Anti-Americanism

– in the House of Lords at 7:46 pm on 9th October 2007.

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Photo of Lord Saatchi Lord Saatchi Conservative 7:46 pm, 9th October 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of anti-Americanism in the world.

My Lords, I am most grateful to the usual channels for arranging this debate, and I thank noble Lords who are here to speak today. I am looking forward to the contributions of distinguished speakers and, with great anticipation, to hearing the responses of my noble friend Lord Howell and the Minister. I also thank the House of Lords Library and the Politeia think tank for their help with preparatory research for this evening's debate.

Americans today may be perplexed and confused about the way in which America is perceived in the world. They may feel like Josef K in Kafka's The Trial. Noble Lords will recall the opening lines:

"Someone must have laid false accusations against Josef K because one morning he was arrested without having done anything wrong".

Accusations against America have spread into a global phenomenon, crossing borders, classes, religions and generations. A Pew Trusts research poll in 2005 concluded that anti-Americanism is deeper and broader than at any time in modern history.

America's critics can be heard everywhere. This is how they make their points—I have heard every one of them myself. America is too in love with money, worshipping the god of the market place, the golden calf. It has too much money: seven of the top 10 banks, eight of the top 10 companies, and so on. It is too stingy, giving away less of its wealth to poor countries than others. It is vulgar, a rich barbarian. It has a lowly culture yet practises cultural imperialism. It makes people dread "Americanization". It is arrogant and condescending to what were called the "little monkeys" from other cultures. It is too religious, saying "God Bless America" once too often. It has too much power, spending more on arms than the rest of the world put together. It is a hypocrite, disguising its wars of self-interest as humanitarian interventions and exporting democracy at the point of a bayonet. It is inconsistent, agitating for regime change in some undemocratic countries but to others giving arms, aid and trade.

So it goes on. America has an incoherent foreign policy. It abandoned the "no first strike" principle which kept the peace for decades; pre-emption replaced deterrence but has no basis in international law. It is too close to Israel. It resists multilateral solutions, preferring unilateralism, hegemony, a sheriff strategy—"In guns we trust". It has aroused the envy of Europeans, causing them to want to form a rival power bloc. It has hit an ideological brick wall: the Great Wall of China, where state capitalism works. It has not solved the mystery of Islam. And it is not even a democracy, as a 44 per cent turnout in presidential elections proves.

The accusations against America are endless. I have heard them all, all over the world. Speaking up for America has become a lonely ordeal. Perhaps the accusations are all untrue. Josef K protested his innocence on the basis that he was a victim of false perceptions; perhaps America could do the same. Unfortunately for America, all of us know the power of perception over reality, which is why David Kilcullen, seated at his desk in the counterinsurgency section on the second floor of the State Department building in Washington, was right to point out that, like the IRA before them, America's enemies today are "armed propaganda organisations".

The jury of world opinion is no different from the jury in a court of law: it seeks motive and intent. It wants to hear America's true motive, and it wants it to be something good in the moral sense. We recall Alexis de Tocqueville's conclusion at the end of his famous voyage around America:

"America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great".

That was why President Reagan, when he addressed another place, asked Americans never to allow themselves to be placed in a position of moral inferiority.

Today, whether the American motive is pure or not, the one certainty is that, in recent times, America has proved unequal to the task of expressing it. Before globalisation it was possible—at least in theory—for America to be isolationist. It was possible to say of another nation, as Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain said about Czechoslovakia in 1938, that it was:

"a faraway country of which we know little".

Now there are no faraway countries, and there never will be again. Each day, we have a clear, stark and often alarming view of our multi-ethnic planet. Americans once brilliantly transcended the inherent fragility and insecurity of their own multi-ethnic community. In George Washington's own words:

"The bosom of America is open ... to the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions".

Woodrow Wilson called it,

"the great melting-pot of America", and made it the prototype of a diverse society. E pluribus unum: one out of many. My main point is that it is to the new melting pot of the world that America can bring, if only it can find a way to express it, its unique message.

America, as we know, was born out of a desire for self-determination, a longing for the human dignity that only independence can bring. That is what the pilgrim fathers hoped when, inspired by the scriptures, they announced their aim to create,

"a City upon a Hill", their new Jerusalem. Americans of all national origins, religions, creeds and colours would hold in common the ideals of the essential equality of all human beings, of inalienable rights to freedom, justice and opportunity. America would embrace meritocracy before hierarchy. Its frontier spirit would mean anyone could do well if they were determined. In America, nothing would be impossible. Americans would breathe free, with freedom of speech and thought for all men and women. These were the motives that made America the inspiration for so many millions of people: not its wealth, but its intense belief in its moral purpose.

