|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am most grateful to the usual channels for arranging this debate, and I thank noble Lords who are here to speak today. I am looking forward to the contributions of distinguished speakers and, with great anticipation, to hearing the responses of my noble friend Lord Howell and the Minister. I also thank the House of Lords Library and the Politeia think tank for their help with preparatory research for this evenings debate.
Accusations against America have spread into a global phenomenon, crossing borders, classes, religions and generations. A Pew Trusts research poll in 2005 concluded that anti-Americanism is deeper and broader than at any time in modern history.
Americas critics can be heard everywhere. This is how they make their pointsI have heard every one of them myself. America is too in love with money, worshipping the god of the market place, the golden calf. It has too much money: seven of the top 10
9 Oct 2007 : Column 198
So it goes on. America has an incoherent foreign policy. It abandoned the no first strike principle which kept the peace for decades; pre-emption replaced deterrence but has no basis in international law. It is too close to Israel. It resists multilateral solutions, preferring unilateralism, hegemony, a sheriff strategyIn guns we trust. It has aroused the envy of Europeans, causing them to want to form a rival power bloc. It has hit an ideological brick wall: the Great Wall of China, where state capitalism works. It has not solved the mystery of Islam. And it is not even a democracy, as a 44 per cent turnout in presidential elections proves.
The accusations against America are endless. I have heard them all, all over the world. Speaking up for America has become a lonely ordeal. Perhaps the accusations are all untrue. Josef K protested his innocence on the basis that he was a victim of false perceptions; perhaps America could do the same. Unfortunately for America, all of us know the power of perception over reality, which is why David Kilcullen, seated at his desk in the counterinsurgency section on the second floor of the State Department building in Washington, was right to point out that, like the IRA before them, America's enemies today are armed propaganda organisations.
The jury of world opinion is no different from the jury in a court of law: it seeks motive and intent. It wants to hear America's true motive, and it wants it to be something good in the moral sense. We recall Alexis de Tocquevilles conclusion at the end of his famous voyage around America:
Today, whether the American motive is pure or not, the one certainty is that, in recent times, America has proved unequal to the task of expressing it. Before globalisation it was possibleat least in theoryfor America to be isolationist. It was possible to say of another nation, as Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain said about Czechoslovakia in 1938, that it was:
Now there are no faraway countries, and there never will be again. Each day, we have a clear, stark and
9 Oct 2007 : Column 199
and made it the prototype of a diverse society. E pluribus unum: one out of many. My main point is that it is to the new melting pot of the world that America can bring, if only it can find a way to express it, its unique message.
America, as we know, was born out of a desire for self-determination, a longing for the human dignity that only independence can bring. That is what the pilgrim fathers hoped when, inspired by the scriptures, they announced their aim to create,
their new Jerusalem. Americans of all national origins, religions, creeds and colours would hold in common the ideals of the essential equality of all human beings, of inalienable rights to freedom, justice and opportunity. America would embrace meritocracy before hierarchy. Its frontier spirit would mean anyone could do well if they were determined. In America, nothing would be impossible. Americans would breathe free, with freedom of speech and thought for all men and women. These were the motives that made America the inspiration for so many millions of people: not its wealth, but its intense belief in its moral purpose.
Does the Minister agree with me that to disarm its enemies and defeat its rivals, America has only to focus its intellectual energy and vast economic resources on the policies which would help the world follow its lead; to find the language to project its founding ideology beyond its own shores; and to remind the world of its ultimate belief in self-determination, individuality and independence, and in democracy only as a means to that great end? To do that will require a marching tune that people can respond to, so that Americans can once again, as the pilgrim fathers intended, show the world the American way.
The outcome of the battle of ideas between Americanism and anti-Americanism will set the tone of the 21st century. It will be the decisive ideological struggle of our times. America has a fine ideology, but it has forgotten either what it is or how to express it. America today is a sleeping beauty. It is time to wake her up.
