What if…Putin detonates a nuclear weapon in Ukraine?

It’s not impossible. Vladimir Putin, facing stalemate or possibly even defeat by a better motivated and well-resourced Ukrainian army, might decide to play the “madman” card.

A small, low-yield tactical nuclear weapon, detonated in a low population rural part of Ukraine. Not a military act, but a political one, to cause panic in the nuclear-phobic West and particularly in western Europe.

The message would be clear: I am willing to go further than you, so give me what I want. Stop helping Ukraine and let me defeat them. 

It’s a high-risk strategy, but also a viable one. The panic it will cause in NATO will be very real, and the response not automatic or even obvious. The idea that NATO will automatically respond with a like-for-like nuclear retaliation should not be assumed at all.

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What if?: The Pro-Life Amendment of 1983: an alternative history.

Wrote this about four years ago.

Please note: this is a work of FICTION.

But for Deputy Martin Faraday, it could all have been so different. The Irish government, pressurised by a politically active Pro Life Campaign (PLC), would still have held a referendum in 1983 to insert an anti-abortion clause into Ireland’s constitution. The 8th amendment to the constitution would still have overwhelmingly passed, declaring that the state would vindicate and defend the right to life of the unborn. Then Ireland would have continued on its “Do as I say, not as I do” way, turning a blind eye to its women leaving the jurisdiction to seek abortions in the UK. The PLC would celebrate their surreal victory as the one pro-life organisation in the world which celebrates not what happens to a foetus, but where it happens. An Irish solution, as it were, to an Irish problem.

The problem, however, was that Martin Faraday was that rare beast in Irish politics, a politician who actually believed what he said. A devout Catholic, the young deputy from Kilkenny was tall, handsome, charismatic, and had led his native county to victory in the GAA hurling championship in 1979. Although socially conservative, Faraday nevertheless had respect on the liberal left for his consistency, speaking out just as strongly on issues of poverty and on opposition to the death penalty. Many spoke of him as a future cabinet minister, perhaps even party leader.

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The High Risk Voter.

Whatever happens in the French presidential election, there is a reality that will need to be confronted. It’s a phenomenon we have seen in the last two US presidential elections, in the Brexit referendum, and will no doubt be a feature in future elections.
It is the huge danger caused by reckless voters.
Now, let me be clear: this is not your standard Metropolitan Globalist Liberal (of which I am all three) complaining about how disappointed I am about people who don’t share my views, or their level of intelligence or prejudice. I accept that there are many decent people who voted for Trump, Brexit and yes, even Marine Le Pen. People who in many cases did not share the more extreme views of those candidates.
I even accept that there are people, particularly non-urban, low-income and low-educational achievers who vote for candidates I would regard as extremist because they simply feel they are being ignored by the mainstream parties. I get that too., and it may surprise you that I don’t blame them.
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Ukraine showing how militarily useless the EU and UK are in reality.

Picture an alternate scenario: a Russian invasion of Ukraine where the US just washes its hands, refusing to get involved or even supply weapons. Where the Ukrainians have nowhere near the amount of Stingers and Javelins they have been supplied with. Would EU/UK still contribute? Probably, but almost certainly only at a token level and secretly hoping that the Russians triumph quickly and put us all out of our embarrassment, so that we can go back to solemnly saying “Never again” at WW2 memorials without being called out about it.

It’s not a question of wealth. Europe and the UK have money, with economies that dwarf Russia. They also have military technology, although not on the level of the US.
What is lacking is will power, and I’m acutely aware as someone coming from Ireland that I’m in no position to be lecturing anybody on defence willpower.

But the reality is that the British (and now possibly the Poles and the Baltic republics) are the only people possibly willing to commit actual troops into harm’s way. Germany is convulsed (despite Scholz’s U-Turn) with indecision by its history, and France is genuinely divided by wanting to lead Europe without ACTUALLY leading it.