Does the Minister agree with me that to disarm its enemies and defeat its rivals, America has only to focus its intellectual energy and vast economic resources on the policies which would help the world follow its lead; to find the language to project its founding ideology beyond its own shores; and to remind the world of its ultimate belief in self-determination, individuality and independence, and in democracy only as a means to that great end? To do that will require a marching tune that people can respond to, so that Americans can once again, as the pilgrim fathers intended, show the world the American way.

The outcome of the battle of ideas between Americanism and anti-Americanism will set the tone of the 21st century. It will be the decisive ideological struggle of our times. America has a fine ideology, but it has forgotten either what it is or how to express it. America today is a sleeping beauty. It is time to wake her up.

Photo of Lord Anderson of Swansea Lord Anderson of Swansea Labour 7:54 pm, 9th October 2007

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord on his speech and his fascinating choice of subject. I shall share three brief reflections.

First, is there a generalised anti-Americanism, or is there a core, much of which would attach to any superpower and which contracts or expands according to particular events such as the Iraq war? Indeed, one might also ask how much anti-Americanism today is generated by the Bush Administration, which one did not see, for example, in the time of President Clinton. In any event, it is probably more valuable not to examine specific examples of anti-Americanism, as the phenomenon varies so much between, for example, Latin America—from the Monroe Doctrine on—to the Middle East, where there are specific issues. But whatever the faults of the US, in my judgment they are more than counterbalanced by the vibrant democracy which certainly de Tocqueville saw, the values of which we mostly share. If there has to be a world hegemon, there are probably few better candidates than the US.

Secondly, since the noble Lord selected this subject, an issue of Newsweek has appeared, on September 10, the cover of which read:

"The end of anti-Americanism: Europe tires of bashing a lame-duck President, and rediscovers the upside of American power".

There is also some evidence of a greater recognition by the US that the reluctant sheriff cannot do it alone. He needs allies, and unilateralism does not work. There have certainly been important changes in the European Union as well, particularly with the newer countries. One thinks, for example, of the Czech Republic and Poland allowing missile bases on their own territory. Chancellor Merkel is a vast improvement in this respect, on policies such as that towards Russia, over Chancellor Schroeder. President Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Kouchner symbolically took their holidays in the US. President Sarkozy spoke warmly of the transatlantic relationship in his remarkable speech to French diplomats at the Elysée on August 27, and has given hints of movement on French policy with regard to NATO.

Thirdly, and finally, it is possible to detect a rethinking of the United Kingdom's attitude to our bilateral relations, a questioning of whether in the post-Cold War period it in our interests—or, indeed, those of the US—that we should be, to coin a phrase, joined at the hip. I cite in support David Cameron, although his speech was somewhat marred by a negative attitude to the European Union; David Miliband's speech at Chatham House on July 19; and the inaugural lecture, and the refined article which followed in International Affairs, of Dr Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House. From these speeches, I draw two conclusions: we need to maintain close and warm links with the United States, our key bilateral ally, particularly in areas such as counterterrorism; but our interests over great swathes of policy put us closer to the European Union than to the United States. I think not just of international trade issues but areas of growing importance such as climate change, weapons proliferation and Iran. And, of course, for the United States, dealing with Islamic terrorism is a threat to be countered abroad, whether in Afghanistan or Iraq, but for us and our EU allies it is a sensitive domestic issue. It therefore makes sense for us and our European partners to co-ordinate our policies before agreeing on terms in the transatlantic area. Surely it benefits the United States that we and Europe increase both our hard and soft power and extend our external influence by closer co-operation, and it is not anti-American to say so.

Photo of Lord Lamont of Lerwick Lord Lamont of Lerwick Conservative 7:59 pm, 9th October 2007

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Saatchi. As always, he has approached this subject with flair, originality and imagination.

