When Did ‘National Interest’ Become Such a Dirty Phrase? | Kieran Everson
Just a week ago, Tucker Carlson was branded a traitor for questioning the national interest in going to war with Russia over Ukraine. Of course, to anyone not consumed by hysteria, this is clearly the opposite of treachery. Tucker made the point that Ukrainian lobbying in Washington had successfully subverted policy in favour of a foreign state. The paleoconservative commentator has been a long-time critic of American interventionism and has gained huge popularity from doing so.
In Britain, there has been no such opposition. Tory war hawks are licking their lips in anticipation. In the case of Tom Tugendhat, his excitement is so uncontainable that he appears to have launched a leadership bid. As if we had entered Groundhog Day, our Defence Secretary has begun sending weapons to Ukraine along with British troops to train them. Even the most casual viewer of Vice documentaries knows that Ukraine’s eastern defence is largely staffed by deranged neo-Nazis. I imagine that the white supremacists of Donbass will be more-than-pleased with Wallace’s weapon dump. Arming extremists to fight off Russian invasion sounds like a water-tight plan with no long-term repercussions.
This all brings me back to the question posed by Carlson: what is the national interest of going to war over Ukraine? The drawbacks are clear: the loss of British lives, huge spending costs, strained relations with Russia during an energy crisis, and – as alluded to – the possibility of creating oven-ready terrorist groups. Supporters of this military action do not rush to provide counterarguments, but they are never forced by the media to do so. There isn’t a perfectly clear argument put forward, rather a cluster of managerial gibberish. We are told that we have an international obligation to protect democracies from authoritarian takeover. We are told that Russian expansion is a threat to all of the western world. We are told that inaction is cowardly and evil, with Chamberlain comparisons and Dr Suess cartoons quickly dispatched.
Their managerial gibberish may sound tired and familiar, as it was the same points which were wheeled out to criticise the Afghanistan withdrawal. The exact same Tory war hawks spent days criticising the President and even Johnson himself at one point, suggesting Britain should act alone if necessary. Like today, they pointed to international commitments and a need to ‘help’ Afghanistan. It was surreal. Voices such as Tugendhat sounded more like an NGO chief than a politician. Most egregious of all was their use of ‘Global Britain’, which in their dictionary assigns Britain as the new world police. Once again, they did not dare utter the words national interest.
To cut to the chase: there is no national interest in this war. Despite what many politicians would have you think, the Cold War is over. Russia does not pose a threat to Britain. This ‘East versus West’ thinking is outdated, kept alive by the American foreign policy establishment. Due to liberal hysteria, Russia is now an omnipotent bogeyman capable of electing American Presidents and swinging British referendums. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. There is a large possibility – as with all potential developments in British politics – that nothing happens. We have seen sabre-rattling before, and we will see sabre-rattling again. Self-respecting European countries, lucky enough to have a foreign policy direction independent of the Pentagon, have made it very clear that they will not get involved. For once, Britain has outpaced the US in agitating for war. If we are to be in the driver’s seat for this confrontation with Russia, then perhaps the Earth is saved from nuclear annihilation. If there is one thing that we can rely on British politicians to do it is to fail spectacularly. Expect tough talk, chaotic briefings, and an eventual step-down.
This article was originally published in the eleventh issue of the Mallard magazine, ‘Any Spirit Free’.