First, is there a generalised anti-Americanism, or is there a core, much of which would attach to any superpower and which contracts or expands according to particular events such as the Iraq war? Indeed, one might also ask how much anti-Americanism today is generated by the Bush
9 Oct 2007 : Column 200
There is also some evidence of a greater recognition by the US that the reluctant sheriff cannot do it alone. He needs allies, and unilateralism does not work. There have certainly been important changes in the European Union as well, particularly with the newer countries. One thinks, for example, of the Czech Republic and Poland allowing missile bases on their own territory. Chancellor Merkel is a vast improvement in this respect, on policies such as that towards Russia, over Chancellor Schroeder. President Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Kouchner symbolically took their holidays in the US. President Sarkozy spoke warmly of the transatlantic relationship in his remarkable speech to French diplomats at the Elysée on 27 August, and has given hints of movement on French policy with regard to NATO.
Thirdly, and finally, it is possible to detect a rethinking of the United Kingdoms attitude to our bilateral relations, a questioning of whether in the post-Cold War period it is in our interestsor, indeed, those of the USthat we should be, to coin a phrase, joined at the hip. I cite in support David Cameron, although his speech was somewhat marred by a negative attitude to the European Union; David Milibands speech at Chatham House on 19 July; and the inaugural lecture, and the refined article which followed in International Affairs, of Dr Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House. From these speeches, I draw two conclusions: we need to maintain close and warm links with the United States, our key bilateral ally, particularly in areas such as counterterrorism; but our interests over great swathes of policy put us closer to the European Union than to the United States. I think not just of international trade issues but areas of growing importance such as climate change, weapons proliferation and Iran. And, of course, for the United States, dealing with Islamic terrorism is a threat to be countered abroad, whether in Afghanistan or Iraq, but for us and our EU allies it is a sensitive domestic issue. It therefore makes sense for us and our European partners to co-ordinate our policies before agreeing on terms in the transatlantic area. Surely it benefits the United States that we and Europe increase both our hard and soft power and extend our external influence by closer co-operation, and it is not anti-American to say so.
A former president of Mexico once described his own country as so far from God, so near to the United States. Anti-Americanism has always existed, a mixture of envy and other factors. I wanted to speak in this debate as someone who has been passionately pro-American all his life. As a young man at university I was obsessed by America. But I have to confess that in recent years I have become more and more disillusioned with American policy. It is absurd to talk about anti-Americanism in the sense of its people, because one cannot be against a people. One can be against a countrys policy at a specific time. Although that policy will change, a lot of disillusionment with American policy is felt today.
My noble friend instanced several things that we all admire about America, including its history of religious freedom and the melting pot of cultures. I would cite as a wonderful example of American freedom the invitation to President Ahmadinejad to express his extraordinary views at Columbia University. It was remarkable.
Alexander Hamiltons idea of American exceptionalism has always been a historical myth. America, like other countries, was formed by blood, iron and conquest; its history is not untainted by colonialism. But why has anti-Americanism increased today? Why is it no longer the city on the hill to which my noble friend referred? America is increasingly perceived as just another nation state pursuing its own national interest in a rather ruthless way. It is ironic that America wanted to promote early international institutions such as the League of Nations and the UN to curb European power and that the European powers wanted to avoid them. We seem now to have moved to a world that is the other way round, where America wishes to avoid international institutions.
