February 11, 2002
The Faux-'Realism' of Iain Duncan Smith
should start with an apology, as this piece is wildly long, repetitive
in purpose (check out Emmanuel Goldstein's much
more concise alternative), and dubious in
form as an exercise in English prose. However, my moral qualms aren't
sufficient to spare you, for what I'm going to do and even
I don't want to get there that fast is examine, pretty much
line by line, Iain Duncan Smith's self-proclaimed effort to define
what a Conservative foreign policy should amount to. I don't agree
with him. Believe me, you'll save yourself the online equivalent
of having a fork stuck in your eye if you stop here. A blunt fork,
clean at the tips, but with bits of dried gunk in between the prongs.
Honestly, stop reading now...
you're still here, so you probably deserve this. The speech
was assiduously spun as being a great essay in, holy of holies,
realism and thus a signal rebuke to the fantasy politics of the Prime
Minister. Now, I've never been one for thinking that Tony Blair
is anything other than realistic: he favours a rather actorly approach
to public rhetoric (and that perhaps goes some way to explaining
why he does so well in democratic politics), but he's nothing
if not a proven realist about the cold stuff of power. From
doing over his best mate to become leader of the Labour party,
letting former girlfriends go their way when their time is up,
Mr Blair could, and really should, teach the ninnies of the British
Right a lesson in how to lead.
the specific issue of whether this government's foreign policy
is realistic' or not, surely that depends upon its goals?
If those goals aren't ones with which we'd agree, then
it's pointless then to assess them with a view to handing out
a failing grade, kidding ourselves we're doing so because some
realism quotient hasn't been met, when in fact it's because
the end result has nothing to do with Tory goals. To put that another
way, realism, despite what some of its more fervid academic avatars
froth, is not, and never can be, an end in itself. Rather, it is,
so much more simply, a particular means of achieving one's
goals. By that standard, I think there's a fair case to be
made, that, by its own ludicrous lights, this has been fairly successful
government. That is, however, a case for them to make, and us to
examine, some other time. Our purpose here is to assess whether
the current leader of the Tory party has set forward congenially
Conservative ambitions. And as a sort of sweet pudding to follow
this thin gruel, we'll then cheer ourselves up by asking whether
there's much likelihood of him pursuing these in sacerdotally
his principal tool for securing these goals, in the chamber of the
House of Commons at any rate, Iain Duncan Smith has chosen Michael
Ancram for the job of shadow Foreign Secretary. This cannot be called
a good or especially realistic start. To begin with, Michael Anram
isn't even Michael Anram's real name it's actually
Michael Kerr or, if you prefer, the Earl of Ancram, since he's
heir to the Marquessate of Lothian and thus gets that as his courtesy
title. His father, the current, and 12th, Marquess, succeeded his
cousin, the 11th Marquess, upon his death in 1940. He was then British
Ambassador to Washington (and a devout Christian Scientist indeed,
his death was due to his refusal to accept conventional medical
treatment), and this death, as well as robbing Britain of an effective
diplomat, provided Churchill with the opportunity to remove Lord
Halifax as foreign secretary, packing him off to D.C. instead. The
late ambassador, Phillip Kerr, had been in his youth a member of
Lord Milner's kindergarten, a coterie of self-selecting politicians-,
journalists- and proconsuls-to-be, who set their adult lives towards
the maintenance of the empire. A considerable talent, and a sore
loss, and, as is the way with families, thereafter the genetic stuff,
like an under-rotated field, grew that bit weaker.
Ancram', in his choice of name, drips his wetness all over
us. This ungodly compound is adopted by peers who, on the one hand
want to use their title, but on the other hand, want to be all blokey
about it, so rather than citizen Kerr (the family name), or milord
Ancram (the title), they weld the two together. In a phrase which
seldom spells anything other than trouble, Mister Ancram was one
of those first since the reformation' events that have
happened so often of late in Britain. In his case, he was the first
Roman Catholic (the family, after the experience of the 11th Marquess,
dispensed with Christian Science) to be elected as a Tory MP in
Scotland since the you-know-what. A left-of-centre Tory under Mrs
Thatcher, he struggled to obtain ministerial office, even as the
number of MPs the party returned from Scotland collapsed, and the
gaping maw of the Scottish Office cried out for parliamentary peons
to serve as ministers. In due course he lost his own seat, and returned
to parliament (for an English constituency) this time under the
more, to him, agreeable leadership of John Major.
worst Prime Minister since Lord North saw talents where others had
seen only an aptitude for jumper wearing and guitar-based folk music
(think Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but without the in-your-face
pizzazz), and made Mr. Ancram a minister of state, at the Northern
Ireland Office. It's funny to think that today's Lion
of Gibraltar, roaring defiance at the Spaniard once had a very
different attitude to sharing, over the heads of unwilling British
subjects, sovereignty with foreign governments. This, presumably,
represents what I believe Americans on the west coast call personal
growth'. When the Conservatives went into opposition in 1997, William
Hague eventually ended up with Michael Ancram as his most senior
adviser. Specifically, he was Chairman of the Tory party, and responsible
for its general election campaign. This we lost. Off the back
of that, the party chairman decided to stand for the leadership
of the Tory party, such vacancy being occasioned by Mr. Hague's
resignation in the wake of Mr. Ancram's, uh, work.
