Last week saw the launch of National Security proposals from David Cameron’s Conservatives. The policy paper tries very hard to sound distinct from the approach of the Labour government, but is remarkably similar in nature, only more aggressive and hostile towards Muslims in Britain and abroad.
Like Obama and Brown, it labels Pakistan and Afghanistan as the ‘epicentre’ of terrorism in the world, and justifies bloody military intervention there, as well as support for Karzai and the use of Pakistan’s army for the war on terror. It views the Prevent strategy against Muslims in the UK as broadly right, but judges that Labour has not focussed aggressively enough on what they call ‘extremism’ i.e. it pushes unashamedly for more assimilation of Muslims as part of its counter-terrorism strategy.
Cameron’s cosmetic label of a ‘Liberal Conservative’ foreign policy, whatever that means, cannot hide the fact that it is remarkably similar in substance to Blair’s ‘Liberal Interventionism’ (endorsed by both Gordon Brown and David Miliband) and what could be described as Blair’s ‘aggressive assimilation’ at home – by ditching the previously held policy of multiculturalism. Like Labour’s policy, it is unashamedly colonialist in pursuit of British corporate and strategic interests. Like Labour’s Foreign Policy review it highlights soft power over hard power mainly because hard military power has failed in Iraq and Afghanistan and is far more costly.
To try to sell this as something new and distinct, is like trying to sell the colonial policies of Gladstone as somehow radically different from those of Disraeli, and those on the receiving end of the bombs, bullets, diplomatic assaults, police interference in communities and black-propaganda in the media will see no significant difference in substance.
In the detail regarding domestic policy, aspects of it seem to have been borrowed from a paper – ‘When Progressives Treat with Reactionaries: The British State’s flirtation with radical Islamism’ – published by the Policy Exchange think-tank, which has a reputation amongst some Muslims for a neoconservative and extreme agenda. It also borrows from ideas pushed by the neoconservative Centre for Social Cohesion. In this regard the Tory policy seems to promote a more McCarthyite agenda towards Muslims.
Cameron’s boast that he is the “heir to Blair” is without question. However, we may well find that the label of “heir to Bush” will be more appropriate in the end.