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Month: September 2015

The international legal questions raised by drone strike on British citizens

Written by Wali Aslam.

The revelation that the British government killed two of its own citizens in Syria using a drone has major legal implications – not only for British people but for the country as a whole.

Questions have been asked about whether prime minister David Cameron had the right to take action in Syria without parliamentary approval back home but there are other issues at stake here – including the UK’s international standing.

Both the US and the UK have used armed drones to target their enemies, but the UK has quite often made a point of distancing itself from the US by asserting that it uses these weapons within a clear legal framework, guided by British and international law.

Nowhere has the distinction between the way the US and the UK use drones been starker than in the case of Pakistan. There, the US has conducted more than 388 strikes since 2004. The UK has not conducted any strikes in the country because of the lack of a clear legal basis for the action. This despite the fact that the British have launched hundreds of drone strikes in Afghanistan over the years.

Fencing off the east: how the refugee crisis is dividing the European Union

Written by Jan Culik.

Having finished construction of a razor-wire fence along its border with Serbia, Hungary now plans to extend it to Romania. Tampering with the fence is punishable with prison or deportation.

These are its latest moves in a stand-off between the thousands of migrants trying to reach Europe through Hungarian territory.

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán has said that this is a “German problem”, not a “European problem”, while leaders in western Europe talk about a shared responsibility.

Two very different responses to the crisis are emerging on each side of Europe. The west might be failing to handle the crisis well but the east is simply rejecting any role in it. Resentment is building on both sides and is threatening European unity.

British socialism is back – but what does Jeremy Corbyn becoming Labour leader mean for the rest of the world?

Written by Victoria Honeyman.

The British Labour Party has a new leader in the form of Jeremy Corbyn – a left-wing politician who has spent more than 30 years rebelling against the party line.

Corbyn has some particularly controversial views on foreign policy issues and his win was described by British prime minister David Cameron, a Conservative, as a “threat to our national security”.

The congratulations sent to Corbyn (over Twitter, of course) by the Argentinian president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, were a reminder of just how contrary Corbyn can be.

He is a supporter of joint-governance in the Falklands Islands, or Las Malvinas, which the two countries fought a war over in 1982. This is where he stands on some other key foreign policy issues:

What’s behind Russia’s military build-up in Syria?

Written by Alexander Titov.

Evidence is emerging of a significant intensification of Russia’s military support for the Assad government. While the exact scale and purpose of Russia’s latest deployments remain obscure, the available evidence suggests that the Russians are preparing an airbase near the city of Latakia for possible airstrikes in support of the Syrian army, complete with several hundred Russian troops protecting it.

This is in addition to a Russian navy refuelling facility already in operation in the port of Tartus, and substantial supplies of weapons and military advisers for the Syrian regime which the Soviet Union and Russia have been supplying Syria for decades.

Such is the concern in the West at Vladimir Putin’s motives for this military build-up in Russia’s war-torn client state that the reports prompted the US to put pressure on the Greekand Bulgarian governments to close their airspace to Russian planes bound for Syria.

Why Corbyn’s silent stand through the anthem is a matter of national importance

The 2015 Labour leadership election: How Jeremy Corbyn won

Written by Andrew Denham and Peter Dorey.

Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Leader of the Labour Party has stunned observers and practitioners of British politics. Conventional wisdom has it that rank outsiders do not become leaders of ‘mainstream’ British parties. Candidates with, say, a long history of rebellion against their own party, no practical experience of government or party management, and supported by very few of their parliamentary colleagues, are seldom seen as ‘leadership material’.

Instead, as Leonard Stark argues in his excellent book Choosing a Leader (1996), the winning candidates in British party leadership elections have usually been those considered best-equipped to meet three criteria: unity (the ability to maintain or restore party unity); electability (the ability to win a General Election) and competence (the ability to implement successful policies, and so lead a successful administration). Of the six Labour leaders elected between 1963 and 1994, Stark argues, two (Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock) were elected mainly on the basis of the first criterion of restoring party unity. The other four (Harold Wilson, James Callaghan, John Smith and Tony Blair) were chosen on the basis of all three criteria – as was Gordon Brown, the only candidate for the succession when Blair resigned in 2007.

Alternatives to privatising public services

Written by Andreas Bieler.

‘What we are for is equally important as what we are against’, declared Dexter Whitfield in his presentation ‘Capitalist dynamics reconfiguring the state: alternatives to privatising public services’ to a packed audience at Nottingham University on Wednesday, 16 September. Hence, when contesting privatisation of public services, it is not enough simply to resist these processes. It is also necessary to put forward concrete alternatives of how to organise and deliver these services differently from within the public sector. In this post, I will summarise some of the key points of the presentation, which was jointly organised by the Bertrand Russel Peace Foundation, the local University and College Union association and the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice.

Disaster, Resilience and the Importance of Community

Written by Pauline Eadie.

Super-typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines on 8 November 2013. Yolanda (international name Haiyan) devastated the Philippines. Over 6300 people were officially reported dead, although unofficially the death toll is estimated to be much higher. On 14 August 2015 the independent Filipino social research institution, Social Weather Stations (SWS), published a report entitled ‘Filipino Public Opinion on the Impact of Typhoon Yolanda: A Year After’. Statistical data in the report is drawn from surveys conducted shortly after the first anniversary of typhoon Yolanda. Survey questions were designed to gather the opinions of survivors on issues relating to both harm suffered and satisfaction with relief and rehabilitations efforts. Surveys were carried out in Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao. The hardest hit region was the Visayas, specifically the areas designated as ‘Region 8‘ in the report (Western Samar and Southern Leyte minus Tacloban City) and Tacloban City itself. 89% of families in Region 8 reported that they were ‘seriously harmed’ by Yolanda. The report details lost or damaged livelihoods, housing, household possessions, community resources and also the rate and source of post-disaster assistance.