There was poetry, a song, accents of Northern Ireland and Somerset, an Afghan war revisited, Bosnia and Herzagovina, China, Obama, India and Africa all visited. Plus the introduction of Ashdowns 3rd Law*. There was also a look at the cover (the inside is embargoed) of his new Autobiography A Fortunate Life which two lucky people will be winning a signed copy of. However, after retiring from the campus to a Indian meal with the man himself, some of the students, Fred Mackintosh and Simon Clarke, then moving on for a few drinks after Paddy had left I didn't get around to writing this up until now.
The Scotsman reporter who was present gave a brief overview. This is my recollections with the aid of my copious notes of what was said.
On the idle hill of summer,
Sleepy with the flow of streams,
Far I hear the steady drummer
Drumming like a noise in dreams.
Far and near and low and louder
On the roads of earth go by,
Dear to friends and food for powder,
Soldiers marching, all to die.
From On the Idle Hillside A.E. Houseman 1896
Paddy started by telling us that after periods of stability we often tend to end up in periods of conflict and blood. (Well actually he started with some light hearted banter about introductions but the crux of the matter was as stated). There is a shift of power from the West to the East that is coming. There are things in the economic instability in the West that mean a that the West cannot achieve a solution by themselves.
There is the beginning of a sea change of economic power. China will be going through the turmoil from being a Liberal Economy to being a liberal society. China has gone through such changes in the past and to ignore the possibility that they are capable of doing so again in disingenuous. India and others in Asia will also rise up as economic powers as the West lies helpless from its own excesses.
Some will say that the American economy has gone past its zenith and is in decline. But those that show resistance to change are those that have past their zenith. America over the past 40 years has shown that that they are still open to change but Europe is faltering on this score. For the next 10-15 years Paddy said he sees the USA as still being the most powerful nation in the world, but after then what?
We're moving away from the premise of having a single Super Power to having different centres growing, more in line with Europe’s 19th Century Concert of Power. When there five great powers who between them, mainly because of the UK, kept the peace more or less in tact. The European existence as a prime mover on the world stage is also something that is liable to be diluted as the new powers come to the fore. You only have to look at how the Obama regime started out with its foreign policy. Paddy said they looked across the Atlantic [sic] to Japan and Hillary went to China these are relationships that are seen as important to the USA now. Of Europe of course Britain is still the pre-eminent but what of the rest. They are losing their significance as Obama and America are looking at how best to effect the change that the world can believe in.
Of those emerging there is an assertive Russia, a rising China and a prospering India. Of these Russia's strength is also their biggest weakness. Paddy said that their criminality and acceptance of criminality was potentially their undoing. They also don't have the population to man their domain, let alone defend it and are heading back to be like the 19th century feudal Russia.
Now as never before power is shifting not just laterally but also vertically. Out of the institutions. Unto the global space. But the global space is a lawless space we do not have the means in place to control what happens in that global space. Lawless spaces always help the powerful for a bit. Our multinationals have taken advantage of this but eventually the lawless space becomes more helpful to the destroyers. International terrorism, international criminality these are things that use the prosperous for their own devices then retreat back into that lawless space where they cannot be touched. As Paddy pointed out 89% of the funds that went to fund the 9/11 attacks had passed through the institutions that had offices housed in the Twin Towers.
We are heading to another time of change like in the middle of the 19th Century. The Liberals in Britain foresaw that and brought in the 1832 Reform Act to allow for that power shift in the UK. Unlike our European neighbours, this ended up resulting in the 1848 revolutions. Governance of that global space is the challenge of this age. We need to establish institutions to bring law to that global space. If we fail the consequences are going to be like nothing never seen before.
However, it may not happen through the UN institutions. Good though it has been in maintaining some semblance of peace over the last 50-60 years is it not good at taking executive and swift action. Treaty based organisations may be the way forward. Organisations like the World Trade Organisation working for trade, Kyoto working for the climate, the expansion to the G8 to the G20, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. All of these are treaty based organisations that have and are seeking to make a change.
