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The Times: Britain Handed Control to German and American Ideologues

Anatole Kaletsky writes in the The Times about Tony Blair's troubles and Gordon Brown's options. He describes what German monetary policy in the early 90s and U.S. foreign policy today have in common:
Mr Major's failure as a prime minister was down to a fatal policy mistake: his decision to keep Britain in the ERM [= European Exchange Rate Mechanism] regardless of cost. In doing this, the Tories effectively handed control of monetary policy to the Bundesbank, just as Mr Blair has subordinated foreign policy to the White House. (...)
Like US foreign policy today, German economic policy in the 1990s was run by a pair of arrogant but incompetent ideologues. Theo Waigel and Helmut Schlesinger, the German Finance Minister and Bundesbank President, were to economics what Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney are to the art of war. The German leaders of the early 1990s managed to turn their once-great economy into the sick man of Europe, just as Mr Rumsfeld and Mr Cheney have reduced America from a military superpower to a paper tiger. (...)
To my mind, Mr Blair's truly unforgivable crime was not the invasion of Iraq. (...). No, Mr Blair's crime was to continue backing President Bush after it became obvious that his policies were criminally negligent, politically cynical and doomed to failure. Mr Blair was the one man in the world who could have forced President Bush to back Colin Powell, sack Donald Rumsfeld, close down Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and launch a serious drive for Palestinian statehood.
Considering the lasting impact of the ERM disaster on British attitudes towards Europe (on top of the already existing Eurosceptism/-phobia), what long-term impact will Blair's foreign policy have on British attitudes towards the United States?

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Tim Worstall on :

In answer to the final question. Not a lot. The let in the UK is driven by a distaste for all thing American. That hasnít changed in 50 years.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Tim, Thanks for stopping by! What about the staunch US supporters in the UK? Is the US losing significant support among those Brits who have been strongly in favor of promoting ever closer US-British relations? Mosts Brits were not terribly enthusiastic ((I am practicising British understatements)) about the EU before the European Exchange Rate Mechanism disaster, but the point is that the ERM disaster decreased support for the EU integration among those Brits, who were at least lukewarm about it. Is the US losing some British friends in a similar manner now? And do some favor the EU now?

Don on :

Perhaps. It's hard to say definitively, Joerg, because there has been portions of both major UK parties who have been US-phobic over the years. Labor, obviously. But less-obviously there is a good-sized chunk of the Tories who dislike the US as well and have done for a long time. And the Lib-Dems are perhaps the purest expression of the mealymouthed pious idiot tendency of any major European political party I can think of - probably because they have no prospects of ever holding power and therefore can get away with it. So the question is whether this is anything new or if Kaletsky is blowin smoke up our gluteus max? I think it's mostly the latter. The relationship between Blair and both Clinton and Bush has been one of the warmest of any British Prime Minister on record. When Blair goes the relationship is bound to cool just as it cooled after Major replaced Thatcher. That is it went from extraordinarily warm to just average - which is actually pretty warm. Is the UK likely to go fight another war beside the US after Iraq/Afghanistan play out? I doubt they will anytime soon. But then I don't expect there to be the need - Bush's successor is unlikely to be eager to fight another war for his 4 or 8 year term. Indeed I suspect the problem is going to be getting the US to fight at all - even if there is a legitimate need!

clarence on :

Jorg, US-UK "support" has been at gov't level only for many, many decades. The days of an "anglophile" US are long gone, and there is no measurable "staunch" support for the US in the UK. Objectively, measured by press coverage, there is more bitter and irrational hatred of the USA in the UK than in any other country in Europe; Der Speigel pales next to The Independent, The Guardian, The Economist, and certainly the BBC. The UK has become Londonistan, as Melanie Philips likes to call it, and Blair has simply delayed the inevitable rupture.

Don on :

Some of that may be partially true, clarence? But has anything really changed? A large portion of the people writing for the editorial pages of the Guardian and the Independent use 'Bush' and 'US' as curse words it;s true. But it was ever thus. Really. Go back to the 1950's and 60's - it was worse and more vituperous if anything! From what I see there actually is a small but stalwart pro-yankee contingent at the Guardian, and I'm not sure that was the case in years past.... Not sure about the Independent because I don't read the rag. Not after the third time they suckered me in with cover pictures which were larger than the actual story behind them. The Independent ought to rename itself. 'Empty Calories' or perhaps 'Pometkin Village' would be about right.... The more important question is

Don on :

(continued) The more important question is whether anything fundamental has changed. I don't think so - other than there is bound to be a slight cooling as governments in both countries change hands and the wars wind down.

BernieGoldberg on :

@ clarence: What makes you think that "The Economist" is too critical of the US let alone anti-American? A couple of weeks ago when its editor-in-chief was replaced the magazine just declared that it stood by its support for the Iraq war. The Economist is home to probably the most intelligent observers of the American political scene, among them John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldrige who have written an enlightening book on conservative power in America. I would urge you to refrain from using false generalizations. If you stand by your assertions at least provide some factual support for them! Thx.