A former president of Mexico once described his own country as "so far from God, so near to the United States". Anti-Americanism has always existed, a mixture of envy and other factors. I wanted to speak in this debate as someone who has been passionately pro-American all his life. As a young man at university I was obsessed by America. But I have to confess that in recent years I have become more and more disillusioned with American policy. It is absurd to talk about anti-Americanism in the sense of its people, because one cannot be against a people. One can be against a country's policy at a specific time. Although that policy will change, a lot of disillusionment with American policy is felt today.

My noble friend instanced several things that we all admire about America, including its history of religious freedom and the melting pot of cultures. I would cite as a wonderful example of American freedom the invitation to President Ahmadinejad to express his extraordinary views at Columbia University. It was remarkable.

Alexander Hamilton's idea of American exceptionalism has always been a historical myth. America, like other countries, was formed by blood, iron and conquest; its history is not untainted by colonialism. But why has anti-Americanism increased today? Why is it no longer the city on the hill to which my noble friend referred? America is increasingly perceived as just another nation state pursuing its own national interest in a rather ruthless way. It is ironic that America wanted to promote early international institutions such as the League of Nations and the UN to curb European power and that the European powers wanted to avoid them. We seem now to have moved to a world that is the other way round, where America wishes to avoid international institutions.

Henry Kissinger once observed that, given the preponderance of American power, the United States did not need allies but needed to pretend that it did. That pretence seems to have gone in recent years. Britain has been a good friend to the United States in recent years but has not received much in return. In the venture in Iraq, it has gained very little influence in return for the great investment that it has made. At times, it seems that diplomacy is relegated to a minor role. I was astonished to see the applause that greeted Barack Obama's threat to bomb Pakistan without consulting and against the wishes of the Pakistani Government. He seemed to think that it was legitimate for the United States Government to be able to do that. What was the reaction of the press? The Wall Street Journal applauded Obama because he showed that he was prepared to use force—which is not the criticism that people usually level against the United States. I fear that America has squandered the almost-universal sympathy for it that was felt after 9/11, partly because of its tactics in the war on terror and the use of overwhelming military force, sometimes deciding that it is justifiable to flatten a whole village even though there may have been just one suspected terrorist in it.

The reputation of United States has been harmed above all by the departure from its own values and standards—the episodes of rendition, the secret prisons and events in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. It is astonishing that an 80 year-old man and 15 year-old children should have been released from the detention camp in Guantanamo Bay. We have to look at how these things appear from the other side of the world. I remember visiting Tehran two years ago. In the middle of its skyscrapers were massive photographs of Abu Ghraib. Every one of those pictures was taken from western newspapers. Tremendous and unprecedented damage has been done to America's reputation by America itself. However, it is not a lasting thing, and things will change. Another Administration and another policy will arrive and America will once again be a city on the hill.

Photo of Lord Ryder of Wensum Lord Ryder of Wensum Conservative 8:04 pm, 9th October 2007

My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Saatchi, for gaining time for this debate. I initiated a similar debate in the other place nearly 25 years ago, since when the general arguments have changed little. Anti-Americanism in Europe has existed for a long time. It began to take shape at the moment when President Wilson invited Congress to declare war in 1917, altering the course of American foreign policy. George Orwell observed just after the last world war that,

"the orthodoxy, the parrot cry of the moment is anti-Americanism".

Anti-Americanism has never been confined to the left; many leading figures on the right have nursed a social and cultural disdain for what they perceive as the excessive individualism of the American way of life, and they resented American hostility to our empire. Now some serving politicians in the United States and Britain, lacking historical knowledge or imbued perhaps with doctrine, have tried to counter anti-Americanism by subscribing to the artificiality of the special relationship, which was described by Raymond Seitz, a distinguished United States ambassador to London and known by many of your Lordships, as,

"a knee-jerk catchphrase, almost like an advertising jingle".

He added:

"The two countries have never been diplomatic doppelgangers".

Anti-Americanism should not be confused with candid friendship or opposition to a particular American policy, as the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, argued. Until recently, British Governments were clear eyed about this form of diplomacy. Winston Churchill, half-American by birth, saw red with Administrations in Washington. Harold Wilson kept Britain out of the Vietnam War, to the anger of Lyndon Johnson. At Reykjavik, our then Prime Minister challenged conventional wisdom in Washington and was respected for it. Britain's candid friendship contributed to the end of the Cold War.

