January 28, 2002
will be the last regular column that I will write for Antiwar.com
until at least the summer. Being British, I am not fond of long
good-byes, so I will limit this column to a few observations of
the past two and a bit years that I have been writing for Antiwar.com.
course, the first thing that one notices is that the Internet has
changed the terms of reporting. This started in Britain during the
Kosovo war. Previously the internet's relationship to the news had
been as a gossip channel, with questions of the drug habit of this
minister's son or the sexuality of that prominent MP. To me this
changed with the Rambouillet agreement, which the West hoped to
get the Serbs to sign effectively allowing the West to occupy
Serbia. This did not bring people into the streets, but it did mean
that anyone with an interest in foreign affairs and access to an
Internet cafe could quickly get different perspectives on their
country's foreign policy. And not just rants like this, but cold
approach was shown in the "Candidlist"
site run by Dr. Sean Gabb. The idea was simple, to list those people
who wished to stand as Tory candidates and mark them as either Europhile
or Eurosceptic according to a simple objective set of criteria.
This simple informative act was denounced as "McCarthyism" by many
Conservatives who were terrified of Conservative associations
actually choosing candidates with whom they agreed. How many selection
meetings this affected I am not sure, but the precedent has been
may take some time to filter through, and I don't really see a British
general election or referendum in the near future being decided
by internet reporting, but the fact is that few of my friends now
buy newspapers. This alone is a portent.
area that there does not seem to have been much change is in the
Right's view of foreign policy. Sadly, it still seems blissfully
unaware of the British national interest. Indeed the replacement
of William Hague by Iain Duncan Smith has if anything set the cause
back slightly. Iain Duncan Smith is a popular figure in Washington
among the neo-Conservative think tanks, and has parroted their views
from his position as leader of the opposition. When they called
for action against Iraq, so did he. To do that they needed American
troops out of Afghanistan, so did Iain call for more peacekeeping?
You bet he didn't.
as in the case above, being pro-American can have its advantages
for those of us seeking an independent Britain. The case can be
further made that if America is the only power that can lift us
out of Europe we should hitch ourselves to it. However, this can
only go so far. Any idea of a permanent status as a 51st state or
a vassal of an "Anglosphere" Empire will be no better than the European
slavery from which we are trying to extricate ourselves now.
example is the reaction to the World Trade Centre bombing. All sensible
opinion right, left or centre supported Britain's role in
the adventure. Now I have no problem with America responding to
an attack on its soil by uprooting Al Qaeda, frying Bin Laden and
overthrowing anything and everything that gets in its way. Of course
it will not be a long-term solution, terrorists unfortunately re-grow
but it would surely lower America's short-term exposure to terrorism.
None of this is, however, an argument for Britain to be involved.
national interest of Britain does it serve? Western freedom or licentiousness
was not an issue; it was about American Middle Eastern foreign policy.
British involvement did not decrease the likelihood of a terrorist
attack, as the Home Secretary admitted it radically increased it.
Muslim fundamentalism is not a problem in a country where Muslims
are a small, if noisy, part of the population. No one even tried
to argue that Afghanistan had any strategic import to us. So how
was our national interest served?
best that most people can come up with was that America would treat
us like a good and loyal overgrown puppy, and remember us when we
needed help. After all America is the world's only superpower and
we do not want to think for ourselves, do we? If we decided to test
this friendship by dealing with the IRA as America deals with Al
Qaeda we wouldn't know what was rattling louder, the State Department's
sabres or the NORAID collecting tins in Boston.
what is to be done? One of the lessons that you learn from history
is to refrain from attacking people for not pursuing a course which
had never been put forward. It is all very well to lambaste King
George for not extending a universal franchise to every American,
but who at the time was suggesting it? In the same vein it is pointless
to attack our politicians for not wanting Britain to act in its
own interests, when the chattering classes are arguing over whether
we should act in the interests of Washington or Brussels. If we
are going to rely on politicians to think for themselves on political
matters, then we will be waiting an eternity.
we need to set out the alternative to a British audience. I am bringing
in bright new contributors to my web
log. The first two are Christopher Montgomery, an historian
and a former aide to the Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, and David
Carr, a young polemicist who is making waves in the small Libertarian
community in London. More contributors will be added over time,
with the idea of making it into the one place on the web to find
commentary about British foreign policy from the viewpoint of Britain's
national interest. Posting to a web log is slightly easier than
sending e-mail, and so the commentary is shorter and more topical
than a weekly column. The web log is at:
still be around.