Tim Worstall on :

Well, about the EU I canít really comment. Iím not even a eurosceptic, but a euronihilist. I think its very existence is an extremely bad idea and it should be abolished. So my measuring how fellow Brits feel about itis likely to be somewhat tinged by my Bayesian Priors. As to the US, Clarence is I think half right. The average Brit in hte street is perfectly happy about American and Americans. Just not too keen on their Government.

clarence on :

Tim, It is a very popular expression in Europe & the UK that "we don't dislike Americans, just your gov't." IMVHO it is often delusional (gives comfort to the speaker, and avoids a harsh exchange), if not often deliberately dishonest (Baker at the Times comes to mind). However, at best, it is simply mistaken: IF the American public strongly disapproved of our foreign policy, the Congress would have pulled the troops out (by cutting funding..just as Congress did re Vietnam). It has not happened, and there is no agenda for that to happen. Changing topics a bit...do you think Farage's little party has any chance to gain ground in the next election?

Martin on :

The UK government cannot continue to support America, if their voters are against it. The government might be able to do so for a couple of years more, but at some point a politician will appear, who will win elections by emphasising his disagreements with the US president and US adventures in the ME. It happened before, if you know what I mean...

Isolationst on :

A complete rupture between the UK and the US would be welcome indeed, a break so deep and so wide that the Atlantic could never--never--be bridged again.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

The terrorists, who attacked the US on 9/11, did not need any bridges. I think, isolationism would not make the US any safer. One of the myths shattered on 9/11 was that the Atlantic and the Pacific protect the US. Since you advocated in other comments that the US should pull out of NATO and the UN and now you want to give up the special UK-US relationship, perhaps you could tell us, what benefits the US would get from this total isolationism?

clarence on :

Jorg, With respect, you have a tendency to read into what was written statements that are not there. Withdrawal from the UN and NATAO is not equivalent to "total isolationism"; it is simply a rejection of "old alliances" that do not serve our national interest. The gains from withdrawl from NATO are numerous: we would save money, we would not financially support socialist countries, and just perhaps the next time Old Europe is threatened, and finds we are not here to help, it might change the public's perception of your foreign policy decision. Most importantly, the UN and NATO are often a crutch for politicians who do not want to make tough decisions; without that baggage, decision-making would be more focused.

clarence on :

Isolationist: There is a quote variously attributed (Talleyrand? Bismark?) that a nation does not have permanent allies, but is does have permanent interests. There are countries in Europe today with whom the US does have common interests (Poland, for ex.), so: simply in our own national interest, don't paint all of Europe with the same brush.

Martin on :

Sure, Poland can replace the UK as the primary partner. And Estonia, Mongolia, and Czeck Republic can replace Spain, Italy and Germany as allies. And Romania can replace Canada.

clarence on :

Martin, Actually, you are correct: replacing the Iraq contingent from Spain, Italy, and Germany can be done by a tourist from Outer Mongolia, and after Blair is gone the UK will be gone as well. The difference (if the US were out of NATO) is that the next time there is a little war on your doorstep (say, Kosovo again), it would be your problem, not ours. P.S. Anyone can replace Canada; the only nation on the planet afraid of "too much" US music on the radio stations.

Zyme on :

@ clarence Maybe you are misinterpreting conscious idleness with incapability as regards Kosovo and the europeans. Do you really believe no european country would have been capable of interfering sooner in 1999 if it had had any interest into it? :)

clarence on :

Zyme, Very nice phrase, "conscious idleness." Bravo! However, I don't think I confuse that with incapability; in fact, both were at play...and the distinction is really irrelevant to my point. Idleness: I doubt you would argue that the US had to prod its NATO "allies" into acting in Kosovo, which reinforces my point that NATO is a detriment to the USA. Capability: the UK Telegraph on may 9, 2004 quotes a German gov't report as stating that German troops in Kosovo "hid in barracks like frightened rabbits." The Belgian army practices with toy rifles, for lack of a budget for the real thing (Wall St J.) So, yes, I think the EU armed forces have very limited capability. Relevance: the point was (and is) that NATO is more of a burden to the US than it is an aid. The reason is not really very important. I do not write this with rancor, but simply with the view that the USA and the EU do not have common interests any longer, and that the USA would be better off without the obligations and entanglements.

Isolationist on :

Jorg has asked me via separate e-mail to explain why I'm an isolationist. I am thinking about doing so, but I doubt I'll do it. Meanwhile, I want to ask if anyone can seriously believe any longer in the "special" UK-US relationship mentioned in one of the posts above?

David on :

@isolationist, If you are really an isolationist, why do you hang out on a blog that promotes international dialogue? I think you are really a secret internationalist!

clarence on :

Anyone who does should read Melanie Phillips' blog: http://www.melaniephillips.com/

Isolationist on :

David, Think again.

