European Union

Living on a Thin Line


Since its empire dissolved, the central question of Britain's national identity has been whether the country will be an extension of Europe or America. Not many people are willing to put the issue as baldly as that; it's easier for the partisans of a European superstate to present themselves as rebels against American domination, and for the partisans of American domination to present themselves as rebels against a European superstate. And of course there are the Tony Blair types who would rather not rebel against either. But there aren't many powerful voices for independence across the board.

I'm a pretty big Powell & Pressburger fan, but I wasn't blown away by their Colonel Blimp movie. Then again, what I saw was one of the shortened versions. Should I seek out the full 163-minute cut?

In tomorrow's election, Nick Clegg represents the Anglo-European wing of the establishment. In the words of Christopher Hitchens, "There's a whole sector of the British professional class that probably knows Tuscany and Provence better than it knows large areas of post-industrial Britain." Clegg, he writes, is their man:

Clegg worked for me in [The Nation's] New York offices while I was writing from Washington, so our direct contact was limited. What I chiefly remember, apart from his now-famous personal charm, was how "European" he was. His parentage was partly Dutch and partly Russian. He has since married a Spanish woman and has three children with Spanish names. And, of course, his party is the one most closely identified with the British aspiration to full British engagement in the European Union.

Those leanings might not always be apparent in a campaign that has largely focused on domestic policy, but they certainly manifest themselves when the talk turns to foreign affairs. Over at The Corner, Nile Gardiner has posted an item titled "Five Reasons Why American Conservatives Should Be Worried about Nick Clegg." Strip away the hyperbole (as when Gardiner calls Clegg "anti-American"), and the list boils down to this:

• Clegg wants an "end to what he mockingly calls London's 'subservience' to Washington."

• He is opposed to "default Atlanticism."

• He "has called for the scrapping of Britain's trident nuclear deterrent and is firmly opposed to the use of force against Iran's nuclear facilities as a last resort if sanctions fail."

• He "believes that Britain must give up key aspects of national sovereignty in Europe, including the pound."

• He is critical of Israel.

I don't find most of those positions as worrisome as Gardiner does, but set that aside. Four of those five stances amount to declaring Britain's independence from U.S. foreign policy. The other one amounts to relinquishing independence to Brussels. Q.E.D.

NEXT: I Like Socialism. Also Capitalism. Also Family Values.

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  1. Our star-spangled Union Jack flutters so proud
    Over the dancing heads of the merry patriotic crowd
    Tip your hat to the Yankee conqueror
    We’ve got no reds under the bed with guns under our pillows
    We’re the 51st state of America

    Song link

    1. I saw D.O.A. many years ago and they did a rocking cover of 51st State.

  2. Even the most blinkered Limey has to look at what’s going on in Greece and rethink his vote for Clegg and the notion that Britain ought to hitch itself to an EU that may well be imploding and, at any rate, is now seen as a piggy bank for spendthrift Mediterranean nations.

  3. I have to wonder how eager Brits are going to be to tie themselves more closely to Europe when enraged German taxpayers are being forced to bail out lazy and indolent Greeks to the tune of billions and billions of dollars.

  4. You’d think giving up the pound to join the Euro right now would be certain death at the polls. Sure, the pound is no prize, but the Euro may not even survive in its current form until Barack Obama’s defeat by Sarah Palin in our next election.

    1. Uh…Miss Cleo or Magic Eight Ball?

      1. No, no, sage, he’s right. We all got excited as it looks like Gary Johnson is going to win the nomination, then it turned out that Palin was sleeping with all of the heads of the E.U. nations (including the Queen and PM of the UK), which gave her a perceived foreign policy advantage. Obama couldn’t match that accomplishment, though in desperation he did make a pass at the U.N. All of it.

        1. Which is why Bill Clinton was considered to be so sound on foreign policy. Every head of state and their wife had three-ways with the man known internationally as simply “The Bill.”

          1. Heh. You said “head.”

          2. Which is why this administration is so godawful at foreign policy. Obama has had sex with no foreign leaders of note, and no one wants the SoS, not even her husband. Bad vibes.

            The Bush administration, surprisingly, was fairly strong on the sexual foreign policy front. However, the problem was that the foreign leaders felt dirty and ashamed afterward, as demonstrated by Angela Merkel’s discomfort with Bush’s public, post-coital massage.

            1. The problem with Bush was that he was into some nasty shit. I believe he was rather obsessed with the end product of digestive functions. A fecallatio fan if you will, hence the popularity of the BusHitler iconography. Although I think he was more of the R-Kelly school of excretory system. His belief can be summed up as:

              God gave America the biggest dick so we could piss on the rest of the world.

              Cheney, whose first name is coincidentally and fortuitously Dick, was the enforced of said policy because of his rather large endowement from God. The reason we had a measure of success with Germany towards the end of his term with this policy was that you know those dirty Krauts like this sort of thing.

