Advertisements
jump to navigation

The UK Decision on Syria 6, January 2016

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random, Syria, UK.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

strikes_in_syria_and_iraq_2014-09-23_isil_finance_center_in_ar-raqqah2c_syria

The following article was published by King’s College London’s Defence in Depth blog back in early December 2015.

__

An outline of a modus vivendi with Russia is required if there is to be any progress in the fight against Da’esh. Otherwise, the vaunted 70,000 strong ‘moderate’ forces promised by the likes of UK Prime Minister David Cameron to help coalition forces combat Da’esh will continue to be attacked by Russia. Indeed, their bombing campaign to date has been almost exclusively focused on forces other than those of the Da’esh and the Assad regime.

Of equal importance is persuading this 70,000 – or as many of them as possible – that they must concentrate on Da’esh and not the Assad regime. Presently, reports emerging from representatives of these forces claim quite the opposite: that the Assad regime is their primary enemy. As long as this is the case, Russia will continue to attack them and they will be of little use to Cameron and others seeking to primarily attack Da’esh.

On paper, at least, it looks like there is a deal to be done here.

Russia does, in fact, at some stage, want to counter Da’esh. This motley group killed hundreds of its citizens in the Sinai plane attack, and it has released a propaganda video of the execution of a Russian citizen. But Russia wants to guarantee its role in a future Syrian scenario too. This is the primary reason that it is so eagerly fighting the array of extremists and moderates ranged against Assad: it is protecting the Syrian regime.

Similarly, these moderates want Assad to go above all else. They – rightly – see him as the ultimate cause of the Syrian civil war and the one who indirectly founded Da’esh through policies actively stoking extremism. But this will simply not happen as long as Russia supports the Syrian regime. This statement of basic geopolitical fact needs to be relayed to these groups and driven home.

The deal is, therefore, quite obvious. The bulk of the Assad regime remains in place – Russia will not have it any other way – but Assad himself is scheduled to pass on power in a designated timetable. For this concession, Assad is saved from prosecution, Russia gets a say in the future government to guarantee its interests, the 70,000 and those they represent get rid of Assad and can have some (likely minor) say in a future government, and everyone can concentrate on dismantling Da’esh.

Doubtless, an approximation of this bargain is being discussed. But the fundamental problem is the fractured nature of the opposition groups. Persuading the dozens of militias and fronts that make up this 70,000 grouping of relatively moderate fighters to sign up to such a plan will be likely be near-impossibly difficult. In the end, Cameron and his allies will likely have to support and work with far fewer local forces.

The overarching ‘solution’ to this crisis is, then, political and involves a range of distasteful compromises. That British fighter-jets are now attacking targets a few hundred miles west from their current zone of operations in Iraq will not – cannot possibly – make any wider, strategic difference.

But it can, of course, make a tactical difference. Well targeted attacks can slowly degrade Da’esh capabilities. Especially in conjunction with allied support, it is plausible to suggest that the group’s abilities to operate in parts of Syria could be hampered.

Ultimately, the success or failure of this vote and of the resulting campaign depends on what its goals are. Destroying Da’esh is an absurd, impossible aim. It is an insidious franchise that can demonstrate that it has ‘won’ (i.e. not been wiped out) by any individual anywhere on earth with a flag, a camera, and an internet connection, to say nothing of its resilience in the great lawless swathes Syria, Iraq, Libya, or Nigeria.

The hope, then, is that this move by the British government is more important for its symbolic value signalling a new era of concerned international political alignment and pressure, than for its kinetic impact on the ground in Syria.

Advertisements

UK in the Gulf: to Engage or not to Engage? 20, November 2015

Posted by thegulfblog.com in The Gulf, UK.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

The article below was published recently by King’s College London’s Defence in Depth blog.

__

On 1 November 2015, the UK Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond inaugurated the beginning of works constructing the UK’s first permanent military base in Bahrain in the Persian Gulf since 1971 when the UK withdrew from the region. Using language that almost seemed to deliberately hark back to Britain’s colonial days in the Persian Gulf, Hammond announced that “The presence of the Royal Navy in Bahrain is guaranteed into the future, ensuring Britain’s sustained presence east of Suez.”

In reality, the Royal Navy has scarcely left the Persian Gulf region in the last century, and this ‘new’ base is better seen as the renovation and expansion of existing structures. Nevertheless, the fanfare surrounding the announcement of the new permanence of the UK presence is interesting and indicative of the current UK Government’s perspective. Indeed, the timing of the turning of the soil on this ‘new’ base comes between the hosting of the Chinese President for a lavish, extended state visit in October and the hosting in early November of Egyptian President Sisi. David Cameron’s government plainly believes in the importance of international engagement with states that many accuse of a range of human rights abuses.