Westminster giggled itself silly at his candidature, the press underestimated
how far personal geniality (for he's nothing if not a nice
man) still counts amongst Tory MPs. More important still, a vote
for him was seen by many MPs who were Hague loyalists, as being
one last way of expressing their sympathy for their fallen leader.
In consequence, he came joint last. However, he did so with a quantity
of votes that surprised all who watched the contest (and reflected
the paucity of decent candidates). He also tied with David Davis,
who, along with Duncan Smith, was seen as the candidate of the party's
right. The net effect of all this was to take out both Ancram and
Davis out of the race. They swung behind Duncan Smith, and were,
after his victory, rewarded for this with the posts of party chairman
(Davis) and, obviously enough, foreign affairs for Ancram. It is
thus that the Tory party has come to enjoy an affable, wet, and
defeatist-as-they-come fellow as their putative practitioner of
shadow foreign secretary recently delivered himself of a great
oration on foreign policy as well. It's as bad as a speech can
be. And now I can finally summon up the courage to turn to Iain
Duncan Smith's effort. Almost. For a venue, the Tory leader
chose that most hallowed of foreign policy fora, Chatham
House. A fine eighteenth century mansion on St. James's Square,
the building's name serves as the more popular term by which the
Royal Institute of International Affairs is known. This, in essence,
was the first foreign policy think tank, and, with the members of
the Kindergarten, once so active in its deliberations, the goal
it brought to the twentieth century was the preservation of British
power. Passing swiftly on, the RIIA was badly mismanaged in the
postwar period, and fell on such lean times that by the late 1970s
much of the building itself was leased off to commercial tenants,
and the continued existence of the Institute was only secured by
a fairly whorish move into writing reports for the oil industry.
Today the place is riddled with PC-riddled to the extent that when
a Tory MP and former defence minister applied for membership, they
turned him down in favour of their normal complement of whey-faced
international relations academics.
microcosm or metaphor, then, Chatham House serves well as a place
in which to start thinking about how to arrest Britain's diplomatic
decline. Hereafter follows what Duncan Smith would do in office,
and why I hold that he wouldn't do a damn thing to make Britain
master of her own destiny again.
II, OR THE PART THAT IS ACTUALLY ABOUT THE SPEECH
Smith] Henry Kissinger's most recent book, published before the
outrages of 11th September, was provocatively entitled "Does
America Need a Foreign Policy?" His answer, of course,
was "yes". Dr Kissinger argues that (I quote) "in
the 1990s, American preeminence evolved less from any strategic
design than a series of ad hoc decisions designed to satisfy domestic
constituencies" which had "given rise to the temptation
of acting as if the United States needed no long-range foreign policy
You can see why Harvard's in the state it's in today when you realise
that the Golden Age saw a faculty comprised of people like Henry.
World Restored, for instance, although a competent enough
history of the operation of the Concert of Europe after Napoleon,
is shot through with an anachronistic proto-Cold War schema. That
Duncan Smith's office turned to his latest, and sadly, far less
well written tome, for inspiration is commentary both on their reading
habits, and the sad truth that nobody on this side of the Atlantic
even rises to Kissinger's level of badness.
so typically useless, however, in current Tory thinking on foreign
affairs, is the fact that anyone with basic neural functions can
give credence to the lack of a plan' approach to understanding
American foreign policy. There has been a plan indeed there have
been quite a few and as I have argued in this spot before, they
haven't even been especially sensible from the point of view
of American imperialism. So to say that there hasn't been a
whole industry in Washington and New York, devoted to working out
how American global influence will be sustained, is to betray a
truly heroic ignorance of the United States. As to the sage nodding
at Henry's great insight that foreign policy has a habit of
responding to domestic considerations, we shall, in kindness, move
on as quickly as we can.
