Saturday, February 28, 2004
The Geopolitics of the Left

Suez is recognised by the Left as well as the Right as the paradigm shift for British foreign policy in the Cold War.

Then came Suez - the defining moment in our post-war history. Eisenhower was understandably enraged by the Anglo-French attack on Egypt and forced us to call it off. The French drew the conclusion that they could not trust the Americans ever again; we concluded that we must never again allow ourselves to be parted from them on an important issue. That has been the governing axiom of British foreign policy under every prime minister since 1956, with the sole exception of Edward Heath.

David Marquand, writing in the Guardian a week ago, had little difficulty in critiqueing the Atlanticist stance on Blair. His article was more interesting because it cited traditional and geopolitical arguments for supporting the European Union. These sit uncomfortably with the earlier arguments for Europe that governed the British discourse: economic benefits and free trade. However, the liberal left in Britain is convinced that the advantages of the European social model have taken on the form of a 'kulturkampf' with their global rivals and that a unified power is the only structure capable of defending what has been achieved in the name of Europe. In this, they have subscribed to the emerging variant of European chauvinism and anti-Americanism that has been confidently articulated on the Continent to justify the EU.

Much more frightening than the threat of international terrorism is the spectre of a divided and politically incoherent Europe, incapable of safeguarding the interests of her people in a world dominated by the US, China and India. Though Blair hates the very idea, that spectre can be kept at bay only if Europe becomes an alternative pole of power in an increasingly multipolar world.

The consensus on an Atlanticist foreign policy is breaking down. However, since the self-described progressives (actually supra-nationalists with a continental palate) wish to transfer one master, Europe, for another, America, the outcome is actually worse than our current situation. The only advance is that the liberal-left is beginning to talk in terms of power rather than transnationalist platitudes.

(22.44, 28th February 2004)


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