Monday, June 07, 2004
He's done a Hutton on the pavement

The Guardian is currently publishing a series of strong articles on Britain's place in the world. Disagreeable they may be, but worth reading. The latest is an extract from Timothy Garton Ash's "Free World: Why a Crisis of the West Reveals the Opportunity of Our Time", to be published in July.

Garton Ash, a liberal whose reportage on Eastern Europe is always worth reading, argues that Britain should find a new role by balancing the best of the Old World and the New. The whole piece is laminated with a patina of idealism that leavs you thinking Garton Ash lives behind a rose-tinted mirror looking out at the world. Who else would write this:

We need a revolt of the politicians, who should finally summon the courage to face down the media barons. But we also need a revolt of the journalists. After all, journalists, not proprietors, actually write and edit these papers.

A Britain thus politically focused, educated and informed would have notable strengths. Being so intimate with Europe and America means we have the chance to take the best of both.

The concept that our politicians and journalists are revolting is quite common; unique is that perception that this quality may have positive consequences.

Garton Ash falls into the post-imperial trap of viewing Britain as a far more influential and powerful player than we actually are, based upon the foundations of our influence in Europe and America. In reality, the article becomes an apologia for Blairite strategy in Europe, the new Third Way clothed in the ideology of Europe.

Tony Blair has grasped and articulated this British national interest, role and chance better than any of his predecessors.

What we need is nothing less than a historic compromise with our ancient enemy, France. Britain alone is too small and weak to be a major partner for the US, especially since American leaders generally feel they can take the British for granted.

Crucial to this new understanding will be the voice of Germany. In its own enlightened self-interest, Germany should play the role of "honest broker" between France and Britain. This alone will allow it to continue its own balancing act between Paris and Washington, which has served the Federal Republic so well. America, too, should support this reconciliation in its own enlightened self-interest.

When the structural mist is deciphered, Garton Ash has written an article explaining why he thinks Blair's approach is best. This is probably expanded upon with historical argument and example in his new book.

What if France doen't wish to compromise? What if Britain, home of chavs, declines to follow the path of self enlightenment as plotted by Garton Ash? What if the Germans prove duplicitous? With so many unknowns, Garton Ash unwittingly exposes the flaws in Blair's foreign policy.

(23.06, 7th May 2004)


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