Saturday, August 18, 2012

Poodle Politics

When Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair supported George Bush’s invasion of Iraq he was accused of being America’s poodle by independent-minded Brits, who considered this to be the be-all and end-all of subservience, given that the United States originated as a British Colony.

The extent to which time flies is evidenced by the present subservience to the United States not only of Britain but also of Sweden, a country which, in the name of its sovereign independence, maintained a position of neutrality during the bloodiest conflict the world had thus far seen, i.e., the Second World War.

‘Poodle politics’ is merely a slur, but behind it lie sacrosanct principles of international relations stretching back almost four hundred years. The modern concept of nation-state sovereignty is based on two things: territoriality and the absence of a role for external agents in domestic affairs.  It was codified in The Peace of Westphalia, a series of treaties signed between various European states at the end of the Thirty Years religious wars.  Although the birth of the European Union, the rise of multinational corporations and globalization have seriously dented Westphalian notions of sovereignty, the 1961 Vienna Convention on International Relations, under the auspices of the United Nations, continues define the diplomatic relations between sovereign states.

As reported in the press, Article 22 of that convention clearly stipulates that:

1.The premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.

2.The receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity.

3.The premises of the mission, their furnishings and other property thereon and the means of transport of the mission shall be immune from search, requisition, attachment or execution.
And yet the British Foreign Office threatens to storm the Ecadoran Embassy to arrest Julian Assange!  It appears superbly unaware of the damage done to Britain’s reputation in Latin America by the 1982 Falklands War against Argentina, as well as of the added fact that Latin America is no longer anyone's ‘back yard’, but an increasingly significant international player. Fast-growing Brazil and sassy governments in Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia and Argentina are only too happy to support little Ecuador’s brave stance against an ever smaller nation that is still living in the glorious days of ‘perfidious Albion’.

As for Sweden, long criticized by the United States as the standard-bearer of the Nordic welfare system, it today stands as a different shining example: that of the fundamental similarity of interests between nation-states, defined by the Peace of Westphalia, as opposed to those of citizens, which have yet to be codified.


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