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10 Feb 2009 : Column 366WH—continued

Last year, I was asked by a journalist in Washington whether I thought anti-Americanism would die when George W. Bush left office. That was a naive question, even from a journalist who had little time for Bush or for Republicans. Anti-Americanism may well have increased
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under the second Bush presidency, but the person who resides in the White House is not the magnet for people’s hatred of America. People hate America because of what the American people stand for: their spirit, beliefs and values; their sense of being, providence and destiny; their belief in the freedom of democracy, speech and religion; and their belief in the power of individuals to realise their highest dreams and full potential. I pay tribute to the excellent work of the website “America in the World”, which was established to fight anti-Americanism.

Barack Obama stated in his inaugural address that

It is those beliefs and national virtues that so enrage America’s enemies.

I say to those who disparage the imperfections of democratic Governments that it is all too easy to defend brutal and dictatorial regimes when one does not live under their terror and repression and when one is not fettered by the thought police or religious masters. At its worst, political liberal romanticism is hypocritical to its core and gives succour to America’s enemies and to those who continue to incarcerate the spirit of their people and to shackle the humanity of their citizens. Western-style democracy is not right for every culture and ethnic group, but some sort of accountability and transparency there must be. Governments should be for the people and be elected by the people. In a manner and at a time of the people’s choosing, it should be possible for the people to remove those same Governments.

I believe that freedom is a universal human right. That is why the special relationship is so important. America and the United Kingdom are still a force for good in the world. We should not shy away from ensuring that our economic, humanitarian and military assets are deployed to defend and uphold our mutual and national interests.

Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead) (Con): My hon. Friend is delivering a passionate speech on this country’s special relationship with America and America’s relationship with the world. At the heart of our special relationship with America is friendship. All friendships need constructive criticism. Does he agree that the reason we have such a great relationship with America is that we have had the courage and conviction over the years not always to agree with everything that America has done? We have stood up for the rights of this country when they have been in contradiction with what has happened in America.

Mark Pritchard: As always, my hon. Friend makes an excellent point. In politics, yes men do not always give the best advice. Their advice is a reiteration of what they have heard and so is no advice at all. A candid friend is perhaps the best friend of all. In the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney
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(Mr. Cameron), the Conservative party and this country seek not a slavish, but a solid relationship with the United States.

In an ideal world, the cultured and enlightened but deeply dissatisfied people of Iran, particularly the young aspirational Iranians, would bring about internal change. Given that Iranians face one of the world’s most oppressive Governments, that appears unlikely in the short term. It is particularly unlikely if Iran’s leaders continue to employ their gerrymandered form of democracy.

A peaceful outcome to the current Iranian impasse must be the goal of all politicians and diplomats. However, it will be achieved only if the international community unites to contain and restrict Iran’s nuclear advancement. There must be new resolve, not a loss of will or an unwillingness to face down the harsh realities of Iran’s aggression. The new American Administration would do well to remember that Iran’s political masters are well versed in duplicity or taqiyyah. Even under the so-called moderate regimes of Presidents Rafsanjani and Khatami, Iran continued to trade talks for time. As the new President stretches out his hand, I hope that he avoids being seduced into a long, protracted dialogue to nowhere—a diplomatic cul-de-sac of talks about talks—while Iran continues to build a nuclear bomb.

European diplomats and politicians, including some here today, quite rightly talk about carrots and sticks, but they should not turn their faces from the harsh reality that Ahmadinejad’s prize carrot is not improved relations with the United States, but ownership of his very own nuclear weapon—technology aimed at America’s allies, including Europe, Israel and other Muslim nations. Every hour, the nuclear clock is ticking, and the time for diplomatic dialogue is running out. If Iran joins the world’s nuclear club in late 2009, as some US intelligence analysts believe, the middle east paradigm will change irreversibly. It will sound the starting pistol for a new regional arms race, and overnight Iran’s nuclear bomb will have become an apocalyptic stick with which the beat the world, and British interests too. That is why, if diplomacy fails, and Iran’s fist remains clenched, President Obama will need a credible military option to stop Iran.