However, the post-Cold War world did not lead to the emergence of a single great power, although that view was lost on the neocons in the United States as well as some politicians here. They have since learnt that America can no longer pretend to be an independent actor on the world stage. Its military limitations have been shown up in Iraq; its relative economic strength is on the wane. We reside in a multi-polar world, with a loose European federation, a reviving and distrustful Russia concerned about encirclement, radical Islamists, China and India emerging as leading contenders and Iran playing all sides against the middle. The surge of capital flows is beyond the control of any single Government, however powerful.

In this unfamiliar landscape, anti-Americanism mounts by the month. We as candid friends must strive to persuade the next American Administration that the multi-polar world requires Washington to follow more sophisticated diplomacy unilaterally, with partners, and through established international institutions, most of which were created by the United States in any event.

The new multi-polar world presents a subtle tapestry. It must seem puzzling to clusters of policy makers, because, by nature, Americans look for instant solutions, which do not exist in this case. The British Government must be a candid friend. They must perform that duty to help curb the scale of anti-Americanism after the catastrophe of the joint venture in Iraq.

Photo of Lord Giddens Lord Giddens Labour 8:09 pm, 9th October 2007

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Saatchi, on initiating this debate. I assure him that I am a paid-up member of the AAA; that is, I am certainly anti-anti-Americanism. Anti-Americanism, as the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, hinted, is an incoherent phenomenon a little like anti-globalisation, if only because the United States is such a diverse and contradictory society. I become irritated by far-left critiques of America, because America is the source of some of the most important radical movements of modern times, including environmentalism, modern feminism, civil rights movements, freedom of speech movements, gay rights movements and many others.

Of course, anti-Americanism, as has been said, has a long history. It goes back to the early 19th century. In Europe, you find a strong strand of it in the relationship between the French and the Americans. Talleyrand said that he had never met an Englishman who did not feel at ease among Americans and had never met a Frenchman who did. A book called L'ennemi américain documents that long history.

As other noble Lords have said, something different is happening now; there is a tremendous surge of distaste for America around the world. It certainly involves the sorts of things to which the noble Lord referred, but it would be foolish not to recognise that what passes for anti-Americanism today is the result of recent foreign policy, specifically the foreign policy of the current Administration—not so much on Iraq but in their philosophy of international relations as announced by President Bush in his speech at West Point in 2001. He said that international relations should be defined as a system of power, that America would be the pre-eminent power and that no country would be allowed to rival America militarily. Condoleezza Rice spoke, too, of the "illusory international community". That philosophy systematically undermined the previous commitment that the United States had to a multi-polar world, which also explains a good deal about the surge in anti-Americanism. As the Pew and Marshall foundation surveys have found, that is something new, and I think that it is strongly influenced by that philosophy of foreign policy.

I am 100 per cent behind other noble Lords who have said that, although the relationship with America will be slow to repair, it can be repaired by a return to Wilsonian ideals and the framework of co-operation that America built in the post-war period. That is surely the future in a globally interdependent world. I, along with other noble Lords, hope that the President of the United States will return to a Wilsonian framework of co-operation and be prepared to help to rebuild the United Nations as a focus of world influence.

I conclude by asking a question of the Minister. It has been reported in several newspapers over the past week that the Prime Minister is prepared under certain circumstances to accept American military intervention in Iran. I would like him to reassure me that those reports are false.

Photo of Baroness Miller of Hendon Baroness Miller of Hendon Conservative 8:12 pm, 9th October 2007

My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend and congratulate him on initiating this debate. The beginnings of the tide of anti-Americanism can be found in Europe soon after the end of the war. I am not discussing the state-generated antipathy of the communist bloc, which has left its legacy for two ensuing generations. I am talking about the attitude of the French, as did the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, particularly under de Gaulle. While the rest of Europe was gratefully accepting American largesse to assist in reconstruction via the Marshall plan, de Gaulle was still smarting at the way in which those whom he called "the Anglo-Saxons" had attempted to sideline him in the battle for Europe. De Gaulle's attitude effectively kept France out of NATO for a long time.

But all of that was nothing compared to the ever-increasing swell of anti-Americanism engendered by America's support for the state of Israel. It is totally wrong to suggest that Arab anti-Americanism is caused by the recent invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, although they certainly have not helped. Two American embassies were blown up in Africa, one American barracks was blown up in Lebanon, an American warship was attacked and badly damaged in the Red Sea and the World Trade Centre was attacked twice—once with the devastating effect that we all know—before the Americans invaded Iraq. Of course, it was a mistake at the end of the first Gulf War not to have dealt with Saddam Hussein then and there. The Americans held their hand and contented themselves with simply booting the tyrant out of Kuwait rather than crushing him completely, in order not to offend the Arab world. Unfortunately, that was regarded as a sign of weakness.

