As far as the Conservative Party leadership is concerned, we have had the Shadow Foreign Secretary blathering about hope that all sides of the "dispute" will sit down and discuss matters peacefully and the leader of the party, David Cameron, coming out with forceful statements, going to Georgia for a photo-op, which was appreciated by President Saakashvili, and explaining belatedly that NATO should have been clearer in its statements about Georgia and Ukraine. He was, naturally enough, attacked by various MPs, particularly John Redwood, for being bellicose and unfair to Russia.
Since then David Cameron managed to row back by announcing that, as Tory Diary reported:
We should accept that we cannot impose democracy at the barrel of a gun. We cannot drop democracy from 10,000 feet and we should not try. Put crudely that was what was wrong with the "neo-con" approach and why I am a liberal Conservative not a neo-Conservative.This is, sadly, unmitigated rubbish. There are no particular rules as to how democracy is arrived at and the methods he dismisses were the very ones that were used to impose democracy on Germany, Austria, Italy and Japan. They seem to have worked quite well and would have worked with other countries such as Hungary if the Soviet Union had not intervened. As one contributor to the discussion points out, those methods did no harm to Serbia in the long run, either.
More to the point, however, is the Boy-King's platitudinous insistence that he is not a "neo-con", an attitude that goes down very well with many of the more vociferous members of the party if the discussions on ToryBoy Forum are anything to go by.
There is an insistent cry that the Conservative Party, when in government (since it is not going to be in power, in view of who legislates for this country), should distance itself from the "neo-cons". In fact, anyone who points out that, no matter who is in government on either side of the Pond, our closest and greatest ally is the United States, like Tim Montgomerie, editor of Conservative Home, is immediately described in slightly hysterical tones as being a "neo-con".
The truth is that neither David Cameron nor those members of his party who shriek for the need to abandon the "neo-con" path have the slightest idea what that means or who the "neo-cons" are. It does not mean simply "more conservative" or "aggressively conservative". The people who can be described as "neo-con", such as Richard Perle or Irving Kristol, have usually followed a certain political path that started reasonably far on the left. Therefore, the term cannot seriously be applied to anyone else, even if they think the war in Iraq is a sensible and successful way of dealing with the problem of international jihad and terrorism.
Most certainly it cannot be applied to President Bush or his closest advisers or to John McCain or Sarah Palin, though they all support the war. Senator McCain was one of the first advocates of the now obviously successful surge in Iraq, which is not a shambles or a disaster, despite what numerous Conservatives in Britain maintain.
I shall pass over the implication, too often voiced that through the "neo-cons" the Jewish lobby successfully controls America's foreign policy as there is no evidence for any of that. Support for Israel comes from different sources, which both my colleague and I have discussed at length on EUReferendum.
The trouble from the Conservative Party's point of view is that this is the wrong way of going about the task of developing a foreign policy. Both the leadership and various vociferous members are looking at structures rather than content, the method normally used by the European Union in the furthering of its aims, particularly the development of the common foreign and security policy.
In their obsession with having to distance themselves from the poorly understood and, as it happens, not that important "neo-cons", the Conservatives are losing sight of certain matters. Foreign policy does not emerge from dislike of certain groups and should not grow from the right-wing envy and dislike of the United States. If the Tories think that the US and the rest of the Anglosphere are not this country's natural allies, they should come up with alternative ideas and simply talking vaguely of China and India (an Anglospheric country), as the Shadow Foreign Secretary did in a major speech inFebruary 2007 is not enough.
Furthermore, problems of international relations and crises that occur from time to time, like the one that was precipitated by Russia when it decided to invade Georgia because the latter was not sufficiently enthusiastic about being in the former's sphere of influence, requires an understanding of what is going on and an opinion of what is best for Britain and for the West. If the Conservative Party decides that foreign policy consists of looking at what they think those much-derided and completely unknown "neo-cons" do and then do the opposite, the country under Mr Cameron's government will speedily find itself in the sort of messy, anomalous position it has achieved under Mr Brown.