An Anglo-Polish led force would almost certainly give the Russians a bloody nose, but could it actually hold and push them back? Such a force certainly wouldn’t lack courage or determination or skill, but it is doubtful it would have the huge logistical and supply reserves that seem to be the vital ingredient of modern warfare, and that possibly only the US and China truly has?

The uncomfortable truth is this: despite all the talk of strategic autonomy, European and British security remains at the mercy and whim of increasingly erratic policy makers in Washington DC. It’s getting to the stage we’d be better off paying the Ukrainians protection money: after all, they’re fighting the Russians so that we don’t have to.  

What if….the United States left NATO?

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s a common trope of the political thriller was a devious plot by the KGB to break up the western alliance, normally through the dismantling of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). In Alfred Coppel’s “The Hastings Conspiracy”, for example, a plot involved the KGB revealing to the leftwing British government that there existed a secret US plan to invade the UK (landing at Hastings, in case you’re interested) Colin Forbes’ “The Stone Leopard” involved a group of French, British and German agents racing to stop Moscow putting a Soviet agent into the Elysee Palace and pulling French forces out of Germany ahead of a Soviet invasion through the Fulda Gap. Chris Mullin’s “A Very British Coup” hinged on a plot by the CIA to stop Jeremy Corbyn Harry Perkins pulling Britain out of NATO. Both “The Fourth Protocol” and, eh, “Octopussy” had key plot points hinging on something very similar.

There were some books that speculated at a US withdrawal back into isolation, but relatively few: it was taken as read that the US was the anchor of western defence both out of value belief and in its own naked self-interest.

Then Donald Trump was elected President, and the party of Ronald Reagan and Eisenhower became the party of Lindbergh. Under Trump it was mostly mouth, a man who was too chaotic to pursue a policy of withdrawal even if he really believed it, which probably depended as much as what day it was as any intellectual conviction. But Trump aside, isolationism, fueled by Fox News charlatans who see any sort of engagement with liberal elements abroad as grounds to whip up hysteria have seriously undermined American commitment to NATO, and the idea of the US withdrawal, whilst still unlikely, is no longer ludicrous. What if it happened…

The near future. The new administration had moved much faster than anyone had expected, given the relative closeness of the election result. This was primarily at the hands of a bevy of new National Security Council appointees who would never had seen the inside of the building under the Bush, Reagan or indeed any previous post-war administration. These were young men who had been born in the 80s and 90s and even later and were more familiar with The Turner Diaries and Ayn Rand and sarcastic put downs on cable news shows than strategic thinking. Withdrawal from NATO was more, to them, about sticking it to foreigners, effete socialist Europeans who had lived off the backs of hard working Joe Sixpack for decades. America didn’t need alliances. America was strong. And any way: China was the enemy that needed to be faced down and Europe was of little of any use in that regard.

In Europe, as ever, surprise was the first call of the day. Yes, the new president had been very clear about his intentions, but no one is capable of self-delusion as Europeans are. Even watching the president announce that, whilst Congress debated withdrawal, he was signing an executive order to pull out US forces over six months and disavow any US commitment to defend any NATO country. He signed the document live on air and held it up to the camera, his massive signature covering half the page. He liked signing pieces of paper on camera.

The news that the US was leaving NATO triggered the European response to everything: a summit in Brussels, attended by the remainder of NATO. To say it was chaotic was an understatement. The Canadians earnestly stated their commitment to NATO which was received with the grateful eyes of a mortgage defaulting parent being offered a child’s piggy-bank. The Turks glowered at everyone. The French and the Germans immediately flew to Moscow. The British looked pained and paralyzed and announced a defence pact with New Zealand. The Hungarians wrote down everything everybody said. In Russian.

The Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians had their own meeting, with the Finns and Swedes quietly sitting in. The Poles revealed a secret, to gasps.

The moment the last US plane lifted off, that very moment, Russian troops ploughed across the border and annexed another chunk of Ukraine. The Ukrainians, with limited support from the British, Poles and Baltic states, put up a noble, robust and doomed defence, surrendering after three weeks of vicious fighting. The EU made a very robust speech at the UN.

