Monday, October 18, 2004

"Unless the wounds of the Iraq war are healed there will be no progress"

More interesting articles from yesterday's Sunday Times which deserve a bit of attention - though it must be remembered that the Times, like all Murdoch papers, is fundamentally anti-EU...

First up, an interview with outgoing Commission President Romano Prodi which will give comfort to many Eurosceptics:

"Unless the wounds of the Iraq war are healed there will be no progress, because this has broken the spirit and divided the European countries. It has caused real discord and unhappiness among partners; it is terrible. It is all so personal... I hope tension will decrease but it will not be a short endeavour. There are long-term consequences... This war should never have been started."

(Read more at the Eurosceptic EU Referendum...)

And then an immensely flawed analysis of Britain's relationships with Europe and the US from TV historian David Starkey (met him - nice chap), which will no doubt provide ill-educated Eurosceptics with supposed "historical" evidence that Britain has few ties with Europe.

The fact that Starkey makes the classic error or attributing any importance to the Magna Carta, seems to think that the Stuart dynasty was "expelled" from the country, and conveniently ignores all the incredibly close cultural and economic ties Britain has had with France, Holland, Spain, Italy, Germany and pretty much every other country in Europe during the last millennium, demonstrates at its most obvious how selective looks at history can build a case for pretty much anything.

His claim that the "special relationship" between Britain and the US is like a marriage especially amused me - in particular the fact that he accepts it as a given, despite this being one of the most disputed ideas of 20th century international relations. If the UK/US supposed bond is like any family relationship, Britain is like the crotchety parent, the US like the wayward teenage child which has broken off from mummy. Britain has experience and wants to help the US with friendly advice, while knowing that this will mostly be ignored; the US - like all teenagers - thinks it knows best, yet still has a certain amount of love and respect for the parent whom it rebelled against and listens to them occasionally, but mostly acts like a petulant brat who is determined to get their own way.

At some point I may do a counter-article showing how Britain and the rest of Europe have been inextricably linked for centuries, taking it right back to the Celts (who despite popular belief that they are Britain's "natives" actually came from Germany) via the massive impact of the Roman Empire, the Anglo-Saxon and Viking incursions, the coming of the Normans and the Frankification of the country, the Angevin Empire which united England and France, our Dutch King William III, our German King George I (and every one since), and so on and so on...

Lack of historical awareness is one thing, but professing to be an expert and yet still making such sloppy arguments is shocking. The fact that many will see Starkey's name, think he knows what he's talking about, and so absorb his well-written but factually flawed arguments is extremely depressing...

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