as a Dungeon
stupidity, forgetfulness, poor geography and bad luck as much
as anything, I found myself caught up in the 'great' anti-war
march in London last week. Can't say the crowd was anywhere near
as congenial as the pro-Palestine
lot earlier in the year, nor was the totty anything up to
the level of the vast pro-Countryside march of the previous week.
Though on the question of size, this is one where all you fervent
anti-statists are just going to have to trust the jack-booted
fuzz. As far as Britain's concerned, trudging through central
London at the weekend is much more popular when it's in support
of killing foxes than it is when the cause is opposition to mindless,
needless slaughter of people foolish enough to have brown skin.
And more important than either pretext is the simple truth that
neither march will have made any difference more than anything
else this was therapeutic politics par excellence. The
only reason why my walk from Westminster to Bloomsbury was disrupted
by the marchers (and their symbiotic chums in uniform) was that
those engaged in them knew full well it was time for a futile
gesture. For if there is one lesson consistent throughout democratic
societies the world over it's this: if you're on the winning side,
you don't need to go on a walk to prove it.
for one second it seemed likely to the government that invading
Iraq, and still more, banning hunting, was going to be seriously
unpopular, well, I'm not saying they wouldn't do it, but they'd
be less than relaxed. This, as you may have noticed, is not notably
the case with Iraq. One has only to reflect on the mixture of
toe-curling embarrassment and incessant giggling that the Prime
Minister apparently felt when the Leader of the Official Opposition
offered to join up with him and 'take on' the anti-war forces
together, to see that the regime is not exactly troubled by the
prospect of opposition. This leads us to our first premise: we,
that is to say the Iraqisceptics, are not in the majority; we
are not speaking for a popular cause; and we have no, or little,
claim on the democratic affection of the public against the executive
claims of the state.
this point, some of you will wish to witter on about trivia such
as opinion polls. Some of which, some of the time, offer up the
answer 'No' to certain artfully formulated versions of the question,
'should we go to war in Iraq?' Although, for reasons which will
hopefully become apparent, these opinions are deeper, more sincere
and much more widespread in the United States, they are not really
dreadfully representative of the British attitude to warfare.
Almost certainly because it matters so little to us, there
is a casual, enthusiastic spirit to military adventure in Britain.
It's just a lark, and heck, let's face it, if it all goes wrong,
it's not as if we're going to be much inconvenienced by the non-consequences
(this is where the American situation differs they have something
to defend, namely their imperial position). Much as the rest of
the world will neatly and conveniently allow [sic] the
Anglo-Americans to prosecute their war in whatever way they see
fit, as and when the fighting comes, and in good time for it,
the British public will support this war.
why, and it's just as relevant to all those left-over hippy-dippy
relics so fond of nostalgia-marching, those of us who have the
objective of expressing some scepticism about British foreign
policy should always have to the fore what it is we actually want
it to do. Today there are no arguments against British participation
in the war of Dubya's dad, save for those of infantile pacifism;
this is why showing the 'why' is so important. If the people are
supposed to communicate to their government that a war isn't the
thing they want, they can only reasonably be expected to do this
if there are obvious reasons why the seemingly consequence-free
option of a war in the Middle East is still, despite being just
so, a bad thing. For that's another damned thing: all these people
going round claiming that the skies will fall in if we invade
Iraq aren't really doing the grand old cause any good at all.
Realism, both about the dangers we face on our present course,
and about the benefits that could accrue from a change in direction,
that's the thing.
one relied on the current Conservative leadership to start providing
these conceptual alternatives, despair would be the only result.
Take the ill-starred example of 'Galileo',
the proposed pan-European alternative to the US military's (naturally)
technologically inferior GPS. For obvious, understandable reasons
of state-self-interest, the American government likes encouraging
the dependence of the rest of the world on their monopoly. Equally
obviously, anyone who put the interests of their own country before
those of America would support the emergence of a competitor.
As would anyone who supported basic free market principles such
as, er, competition; and those who like the idea of making scientific
progress should probably jump on board this particular boat too.
