CategoryEU

The Sound of White Noise

So the last week of domestic politics hit new levels of controversy with the Prime Ministers swerve to capture the anti-immigration vote whilst simultaneously claiming to be the party of the people. Her statement of “if you believe you’re a citizen of the world you are a citizen of nowhere” speaks to a narrative of divisive nationalism, something that has never been a force for good domestically or internationally.  Couple this with the Home Secretary’s announcement of making firms disclose their numbers of foreign workers (and subsequently naming and shaming those who presumably don’t employ enough British people). I’ve also seen reports of schools collecting information specifically asking if your child is non-British . Furthermore there were reports of non-British academics working at British universities who are experts in International Relations and our relationship with the EU no longer being asked to contribute analysis on Brexit, even though they were already providing expert advice on the subject (UPDATE: Read this article for clarification on this point http://jackofkent.com/2016/10/what-did-the-foreign-and-commonwealth-office-say-to-the-london-school-of-economics-about-foreign-academics/) . To top it all off there was the announcement that fracking was given the go ahead in Lancashire over the express wishes of local residents.

Unsurprisingly these announcements caused uproar on social media with much of the commentary comparing the Tories to fascists in general and the Nazis in particular. This led to an inevitable backlash as it was argued that the atrocities committed by the Nazis are not even on the same scale as the new Conservative policies. It was argued that to compare the two was at best stupid and at worst disrespectful to those who suffered at the hands of the Nazis. I’m generalising but the sentiment was along the lines of “you’re overreacting, don’t be daft (it’ll never happen here)”.

However unpalatable the Conservative announcements are I agree that it is hyperbole at this stage to compare them to the Nazis or other fascists. The activities of those specific and general far right movements are still far removed from those of the Conservatives. Currently. I might not think that Theresa May et all are about to start goose stepping down Whitehall however I do think that taken together these data points represent a deeply deeply fucking unpleasant slide to the right, pandering to the views of UKIP voters and offering up a deeply divisive narrative outlining a scapegoat for many of the ills affecting some UK citizens.

In the Intelligence domain there is a toolset known as Indicators & Warnings (I&W). This toolset is used to flag up potentially significant events that may then be used by analysts as a heads up to keep an eye on something in case there are more serious developments. They are individual data points that on their own aren’t very useful, and more often than not they don’t lead to anything more. But sometimes they are the first sentences of a more serious narrative.

In this case the announcements are just data points so it doesn’t (shouldn’t) mean we start complaining of the UK sliding into the the Third Reich, but it does mean we flag it up. We discuss it. We are warned by it. But we don’t call it something it isn’t and we don’t give in to hyperbole.  If we do it undermines our position, weakens our argument and makes it easier to be dismissed.

As I’ve said before the level of debate has to be raised. Its too easy in this post factual environment to add to the wall of noise that is generated by social media. We have to learn to filter out the right signals that add value to the discussion and present them in the right way, rather than just amplify everything. We need clear analysis to spot oncoming threats otherwise we risk being overwhelmed by the noise. Flag something up but don’t make it out to be something it’s not.

“Never again” needs to be the central strategy here but crying wolf too early, too loudly and too often will just turn us into the proverbial shepherd boy.

 

They’re firing sir! They’re firing!

So….its a couple of weeks later and the political and social landscape appears to have moved from an all out constant offensive to a series of smaller battles.

Social media appears to be the liveliest battleground between remainers and leavers. Remain voters have decided that they will constantly make their displeasure over the referendum result known to anyone who will listen and/or read. This exercise of free speech appears to have irked off the leavers who insist that the remainers should stop whining about the result, accept that democracy has spoken, suck it up and help build a better Britain.

I’m afraid I don’t understand how the leavers can insist that everyone respects democracy but also insists that those with an opposing view should not speak of it. Is this any different to those who wished to leave the EU making their viewpoint known in the years running up to the referendum?  They were able to express their viewpoint for all the years 1975 – 2016.  The leavers need to understand that the remainers will be shouting out their viewpoint for many years to come.

I have spent the last couple of weeks fighting to remind people about the dangers of making sweeping generalisations when discussing those who voted leave. I have seen complaints and negativity directed against “Britain” for getting us to where we are and sadly I have seen commentary insinuating that all leavers are old and racist, are complete idiots and have thrown away the future.

There appears to be little realisation across the masses, on both sides, that the leave campaign was not a single homogeneous entity. Far from it,  the leave campaign was made up of many different blocs of voters with differing viewpoints from protest voters, to xenophobic racists (can you be a non xenophobic racist?) to actual educated people who believe that the UK is actually better off outside of the EU and logical, reasoned and evidenced opinions to back up their arguments.    Sweeping generalisations do not help.