The government marshals a variety of arguments to defend its engagement with such states, many of which have roots in the UK’s National Security Strategy (NSS), the key document that seeks to outline the UK’s national interest and how it can be defended.

The government argues that the UK’s security is protected by maintaining and developing these kinds of links. In terms of the military, the UK provides a range of key training roles for counterparts in the Gulf region, while regional bases provide an important change of arena for UK troops. Moreover, given the salience of the region to the wider world economy and the number of conflicts that have plagued the region in recent decades, developing military to-military links in the Gulf area are deemed to be important. As the former Chief of the UK Defence Staff put it, ‘if we are to influence, we must know what drives our friends and how to motivate. This is not something that can be done on the eve of an operation.’ There are also direct intelligence links with, for example, Saudi Arabia that have proved to be crucial in thwarting at least one serious terrorist attack on UK soil.

The UK is highly dependent upon the Persian Gulf region for trade. Bilateral trade with the region is increasing quickly to around £30bn per annum, which is more than to India, Russia, and Mexico combined. Most governments would likely deem it inadvisable to shun such countries where trade is so important.

Some charge that there is a flat contradiction between the UK’s desire to trade with these states and other important goals of the state’s NSS, namely the promotion of British values and influence. It is not difficult to imagine ministers avoiding criticising murkier issues related to human rights in the wider effort to win a particular contract.

Similarly, the UK government is open to the charge that however many links are established between governments or in industry, and no matter the theoretical opportunities created to allow the promotion of British values and culture, the reality remains that little seems to ultimately change.

Both charges are difficult to answer. Individual examples of international pressure forcing, for example, Saudi Arabia to reverse a particularly egregious travesty of justice can be found, but the system remains the same. Which makes it all the more puzzling as to why the British government eventually chose to make a stand with Saudi Arabia over a contract to consult on Saudi Arabia’s prison system. This £5.9m contract was cancelled in mid-October because of wider human rights concerns. Principled though this may be, it would seem to be logical that anyone in the UK government or otherwise interested in spreading British values would seek to exert influence in Saudi Arabia’s prison system as a matter of priority. The narrative of building contacts and influence is effectively aimed at opening the door for just such opportunities to share expertise and best practice. This confusion is an inevitable by-product of the nature of modern British politics and the subjective, inconclusive arguments put forth by those supporting and opposing engagement.

The argument is inevitably more difficult for those against engagement. For they must move beyond rowdy, faux-principled rejectionism and actually make a case for how, for example, the Saudi prison system will reform better now that the UK role therein is finished. Perhaps another western liberal democracy will take up the contact, perhaps not. And those seeking greater engagement need to move beyond platitudes and seek concrete, direct, and ideally verifiable examples of UK influence leading to a change in policy.

__

For more on the evolving role of the UK in the Persian Gulf region and how this chimes with understandings of British national interest, see David Roberts ‘British national interest in the Gulf: rediscovering a role?International Affairs (v.90, i3, May 2014).

What does the increasing assertiveness of Persian Gulf states mean for regional security? 15, April 2015

Posted by thegulfblog.com in The Gulf, UK, Yemen.
Tags: , , , , , ,
add a comment

This article was published by The Daily Telegraph on 15 April 2015. The original can be found here.

__

DESERT SHIELD

For much of the past two centuries, security in the Persian Gulf has been underwritten by the Ottomans, the British, or the Americans though a web of treaties, security guarantees, and military bases.

But this is changing.

Irked by the US pivot to Asia, insulted by how quickly America dropped the former Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak in the Arab Spring after decades of support, and incensed by American negotiations with their Shia rival, Iran, the Arab Gulf states are increasingly asserting themselves across the Middle East.

Aside from financially and diplomatically supporting various groups in ongoing regional conflicts just as they have been doing for decades, for the first time, the states are actually using some of their expensively procured military kit in anger.

In Libya, the UAE (alongside Egypt) used their fast-jets to bomb Islamist militias to try to turn the tide of the conflict. Results, though hard to dissemble in the militia-swaddled failed state, appear to have been strategically negligible.

More prominently, Saudi Arabia is leading a Sunni Arab coalition of 10 states against the Houthi rebels in the Arab world’s poorest country, Yemen. Over 1200 bombing sorties have not altered the strategic picture, though over 600 people have been killed, a majority of whom are civilians, thousands have been wounded, over 100,000 displaced, and millions are now without power and water.

