Monday 10 March 2014

Robin Cook's dream of an Ethical Foreign Policy could become reality in an Independent Scotland

I thought that Robin Cook's idea of an ethical foreign policy was a pipe dream when he announced it in 1997. If you are as dependent for your world power (or "clout") on another state as Britain is, it follows that you can't really control your foreign policy objectives. 

Additionally if one of your few export successes is weaponry, then selling to the highest bidder is always going to be on the cards.

But here is LABOUR for INDEPENDENCE's take on the subject. I encourages me to think that, in an independent Scotland we could seriously reimagine our foreign policy, unencumbered by the need to please the USA. 

An ethical foreign policy was the mission statement of then Foreign Secretary Robin Cook. Within this piece, the late Mr Cook outlined the future of British foreign policy under New Labour. In it he set out four goals which would change the nature of the U.K's international commitments and responsibilities. These goals were; the security of all nations, the prosperity of Britain, the quality of life and environment in the U.K, and securing the respect of other nations.

There can be no doubt that Cook's vision did have its successes, UN intervention in Rwanda, reaching out to work with Ireland in the peace process and removing Milošević in Kosovo. Yet with the continued selling of arms to the highest bidder and subsequent war in Iraq led to what the Foreign Policy Centre cited as a 'lack of moral authority.' In truth the achievement of an ethical foreign policy will always prove impossible in the United Kingdom.

As part of the UN Security Council, Britain is more often than not beholding to the demands of our 'special friendship' with the United States. In recent times we have moved from an imperialist empire to a second string back up in supporting the superpowers doctrine of intervention and greed. It is perhaps unsurprising that both the U.K. And United States do not have the moral authority for their demands of Russia's removal from the Ukraine to be met with anything other than derision in the Kremlin.

Lest we forget, before Iraq, the U.S, imposed a military dictator in Chile after a democratically elected government did not suit their interests. Hamas were legally elected in Palestinian Hamas region and were decried a terrorist group. In Cambodia in the 1980's after mass slaughter of 3 million of their own people, The Khmer Rouge were sent weapons by the US, UK and Germany to retake their country from the Vietnamese Communists. One need only look to how Hugo Chavez was described as a dictator despite winning 4 elections inspected by international observers. All of this was before the decimation and destruction of the sovereign nation of Iraq under the pretence of WMD's

In Foreign Policy Britain is stuck between a rock and a hard place, desperate to remain a major player on the world stage, it no longer has the influence, military might or moral authority to do so. This is why it will be intrinsically aligned and subservient to the United States.

In an independent Scotland we would not seek to exert such authority over the world. As a small country we realise, as Britain must also begin to accept, that hard power politics will not be possible, more to the fact it seldom works without the need for bloodshed. Scotland must and will accept it's responsibilities on the world stage, we will work within the UN to promote a safer, fairer and more secure society. While the SNP promote our membership in NATO, we would seek to remove ourselves from this nuclear club. Beginning with removing Trident from our soils, this effort alone has been labelled by some academics as the broken link in the nuclear chain which can lead to mass disarmament or at the very least see them removed from the British Isles, a case supported by John Ainslies 'Nowhere to Go.'

We would act as a soft power nation, allowing our country to be used as a neutral place for international disputes to be resolved. We will be responsible and friendly neighbours to the rest of the U.K and our partners in Europe. We will not seek intervention or aggression against any nation, but will support, with military intervention if necessary any breach of international law of powers imposing genocide on their peoples. We will work within the UN framework for this ensuring a secure and safe world in this globalised time.
By removing ourselves from the 'special relationship' with the United States we will step away from terrorist threats to our nation, working to build stronger relationships in the middle east built on understanding and peace rather than trade, oil and imposition of our will. An independent Scotland should immediately recognise the state of Palestine and offer our nation as a home where negotiations can take place to resolve the peace process.

Scotland at present contributes £3.3billion to defence, yet only receive £1.5 billion on defence in this nation. Scotland has a proud military tradition which is being quashed by proud battalions having to merge under UK cost cutting measures. We would increase defence spending to £2.5 billion (just under Danish levels) to end these merges from occurring. We will maintain and seek to increase our ship building industry by creating a naval defence force to protect our oil fields and fishing from attack. It is astonishing that for all the U.K's pomp there is not one cruiser or battleship protecting our maritime borders. Such an issue was highlighted by Russian fleets reaching 40 KM from the Scottish Coast before the Ministry of Defence found out about it on Twitter. The fact these ships are docked in Portsmouth and Plymouth suggest they are not for defence, rather battle ready for the next intervention.