(Personal comment here)
Next week as the G20 meets in London the anti-globalisation protestors are going to argue that the big businesses move into the global space, which Paddy has talked about, has been a bad thing. They are ignoring that fact that many of our issues are no longer confined to national boundaries and therefore there is a need to work across those arbitrarily draw lines in the sand. But more of that is a bit back to Paddy.
(Go on Paddy)
Not just is our power globalised but so are our problems too. In Africa Oxfam say 16m people currently live in uninhabitable space. They rely on aid from those of us who have to allow them to carry on existing in those spaces. However, with the credit crunch how much of that aid will be cut leading to starvation. If global warming continues the amount of habitable space in the region shrinks many more will come to rely on those limited sources of aid. Worldwide there is estimated to be 50m people living in uninhabitable space.
We are living in a completely interdependent world. Lehman Brothers collapses and the world economy spirals out of control as a result. We are more connected now than at any time in history both internally and externally.
The world now operates as a network. The structures we have created thus far are vertical but the reality is that our connectivity in networked and interlinked. This is why those structures we currently have in place have been unable to cope.
Twenty or thirty years ago when you were talking about defence you knew who to turn to the MoD. But now the defence minister has to be interconnected. He has to talk to the Dept. of Health about the threat of a pandemic being released, the Dept. of Agriculture about the security of our food, Industry about our companies and businesses being infiltrated, the Home Office because of our connection to so many through immigration. The capacity of our country to make us secure depends on everything being able to connect.
Paddy asked us if we knew of Lord Roberts of Kandahar. There were nothing but blank stares. Roberts was the man who in 1879, some 30 years after the massacre in Kabul, led the British force in to Afghanistan. It was one of the few successful campaigns by anyone into the Afghan lands. But in those 30 years the preparation had been laid, mainly through working to bring together the tribal forces in the Helmand provinces.
Accounts of his exploits don’t mention the importance of the poppy fields. They were there but they weren’t the issue. No was there mention the need to suppress of mad Jihadists living in caves in the southern hill country, though there was also one of those the Wali of Swat. Nor was there concern of collateral damage, though there was plenty of that two, it wouldn’t get reported back home for 6 weeks.
The important lesson from that parallel to today in its not what you do that matters but what you do with others. This Paddy said was Ashdown’s third law.
The age of unilateralism is over, George W. Bush tried it and we have seen where that left him. We have a need to reach out for new allies and some of those will be uncomfortable, but we need to work with them, make compromises and work for the common good. One of those we will need to work with is Iran. The key to the solution in Afghanistan is not our western allies but moderate Muslims. 25% of Afghanistan is of the Shia sect so we will need to get moderates from Iran the epicentre of Shi-ites. The phrase that we use that we are protecting our values ignores the facts that Christianity, Judaism and Islam share many of the same values.
"No man is an island, entire of itself; everyman is a piece of the continent, a
part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea,Europe is the less, as well
as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own
were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and
therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for
John Dunne from Devotions upon Emergent Occasions 1624
Paddy then moved on to talk a little about what he is currently doing in Northern Ireland. He’s working with Sinn Fein and the DUP and others in trying to resolve the contentious issue of parades. The thing about what is happening in Northern Ireland that is different from the Israeli/Palestinian issue and the fundamentalist Muslims and the West is that both parties have realised they have a shared destiny. There is something there they need to work at. Israel need to realise that and progress will not be made until they remove the occupation settlements from Palestinian territory which make it impossible for a Palestinian state to operate even if other things weren’t in its way. Cross all the main roads and access points is a mean of subverting that ability to reach for a shared destiny.
He finished he talk near the heart of Midlothian quoting the words of another great Liberal spoken not too far away in Dalkeith during his 1879 Midlothian Campaign.
"Remember that the sanctity of life in the hill villages of Afghanistan
among the winter snows, are as sacred in the eye of Almighty God as are your
own. Remember that He who has united you together as human beings in the same flesh and blood, has bound you by the law of mutual love, that that mutual love
is not limited by the shores of this island."
William Ewart Gladstone
*Nobody in questions afterwards dared ask about one and two.