President George W. Bush as I learned for myself when I talked
to him and senior members of his Administration America does indeed
now have such a policy. It is strong, focused, self-confident, realistic
and governed by an intelligent perception of America's national
exact sequencing of Duncan Smith's visit to the White House was
that, nominally, he went to present his compliments to Ms. Rice,
and, whadya know, Dubya just happened to pass by while this tête-à-tête
was taking place. The last time a British politician received this
treatment from the Americans admittedly, when he wasn't as
popular with either your government or mine as he is today
was when Gerry Adams visited the same office to, supposedly, meet
Tony Lake, President Clinton's meddler-in-chief for Ulster. In both
cases, however, the point and outcome, from the US presidents' point
of view, was the same: not to provide the visitor, whomever he had
really come to see, with a photo he could show to the press. Perhaps
one day Mr Duncan Smith will rise to the dizzy heights where the
US president is willing to be seen with him in public.
this, as in other respects, the Americans have much to remind us
Kissinger's question about America was obviously asked tongue-in-cheek:
a super-power does clearly need a long-range foreign policy. But
Britain needs one just as much. We are the fourth largest economy,
a power with global interests but limited resources to defend them.
We have to be focused in our analysis, realistic in our objectives,
staunch in our alliances, ingenious in our methods and resolute
in our actions.
to quote Kissinger again, our leaders need "the intuitive ability
to sense the future and thereby master it". It is a tall order.
But, then, whoever said statesmanship was easy?
you imagine reading this stuff out? I mean, honestly . . .
11th September brought home to many the domestic imperative of foreign
affairs. The terrorist outrages committed against New York and Washington
transformed public perceptions throughout the West. Suddenly, people
of all political persuasions and none were compelled to take stock
of the dangers and the complexities of the world beyond our shores.
is the hulking great elison, or, as they say down at the docks,
lie that the neo-cons keep putting over about the war: they start
with the assumption that we were awakened to the threat only with
September 11th (whereas in fact, although we disagreed about the
wheres and whys, neo-con and actual-con alike were as one in screaming
that the pre-911 world was a pretty dangerous place). They then
move on to explain how we have to understand the Bin Laden bombings.
What no one must ever say is that America deserved it'.
To say this is to place oneself beyond conventional morality, to
apply for a job with the French Foreign Ministry even. Our neo-con
chums, however, have taken the truism that claiming America
deserved it' is abhorrent, and used it to squash any discussion
of why Bin Laden staged this obscene attack.
Mr Bin Laden was reacting to the foreign policy that the likes of
Henry would have us believe wasn't happening during the 90s is obvious;
that he was able to carry it out is, worse still for the Bill
Kristols and Robert Kagans, the most damning thing of all. For
the indictment that must never be read out in public is this: what
sort of lousily managed empire allows this to happen to itself?
What, for pity's sake, is the point in spending umpteen billions
more on the armed forces, when the gold plated ones in existence
before 911 comprehensively failed to prevent it from happening?
is essential, however, not to fall into the trap of believing that
the world itself along with perceptions of it changed
fundamentally on that fateful Tuesday.
obviously, al-Qaeda was planning these attacks for a number of years
beforehand. Indeed, arguably, if different decisions had been taken
by the US authorities in the wake of earlier outrages the horrors
of last September might have been avoided.
the title of this address [Britain's Place in a Changing World]
suggests, Britain does indeed have to make its way in a "changing
world". But it is important to distinguish what changes from
what stays the same.
September was not, after all, the first time even in modern recollection
when the world appeared to be undergoing fundamental change. It
happened at the end of the Cold War. Freedom was extended to millions
who had never known it. And geopolitics was all at once turned up-side-down.
The world became uni-polar, with the United States as the only global
superpower. The international system was more open but less predictable.
It was one where the globalisation of both economics and culture
were promoted by a communications revolution.
banality of globalisation' is something a right wing
British politician should be horsewhipped for mouthing: the idea
that anyone, with any sense of history, thinks there's something
new about an English speaking hegemon superintending the world economy,
with a view of promoting its own interests through the application
of Manchesterist economics, is, well, something we ought from the
sound of things, to beat rigorously into every twelve year-old in
laughable still is the idea that the world, as expressed though
the forms of British foreign policy, was changed after the collapse
of the Soviet Bloc. It was, of course, transformed, but anyone looking
at the British response adhering to an integrationist European
project (see foreign policy passim), binding herself ever more tightly
into NATO and preserving an obsolete continental military commitment
(ditto), and loyally backing every American foreign policy initiative
on offer (ditto, bar Bosnia, for a bit) would be hard-placed to
say what we did to react to this "renewed" world.
there also grew up a dangerously false view of realities. The Cold
War had lasted so long that many people assumed that a stand-off
between great powers was the usual state of affairs. And now that
there was no such stand off, it was tacitly assumed that there was
also no serious threat to peace.
fact, the end of the Cold War meant no such thing. It marked in
many respects a return to earlier conditions ones where a
number of powers jostled for advantage, and where both alliances
and tensions shifted in line with the circumstances of the day.
this more fluid world NATO's role retained its importance.
And so did America's leadership. But the old disciplines disappeared
along with the old rigidities. Hence the rise of the rogue state.