Currently the UK government has two aircraft carriers under construction, only one is needed and the other will be either left to rust or sold at a huge discount to a foreign county. I support Jim Sillars plan that in the interest of shared assets, Scotland should take the second one and equip it as a Scottish overseas hospital and International rescue ship. This would provide onboard medical experience to young doctors while providing humanitarian aid to nations suffering natural disasters, or countries with health epidemics. The vessel will be docked in Faslane for maintenance and improvements, increasing jobs within the region. This vessel would be the flagship (pardon the pun) of Scottish International policy of soft power and humanitarian conviction rather than policy based on bullets and bloodshed.

In terms of overseas aid, we have a responsibility not only as a developed nation but as human beings to continue to send aid to those who need it overseas. We already have the facilities and trained staff in East Kilbride Department for International Development to continue this. There must, however be a restructuring of how we send aid. There is no doubt of the abject poverty and inequality many in India suffer but by providing the aid directly to the government we are not tackling the suffering. People in the UK rightly complain that the aid is being sent to the country which uses it to fund a space programme. Any money sent as such is seen more as targeting trade than genuine humanitarian objectives

We must rethink our overseas aid and how we can be most effective in producing results. By working with not only governments but also NGO's we will set reachable targets and ensure the money is being spent correctly. Scotland is a small nation and as such our aid budget would be stretched by trying to cure all ills in all countries. I propose we adopt a buddy system of nations with each developed nation working with at least one undeveloped nation to improve poverty levels and inequality. Such measures have already proved workable with our relationship and aid efforts in Malawi. This system would promote closer ties between countries and ensure our overseas aid is put to good effect. As a member of the UN we would promote this idea and work with our partners to ensure the development of such processes.

The introduction of Cook's ethical foreign policy was not without its merits. It was not an idealistic unachievable target, just unrealistic in a British system. An independent Scotland could be seen as a beacon and a starting gun of such a system. We will be good neighbours and good friends with other nations. We will promote peace, stability and development within the world. We will work within international institutions such as the UN and commit to our responsibilities on the world stage. We will defend ourselves and our interests through a strong maritime force and military defence. We will be on the side of what is right and will not shirk when genocide occurs in this world.

Most importantly we will lead by example and use this influence to promote peace and prosperity. We are for a peaceful, humanitarian soft power foreign policy not one based on bullets, bloodshed and greed. We will have an ethical foreign policy, one which Mr Cook would be proud of. 


  1. One problem with doing that:

    America, Russia and China will *all* hate us for it, along with all the other terrorist states that they're currently supporting (like the UK).

    Now, they might not be vocal about it, and we can hope that they just don't notice us doing it, but seriously? Switzerland only gets away with it because they're banker-friendly, impossible to invade, and don't make a big show of it.

    I'm all for being a shining beacon of a better way, but I'm not naive enough to expect to be able to pull it off without being able to stop a ground invasion from at least one of the major militaries.

    That's one of the major reasons I'm pro-personal firearms. If we want to change the world, we have to be able to stand against everyone who likes the status quo, and doing it without a standing army would make a very strong point.

    1. I don't envisage us doing it in a very upfront or in your face kind of way, Illy. We probably can't change the world, but we can have the peace of mind that we are not party to the wars in the middle east, either by supplying weapons or joining in with troops.

      I think we , as a tiny little nation, could probably have a quiet foreign policy, independent of the big players like Russia, China and the USA... and probably we need to be thinking about the big players of the future too.

      I don't know if it would work. But we can hope.

    2. I don't think that we'll be allowed to stay quiet for a couple of reasons:

      1) What I call the "South Berwick" problem. If Scotland does well, the north of England will constantly be pushing to get a similar situation to Scotland, or for the border to be moved. Either of those puts Scottish policy firmly into the spotlight in London. The rest of the world might be able to ignore this, but Westminster certainly won't. This is a natural consequence of Scotland actually pulling off being a beacon in the night, but because we speak the same language as London and the USA, we could easily have a bigger impact than, say, Switzerland or Norway, in terms of public perception there.

      2) You're suggesting using the second aircraft carrier as an international aid ship. If it doesn't park off the coast of Gaza it's not doing its job. And that would get America's attention real fast.

      An independant foreign policy is a good starting point, but we can't have it be *ethical and effective* without pissing off the big players, because that's directly counter to their plans.

    3. Well, you need to remember that I'm not saying any of that Illy. This is Labour for Independence which is saying it.

      I can't argue their case for them, and I presented it only because I thought it was an interesting alternative to UK/English policy.

      I pretty much agree that at least some people in England will wish they could be Scottish. Berwick and the area around it, of course, is a special case, because it has changed hands before.

      But surely countries need to deal with these things. There has been the same situation in ireland before, and I've always wished that instead of being British I'd been Scandinavian.

      London will have to deal with the fact that better conditions are available over the it has to now.