The level of debate and discourse has to be raised in this country.  We have to work to make sure that “Britain is sick of experts” stays as the soundbite that it is.  People should be encouraged to find things out for themselves so that as a society we are not totally dependent on the mass media organisations controlled by a handful of people.  This in of itself is a nice soundbite, I have no idea how we turn it around and make it happen.  But it needs to happen.  Society needs to be able to think for itself…critically.  People need to be able to judge for themselves based on objective analysis the merits and weaknesses of any argument.   Again not sure how that happens…..

I mentioned before that I wanted to become more engaged in the political processes of this country and that one of the more likely ways of that happening  was to join one of the existing political parties.  But who to join?

None of the political parties are standing out at the moment as worthy of my attention.  As I mentioned before I’m mostly centrist (to my mind) in many of my views.  I believe in a strong defence policy (although currently on the fence on Trident), a free to use and effective NHS, Education policy decided by those who have experience in the theory and practice of education, recognition of crime and associated social issues not just being a police issue but a multi-agency issue.  I  believe business and free markets have a strong part to play and I also believe that we should adopt green practices wherever possible and practicable.  I’m a unionist and a royalist and I believe we should play a leading role on the world stage where our skills and capacity allow.  But with all that I’m not sure where I fit in.

During the post Brexit fall out the politician I was most impressed with for their display of leadership skills was Nicola Sturgeon.  However she doesn’t share my unionist views and it was easier for her to show the necessary leadership skills as the population of Scotland was largely united in its viewpoint.

Labour feels more naturally like my party but I think that may be more down to wishful thinking than anything else.  I admire Corbyn for his principles and he clearly has the support of a great many people with his espousal of a new way of conducting politics.  I’m not sure if is PM material…yet…and if the mass media has its way I’ll never be allowed to see if he has those capabilities.  Several of his policies are more to the left than I’m comfortable with but perhaps I need to rethink where I stand in the light of the changes to UK politics and its response to globalisation.  I certainly don’t feel able to join at the moment where the Parliamentary Labour Party feels that it has primacy in deciding who should vote rather than listening to the wider membership.  That smacks of being out of touch with their own base and more concerned with their own agendas.  They should be taking the opportunity to shape the future direction of the party not threatening it with a split  I certainly don’t feel that Angela Eagle is the right person to lead.

I think over the next few months will see a continuance of instability for many areas of UK politics.  With the election of Theresa May as the new leader and PM, the Tories are currently in the lead to take advantage of the political landscape as it changes purely by having, y’know, a supported leader.  The way things stand at the moment the Tories would stand a good chance of improving their standing in the Commons if a snap general election was called purely because of the disarray of their main opponent.

As it stands, other than talking to people online and offline and continuing to write like this, I still haven’t found a worthy way of becoming more engaged.

Uncertainty? Err…I’m not sure….

WARNING:  Having read back over this post since I started writing it I have found it to be pretty brain dumpy and incoherent.  My apologies, I will hopefully be more structured next time.

So its a couple of days later.  It wasn’t a horrible dream – 52% of those who turned out to vote actually took us out of the EU.  It was always a possibility.  The polls indicated that this was always going to be a close vote one way or another and it certainly was.  The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has torn itself apart over this referendum and although I’ve been on a stag weekend I have had plenty of time to think things through and plenty of opportunities to talk about what happens next.

Fight.  Struggle.  That’s what comes next.

I’ve spent time wondering how much of what has happened was my fault.  Not in an “Oh my god woe is me, the world is on my shoulders” kind of way, more of a “Why didn’t I do more to try and shape the politics in this country?”  I’m relatively articulate (when not drunk), I have mostly well reasoned opinions, can analyse information from different sides of arguments and live in a society where it is permitted to speak out and where it is permitted to get involved in the political process.  Why haven’t I contributed more?

Apathy is definitely one reason.  Although I came from a very shitty housing estate on the border between Solihull and Birmingham (Chelmsley Wood, BBC3 did a “wonderful” expose on it) I have been lucky enough to improve my standing in life and now consider myself “comfortable”.   I don’t have kids of my own, I don’t have a mortgage and have never needed to rely on the NHS.  I was complacent.  Very complacent.  Although I was always interested in international politics, domestic politics always struck me as dirty and largely unproductive.  The issues seemed largely unsolvable without a long term strategic viewpoint…and that is one thing that domestic politics does not provide for.  For me domestic politics was something for others to do and to put it bluntly I couldn’t be arsed.  I fucked up there and I’m sorry.

Confidence is another reason.  Having the strength to stand up and debate or argue my position with anyone I may encounter, not just close friends, was/is something I’m not sure I possess.  Even writing these posts is daunting.  Whenever I publish something and it gets “likes” on Facebook, not only do friends on there comment on my writing and engage with it positively, they share it around so that other people, people I do not know, can see it and potentially engage with it.  It freaks me out a little bit.  Even though I am inwardly confident in my knowledge and skills and the position(s) I put forward I still suffer from the Imposter Syndrome.  This is where you feel like a bit of a fake in your chosen activity and that anyone who challenges you is probably right…after all you’re (I’m) probably just talking bollocks right?

