Yesterday I attended a rather grand seminar in Oxford, to discuss the current state of world politics. It was a curious experience. Most people talked in soundbites from long gone spin doctors, or in media hype.
The first sessions concentrated on how Obama had made a difference. Instead of forensic academic analysis which I was expecting, most of the contributions told of Obama saving the world, saving the planet and creating permanent peace. There was no hint of criticism. Obama walks on water.
We were also treated to a view from Europe, which assumed that all in the UK and elsewhere in Europe were happy with a royal “we” as citizens of the European Union. The thesis was an amusing one. Under Bush, the EU apparently had been a force for consensus, peaceful and negotiated solutions worldwide and the exercise of soft power all wrapped up in smug moral superiority. The advent of Obama has apparently made this more difficult, presumably because he now does all of the above.
When I had a go, I felt like a fox in the duck coop, dealing with so many canards. The replies were predictable:
Obama – carrying on detention without trial at Guantanamo – “He wants to close it down but it is difficult”
Obama – creating new prisons in Afhghanistan to extend detention without trial – no answer
Obama – intensifying the war in Afghanistan, so US troops are still killing Arabs — “His speech showed he wishes to get on well with the Muslim world”
Obama – promised to save the motor industry – and the planet from climate change – is doing neither – answer “He is doing his best ”
EU – why do you think there is a demos, a people, where we can say “We”? – couldn’t concieve of such a question
EU – Why does the EU position on many world issues matter? – accepted that EU was not very serious about projecting power
EU – is a babble of voices and disjointed economies and nations – this led me into a volley of the predictable, tired and sad old soundbites — “Do you want the Uk to be isolated?” “Do you think the UK can go it alone?” “Do you know how much trade the UK has with the EU?” I was awaiting the usual 3 million jobs, but they did at least give that a miss.
I get fed up with constantly having to point out that international trade is now mainly regulated by GATT and global agreement, that Germany will want to sell her BMWs to the UK even if we do take a different line on EU government, and that the UK has had practically no influence for years in the EU, just going along with the prevailing bureaucratic and Franco-German consensus.
Surely by now we can have some proper analysis of the extent and reasons for Euroscepticism, the fact that trade is now dependent on global agreement on tariffs and terms, that you can work together with other nations through NATO, the UN and European institutions without having common government, and that the top down bureaucratic centralised model is out of date as well as irksome and adding to our economic woes?
There seemed little grasp of the mood of the British people, and no comment on the recent European elections, which showed enormous ennui, allied to strong Euroscepticism on the part of many of those bothering to vote.