      I do take your point though, about us trying to do some good, while the rest of them are pursuing their greedy policies. There will undoubtedly with millions of English citizens (or subjects) who already deplore the warmongering of the london government, who would be more closely attached to a Scottish sense of decency than they are to , as you say, a Norwegian or Swiss one.

      It is interesting to consider how much pressure would be put upon us to be like the bad big boys.

    4. Sorry, didn't mean to force you into defending somone else's viewpoint.

      I *know* there are at lease some people in England who wish they could be Scottish. I just need to look at the outpouring of responses to the PM's cry for lovebombing to see that. Comments like "RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!" and "Can you move the border to the M25" weren't the most common, but they're the extreme end of the general sentiment. (Personally, I think we should *ask* down to the bottom of Mercia, and would possibly get a result of yes in Northumbria and Cumbria)

      How big were the anti Iraq-war rallies in London? I was at one in Edinburgh, but I didn't think pay that much attention to London at the time (it was just the place the parlament buildings happened to be to me back then, I hadn't cottoned onto the influences)

      I'm convinced that we'd have serious pressure, or a media blackout. But as I'm not sure a media blackout would work as well as with other small countries (due to the land border and shared language), I think the pressure is inevitable. Hence my support for a strong *defensive* military. Hell, if we control the keys, I'm not opposed to nuclear retaliation capability. How many nuclear-armed nations have been invaded by the "big boys" in the last 50 years?

    5. I have to be able to defend why I put the post up Illy, and it's fair to question me about it.

      I detest our foreign policy at the moment. It's utterly immoral. We croiticise one bunch of dictators and creep to another bunch. One minute we are Gadaffi's mates and the prime minister is hugging and kissing hi8m, then we back militants to overthrow him, without dfinding out who these militants are.

      We never look at the consequences of our actions, which is why I don;t think we should interfere in Syria. In Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya we left a worse situation than we found. In the meantime we have killed hundreds of thousands of people... possibly millions. Most of them were innocent.

      I just feel we could do better, and what I thought these guys were showing was another way... another way to the SNP (out of Nato), which I personally prefer.

      I guess there are bound to be massive problems.

      I doubt that the Uk would ever be prepared to change the border; even if a majority of the people wanted it that way.

    6. I completely agree that it's a good vision.

      After all, if you're not willing to at least *try* for utopia, what's the point? And I'm being serious here: If you don't aim for the stars, you'll never even get to the moon.

      But I have worries about Scotland turning into one of those countries where we're being lauded as friends one minute, having insurgents funded the next, and an invading army of bomber-drones the next day. That tends to happen to small countries with strong natural resources, no nukes, and who don't play "nice" for one of the "big boys".

      I'm not sure I even intended to attack the vision, I just have worries about being Scotland being able to live through attempting it.

      **** Note that I'm *NOT* saying we shouldn't try. We certainly should! ****

      Just that if we pull it off, it will have been in spite of some of the biggest countries in the world's attempts to stop us, and we have to be prepared to deal with them if we want to succeed.

      And those guys play rougher than Westminster.

    7. QWell, it won't be easy, but we have to have foreign policy. To a limited extent we do now. And its a good one., although we always have to ask permission before we do anything from that culosses of international statesmanship...Wee Wally Hague... Jeez, if anything was ever an insult, that certainly is.

      A lot of our concentration is on Malawi. That's something that was started by Labour under Jock, and has continued under the present administration.

      But of course once we don;t have our serious foreign policy decisions taken for us by the aforementioned wee willie, we will have to take responsibility for them ourselves.

      Labour and Tory governments over the years have allowed Washington to make all their foreign policy decisions.

      It would be refreshing to have some made this side of the Atlantic in our own capital. But of course that's when you open up to all sorts of machinations.

      London always does what Washington says, and is then to a certain extent protected from the outcome. We wouldn't be. It's big boy/girl politics. But I'm sure we are ready for it.

    8. Given the choice between being Washinton's attack gerbail or not, I think its a pretty easy decision, at least assuming that you don't want to go invading other countries anytime soon.

    9. I'd kinda like it if we invaded out own country and tried to do something about the lack of food that some 51% of Glasgow's children appear to have...

      That's enough of a fight for me for a while...


    10. Well yeah, but the UK suffers from the same problem as the USA did when New Orleans was hit by a hurricaine:

      "We're too powerful to accept help from other countries, it would hurt our pride, and we don't really like those guys who are suffereing anyway"

      So, yeah. Sept 18th and the things coming after a Yes are going to be plenty of conflict for a long time to come.

      Let's make sure we win : )

    11. Let's do that! :)

  2. Its the story about Scots Labour, the current state its in. It lost its biggest and brightest prematurely.

    First was John Smith, heart attack. Then out went Donald Dewer, brain haemorrhage, then went Robin Cook, heart attack

    The gap all these premature deaths left in the machinery of SLAB has left us with the pathetic middens like Johann Lamentable. And scandals like SLAB complicity in unethical foreign adventures.

