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An Anglo-French "Special Relationship"?

by eternalcityblues Mon Oct 16th, 2006 at 04:52:48 PM EST

Maybe the FT-type anti-EU attitude is less dominant in the UK today than one might think?

Just came across this article by William Pfaff via DeDefensa, could hardly believe my eyes:

London, October 10, 2006 - Last weekend in London an organization called Intelligence Squared devoted three days of lectures and meetings to the unpromising cause of making the British like the French. Or if not like them, at least understand them better than usually is the case.

The most daring proposition voiced was that of a "special relationship" with France to replace Britain's existing relationship with the United States. Surprisingly, after an hour and half's argument, audience opinion gave victory to a French connection.(Those attending were polled before and after the debate.)

The outcome certainly surprised this participant, who
had argued that the transatlantic special relationship had been bad for both Britain and the United States -- a conjurer's illusion on both sides. But a special British relationship with France to replace it?

After briefly examining the history of the "special relationship" - at the end of which Pfaff comes very close to shoving most of the blame for Bush's disasters onto Tony Blair for aiding/abetting/encouraging him(!) - Pfaff concludes direct UK-FR entwinement, although force-de-frappishly "desirable" ...

There would be advantages in close cooperation between the two European states with the most experience of modern international politics and great power action, possessing the most serious military resources and forces in Europe.

...is nonetheless unlikely, in his view simply because the English historically "don't like" the French (!):

However a fundamental hostility towards France has long been embedded in English political culture, going back to the Norman Conquest and installation of French rulers in 1066.

Whodathunk it? Such looooong, spiteful memories...

Ergo, according to Pfaff:

Any new special relationship for Britain would surely have to be with Europe, but not with the EU that now exists, which will undoubtedly be changed fundamentally during the decade to come. An organization of 25, or 27, or more, members cannot conduct a serious common international and strategic policy, nor act with dispatch and effect.
Yet the consciousness of Europe's essential unity and the need for a new form of cooperation is evident everywhere. This, I think, has yet to be generally realized: expansion and the rejection last year by France and the Netherlands of the proposed European constitution exploded the Europe originally conceived in the 1950s. New structures must be invented to create a flexible Europe, of common identity and shared essential interests, that does not depend upon the United States -- in recognition that the United States simply is no longer dependable.

However, DeDefensa's own analysis views a UK flip-switch from "Atlanticism" to ... "Manchism" (?? "Cross-Channeling"???)  as at least conceivable, given the astro-political conjunctions looming in the 2007 firmament and - above all - the truly unprecedented quantity and quality of transatlantic crap-consequences now teetering on the UK's special-poodlism fan, which could kinda-synergically induce a cathartic divorce-somersault FR-wards...and/or EU-wards?  

Dunno myself whether these enticing figments are pure pipedreams or plausible prospects, but could be worth keeping watch for further "smoke-signals".


By 2008, do you think the UK will ...
. ... have developed a "Special Relationship" with France? 9%
. ...have forged closer bonds with the EU? 0%
. ...be still tied hand and foot to its "Special Relationship" with the USA? 45%
. ... be less close to the USA but no closer to either France or the EU? 45%

Votes: 11
Results | Other Polls
It seems everyone is coming to the conclusion that the EU's only way forward is what has been variously called the "Europe at two speeds", "Variable-geometry Europe", etc, through the "enhanced cooperation" mechanism.

