Tony Blair's Dilemma
hatchet.job at virgin.net
Wed Feb 19 15:49:39 MST 2003
Tony Blair's DilemmaForwarded from Moshé Machover
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Tony Blair's Dilemma
by Moshé Machover
16 February 2003
An almost incredible spectacle: Tony Blair, a politician whose entire
career has been built on pandering to opinion polls, finds himself
isolated, confronting massive opposition not only among the rank-and-file
of the hitherto docile New Labour, but within the Establishment --
including not only the leaders of the Church of England and all other
religious denominations (except the Chief Rabbi), but also the top brass of
the armed forces -- as well as in his own Cabinet, and of course among the
public at large, even among his main target social group of Middle England.
On 15 February 2003, the day of the largest protest demonstration in
British history, Tony Blair spoke in Glasgow to a meeting of his Scottish
party functionaries. There this popularity junkie had to admit his
unpopularity. Outside, tens of thousands of his voters expressed their
hostility. His assurances of earnestness fail to convince. Public
incredulity is spinning out of control; the slickest spin-doctoring outfit
in British political history cannot cope.
Tony Blair is clearly lying when he claims that his readiness to go to war
against Iraq is motivated by considerations of morality (compassion with
the Iraqi people oppressed by a bloody tyrant), or concern for the security
of Britain or the safety of the world. He is lying, and most British
people can see he is lying.
One simply has to ask: suppose the rulers of the US were not keen to go to
attack Iraq; would Tony Blair have tried to persuade them to do so? The
very thought is absurd. No; of course not. Tony Blair is advocating war
because, and solely because, G W Bush and his advisers have decided, quite
unilaterally and without considering the wishes of any foreign leader, that
Iraq must be invaded by US forces.
And yet, Tony Blair is quite sincere in the belief that his present policy
is in what he thinks of as the 'national interest' (which is in reality the
interest of the British state, and, ultimately, that of the British ruling
class). He is risking his political future because he genuinely feels he
has no choice.
How has it come to this strange pass?
Since the Second World War and the loss of the British Empire, the British
ruling class has pursued with almost total consistency a fundamental
precept in its foreign policy: balancing between the US and Europe. This
mid-Atlantic policy of being the bridge or the go-between -- pandering to
US interests in Europe, but modulating them to be more acceptable on this
side of the Atlantic -- has guided the ruling class, the holders of real
power in the British state, whichever party was in office. It was this
policy that has enabled Britain to "punch above its weight": to have
greater international influence than its actual size and industrial
performance could have secured. This international influence, with all the
material advantages accruing from it, is vitally important for the British
ruling class, dominated as it is by its financial sector. Whereas British
industry (except for oil) is in secular decline, the oil sector has
remained a global player; and the City of London, with its banking and
insurance business is one of the world's leading financial centres.
Britain's oil interests and the City's vast investments and businesses are
by no means confined to Britain itself or even to Europe but are spread
over the entire globe.
The only departure from this mid-Atlantic policy was the 1956 Suez episode,
the last flickering of independent British imperialism, in which Britain,
in collusion with France and Israel, invaded Egyptian territory without
prior US approval. But Britain was soon brought to heel by the
Eisenhower-Dulles US administration. The humiliating end of this adventure
taught the British ruling class a lasting lesson. This lesson was not that
it was wrong to commit aggression against an Arab country whose military
ruler is depicted as a latter-day Hitler. Rather, it was that Britain must
not stray from the American fold.
On the whole, the mid-Atlantic strategy has worked well. It did grant
considerable international influence, and paid off handsome dividend to
It must be stressed that this strategy requires Britain not only to stay
inseparably close to US policy (the so-called "special relation") but also
to be part of the European Union. Let us not forget that Winston Churchill
was one of the early advocates of European unification. In May 1948 he
presided over the Hague Congress for European Unity; and on 11 August 1950,
at the Strasbourg Congress of the European Movement, he carried a motion for
creation of a European Army.
There have only been two periods in which this strategy malfunctioned. The
first was in the 1960s. On 14 January 1963, France's President Charles de
Gaulle -- resenting Britain's pretensions to an international stature above
its true station -- stated his decision to block Britain's entry into the
European Common Market. Significantly, in the same speech he rejected the
US offer of Polaris missiles and asserted French ambition for military
independence. Eight days later he signed with Germany's Chancellor Konrad
Adenauer a Treaty of Franco-German cooperation. His strategy was to boost
the international stature of France by building up Europe as a world power,
led and dominated by France in alliance with Germany. Britain would not be
allowed to play the role of mid-Atlantic go-between -- or, as de Gaulle saw
it, America's Trojan horse in Europe. But after de Gaulle's demise things
went back to normal, and by 1973 the UK had joined the Common Market.
The second period is now. In the new post-cold-war uni-polar world order,
Britain's mid-Atlantic ship has again encountered rocks that threaten to
wreck it. The US is now a sole super-power; and, especially after the
accession of the G W Bush administration, its international stance is
increasingly arrogant, its foreign policy aggressively unilateral, its
assertion of global hegemony crudely overt. As the two sides of the
Atlantic seem to grow further apart, taking the traditional British
mid-Atlantic course becomes very problematic. Instead of bringing the two
sides together, Britain risks becoming isolated from at least one of them.
The British state is faced with a painful choice. But the lessons of the
1950s and 1960s have taught the British ruling class that incurring the
wrath of the US (as in 1956) is more humiliating and damaging for it than
being isolated from Europe.
Tony Blair is only doing what any British Prime Minister would do as a
loyal servant of the "national interest" (in effect, the British state and
the class ruling it). The reason he now seems to be playing the abject
role of Bush's poodle is not that British policy has changed; it is the
circumstances that have changed, and have put him in an exposed position.
To go against the US would mean a major change in British post-colonial
international strategy. But whereas the traditional policy is
malfunctioning, Blair has no alternative policy. There is no Plan B.
So willy-nilly the popularity junkie has to put a brave face on it and
choose isolation from the British electorate -- hoping desperately that it
will prove to be a temporary isolation -- rather than from the US masters
of the New World Order.
He must be praying that either the US will desist from its war, or that a
brief victory will restore his popularity. Otherwise his political career
is at an end.
But Britain will still be looking for a new international strategy.
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