Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for May 15th, 2007

Paddy Intervenes

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 15th May, 2007

paddy-ashdown.jpgPaddy Ashdown (now Baron Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon), former leader of the LibDems and High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, was the guest lecturer at Gresham College in Barnard’s Inn Hall this evening, at an event organised by the Liberty Network Political Forum, on the subject ‘Swords and Ploughshares’ — the title of a book he is publishing with Orion. The theme of both the lecture and the book is bringing peace into the 21st century, based on his analysis of conflict resolution and avoidance. Unlike most LibDems, Paddy was in favour of military action to depose Saddam Hussein, but he decries the lack of planning for what would happen next. The net result of an almost inevitable US retreat is likely to be a more isolationist, inward-looking United States, concentrating on homeland security. In the face of a withdrawing US and a newly assertive Russia, Paddy believes, Europe will be confronted with the need to integrate further, with a clear common foreign and security policy (something I would welcome). While being one of nature’s optimists, I nonetheless share Paddy’s thesis that we in Europe have been living through something of a golden age recently, and that things are likely to get worse in the medium term, with an almost certain conflict in the Arab world over the next decade, maybe along Sunni-Shia lines.

Parallel to the book, Paddy has also recorded four programmes for the BBC World Service, on the role of the international community in rebuilding shattered communities. The case studies he examines in the series, which begins next month, are Iraq, Germany, El Salvador and Bosnia. As he comments in the current issue of the BBC’s World Agenda, ‘despite high-profile failures, … we have succeeded in post-conflict reconstruction more often than we have failed and the world is a safer place because of it.’

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