A new summit attempted to confront the reality: that for the first time in over 75 years, European nations were now solely responsible for their own defence. There was no Deus Ex America to save them from the Russians.

As with so many challenges facing Europe, the problem was not finding the right or even credible solution. A small group of nations proposed the creation of a Combined European Defence Force, putting into physical existence the reality that Europe was both big enough and wealthy enough to defend itself from almost any threat, if it had the will.

As ever, it was the will that was the problem for Europe. The new Le Pen government in France was only remaining in NATO, critics said, to wreck NATO from the inside, and was openly hostile to contributing to the defence of the Baltic states. Germany’s political system was dominated by Russian penetration and overly optimistic free traders concerned only really with German exports. The British were divided between a pro-Russian left and an anti-European right that couldn’t really believe the US had left, and openly discussed some sort of merger with the US and Canada to guffaws from even their ideological allies in the new administration in Washington.

Having said that, neither France nor Germany was dumb enough not to recognise that US withdrawal also presented a huge commercial opportunity. A European Army in whatever form it took would need to purchase fighters, drones, tanks and all the high tech infrastructure needed to operate them effectively. The problem was that those nations genuinely concerned for their safety, within striking distance of the Russian border, were out of patience. As they looked at the tent cities holding refugees from Ukraine dotted throughout their countries, they saw the threat for real, and decided that their foot-dragging neighbours, whilst free to join, would not be permitted to hold them back.

The Treaty of Warsaw, creating a European Defence Community, was signed by Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Norway, Finland and Sweden. A request by Hungary to join was humiliatingly rejected as long as FIDESZ remained in office, and a robust method to expel rogue members was put in place. Unlike previous aspirational political compacts, the treaty clearly outlined what forces from each nation would be transferred to a combined Continental European Defence Command (CEDC) under a Supreme Commander, European Forces (SCEUR). The treaty dealt with wavering nations by formally transferring command of the assigned units for a fixed two year period with a 12 month period required for a nation to regain command early. A respected Polish general was appointed on the same day, with a Finnish deputy. The treaty also committed CEDC to purchasing specific numbers of fighters, tanks and other equipment and to raising a volunteer force in addition to existing transferred national troops by specific dates. Members that failed to reach their targets would be suspended from voting and possibly expelled. Finally, CEDC agreed to raise a €100 billion bond to fund the new force, with the money earmarked to be spend primarily in the member nations unless the equipment was unavailable. This particular clause caused ructions in the United States, where the new administration discovered that, having stepped away from Europe, it had far less leverage on getting its share of European defence procurement. Anti-NATO Republicans were shocked to see the big defence firms suddenly develop an interest in Democratic congressional candidates.

The response in Berlin and Paris was different. Le Pen flew into a rage on discovering, a week later, that the wily Swedish prime minister had secured British membership of the organisation by agreeing to English being the official working language, a proposal that had few objectors. He also agreed that the next supreme commander of the CEDC would be British. In return, the British contributed both physically and financially.  The French president found herself being lambasted in the National Assembly for allowing France be outmanouvered, especially given that huge defence contracts were about to be issued and France, having refused to join, was not eligible to seek them. In the Bundestag, a different state of affairs reigned, where those in the German parliament who had always supported a European army were now demanding of the government why Germany was not joining it? Again, German arms manufacturers were asking the same questions their French counterparts were: why was Germany not in line for its share?

The French government had to settle for an association with the CEDC where France could bid for contracts in return for a financial contribution to the organisation, as the Baltic states vetoed France joining as long as Le Pen was president because “we believe her” about not defending them. It was humiliating, so much so that her two-term centrist predecessor returned from his honeymoon to announce that he had changed his mind and would seek a third term on the pledge of France committing to the CEDC fully from day one. Looking fit and tanned in a crisp white open-necked shirt as he strolled through Charles De Gaulle holding hands with his beautiful new wife, he told the gathered media that it was obscene that Le Pen had created a situation where “Les Rosbifs” were taking a greater role in Europe’s defence than the republic. “An attack on Finland, an attack on Estonia is an attack on France!” he declared.

