Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Not so fast

The Guardian carries the text of UK Conservative leader David Cameron's speech. With the exit of Britain's Tony Blair an eventual certainty, Cameron's views provide a preview into future British policy in the event the Conservatives are returned to power.


I fully appreciate the scale of the threat we face. I believe that the leadership of the United States, supported by Britain, is central to the struggle in which we are engaged.I fully appreciate the scale of the threat we face. I believe that the leadership of the United States, supported by Britain, is central to the struggle in which we are engaged. ...

Part of the problem we have encountered these past five years is that the struggle has been perceived - as the terrorists want it to be perceived - as a single struggle between single protagonists. The danger is that by positing a single source of terrorism - a global jihad - and opposing it with a single global response - American-backed force - we will simply fulfil our own prophecy. We are not engaged in a clash of civilisations, and suggestions that we are can too easily have the opposite effect to the one intended: making the extremists more attractive to the uncommitted ...

The foundations of democracy are the rule of law, including the freedoms of speech and association; civil society, meaning the network of independent organisations which sustain social life independently from the state; an independent and impartial judiciary; and a free economy, including the freedom to trade and to register property.

The ambition to spread democracy is noble and just. But it cannot be quickly achieved to suit a political timetable. Because it takes time, it cannot easily be imposed from outside. Liberty grows from the ground - it cannot be dropped from the air by an unmanned drone. ... If we accept that democracy takes time; that it is founded on the institutions of society, and that it cannot easily be imposed from without, then we must put far greater effort into helping undermine dictators and tyrannies from within, and helping moderate regimes to move forward. Bombs and missiles are bad ambassadors. ...

But a multilateral approach is essential if we are successfully to tackle some of the biggest security challenges we face - for example the challenge of nuclear proliferation. ... The United States has learnt this lesson painfully. ... The United Nations, for example, confers the ultimate legitimacy on any multilateral action. ...

Commentary

Cameron's speech is very interesting way of arguing that although the multilateralists got nearly every one of their past objectives wrong and were blind to nearly every threat in the past, that thank you very much, now that the way has been shown they would like to take the driver's seat on the grounds of their obvious superiority. Jacques Chirac was recently overheard on an open microphone muttering that there would be no danger to the French troops in Lebanon for the immediate future because the Hezbollah had been so gravely weakened by the Israelis. When politicians are eager to take over an enterprise they have a spent a career denouncing it's usually a sign it was a good idea to start with.

But I don't think Cameron is ill intentioned. His problem is more basic. While he correctly understands that more than military power will be required to defeat terrorism he still doesn't realize that the institutions of diplomacy, huge multilateral organizations headquartered in Europe and lumbering agencies like the UN are wholly incapable of providing the missing dimensions which he rightly understands are required.

If the US military has learned any lesson "painfully", it is that while all the elements of "soft power" must be integrated in the field, they are not being provided by existing institutions.  Neither the diplomats, nor the aid workers, nor the media are are fully engaged in the current conflict against terrorism. And there is little prospect they will be in simply because David Cameron or the UN want them to be. The elements of soft-power need to re-engineer themselves to meet the threat. And it won't happen for as long as they believe that history is simply waiting for them to rush in and save the world.

14 Comments:

Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

Perhaps Mr. Cameron is speaking of the lessons learned in North Korea, Rwanda, and Dafur.

9/12/2006 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger emdfl said...

Actually I would say he IS either ill-intentioned or just plain stupid. When people get up in your face and say they are going to kill you, your family, your friends, and any one else who happens to be near you; saying why don't we talk this over will only mean they will be laughing as you are coughing up blood with your last breath.

I'd really like to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he's just stupid, but he and his ilk are going to get a lot of us killed so I'm going to go with ill-intentioned.

9/12/2006 04:55:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

He alludes to “proportionalism” and keeping the enemy isolated by not forcing fence sitting adherents into the fray. That democracy be given a chance to take root. So if I get this straight, sprinkle the seeds of democracy and be careful as to how much herbicide you use on the weeds. Maybe he’s suggesting that they be hand plucked with care. If the multilateralists ever were able to come to a consensus, wouldn’t that be grand.

9/12/2006 05:00:00 PM  
Blogger Woman Catholic said...

wretchard wrote:

Jacques Chirac was recently overheard on an open microphone muttering that there would be no danger to the French troops in Lebanon for the immediate future because the Hezbollah had been so gravely weakened by the Israelis.

And there would be no danger to the French troops in Lebanon for the more distant future because they will wink and look the other way when trucks carrying missiles and Iranian jihadis arrive from Syria.

9/12/2006 05:34:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

I love it when Europeans of any kind start lecturing on the subject of Democracy. There is no democratic republic in Europe that is as much as half as old - or 10% as successful as the U.S.

Furthermore, none of them would exist with at least the example of the U.S. and most if not all would not exist had democracy not been "airdopped" to them from B-17's and B-52's. Which were manned - by Americans - not UAVs.

Having said all that, I don't see where he is saying anything except something to the effect that they could do a better job than we could. Except they have not, ever.
And part of that doing a "better" job would be not doing the job at all where it looked to be too hard. Which would be most places where it is hot, dirty, or dangerous.