Zyme on :

@ clarence Our army always reflects the determination of our current system. Until very recently, the usage of german troops to kill was unthinkable. We are a people of the extremes, and the pendulum has just begun moving towards the other side again.

clarence on :

Zyme, It is true everywhere that the military reflect the determination of their country, for better or worse. Thank you very much for your comments. Guten Nacht.

Don on :

Anatole Kaletsky's metier is economic commentary, and he does that very well. As a commentator on politics or foriegn affairs Mr. Kaletsky is utterly out of his depth, and sadly it shows. He is slowly becoming the Paul Krugman of the Times......

mbast on :

"The German leaders of the early 1990s managed to turn their once-great economy into the sick man of Europe, just as Mr Rumsfeld and Mr Cheney have reduced America from a military superpower to a paper tiger" Jeez, next dear Anatole is going to point out that "Rumsfeld" is a German name ;-).

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Yep, he has some cousins (perhaps only third degree) in Germany. He used to visit them in a small village in Niedersachsen in the 80s. Those who hate Rumsfeld, probably also hate Kissinger, who is an immigrant from Germany, of course. It's always the Germans... :-) Rumsfeld is arrogant and a bad Sec Def, but I like his humor and how he defends himself at press conferences. Is Rumsfeld's humor German? I don't know, but I like it: "The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." "Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know." Both of the above statements are great. The last one summarizes something scientists or other politicians usually need two pages to say it. These are also witty: "I would not say that the future is necessarily less predictable than the past. I think the past was not predictable when it started." "We do know of certain knowledge that he [Osama Bin Laden] is either in Afghanistan, or in some other country, or dead." "Death has a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war." "Well, um, you know, something's neither good nor bad but thinking makes it so, I suppose, as Shakespeare said." "Secretary Powell and I agree on every single issue that has ever been before this administration except for those instances where Colin's still learning." Who else in the US, German or French government is that witty? I hope Rumsfeld resigns and takes over Jon Stewart's Daily Show.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

I looked it up, not Niedersachsen but Bremen. Poor Rumsfeld: Telegraph | News | Rumsfeld family tie is first victim of war "The American defence chief Donald Rumsfeld has been disowned by his anti-war relatives in north Germany, reports Tony Paterson The Rumsfelds of Weyhe-Sudweyhe, an unremarkable red-brick suburb of Bremen, were once proud of their long-lost cousin, America's secretary of state for defence - but no longer. Like many Germans, they are appalled by Donald Rumsfeld's hawkish attitude to military action against Saddam Hussein. About 18,000 anti-war demonstrators marched through Munich yesterday to protest at his presence at an international security conference - chanting slogans such as "No room for Rumsfeld!" "We think it is dreadful that Donald Rumsfeld is out there pushing for a war against Iraq," Karin Cecere (nee Rumsfeld), 59, said from her two-up, two-down home last week. "We are embarrassed to be related to him," she told The Telegraph. Margarete Rumsfeld, her 85-year-old mother, was equally dismissive: "We don't have much to do with him anymore. Nowadays he's just the American defence secretary to us, but for God's sake, he'd better not start a war," she added. They used to feel differently. Twenty-five years ago, the German Rumsfelds were thrilled to welcome Mr Rumsfeld - then the United States ambassador to Nato stationed in Brussels - into their extended family. Like many Americans keen to trace their European antecedents, Mr Rumsfeld had made contact with the Weyhe-Sudweyhe Rumsfelds, a branch of the family with whom his near relations had lost touch since his great-great-grandfather, Heinrich, emigrated to America during the 19th century. Mr Rumsfeld paid three visits to Dietrich Rumsfeld, a bricklayer, and his wife Margarete in their small artisan's cottage. " http://www.telegraph.co.uk/core/Content/displayPrintable.jhtml;jsessionid=RYDDBQFBRF2NFQFIQMFCFF4AVCBQYIV0?xml=/news/2003/02/09/wrums09.xml&site=5&page=0

Don on :

It seems to me more than a little 'dreadful' for a family to publically disown a family member in this manner - but then I'm just a Yank who doesn't have the sophisticated European view. You'll note the recriminations are unilateral. That seems fitting as well. Do as Schroeder did....

mbast on :

"Secretary Powell and I agree on every single issue that has ever been before this administration except for those instances where Colin's still learning." Hehe, that one reminds me of a De Gaulle quote: "When I am right, I get angry. Churchill gets angry when he is wrong. We are angry at each other much of the time." It's true Rumsfeld is witty. However, does that mean he's automatically a good secretary of defense? I just don't know.... ;-).

Don on :

"It's true Rumsfeld is witty. However, does that mean he's automatically a good secretary of defense? I just don't know.... ;-)." Joerg seems to believe the opposite. Which may lead us to the conclusion that a half-wit is needed for Sec Def... ;)

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