I rarely feel the need to attack a post on another blog but what I read this morning on Ideas on Europe, a blog hosted by UACES (the academic association for contemporary European studies) was just a bit too much. The author James Rogers wrote on ‘Why Britain will never accept German leadership’ and took over arguments from another blog written by Julian Lindley-French (who to be fair put his arguments more into perspective).
The three main reasons for why Germany will never be able to ‘shackle’ Britain are apparently the following :
- Britain’s economic power – even after the Financial Crisis – is still too great and too different (being heavily financial and increasingly globalised) to allow Germany to apply the same kind of pressure on it than it has on places like Greece, Italy, Spain and France.
- Britain is a political counter-weight to Germany, for historical and political reasons. The United Kingdom is ‘not-Germany’, which means other European Union Member States will flock to it when German power becomes too overbearing. Britain will capitalise on this, particularly in in the European peripheries.
- Britain’s military power remains robust, while Germany’s is pitifully weak. Of all the European Union’s Member States, none can mount the kind of expeditionary operations the British can; no country has battle-hardened regular forces like those of the United Kingdom. The British military has fought battles or has seen tours of duty all over the world for decades; it also retains a global geopolitical footprint, with military stations reaching into the Indian Ocean and the South Atlantic.
Rogers goes on to state that
Britain needs to carefully construct closer military relations with France, Poland, Spain, the Netherlands, as well as, and particularly, the Nordic and Baltic states – something we described as London’s ‘Nordic drive’.
In short: since the end of the Second World War, Britain and the United States, along with France, have been, and will remain, the ‘grand anchors’ of Western civilisation. Their military and financial power – sustained by their ideals, i.e. the rule of law and constitutional government – has continued to undergird the current European and world orders. Initially, to uphold this system, they had to focus their power into the heart of Europe to rehabilitate Germany and prevent Soviet Russia from moving in; today, however, as the world’s geopolitical heart is tilting towards an axis running from India, through China, and on to Japan, it is essential that both London and Washington divide their areas of concentration.
The mind really boggles when you read this stuff. I know that academics working in security and geopolitics related fields more often than not love their neo-realist broad-brush scenarios (and there is often merit in this) but these arguments are just wrong.
First of all why is there the assumption that Germany wants to ‘shackle’ Britain? If anything Germany is very reluctant to assume some sort of EU leadership for obvious historical reasons. Germany in my view, and in the view of many others, has done too little (and the wrong things) to solve the Eurozone crisis. If you need a reminder read again the recent comments by the Polish foreign secretary. And taking a bigger leadership role in one area (economy) doesn’t mean ‘shackling’ other countries either. If anything European unification is about preventing a zero-sum game of power and influence by integration and cooperation. So the main assumption is wrong to start with.
Second, why is Britain’s economic power too globalised or different to be constrained by Germany or anybody else? The British economy is unfortunately dangerously imbalanced and all political parties have accepted the need to address this. As Europe enters a new recession trade patterns might change (by increasing exports into areas that still grow) but it is simply beyond me how Britain is somehow a more globalised economy than say Germany (exporting almost 50% of its GDP). And trading patterns haven’t much to do with the current problems anyway. The obvious reason why there is a much higher economic interconnectedness between Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain and France is quite unsurprisingly because they are all Euro countries and Britain is not. The rescue measures so far have been completely misguided, but that is a different story and not an attempt by Germany to rule the Continent (if anything the Eurozone is dangerously close to a meltdown and Germany is reluctant to lead – see above). The Eurozone is lacking appropriate governance mechanisms but the global economy is generally so interconnected that most countries – to different extents – are caught in the same web (especially if you are over-reliant on financial services). So the economic argument makes no sense.
Third, I’d really like to know a bit more about how Britain is the ‘anti-Germany’. It is not my experience having lived in Britain for a decade (other than if you believe the yellow press). But convince me if I am wrong. The British relationship to the EU is something that needs to be resolved by a referendum sooner rather than later, but based on current British EU policy I really don’t see anybody ‘flocking’ to the UK and there is more economic policy trouble on the horizon.
Fourth, the military arguments are just dangerous nonsense and these text bits read like written by a ‘battle-hardened’ enthusiast (or two). Do people really suggest that EU countries should form military alliances to contain ‘pitifully weak’ Germany on the Continent? I can see the point why one wants a unified EU to protect its geopolitical interests but inner-EU alliances against Germany? This beggars believe!
And finally to define the US and the UK ‘along with France’ as the sole ’anchors of western civilisation’ is narrow-minded in the extreme to put it mildly.
I’ll stop here as I am sure you get my point. Sometimes you can just shake your head…