We are dealing with regimes that regard the British and American concept of democracy as a complete anathema. The Americans made a fatal diplomatic error in backing the Shah of Persia against the no less despotic theocracy that took his place and then backing Saddam Hussein in his war again Iran. No wonder the Iranians are anti-American. The turmoil in the Middle East has given rise to a brand of Islamic fundamentalism that preaches the overthrow of everything that is not Islamic, and America is not the only victim.

Then there is the anti-Americanism to be found in South America, stirred up by the communist state of Cuba, to which the Americans behaved foolishly at its inception. Cuba had every reason geographically to want to be friendly with the United States of America, but American foreign policy drove it into the arms of Russia, and it was used as a staging post to corrupt the friendly relations that America had enjoyed with its South American neighbours because of America's benign application of the Monroe doctrine. The problem in South America was further exacerbated by America's self-defence against the drug cartels operating there.

I need not say anything about the disaster of America's intervention in Vietnam, which was the result of its fear of a so-called domino effect that might have turned parts of Asia into another communist fiefdom. The Americans have paid heavily for that—in lives, in reputation and in social unrest at home and anti-Americanism abroad. I find it paradoxical, however, that apparently 60 per cent of South Koreans consider the USA a colonial power when little over 50 years ago they were begging the Americans to rescue them from North Korea and China.

The straightforward fact is that the world is a better and safer place because America is the one superpower. The world would be a more dangerous place if what happened in the 1930s was repeated and America was driven back into isolationism and persuaded to pick up its football and go home. Cheap jibes at occasional American heavy-handedness and cheap jibes about its presidents, not just the present one, are all too easy. Western democracy needs a strong America. Indeed, the whole world needs a strong America, and we should support it.

Photo of Lord Sheikh Lord Sheikh Conservative 8:17 pm, 9th October 2007

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Saatchi on securing this debate, which focuses on an important issue affecting all parts of our society today. The special relationship between this country and the United States has been of great importance to this country for many years.

First, we need to be clear about definitions. It must be possible to question the approach of the Bush Administration without being labelled anti-American. Similarly, it must be possible to support the policy of the Administration without being labelled America's poodle. A mature debate is essential.

We must return to the best traditions of the special relationship, which means being a critical friend and not one who occupies the role of unconditional associate in every circumstance. We need to be solid but not slavish in our approach to the United States. In regard to the real value of our special relationship, we can tell the truth candidly and boldly without damaging that relationship. Historically, we may be the junior partner in the relationship but that should not reduce our strength. I emphasise the contributions made by Winston Churchill with President Roosevelt, Margaret Thatcher with Ronald Reagan and John Major with George Bush Senior. These Conservative Prime Ministers undertook this with skill and success. I agree with David Cameron that we have recently lost that art.

One of the prime reasons for any ill feelings towards America is its recent foreign policies, particularly the invasion of Iraq and subsequent lack of adequate planning. There was a detailed programme yesterday on BBC2 on the torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners at Bagram, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Some of the people who were tortured were innocent. There has also been disquiet relating to the rendition programme.

For America to gain the support of the various communities in this country and abroad, there needs to be an orderly withdrawal from Iraq and America needs to use its influence in finding a solution to the problems in Palestine. There needs to be a peaceful resolution of the nuclear issue relating to Iran.

I commend and appreciate the gentle side of America. My wife and I, with other Muslims, were entertained by the American ambassador in breaking the Ramadan fast last week. Everyone at the American embassy was very polite and courteous. I chair the Conservative Muslim Forum; we have built a very healthy relationship with the cultural attaché at the embassy and we have held some fruitful meetings.

