Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Thank You Reagan

If you were to press a right wing Conservative why if they are in favour of withdrawal from the EU (and how many nowadays are not, in private?) whey did/would they have voted Yes in 1975 they go away puzzled. Even the growing number of Eurosceptics too young to vote know in their hearts that they would have voted Yes. So why?

Similarly go to the same right wing Tory, who is likely as not to support British membership of NATO, what problem NATO is trying to solve - he will also stutter and stammer. Britain can obviously be subservient to the US outside NATO, as she has been in Iraq - what useful purpose does it serve?

Well the answer is obvious. The Cold War. British involvement in these institutions made perfect sense if you believed that Russia was posed to take over Western Europe and use that as a launch pad for invading Blighty. Some rather right wing people, like Enoch Powell or General De Gaulle, were sceptical of this and so tended to be more sceptical of these institutions than there more credulous (and I do not mean this in a derogatory way) right wing colleagues.

Which brings us to Reagan. Reagan's arms build up bankrupted Russia and forced her to drastically cut back on her overseas military presence and her attachment to Marxism. Russian aggression in Chechnya is not as frightening as Russian aid to the Vietcong. Whatever one's view of the Cold War, one can agree that it is over. And that is thanks to Reagan.

So back to NATO and the EU. These two institutions made plenty of sense when Russian tanks were on the Oder and Danube. They don't make sense now. This seemingly obvious statement has massive implications for the British right. It is not good enough to point to cultural comminalities and a roughly equivalent language and hope that these will override strategic realities. Nor is it to look longingly at America's greater economic freedom and make the leap that this must mean that she has the same national interests as we do (come to think of it, how many British Anglospheracists aren't also recognisable Thatcherites?). Nor can we accept, however naturally it comes to a conservative, that what worked well in the past should not be disturbed.

Ronald Reagan bequeathed a world where Britain can again be independent of America. It would be churlish not to accept that present.


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