Tuesday 9 September 2008

Embrace a Bear

The problem of how to deal with Russia's reassertion of might is a bit beyond this blog. But it does remind me of the problem of knife crime and the famous phrase David Cameron didn't use, "Hug a Hoodie". (The phrase was invented a Labour spin doctor to try to discredit Cameron's ideas)

Both groups - the Russian political elite and the disenfranchised youth - have much in common. They want respect from others, but don't know how to earn it. They don't perhaps know they have to earn it. They believe instead that power is enough, and in the short term it often is. And the short term is probably time enough.

The other thing they have in common is that it is very hard for broadly libertarian Western Governments to deal with the problem they create. First, do we have the will to match force with force? Second, do we recognise the long term nature of the cause of the problem and therefore the long term nature of the solution?

Regarding Russia, the US's flawed invasion of Iraq has not only taken their eye off the ball in Pakistan/Afghanistan but has also lost them the moral high ground to be the world's policeman. As well as tiring their electorate of foreign adventures. Much of Europe - including the UK - has
become dependent on Russian oil and gas while at the same time trying to develop alternatives in Central Asia which in turn are dependent on Russia for protection or transit rights. And at the same time we preach the virtues of the West to Russia's old allies. In the long term, the use of alternative energy (by which I mean Nuclear and clean coal) and Russia's need for capital from the West will help. In the short term we have to recognise our limitations but also make it clear that Russia does not deserve respect and show we mean it - no G8, no WTO, no easy visas for the Russian elite. There's little chance (sadly) of Europe acting as one - but at the moment at least London is a place they want to visit and a source of capital, and we should do what we can.

Regarding the "underclass" of youth the last few decades (its not all New Labour's fault, although they have encouraged the trends) we have given up control of the streets, removed authority from parent and teacher and preached "rights" not "responsibilities". In the long term, IDS's work on Social Justice sets out some policy ideas and in the short term we need to increase the visibility of policing and improve the environment around people. (I have been in London for a couple of days and found the casual squalor and untidyness depressing).

Hug a Hoodie/Embrace a Bear is shorthand for trying to understand the underlying causes of problems - which is essential; but it's also important to try to set boundaries for acceptable behaviour. In both cases.

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