December 11, 2000
How Not to Oppose a Stupid
The European Army and the dead end of NATO.
DAMN LIES AND BLAIRISMS
should be shocked, shocked, to find out that the British
public has been lied to again. Unfortunately there have been no
calls for resignation of Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary, and
nor will there be. Lying to Parliament just has no stigma attached
to it any more; in fact, it seems to have rather a cachet under
New Labour. The subject is that of the European
Army, or it would be but for the Hoonigan's first lie. It is
an army, he insists, but a rapid reaction force. Of course the
European Commission President said "you can call it Margaret, you
can call it Mary-Ann" but he insisted it was an army. The French
president has also insisted that it is to have its own coordination
and planning roles, something unnecessary to some ad-hoc force that
just goes around reacting to things. So there will be an army.
This would be mere semantics, if it were not for the fact that about
of the British people support a rapid reaction force with just
over 30% supporting a European Army. This leads on to lie number
two. In the pathetic way that is so common of parliamentarians today,
he cooed on another
occasion that the opinion polls were on his side. As they were
only on his side about a rapid reaction force, which is not on offer,
and not on the European Army, that was lie number two.
there was the third lie; the Americans were for it. Now this may
be broadly true, President Clinton after all has won the highly
lucrative and "prestigious" Charlemagne
prize for his contribution to European Unity, but there is some
dissent. The Hoonigan stated that Richard
Cohen, a Republican no less, was
in favour of this. He selectively quoted him to twist his words,
in reality an agonising
balancing of the pros and cons, into an unqualified endorsement
for it though). Well that was stupid, but with the supine nature
of the Television news, mostly broadcast by the state owned BBC,
not something that will be seen. That was until Mr.
Cohen said what he had said before, but this time in a less
confused way. NATO was in danger of becoming "a
relic" (interestingly he still professes to believe in the Rapid
Reaction Force - but no one professes to believe his professions).
It seems that either, the British ambassador in Washington was keeping
the facts from his political masters; or that a minister of the
crown was lying to Parliament and therefore the people. What do
you think happened?
FIRES AND FRYING PANS
this a good thing? Now many of my long time readers will remember
I did on NATO, saying that with the end of the Cold War we should
now just move on and wind NATO down. I still hold on to that. Plenty
of anti-NATO people see British entry into the Euro-Army as a price
worth paying for escaping NATO. Well to use a far too often quoted
cliché this will be a case of leaving the frying pan to be
at the heart of the fire. Think about the NATO commitment, it commits
us to the German border, to the ex-Yugoslavia and to Turkey. These
are good enough reasons to leave NATO, as few of these areas effect
us. However, NATO does have a massive asset, America. This is not
fair on America, to be sure, and it would be best served by leaving
NATO, but think about it from a threat perspective. There is no
real prospect of an invasion of America, or America needing European
help in its back yard. Thus, America is an enormous asset to NATO.
What would happen if we had all the liabilities (minus Turkey but
probably with the Russian borders and North Africa) but fewer of
NATO's troops? Would it mean that we were faced with fewer possible
fact is that where America was the linchpin for NATO, Britain and
France will be the linchpins for the (more tightly integrated) European
Army. There are simply no other countries with the requisite defence
budgets, armies and will for the fight. Of course, Germany may provide
some money; German soldiers are not exactly encouraged to go abroad.
has a large army, Europe will not trust Turkey for one minute. Therefore,
it will be those old friends Britain and France carrying this one.
Of course while we will be expected to give plenty we will have
a "voice" over the control of our armed forces, and we will find
that countries like Portugal and Luxembourg will be deciding where
British troops will go. Responsibility without power is not an attractive
NATO NON STARTER
European Army is a bad deal for Britain and Britain should stay
clear. Will she? Despite the ferocious opposition showed the argument
does not seem won. This is strange because the European Army is
such a fundamentally bad idea that it should stand no chance whatsoever.
Nevertheless, it does, and the blame for that lies with its opponents.
NATO, we are told, will fall apart and America will leave us. This
is powerful for those clever enough to realise the free lunch we
are getting from America, but it is at best short term and at worst
foolhardy. The simple fact is that America has no interest any more
in Europe, and even the American government may get round to realising
not yet. The Cold War is over, there is no threat to America,
there are no strategic benefits from staging troops in Europe. Moreover,
the argument against European defence rests on the premise that
the Americans will leave. The reality is that if the Americans see
a benefit in having troops in a country they will keep them there.
Few governments have the independence to tell them to go away. If
however the Americans do not want to stay, they will pull out. The
creation of some French fantasy force will not keep them here if
they want to go.
IN THE HEAD LIGHTS
the Eurosceptics look like they are on the verge of a memorable
home goal. A European initiative that strikes at both the symbols
and substance of independence, which is a strategic disaster for
Britain and which is unpopular when it is truthfully explained.
However, this is not another Euro debate. With the Euro the Eurosceptics
did not argue that the pound should be pegged to the dollar, they
said that it should be independent, freely floating and responsive
Britain's needs. If we had said that the pound should be pegged
with the dollar, we would have lost. We are going to make this mistake
this time around if we are not careful. Now the currency markets
are considerably harder to explain than control of an army, so an
independent currency was not an easy thing to sell. Nevertheless,
it was sold, and the result is that on a straight question
on joining the Euro the good guys will win.
THEM LIKE IT IS
on the argument that this European Army will undermine NATO is excessively
foolish, as America will leave us any way. We have to be honest
with the British people and explain that we are able to defend our
own patch. Britain's strategic interests are in effect easy to secure
in an area as peaceful as Northern Europe. Weakening NATO was a
concern twenty years ago, but the Berlin Wall has fallen and Russia
is hardly a threat. The Euro-sceptics will have to realise that
they are living in the world today rather than the early eighties.
Their opponents realise this already, and they could win this crucial
argument by default.
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