Henry Kissinger once observed that, given the preponderance of American power, the United States did not need allies but needed to pretend that it did. That pretence seems to have gone in recent years. Britain has been a good friend to the United States in recent years but has not received much in return. In the venture in Iraq, it has gained very little influence in return for the great investment that it has made. At times, it seems that diplomacy is relegated to a minor role. I was astonished to see the applause that greeted Barack Obamas threat to bomb Pakistan without consulting and against the wishes of the Pakistani Government. He seemed to think that it was legitimate for the United States Government to be able to do that. What was the reaction of the press? The Wall Street Journal applauded Obama because he showed that he was prepared to use forcewhich is not the criticism that people usually level against the United States. I fear that America has squandered the almost-universal sympathy for it that was felt after 9/11, partly because of its tactics in the war on terror and the use of overwhelming military force, sometimes deciding that it is justifiable to flatten a
9 Oct 2007 : Column 202
The reputation of the United States has been harmed above all by the departure from its own values and standardsthe episodes of rendition, the secret prisons and events in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. It is astonishing that an 80 year-old man and 15 year-old children should have been released from the detention camp in Guantanamo Bay. We have to look at how these things appear from the other side of the world. I remember visiting Tehran two years ago. In the middle of its skyscrapers were massive photographs of Abu Ghraib. Every one of those pictures was taken from western newspapers. Tremendous and unprecedented damage has been done to Americas reputation by America itself. However, it is not a lasting thing, and things will change. Another Administration and another policy will arrive and America will once again be a city on the hill.
Lord Ryder of Wensum: My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Saatchi, for gaining time for this debate. I initiated a similar debate in the other place nearly 25 years ago, since when the general arguments have changed little. Anti-Americanism in Europe has existed for a long time. It began to take shape at the moment when President Wilson invited Congress to declare war in 1917, altering the course of American foreign policy. George Orwell observed just after the last world war that,
Anti-Americanism has never been confined to the left; many leading figures on the right have nursed a social and cultural disdain for what they perceive as the excessive individualism of the American way of life, and they resented American hostility to our empire. Now some serving politicians in the United States and Britain, lacking historical knowledge or imbued perhaps with doctrine, have tried to counter anti-Americanism by subscribing to the artificiality of the special relationship, which was described by Raymond Seitz, a distinguished United States ambassador to London and known by many of your Lordships, as,
Anti-Americanism should not be confused with candid friendship or opposition to a particular American policy, as the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, argued. Until recently, British Governments were clear eyed about this form of diplomacy. Winston Churchill, half-American by birth, saw red with Administrations in Washington. Harold Wilson kept Britain out of the Vietnam War, to the anger of Lyndon Johnson. At Reykjavik, our then Prime Minister challenged conventional wisdom in Washington and was respected for it. Britains candid friendship contributed to the end of the Cold War.
However, the post-Cold War world did not lead to the emergence of a single great power, although that view was lost on the neocons in the United States as well as some politicians here. They have since learnt that America can no longer pretend to be an independent actor on the world stage. Its military limitations have been shown up in Iraq; its relative economic strength is on the wane. We reside in a multi-polar world, with a loose European federation, a reviving and distrustful Russia concerned about encirclement, radical Islamists, China and India emerging as leading contenders and Iran playing all sides against the middle. The surge of capital flows is beyond the control of any single Government, however powerful.
In this unfamiliar landscape, anti-Americanism mounts by the month. We as candid friends must strive to persuade the next American Administration that the multi-polar world requires Washington to follow more sophisticated diplomacy unilaterally, with partners, and through established international institutions, most of which were created by the United States in any event.
The new multi-polar world presents a subtle tapestry. It must seem puzzling to clusters of policy makers, because, by nature, Americans look for instant solutions, which do not exist in this case. The British Government must be a candid friend. They must perform that duty to help curb the scale of anti-Americanism after the catastrophe of the joint venture in Iraq.
Lord Giddens: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Saatchi, on initiating this debate. I assure him that I am a paid-up member of the AAA; that is, I am certainly anti-anti-Americanism. Anti-Americanism, as the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, hinted, is an incoherent phenomenon a little like anti-globalisation, if only because the United States is such a diverse and contradictory society. I become irritated by far-left critiques of America, because America is the source of some of the most important radical movements of modern times, including environmentalism, modern feminism, civil rights movements, freedom of speech movements, gay rights movements and many others.
Of course, anti-Americanism, as has been said, has a long history. It goes back to the early 19th century. In Europe, you find a strong strand of it in the relationship between the French and the Americans. Talleyrand said that he had never met an Englishman who did not feel at ease among Americans and had never met a Frenchman who did. A book called Lennemi américain documents that long history.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|