Tuesday, January 23, 2007

On anti-Americanism and British benevolence

A significant part of anti-war ssentiment in this country has always been anti-american feeling. In some ways this is understandable: The American Regime was the chief architect of the way in Iraq and is the key player in materially sustaining the operation.

Yet much anti-american rhetoric goes further than this. Blair, it is asserted, is in Bush's pocket and Britain is the 51st state of America. And here the problems start. Britain's economy is the 5th biggest in the world. We are a nation which has massive control over the global arms trade. America may be the stronger partner in the british american relationship, but to describe britain as America's 51st state is to seriously underestimatee the independent power and room for manouver enjoyed by the british establishment. The image of britian simply doing America's bidding distracts attention from the British ruling class, the decisions they take and the motives they might have for taking them (it might be noted that massive oil company BP account for 7 per cent of British GDP).Similarly, anti-americanism allows people to oppose the iraq war while maintianing the idea that Britain;s global role is essentially benevolent. It is not uncommon for the alleged finesse of British soldiers to be contrasted against the apparently more gung ho attitude of the Americans. (the silly but oft repeated notion that British troops are administering Basra well because of their experience of benevolent occupation in ireland might take a battering from the recent report of on collusion). The point here is that anti-americanism can undermine our ability to build genuine anti-imperialist sentiment on the back of the Iraq war.


badmatthew said...

Ok then, what does explain Britain's role in world politics, the long-standing centrality of the Atlantic alliance, and particularly its role in Iraq? BP?

AN said...

That is a diffcult question isn't it!

At one level it can be rationalised due to the large degree of British capital invested internationally, and the need thereofre for Britain to back the USA as a global policeman by proxy, britain having been proven unabloe to play that role since Suez in 1956.

But I am aware that this is really quite inadeqaute to explain actual foreign policy choices. Britain cooud have backed the US in Iraq without committing troops for example, Blair didn't need to tour the world selling the war.

To that degree he has adopted US foreign policy as his own, and it is reasonable for people to question whether it is in British national interest.

BTW - it is not chauvenism to point out that British troops are more experienced in counter-insurgency warfare - thst is simple the far from bengign legacy of Empire.

Anonymous said...

I think that's nearly all true - although UK independent influence is 'very' small comapred ot the US.

But it's missing the point.

Anti-Americanism is simply wrong because we are internationalist. We are with are US bother and sisters against our common enemy.

So I have no tolerance at all for any national chauvinist 'anti-imperalism' which you list inthe article but can even get to petty stuff like criticising US TV shows in the UK or US spelling. Both, incidentally, are better than the UK version.

The Shield or The Bill - you decide.