Thursday, January 27, 2005

Leavin On Your Mind

Charles Kennedy, the maligned leader of the Liberal Democrats, has proved a canny politician, positioning his party to take advantage of the skepticism that the electorate views the war. In a major foreign policy speech today, he struck a note of realism whilst surveying the state of Britain’s role in the world. His descriptions of world affairs were orthodox and conservative; his prescriptions were not.

On Iraq, Kennedy was arguing for an exit strategy to withdraw British troops, a task that has acquired greater urgency as the temperature is raised on the role of Iran. His solution was idiotic, allowing unfriendly powers to dominate a region that we depend upon for energy security.

I would like to see a phased withdrawal of British troops from Iraq, as soon as the situation allows. I would like to see the replacement of British troops with those from other countries, especially Islamic countries. I would like to see a proper exit strategy set out by London and Washington, with a timeline that augments and supports the democratic process.

However, the main thrust of his speech involved a rejection of the ‘special relationship’ between Britain and the United States. Kennedy wished to dissolve any distinction between the British and the European interest, since both were indivisible, a strange chimera unrecognized and mocked on the Continent. Within the EU, Kennedy would be viewed as a sap negotiating away our advantages for a mess of pottage. As a consequence, no institutional relationships could be maintained with the United States apart from those sanctioned by Europe.

The challenge for Britain is to find the political will, and the public consent, to invest British power and influence in common European foreign policy initiatives that will serve the British interest, the European interest, and the interests of the Atlantic Alliance.

A reinvigorated relationship that recognises Britain’s influence in Brussels maintains its influence in Washington.

It is clear that the Europhiles in Britain will clothe themselves in the flag to promote their cause. However, it is a discourse of the dead since the national interest is effectively destroyed if subordinated within a greater whole. For the first time, politicians are having to engage with the ‘death of Britain’ and applaud our future within a superstate. Because they understand that the electorate views foreign policy in terms of traditional power structures and patriotic discourse, they are attempting to package Europe in the Union Jack as an instrument of the British national interest.

Europhiles face one insuperable problem. It is impossible to disguise a turd by wrapping it in gold.


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