Anglosphere: Child of peace at war

By JAMES C. BENNETT   |   March 29, 2003 at 6:25 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, March 29 (UPI) -- I first began writing the essay that eventually became my book "The Anglosphere Challenge" (now scheduled for publication in September) in a very different universe than that of today. It was, or seemed to be, a peacefully and sunny place, from which the end of history might be glimpsed.

In that world my writing focused primarily on the economic issues of globalization and their consequences, especially those touching on national identity and cohesiveness. I was seeking to understand the impacts of the demise of the Cold War and the increasing pace of globalization driven by dramatically falling costs of communication.

The principal point of my argument was this: Rather than a Utopian universe of global governance and cultural homogenization, we would more likely see a process of affiliation along broad cultural-linguistic lines, into sets of loose parallel structures (such as trade areas and security alliances) I termed "network commonwealths."

Since the English-speaking world has taken the lead in this phenomenon, my focus was on the emergence of one such network commonwealth among the set of English-speaking nations. I termed this set of nations the "Anglosphere" for the purpose of conciseness, and to take into account the fact that this set will always be imprecisely defined. Many nations, such as India, are continually redefining the degree and nature of their affiliation to the Anglosphere.

Military matters were but a minor theme, discussed primarily because national security concerns have a substantially greater impact on trade and relations among nations than most voices in the globalization debate acknowledged.

It is somewhat ironic, therefore, that the word "Anglosphere" and some of the concepts that are associated with it are emerging as a wartime phenomenon, and are being defined primarily in military terms. In the past two weeks several articles, most recently Jacob T. Levy's "Down But Not Out" in The New Republic Online, view the Anglosphere concept primarily through the lens of the Anglo-American-Australian coalition fighting the current war in Iraq.

This approach, probably inevitable given the circumstances of current events, has strengths and weaknesses. Count Camilio Cavour, foreign minister of the kingdom of Piedmont, sent his nation's troops to fight alongside the French and British in the Crimean War, despite the absolute lack of any discernable national interest in the Crimea per se. Italy, he explained, will be made in Crimea.

He was right. Cavour ultimately parlayed that act of political assertion into the international support that enabled him to assemble the state of Italy around the Peidmontese core. It may turn out that the Anglosphere will be made in Iraq. If so, it would be most ironic if its founders end up being an American unilateralist, a British transnational Europeanist, and an Australian realist, each forced by events to transcend their natural inclinations.

But focusing on the military side, and on the Anglo-Aussie-American core of the coalition, leads to confusion, and misses many other dimensions of what is happening. Levy, for example, asks why Australia, with no immediate state interest, chose to participate in the Iraq fighting. He critiques an Anglospherist explanation, saying "Moreover, the Anglospheric explanation makes it seem almost inevitable that Australia would take part in the war."

This is true only if the Anglosphere concept is seen as a deterministic theory -- in other words, that cultural-linguistic matters pre-determine the outcome of events. Levy easily shoots such an explanation down by noting that Canada, New Zealand, and Ireland chose to stay out of the fighting. But I have never advocated cultural-linguistic determinism.

Rather, I have pointed out that cultural-linguistic affinities have a substantial predictive value regarding international alignments, which indeed a look at military deployments over the past century readily confirms. No Anglosphere nation from the beginning of the 20th century, through today, has fought a significant war without being offered the assistance of at least one other Anglosphere nation.

Furthermore, the Anglosphere factor exists within a universe of many other factors, all of which have their effect. Levy points out that Australia's participation has much to do with the leadership of John Howard. True. And Canada's non-participation has much to do with the particular political needs of its prime minister Jean Chretien who, like his fellow francophone Jacques Chirac, finds it convenient to play to his political left to distract attention from his scandal-plagued, overly-ripe administrative record.

Meanwhile, the premiers of Canada's three principal English-speaking provinces have all voiced their support for the war. It's also worth noting that Canada and New Zealand were forthright in the past few years in sending forces to Afghanistan and East Timor, both of which were also primarily Anglosphere operations.

Even a focus on the Anglosphere as a war-fighting alliance will require a look at the broader issues. For example, it would not be surprising if it turns out that Iraq has obtained some of its suspiciously robust military infrastructure from French and German sanctions-busters over the past decade. Further European economic integration would likely place Britain's defense technologies, currently more sophisticated in many areas than Continental Europe's, under Continental control. We must ask whether that should be encouraged.

Similarly, the mobilization of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, taking civil airliners to support the coalition's needs, coincides with a massive fiscal crisis in the U.S. airline industry. Foreign capital infusions and foreign merger partners, currently limited for national-security reasons, would be highly useful in reviving the industry. Given the history of the past six months, it is unlikely the Pentagon would be comfortable with just any foreign owners or partners. An Anglosphere accord on cross-investment in security-sensitive areas, however, might be much more acceptable.

Some have questioned whether the Anglosphere needs to be anything more than an ad-hoc alliance, coordinated informally by heads of government. Issues such as the above suggest that more formal and permanent arrangements will be needed. Certainly, we can dispense with the endless self-promotional propaganda forums that characterize the European Union: We do not need an Anglosphere Commission issuing endless blather on Anglosphere unity. But there are some structural needs to be addressed.

The Anglosphere is a child of peaceful times, but has now emerged to public attention in time of war. It cannot be limited to a military alliance, useful as it is proving under these circumstances. The Anglosphere concept offers the prospect of a much closer and more fruitful collaboration among its participant nations, mostly in the realm of peace. What the war has brought to date merely hints at what might be possible.

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