I'd really like to do is to tell you some good news for a change,
that something has changed, and changed for the better, but I'm
afraid that, by the lights of this column, there's not much of that
on the go. 'Airstrip One,' inasmuch as it has a theme, is all about
whether Britain will ever rediscover foreign policy goals of her
own again. It doesn't make the case palpably absurd that Britain
has no foreign policy, merely that it has the wrong one.
Clearly the way to change that is politically (though, to be effective,
what it really needs is a complete seizure of the history
faculties at Oxford and Cambridge, and then we might have a competent
mandarinate in forty or so years time) but on that score things
have got worse. With the replacement of the Atlanticist William
Hague as Tory leader by Iain Duncan Smith, a truly remarkable thing
has happened: the right in Britain, the only faction that might
oppose Mr. Blair's cleverness on grounds of the national interest,
has become if anything, even more pro-American. And although readers
of Antiwar.com know that it is quite possible to be sceptical of
U.S. foreign policy goals without being anti-American, it's rather
more than the current Tory leadership is capable of.
let's turn our minds back to when
that excellent fellow Mr. Hague was Tory leader, to early 2001 in
fact. It was embarrassing, wasn't it? The way the Tories couldn't
wait to roll on their backs and wiggle their tummies at George Bush.
'The impression is gaining ground in Washington,' intoned William
Hague, statesman, during some baiting of Labour over British support
for Star Wars, 'that America's oldest and staunchest ally is strangely
reluctant to co-operate in measures that most Americans believe
to be vital to their safety.' Worse still, 'some British opponents
[of National Missile Defence] seem to want to resist the upgrade
at Fylingdales. They think that they can deflect America from its
chosen course. Such a view is foolish and naive.' Heel boy! If nothing
else, the ex-Leader was well acquainted with the realities of international
diplomacy. Namely: it's reprehensible that anyone shouldn't 'co-operate'
with American foreign policy objectives; the test of the British
national interest is the speed with which we can satisfy America's
vital needs; and that, well it's unspoken, but it's there
America: good; Europe: bad. Given that the right in Britain still
secretly hopes, for all its recent talk of hospitals and schools,
to effect electoral alchemy by appeals to British sovereignty and
national independence and other such fancies, I would like to introduce
you to the dog that most definitely will not bark during any general election campaign. Its name, Ameroscepticism.
before I go any further, just a word about Amerosceptics. You might
not know many, however once you've heard a little bit about them
I'm sure that they'll seem fairly familiar. The first thing to know
about an Amerosceptic is that he's not anti-American. No, no, no,
in fact, he loves the place, the people, its culture. Indeed some
of his very best friends are American; it's just that he loves Britain
even more, and despite all the things that Britain and America have
in common, he doesn't want the former to become subordinate to the
this makes our friend the Amerosceptic seem rather cuddly, but it
has to be admitted that he's not without passion. Unfortunately
he does tend to get a little bit annoyed by what he sees as Britain's
fifth column, the Amerophiles. We'll come to what they think in
a moment, but for now we'll note the Amerosceptic charge sheet against
them. For they're the sort of people who: deny the facts; don't
put Britain's interests first; have a hidden agenda, if they're
not actually being downright dishonest; and, rely on evasion and
assertion rather than argument whenever they're flushed into the
open. Oh, and they also control all, or most, elite media institutions,
dominate the political establishment, receive copious funding from
abroad, have sinister cold war origins, are contemptuous of public
opinion and prefer each other's company to that of the ordinary,
decent Briton. The Amerosceptic also notes, without comment, that
it can hardly be denied that among their number, Amerophiles do
include a large number of people who can only be called foreign.
you see, if when you meet him, the Amerosceptic seems a bit choleric,
it's not really his fault. He has issues. And anyway, that incredibly
slanted press he gets can't help. However, that's merely by way
of context. What, you want to know, is Ameroscepticism,
and why, the big-media conspiracy apart, haven't I heard about it
until now? Well, it boils down to three things. First there is the
quite unbelievable stupidity of Amerosceptics. Second, the subtlety
and distinction of the forces ranged against them. And finally,
there's the small matter of their having no popular support. The
last point we can dismiss, it both being the consequence of the
first two, and never a bar to prominence for other causes. So why
is Ameroscepticism unpopular, and does it deserve to be?
unpopularity is easily accounted for: all the people who ought be
Amerosceptics are ranting Amerophiles. Not much talent left I'm
afraid on the Amerosceptic bench; but why, you demand, why are natural
Amerosceptics Amerophiliac? and what is Ameroscepticism, you still
haven't told us? Alright, alright, I'll go one better than telling
you, I'll if you're British demonstrate Ameroscepticism: you, with Pavlovian certainty,
will display it in about two minutes time.