The German government agreed to the terms quietly and it went through the Bundestag with only the extremes of left and right objecting. The German Constitution was amended to permit the transfer of command of a section of the Bundesweher and Luftwaffe to SCEUR. Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands quickly joined. The Italian parliament erupted into a blazing row nominally over the European Defence Community treaty but in reality over a string of political corruption prosecutions. The Italian president and former ECB president rang the young Polish President to reassure her that despite the political drama, if Russia invades, “Italy will not be found wanting.” Ireland called for the United Nations to do something.

In Moscow, the aging Putin, seeing the lay of the land, decided to mobilize quickly, ordering a build up on the Estonian border before the CEDC could be organised. When his generals revealed that the actual ability of European forces was now that they could inflict serious damage on Russia’s forces, probably not enough to stop them but enough to turn the war into a long-running conflict that Russia could not afford, Putin let it be known that Russia would consider the use of tactical nuclear weapons if European forces did not capitulate quickly. He had never really believed in the concept of the NATO nuclear umbrella for one simple reason: the nations that needed it most had no nuclear weapons of their own, and Paris, London and Washington were simply not going to invite retaliation on their own soil despite all the bluster.

That night, the Polish president, accompanied by the Baltic and Finnish presidents put out an address in English. She announced that, on hearing the Russian threat to detonate tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, the five countries had been working on a Polish-led nuclear weapons programme, and that they had the ability to respond with short-range weapons in response to any Russian first use.

“We cannot destroy Russia,” she declared. “But we can respond in Kaliningrad, Belarus, and even in a city President Putin holds dear, so let the president understand us very clearly. We will never use nuclear weapons first. But we will respond in kind. We will, after this broadcast, communicate to you the size and yield of these weapons, and you will realise they can be carried by a single fighter, a drone, a fishing boat, a team of special forces with huskies over a border or even on the back of a truck sitting in St. Petersburg traffic. If we, the leaders of our respective countries dies in a first strike, the protocol is in place to retaliate. Do not test us on this, Mr President.”

What if…the United States held a Constitutional Convention?

The United States constitution is an extraordinary document, if only for the fact of its longevity. It has been the bedrock of the legal order governing that country for over 250 years, and that counts for something. Having said that, one cannot but help notice, as the citizen of a functioning and healthy democracy, that there are those in the US for whom the document and its writers are regarded as more of a fetish than reverence.

The founding fathers themselves knew that consitutions need to be amended and adjusted in line with changes in society, and the obsession with referring to “what they meant”, giving dead men from a quarter millenium ago a veto over the 21st century is simply bizarre. In short, there should be nothing unAmerican about revising and even replacing it.

It’s worth recalling that the America of the late 1700s was a predominantly rural place, and most states had broad similarities. That is simply not the case now: urban and rural Americans live more and more divergent lives that in other places would be almost foreign.

This is not the first time America has been divided, it’s true. But the divisions of the civil war were morally clear. The core cause of the Confederacy was no less evil than that of the Third Reich. The problem with today is that the wide divisions between Americans are not as morally clear cut, but cultural. From guns to abortion to science to healthcare, there are radical differences, and it is worth questioning how a country can proceed with these seemingly intractable issues on the table, steadfast held in place by a constitution designed for a different age.

What if opponents, liberals and conservatives, decided to confront the issue head-on? What if they decided a genuine good faith effort to revise the constitution for the America they lived in? How would it actually work?

For a start, it has to be approached on a simple rule: nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. This is to prevent any side banking concessions made by the other side without conceding anything themselves. A sort of constitutional Without Prejudice clause.

Secondly, how would the convention be chosen? I would suggestion a convention of 200 delegates: 100 directly elected by statewide PR based on population, and the second 100 nominated by the state legislatures on the basis of two delgates per state. That would give every state a fair say, allow for democratic input and also ensure, using PR, that Democrats from Texas and Republicans from Massachusetts would be included.

