Matthew Parris wants to hear the "sound of silence" from the Tories on Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. Mr Parris thinks that the Tories should "say nothing" on the global issues that have caused such harm to Tony Blair’s standing. An opponent of the Iraq war from the very beginning, his column for last week’s Times worried that Mr Cameron’s Tories were a "Europe-hating and Pentagon-loving party". Mr Parris believes that Mr Cameron has surrounded himself with hawkish neoconservatives. He points his pen at George Osborne, Liam Fox, Michael Gove and the Shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague.
I can’t really see why Mr Parris is worried. Mr Cameron already seems to have pre-empted his advice and said almost nothing about foreign policy since becoming leader (unless, of course, it is about the environment). Nothing proactive on the EU. Nothing on Iran. Nothing on Darfur. Little on Iraq. It has been for William Hague (on diminishing American moral authority) and Liam Fox (on Iran and energy security) to do the limited running on Tory foreign policy.
‘President Tony Blair’ shows no reticence to talk about foreign policy. He delivered the third of three speeches on global challenges yesterday. At the heart of the speech was the contention that there is no longer any difference between the national interest and the interests of the international community. He argued that domestic concerns about immigration, energy security, environmental change and terrorism all had international roots:
"Nations, even ones as large and powerful as the USA, are affected profoundly by world events; and not affected, in time or at the margins but at breakneck speed and fundamentally. Why is immigration the No.1 domestic policy issue in much of Europe and in the US today? What are the solutions? The answer is that globalisation is making mass migration a reality; and only global development will make it a manageable reality.
Which is the issue that has rocketed up the agenda of most political leaders in a way barely foreseen even 3 years back? Energy policy. China and India need energy to grow. The damage to the environment of carbon emissions is now accepted.
It doesn’t much matter whether the issue is approached through energy security or climate change, the fact is we need a framework, internationally agreed, through which the developing nations can grow, the wealthy countries maintain their standard of living and the environment be protected from disaster…
The terrorism we are fighting in Britain, wasn’t born in Britain, though on 7th July last year it was British born terrorists that committed murder. The roots are in schools and training camps and indoctrination thousands of miles away, as well as in the towns and cities of modern Britain. The migration we experience is from Eastern Europe, and the poverty-stricken states of Africa and the solution to it lies there at its source not in the nation feeling its consequence."
If Tony Blair’s analysis of "interdependence" is right his solutions appear as tired as he looked at his press conference with George W Bush. He calls for UN reform and for Germany, Japan and India to become permanent members of the Security Council. He also calls for "proper representation from Latin America or Africa". These proposals have their merits but are they likely to lead the UN to embrace the "progressive pre-emption" that Tony Blair champions? The UN already is at the mercy of the slowest Security Council member in any convoy to action. Adding more Security Council members will only increase the likelihood that some nation – because of economic interests or electoral pressures – will veto action that other nations deem necessary.
Liam Fox avoided the UN route in his energy security speech. Dr Fox clearly prefers ‘coalitions of the willing’ multilateralism. Examples of competitors to the UN’s institution-of-convenience status include NATO, the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development (involving the US, Australia, Japan, India, China and South Korea) and the coalition of nations that organised relief for the Indian Ocean region after 2004’s tsunami.
What has been called "multi-multilateralism" is a more promising route to both avoiding dangerous unilateralism and also to ensuring that international dangers are effectively pre-empted.
Related link: This diary entry on Chris Huhne’s support for the United Nations examines the UN’s repeated failure to act in various parts of the world.