Photo of Lord Wallace of Saltaire Lord Wallace of Saltaire Deputy Leader, House of Lords, Spokesperson in the Lords, Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs, Spokesperson in the Lords, Home Affairs 8:20 pm, 9th October 2007

My Lords, I did not recognise much of what the noble Lord, Lord Saatchi, said. His statement that Americanism versus anti-Americanism is the defining theme of the 21st century seems to me simply not to be the case. We face a whole range of challenges in the 21st century: climate change, global development, population growth, terrorism and the relations between different civilisations. The idea that we can divide the world into simple dichotomies—black versus white, good versus evil—is part of what has gone wrong with Bush and the neoconservative foreign policy. President Bush has said that those who hate freedom oppose the United States. The assumption is that the United States represents good and freedom and that those who oppose the United States and oppose American policy hate those very things. I have heard neoconservatives talk about the United States as a righteous nation, assuming that everything that the United States does is righteous and that those of us who criticise US policy are therefore necessarily unrighteous.

When I first went to the United States in 1962, the same sort of tactic was being used against liberals and Democrats—they were called "un-American" if they criticised the views of the American right. I spent three very happy years working and studying in the United States, in the immensely optimistic period of President Kennedy and then of President Johnson. I went back two years later, as things began to go bad with Vietnam. I have seen a lot of the United States since then. In 2002 I was invited to introduce a session at a National Intelligence Council conference on anti-Americanism. There was a much more nuanced discussion among the American intelligence community about the differences between generic anti-Americanism—from those who naturally feel opposition to the dominant power, whichever the dominant power may be—and the specific anti-Americanism that it was recognised had grown in opposition to American policies.

We have heard in this debate what has led to this surge in opposition to American policies, although not to the United States as such: the denial of climate change, the opposition to international law and the international institutions, the in-your-face nationalism of people such as John Bolton, the Guantanamo Bay experience, the whole Middle East policy and the aggressive anti-Europeanism that many have had. I recall people from the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation saying, when I published an article in Foreign Affairs in 2001 suggesting that the United States still needed a partnership with Europe, that to make that argument was anti-American in itself. We need to move beyond that.

What worries me are the cheap jibes that we see in the British press against France and Germany. It is easy in Britain to be acceptable when you make anti-European jibes. We should be much more critical and careful about how we approach both our American partner and our European partners. I regret that the Murdoch press has managed to distort the foreign policy debate in this country to suggest that we should always follow the United States and should always be opposed to what our French and German partners appeal for, with the Conservative Party on occasions vowing its loyalty to follow American policy wherever it may lead. I recall the Financial Times saying of William Hague that he appeared to be dedicated to pursuing the national interests of another country. The United Kingdom should be a critical friend of the United States, not a loyal follower.

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Shadow Minister, Foreign Affairs, Deputy Shadow Leader, Parliament, Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords 8:25 pm, 9th October 2007

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Saatchi has promoted a really worthwhile debate on an important issue, although of course it is absurdly short. We need much more time to do the subject justice. It is worth while because our attitudes to America are central to our own United Kingdom concerns. Our transatlantic relations define our own stance in the world, our role, our purposes and our identity in this nation. We are reaching—maybe this debate is a signal of it—a moment of sea change in these matters.

As we have been reminded, for 50 years after World War 2 the USA, which had saved us from fascism and secured our liberties, was the dominant world nation, by far the biggest economy and the central pillar of an empire of freedom. We hardly needed to argue that; it was assumed. What is more, America and its leaders used this dominant position, most of the time, with grace, wisdom, generosity and respect for many friends and allies and for its former foes as well. Of course, there was anti-Americanism, there has been all along, at present especially in France, as my noble friend Lady Miller reminded us. But it was patchy and spasmodic, and it was not the dominant culture of the time. On the whole, America stood for freedom, for a better life against the dark and shoddy values of communism and Soviet oppression.

We have to concede that today that is no longer the apparent position. America's reputation is at rock bottom, its influence has been weakened, and at home it is a divided and doubting nation, unsure which way to turn, as any recent visitor to any part of America would confirm. Indeed, it would not be inaccurate to say, borrowing Dean Acheson's phrase, that today America has lost an empire and not found a role. There are many reasons for that sad development, many of which have been outlined in this debate.

The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, made the valid point that we must distinguish between the US Government and the US people; between the Administration of George Bush who, frankly, have at times, however well they mean, struck a simplistic note in their assessment and their policies and uttered harsh rhetoric on the one hand, and the American nation and the economy, which is still the world's finest, still the world's most powerful, imbued with immense generosity and kindness and a wish to do well in the world and imbued with America's true values, which are our values as well.

