Sunday, October 24, 2004
The Original Neocon

Returning to the speech that Tony Blair made at the University of Chicago setting out his foreign policy objectives, Ben Rawlence, writing in the Guardian, compares the common threads between Blairism and neoconservatism. A key to this radical departure from British policy lies in the emphasis that Blair places upon values above interest:

It is the emphasis on "values" that links him to the neocons. Blair's formulation that, since the cold war, "our actions are guided by ... mutual self-interest and moral purpose in defending the values we cherish. In the end values and interests merge" is one that would be strongly supported by the neocons.

The distinction between values and interests is crucial. Interests are usually defended, values are promoted. Interests are material and can be defined, values are hard to pin down and know no limit. If we take the government's oft repeated mantra that "the best defence of our security lies in the spread of our values", British foreign policy at once becomes diffuse: our priorities are everywhere and nowhere.

What are these values? It is hard to disagree with Blair when he says: "Nations that are free, democratic and benefiting from economic progress tend to be stable and solid partners in the advance of humankind." The problem occurs when British security is linked to the spread of those values, and when we wage war in their name. British national interest is explicitly located in the internal affairs of other countries, violating international traditions of non-interference, and destabilising governments. No wonder countries in the Middle East are nervous.

Whilst the framework is the same, there are distinct differences between Blairite values and neoconservatism. The former judges international institutions and the environment as far more important than the latter, placing Blair straddling the concerns of the left and the demands of the United States.

It also provides a roadmap for the future: the subordination of values and ideologies whilst redefining Britain's interests. One for the right.

(23.04, 24th October 2004)


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