Sunday, May 08, 2005
Beltway Perceptions

Andrew Apostolou, Resident Fellow at the The Foundation for the Defence of Democracies (a title craving reproof), argues on TechCentralStation, that the Conservatives are the repository of anti-Americanism. Through the prism of anti-Americanism, he argues that the entire electoral campaign of all three parties revolved around this issue in their attitude to the war.

Whilst Apostolou recognises that the war became unpopular with the British electorate, he argues that this is due to an upswing in anti-Americanism. There is little evidence that anti-Americanism has increased in the last few years or that it has spread beyond its normal bastions of left-wing professionals and the culterati. The war has become entwined with wider issues of 'political trust'. These were concerns that the electorate had held with the New Labour government since the last century.

Apostolou recognises that the Conservative Party had to address these concerns, given the unending enquiries that revealed the duplicitous way that New Labour manipulated intelligence.

Faced with growing anti-Americanism in public opinion, the Conservatives have attempted to do the impossible, to support the Iraq war while retrospectively opposing the reasons for the Iraq war. Michael Howard has openly called Tony Blair, and by extension George W. Bush, a liar over the Iraq war. Britain's Conservatives proclaim that they are pro-American and then take electoral advantage of anti-Americanism. With a straight face, Michael Howard burnishes his pro-US credentials as president and founding chairman of The Atlantic Partnership, an organization devoted to fostering transatlantic links.

The effectiveness of anti-Americanism as an electoral tactic remains to be seen, but the Conservative approach has already eroded the British-American alliance. The pro-American consensus at the center of British foreign policy has been weakened, in large part because its normally vocal and reliable Conservative supporters are instead sniping at the Iraq war. The strategic necessity of the "special relationship", which brings Britain influence unrivalled influence and leverage with the US and with Britain's jealous EU partners, is no longer an article of faith. Instead, many now ask what Britain receives from being the most prominent friend of the US in a world where, if the media are to be believed, the US is hated, reviled and wrong.

If Apostolou's argument is correct, the Conservatives must never take issue with the United States and must wholeheartedly support Blair over the Iraq war, or the Atalantic Alliance will be damaged. Since their constitutional role as the Opposition is to hold the government and its constitutional vandalism to account, this argument fails to take the internal pressures of British politics into account.

Instead of asking why President Bush decided to treat the Conservatives like an unwanted guest at a funeral, with all of the damage that such *personal* treatment brings. Apostolou's own bias is betrayed by his description of the Conservatives as "vocal and reliable", an echo of Thatcher's "one of us" moments. With such actions on the part of Bush and Karl Rove, reciprocated by Howard, there is a division between British and American conservatism that may have long-term implications.

However Apostolou does not recognise that such relationships require co-operation from both parties. By punishing the Conservatives for actions that their role as the Opposition demanded, Apostolou does not understand the drivers behind British politics or the declining importance of the Atlantic Alliance at a time when more foreign policy decisions are decided through the EU. What strikes one about this article is the catching up that US analysts need to do in order to understand how European nation-states are rapidly being hollowed out by Brussels. If he did, then he would view the Conservatives as a love-in, UKIP as a marriage partner.


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