One of my regular correspondents points out that not only the Stop the War Coalition will be turning up to Tony Blair's lecture at Westminster Cathedral next Thursday. Independent Catholic News reports:
The Catholic peace movement Pax Christi is planning to hold a silent vigil in the Piazza in front of the Cathedral from 6.30 that evening (the talk is at 7pm) to call to mind and to public attention, Tony Blair's involvement in the Iraq War and ongoing occupation, in his involvement in the decision to replace Trident, as well as other aspects of his premiership that have created global polarity rather than global solidarity between peoples.
This is good of Pax Christi. I too endeavour to draw to public attention Tony Blair's role in the Iraq War and the decision to replace Trident; it appears I no longer need conduct a vigil about it but can do something more convivial that evening.
The author Geoffrey Wheatcroft, writing in The Guardian about the now concluded presidential campaign of Ron Paul, comes up with non sequitur of the day: "Anyone dismissing him as rightwing should look at his unflinching opposition to the Iraq war, and more generally to the foreign policy of George Bush and previous presidents."
And anyone dismissing Charles Lindbergh as rightwing should look at his unflinching opposition to ... well, you can fill in the rest. The historical analogy between those personalities, in their views on America's role in the world, is close. One of Paul's cheerleaders, the stridently unlettered Justin Raimondo, knows little history but is voluble nonetheless in his commendation of the isolationism of an earlier era. He pointedly refers to "the myth of Japanese war guilt" and laments "the ceaseless smearing of the so-called 'isolationists' who dared to question Roosevelt's relentless drive to war".
Of course Paul unflinchingly opposed the Iraq War. He unflinchingly opposes US foreign policy tout court, because he is an isolationist - and also (as we now know from the researches of Jamie Kirchick at The New Republic) a product of an unsavoury nativist tradition on the American Right. I can understand the criticism that the Iraq War has ruptured America's alliances. But that is not Paul's concern. He is opposed to the transatlantic alliance, believing that Nato "should be disbanded, the sooner the better". He stands in a foreign policy tradition that did enormous damage to the United States and to world peace before Presidents F.D. Roosevelt and Truman managed to shift American policy towards liberal-democratic internationalism. Had the US concerned itself with the European balance of power, and allied early enough with Britain and France, then WWI - a catastrophic conflict driven by German militarism and imperialism - might have been prevented. The victory of American isolationism over Wilsonian internationalism in the inter-war years crippled the system of collective security that the League of Nations was supposed to represent. That isolationist tradition, not excluding its xenophobic elements, is where Paul stands. And that's before we consider his preposterous notions on economic and social policy (return to the Gold Standard, indeed).
The runner-up for non sequitur of the day, incidentally, also comes from Geoffrey Wheatcroft, in the same article: "Unlike some of our own 'Dr' MPs, Paul is a real physician, serving as a US air force doctor before delivering more than 5,000 babies as an obstetrician."
Let's turn to more substantial matters. John McCain's foreign policy speech yesterday to the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles can be read here. I have to say I'm impressed. Unlike much of what presidential aspirants say about the world, it has meat - such as his belief that what is now the G8 should be a club of leading market democracies, so including Brazil and India but excluding Russia. What he says on, respectively, mending the breaches in the Atlantic alliance and standing by our obligations to constitutional authority in Iraq is welcome.
When writing about foreign policy, I'm sometimes accused - especially, indeed monotonously, by the people who post comments at "Comment is Free" - of being a mouthpiece of the US State Department. This is obviously absurd as well as false: I'm far more hawkish than the State Department. If you can imagine me writing something like this about the Danish cartoons affair, then you misjudge where I stand. (To remind you of the contemptible official US response to a campaign of violence, arson and intimidation: "The State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, reading the government's statement on the controversy, said, 'Anti-Muslim images are as unacceptable as anti-Semitic images,' which are routinely published in the Arab press, "as anti-Christian images, or any other religious belief.'")
But let me even so direct you to the State Department blog, because it has an entry on "public diplomacy" - a subject of great importance to the US in sustaining the transatlantic alliance, and thus of great importance to us too. The author is a friend of mine, Colleen Graffy, who is Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. Before she joined the administration, Colleen held an academic post in London, and was a frequent guest in broadcast discussions about US foreign policy. She took part in a CNN debate on this subject with me on one occasion, which is how we met; the programme's editor reasonably assumed that a panel including an American conservative and a European liberal was as balanced a spread of opinion as anyone could wish for.