Hence also Saddam Hussein and the Gulf War.
you want a phrase which, more than any other, demonstrates why there
is no conceivable chance that the Tory party, as presently constituted,
will ever advocate, let alone, advance, the cause of British independence,
feast your eyes upon that terrible phrase, American leadership'.
Even in squalid satrapies like Peru, the dictates of domestic chauvinism
entail a sturdy rhetorical insistence upon national independence.
Can there be any other country that lines up so tamely behind the
follies of American foreign policy as Britain does? This, remember,
is the leader of the patriot's party warbling away, and this
is what he offers us.
then again the world seemed fundamentally to change on 11th September.
Old rivalries have given way to at least one new partnership
that emerging between the West and Russia, whose strategic importance
has been emphasised by the demands of the War Against Terrorism.
So too, the rivalry between the US and China, which had grown sharply
in recent years, has suddenly been put on hold. These, then, are
some of the ways in which the world today has changed.
ministers entertain Chechen terrorists, and have
Chinese presidential airliners bugged, this is the world that
Iain Duncan Smith sees when he looks out the window.
yet equally important is the extent to which the underlying realities
have not changed at all either with the end of the Cold War
or with the start of the War on Terrorism. We have clearly not reached
anything like the "End of History", when swords are forged
into ploughshares or perhaps laptops as the lure of prosperity
transforms yesterday's warrior into today's entrepreneur.
these particular instances fail to get to the heart of the matter.
Even before we analyse the risks that surround us we should at least
always assume that they exist. For that is the way the world is.
Human nature has made it so.
insight I have described here is at the heart of the Conservative
view of foreign policy. Conservatives with a big and a small
"c" are interested in the world as it is. We are
realists; and we rejoice in the fact, because we know that it allows
us to avoid succumbing to the distractions and descending into the
cul-de-sacs that lure the unwary.
enough to make you weep.
is, though, another view. And it is frequently proclaimed by the
Conservative Party has supported, and will support, the Prime Minister
whenever the national interest demands. But this does not detract
from the fact that the present government has an approach to British
foreign and security policy which is, at its very roots, misguided.
to clarify that, unlike William Hague's tentative efforts at
opposition and he came very close over the Kosovo war Iain Duncan
Smith's only complaint against Tony Blair's conduct of
foreign policy is that he doesn't jump high enough when asked
to by the Americans.
problem is simple and fundamental. It is that the Prime Minister
seems to believe that there are no limits to what Britain, acting
as part of an all-embracing global coalition of the Righteous, can
and should do to make the world a better place. To judge from a
speech he made earlier this month in Bangalore, he does not even
see any limits to foreign policy, saying (I quote): "In today's
globally interdependent world foreign and domestic policy are part
of the same thing".
you moron, is precisely the insight' that Henry, oh so
many turgid paragraphs ago, tried to teach you foreign policy
and domestic policy cannot be decoupled. To say it as slowly as
possible: in each polity there is but one state, ergo, this one
actor conducts both internal and external policy. Both policies
determine the behaviour of the state, the state, in acting, is simultaneously
subject to both.
of course, this means that you cannot have a successful foreign
policy without also having a successful domestic policy, then there
is a certain amount of truth in it. But, even then, it is not the
whole truth. Countries which seek to pursue ambitious foreign policies
which neither advance their interests nor match their resources
are putting their standing and possibly their security at risk.
And there is worse. An unfocused approach to foreign policy leads
to, and is often devised in pursuit of, media grand-standing.
truth is that high profile diplomacy always contains it own temptations.
Before foreign leaders decide to offer their personal services in
sorting out long-standing international disputes, they should be
clear about the answer to three searching questions.
what do I expect to achieve?
very limited defence of Blair, but absolutely contrary to the primitivism
of Duncan Smith, the simple observation has to be made that, people
don't always do things for the reasons they claim they do.
Hence when Tony Blair, for example, sends British troops to Bagram
long before he had permission from Washington to do any such thing,
he claims that he was trying to bring security to Kabul, and cure
cancer amongst baby dolphins, but in fact . . . what he was actually
doing was showing some limited autonomy and trying to advance the
chances that nation-building' would have some part in
the post-war Anglo-American policy in Afghanistan, as opposed to
the "bomb them, quickly, then go away again" route.
what practical means are at my disposal?
seriously, this would mean that foreign policy would be determined
by the military kit that happened to be available, rather than foreign
policy being formulated, and kit thereafter being provided consistent
with that analysis. Sadly, or course, this is what happens most
of the time, but it ought to make any realist' ill.
third: am I best placed to do it?
clarity on these points, the correct conclusion may be to stay at
much of today's Designer Diplomacy demonstrates a worrying
lack of realism. What is at work is a delusion about the way the
world actually works, one which consists (in T. S. Eliot's
words) of : "Dreaming a system so perfect that no-one will
need to be good".
