Saturday, 31 August 2013

Hard-Headed Multilateralism

Boiled down, this means that, other than as a direct act of self-defence (wildly improbable over the Falkland Islands, even less likely than that over Gibraltar, not even suggested in any other case), Ed Miliband would never permit British military action without at least the approval of all four of the other Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council.

And that will never happen. The Security Council is specifically designed in order to ensure that that can never happen. Miliband can make ritual references to Libya and to the ancient history of Kosovo, but on his own propagated doctrine, Britain would have had no part in either of them.

Indeed, we are not even restricting ourselves to the countries that were given Permanent Seats in the 1940s. We are really also including anywhere that would be given one if the thing were being started from scratch at the given time. Germany, say. Or India. At the very least, we must be talking about all of the other members of the G20.

It need not end there, either.

All in all, Miliband has declared for an isolationist, strictly self-defensive foreign and security policy while bowing reverently to the UN. There is a reasonable argument to be made that that is more faithful to the original intention of the UN than anyone in a comparable position has ever articulated. A Prime Minister of the United Kingdom who took that view could have a very dramatic impact indeed on geopolitical affairs.

In this, Miliband has the full support of his party. No Labour MP voted for war against Syria, and Dame Margaret Beckett, Chris Bryant, Dai Havard, Jim Murphy, Gisela Stuart and Derek Twigg all voted against it even while continuing to be listed as members of the Political Council of the Henry Jackson Society. As, indeed, did the Conservatives David Amess, David Davis and Julian Lewis, and the Liberal Democrat Dan Rogerson.

Those seem the obvious nucleus, not least because Dame Margaret is a former Foreign Secretary while Murphy is on course to become Secretary of State for Defence, of an alternative to the HJS, as much a product of these times as the Scoopies were of a decade ago.

A Statement of Principles might read:

We support the maintenance of a strong British military capability while rejecting its deployment for any purpose whatever other than the defence of British territory or of British citizens.

We set that within an uncompromising defence of the national and parliamentary sovereignty of the United Kingdom against any and all challenges, whether from the Executive or from the Judiciary, whether from the United States or from the European Union, whether from the State of Israel or from the Gulf monarchs, whether from the rising powers of Asia or from the Russian oligarchs, whether from money markets or from media moguls, whether from separatists or from communalists, whether from anything or from anyone, including from the importation of essentially alien features of the political cultures of the Old Dominions. This list is not exhaustive.

Essential to that defence and to that sovereignty is the protection of the British economy by means of central and local government action, including pragmatic public ownership, as well as by the actions of mediating institutions beholden neither to the market nor to the State, including trade unions.

Most Labour MPs could sign that these days, and most of the rest will retire at the next General Election. Jon Cruddas could have written it.

And the Tories? Welcome though this week's rebellion was, it was tiny, especially by comparison with the Labour one over Iraq. It succeeded only because it joined itself to the entire Official Opposition, unlike in the case of Iraq. 10 years and two General Elections after that, it was made up of people elected for what their voters will have assumed was the party most monolithically and outspokenly supportive of the neoconservative agenda; it is no wonder that there is serious talk of deselection in several cases, whereas no Labour MP was ever deselected over Iraq.

Especially unlike France, as we shall see very clearly in the days to come, since the middle of the nineteenth century or even earlier, conservatism has been almost, if almost, as much of a fringe oddity in Britain as it is in the country where the legacy of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams may not be questioned. Which is to say, in the country other than Britain where the legacy of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams may not be questioned.

There has never been a starker manifestation of that fact. 30 MPs. Not even one in 20. And they were elected as liberals. Including as liberal interventionists. Leaving aside the scores of extraparliamentary parties, none of which deserves any more attention than any of the others, the only way to vote against that is now to vote for the only party in which Postliberalism is taken seriously, or in which anyone has ever even heard of it.

No MP from that party voted for war this week. Not a single, solitary one. That is what "hard-headed multilateralism" looks like, not merely on the page, but in the flesh.

1 comment:

  1. And you're too harsh on America.

    Many of her greatest traditions including habeas corpus (even though Lincoln suspended it) jury trial and the right to bear arms, come from us (and that glorious foundational document of liberty called the 1688 Bill of Rights).

    And the US Right has a great anti-war tradition, dating back long before "America First" and its campaign against Democrat entry to WW2.

    America was once the archetypal isolationist nation.