As for the Anglo-French Special Relationship, the UK is more likely to become the 51st US State.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 16th, 2006 at 05:36:36 PM EST
Funniest thing is that I jumped at that article, couldn't resist posting it because it opened up vistas of London unexpectedly bursting into Euro-blooms like a kind of Prague Springtime ... then when I accessed the poll I'd set to try it out, I too found myself voting "against" the possibility of change, "for" the depressing smog of Transatlantic Ties As Usual.  But maybe we're both wrong, some subterranean psychological force is at work, biding its time? The UK military is seriously embittered and more and more outspoken every day, online readers' letters drip with anti-Blair/anti-US venom. One thing I've always noticed is that success in a war strengthens and entrenches not only the current leader but the system and policies he/she represents, while a lost/messed up one has exactly the opposite effect - the urge is to make those responsible pay heavily, string them up by the heels and make a 180° turn, head off on a new course leaving all those nasty bitter humiliating memories behind. The Falklands crowned Maggie and destroyed Videla, the Afghan war boosted the jihadis and dug the USSR's grave... endless other examples.  The Iraq mess is what it is, possibility of half-way decent face-saving solutions less and less probable. Afghanistan "may or may not" be going the same way, but what modern army ever won a guerrilla war against Afghanis? Now it's being presented as "Nato's great testing-ground", OK? which is very ambiguous - the UK military is openly sceptical, already pointing the finger at the US for bad decision-making, counter-productive tactics etc etc.  Is all this really just "business as usual" for the Special Relationship, can it really go on and on absorbing so much venom, so many knife-stabs without falling into convulsions? sooner or later?  And if Afghanistan - with its Pashtun vs Tajikis-etc. ethnic split constantly widening, continues to spiral down from not-so-good to downright bad to unspeakably worse Iraq-style, as it quite probably will because the days of colonial wars are long long gone, hard not to think the "Special Relationship" will come under some heavy strain. A large component of the UK is already identifying Britain's over-submissive relationship with the USA as the root cause of its troubles.

Of course the UK is not made up solely of "ordinary people" and soldiers - and I'm well aware that in liberal democracies the big business and finance establishment is where most of the real power is.  But - IF Afghanistan goes the way of Iraq to such an extent that no face-saving is possible -could a mixture of business interests and sheer inertia really do away with the collective urge/need for a cathartic day of reckoning, a Guy Fawkes figure to burn - with relative sharp change of political course away from the tainted "old course" and onto some kind of "new road to a better future" - which far as I could see, must necessarily involve rotating Britain's collective neck towards Calais and beyond, away from the transatlantic "failure-factory"?

"Ignoring moralities is always undesirable, but doing so systematically is really worrisome." Mohammed Khatami

by eternalcityblues (parvati_roma aaaat libero.it) on Mon Oct 16th, 2006 at 07:06:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The UK establishment, and much of the population, fundamentally doesn't understand the theory or the practice of Europe.

As a trading partner - yes. As an ideology or aspiration - no.

The natural trend on the playing fields of Eton, and on MBA courses is to ape the US, because their reformist free-market yadda yadda is so much more glamorous than anything Europe can produce.

What Europe needs, and the UK needs especially, is an academic and intellectual push back against free-marketism.

Someone needs to start telling different, and more accurate, stories about how the world works. Because at the moment, in both the City and in government, it's the freebooting capitalist model that's captivating hearts and minds.

The only reason that we're in this mess in the first place is because academics took their eye off the ball and let the Chicago Schools of both business and economics in the 70s set the tone for the rest of what happened. Once the rationalisations about markets were in place, and with a handy short sharp shock from the oil crisis, it was easy to start re-engineering the discourse away from populism back towards aggressive economic oligarchy.

Nothing much is going to change until that story loses credibility and is replaced with a different and saner collective value system.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Oct 16th, 2006 at 08:24:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The natural trend on the playing fields of Eton, and on MBA courses is to ape the US, because their reformist free-market yadda yadda is so much more glamorous than anything Europe can produce.

Why?  I mean, why can't Europe produce a more "glamorous", healthier ideology than the U.S. and the U.K.?

As this diary, this piece, and this piece show, sometimes even neoliberal media give a nod to the successes of a more European social model.

How can more such pieces and articles enter the English-language mainstream media?  Der Spiegel and Le Monde Diplomatique, and certainly other European journals, have English editions, allowing for easier transfer into the English media world.  Maybe the EU could fund a pan-European version of Al Jazeera/CNN/BBC, in English, of course, but with alternate stations (à la MTV) in other languages (maybe such a thing exists already?).

What Europe needs, and the UK needs especially, is an academic and intellectual push back against free-marketism.

