Thursday, March 20, 2003

No great rift quite yet

David Carr makes an argument worth reading over on Samizdata. Basically it's about the Iraq war and it avoids the rather tedious (but intriguingly Saddam-like) hysteria that you see from a couple of other posters about "you pro-Nazi head-in-the-sand moral imbeciles, how are you going to free the Iraqis from the Baath party?" to which the answer is a simple "when was that our job?". I like arguments that take more than a nano-second to answer.

Mr Carr comes up with a number of arguments and observations. Looking at the revolt on the Tory benches he notes that there is a surprising lack of anti-Americanism (which surprised me as well) with a number of the more fanatical pro-Europeans but others with more right wing arguments (he cites this site as an example of this type of thinking - aw shucks). Pretty unobjectionable so far, especially with the link.

He then states that the right "are far from confident that any US administration would go to bat for Britain in the way that Britain has gone to bat for America". I really could not put this better myself, and I have tried. Tellingly he puts forward no evidence to counter that perception.

He then goes on to defend Mr Blair's non-poodle status by claiming that much of America's stance was shaped by Tony Blair, particularly the attempt to gain security council recognition. I would also think that East Coast Republicans such as Powell and Brent Scowcroft were also part of the reason, as were the Democrats and American public opinion. The prize poodle status of Mr Blair is confirmed when without a whisper he backs down from his formerly held views on the role of the UN when the UN refuses to give the nine vote majority. That isn't simply poodle-like, he's taking it like the female of the species.

Then comes the meat of the argument, which I find to be the most important, and intriguing. It is not a new argument from Mr Carr, but it is a worthwhile one. This is the argument that Britain's participation is causing rifts within the European Union that may hold up European Unity or, who knows, even turn the clock back. If this was the case I would be enthusiastic for the war, but sadly it is not.

The first piece of evidence for the defence is a good Euro-knocking piece from "notably left-of-centre British journalist Tony Parsons". He is also notably euro-sceptical, appearing in the No Campaign's cinema ad in July last year (he writes a very good column on this). So he's not a convert from Blair's stand on Iraq.

Then there is the fact that the Greek Presidency have claimed that Britain and Spain "have placed themselves outside the framework of the European Union." It would be nice if this was more than mere rhetoric, but I remember John Major continually doing that and we are still in the bloody thing. Indeed the French are constantly doing the same thing with all their refusals to shift on farm subsidies and block deregulation, and we hear about the falls of Franco-German axes only to see them snap back again. However I was surprised that this rather useful quote from a prominent French politician wasn't missed:

England, in effect, is insular. She is maritime. She is linked through her exchanges, her markets, her supply lines to the most distant countries. She pursues essentially industrial and commercial activities and only slightly agricultural ones. She has, in all her doings, very marked and very original habits and traditions. In short, England's nature, England's structure, England's very situation differs profoundly from those of the Continentals.

Dynamite stuff, from Charles De Gaulle in 1963.

Finally we actually seem to have something that is not repeated rhetoric, the Brits are actually resisting a federal move to create a European public prosecutor. This is not in fact that new, Corpus Juris, the general project to harmonise European legal systems has long been publicly opposed by this government. Take this letter from Kate Hoey, then Parliamentary Under Secretary for the Home Office, in July 1999:

First, the Government welcomes the Committee's conclusion that Corpus Juris is not a realistic way forward, and agrees with the Committee's view that energy and resources would be better directed towards improving mutual legal assistance and practical co-operation.

Doesn't seem a new stance to me.

The fact is that all this seems new, but it is not. Some public figures are entertainingly against the Euro. England is peculiarly ill-suited to being in a European central state and some of the more far sighted Continentals see this. The British government, although generally pro-Europe, is not actively courting a public backlash so will try to sideline particularly objectionable measures. None of these things are new.

The idea of opening a European rift is a tantalising one, but on closer inspection it doesn't seem to have much substance. We need to judge this war on Iraq on the issues of national interest that are obvious, will following America on every important issue lead us to more harm than good? So far the balance is still decisively against intervention, although I admit that this war will probably have little effect either way.


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