Diplomatically too, some of the Gulf states are hardening their positions, adopting a George W Bush-like ‘with us or against us’ strategy.

The (initial) cancellation of negotiations with the Anglo-Dutch oil company BP, the refusal to allow a British nuclear submarine into UAE waters, and halting the use of long-established British military trainers are a part of the UAE’s increasingly forthright pressure on the UK to conform to its policies.

In particular, Abu Dhabi’s leadership is concerned with, from their perspective, the UK’s lax controls on Islamists residing in London and the Government’s wider laissez-faire policy towards groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.

A 2014 report into the group commissioned by David Cameron and written by the UK’s top Arabist diplomat was aimed at assuaging such fears, but because it did not come back a damning indictment of the group, it has not been released.

Elsewhere, Saudi Arabia is cashing in its chips. Based on a long, deeply intertwined relationship with Pakistan, the Kingdom called on the Pakistani government to make good on their implicit promises and provide troops for the offensive in Yemen. But the Pakistani parliament unanimously rejected the Saudi request, to anger and threats of reprisals from affronted Gulf states.

A scathing but potentially accurate conclusion might be that Arab states could hardly do a worse job of securing the Persian Gulf region than America and its allies in recent years. But the bloody and ineffectual bombing campaign in Yemen hints that the approach of the region’s indigenous states is hardly more refined or successful.

While America might have been encumbered by a lack of knowledge of the region and its nuances, the Gulf states are equally encumbered by their own prejudices. In particular, the inability of the Sunni states to avoid foisting a sectarian dynamic onto any and all regional problems is depressing.

Certainly, Iran is often an active, difficult, meddling regional state, but it is neither omnipotent nor irrational, and the evidence for its support for the Houthis is patchy at best.

And the heat may well increase for the UK too, caught between two poles. Evidently, there is a desire to maintain historic ties and build military sales, underpinned by the plausible argument that the current set of leaders in the Gulf are as good as it gets without the remotest hint of any viable alternative. But with leaders actively interfering across the region as per their world view, they can be, on occasion at least, difficult to support.

But the British Government has brooked bad press in this regard before; notably by maintaining particularly close relations with Bahrain during its Arab Spring problems, under the credible rubric (as yet not particularly effectively spelled-out) that continued close British relations are essential to gently but effectively shape policy in the longer run.

The December 2014 announcement of a ‘permanent’ British naval base in Bahrain is a symbolic gesture of solidarity from the UK amid these wider, changing circumstances. Now more than ever, as the Arab Gulf states begin to edge to the forefront of maintaining, theoretically at least, regional peace, the British assertion of quiet influence in the Gulf states will be tested.

British national interest in the Gulf: rediscovering a role? 20, May 2014

Posted by thegulfblog.com in The Gulf, UK.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

iaa

 

My article for the journal International Affairs has been published in the May 2014 issue. The abstract is below and the link to the article ($) is here.

__

The British government is in the process of re-energizing its relations with the Gulf states. A new Gulf strategy involving a range of activities including more frequent elite bilateral visits and proposals sometimes touted as Britain’s military ‘return to east of Suez’ are two key elements of the overarching strategy. Such polices are designed to fall in line with British national interest as identified by the government-authored 2010 National Security Strategy (NSS), which emphasizes the importance of security, trade, and promoting and expanding British values and influence as perennial British raisons d’etat. In the short term, the Gulf initiatives reflect and compliment these core interests, partly based on Britain’s historical role in the region, but mostly thanks to modern day trade interdependencies and mutually beneficial security-based cooperation. However, there is yet to emerge a coherent understanding of Britain’s longer-term national interest in the region. Instead, government-led, party-political priorities, at the expense of thorough apolitical analysis of long-term interests, appear to be unduly influential on the origins of both the Gulf proposals and the NSS conclusions themselves. Without a clear strategic, neutral grounding, both the Gulf prioritization and the NSS itself are weakened and their longevity undermined.

 

 

On the UK report into the Muslim Brotherhood 28, April 2014

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Egypt, UK.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

ikh

 

There is no certain truth as to what the Muslim Brotherhood (the Ikhwan) is, what it represents, or what its ultimate goals are. Instead, its history is one of bifurcation after bifurcation, with differing ideologues promoting differing modus operandi for differing goals. One’s views on the Ikhwan are instead predominately determined by one’s perceptions, which inevitably stem from circumstance and context: what you say depends on where you sit. For the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) the Ikhwan is a diverse actor that is difficult to pin down, while according to a former head of the UK’s foreign security intelligence service MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, it is ‘at heart terrorist organisation”. Under pressure from middle eastern allies deeply concerned at the rise of the Ikhwan, the UK government has come under pressure to either brand the organization illegal or at least clamp down on its activities. David Cameron’s recently announced investigation into the organization’s activities in the UK thus faces a difficult job summing up this nebulous organization.

