Friday, September 06, 2002

Devil or deep blue sea?

David Carr over at Samizdata has tried to make a case for invading Iraq from the national interest. Unlike the leadership of the Conservative Party, or the editorial boards of the Black and Murdoch papers he doesn't come up with some laughable idea like "Saddam's got missiles aimed for London" or "he's another Hitler".

The idea is this. European integration is a more imminent threat to British than American power. Supporting America is going to harm the cause of European integration in Britain.

First let it be said that this is a far better argument than other attempted right wing justifications I have seen (including the other ones in Samizdata). And it rests on a truth. At this point in time European integration is more of a threat to British independence than American power.

Where I disagree is on the effect that an invasion will have on the Euro debate and the absence of alternatives.

Firstly to the absence of alternatives. Mr Carr's thesis rests crucially on the idea that the only alternative to European union is being a junior partner in the American Empire. As a site devoted to maintaining just such an alternative you can expect us to disagree with this idea. But this at least deserves an explanation as to why our national survival is not a lost cause.

Britain is still large, prosperous and powerful enough to maintain itself as an independent state. There is plenty of disagrement as to how powerful the British armed forces are. What cannot be doubted is that they would be powerful enough to protect the rather defendable British Isles from invasion. As the world's fourth largest economy she is also capable of paying her way in the world. All that would be needed in normal times is to avoid unnecesary foreign entanglements and Britain, or for that matter England, could maintain an independent existence into the foreseeable future.

I'm not sure whether Mr Carr disagrees with this, although many of his Anglospherist colleagues need a reminder of this reality. However, where Mr Carr does disagree is on the political reality.

However the question is not whether Britain can survive outside both the American and Belgian Empires, it is about the political day to day reality. So my second disagreement with Mr Carr's political thesis comes out.

What would the effect of the war be on the European question?

The idea is that Tony Blair will not be President of Europe while he is so keen on kow towing to the President of America.

It is certainly true that the war is unpopular in Europe, as can be seen from Chancellor Schroeder's return from the political grave. This is a German chancellor who has presided over a perceived increase in prices, and a left wing leader who's presided over a very real increase in unnemployment. By all political laws the man should be politically brown bread. He is however still in with a shout very largely down to his opposition to the war. (Of course you can't expect the denizens of Conservative Central Office to notice something so vulgar as representing the popular will. This however is a private gripe.)

However what was the issue with which Herr Schroeder barn stormed the country last time? Why a scepticism towards the Euro. And M Jospin in France before him. The lesson here is that the European leaders will not do what they are told by the electorate, but what they are told to do by their peers. When it comes to the war the Europeans will do nothing but sulk on the sidelines. There'll be no UN vetoes from France and no blocking of our Tone to be President of Europe. My initial reaction was admittedly that Tony's Presidential chances were gone, but this was over-estimating the attachment to the popular will in Europe, or the guts to carry out a meaningfully independent foreign policy.

So where will this leave us with the Euro debate. Well, if there is popular enthusiasm for the war then it may not make the government more popular, or even Tony Blair, but people will start to respect him once again. As it is Tony Blair's power of persuasion that is the only thing that could lead us into the Euro, is our entry into the Euro more or less likely?

And if the British public dislike the war or its aftermath, what then? Will the British feel repulsed from their European neighbours? There is a danger of creating a genuine popular desire for Europe.

So British entry into the war is a lose-lose proposition for those who wish to maintain Britain's financial independence.

Of course, there may be a bright spot here. If the Labour revolt grows then Mr Blair's position as Labour leader may be under threat. The biggest threat to British independence is adoption of the Euro, and it's biggest proponent is Mr Blair. So the war could help us with the Euro.

One would say that the downside, overstretch of British forces and involvement in a Middle Eastern argument that is none of our business, is far more likely than any upside envisaged by myself or Mr Carr.


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