country, its exports and its values is set to fall to a middle-ranking official.
Last year, UK Trade & Investment – the government’s export-promotion arm – seemed thrilled, according to its own board minutes, that Lord Coe, “agreed that he will devote some time to UKTI activities and has provided a quote in support of UKTI’s Olympic objectives.” Splendid – but his lordship’s involvement hardly substitutes for Ministerial leadership.
If a cross-governmental plan to use the Olympics to promote Britain does indeed exist, I would be curious to know if it includes sending the Elgin Marbles around the world? Will it call for more money to British films? Will Simon Cowell be drafted in to host a “The World’s Got Talent” show, with a finale in London’s Dome? Does the plan include initiatives to collaborate with Rockstar, the makers of Grand Theft Auto, the world’s best-selling video game?
As a new collection of articles – in part written by Alex and David and edited by up-and-coming Foreign Office minister Jim Murphy – argues, this is exactly the way Britain will need to think if it wants to promote itself. The lack of plans, senior staff attention, and ministerial leadership, however, does no bode well.
It is time for the government to take a leaf out of the Murphy playbook and launch a three-year campaign to promote Britain. The benefits are many and for the whole of Britain – as the Chinese have shown. August 20, 2008 at 9:44 am | More on East Asia and Pacific, Global system, UK | 3 Comments