18 December, 2006

David Cameron: the Conservative Security Policy Group.

On Friday, in a light-hearted post, I wrote,
Meanwhile the serious part of the Conservative Party shakes its collective head and waits for Cameron's next hostage to fortune.
Previously Cameron's stupidities have been harmless fun, at worst electoral disaster. Today he has moved onto a new level of misjudgement, as unacceptable as it is surprising, in a senior politician. Even in my most cynical moments, I never expected Cameron to start playing party politics with UK security policy at a time when British troops are in action and the country is possibly facing an immediate serious threat.

Following the publication of the Conservative Party's "Interim Position Paper of the National and International Security Policy Group", tomorrows headlines will probably be that Cameron blames the invasion of Iraq for the terrorist threat to the UK. The International Herald Tribune and the Guardian have already picked up an AP report of the story. Expect more of the same and inevitably damage to the UK's reputation abroad.

The Interim Paper can be downloaded here in pdf form. Amongst the criticisms of British policy and anti-American sentiments, for me, the following quote (page 5) stands out:
Management of our key relationships however requires attention. We need to recognise that for our longstanding positioning to continue to serve UK interests and for the UK to avoid becoming merely an echo of American policy, allies and partners must share our aspirations for a functioning alliance and for close, cooperative US/European relations. Not all European partners do to the same extent. Nor will they unless we work at it. The paradox is that unless the UK wishes effectively to retire from the world, in which case a context for action does not matter, British freedom of manoeuvre lies in the existence rather than the absence of this framework. The drubbing that key relationships have taken over Iraq has served the interests only of our (collective) enemies. And anti-Americanism, which polls show has risen especially markedly in the UK, is a self inflicted wound. But it is also a reflection of the discomfort felt in this country with recent policy outcomes.
The debate over the UK's policy interests into relation to the US took place immediately after 9/11 and, as I have written before,Tony Blair rightly concluded that UK interests were the exactly same as those of the US, as enunciated by President Bush. It was not, therefore, "an echo of American policy" that led the British into Afghanistan and Iraq with the US but a transatlantic convergence of principles and national interests. Other European countries took a different view but that is a matter for them. From a British point of view, given NATO's performance in Afghanistan it is obvious who are the UK's most reliable allies, and they are not situated in Europe.

I would say that currently western anti-Americanism is not as bad as it was in the years of President Regan and the Cruise Missile debates. Then we had a Conservative leader in Mrs Thatcher who fought such nonsense, not pandered to it, reacting to opinion polls by seeking votes in such meaningless concepts as "frameworks" and "(collective) enemies". What is a "(collective) enemy" anyway - a kulak?

Where is the "drubbing" Cameron? Yes, there is serious problems remaining in Iraq, and in Afghanistan, but as I have demonstrated more than once this week already, progress, however painful and slow, is being made in the right direction. Not that such things seem to interest Cameron. If he lambasted the government for its operational manning and equipment failures, Cameron would have a reasonable point; however, he seems to show little interest in such things, preferring instead to launch a full scale party political attack which can do nothing to help the situation. Now is not the time for a responsible politician to engage in such things.

19.12.06 @7:35 - minor edits applied for clarification.

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