Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A little more attention would go a long way

Most of our readers know that I am seriously uninterested in toys. Any kind of toys, not those with wings or those with wheels. I am, however, aware of the political aspects of defence and, even, of toys. So, I want to call attention to Professor Jeremy Black’s latest publication “The Dotted Red Line”, subtitled “Britain’s Defence Policy in the Modern World”.

Professor Black is an eminent historian who seems to be able to publish more than any person alive. There are big books, small books, essays, papers and articles as well as many reviews on The Social Affairs Unit blog. In fact, this book was published by the SAU earlier this year as a sort of companion volume to last year’s “The European Question and the National Interest”.

We are not simply talking about an eminent historian but one who is concerned with the sort of ideas that we in our own humble way (do stop sniggering, there) try to analyze on this blog. Furthermore, Professor Black exhibits the most profound scepticism about the European Union and, indeed, transnational organizations. Unfortunately, his scepticism, also well-merited about Tony Blair’s policies overcomes the others.

The problem with these short volumes is just that: they are short and try to pack in an enormous amount of information and discussion. One comes away from reading them feeling absolutely breathless and, I am sad to say, somewhat disappointed. If people like Professor Jeremy Black cannot get it straight in their minds, what hope is there for the rest of the country?

“The Dotted Red Line” follows the pattern of the previous book, with a chapter on history, the immediate past or the ending of the Cold War, the present situation and future scenarios. It is with the last one that I had problems with.

Well, to be honest, one always has problems with future scenarios, particularly at the end of a book that has shown all past future scenarios as being completely erroneous. The problems with Professor Black’s analysis that, although he does appreciate that the EU is intending to become a political union, that is, a state, he seems to ignore the fact of defence integration as being part of it.

Thus, he talks a great deal about procurement and whether Britain should have closer links with the United States in this respect or the European Union, coming to the conclusion that the future for British defence policies should concentrate on
“… strategic roles that are framed without being directed by the exigencies of particular alliance partners. This latter comment applies to both the EU and the USA. The British military needs to cooperate with both by drawing on a force package which is strong in particular roles that build on national expertise and needs. Commerce protection is an obvious example. In contrast, whatever the future requirements of allies, there is no need for a large-scale tank force capability, or for a large-scale aerial interception equivalent.”
I shall leave the question of “large-scale tank force capability” to one side as my colleague has discussed it already and will, no doubt, do so again. It is not unreasonable to urge future British governments to try to influence whatever defence alliances this country might be part of, with a view to British interests (not, I fear, properly defined in this book). But the whole argument would be more interesting and more acceptable if Professor Black made it clear that the EU is not simply another alliance.

As David Cameron in his speech, so Professor Black in his book: neither seems to grasp that the EU’s defence policy involves total integration. We cannot be part of that and America’s allies (or part of the Anglosphere, a possibility Black does not discuss) at the same time.


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