This morning, the former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was interviewed by Andrew Marr for the aptly named Andrew Marr Show, a politically-focused programme on BBC One. The former premier discussed the problems with the Euro and the United Kingdom’s relation to the European Union. He also said something that has been increasingly downplayed over the past few years:
Take a step back. Look at the broad sweep of history. Because of the way the world is changing today – the size and power of China, India. You take a country like Indonesia today – we don’t know much about it here – but its economy is growing strongly; its [population is] three times the size of Germany. So in the long term future of the world, that European project of integration is going to go ahead – like it or not. And it’s important that we are part of that, because we as a country – sixty million people in a small island nation – if we want to exercise weight and influence we’ve got to do it through our alliances and one of those is the European Union.
He ended with the prophetic statement:
The rationale for European integration is not peace anymore. It’s power!
Four entwined arguments are clear here:
- The world is becoming less-and-less European, due to the rise of other countries like China, India, Indonesia, and so on;
- The United Kingdom must continue to exercise power in the wider world if liberty, essential rights and constitutional democracy are to be upheld;
- The only way Britons and other Europeans can do this is through European integration, by constituting a European superpower with sufficient mass to shape the world (in alliance with the United States);
- Europeans must accept that European integration is no longer about peace and internationalism, but is instead about exercising power.
Tony Blair is absolutely right. He made this case consistently during his premiership, an argument which grew in prominence and authority across the European Union. However, in recent years, this ‘Blair doctrine’ has been pushed back and diluted. Four forces are contributing to this doctrine’s marginalisation:
- The Financial Crisis has encouraged most Europeans to focus once again on themselves, rather than on their position in the outside world (which is just as important as the economy);
- An unholy alliance of pacifists, internationalists and nationalists has managed to hijack European integration over the past two years to dilute the ‘global Europe’ or ‘Europe as power’ discourse – a primary component of the ‘Blair doctrine’ – and replace it with a ‘normative Europe’ approach, that is to say, a European Union that eschews armed force and pursues ‘global governance’ and ‘global solutions’ to ‘common problems’ instead;
- The past two British governments – those of Gordon Brown and David Cameron – have lost or have little interest in the European project, so have not been active enough in pressing a constructive British perspective (i.e. a maritime, open, strategic and globally-focused Europe) on their continental allies;
- Germany – the exemplar of ‘normative Europe’ – has, through its own efforts, and because of British indifference, become increasingly influential, thereby contributing to the marginalisation of the British-inspired ‘global Europe’ perspective.
So how can we re-ignite the ‘Blair doctrine’?
- London must realise that Britain cannot make it on its own in the increasingly geopolitical world of the twenty-first century. The United Kingdom may emerge as the largest economic power in European Union by mid-century as Germany’s population declines – which will further contribute to the British position as the geopolitical and strategic anchor of Europe – but London will be even stronger if it can lead a powerful European bloc, a kind of reservoir of power it can draw on to bolster its own position on the planetary stage;
- Those of us who are inclined to a more mature and worldly understanding of international politics must become more assertive in our dealings with the pacifists and the ideological internationalists, whose fantasies and illusions will ultimately – should they succeed – draw Europeans down into a quagmire of powerlessness and apathy;
- European officials must be held to account: since the departure of Javier Solana, European foreign, security and military policy has lost its global, strategic and professional drive. Those of us who are supportive of the project of European integration should become more critical – constructively critical. As a starting point, we need to look at the use of language, which has been used to hide meaning and create vagueness. Consequentially, all European officials and speech-writers (and academics who write about European affairs) should read George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language. For example, let’s stop talking about ‘global players’, ‘common solutions’ and ‘global problems’ – all vague nonsense and cloudy euphemism, which in Orwell’s words ‘falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outlines and covering up all the details’ – and let us hear more about ‘global powers’, ‘European interests’, and ‘threats to European security’!