The stark reality is, however, that the new American President has no feasible military option with which to neutralise Iran’s nuclear threat: a conventional attack is unlikely against the world’s eighth largest army and given America’s existing commitments elsewhere; a tactical nuclear attack is politically unpalatable, would have considerable nuclear, political and diplomatic fall-out for many years, and would be an environmental disaster; and a multiple cruise missile attack is unlikely to penetrate or dismantle Iran’s reinforced nuclear bunkers. That is why President Obama should commit to developing a new generation of non-nuclear, conventional, inter-continental ballistic missiles. The use of such new hypersonic mass technology would restore America’s deterrent and military advantage, and give President Obama much-needed military and diplomatic flexibility. Israel could, of course, take unilateral military action, but that could be seen by America’s enemies as weakness, procrastination or a failure to act. America’s new tone is welcome, but it must not strike a note that empowers or emboldens its enemies.

In the American State Department, the Pentagon and elsewhere in Washington DC, including in the previous and current White House Administrations, is a
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shared view that a united Europe is good news for America’s national security, for its treaty obligations under NATO and for reducing the likelihood of future conflicts in Europe. I understand that view, but it is fundamentally flawed. I understand that a stable Europe is good news for America and Britain, but it is individual nation states, within Europe, that have stood with America in times of need. Never—not even in world war two—has there been a fully united European voice; there have only ever been the voices of nation states, some coming together.

Replace the nation state with political hegemony, and those nations that have supported America—often going it alone—might in future be drowned out by a chorus of diplomatic disapproval and political disunity. I say to policy makers in Washington that a single political Europe with a common defence and foreign policy, and eventually with a single federal President, will not be good for the United States, or indeed for Britain, even if a future President turns out to be former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Starkly, a united states of Europe will undermine, not enhance, the national security of the United States of America. Recent history should teach us that lesson.

Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD): The hon. Gentleman is making a powerful speech, much of which I agree with, but he is in danger of putting up an Aunt Sally. I do not believe that anyone in the European Union is talking about the sort of political union that he mentioned or about getting rid of national vetoes on foreign and security policy, and nor should they. However, what did he think of Vice-President Biden’s speech, in Munich, the other day, when he called strongly for the European Union to take an increased role in this area to ensure that member states do more in supporting the United State’s efforts?

Mark Pritchard: It is right that the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and even we, as individual politicians, put aside partisanship and—dare I say it?—narrow and polarised views, so that we can work for the common good and humanity of all those whom we seek to serve. That means that Europe must work together closely and with the United States. In recent times, however, particularly over issues of major defence and foreign policy objectives, different views have been held in Europe—particularly France and Germany—from those that might have been expressed in this House in support of the United States.

Mike Penning: Does my hon. Friend agree that the American and British frustration is that so many European countries that say that they will support our troops in conflict, physically do not? They will go out to places such as Kandahar, but very rarely will leave the bases, whereas British and American troops are on the front line. So many countries that talk the talk do not put up the troops to take part in the action.

Mark Pritchard: Again, my hon. Friend makes an excellent point. Those NATO members that enjoy the benefits of membership should step up to the plate to provide more troops, particularly given that we are likely to see a surge over the coming months. It should not be left just to the United States and the United Kingdom—indeed, I pay tribute to Denmark and Canada,
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and to Australian special forces as well. The role of some of the other countries that he alludes to, and the contribution that they could make to the new surge, is a debate for another time, and perhaps another place, in this House. For example, if Germany cannot provide more troops in a kinetic role, it could provide more in non-kinetic roles, such as in assisting hospital services in camp Bastion, so that troops can be released for duties elsewhere.

The hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) might want to reread the constitutional treaty—the Lisbon treaty—under which some vetoes would certainly have been given up.

If the United Kingdom loses its permanent seat on the UN Security Council, would it be good or bad for America? American defence and foreign policy analysts need to ask such questions today, not tomorrow, when it is too late. A European Union dominated by a Franco-German foreign policy and defence axis would not be good for America’s national security, or its self-interest. Consider Afghanistan!

