January 8, 2001
Note: This is the second part of my article written for the British Libertarian magazine Free Life. The first can be read here.
The allergy of the right to the peace movement is not only due to historical memory, but also to a dislike of the people who run the present peace movement. The left in its various guises run the peace movement, and although they heartily hate Tony Blair and all he stands for, they would still vote for him if he declared himself Emperor of Europe. The fact that CND not only had Soviet spies near the top of their organisation at the height of the Cold War, but did not see what was wrong with it, to many on the right is close to treachery.
The right does have a point. There are three separate groups who make up the bulk of the peace movement none of them for any reason that the average Tory would recognise. Firstly there are the Trotskyites. Although they have the organisation on the ground so they can make up the backbone of most local peace movements in Britain, they are still a blessed nuisance because of their sectarian nature.
There are then the emigrants from the countries being attacked. While they have a good knowledge of what is happening on the ground, I rarely get the impression that they would be at the same demonstrations if NATO was bombing the Albanians.
Then there are the peaceniks, those that genuinely believe in peace, and hate war. These are probably the most effective, for they have a folk memory of the issues and the methods, as well as sympathetic contacts in the media and the Labour Party. Their Achilles' heal is a hatred of America. When people say that they have to take the opposite side to America, then I worry. I believe that following America at all times is suicidal, but I don't wish to oppose America either. That's interventionism under another name, and it still smells as sickly-sweet.
This yankophobia does have a blind spot of its own, Northern Ireland. The most blatant piece of American interference in our domestic affairs is the American insistence on the IRA being present in the peace process. Even here the majority of the peace movement is not consistent. The Serbs should not have to be forced to deal with terrorists or compromise on their internal security, but the Peace Movement are perfectly willing to welcome the "peace-making" of President Clinton. Although for domestic political reasons you may dislike the Unionists, it is possible at the same time to deplore the American bullying. The left do not have the same ability to think through a position as the Serbian opposition, and we are all poorer for it.
There is a right-wing non interventionist movement in America. This is partly because the American constitution is quite clear about limited powers, and so those nostalgic for the Old Republic, the so-called palæo-cons (palæolithic Conservatives), have anti-interventionism as a main weapon in their arsenal, along with States Rights and locally based education. The reactionary tendency in this country is more noted for its attachment to the old Empire, which is obviously not going to discourage imperialism. Similarly the Libertarian movement takes a far larger part of the American mind. Although not extinct in Britain, the Libertarian tendency is not popular either, with self-proclaimed Libertarians being rather incomplete.
Similarly the conservative movement in America, or at least the part that actually defines itself by defending tradition, is wary of foreign adventure. The Cold War was accepted by the vast majority of conservatives as a necessary thing, but the end of it has meant that the right can go back to its isolationist roots. When history looks back at the new isolationism it will no doubt see it as a snap back into the old tribal patterns with barely a beat missed from the party at the end of the Evil Empire to the old suspicion of foreign entanglements. Of course history will be wrong. The vast majority of American conservatives supported the Gulf War, and a diminishing yet still dominant band would support the bailout of Mexico and the funding of the Russian mafia through the IMF. However the truth is that a growing number of American conservatives are sceptical of the constant interventions in foreign countries and this is finally bearing fruit in the Republican party as its leaders try to learn the non-interventionist lines that will stop any brush fire revolt.
The noninterventionist cause in America is also helped by Pat Buchanan. Many regard Mr. Buchanan as a liability because of his trenchant social views and his protectionist economic policy, but the important fact is that he is there. Having a prominent politician articulating a view of sensible isolation is worth all the shortcomings, perceived or real. To have someone who gets on the news is of immeasurable importance to a minority viewpoint. Legitimising your views is vital, and it is something which the peace party, both right and left, is short of in this country. I would also like to give an honourable mention to the web site that I write for, antiwar.com. Although it doesn't seem to have stopped any wars yet, it functions as a nerve centre for the American resistance to imperialism. Perhaps we need one of these, a general anti-interventionist site that tilts to the right? It is far more likely than finding a public champion.
Those who believe that the fight against imperialism is vital, but are uneasy with the limited scope of the present peace movement in Britain have to face some uncomfortable truths. Not only are we losing, but we don't seem to have even put in a decent effort at resistance. There are some things we need to do, but can we actually carry them out?
On an intellectual level we have to resurrect the foreign policy school of thought known as realism. Realism was the doctrine that a nation should act, if needs be ruthlessly, in order to protect the national interest. If it was not absolutely necessary to act, it was absolutely necessary not to act; as easily making enemies was hardly conducive to the national interest. There are good authors expounding this view, mostly American. George Kennan the Cold Warrior who turned his back on the nineties empire building, Jeanne Kirkpatrick the secretary of state in the Reagan administration. In Britain we have some excellent historians who put forward this view, such as John Charmley and Corelli Barnett.
On a more mundane level we must stop this deference to government whenever our troops are in danger. It is obscene that British troops are in danger for the unethical foreign policy of our elites. No oil, diamonds or diplomatic humiliation is worth the lives of our boys; and we must say so. If we really care about our troops in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Bosnia we must speak up for them, rather than worrying if any doubt will affect their morale. Look at the recruitment figures, troop morale is at rock bottom. They know better than we do what a sorry excuse for foreign policy we are practising, but they cannot speak up. We need to do so for them, when they are being shot at for the vanity of our ruling elites.
We must also stop writing off the Conservative Party as an agent of change. When the dust settles it is the only plausible alternative to a Labour government, and it is desperate for a popular message. Both the foreign affairs spokesman Francis Maude and the Defence Secretary Iain Duncan Smith have flirted with non-intervention, making sceptical noises about Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and East Timor. William Hague reportedly told Mr. Blair that he could not support a ground invasion of Kossovo (although he later acted as a British envoy in Eastern Europe to prepare its path). However do not underestimate the counter pull. In Zimbabwe when there was a counter pull of British families being murdered the Conservatives could no longer make sceptical noises and resorted to the other standby of opposition, accusing the government of being soft. The fact is that one must remember of the Conservative Party that, just like the Labour Party, it is driven by fear and greed; and ideas hardly enter into the picture. We can only get the Conservative Party on our side if we can get their voters on our side.
So I turn to the hardest task, organisation. We must get out of the idea that we can win an argument through intellectual superiority and high politics. We have to tap into the deep channel of scepticism that is present in the British public. This means some grassroots organisation so that when the next fire fight comes up we have a skeleton staff to conduct the protest. The British people are not willing to die for their elite's passing fancy. It is the elites who are prepared to sacrifice their people. The British people do not like paying their taxes and having the state nannying them more than she does even now. I don't know how we organise, but I do know that we won't save our country's sanity by just being right.
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