Murdoch (no, wait, that's not it) owns many publications with as
many points of view as there are angels in Heaven, or nipples in
The Sun. One of Mr. Murdoch's magazines is the neo-conservative
American publication, The Weekly Standard. In it one of our own, the British journalist Geoffrey
Wheatcroft, took, a few months afterwards, Fleet St. to task for
its coverage of the US presidential election. This was an article
of some scope, and inter alia he touched on why we behaved as we
did last November and December. Apparently it was guilt, we're guilty
because we know we've gotten our defence as a 'free lunch' for the
last fifty years. Now, provided you're not one of these chaps who
doesn't think Britain can stand on her own two feet, thousand years
of parliamentary democracy etc., here comes the shocker. Apropos
nothing much Mr. Wheatcroft informed the readers of the Weekly Standard that they had nothing to worry about as far as those sneering
British press reports are concerned since, 'the United States was
the world's first great exercise in popular government'. Feel anything?
strong urge to expostulate, gearing up to write a letter to the
Telegraph? If this leaves you cold, and you happen to be what's commonly
known as a 'Eurosceptic' you're a very puzzling beast. This is where
the Amerosceptic not merely parts company from you, but wonders
quite why you talk so much about sovereignty and self-government
and what have you. Indeed he has a long, a very long list of questions
with defence. Do you really believe that Britain has gotten a 'free
lunch' for fifty years, or do you think that America has armed forces
in Europe not because of unalloyed altruism, but because it's in
her interests to have them there? To go further, and if you're a
conservative you'll fly through these, if it stops being in America's
interest to have troops here, but stays in ours, will they stay
or will they go? Though that begs the question, how are they currently
in our interest? Are the Danes likely to invade? Is East Anglia
in peril? And one more thing while we're at it, if we asked them
to go, would they? Or to put that another way, do you think there's
any prospect that Britain one day might attain the national self-respect
of, say, the Philippines?
American foreign policy a good thing? You will of course admit (or
rather in your case, you'll trumpet it, 'standing together, unbreakable
bond, united against something or other') that this is a reasonable
question, given that British divergence from American foreign policy
is a coming of Haley's comet level wonder. As to the good thinginess
of American foreign policy, which brand appeals most, and why is
it in our interest to cleave so closely to it? Madeleine
Albright's progressive imperialism ('the tallest nation') or, the
tendency best captured by her neo-con counterpart Elliot Abrahams
when he reminded us that America has 'been the greatest force for
good among the nations of the earth'? Take your pick.
is the reasoning behind the US position on, say, European defence?
On the one hand, we apparently don't pull our weight, 'free lunch',
all that sort of thing. But on the other hand, we shouldn't do anything
that endangers the Atlantic alliance, that puts American leadership
in doubt. For if we do, and here I freely acknowledge I become seriously
confused, if we club together to do what we always should have been
doing in the past, then America might well not provide us with the
defence we've just provided ourselves against the threat that doesn't
contracting out British foreign policy to the State Department delivered
the goods? If you hold that it has, you possess a truly impressive
range of fears for what could have gone wrong with post-war Britain.
To take merely one example, and this may possibly have resonance
for some of you, has the American view on what we should
do vis-ΰ-vis 'European integration' been a good thing,
or a bad thing? From the drift of these questions you might suspect
they've been aimed at Eurosceptics/should-be-Amerosceptics-too.
Not a bit of it, they apply just as much to out and out Europhiles.
Listen to Chris Patten or Leon Brittan the next time they advocate
'deepening' our European relationship. Watch out for the same stock
phrases, 'if we want to be taken seriously by the Americans . .
. if we want to have influence in Washington . . . it's what our
friends on Capitol Hill are urging us to do.' Why should this be
the test for what's in Britain's national interest?
would ask, rhetorically, 'what would America do if she found herself
in Britain's position?' but then we know the answer to that one.
She'd resile at the prospect of tutelage, let alone involvement
in the hegemon's wars at every opportunity. Indeed she'd do all
those things the history clichιs tell us we used to remember,
Britain's time-honoured role, identifying the most powerful nation
and joining the other side? Not a lesson from the Book of Tory Wisdom,
Ancient & Modern, you're likely to hear a Thatcherite apply
a purely functional level, is American foreign policy a very safe
thing to be tied to? Do we really want to bring democracy and Blockbuster
Video to the heathen Chinese? Well that's where the momentary good
news comes in, for whatever we might want to do, whatever crusades
for justice in the Balkans, or keeping-Saddam-in-his-box we might
pant for, we've got a President who's not so keen. Which puts a
supplicant in a very odd place. Dubya is, thank God, a realist.
That is to say he won't talk (and mean it) about the 'most exceptional
nation' or any of that rubbish. The tragedy for America is that
if her chickens hadn't come to roost so monstrously last September,
who can doubt but that Dubya's foreign policy would have been marked
by quietism unprecedented in the post-war period?
bar this unsustainable 'war against terrorism', every sinew the
President and the Secretary of State have is, very wisely, devoted,
I believe, to America doing less in the world.
any garbage you might have heard about a burgeoning British 'peace'
movement. The sad truth for wanabee British Buchananites is that
here, governments are loved for their wars. It's our tradition. To conflate why we should be opposed to America's wars
with why Americans should be opposed to them is of course
part of the cultural cringe that underlies everything discussed
above. Our tragedy is that the people who should free us from clientalism,
our wondrous Thatcherites, the Eurosceptics, the Britain-firsters,
are our jailers. The irony being, the door's open, we're free to
go. And no one would benefit more than America: like slavery, the
Anglo-American relationship corrupts master and chattel alike.