Friday, 26 December 2014

2014

It's always hard to pick what historians will talk about years hence when you're immersed in the noise and chatter of what seems important to us here and now, but New Year seems like a good time to attempt this while reflecting on 2014 and looking forward to the new year.

There's no stand out event like the fall of the Berlin Wall or the attacks on the World Trade Centre to mark 2014, instead it seems like a sort of building year where complacency and inertia continue to drag us blindly along the road to the next catastrophe which will seem inevitable to those reading about this in centuries to come.

From a British point of view the three sources from which this disaster may eventually come, all different but all linked, in no particular order are: The ongoing dirty war between Islam and the west, the potentially nasty spat between Russia and the the European Union, and the idiotic piling up of debt by western governments.

The so called war on terror is almost too ridiculous to analyse except to say that attempting to fight organisations like IS with a military that was never designed for such a task is about as ludicrous an endeavour as we could possibly embark upon. While the media and politicians would have us believe the Hollywood friendly narrative of a shadowy organisation headed by malevolent masterminds who hate the west and seek to turn the whole world to fundamentalist Islam, I am increasingly convinced that it's little more than a loose confederation of lone nut cases like Man Haron Monis whose bizarre seige of a café in Sydney could not have been prevented by all the smart missiles in the world other than by a random chance; and of localised militias in areas like western Iraq - troubled and desolate places where years of neglect and oppression have fermented into extremism. While certain targets may warrant very carefully selected military action this is hardly going to lead to a lasting solution, and since the last two military adventures in Iraq have only succeeded in making things worse you would have to put a lot of faith in the "third time lucky" maxim to try again.

This is a moral and intellectual war where are strong arm will be needed, but must also be used intelligently. I am convinced that future students of our time will view our impotent bombing cow sheds and warehouses in a region that is already tearing itself apart without us, while simultaneously allowing our own caliphates to develop in British cities is about as far from this as you can hope to be.

If in 2015 we can change trajectory more towards getting our own house in order and less towards the vain attempt at being a world power then we will be happier and safer for it.

Nearly as insane would be attempting to provoke a conflict with Russia. Which is exactly what "we" in the European Union are busily engaged in. Having got a reaction in Crimea we now seem determined to push this even further, and with the Russian economy going badly wrong and Putin emboldened by the wave of nationalism that was inevitable with sanctions we may well get another reaction in 2015. However our spat with Russia plays out it is hard to imagine history will be kind to the western leaders who provoked this conflict through their interference in the Ukraine.

Peter Hitchens has written extensively and well on this topic, and it suffices to say here that Britain has nothing to gain by involving ourselves in an age old continental spat between Russia and Germany.

If the 2015 general election produces the strongly anti EU result I am hoping for then my hope is that this will disengage us somewhat from continental politics which can only harm our interests.

However the prize for the greatest stupidity of all must go to the policy of running up debts with no real end in sight. Despite all the rhetoric about fiscal responsibility and tough decisions to make cuts, the British government have failed to get anywhere near a balanced budget during their term in office and few western countries have. With the aging population problem already starting to bite and likely to become ever more acute over the next 20 years, this is exactly the time that we should be paying down debts and getting our economy prepared as best we can for a situation where over half the population is not actually productive. Instead we are continuing to pour money in to idiotic schemes like HS2 and pretend that this problem isn't happening. It certainly is happening, unlike the expensive and implausible phantom of global warming - it's easy to avert something that isn't happening anyway - and it will be only a few short years before the tax payers of the next decade or so are looking back at today with the sort of scorn we now hold for the trade unions of the 1970s and their wanton destruction of British industry.

Foolish as each of these policies are in isolation attempting them at the same time is more foolish still. If the future holds a determined and genuine Islamic attack, or a new cold war with Russia then the last thing we need is to be struggling with an existing debt burden that is wholly unnecessary and born entirely of political vanity. Even if the future is less dramatic and only holds what we can easily foresee, having these levels of debt helps us not one bit and can hinder us a great deal.

In May 2015 Britain will go to the polls notionally to choose it's government. In reality it will be more likely to reject it's current government without being especially enthusiastic about any of the alternatives. As analysts pick through the results and engage in the great guessing game of deciphering what the public actually thinks, there will be the usual loud and shrill voices calling for more spending, more tackling of global warming and all the usual din of day to day politics. Let us make sure that sensible people also get our voices heard to give ourselves the best possible chance of dealing successfully with whatever the next few years hold.