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Ashdown brain trust: Democracy isn't a human right

Also invading places is OK, but nukes aren't

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

As one might expect with Kaldor and Clarke on board, the report says the UK must work towards "a world free of nuclear weapons". It stops short, however, of recommending unilateral disarmament by the UK. The idea is that the existing nuclear-armed countries should get together and agree to disarm all at once.

[The UK should] contribute to a second, less formal track of diplomatic activity involving former senior officials and policy experts from the [US, UK, France, Russia and China] plus India, Pakistan and Israel, if possible. This would not be easy to put together, but should be attempted and should be aimed at identifying and thinking through the political and strategic issues required for a phased progression to zero nuclear weapons among this group, the representatives of which would cover the eight key nuclear weapons states...

Good luck with that.

Apart from promoting disarmament by the existing nuclear weapon states, and being ready to invade people but only as a last resort, the report's recommendations mostly follow well-trodden paths. Aid, diplomacy, more acronym-munguous international groups and pacts, efforts to open up dialogues between opposing groups, secure energy supplies, climate change, efforts to lessen poverty etc etc.

The panel does get quite aerated about the threat from global plagues, possibly assisted by terrorists using new biotech methods. It thinks that the world and the UK should be much better prepared for the next world pandemic.

It seems likely that a lot of horse-trading went on during the writing of this report, which might explain why it has taken well over a year to produce. General Sir Charles Guthrie, for instance, has put his name to the let's-all-get-rid-of-our-nukes bit, which he almost certainly doesn't believe in, so as to get the peaceniks to agree that it was OK to invade Iraq.

In this respect, the panel members are making a praiseworthy attempt to reach common ground, in the same way they recommend that squabbling international statesmen, tribal leaders and so on ought to. Unfortunately, when it comes to hard action, the same problems often seen in international diplomacy have also surfaced in the IPPR. The list of recommendations is full of woolly talk of "emphasis" and "increased support" - usually meaning UK taxpayer funding - and it advocates the creation of various new tsars, one-stop-shops, quangos and so on. But there's almost nothing in the way of hard numbers or concrete suggestions.

It's possible that these will be forthcoming in the full report, however, to be published next year. For now, those interested can read the interim job in full here (pdf). ®

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