9/12/2006 05:48:00 PM  
Blogger Woman Catholic said...

annoymouse said:

If the multilateralists ever were able to come to a consensus, wouldn’t that be grand.

They did. They came to three consensii. The first consensus they came to is that if Bush wants to be a multilateralist on North Korea, he must begin unilateral negotiations with Kim Il Jong. They have also come to the consensus that Bush should not have invaded Iraq unilaterally in 2003. Finally, there is a consensus that even though the United Kingdom, South Korea, Italy, Poland, Romania, Australia, Denmark and a number of other nations joined the United States in Operation Iraqi Freedom, it still only counts as unilateral action because France, Russia, and China didn't go.

9/12/2006 05:53:00 PM  
Blogger Staring In Disbelief said...

What a pathetic statement from the leader of Margaret Thatcher's old party. What astounding arrogance and delusion. If we could airdrop some common sense on that clown, it would have to be of the 5000 lb Bunker Buster variety. I just can't wait to watch this effete "multi-everythingist" try to buddy up to the US Prez if he ever manages to get himself elected. For a guy who grew up watching Maggie Thatcher out-backbone most of the male politicians of her day, the spectacle of a Tory politician being more soft-headed than the one from Labor is stranger than fiction.

And sadder.

9/12/2006 06:19:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Cameron - The United Nations, for example, confers the ultimate legitimacy on any multilateral action. ...

This is the current level of global analysis the UK Conservatives have???

Looks like they will be on the outside looking in at Labour running the show a lot longer....Guy sounds like he is even stupider than John Major.

Perhaps it is the Conservatives curse since Thatcher to run unappealing dolts. Like the Democrats do when they forget they win with governors and run the usual establishment liberal out of the Senate. It's been a while, but it is worth remembering that Al Gore had grown so out of touch with his own home state with his "UN will solve the planets problems, let's ban guns" message they voted for Bush and gave him the election.

9/12/2006 06:52:00 PM  
Blogger Meme chose said...

Cameron's speech is well-intentioned, but the catastrophic weakness of his position appears right where he seeks to point to an alternative to military means:

"There are more tools of statecraft than military power.

Intelligence, economic development, educational training, support for pro-democracy groups, international law, foreign aid, sporting and cultural initiatives can all play their part.

Britain has a huge contribution to make here, from the knowledge and experience of our diplomats abroad, to the work of the British Council, to our expertise in culture, media and communications."


He cites the instruments of 'soft power', which as he correctly states are the NGOs, the national and international bureaucracies, the diplomats and the media organizations. The problem is that any realistic appraisal of the prospects for deploying them has to recognize that every one of these institutions, in the US and to an much greater extent across the EU were all captured decades ago by entrenched leftists, now firmly barricaded behind union rules, and that virtually to a man (and woman) they oppose and are determined to undermine and where necessary even betray any such attempts.

Anoyone who doubts this doesn't know modern civil services in Europe, or NGO staffers just about anywhere.

Game over, I'm afraid, as far as bringing this sort of plan down from fantasyland into the real world.

9/12/2006 06:52:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Samizdata has comments on Cameron's speech.

9/12/2006 08:06:00 PM  
Blogger Cutler said...

Bingo Meme chose.

Said institutions are more likely to thwart us than aid us. Many don't accept fundamental goodness of Western life and influence, and so would be loathe to spread it. If anything, they'll work to perpetuate hostility to us, then use that as a reason to hand them more power.

9/12/2006 09:25:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

Even if Mr. Cameron knew better, he probably has no choice but to take the political position he is taking considering where British public opinion is at this time, especially sentiment within the British middle and upper classes.

Irrespective of right/left attitudes, support for the United States in Britain appears to be a largely working class phenomenon. One of the mistakes the Left makes (as well as a few from the Right) is to assume that rich people love America and poor people hate America. This is leftist wishful thinking. Perhaps the reason why the international Left is so opposed to America may have more to do with the traditional elitism that has always been opposed to American republicanism (which, until the Cold War, was usually found on the Right) than it does with any particular ill American society may possibly have.

9/12/2006 09:28:00 PM  
Blogger Cutler said...

In the big picture, the Tory Party is in the same position as the Democratic Party was after 9-11.

The responsible action would be to fall behind government policy vis a vis the War on Terror, as the Republicans did with Roosevelt in World War II. However, this would also limit their electoral chances and reduce opportunities to attack the incumbents - so they've found themselves locked in opposition to policies they'd support if they were the ones implementing them. Hence, the Conservatives are using rhetoric meant to pass Blair on the Left, talking about the poor poor Palestinians and good good UN.

The responsible course of action would have been to leave the War on Terror as apolitical as possible, and fight politics elsewhere as before. Of course, to be fair this is difficult since so many policies come under something so significant as the war. In the end, it takes political courage and putting the country's welfare before your political agenda.

JMO

9/12/2006 09:31:00 PM  
Blogger Larry said...

There's the germ of a good idea in there: that fomenting division within our enemies' ranks (i.e., not "enemy's") is smarter than encouraging them to think of themselves as united.

The divisions can be manifold - sect, nation, ethnicity, region, issue, and so on. We don't want Abu Sayyaf to put Israel at the top of its list any more than we want Hamas expressing solidarity over Kashmir.

9/14/2006 09:27:00 AM  

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