November 19, 2010

Coalition foreign policy may prove more cautious than Labour’s. Boles points out: “€œThe West can no longer argue credibly that economic development depends on political freedom, or even on particularly open and transparent markets.”€ He deplores “€œrestless idealism”€ and knows that “€œmissionary zeal is not a plausible strategy”€”€”although he thinks the Iraq invasion was wise. He conditionally supports foreign aid, with the emphasis on combating climate change, stabilizing countries which export illegal immigrants, and building up pro-British sentiment.

He is diplomatically silent about the EU budget’s unfolding increases but advocates “€œremorselessly self-interested participation”€ in the EU à la the French example. He seeks a two-speed Europe, with core and periphery states.

But he comes badly unstuck in his enthusiasm for enlargement, arguing dubiously that “€œa wider EU is a looser one.”€ Enlargement would not matter much in Croatia’s case, but it is inexpressibly irresponsible regarding Turkey. Acceding that impoverished, unstable, Iran-, Iraq-, and Syria-bordering country would mean the EU going from around 5% to 15% Muslim overnight. He also wants Bosnia, Albania, and eventually Israel as members”€”as if participating in the Eurovision Song Contest were sufficient qualification. He appears to think that any possible difficulty would be dealt with by restricting these new Europeans”€™ rights to move to the UK”€”as if restrictions, presuming Brussels permitted them, would be enforced properly or last more than a few years. Amazingly, this Turkophilia is mainstream Toryism, with senior Conservatives advocating Turkish membership on various specious grounds, ranging from what Gladstone said way back when to a guilt-ridden “€œWe promised.”€

Yet Boles has really thought about immigration. While he thinks the cap on non-EU migrants is too blunt an instrument (this is in any case being watered down), he wants to limit unskilled immigration not only due to the pressure it adds on resources and infrastructure, but because it makes it more difficult for domestic welfare recipients to return to work. Putative immigrants should have to face tough financial and acculturation demands, and lawbreakers should be removed expeditiously. He says he feels “€œForces that threaten to undermine a strong and cohesive culture…must be resisted.”€ Furthermore, and here he diverges furthest from orthodoxy, he suggests that there is greater social ease in Scandinavian countries and in Japan because “€œ[T]heir populations have tended to be much more homogeneous…which makes it easier for people to feel empathy for their fellow citizens.”€

This is a surprising admission for a modernizer, but all the more welcome for that”€”and he is to be commended for following facts wherever they may lead. Although this book will date quickly in some specifics, its underpinning logic has become the default political setting and is likely to remain so for some time. It is therefore a helpful road map for those who wish to comprehend the new dispensation and wonder where it all might lead.


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