Why has all this happened? It has been suggested that it is because of the recent foreign policy difficulties and the Iraq failure, but at root we must look deeper and see that it is about the march of technology and the microchip and the colossal dispersal of power today, both to the rising nations of Asia and through the world wide web to a billion desktop and laptop computers, to new groupings, good and bad, and to state interests alike that has weakened the concept of the mighty hegemon. Power has shifted from the USA, the West and the Atlantic community. Small weapons can now match big weapons through technology, and e-enabled terrorism can now outwit armies and rockets; and has done so. It is no good thinking only in terms of rebuilding America's military might or, indeed, our European military might, to re-establish influence and reputation in these new conditions. For us, the Atlantic bond remains vital and we should fully support America in its difficulties—but we should support it as a friend and an equal, not as a compliant satrapy or lap dog. True friends, as the noble Lord, Lord Ryder, said, should be ready to speak with candour, rather than with dutiful and automaton assent.

In today's world there are no top dogs. Some of my noble friends may disagree, but there are no hegemonies left and no hyper-powers, whatever some French leaders may have said in the past—although those leaders are changing. There is no new role. There is only one intricate global network in which we are all equal, large and small; we all need each other and we must all work together. I hope that this very short debate has helped to remind us that, while there is no call for prejudiced anti-Americanism—and we should dismiss it where we see it—there is a need for candour and realism in our changing relations with the USA. These factors should be reflected at the heart of our foreign policy in a way that I fear they are not at present.

Photo of Lord Malloch-Brown Lord Malloch-Brown Minister of State (Africa, Asia and the UN), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Africa, Asia and the UN) 8:31 pm, 9th October 2007

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Saatchi, for giving the House the opportunity to explore this Question, and I thank noble Lords present for the wisdom of the debate this evening. We have all agreed that this is an important subject—its implications are far-reaching and it is right that we should debate it to the full. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that perhaps this debate is a little brief to consider such a large subject. Although critical things have been said tonight, one thing unites every speaker—all of us are America's friends and we speak with a candour that comes from friendship and respect for that great country.

In a sense, the central contention behind the debate is one of pessimism derived from opinion polls. Perhaps, like others this week in another House, rather than being driven to decisions by opinion polls, I will try to focus on the principles of our relationship with the US. America matters, whatever the polls currently say. Many noble Lords have pointed out the ways in which the United States remains a force for good in the world. There are so many practical examples of that support that one is reluctant to make sweeping assertions.

One of America's greatest qualities is the vibrancy of political debate at home. Many opinions that are quickly branded by some as being anti-American would brand many Americans as anti-American. Across all Administrations, I cannot recall a debate more robust and critical of American policies than those occurring in America itself.

Before we assess the views of others, let me make clear the view of Her Majesty's Government. It was set out by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary in his speech at Chatham House on 19 July. He said America is,

"our single most important bilateral partnership".

At its core, the relationship has always been built on shared values, a commitment to freedom, equality, liberty and the rights of man. The Prime Minister said in July this year that it is because ours is a "partnership of purpose" founded on values that it has lasted.

Perhaps to stray too far into the roots of current anti-Americanism, as some of the other speakers have been able to, is not a luxury that a Minister can afford, particularly one with well known views on this subject. Nevertheless, our policy evidently cannot be formed in isolation from global or British public opinion. That is why we need to articulate the benefits of US engagement to the British people and beyond.

Others have touched on that history of engagement, which perhaps starts with Europe. A vital lifeline was provided to a besieged Europe during and after the Second World War, and US military, economic and political leadership continued throughout the Cold War, bringing it to a successful conclusion and allowing a Europe to exist today that could not have existed without American leadership.

That US involvement has continued well beyond 1989 with support for the enlargement of NATO and support to help the former communist countries to rebuild their economies and reform their Governments and security structures. The enlargement of the EU and NATO has been an example of transformational diplomacy at its best.

It was President Clinton's leadership within NATO—in partnership with the United Kingdom—that helped us to put a stop to ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and led eventually to the downfall of Milosevic in the former Yugoslavia. That US commitment to Kosovo remains to this day, although it seldom gets the attention that is paid to other American overseas commitments. It is there still in terms of troops deployed and of an extraordinary diplomatic capital invested in the final status process.

Much closer to home, I think that we are all aware of the role that the US played in securing a lasting peace in Northern Ireland. The momentous progress that the people of Northern Ireland have achieved could not have been made without the unerring support of successive US Administrations and of Congress.