Similarly, the United States ought to think very carefully about its stated aim to see Turkey accede to the European Union. On the face of it, the United States has a perfectly valid and rational foreign policy reason for doing so. It makes sense to encourage Turkey to look westwards, rather than eastwards, and anything that can be done to encourage a stable and secular Turkey avoiding radicalisation makes perfect sense. It would be good for Britain and good for America. A peaceful and prosperous Turkey is good for all of us. However, the unintended consequences of Turkey ceding to the European Union would eventually undermine America’s national security, because the free movement of peoples, under existing EU rules, would result in a mass migration of peoples from Turkey to towns and cities all over Europe—I grant that—but in particular over the United Kingdom. In sufficient numbers, such mass migration would change irreversibly the social and cultural fabric of this country.

The socio-cultural dynamic of America’s closest ally will have changed. Such a change will have profound and lasting political and bilateral consequences for the United States. That is not scaremongering, but a candid, over-the-horizon assessment of what could happen given the UK’s past experience with the accession of other EU countries and new applicants. Instead, Turkey should be given full trading access and rights to EU markets, but should not be allowed to become a full member. If it does, the issue of migration post-Maastricht should be dealt with for not just Turkey, but others.

Mr. Bill Olner (in the Chair): Order. I have given the hon. Gentleman a bit of leeway, but we are straying rather a long way from America.

Mark Pritchard: Given your expertise in the matter, Mr. Olner, you will know that Turkey is currently a very dominant issue in the American Congress. Congressman Ed Whitfield for Kentucky, who chairs the Turkey caucus, takes a different view from me. Nevertheless, such a matter is relevant to the bilateral relations. None the less, I thank you, Mr. Olner, for your guidance.

In conclusion, history is shaped for good or ill by the great alliances of nations. The strategic alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom has provided security for more than 100 years. It is a relationship that
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has, and continues to be, a force for good. That is why America should reverse any foreign policy objectives that jeopardise that special relationship. If Britain and America are a diminishing club of a few good men, then Washington policy makers should be alert to that stark reality and to anything that undermines or threatens it. A weakened Britain means a weakened United States. It is in the national interests of both countries to use all means necessary—however unpalatable and counter-intuitive—to keep this alliance strong and beyond the vagaries and transience of any particular Administration. The alliance should be defended at all costs against all enemies, both within and without, and against those who seek to put enmity between our two nations. Such enemies ultimately want to destroy our way of life and the shared values to which I have referred. America is still a beacon on a hill, as the new American President has paraphrased. It is an extraordinary country with extraordinary men and women. I should like to say without hesitation or equivocation, may God bless the United States of America.

11.22 am

Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard) on securing this important debate. I am surprised to be making a full speech because I had assumed that there would be time only for a short intervention. I did not realise that so few Members would be present. It is a shame because, as my hon. Friend said, this is an important area of policy for both this country and the world at large. He made a heartfelt and thoughtful speech. Many of his wife’s family are in the United States, so he spends a lot of time there and understands its ethos.

Let me turn to what the United States of America means to me. As a very young boy I was told of the experiences of a five-year-old girl in the last few months of the second world war. She was very fearful because she had been forced from her home and had ended up in a small village just outside Leipzig, which initially was liberated by the Americans—prior to Yalta and Potsdam—and put into what became East Germany. That young girl remembered the great kindness of the American GIs in the immediate aftermath of the war. Like some of the Russian soldiers, the Americans were by no means entirely innocent of some of the atrocities that went on at the time. None the less, those young GIs gave that young girl her first taste of chocolate and fruit, and she remembered that for the rest of her life. That young girl was my mother, who was a refugee in eastern Europe as the war came to an end. Her story is one of the reasons why, from a very young age, I have very much admired and loved the United States.

