Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Great idea, but is it even possible?

The IPPR has published a paper stating that it is time for Britain to stop "punching above its weight".

This is a good idea. It could save us millions, billions if one also includes unilateral nuclear disarmament. On top of that we could bring to an end the statistic that at least one British serviceman has died on active service in every "peacetime" year except one since 1945. Without trying to exercise a global reach that is the legacy of our former empire we could safely scrap all plans for our new aircraft carriers without impacting on operations. Untrammelled by the need to wheel and deal in the world of global alliances we would be free to sort out a society in which liberty and justice are key and the harm principle and utiulity guide our thoughts and actions.

The problem is that I'm not sure it can be done. In the school playground that is international relations might is right. We are one of the bullies and I'm not sure it has ever been done to step down from that group without taking a pasting in war. This is a world where, right or wrong, having nuclear weapons gives one enhanced rights and not having them leaves one vulnerable.

In the more peaceful spheres one judges a nation by its international actions, by its aid, by its relief organisations, by its peacekeeping efforts. I am proud to live in a country that ranks highly in these fields, mostly as a result of our economic status. And there it is, we can only step down from the lead nations if we are ready to take the blow. If we do it, not only does it mean we cannot aggressively pursue oil our own interests around Iraq the world, it would also mean that our ability to pursue the common good around the world would be drastically reduced. Our opinion on Burma's human rights would be so much spit in an ocean. I'm not sure we're ready for this, nor that it would be a good thing.