Thirdly, the two parties could jointly nominate an agreed panel of liberal and conservative constitutional scholars to meet in camera and prepare, on the basis of 75% agreement, a series of constitutional amendments which they will propose en bloc. By the way, don’t assume that all conservative constitutionalists will oppose any changes . As the National Constitutional Centre in Philadelphia shows here, there are many reforms conservatives would like to consider.

The panel could propose the slate of reforms to the Convention with an understanding that they may only be amended or agreed with 75% of the vote of the Convention.

Would it work? If, as I said, it was approached in good faith, but that is an issue in itself. Large numbers of US politicians and media players are now making lucrative careers and money from perpetuating an environment of division and mistrust, and that may be a hurdle too high to overcome.

Additionally, I can’t help feeling personally that the solution will lie in compromise and enhanced states rights, including the right to restrict (at state level) both abortion and gun ownership. Americans could do a lot worse than look at the European Union as a model. The EU has certain union-wide freedoms which all members must respect, but also wide latitude on cultural issues. For example, neither abortion nor same-sex marriage are union-wide rights, but a ban on the death penalty is, as is transporting guns across state borders. A looser American Union based on a common currency, trade, freedom of movement and defence would easily resemble the United States of the founding fathers…

Life in the Constitutional States of America.

A political fantasy.

President Cruz looked out of the window of the New White House at the large crowds gathered in front of the building. The executive building, formally known as Mar a Lago had not been an ideal location for the new government of the CSA, but as with so many things, a Trump family tax shenanigan had led to it. The former president had “Gifted” it to the new nation, and the whole area had been designated a Constitutional District and so was now the capital. Somehow, of course, the Trumps had made money out of this, but not one member of the CS Senate had dared point this out. Cruz had read a piece in The Economist which had likened the Trumps to the Thai or Saudi Royal Families as the CSA’s “ruling family”. It wasn’t a million miles from the truth: the former president and now his children still had a bewitching power over voters in the Constitutional Republican primaries, and that was the only way into power in the CSA given that the more liberal urban areas were now gerrymandered and voter-harrassed into ineffectiveness.

The peaceful separation of the United States into the Federal States (mostly blue) and the Constitutional States (mostly red) had been a long and painfully negotiated process following the nightmare of the 2024 presidential election. Minnesota voted by a surprising margin to join the CSA whilst Georgia, Michigan, and North Carolina all surprised pundits by voting to join the “blue US”. The United States continued to exist legally, as a common customs, currency and defence bloc, but within ten years of the “manifest divorce” clear differences were visible, and no more so than in the CSA.

A tale of two Americas, 2032*

Michelle Obama Visits DC High School To Discuss Importance Of Education

From our correspondent in Montreal, Canada.

*Actually written in October 2016 before President Trump was elected…

President Michelle Obama of the United States of America and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada have expressed disappointment at President Ted Cruz of the Constitutional States of America’s decision to quit talks between the CSA and the North American Union. The summit in Montreal had hoped to finally resolve the cross-border trade, taxation and customs disputes following the amicable breakup of the United States in 2026, with the North East, Great Lakes and West Coast states remaining in the USA as the remainder left to form the CSA.

Since the formation of the CSA, two very distinct cultures have developed, with the USA returning to the moderate religious and economic values of the 1950s coupled with social tolerance for religious and lifestyle differences, whilst the CSA has seen the rampant dismantling of former federal laws and agencies in its territories and the effective adoption of Judeo-Christianity as a de facto state religion in a loose confederation of mutually cooperating states with a weak central government.

Under the terms of the Paul Act of 2022, US citizens had been given 36 months to decide which state they wished to become a citizen of, which led to mass migration as minority groups moved to the USA, and social and religious conservatives moved to the CSA.

Although taxes were markedly higher in the USA to fund its universal healthcare programme and infrastructure programme, the CSA found itself in serious fiscal difficulties as CSA senior citizens demanded that social security and medicare entitlements be carried over from the USA, farmers and agribusiness demanded subsidies be continued, and states insisted on funds no longer flowing from Washington for local projects be replaced.

