This morning the UK television media was filled with the inconsequential news that Prince William will be finally engaged to his long time girlfriend. The Murdock TV scandal sheet rag “Sky News” (equivalent to the Fox News in the U.S.) and the almost equally irrelevant and empty CNN News here were competing for eyeballs playing over and over pictures of Prince William and girlfriend Kate along with mind numbing and irrelevant commentary. So much for serious news.
On the same date it was announced that 2,900 Manchester police jobs would be cut, and they would “means test” many pension benefits, cut legal aid for the poor, and abolish the Financial Services Authority, the key UK government regulatory body for financial services! Also there would be cuts to education — but the TV media was only interested in royal wedding plans.
Opening this morning the International Herald Tribune, the Financial Times and the London Independent one reads about more serious issues such as the Irish financial crisis and the Europeans are clearly still divided on efforts to contain the bank meltdown. The Independent headlines were “Ireland on the Brink” while the other bit of news was the reporting of Karzai’s attack on Gen. Petraeus with the Independent calling it an attack on the U.S. exit strategy. There was also a leaked U.S. document which indicated a Karzai anti-allied strategy which threatens to undo any hope of progress on the ground.
The other bit of news in the European papers is that the Obama administration will set out a new timetable in Lisbon for withdrawing troops and handing over control to the Afghan National Army. Defense Secretary Gates recently stated that the ANA would be ready to take over the reigns in 2014, 3 years after the original timetable of 2011.
The originally planned drawdown in summer 2011 was further attacked by conservative commentators like Ian J. Brzezinski who wrote an op-ed in the IHT on Monday. He attempts to push Obama into a backward looking cold war approach to the otherwise laudable goal of strengthening Atlantic ties and cooperation. Regarding Afghanistan he said Obama strategy “does not convey a commitment to win.” Ian Brzezinski however does not indicate he has a winning strategy to replace the existing one. He was especially wary of a drawdown by US or European troops. In this age with U.S. trying to contain serious global terrorism attacks some drawdown or re-positioning is inevitable. A major flaw of the article was that he did not ask the Europeans, who seem to be determined to do less, to meet fully their fair responsibility to global security or European defense.
One of the other items in the news was the speech of U.K Prime Minister Cameron at Guildhall where he maintained that UK is still a great power. He was strongly criticized by Labor Party leaders for playing no effective role at the G-20 meeting. Cameron, critics said, seemed more interested in promoting England’s 2018 World Cup than dealing with global economic problems. Some are also saying that Cameron government has no strategy other than government cuts and benefits for the rich– and the result (like the US “stimulus” of tax cuts and spending cuts.) will tank the global economy.
A nation’s “weight” in the world is its economic strength; the quality of its education system, most notably the ability for the least advantaged to access it; and the way it takes care of its people, especially the young and the old. On this basis Britain is regressing even faster than the U.S. At least President Obama and the Senate Democrats remain to impede the worst depredations to our society. But, sadly, not enough to advance our sad secondary education system, build a 21st century infrastructure, and grow sustainable jobs.
On this basis, it looks like all of the Western World, especially Europe and America, seem to have embarked on policies which will weaken their standing in the world and ability to solve global challenges. Watching it first hand from Europe, day-by-day in the headlines of the European papers gives one a dark sense of despair. Some are asking if the gap between Europe and the U.S. is growing, unlike Brzezinski who blames the growing gap on the U.S., this observer thinks it has much to do due to the inward turning and incompetent governments in the U.K., Germany, France, and now the tottering Italian right-wing regime.
Together their strategy is to cut government programs and especially support for the poor and unemployed and raise nationalistic and xenophobic banners.
To be continued…