If after more than seventy years our role is defined by what we were rather than what we could be we’ve got a problem !

You can’t credibly replicate our finest hour

When Dean Acheson told us more than 60 years ago that we had “lost an Empire, but not found a role “ he could scarcely have imagined how well into the 21st Century this would still be true. I am a baby boomer born the year after WW2 ended. So my lifespan has seen the change from Great Power status to where we are today – which is what?

Acheson pointed Britain towards Europe – a direction that was, for other European countries big and small, largely uncontroversial. One can debate the nature of the model and the extent of the “ever closer Union” in Europe — but not the strategy. To argue that Britain should withdraw from the integration project you need some pretty powerful arguments to back up the exceptionalism. They don’t exist.

The Munich analogies live with the Great Power analogies and they should all be confined to the dustbin. Instead, post Brexit, we’ve put out more flags. The Tom Moore story was a fin de seicle hanging onto our fading memories of a time when Britain alone was not just true, but commendably honourable. He symbolised the emergence from “Our Darkest Hour” at a time when the skies were darkening again.

“Britain alone” today fails as a model because unlike in 1940 it has been a choice without any logic and makes us look petulant rather than brave. If after more than seventy years our role is defined by what we were rather than what we could be we’ve got a problem !

2 thoughts on “If after more than seventy years our role is defined by what we were rather than what we could be we’ve got a problem !

  1. Daniel Finkelstein in The Times today suggested the Munich doctrine dominated post-war western thinking and led towards interventionist policies such as Iraq. I argue that the Dominio Theory of anti-communist paranoia in America had far more influence. It led ultimately to the catastrophe of Vietnam and the support of Fascist dictators such as Franco.
    Most of us learn a version of the Munich doctrine in the school playground. If you don’t have the courage to stand up to the bullies you are heading for trouble. Finkelstein also suggests albeit briefly that the postwar belief that Europe was safer if it works together is now a thing of the past. In short, suggesting the EU is an outdated concept in the minds of a new generation.
    I believe the EU is more relevant today than in the fifties. It has shown to the world exactly what can be achieved when nations come together peacefully, share their sovereignty in a common purpose.
    Britain by choosing to leave has cast itself adrift. It has in effect uninvited attached its future to America. I am sure that Biden like Acheson prefers Britain at the centre of Europe not floundering as a has-been political irrelevance.
    It will be interesting to see at the forthcoming G7 meeting in Cornwall whether Biden embraces the UK or tells it to settle its differences with Europe. Johnson has a real problem. Ireland matters to America much more than home counties flag-waving England.


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