First published in the Financial Times – 14 February 2003
Sir, I read with mounting disbelief the view of your normally sensible columnist Philip Stephens (“Learning to live in a world governed by American rules”, February 7) that we had all better now understand that in global politics “America makes the rules” – and the rest of us should obey them. Mr Stephens echoes here the governing view of Britain’s foreign and military establishment (and of Tony Blair). I know that many among this establishment have, over the years, lost their self-confidence, but this, as they say, is ridiculous.
That Britain should become a colony of Washington, (even, extremist, religious Washington), undignified though it may be, is not the real issue. What is so sad about Mr Blair’s status is that it is totally unnecessary. For the fact is that we Europeans (the British included) need the US much less than the US needs us. During the cold war we needed the US for our security; but, now, apart from a reasonable trading relationship, there is hardly anything that the US can add to our prosperity or our security. By contrast, Washington needs Europe’s support both for its newly-proclaimed world mission and to shore up its own increasingly ambivalent public opinion.
Should the Franco-German alliance hold up through this coming Iraq crisis, Europe will have a critical mass on which to build a European – and not an American – foreign policy. Such a European foreign policy will not necessarily be “anti-American” in any fundamental sense. It will simply put our own interests around the world ahead of those of Washington. And, for a start, Europe will have no reason at all to support Washington’s bizarre, dangerous and somewhat unhinged attempt to re-order the whole Middle East.
And as for Britain, we have a straight choice – to work with France and Germany to create an independent European foreign and security policy, or, alternatively, to fall in with the logic of Mr Stephen’s position, that we should become a province of the “American empire”.
As our English forebears in North America might say – “no taxation without representation”, Mr Stephens!
Stephen Haseler is professor of government at London Guildhall University and a member of the committee of Federal Union. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Federal Union.