But this debate is not just about what the United States does around the world; it must also be about how the US acts as a model for others and how it impacts on the lives of so many in the world. Having just returned from living for 21 years in the US and having entered a British Cabinet, if America were a company and not a country, I should probably have to confess to a conflict of interest. My wife and children are American, I built a successful business there and the American dream is unashamedly real to me. I have benefited from and watched up close America's dynamic economic model; I have watched it being emulated around the world. Its research, innovation and creativity spread far beyond US borders. The interlocking levels of government provide a fertile testing ground for new ideas of public policy. A high level of migration to the United States—itself a compelling example of pro-Americanism—has led to the development of a vast multicultural society which encompasses citizens of all backgrounds and faiths, and which, as has been said, should serve as the example of a melting pot for us all.

Again, as the noble Lord, Lord Saatchi, said, we should not overlook the appeal and influence of US culture, be it music, literature or film. We cross several generations in this House but if I point to a country that has produced Elvis Presley and John Ford, I think we can all agree that its cultural richness is beyond compare. Yet, as the noble Lord said, how come a country which is so good at telling the story of other people is not able to tell its own and communicate it persuasively to the world?

Perhaps I may pick up what the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, said—a point that was echoed by several other speakers. We must never confuse anti-Americanism with anti-administrationism. I do not draw attention to any particular Administration but, again, insist that this has been a phenomenon of American political debate at home and abroad throughout many different UN General Assemblies. Long before John Bolton, I watched American delegates criticised by countries for American over-reach and over-assertion of its powers. Through the thick and thin of that, we in the United Kingdom have stuck true to what my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has described as the partnership of purpose. We see it today in Afghanistan—a country that symbolises our common goal of protecting our national security and promoting human rights. We see it in the common challenges that we seek to meet together in Africa. US leadership has been critical in keeping the world's focus on Darfur. Its leadership on HIV/AIDS and malaria has been justly applauded—an issue on which President Bush has taken a direct and personal role. We are delighted that he has joined this Government in the Prime Minister's call for action on the millennium development goals.

The list continues. In the six-party talks on North Korea and on Iran, I hasten to tell my noble friend Lord Giddens that in another place today the Foreign Secretary reaffirmed that we are committed, as are our partners, including the United States, to a diplomatic solution to the crisis on Iran's nuclear programme. We share a commitment to a new trade round, to the reform and reinvigoration of the UN, and to the continued transformation of NATO. None of these challenges could possibly be solved without the involvement of the United States. US leadership, even if sometimes we feel it is not there for us as forcefully as we would wish, is vital and indispensable, and will continue to be so. That is why the US remains our most important bilateral relationship in the world today.

References to the city upon the hill in a sense sums up the dilemma and sometimes contradiction in our relationship with the United States, just as the United States and the politicians who are often collectively referred to as representing the Wilsonian tendency in American policy look to the world and expect an ideal world that will act according to American values and hopes for democracy and the rule of law. Sometimes we look to America in a similar idealised way and are disappointed if America shows the same commitment to interests and politics in its international relations that other countries demonstrate. Friendship also requires realism; this is a marriage not a romance, one might say.

In conclusion, the challenges that we face at the beginning of this century are, as the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, said, different from our immediate past. The challenges are issues such as climate change, poverty, crime and migration—and, of course terrorism. They are not just different in terms of issues. In the age of globalisation they require global responses. They are not ones that any nation, even the United States, can solve alone. Rather, in an era of the rising powers of Asia, which has been referred to, they require us all collectively to adopt new approaches as we strive for global security. Even with power dispersed to a billion laptops—a magnificent phrase—and to the emerging powers of Asia, the United States remains indispensable to solving these new problems as it was to solving the older ones. Indeed, multilateralism without the US is a chair without a leg. It is important for all of us to make the case for American engagement in the world as a force for good and to rebut the promoters of anti-Americanism. Nevertheless we need to be a candid friend as we seek to encourage the US, this Administration and the one to come, to engage in the world around the values that we share. We need to work with the US because there can be no more powerful exponent of our values and no more powerful partner in making a new global, multilateral world work more effectively.

Photo of Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Government Whip

My Lords, before moving the Motion, I wish to apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Bew, who informed me that he would not be speaking in the gap. I informed the Table but I forgot to inform the noble Lord, Lord Wallace.

I beg to move that the House do now adjourn at pleasure until 8.46 pm.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 8.44 to 8.46 pm.]