Does the British right support Galileo, praying late into the
night for its success? The answer to my question is not as I might
wish it to be.
you, I did score a tremendous triumph here
in this very electronic space by telling you that the British
government would end up having to build new aircraft carriers
twice the size of the ones they were intending to. As ever, fond
as I am of naval hardware, the mortifying fact remains that we're
going to equip ourselves with defence kit but signally fail to
make good our more serious deficency: that of not having a foreign
policy. In one of those delightful Ealing comedy turns that so
frequently punctuate what passes for the reality of public life
in Britain, the Admiralty has agreed its terms to the salvage
of a warship lost in 1694 in the Mediterranean. The HMS Sussex
of the day went down with some £1 million in gold coins in her
hold. This was the subsidy to buy the loyalty of the Duke of Savoy
during the Anglo-Scottish state's tussle with Louis XIV's France
during the Nine Year's War. A war well worth it, we can all no
doubt agree, for what it did to secure Dutch liberty, banking,
and dull landscape painting. Anyway, that million quid now translates,
the government greedily hopes, to anywhere up to $4 billion. Or
the price of one of those aircraft carriers. If only we had cause
to use them in our own interest. Maybe, I don't know, for the
Canadian logging industry perhaps, we could threaten Vermont the
next time the US is busy intimidating the Chinese with its carriers?
The only problem being, they'd probably be more than happy to
offload this state on us.
You Lost In Sin?
saw a sad, to my eyes at any rate, little event in London. For
years now wartime reunion groups, from the Great War on, have
been staging their final march-pasts in front of the Cenotaph
in Whitehall. And with them the old men shuffling past take another
little bit of our bloody recent history firmly towards the grave
of collective memory. Sunday 7th October saw the final
annual parade of the Palestine Police Force, a brave and honourable
company of men who, from 1920 to 1948 did what they could to fairly
and humanely bring law and order to that benighted former Ottoman
province. My own family, in various military and civil guises,
contributed their bit to this imperial enterprise, and I for one
can't, hand on heart, say that I think the Levant is any better
or more Godly governed than, uh, when we were doing it. Soon enough
Palestinian terrorists will emulate their Jewish forebears and
establish some kind of grisly ethno-state, and as any sane libertarian
must (I'm not one incidentally), you do have to ask, is statehood
really worth it?
especially jealous and possessive state is of course the American
model. Not content with doing all it can to tax its citizens who
take the unexceptional decision to live outside its borders, the
United States is now telling foreign governments what they can
and cannot, in their own jurisdictions, put those nationals on
trial for. In the high old days of imperialism there was a perfectly
useful word for this: capitulations. These were the protocols
which governed the way any number of heathen little regimes were
obliged to treat Western Christians resident within their borders.
One rule for one, all that sort of thing. In recent years this
approach to international relations, being more than somewhat
patronising and lop-sided, has fallen out of favour. Until now
is doing all that it can to ensure, with every bullying and blustering
trick it possesses, that American citizens offending, arrested
and tried overseas will not be subject to the new International
Criminal Court (if that's where their crime takes them) regardless
of whether the foreign country in question has signed up for the
ICC. Now the court's an awful mess of a thing, which we shouldn't
have anything to do with, but as things stand, and with our government
to the fore, it's more than likely that very soon you or me, British
or non-American foreign, living in Britain, won't be able to contemplate
committing a war-crime without having to worry about the sodding
ICC. Whereas our American chums can carry on as gaily as they
like. This ought to be an intolerable situation for a British
Conservative, but guess what? Uh huh.
Beating Around the Bush
the United States that most Tories roll over in front of was the
pistol packin' preacher they habitually take it for, it would
still be disagreeable but at least explicable after a fashion.
But the sad state of affairs is that, on the world stage, the
contemporary US is more a sleazy, Clintonian hood, content to
shove the rest of the world round if it has to, if only because
the baseball bat of moral authority has ended up in its sweaty
palms, and only then, if it has to. It's not as if there is any
greater cause to go round duffing folk up other than the fact
that the US presently just 'is there', it's number one, and for
the simple sake of number oneness its rulers can justify to themselves
their current foreign policy. All of this has been much better
examined by Joseph
Stromberg with his elegant exposition of the 'Bushnev doctrine'.
What, however, cannot now be denied is that the interests of the
United States, if ever they were convergent with our own, are
divorced from them. They have set themselves a different purpose,
and we should be among those who seek to resist it. The best thing
we have going for us is that once that resistance is voiced, that's
when American imperialism stops being so easy, and that's
when the American people will sit up and notice, and tell their
government: remind us again, why are we doing this? And that answer's
going to be worth hearing.
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