Commentary: War shows real allies

By JAMES BENNETT   |   Oct. 20, 2001 at 12:30 AM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- The strength of the Anglosphere concept -- that the English-speaking nations of the globe constitute a community possessing a natural basis for cooperation on a wide range of issues -- is that it is based on an underlying reality, rather than sentiment. No greater proof of this can be found than the course of events since Sept. 11.

The past six weeks have seen an almost instantaneous and, more importantly, sustained high level of cooperation between America and the other Anglosphere nations than with any other set of the USA's vast collection of real and notional "allies", "partners", and other fellow treaty-signatories.

The significance of this is even more sharply drawn given that few if any of the decision-makers involved in this close cooperation are natural Anglospherists. George Bush sought and took office as a hemispherist, instinctively looking south to Mexico and beyond as America's natural vector of cooperation. He and his inner circle sought to create an enlarged Southern Strategy, linking expansion of trade and influence in Latin America with a domestic appeal to American of Latin American origin and heritage. Only a few days before the September attacks, he stood on the White House lawn with Mexican President Vicente Fox and termed Mexico our "closest ally".

Yet it was British Prime Minister Tony Blair, not Fox, who ordered his nation's ships, planes, and soldiers to join the battle. Blair is even more than Bush the Anglospherist in spite of himself. Blair has throughout the four years of his time in office been the fervent Europeanist. Determined to take Britain into the "heart of Europe", he has promoted to his skeptical nation the merits of the Single Currency and the idea of a European Army, offering to dedicate the core of British defense capabilities to its first stage, the European Rapid Reaction Force.

Blair has tried to finesse the conflict between his European ambitions and his country's Atlantic realities by reviving the old idea of Britain (or at least himself) as a bridge between America and Europe. This concept is problematical. Had Blair been a more successful Europeanist in his first term, he might have rendered himself less useful rather than more to America in this crisis. The more Europe becomes integrated, and the more Britain integrates into Europe, the less free a British prime minister would be to commit unilaterally British forces to aid America in a crisis such as the present one.

Would America really have preferred to wait until the European Union came to a consensus on how to aid it, and under what conditions, before it could enjoy any aid from Britain at all? Would the State Department Europeanists really want to follow out the ultimate logic of their position, and have even such critical items as use of the British base at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean subject to the approval of the EU?

If Blair has been a help to America as a bridge, it has been in the role of a bridge not to Europe, but to India and Pakistan, where, ironically, Britain's old Commonwealth ties (for which Blair had never shown much regard) have provided an entrée America did not have.

The logic of the Anglospherist approach sees each nation's cooperative interests forming concentric circles, the closest ones being those countries with the closest shared culture, human ties, values, and outlook. For the Anglosphere nations, the other English-speaking nations tend to be in the innermost circle. Thus, for America, Britain, and Canada, the NATO nations, and Western Europe in general, fall within the second circle, not the first. Even Canada has sent a third of its miniscule military off to join the fight. Outside the NATO circle, it has been Australia who has been the most unreserved supporter, despite (or perhaps because of) being next door to a much larger nation with a fanatical Islamic radical element.

This war will force America to confront the difference between enabling coalitions, which assemble a few willing partners with a very likeminded approach, and restrictive coalitions, which achieve breadth at the expense of the requirement to maintain a fragile consensus. Both types of coalitions have their place at different times and places. NATO has always been more of a restrictive coalition than an enabling one, with its sole real function the deterrent of a Soviet invasion of Europe. Since the fall of the Wall, the US has been trying to make it more of an enabling coalition, with uncertain results. The current war will be a test of this experiment.

Just as urban planners study aerial photographs of footprints in snow to disclose where pedestrians actually like to go, as opposed to where others think they should go, we should look at the actual paths of cooperation established in this war to tell us where our real line of interest lie. Right now, they connect the Anglosphere.

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