utopian internationalists, who only have to glance at an opportunity
for multilateral intervention in order to jump at it, run the risk
of weakening national support for those military engagements which
are fundamental to our security. Moreover, they fail to recognise
that it is only when nations consider that their vital interests
are engaged that they will make those sacrifices and shoulder those
commitments that lead to successful outcomes.
let it be said, from a man who was notable, in the 1992-97 parliament,
for being that rara avis, a backbench Tory MP who dissented from
the Hurd/Major line on keeping out of the Balkans, and instead promulgated
the silliest, most hardline pro-American garbage about what the
West could and should do to Bosnia, Serbia and the rest of the former
Yugoslavia. A dodo for any reader who can tell me what, exactly,
was in Britain's interests about sending troops to Bosnia.
me take the War Against Terrorism as a decisive case in point.
attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon provoked such
national, as well as international, outrage because no-one could
fail to see that they were intended as attacks not just on America's
interests, policies, and actions but on America herself.
attacks attracted such outrage as they did because they were an
immensley telegenic slaughter of several thousand innocent people.
Believe it or not, Iain, one of America's signal interests,
if not her foremost one, lies in preventing this sort of thing from
happening to her own people. The fact that she failed to do this,
despite all her vast pre 9/11 military expenditure, is terrible
commentary upon her foreign policy, her military and intelligence
chiefs, and a hell of a lot worse than failing to protect even a
destroyer at anchor in Yemen, or an airbase in Saudi.
said at the time that America's war was and is
our war. That is both because our people and our interests are so
close to those of America and because we also had the will and the
means to make America's struggle ours as well. But the fact
remains that America unambiguously led the war a sovereign
power leading a coalition of sovereign powers.
was not attacked. Her decision to participate in the US military
response made no qualitative difference to that effort, whereas
it has, by the open admission of government ministers, placed the
United Kingdom at greater risk than was hitherto the case. A question
for the likes of Iain Duncan Smith is this: if we had suffered a
comparable attack, and the United States had not, would she have
written us the blank cheque that we have written them?
has now demonstrated decisively that its capacity for action is
the best guarantee of the world's security. But America has
also demonstrated that, no matter how powerful the currents of globalism
and internationalism, the decisive strike against international
terrorism required mobilising national loyalty, national pride and
national willingness for sacrifice. That remains the most reliable
way of ensuring that grave wrongs are punished and that just wars
reflection leads to my first conclusion about the right priorities
for British policy today. For me, as a Conservative, a successful
foreign and security policy is one which always has a clear understanding
of the national interest.
is not an isolationist principle: quite the reverse it is
precisely because our national interest is bound with the interests
of other civilized nations that we must pursue a vigorous foreign
policy. But we must always have a clear understanding of our mission.
naturally, the national interest has to be viewed in the round,
with intelligence and perception.
can see so many beautiful colours, my hands, they're as big
as the moon . . .
today's interdependent world, the national interest can be
damaged or advanced by crises arising far away from our shores
not unusually in the Middle East, home to most of the world's
hydrocarbon resources. But many other areas too, where international
terrorism, or proliferation of weaponry, or destabilising ethnic
tension, or human or ecological disaster threaten, will rightly
concern us. The War Against Terrorism itself reinforces this truth.
After all, when our troops were acting to smash the Taliban in Afghanistan
they were also acting to cut off a deadly channel of heroin that
kills young people in our cities at home.
those of you who have made it this far, would you look at that?
Do you actually see that? Heroin . . . heroin? We're at war
to stop terrorists from pushing dope to our ugly, fat children?
Idly one wonders, if Duncan Smith were confronted with evidence
that, far from falling faint at the thought of it, America and Britain
had, over these last ten years, collaborated with drug dealing terrorists,
what sort of popping noise would his head make as it exploded?
as to the profundity contained within the statement that in
today's interdependent world, the national interest can be
damaged or advanced by crises arising far away from our shores',
you can see that he made all the way to the end of Henry's
book. What happens overseas can have a bearing on foreign policy who'd have thought it?
it can sometimes arise, as in Kosovo, that a failure to take military
action to protect an endangered civilian population would be morally
culpable. It may also be right to intervene in order to maintain
a great principle whose infraction with impunity could set a fatal
precedent for example, the principle that aggression shall not
prosper, or that borders shall not be changed by force. And over
and above all these security matters, the maintenance of global
trade, promotion of global prosperity and enlargement of global
freedom are real national concerns of Britain. But when we do, which
was not the case in Kosovo at the outset, we must determine to put
the right forces in place to force our plan.