My hon. Friend referred to anti-Americanism. He was right to suggest that although there is a sense of a new dawn under the new President, anti-Americanism did not begin under the erstwhile presidency of George W. Bush. Such a feeling goes back many decades. I was an undergraduate in the mid-1980s at the height of President Reagan’s rule, and a lot of the anti-Americanism that existed then was driven by envy—envy of America’s wealth and of its superpower status. It was one of two superpowers at that juncture. It was the policies of
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Ronald Reagan—based on much of the thinking of President Nixon—that ensured that America reigned supreme and that the cold war ended in the defeat of communism.

There is, of course, another element of anti-Americanism. In an old country such as ours, we have tended to regard America as slightly naïve. Its love of freedom, opportunity and aspiration somewhat grates in much of British public life. As my hon. Friend rightly pointed out, we have seen great benefits from America over the last century, certainly in regard to the first and second world war when it bailed us out. Obviously, we stood very tall during those terrible months in 1940 and 1941 before America emerged on the scene. There were no great votes for President Wilson when he finally entered the first world war against the forces of the German and Turkish empires as they were then. Therefore, we have seen those benefits, and we should never underestimate them. One of the difficulties that we face today is that we have only one superpower, and that so much is being driven by America, particularly in the military field, in the aftermath of the terrible terrorist atrocities of 9/11.

My hon. Friend spoke in a very heartfelt way about the issue of the special relationship. However, such a relationship should not be overstated. I am not in any way being negative about the new President. I know that he brings with him great hope, but there is possibly an over-burdening expectation of what his presidency will achieve. Such feelings of expectation could, I suspect, turn to disappointment. None the less, I also suspect that his presidency will prove to be a success. I imagine that he will be re-elected with a very large majority in the future.

My hon. Friend talked about America’s strategy in relation to Turkey, which stems from the fact that it regards Europe as a homogenous block. Much as we have a good relationship with America, which is based on common language, and common history, it would be wrong to overstate the nature of that relationship. If we look at the large Hispanic population in America, and then spool forward a decade or so, I suspect that we will find few people talking about the special relationship between our two countries. Instead, American foreign policy will focus on its relationship with Europe.

Although I instinctively agree with much of what my hon. Friend had to say about the importance of nation states, I also fear that the tremendous economic turmoil facing this country, and the world, will be with us for some years to come. We will hear increasing voices in this country—from across the political spectrum—calling for us to integrate with the power block in Europe. Remember, we eventually joined the EC in 1973 as a defence mechanism. We felt that the only way forward for this country was to latch ourselves on to Europe. That debate on our integration within an all-powerful European block will go on in the decades ahead. In the future, the world will be in blocks. For the short term, the United States will be the only economic, military and political superpower. Clearly, China and India are developing at a great pace.

We must also look to the future, and the United State’s role going forward. Clearly, the 20th century was the American century, just as much of the 19th century, in the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars, was the British century. The great, tumultuous events in the financial markets and the economic downturn, and the sense of
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insecurity that will be felt by a great many millions in this country and throughout the world, will mean that some of the trends by which power has moved eastwards will accelerate. China has 1.3 billion people, and India 1.1 billion people, and both have huge and growing middle classes. Although those countries will not by any means be immune from the impact of recession and the downturn, they will mean only that their growth will be lower than in the past. They will still have economic growth of which we would be proud even in our better times. We will therefore see the emergence of China and India not only as economic superpowers, but as political and military powers. Consequently, America’s place in the world will be different, as will our relationship with it. I appreciate that I am moving slightly off topic, Mr. Olner—I saw a disapproving eyebrow.

As I said, I am a passionate supporter of the USA and its great ideals, especially when, on occasion, it does not quite reach those ideals. I am especially proud because I have always had a very strong sense of personal connection with the country. Of course, the American embassy is in Grosvenor square in my constituency, and I have been proud to play a small part as a parliamentarian in helping to develop relations between our two countries.

I will be interested in what the Minister says when she sums up. The debate has been thoughtful, and I appreciate that we have touched on a range of things. It is easy, in the euphoria following the election of President Obama, to look at things in a slightly superficial way, not least because he is a very forward looking, thoughtful and philosophical man. He has a sense—I suspect that it will develop in the months and years ahead—of America’s place in the world and how the world will develop, and I will be interested to hear what the Minister has to say about it.

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