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gracchus

On foreign policy: in addition to being a social democratic party, Labour is the party of the British working class. I'm wondering whether Blair managed to float the Iraq adventure in part because a large number of Labour voters are in fact fairly right-wing and support the party out of class discipline rather than ideological conviction. These voters would tend to be the "hard man" type, conservative-to-reactionary on matters of foreign policy, immigration, etc, and would be inclined to back "hard power" policy objectives and means, such as war.

Ben P

I think this is partly true. I actually think that support for the Iraq War - while still not a majority - is highest amongst Labour supporters. I know that my family - many of whom are Conservative voters - strongly disagreed with the war.

In part, this is because of the kind of authoritarian streak you mention, but also partly a product of a kind of univeralism that is a product of many of their more middle-class/intellectual backers Marxist roots - ie that one size fits all for all humanity.

gracchus

Good point. The New Left of the 1960s was in fact in part a kind of reaction to certain of the universlaistic claims of the old Left, and it's easy to forget there are still older-line types out there. Still, one can be an old-line Marxist without supporting war as the best -- or even an adequate -- means of advancing your ends.

Petey

"And this, ultimately, is what the Iraq War was about. It was Tony's war, Tony's "vision" that drove Britain to join what was arguably a mistaken undertaking, or at the very least, an undertaking that was not fundamentally in the British nation's interest."

The thing I find odd is generally how little discussed Blair's motivations were for going to war - other than psycho-biographical explanations that locate his motivation in some quirk of his personality.

As an American, I was opposed to the war. I don't think it is in US national interests. But once Washington made its decision, I think participating in the war was pretty clearly in long-term British national interests. Much like English speaking Australia, Britain has based its long-term national security in a very close military and intelligence alliance with the U.S.

And even more crucially, participating in the war was pretty clearly in Labour's long-term political interests, even if they are paying for it in the short-term.

The chances of an Islamic terrorist attack on Britain on the scale of 9/11 or larger is a real possibility. Blair's hawkishness on Iraq performs a crucial inoculation for Labour in that event.

And one should not forget how completely the Falklands adventure saved Thatcher's government. There is still an appetite among the British electorate for successful military ventures far beyond what exists elsewhere in Europe. Obviously Iraq has not been a success, but it was by no means obvious prior to hostilities that the Bush administration was going to bungle things quite so badly. And even with the quagmire, Blair's participation still takes an issue away from the Tories.

For 13 years, there had been incredibly close US/UK cooperation on Iraq. The No Fly Zones were a US/UK policy and operation. The '98 bombing campaign was a US/UK operation. Rather than seeing Blair's policy on the war as some idiosyncratic personal venture on Blair's part, It think it makes much more sense to see it as a continuation of that policy.

Ben P

Petey -
Point taken on the long term strategic ties between the two nations, esp. regarding Iraq. But I don't think you can ignore Blair's personality in being so out front on the issue. Probably most other Labour PMs participation would have been considerably more muted.

As to in the Labour Party's long term benefit, what do you mean by this?

gracchus

Not convinced. Let's say Blair had decided not to go in. The Tories would probably have harped on this at the start of the war, it's true, but they would look increasingly silly as time went by, no weapons of mass destruction were found and violance continued. And they would have got murdered in the general election.

As Britain's stake in its relationship with the US: the Bushies are keen on offering mainly symbolic rewards for help. With them, however, it's got to be their way, all the time (if you don't think so, you've not been paying attention), so I suspect that British participation in the Iraq war will cut no ice next time there's a dispute between the UK and the US.

We'll probably see that this summer when Blair meets Bush. Blair has publicly promised to bring up the subject of global warming, which the UK and other European contries take seriously and the U.S. under Bush does not, to put it mildly. My guess: Bush will at most offer some conciliatory rhetoric coupled with zero change in policy

On another note: did anyone read Glenda Jackson's opinion piece about Blair in the Guardian? Can't get much tougher than that on the leader of your own party. Wow.

Ben P

Have to see Jackson's piece: she's one of the so-called "awkward squad." Got some analysis on the Labour rebels vs. Blairites I've got ready to roll. Probably over the weekend I'll get to it.

Ben P

gracchus

am still interested in reading your analysis of the northern ireland results, if you're planning to post them (you mentioned something about doing this before).

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