The Ikhwan’s roots

Historically, the emergence of the Ikhwan is relatively straight-forward to track, at least compared to the theological and conceptual divisions that emerged as the twentieth century progressed. Hassan Al Banna founded the Ikhwan in 1928. Initially, he was more of a scholar, an author and a poet. The organization he ran worked closely with the Egyptian Monarchy to avoid being repressed. It used educational outreach both formally (schools and mosques) and informally (establishing clubs and social organizations) to spread its word, while its social aspects ranging from establishing health clinics to running sports clubs, were to be a feature of its success. By the late 1940s, this tactic had accrued approximately half a million followers in Egypt and its influence had spread throughout the region.

Indelible to the Ikhwan’s ideology was an anti-Colonial streak. This motivating factor, spurred on by increasing repression, prompted the creation of a specialized military wing, the Special Apparatus; essentially a paramilitary organization. The activities of this wing, which included assassinations, poisoned an already worsening relationship with the government and exacerbated the cycle of repression, relaxation, and repression; a feature of the Ikhwan and its governmental relations to this day.

Al Banna was killed in 1949 and though Hassan Al Hudaybi took over as the second ‘general guide’ it was Sayyid Qutb whose works were to become synonymous with the Ikhwan. Qutb was virulently anti-Colonial and anti-Westernisation, bitterly resenting the perceived Western influences on the Arab World. Spurred on by sporadic incarceration by the Egyptian authorities, his writings became increasingly radical to the point where he summarily rejected any corporeal power coming in between God’s divine rule and ordinary people. Because Governments interfered in this direct link, he reasoned, opposing them in any way possible was ipso facto justified. Qutb’s thought and reason along these lines remains one of the foundational plinths of radical Islam to this day and is an influence for the likes of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Al Qaeda.

Aware that such a trend would lead to the Ikhwan’s permanent marginalization from Egyptian rule, Al Hudaybi eventually issued a riposte. ‘Preachers not Judges’ was released under his name but is thought of as collective work by a range of scholars. It sought to undercut Qutb’s logic by arguing that governments were a legitimate form of rule and it insisted that declaring someone apostate – i.e. non-Muslim and therefore with Qutb’s logic without rights of protection – was infinitely more complex than Qutb’s simplistic logic. Though Qutb’s ideas have been expressly rejected by the Ikhwan leadership, his works remain in the Ikhwan canon of literature; a paradox that concerns many to this day. Indeed, though jurisprudential and theological arguments have evolved, this Qutb-Hudaybi dividing line remains at the base of issues concerning the Ikhwan.

Some point to former Egyptian Ikhwan President Mohammed Morsi’s clear policy to avoid undercutting or otherwise changing Egypt’s decades-old policy of normalizing relations with Israel as evident proof that the Ikhwan are prudent rulers; that they are not necessarily hijacked by religious fervor or at the whim of theological demands. Others point to Morsi’s appointment of Adel Assad mayor of Luxor even though Assad was a member of Gamaa Al Islamiyya, a terrorist group that killed 62 people in Luxor in 1997, as proof of the Ikhwan’s real sympathies.

 What you say depends on where you sit

In short, there is no ‘truth’ as to the Ikhwan. It is a group that retains the loyalty of hundreds of thousands of Muslims. Though there may be an official overarching dogma denouncing violence, given the breadth of its support a smorgasbord of beliefs and actions can be found and carried out under its aegis. The Ikhwan’s leadership retain this ambiguity on purpose, to a degree. This allows them to be all things to all men (or women).

One of the central questions surrounding the Ikhwan is whether it is some kind of a conveyor belt to further extremism or a firewall against greater radicalization. The obvious answer is that given its breadth and weight of numbers, both aphorisms are true, yet what is equally certain is that the vast majority of its membership err more towards the Hudaybi school. This fact is underpinned by simple appreciation of the isolated nature of attacks in Egypt and elsewhere in the aftermath of the military coup against Morsi.