              1. Such is the depravity my mind is driven towards in the absence of morning links.

                1. “Fecallatio”. I approve wholeheartedly.

        2. “Hey there, UN. There are those who say that once you go black, you never go back…”

    2. Palin will not be President come 2013. But if she did win the election. My posts for at least two months after the election would consist of nothing but laughter at the thought of the misery such a result would inflict upon the Reason staff.

      1. I doubt she’s even going to run, though it remains a possibility. I give her little chance of winning the nomination, though.

        1. John’s right, though. The lulz would be spectacular.

      2. They still haven’t lived down the infamous ‘libertarian case for Obama.’

        1. I thought that those who held that position were off their rockers back then. Now, it’s batshit insane.

          1. But Tim Cavenaugh got to vote for a black man for President. And that is really what it is all about right? Making Timmy feel good about himself?

            1. I forgive him if he repents.

              1. You’re gracious to forgive racists.

  5. Strip away the hyperbole (as when Gardiner calls Clegg “anti-American”)

    But he is. European identity, in the sense Hitchens is talking about, is negatively defined against America, the native working class, and The Jews (but not every Jew). Clegg antis ’em all in the proper ruling-class fashion.

  6. Why do the neocon dipshits at The Corner care so much about Britain? They’re over; they’re done. And they are way down the Orwellian path at this point.

    1. They can still project power.

    2. They’ve got nukes.

    3. And they have a problem with throat-cutting Muslim fanatics far worse than what we have in America.

    4. Define neocon. Please show your work.

    5. The neocons at The Corner envy said Orwellian surveillance state.

      Admittedly, I like Steyn’s writings and general disposition. I must also admit that I share a great deal of his concerns about cultural trends, while simultaneously opposing most of his foreign policy proscriptions. That said, I find his latest column on modern Britain to be an eireely scary dystopia of entitlement and idiocy that I fear we are progressing towards ever more rapidly.

      1. I’d take Steyn’s rather distant view of Britain with a grain of salt. This is the man who claimed in that awful “America Alone” book that he “knew a woman” (real?) who couldn’t leave her home without donning a headscarf. Anyone who’s lived in Britain knows that’s laughable nonsense.

        Not that there aren’t some problems with the surveillance state and law-and-order control freakery bequeathed by New Labour. But it’s interesting to note that both Cameron’s Tories and Clegg’s Liberals have pledged to undo a lot of Labour’s dismal authoritarian measures.

        1. His latest column seems like a much better facsimile of what my understanding of modern Britain is (drunken chavs louting about). As for Steyn himself, I just enjoy his style more than his substance. I find him to be an entertaining read, manages to maintain that absolute cynicism that defines my own disposition, and just strikes me as genuinely witty.

    6. Hard to say, as there aren’t that many neocons at the Corner. Quite a few of the non-neocons have links to Britain, including by birth (Derbyshire), or simply by having worked for British newspapers. John O’Sullivan was executive editor of National Review for a long time, and is a born Brit.

  7. The roots of Clegg’s party are libertarian, or at least, classically liberal.

    Of course, they’ve drifted far from them, as has The Nation.

    1. Yeah, I can’t see a libertarian ceding sovereignty to a lumbering, incompetent Euro-superstate.

    2. The roots of half of his party. The party merged with the Social Democrats, who were ex-Labour who were New Labour before New Labour existed.

      1. I thought the SDs left Labour because of Blair’s predecessor moving away from true doctrinaire socialism.

        My understanding is that New Labour is “new” like the New (ie Clinton) Democrats: that is, embracing elements of the free market to promote economic development to better finance the welfare state.

  8. Clegg has however, shifted his party well to the right of any predecessor. He’s essentially a pro-europe cambridge conservative. Unfortunately his party is to the left of him. He does understand that his position on europe is the position of only around 20% of the population so he tones it down. He wouldn’t go into the euro without a referendum, which would fail, so he wouldn’t try, so that point is academic.

    1. Just like Blair promised a referendum on the EU constitution? Europhiles have a history of utter contempt for their electorate and have shown no compunction about abandoning democracy when it doesn’t look like it’s going to give them the result that they want.

      Clegg’s foreign policy is/should be pure poison in a general election, especially given the rapidly collapsing of the financials of the Eurozone. Foreign policy is the last thing on the minds of the British voters at the moment though, and Clegg’s popularity shows his opponents have done a piss poor job of relating his Europhilia to further economic devastation.

  9. You know what really pisses me off about these Nick Clegg types…

    Wait a minute, what the fuck is a “Nick Clegg”?

    1. He’s the son of Corporal Clegg.

      1. Was wondering when someone would reference Floyd. Thanks, BP.

        1. Anytime, Tonio. It certainly seemed apropos.

    2. A nickclegg is a cross-eyed well monster from Irish folklore. Since it possesses no genitals or brains it really only presented danger to especially stupid children who play in wells. Also the inspiration for the nursery rhyme:

      Nickclegg, Nickclegg
      Fall down the playing well
      and he’ll dry-hump your leg
      No matter how very much you beg
      or kick or scream or rebel,
      There’s no escaping foul Nickclegg

      1. Since the nickclegg posses no genitals, I am sure you could have worked “peg” in there.

        I would try, but alas the muse escapes me today.

