Friday, 6 November 2009

Facing down the Eurosceptics and neocons

I’m sure this post will foreshadow a more erudite article, around a similar theme, at Burke’s Corner. I’d imagine that BC is adamantly buffing his polished philosophical prose as we speak. Nevertheless, I like Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s latest Comment is Free piece enough to offer my own, doubtless rather more superficial, interpretation. Hopefully it’ll do until the real thing becomes available.

Wheatcroft is convinced that the Conservative party must cast off the excesses of hardline Euroscepticism and neoconservatism, as it formulates its foreign policy, in order to embrace an older tradition which is cautious, realistic and diplomatic. He detects that David Cameron has been at his least sure footed reacting to issues beyond the scope of domestic politics.

In Europe he has isolated his party from the mainstream, by withdrawing from the EPP. The Conservatives are now estranged from natural European allies. Wheatcroft describes the furore over Lisbon and a referendum as a “self-destructive obsession”. He argues that the ‘moral impetus’ for centralisation was lost when French and Dutch voters rejected an EU Constitution. Although Cameron’s scepticism about bureaucracy at Brussels has healthy enough roots, it is hard to argue with the thesis that it has led to some counterproductive decision making.

I certainly endorse wholeheartedly Wheatcroft’s contention that Cameron suffered his ‘worst moment of all’ during Georgia’s war with Russia. The suggestion that the Georgians should have been immediately admitted to Nato was an enormous lapse of judgment which has since been placed in even starker relief by the European Union’s independent enquiry, which concluded that Georgia started the war.

It was obvious from the outset that conflict in South Ossetia was not simply a result of Russian aggression. When Cameron wholeheartedly, and without reservation, backed the government in Tbilisi, he was providing succour to a President whose aggressive adventure cost many lives. He adopted an astoundingly unreflective policy directly from the neoconservative wing of his party. He was, at best, badly advised.

Had Georgia been member of Nato when the shelling of Tskhinvali began, Britain, the US, France, Germany and other member states, would have been drawn into conflict with Russia, on the side of the aggressors! In truth, Cameron’s response was as belligerent and reflexive as that of David Miliband.

However, William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, has given every indication that the Conservative party intends to take a more cautious approach, if it forms the next government. He has spoken of the need to promote British values internationally, within realistic limits. Iraq and Afghanistan have brought the need for a more sceptical attitude to military intervention into sharp focus.

Wheatcroft heralds the selection of Roy Stewart, an arch sceptic on intervention, as PPC for a safe Tory seat. Hopefully his candidacy is reflective of broader trends within the party. The philosophical underpinnings of Cameron conservatism are thoroughly compatible with measured, cautious foreign policies. An incoming Conservative government should let that tradition prevail.

1 comment:

fair_deal said...

Oh dear. Trying to intellectualise a climb-down is never a good course.