    SLAB needs a new generation to step forward, 'cos the best and brightest from the current generation have already left us.

    1. It's impossible that there are not other people with vision on the left of Scottish politics, Dean, but at the moment they are constrained by being a part of a British party. Their policies must resonate with British people for the party to be elected in Britain.

      Britain wants to maintain its position as one of the "leading" countries of the world and the main way to do that is to ensure the "special relationship" (which as we know, is a good deal less special than Brit prime ministers would like to think, and can be dropped fairly easily at the whim of a president).

      The trouble is that intellectuals of the centre left have been kind of ‘left’ (if you will pardon the pun) with no real home. Some maybe feel that they can't join the SNP the raison d’être of which they see as independence (although some clearly have done that). They can't join the more radical Scottish Socialists, because they are too left wing, although again there may be some who have done that.

      As I see it (and I appreciate that there are other who do not) Labour, as it is now, is all about England. All about getting power there. They take the massive Scottish vote for granted…how else will people vote to challenge the poisonous Tories in London? And people who don’t do a lot of political thinking still tell us that Labour is the party of the working man, even though it is blindingly clear that it is not. Because if it were we wouldn’t have a poverty minimum wage. We wouldn’t have Atos-type policies; we wouldn’t have the lowest pensions as a percentage of average wage in the western world, at about 60% of places as small as Jersey and Guernsey!

      I've always said that ridding ourselves of the need to consider the massive floating vote in the stockbroker Home Counties of England will allow Scottish Labour to return to its roots. Their concerns aren’t our concerns. Theirs are every bit as legitimate as ours, but they will always have priority as long as there are a great deal more of them than there are of us.

      Left thinking people who couldn't' be annoyed with the right of centre politics of Blairism, and who would be ashamed to be part of a party that made war on innocent people, under false pretence, at the behest of a neo-con president of the USA, and which developed some of the poisonous policies introduced against the poor and the sick and the old, will surely be interested in a reasonable left of centre party in Scotland, and return to politics.

      I truly hope so. I have no idea at the moment who I will vote for in an independent Scotland. It certainly wouldn't be the third rate bunch of Labour at Holyrood led by Ed Miliband, with Lamont as the Thursday spokesman.

      There's no imagination there. No vision. All I ever see from them is a blind hatred of the SNP and Salmond in particular. It’s almost like they are still angry that Blair’s vision of a Parish Council in Edinburgh, permanently under the thumb of Tony Blair, was stolen from them by Alex. When of course it was taken legitimately from them by the people.

      That's OK, of course. You can hate the policies of your political opponents. You should certainly be passionately against the bad ones. But you should have equal passion for your own policies.

      And Labour never really had any. Yes Dewar was a thinker and an intellectual, but he was hugely constrained by Blair, who used to send people to Edinburgh (often Lance Price) to ensure that he was following the London line.

      LfI has brought a few thinkers into prominence.

      Jimmy Reid would have been part of this if he'd been alive.

      The other day, Braveheart said on a thread, that he thought that Lamont was the intellectual equal of Salmond.
      I take it that you, as a Labour man, don't agree.

    2. Dean the Slab baw is torn, busted and irreparable.

      Time for ones with IQs above their waist size to
      start with a new ball, with a new team and colours, on a new (ish) field with a new game, new set of written rules and new referee.

  3. The very idea of an 'ethical foreign policy ' is absolute nonsense ,it is the responsibility of the the foreign secretary to act in British interests overseas whatever the circumstances!!

    1. I don't agree. Of course it is the Foreign Office's job to do it's best for Britain, and it will be the job of the Scottish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to act in the same way for Scotland.

      There are different ways to serve the interests of the country...depending on the country.

      As I said, with foreign policy for the Uk always being made in Washington, it was rash of Dr Cook to promise to act ethically.

      But if you don't have Washington telling you want to do and you obeying (on pain of losing the special relationship to Germany or France), you are free to wonder if going to war on a tissue of lies is your best option.

      You can also wonder whether it is morally acceptable to sell weapons to vile middle eastern dictators, so that they can kill their own people or their neighbours with them.

      You would find yourself free to decide on your attitude to many other issues...

      So maybe it can't always be perfect, but it can be a lot more ethical than the present set up.

      It's a bit like a family man making up his mind that, as long as he doesn't hurt his wife or kids too badly, he is not going to steal and cheat his way to promotion, or bonus.

      Of course he has to ensure there is enough money to put food on the probably some compromises have to be made.

      I know some people with crap jobs in the jobcentre must be feeling like that at the moment.