This debate and decisions surrounding how to interact with the Ikhwan need nuance. The British government must not allow itself to be pushed into making a stance by allies with a particular calculus and a lack of nuance of their own. The conclusions of this government study into the Ikhwan are important as they may unearth links and other associations that are detrimental to the UK’s security. Yet given the broad nature of the Ikhwan it is difficult to see how it could reasonably act as a foundation for an outright ban. Any such decision would result from a deep shift in HMGs attitude towards the Ikhwan. While such a tough policy would curry favor in key regional capitals, the whiff of HMG dancing to the tune of Middle Eastern autocracies would be nigh-on undeniable.

On Cameron’s defeat in Parliament over Syria 30, August 2013

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Syria, UK.
Tags: , , , , ,
1 comment so far

By a margin of 13 votes British Prime Minister David Cameron lost a vote that would have led to the UK joining in punitive military action against Syrian President Bashar Al Assad for his presumed use of chemical weapons.

This defeat despite the difficulties being telegraphed beforehand with Labor Leader Ed Milliband’s intransigence clear to all came as something of a shock and many columnists have seized upon it to tout a range of apocalyptic headlines. Some say that this is a huge blow to the US-UK ‘special relationship’, others see this as the UK abrogating its role as a world power, while others are heaping derision on Cameron emphasizing how this is humiliating for the Prime Minister.

I disagree with much of the commentary. I think much of it stinks of journalists cooped up in Westminster for hours on end and getting caught up in the emotion and adrenalin of one of the most extraordinary nights in British politics for many years.

Democracy

…is alive and well in the UK. Nice to see. Whatever the reasons (and many of them are far from pure, judicious deliberations of the matters at hand) Parliament stopped a powerful Prime Minister from making a key policy decision. Given the carnage that a modicum of democracy spurred on in parts of the Middle East, this is not a facet of British political life that we should take lightly.

Ed Miliband

…is playing a dirty kind of politics. I personally fear that his decision to stand against the motion to punish Assad had far more to do with political posturing and point scoring than with the facts on the ground, such as we know them. I think it was a spineless, short-term decision that will embolden Assad and his ilk  and will do no good to the UK’s position in the world.  I was tempted to switch to Labour at the next election from the Lib Dems: no longer.

Britain’s role as a ‘world power’

…is concept that has now truly seen its day. For decades now the UK has not had anything like the power and influence of a true world power, but part of the British establishment nevertheless thought that by virtue of our language, the soft power of the UK and modest but still potent military power the UK’s role still far outstripped what one might expect from a country with the UK’s typical metrics. However, this decision not to intervene, to stand back and not to protect a central implicit rule of the international system – not to use chemical weapons – indicates that British Parliamentarians do not feel – by a small majority – that this kind of thing falls on the UK to enforce. This, it strikes me, is perhaps a seminal moment in this context; of the UK finally coming to terms with its middling power status, on whom the arduous burdens of enforcing tacitly understood laws in the international community does not fall.

The special relationship

…hasn’t been hugely special for a long time now. Nevertheless, the UK and the US were very close allies before the vote and will remain very close allies after the vote. While this leaves the US almost alone in potentially taking action, there can hardly be a bitter retort towards the UK: this action was taken by the British Parliament and is what we’re all about in the West…you know, democracy.

Arab indignation

…that castigates the UK for failing to help Syrians and for tacitly supporting Bashar Al Assad needs to redirected quickly, for it is getting increasingly irksome. The UAE and Saudi Arabia, for example, have over 250 top-line combat aircraft positioned in many ways in a far better location to be effective against Bashar. Though doubtless some exists, I have seen precisely no commentary whatsoever or call for Arab nations to actually do something meaningful. Moreover, this is a resolutely a situation in the heart of the Middle East; one might think that the Arab world would feel more obliged to actually do something [and I’ll not even start on Yemen: a catastrophic situation on the very doorstep of many of the richest nations on earth but which is nevertheless failing spectacularly]. Say what you will about Qatar and its efforts in Syria, but at least it was trying as opposed to much of the rest of the Arab world that cowers away, bleating sporadically against and then for the West to ‘do something’ as the mood dictates.

The chemical attack

…was most likely carried out by the regime. Though the motivations are difficult to fathom, it seems unlikely that anyone else could have procured the necessary tons of chemicals and found a way to deliver them effectively. This, as far as I see it, is the top and the bottom of the case. Add to this panicked intercepted communications among the Assad forces, and the case appears to be relatively clear: it was the regime that carried out the attack. Whether it was ordered by Assad himself I think is a secondary consideration; he is the leader and he bears the responsibility for what his Government and forces do.