I'm as bored as you are, so let's get through this as
speedily as we can:
imagine, failing to protect an endangered civilian population in
Kosovo we'd never do anything like that, we'd never
abandon the Serbs of Kosovo to the, uh, drug dealing, Bin Laden
linked, terrorists of the KLA, no, not us;
now, I know that not everyone reading falls asleep wearing their
Hayek pyjamas, but Iain, global trade'? What are we trying
to say here, that we're arming up the cruise missiles because
of Japanese import quotas? I only ask because, um, we're members
of the most evil zollverein on the planet in the form of the EU.
Even Tony Blair, as he ponces about West Africa, talks about how
morally repugnant it is that we are compelled by the EU's tariff
wall effectively to exclude African primary exports from the British
history of our nation has qualified us well to play a major strategic
and humanitarian role. The fact that Britain bestrides three spheres
of influence: its Commonwealth, its special relationship with America
and its partnership with other European states enables it to have
influence over the response of the international community to disasters
both natural and man-made.
worry about this man, and his idea of fun, if he thinks we bestride
anything. Female pandas in the mating position come more readily
countries actually look to Britain to take a lead because of our
heritage in international diplomacy and our reputation for getting
NGO s are highly regarded and it is no surprise that the United
Nations has just picked Oxfam as an acknowledged world expert to
restore water supplies in Goma. Providing international help on
this scale is resource hungry that is why hard questions need to
be asked about the effectiveness of aid, making sure it gets into
the right hands. And as far as possible helping to make a country
self-reliant and not dependent.
why not get a plug in for Amnesty while you're at it?
of international organisations through whom Britain channels its
multi-lateral aid should not escape our attention. European Development
assistance accounts for a third of all our giving and although there
has been some progress in cutting red tape and speeding up EU relief
efforts, much more needs to be done. Britain's role on the
international stage is an important part of our nation's identity.
Being respected for the quality of our help to others in trouble
is something we can be rightly proud of.
cannot deny a sneaking regard to the cosy paternalism, the soft
colonialism to which competent overseas aid amounts. It is an inescapable
truth that British-supervised aid is used three to four times more
effectively than EU aid. Iain Duncan Smith leads a eurosceptic party
in opposition, with no prospect of having to entertain the responsibilities'
of office for at least a decade, and he cannot even bring himself
to say we'll spend our own aid money, and Brussels can
go boil its head'.
second follows from a clear understanding of our priorities. It
is that diplomacy is no substitute for strong defence, and foreign
entanglements that leave British forces overstretched and vulnerable
are to be avoided.
overstretch' would there be if we didn't leave them,
years after we claimed we'd have them out, in the Balkans,
or the German central plain, or, any of the other places in which
Duncan Smith has supported their deployment since he entered parliament?
is not just another second order world power. We are unique, and
our uniqueness lends our opinions weight. No other power enjoys
the combination of far-flung links through the Commonwealth, or
our special standing in the Gulf, or our place at the historic hub
of the English speaking world or our long tradition of civil peace
or our international reputation for decency and fair-dealing. These
are all important advantages. But while trumpeting all these claims,
let's not forget something else: Jaw-Jaw is indeed preferable
to War-War but investment in defence is also an investment in
our international influence. We are listened to, above all, because
we are permanent member of the UN Security Council, and a nuclear
power with highly effective armed forces and because we benefit
from a uniquely close relationship with the only global superpower.
Each of these our defence preparedness and our alliance with
America is vital to our national interest.
is indeed well placed amongst the cabinet nations: this is what
makes our supine posture so tragic. We could have a foreign policy
of our own. We don't have to follow the American line, word
our relations with our great ally are in good repair, though I should
like to see them stronger still, as I shall explain.
lack of defence preparedness, however, gives greater cause for concern.
The size of our armed forces has been shrinking at the same time
as they have been tasked with extra commitments the most
recent being a new peacekeeping mission in Kabul which is much less
well-defined than the original objective of removing the Taliban
any sensible British Government has to recognise, and then to act
upon, is that we cannot hope to do more in the world and yet spend
less on it. That's called facing up to reality.
only there was a (fiscally responsible) way to cut this Gordian
knot . . .
the US today, there is a drive towards further strengthening of
military capabilities. In Europe, however, it is a very different
picture. According to the latest figures from the International
Institute for Strategic Studies, EU countries' defence spending
continues to fall. This is deeply disturbing, and there is no sign
yet that the events of 11th September have shaken Europeans
or the British Government out of their complacency.
is only one way to read this: the leader of the Tory party thinks
that continental Europeans should spend more money on armaments.
