Blair’s Britain Wants a Return to Age of Empire

The following is an article from a major Indian daily newspaper, The Times of India. It looks at some of the political policies of the British leadership, and the concern that their calls amount to imperialism. You can see the original article at

Blair's Britain wants a return to 'age of empire'
Rashmee Z Ahmed
Time of India
March 28, 2002

LONDON: Tony Blair has provoked alarm and concern within his own party and in several Western capitals by allowing his chief foreign policy advisor to call for a "new imperialism" to re-order the post-September 11 world.

The call for a "defensive imperialism", with Western countries, particularly Britain and the European Union intervening abroad to restore order, comes in a pamphlet that has a foreword by Blair himself.

Blair's advisor, Robert Cooper, who represented the British government at the Bonn talks that produced the interim Hamid Karzai administration in Afghanistan, is known to have heavily influenced the British prime minister's foreign policy thinking.

Just three months ago, Blair used the high-tech, but hugely symbolic venue of Bangalore in the former British Raj to speak of his vision for Britain as a "force for good in the world".

Cooper, who argues for a "post-modern" apartheid-like duality of laws and systems to deal with "ourselves and the premodern world", says the West will have to employ "double standards".

He said that like the old empire, Western countries would have to deal with "old-fashioned states outside the postmodern continent of Europe with the rougher methods of an earlier era — force, pre-emptive attack, deception, whatever is necessary to deal with those who still live in the nineteenth century..."

The pamphlet, which contains a thoughtful essay on Hindu, Muslim and Christian identity by Amartya Sen, is published by the Foreign Policy Centre, set up by Blair and of which he remains the patron.

The document continues a theme that analysts describe as increasing assertiveness by the British government.

Just 48 hours ago, British foreign secretary Jack Straw declared that "the UK is not a superpower, but we have continuously shown that we play a pivotal role. We can — and do — make a big difference. Our challenge is to stave off the Afghanistans of the future".

Straw's comments came soon after Geoff Hoon, the defence minister, warned that the UK would not flinch from retaliatory nuclear strikes against Baghdad.

Even as commentators expressed surprise and alarm at the very public neo-imperial ambitions of Blair's Britain, sections of his own party dismissed the prime minister's foreign policy advisor as a maniac.

One outspoken MP, opposed to widening the war on terror to include Iraq, suggested that "the Russian Tsarina was better advised by Rasputin than the Prime Minister is by this maniac. To claim that the need for colonialism may be as great as in Victorian times is extraordinary".

But a spokesman for the Foreign Policy Centre told this paper the call for a new Western imperialism may have been "misread".

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