January 8, 2001
Some Thoughts on the British
Peace Movement II
This is the second part of my article written for the British Libertarian
Life. The first can be read here.
PC PEACE MOVEMENT
allergy of the right to the peace movement is not only due to historical
memory, but also to a dislike of the people who run the present
peace movement. The left in its various guises run the peace movement,
and although they heartily hate Tony Blair and all he stands for,
they would still vote for him if he declared himself Emperor of
Europe. The fact that CND not only had Soviet spies near the top
of their organisation at the height of the Cold War, but did not
see what was wrong with it, to many on the right is close to treachery.
right does have a point. There are three separate groups who make
up the bulk of the peace movement none of them for any reason
that the average Tory would recognise. Firstly there are the Trotskyites.
Although they have the organisation on the ground so they can make
up the backbone of most local peace movements in Britain, they are
still a blessed nuisance because of their sectarian nature.
are then the emigrants from the countries being attacked. While
they have a good knowledge of what is happening on the ground, I
rarely get the impression that they would be at the same demonstrations
if NATO was bombing the Albanians.
there are the peaceniks, those that genuinely believe in peace,
and hate war. These are probably the most effective, for they have
a folk memory of the issues and the methods, as well as sympathetic
contacts in the media and the Labour Party. Their Achilles' heal
is a hatred of America. When people say that they have to take the
opposite side to America, then I worry. I believe that following
America at all times is suicidal, but I don't wish to oppose America
either. That's interventionism under another name, and it still
smells as sickly-sweet.
yankophobia does have a blind spot of its own, Northern Ireland.
The most blatant piece of American interference in our domestic
affairs is the American insistence on the IRA being present in the
peace process. Even here the majority of the peace movement is not
consistent. The Serbs should not have to be forced to deal with
terrorists or compromise on their internal security, but the Peace
Movement are perfectly willing to welcome the "peace-making" of
President Clinton. Although for domestic political reasons you may
dislike the Unionists, it is possible at the same time to deplore
the American bullying. The left do not have the same ability to
think through a position as the Serbian opposition, and we are all
poorer for it.
is a right-wing non interventionist movement in America. This is
partly because the American constitution is quite clear about limited
powers, and so those nostalgic for the Old Republic, the so-called
palæo-cons (palæolithic Conservatives), have anti-interventionism
as a main weapon in their arsenal, along with States Rights and
locally based education. The reactionary tendency in this country
is more noted for its attachment to the old Empire, which is obviously
not going to discourage imperialism. Similarly the Libertarian movement
takes a far larger part of the American mind. Although not extinct
in Britain, the Libertarian tendency is not popular either, with
self-proclaimed Libertarians being rather incomplete.
the conservative movement in America, or at least the part that
actually defines itself by defending tradition, is wary of foreign
adventure. The Cold War was accepted by the vast majority of conservatives
as a necessary thing, but the end of it has meant that the right
can go back to its isolationist roots. When history looks back at
the new isolationism it will no doubt see it as a snap back into
the old tribal patterns with barely a beat missed from the party
at the end of the Evil Empire to the old suspicion of foreign entanglements.
Of course history will be wrong. The vast majority of American conservatives
supported the Gulf War, and a diminishing yet still dominant band
would support the bailout of Mexico and the funding of the Russian
mafia through the IMF. However the truth is that a growing number
of American conservatives are sceptical of the constant interventions
in foreign countries and this is finally bearing fruit in the Republican
party as its leaders try to learn the non-interventionist lines
that will stop any brush fire revolt.
noninterventionist cause in America is also helped by Pat Buchanan.
Many regard Mr. Buchanan as a liability because of his trenchant
social views and his protectionist economic policy, but the important
fact is that he is there. Having a prominent politician articulating
a view of sensible isolation is worth all the shortcomings, perceived
or real. To have someone who gets on the news is of immeasurable
importance to a minority viewpoint. Legitimising your views is vital,
and it is something which the peace party, both right and left,
is short of in this country. I would also like to give an honourable
mention to the web site that I write for, antiwar.com. Although
it doesn't seem to have stopped any wars yet, it functions as a
nerve centre for the American resistance to imperialism. Perhaps
we need one of these, a general anti-interventionist site that tilts
to the right? It is far more likely than finding a public champion.
CAN WE DO?
who believe that the fight against imperialism is vital, but are
uneasy with the limited scope of the present peace movement in Britain
have to face some uncomfortable truths. Not only are we losing,
but we don't seem to have even put in a decent effort at resistance.
There are some things we need to do, but can we actually carry them
an intellectual level we have to resurrect the foreign policy school
of thought known as realism. Realism was the doctrine that a nation
should act, if needs be ruthlessly, in order to protect the national
interest. If it was not absolutely necessary to act, it was absolutely
necessary not to act; as easily making enemies was hardly conducive
to the national interest. There are good authors expounding this
view, mostly American. George Kennan the Cold Warrior who turned
his back on the nineties empire building, Jeanne Kirkpatrick the
secretary of state in the Reagan administration. In Britain we have
some excellent historians who put forward this view, such as John
Charmley and Corelli Barnett.
a more mundane level we must stop this deference to government whenever
our troops are in danger. It is obscene that British troops are
in danger for the unethical foreign policy of our elites. No oil,
diamonds or diplomatic humiliation is worth the lives of our boys;
and we must say so. If we really care about our troops in Kosovo,
Sierra Leone and Bosnia we must speak up for them, rather than worrying
if any doubt will affect their morale. Look at the recruitment figures,
troop morale is at rock bottom. They know better than we do what
a sorry excuse for foreign policy we are practising, but they cannot
speak up. We need to do so for them, when they are being shot at
for the vanity of our ruling elites.
must also stop writing off the Conservative Party as an agent of
change. When the dust settles it is the only plausible alternative
to a Labour government, and it is desperate for a popular message.
Both the foreign affairs spokesman Francis Maude and the Defence
Secretary Iain Duncan Smith have flirted with non-intervention,
making sceptical noises about Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and East Timor.
William Hague reportedly told Mr. Blair that he could not support
a ground invasion of Kossovo (although he later acted as a British
envoy in Eastern Europe to prepare its path). However do not underestimate
the counter pull. In Zimbabwe when there was a counter pull of British
families being murdered the Conservatives could no longer make sceptical
noises and resorted to the other standby of opposition, accusing
the government of being soft. The fact is that one must remember
of the Conservative Party that, just like the Labour Party, it is
driven by fear and greed; and ideas hardly enter into the picture.
We can only get the Conservative Party on our side if we can get
their voters on our side.
I turn to the hardest task, organisation. We must get out of the
idea that we can win an argument through intellectual superiority
and high politics. We have to tap into the deep channel of scepticism
that is present in the British public. This means some grassroots
organisation so that when the next fire fight comes up we have a
skeleton staff to conduct the protest. The British people are not
willing to die for their elite's passing fancy. It is the elites
who are prepared to sacrifice their people. The British people do
not like paying their taxes and having the state nannying them more
than she does even now. I don't know how we organise, but I do know
that we won't save our country's sanity by just being right.
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