What change a century has wrought!
brings me to my third conclusion the vital strategic importance
of our relationship with America. For it is upon our American friends'
cooperation that our effectiveness as a military power and our security
as a nation depend. Not the least of the positive inheritance from
the Conservative eighties and nineties is that Americans know that
Britain is America's most reliable ally. It is to the credit
of the Prime Minister that he has reinforced that perception by
his well-chosen words of support during recent months. In fact,
at an emotional level the Trans-Atlantic relationship has rarely
we can just revert to black being black and white being white for
a moment: what neuters Britain as a foreign policy actor is the
fact we have no other policy than that which the US deigns to provide
for us. It is precisely this special relationship' that
undermines our independence.
emotion also reflects a deep reality. People sometimes query the
importance of the "special relationship" and suggest that
it is just nostalgia. It isn't. It reflects the fact that the
British and Americans see the world in much the same way which
itself reflects our shared history, language, culture, values and
beliefs. And it is upon such foundations that international relationships
are built. Yet while psychological closeness is important, it is
not a substitute for decision-making.
September 11th something else has changed. We have all but seen
the last of the attempts to induce America to abandon its plans
for Ballistic Missile Defence. Russia has been constructive over
the issue, recognizing that the ABM Treaty was based on a military
doctrine which has substantially changed. The priority now is not
so much to deter a massive nuclear strike: it is to protect ourselves,
our forces and our allies from missile attack by rogue states or
from the risk of accidental missile launches.
believe that the British Government should have given stronger support
to President Bush's plans and led the debate here in Europe.
Indeed, we should be doing all we can to take advantage of them.
Just as we benefit from America's nuclear umbrella, so we should
also seek to benefit from its Ballistic Missile shield. Staying
outside it by default would be to take an unforgivable risk with
our nation's security.
going to return to the subject of NMD in the future, but can anyone
spot the Waldo of British self-interest here? Apparently, despite
those very sleek Vanguard class SSBNs we have, we shelter under
an American nuclear umbrella. Quite what this shields us against,
I cannot say, and, obviously, Iain doesn't say. Maybe it's
more a Freudian defence, protecting us from a metaphysical sense
of insecurity rather than any actual threat. Or then again, maybe
it's protecting us against aliens? We'd never have been
able to beat them in Independence Day if it hadn't been for
I say, I'll come back to Star Wars in another piece. For now,
though, all I ask of British apologists for this scheme a scheme
on the part of a foreign government, which, in theory, would obviate
our most powerful weapon is that they put forward some arguments
explaining why it's in our national interest. For God's
sake, stop telling us how it's in America's. Whether true
or not, that's utterly irrelevant to what we in Britain should
think of it.
further piece of confusion is also discernable on the political
horizon. Labour's position on Ballistic Missile Defence is
explicable by the internal politics of the Labour Party.
America is determined to see this enterprise through and
rightly so. Washington clearly sees that the problem of rogue states
and the problem of international terrorism are intimately connected.
world cannot be safe while Saddam Hussein is free to develop weapons
of mass destruction. Nor can we accept that, simply because they
were hostile to the Taliban, other states which actively support
terrorism should be treated as if they were upstanding members of
the international community. Britain should give absolute support
to the measures necessary to ensure that events like those of 11th
September are never repeated.
should always recognize that our ability to help shape the thinking
of the USA is greatest if we retain the capacity to act. If all
we have to offer is our wisdom, our influence is likely to be diminished.
standard refrain on the eurosceptic right of the Tory party is our
bitter laughter when europhiles like Chris Patten tell us that we
have to be a part of, and more concretely, give in to, Europe'
if we want to have influence. The argument is absurd because the
end in vitiated by the means. If we want to increase British power,
how can that be done by removing the British element in the equation?
That is the heart of the sceptic critique of our membership of the
EU. Turn now to Duncan Smith's arguments as to our relationship
with the US. They are an exact copy of Patten's vis-à-vis
Brussels: to advance the British interest, we must surrender it,
subsuming it in the interests of the more powerful player, and then
proclaim that their actions entail our aims. It is fraudulent, inconsistent
and unworthy of a sovereign state.
confusions evident in this Government's approach to foreign
and security policy are also reflected in its confused approach
to Europe. What is required is a clear, consistent strategy to promote
Britain's national interests in all our dealings with the European
Union and that is my fourth conclusion. This is a larger
topic than can conveniently be covered here. But the main components
of the Conservative Party's policy are well known and enjoy
very widespread support.
. . except at general elections.
are, first, that we believe that the European Union continues to
have great potential to help bring stability and prosperity to what
should be a growing number of member states. To deliver that the
EU needs radical reform, and that reform should be built from the
bottom up rather than from the top down in other words from
the nation states and their parliamentary and political systems.
A Conservative government would lead that process of reform, rather
than pursue the Government's policy of continual drift.
like all those previous Conservative governments did, right from
the moment Edward Heath's took us in.
statements of both the present Right-of-Centre Italian Government
and of the Conservative Candidate for the German Chancellorship
demonstrate that the kind of concerns we have about over-centralisation
are widely shared even within countries which have been at
the forefront of closer European integration.
and in keeping with this, we continue to oppose Sterling's
abolition in favour of the Euro. Our view is that there will never
be a single interest rate and a single monetary policy which are
right for all European countries. We remember the effects of the
ERM. We also note the disastrous consequences of a fixed exchange
rate in Argentina. We shall strongly, and I believe successfully,
argue for retention of the Pound in any referendum which is called.
