Friday, February 01, 2002
Iain Duncan Smith's speech on Britain’s place in a changing world is worth a read. Philisophically it is very good - it makes a strong case for us persuing our national interest and it takes apart the (Blairite) multilateralist approach. It is worth reading.

However there are some quibbles (not all of the speech is excerpted below):

Within this more fluid world NATO’s role retained its importance.

NATO has only continued as an instrument of the multilateralist policy which IDS rightly derides. Where, then, is its importance?

But the old disciplines disappeared along with the old rigidities. Hence the rise of the rogue state.

Rogue states have been with us since the dawn of time, after all Bolshevik Russia was a rogue state that would not play by the rules - from publishing secret treaties to calling on the working class to rise up.

America’s war was – and is - our war ... because our people and our interests are so close to those of America

Has it been fought on British soil? Are British interests in the Middle East threatened. If neither applies then it is very hard to see it as "our" war.

America has now demonstrated decisively that its capacity for action is the best guarantee of the world’s security.

Approaching war in the Middle East and Kashmir are direct results of America's actions. I'm not claiming that America is not right to persue these actions, but that they are destabilising.

In 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.

As a net oil exporter Middle East insecurity benefits us.

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.

This is factually incorrect. The Taliban did an effective job of banning the cultivation and sale of heroin, the Northern Alliance used heroin as a revenue source - and opium poppy cultivation is being reintroduced to Afghanistan as you read this.

Let's not get started on the debate as to whether its heroin that kills or the adulterated and inconsistent quality of street heroing brought about by prohibition.

Moreover, it can sometimes arise, as in Kosovo, that a failure to take military action to protect an endangered civilian population would be morally culpable.

Where does this moral obligation arise from and how does this differ from Blair's intervene anywhere credo?

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.

Borders have changed, by force, throughout human history. Redrawing borders by force is a precedent that has not proved fatal in the past. Israel's redrawing of the borders is not a fatal precedent, and IDS would never claim that it was. And does he want Poland to surrender her formally Germanic lands?

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.

Global trade - A British economic interest, like the high price of oil. However British taxpayers should not subsidise the economic interests of a minority of British producers.
Global Prosperity - The best thing Britain can do here is become more prosperous herself rather than throwing foreign aid around.
Global Freedom - In some cases, a more robust debate on Europe within the continent, this surely is the case. But in others, a decline in Muslim dictatorships, this is surely not a good thing for us - at least at present.

investment in defence is also an investment in our international influence.

No, investment in defence is an investment against being invaded.

We are listened to, above all, because we are ... a nuclear power

As long as we rely on American geo positioning for our nuclear weapons we can not be called a nuclear power.

For it is upon our American friends’ cooperation that our effectiveness as a military power and our security as a nation depend.

Our dependence on America for our military power and security is precisely what makes us a vassal state of America. Surely that's not a good thing.

[T]he 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.

International relationships can be built on many foundations. History has proven that mutual distrust of a third party is the most secure foundation. After all the Americans were solid with us while the French were in Quebec, but the shared history, language, culture, etc didn't stop the thirteen colonies seceding.

The world cannot be safe while Saddam Hussein is free to develop weapons of mass destruction.

It's as safe as it was when India, South Africa and Israel developed them. Quite simply all four countries are regional powers, and the safety of those countries outside those regions will not be affected.

Britain should give absolute support to the measures necessary to ensure that events like those of 11th September are never repeated.

It is in no country's interests to sign blank cheques.

[W]e 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.

He didn't include Britain in those states, but it should be restated that Britain needs to withdraw from the EU. And while Britain is a member it should vigorously resist the expansion of the EU, as it pushes us into de-facto security guarantees in far flung places and more constituent states will mean less chance of any state blocking the centralising forces in the Commission.

All in all it is a far better speech than I had any right to expect. He is still an Atlanticist, but that is not the main battle. Yet.

Michael Ancram also delivered a good speech, which was philosophical in a comfortably middle brow sort of way, although it did drag towards the end.


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