Who are the most prominent "pro-Europe" think tanks?

What if any influence do they have on EU policy, or the policies of member states?  What if any do they have in the UK?

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Mon Oct 16th, 2006 at 11:26:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This deserves a diary.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Oct 17th, 2006 at 01:44:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A pan-European version of CNN? Great idea!! Arte tried to be something like that, but it is really only French-German.

I believe that the best would be if it came about by private initiative, not statal funding. It should be dynamic, I do not want to fall asleep in front of the screen.

European think tanks? That is one sad story.
Consider however that european "ideology" is already much healthier than american ideology when it comes to areas as foreigners and rights, labor rights and others. Not to mention public health policy. When it comes to politics and international politics, however, they are worth nothing.

There is something like the Stockholm network. You can find more info on Wikipedia, where it also lists all member think tanks.  

I think however that not many British like to be associated with Americans. There are very profound cultural differences, especially in intellectual environments. There is perhaps also a generational issue: older generations still adore the US. I think that younger generations have a healthier self-esteem and see through much of the packaging. I have also met younger intellectuals who were appalled by some aspects of american intellectual life. Still most like to be in the US because of the vastly greater opportunities for professional development. If this type of dynamics could be created in Europe then it would become clearer that the US-UK special relationship really is not that special at all. (Americans like to think that though, despite the vast number of immigrants from other countries).

by Mara (maraineurope@lycos.co.uk) on Fri Nov 10th, 2006 at 10:32:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The only reason that we're in this mess in the first place is because academics took their eye off the ball and let the Chicago Schools of both business and economics in the 70s set the tone for the rest of what happened.

If I am not mistaken, the way that happened was that the economic crisis of the 1970's brought about stagflation, which contradicted the Phillips theory of a balance between unemployment and inflation. Friedman and Phelps jumped on that, showed that there was no theoretical basis for the Phillips curve and managed to convinced everyone that Keynes was superseded. Phelps just got the 2006 Nobel prize for that work.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 17th, 2006 at 04:50:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Whodathunk it? Such looooong, spiteful memories...

Well it's not like we hold a grudge, but they did shoot our king in the eye ;-)

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Oct 16th, 2006 at 06:33:59 PM EST
its the weather...

american weather sucks bigtime lately, and it seems like the fundies' punishing father godmodel is manifesting away america's manifest destiny of more hurricanes, twisters, freak snowstorms, heatwaves, droughts, forest fires, lake salinations etc.

not that we don't get our share of freaky stuff here, with floods and heatwaves, ski resorts hurting etc.

wasn't there a problem with the cooling water for the nuke plants in france, the last big heatwave there a dew years ago?

i saw a clip about kew gardens, how the alpine plant section is needing huge amounts of cooling to keep from frying, and many plants think it's spring and are blooming in october. major redesigns going on there.

the brits want a 'cafe-culture' so bad they can taste it....mmm, croissants!

so until the fens are sea again, and the thames connects with the severn, there will be more than a few rooting for global warming, as they are in russia.

messing around in boats is a grand old tradition in england.

heh... read jerome k. jerome!!!!


'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Oct 17th, 2006 at 02:09:44 AM EST
Britain and France have been allies for most of the last century. The Entente Cordiale may not have been a love match but at least it definitively confirmed the tentative peace since 1815 and ended the centuries of wars between the two countries*.

I see no particular reason why Britain needs a special relationship with any other power. The one with the US was good marketing during the Second World War and the Cold War, but has now become counterproductive.

I suggest we should follow the dictum of Lord Palmerston that a nation has no permanent friends or perpetual enemies but only enduring interests (as modified by the extent that the European Union is regarded as a matter of domestic rather than foreign policy).

I suspect the next generation of political leaders in Britain (and western Europe generally) will be less oriented to the US than the leaderships since the 1940s.

*Honesty compels me to add that this statement is subject to a rough patch in the Second World War when it was unfortunately necessary for the British to destroy the French Navy.

by Gary J on Tue Oct 17th, 2006 at 07:54:06 AM EST

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