Smith says that there will never' be an interest rate
right for all EU members (though, it goes without saying, if you
have a state monopoly currency Sterling, for instance the interest
rate it attracts, will never be right', whatever that
means, for each and every part of the country it is subject to).
Yet since becoming Tory leader, Duncan Smith has also told a bemused
party that, if we lose any referendum on introducing the Euro into
Britain, well, that's it we'll give up on the pound,
and we won't ever campaign to have it reintroduced.
we believe that the proposed European Rapid Reaction Force is an
exercise in politics not in serious security policy. It is
and has been intended as an alternative to NATO, the most
successful defence organisation that the world has ever seen. It
will involve duplication. It will lack credibility. It will create
confusion about Western aims. It risks decoupling Europe from America.
It will add nothing to European defence capabilities, which as I
have already noted are actually declining. In short, the European
Army is a venture which only makes sense if it is regarded as a
necessary part of creating a European superstate something
which the Prime Minister denies is his intention.
yet, and yet...our continental consorts were chided for not spending
enough on defence an hour or two ago. Evidently, the Europeans ought
to spend more on defence, but only as and where directed by Washington.
fifth element of our Conservative foreign policy concerns supranational
organisations more widely. International cooperation between sovereign
states is and always will be necessary to achieve practical objectives
which would be beyond countries acting alone. That is why we have
always been supportive of international bodies including the United
Nations and the World Trade Organisation. The danger today, however,
is that some supranational organisations are being invested with
more powers than they are suited to wield.
example, we expressed our concerns in the last parliament about
how the blueprint for an International Criminal Court would work
in practice. It may, as in the cases of Yugoslavia and Rwanda, be
necessary to set up special courts to deal with altogether unique
circumstances. But we must avoid at all costs creating a situation
which makes it more difficult for law-abiding nations to pursue
just action, because it is their officials or soldiers which will
find themselves having to answer to such a political body, not those
from countries which scorn all law.
last, a point of agreement. Though, if I'd written the speech
(and we may be touching upon deeper issues here), I'd have
tried something along the lines of: we are against the ICC;
when we return to office, we will withdraw from it'.
are parallel issues in economic affairs. We need to find and retain
the right balance between global and national decision-making. The
World Trade Organisation, as successor to the GATT, does sterling
work in helping integrate the global market place. Removing obstacles
to trade is the single most important task international economic
decision makers have for trade is the driving force of prosperity.
But at the same time we should be cautious about more ambitious
plans that have been mooted to create a "New Economic Order".
should, in fact, remember: supranational organisations never of
themselves kept the peace that has been left to well-armed
nation states. And supranational organisations never of themselves
made nations rich that was the work of countless individuals
producing and consuming in the market place, in the context of fair
and democratic institutions.
have tried to cover a wide canvas today, and some details will need
to be filled in on other occasions. But the five axioms I have set
out and the philosophy which underpins them are, I believe,
clear, consistent and coherent. They stem from a view of the world,
a world seen through Conservative eyes. The great Macaulay was not,
of course, a Conservative though I fancy he would be today. I
warm to his observation, all the same, that "an acre in Middlesex
is worth a principality in Utopia". Our historian would doubtless
be extremely surprised at the cost of land in Middlesex. But I am
sure he would not be at all surprised to find preoccupations with
Utopia still generating political folly. The next Conservative Government
will try to change that."
here endeth my relationship with the Oxford Book of Political Quotations.
Incidentally, on a topographical note, did you know that Utopia
and ThenextConservativegovernment lie on exactly the same latitude?
CONCLUSION, OR, THE ARTICLE IT WAS THAT DIED
has all been very negative, but that's the Tory way, we're
here to oppose. The credo of conservatism is, or ought to be, negativism.
We're a solvent of other people's enthusiasms. If we have
to try and put a gloss on that, we're the scourging element
in the political process that winnows the good ideas out from the
bad ones. Anyway, I'll have a go, a so much shorter go, at
knocking the anti-British left, rather than fellow right wingers,
soon...but Mark Steyn can wait till next week.
Iain Duncan Smith is better than Tony Blair; or, to be infinitely
more honest, the former's tribe still exerts more emotional
pull on me than the latter's, so if either of them has to be
Prime Minister, better the man with Tory MPs sitting behind him.
Knocking a man adjudged by Madame Tussaud's to be unworthy
of a wax dummy is not difficult. What is depressingly hard is
seeing where on the political spectrum an independent foreign policy
for Britain is ever going to come from.