Reprisals

…are justified in my opinion. I think that they – if they ever come – will be extremely limited. Empty army and intelligence headquarters will be destroyed as well as (hopefully) aircraft, helicopters and tanks that have been to regularly used to attack civilian neighborhoods. This strikes me as entirely reasonable. Not only will this retard to some degree Assad’s ability to kill his people, but it will not force him from power and leave a vacuum. Also it will indicate that – eventually – the use of chemical weapons is punished. This is a taboo that is worth keeping taboo.

London’s Potemkin Protest 25, October 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in UK.
Tags: , ,
2 comments

So while the protestors in London vowed…

Turns out that unless they are lizards, 9/10 bugger off home, no doubt lubed up on a nice Macchiato from Starbucks [cheap shot, I know, I know], to return the next day.

Aside from numerous snide comments that I try to hold back (…I know…) it really irks me that some of these folk dare even hint that their protets are even remotely akin, alike or linked in any way to those in the Arab Spring.

Hat tip

I was most miffed to find that Tim Worstall nicked my headline…or rather he published before me (unless he read my mind, no actual thieving was involved). But still, fair’s fair: thanks.

 

Council caves to religious pressure…political correctness gown’ maad 3, October 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in UK.
Tags: , ,
3 comments

…would have been the headline in at least two British daily newspapers had a council changed some facet of the road management system (or something similarly trivial) to accommodate the desires of the Muslim community. Witness this article in the execrable Daily Express on a similarly trivial issue.

Instead, this happened in North London where the council have installed an automatic road crossing  timer so Jews don’t have to use a mechanical button on the Sabbath lest the world comes to an end.

I’ve no problem with this and think that as long as it’s not expensive or intrusive in some way, UK councils, for example, ought to try to accommodate the reasonable needs of their local communities. I don’t want to come across like the absurdly angry arab, who can find angst in…well…everything…but I’d just like a touch of balance. Obviously, if I’m waiting for that from the Daily Mail Hate or the Express, I realise that I’ll be waiting quite some time.

Thinking of home from abroad 7, September 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in UK.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

One of my key peeves in this part of the world is moaning ex-pats. Don’t misunderstand me, there is plenty to be angry, exasperated or get fed up about in this part of the world, and I indulge in long tirades at times with my friends and family. But, I realise perfectly well that the UK, home, in my case, is not a bed of roses. I feel that many ex-pats forget this.

To them, ye olde England is a place of lush, green meadows, where children frolic, fish for tadpoles in streams, eat marmalade and say ‘blimey’ a lot. Such an England, I hardly need to note, has never existed.

But it is difficult, as one must not go too far the other way: castigating sunny England as some kind of ‘gone to the dogs’ slum, which comes with the obligatory sentiment that

It were never the same in ma’y day

Such sentiments really quite annoy me. People have been making these comments, that the ‘youth of today’ are a disgrace, since Roman times. Specifically in an English context, I think it was a monk in Jarrow well over a thousand years ago who  jotted these sentiments down.

Certainly, when one reads horrific stories such as this one, where a student who asked a group of youths to stop throwing conkers at him was stabbed and killed, everyone surely has a natural impulse to hail the return of the death penalty as the simple, swift and sensible answer (or is that just me?) or one sees this bunch of rabid, unrepresentative misfits in the ‘English Defence League’, it is all too easy to admonish England as ‘gone to the dogs’ but, as they say in these parts, shway shway.

Yes, England has its issues. But name me a country on earth that doesn’t. True, right now with belts-a-tightening and all that, things are looking grim, but Blighty will survive, as she always has.

So, to reach an earth shatteringly dull and obvious conclusion the answer, as ever, lies in moderation and in, dare I say it for fear of appearing grey and dull, in the middle.

 

 

News of the World crossword last laugh 10, July 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in UK.
Tags: , , ,
1 comment so far

Despite threats to the journalists to behave themselves and not to attempt to insert any coded criticisms in the News of the World’s last edition, which included hiring two journalists to scan the paper for any such examples, the NOTW crossword makers appear to have wholly stitched up their former and extraordinarily maligned boss, Rebekah Brooks.

In the quickie crossword clues were the words:

“Brook”, “stink”, “catastrophe” and “digital protection”

The clues for the cryptic crossword were plainer still:

“criminal enterprise”, “mix in prison”, “string of recordings”, “will fear new security measure”  and “woman stares wildly at calamity”

The answer to this last clue is “disaster”

Other answers included

“stench”, “racket” and “tart”.

Hat tip: @blakehounshell