The attempt by President Paul to create the CSA as a tax haven for the world’s rich ran into huge difficulties when the USA and European Union agreed a common tax treaty which taxed profits and earnings shipped out of their joint jurisdiction. That, coupled with his plan to build a vast manned wall between the CSA and the United Mexican States, resulting in a National Security Tax, led to his impeachment.

Paul’s successor, former Texas US Senator Ted Cruz, had hoped to conclude a joint defence pact with the US to allow for savings in defence spending, but President Obama had vetoed the deal “as long as gay and non-Christians cannot serve their country in the CSA defence forces.” The president had been reacting to comments from the US Joint Chiefs of Staff about US soldiers being uncomfortable about serving alongside “segregated” forces.

The Bishop of Houston has announced that he shall be endorsing former Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his choice for nominee of the American Party to succeed President Cruz.  The endorsement is seen as vital for Palin’s hopes in the primaries.

Governor Palin welcomed the news whilst attending the first school in Texas to implement the “Kidz Rights!” law requiring all children over the age of seven to be armed in case of a terrorist attack on their school.

In the Congress of the CSA, meeting in Tallahassee, a bill requiring non-Judeo-Christians to register with local law enforcement agencies has passed the Senate, and will now go to the House of Representatives. A bill barring non-Judeo-Christians from holding public office passed the Congress and is now before President Cruz. A spokesperson has said that the bill will be given serious consideration. The board of Mercedes Benz has said that if either bill becomes law in the CSA, the company will have to reconsider its investments in Alabama. President Cruz recently vetoed a bill to strip women of the right to vote, the so-called “Clinton-Obama law”, which had passed the CSA Congress. His veto is expected to be challenged.

Other news: the English Prime Minister, Mr Farage, admitted that the his party could not assemble a majority in the House of Commons to agree a common market with the CSA because of the CSA refusal to grant travel visas to English citizens of the Muslim faith. He looked forward, however, to negotiating only a modest fee increase with European Union President Sturgeon for English access to the European Economic Area.

The former presidential candidate Donald J. Trump continues to fight the court order stripping him of US citizenship, and has argued that being forced to live in one of the states that voted for him in 2016 as “cruel and unusual”.

Politicians across North America have been united in wishing former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani well with his condition.

7 things every real liberal should know.

1. You, and everybody else, has a right to offend and be offended. Too much freedom of speech always trumps too little.

2. Everybody has the right to keep their money as much as you have the right to keep yours.

3. Before demanding someone have more power over someone else, imagine giving that power to your worst enemy, and see if you’re comfortable with that.

4. The validity of an argument is not increased by how strongly you feel about it.

5. It is possible to disagree with someone’s politics but like them personally.

6. Everybody minding their own business is the solution to far more problems than you think.

7. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a compassionate welfare system. There is something wrong with thinking that basic maths has nothing to do with it. Every euro spent has to be taken or borrowed off someone else.

 

President Carter was a visionary.

Despite the fact that I’m on the centre-right politically, many of my political heroes are on the left. The Kennedys, FDR, Harry Truman, Pierre Trudeau, LBJ, and amongst those, one of my greatest heroes would be President Carter.

He’s been much maligned, and painted as a political failure, but I think that Jimmy Carter was a visionary who won office too early, and was doomed to inherit a presidential term (1977-1981) of which the key events (oil crisis, Iranian hostages and Soviet invasion of Afghanistan) would have destroyed whomever was in office.

His governorship of Georgia was one of healing the racial divide, and his winning of the 1976 election, coming from absolutely nowhere, was a stunning achievement which transformed American politics. In terms of his key issues he was right in his analysis. He was the first president to get serious about the need for liberals to adapt to the realities of the restraints on government spending, and he rightly predicted that the failure of the US to get to grips with its energy needs and reliance on foreign supply would cause it problems in the future, and this was before global warming. He was also the first president to get serious about human rights,  and people forget that the military buildup that eventually broke the Soviet Union actually began under President Carter, something the Republicans try to airbrush out of history.

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