  10. I don’t find most of those positions as worrisome as Gardiner does, but set that aside. Four of those five stances amount to declaring Britain’s independence from U.S. foreign policy. The other one amounts to relinquishing independence to Brussels. Q.E.D.

    Exactly right. Throw out the pound for the Euro? Has he read the papers lately!?

  11. Four of those five stances amount to declaring Britain’s independence from U.S. foreign policy.

    Hardly. Being anti-nukes, anti-war with Iran and critical of Israel is an exact match with Obama’s foreign policy.

    There goes the whole premise of this post, I guess?

    1. On Israel and Iran, I think you’re vastly overestimating the differences between the present president and his predecessor. But you have a point on the nukes, not just because Obama favors reductions but because disarmament makes Britain more dependent on America’s nuclear umbrella. Then again, Britain’s independent deterrant never really was all that independent; if you think the nuclear umbrella itself is an artifact of Cold War thinking, and if you want to move towards a post-nuclear world, Clegg’s combination of views makes sense.

      1. Also considering the huge debt the UK has, surpassing Greece almost – spending hundreds of millions on some useless weapons system makes no sense…

  12. “it’s easier for the partisans of a European superstate to present themselves as rebels against American domination, and for the partisans of American domination to present themselves as rebels against a European superstate.”
    False choice.
    They are independent poofs (not that theres anything wrong with that), not on their knees before the big, bulgeing rod of American dominators, nor awaiting the penetration of big European points … of view. No, exactly the opposite.

    1. A particularly astute point considering that the sovereignty devolution parties like the SNP have a good shot of becoming kingmakers in what has a good chance of being a split coalition government.

      (also Col Blimp looks like Technoviking after hitting the cheesburgers and abandoning the abs workout)

  13. The biggest difference between the American and British political system is that they have separate parties for the union laborers and the cosmotarian latte liberals, whereas in America those two are uncomfortably wedged together in the Democratic party.

    It seems like a three-party system like that would make it much harder for one party to control both chambers of Congress and the White House simultaneously, thus leading to desirable gridlock more often.

    1. Maybe, but as you said, Britain has three major parties and look at the intrusive nanny state they have.

      Maybe it would be different here, but I doubt it.

      1. The UK has an upper chamber that doesn’t do anything, and the real executive power is exercised by the party with a majority in the lower chamber. There’s nothing to gridlock. (Despite this, I’ve been in an argument with a Yorkshire pub owner who insisted that Parliament had more independence from the Prime Minister than Congress did from the President.)

        1. Well, MPs do get to shout at the PM without accused of being “unprecedentedly” uncivil…

          So the Limeys have that going for them, anyway.

          1. Yes, but members of the PM’s party don’t if they want to get Party support for the next election.

            It’s only the Opposition that gets to abuse the Ministers.

            1. You got to dance with them what brung you.

    2. …the union laborers and the cosmotarian latte liberals…

      Actually, that’s pretty much “New Labour” in a nutshell.

      1. Of course, “New Labour” is really just the union leadersers and the cosmotarian latte liberals. Rank and file union members are deserting Labo[u]r Parties (and those that claim to speak for labor like Canada’s NDP and our Democrats) for more right wing populist, protectionist parties.

        In Britain it’s the BNP.

        1. labor leadersers, we hates them!

          1. Typos like that are probably what I get for not using a union typist.

    3. Actually the Liberals have traditionally not been a major party. The resurgence seems to be widespread disenchantment with the two majors.

      In Australia the third party, the National (formerly Country) Party tends to split the conservative votes so that the Liberals (Australia has no Conservative Party by that name) have to depend on them to form a coalition government.

      In Canada, the third party frequently holds the balance of power so that the ruling party has to moderate its programs to keep their support. However, unlike Australia, they never form formal coalitions since the third party is either the socialist NDP or the separatist Bloc Quebecois and no one wants to give any of them Cabinet portfolios.

  14. Not Mollycoddling the Israelis probably have the neo-con filth more upset than anything else – However Lib Dems are likely to be in coalition with the Tories after this Thursday’s elections so no need to worry about the UK not being America’s poodle – of the 3 main parties in England the LibDems are easily the most sensible to your average American modern libertarian voter if such an entity exists…Go Clegg.

  15. You are right dude that is pretty thin alright.


  16. He “believes that Britain must give up key aspects of national sovereignty in Europe, including the pound.”

    Well, if they want to adopt the dollar as their currency, I don’t see a problem with that.

  17. Hmm… he hates national sovereignty… he hates Jews…

    Sounds like a Democrat.

  18. My take on applying the song in the context of the Middle East and international terrorism:…..l-and.html

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