I’ve voted every time I have had the opportunity.  I think about which party I am voting for each time.  Although I tend to be mainly centre left in my thinking I don’t blindly go out and vote for Labour just because at one time or another they have been closest to the mark or because my Dad has voted for them all his life.  I do the reading (but never enough really), I think about the positions and what they could mean.  I think about the past and where it has led us.  I then make my decision.  I encourage others to vote but I don’t press too hard as I feel its not really my place and I don’t want to piss people off (my Mom and Sister never vote).  I happily talk about politics to people I’m comfortable with, as long as they don’t have a position or debating/arguing methodology thats overly ranty.  But I actively avoid the more difficult conversations and debates with strangers or with friends and acquaintances who do not fit into the above box.  My Facebook turned into an echo chamber as I removed people who just annoyed and frustrated me.  That was a mistake.  I compounded my apathy with an unwillingness to engage with others whose viewpoint differed from mine.

I have to change that.  I have to engage with others who disagree with me, although I still won’t engage in an online forum with people who rant and try and type over me :-).  I have to engage more in the politics of the country, now more than ever.  The rise of racism and the overwhelming negative aspects of nationalism over the campaign period and even more starkly in the wake of the Leave victory has the potential to be just the beginning in the slide of Britain into a dark and horrible place.  Where facts and experts are derided in favour of well stated rhetoric, where anybody who is not “us” (“us” being an arbitrary grouping decided by those in power at the time) is treated at best like a second class citizen and at worst subjected to bigotry and violence.

“That couldn’t possibly happen here!” I hear you cry.  Really?  Why not?  With a disenfranchised and angry electorate who are seemingly easily swayed by the mass media (which is controlled by a handful of individuals) and who find solace with public figures who claim to be “just one of them” and “who understands their fears and concerns and will work against those intellectuals and foreign elements that cause it”?  At this point these forces are riding a wave provided by the Leave victory, built on a foundation of increased UKIP popularity at the last election.  Although they have yet to gain a major voice in Parliament (one of the few, if only, things we can be thankful for First Past The Post for) can we be really sure it will remain this way?

Once enough people buy into the messages they are putting out then it becomes more and more possible for those forces to increase their representation in Parliament which gives them increased legitimacy.  As the years fall by many people forget (or were simply not aware) that Hitler and the Nazis didn’t rock up one day as a fully functioning political party and seize power.  They became part of the system and took power from within.  They played on the fears of the masses and took advantage of a political class that seemingly failed to represent the people.

I’m not saying the above is imminent.  But I am saying we have to fight against any chance of it happening.  We can’t sit here and say time and time again, “it will never happen here, I don’t need to do anything” because before you know it, it will be too late.  We have to fight against the rise of these forces, fight against the ideas that facts and experts have no place in the political discourse of this country.  We have to ensure that our voices our louder, that our arguments are better evidenced and better presented.  We have to ensure that we do our utmost to engage all areas of society and above all make sure that the messages that are presented are communicated in ways that the differing sections of society can relate to.  The level of debate has to be raised and wherever possible sweeping generalisations have to be avoided.  Labelling whole sections of the populace racist bigots without actual evidence to back that up just pisses people off and turns them away from you and into the arms of the opposition.  Calling people stupid for not seeing your point of view, again just annoys them and turns them away.

And that is something I particularly relate to.  Another reason why I have shied away from engaging and debating with some people is my inability to control the anger and frustration that it often triggers.  I struggle to understand, emotionally, why they can’t see they are wrong.  Out of the heat of the moment I can be objective and see more of why they are in opposition.  I have often struggled to not lose it, and failed, and that just results in my argument being weakened and my credibility lessened.  I have to find a way to control those emotions whilst at the same time learning to communicate  my message (whatever it may be) effectively at all levels.

It is the responsibility of everyone to get involved to protect the society we all belong to and to form the society we want to see in the future.  Not everyone can commit in the same way, not everyone can devote themselves as much as others.  The reality of the current society is that it is just beyond the capabilities of many to get involved and fight for change.  But for those of us who can, for those of us who want to remain we have to stand up and be counted.  Somehow.

My first step is emptying my head onto this blog and getting as many people as possible to read it.  Then engage with people who wish to engage with me, even if they are in opposition to me.  I know its not enough in the grand scheme of things, but its my starting step.  I need to decide about how to be more proactive.  Do I join an existing political movement?  With the exception of Nicola Sturgeon (who I have a lot of respect for, despite being on the other side of the independence argument) none of the Opposition have shown much in the way of leadership, precisely at the time we need it the most.  Some of them seem to want to rip themselves apart instead.  Perhaps it was to be expected.  The referendum has torn society apart, why should I think the main political parties should be above it?

I need to consider what it is I would look for in a political movement.  I struggle to visualise what my ideal manifesto would be other than strong in defence, ethical in foreign policy as much as possible, strong in social programmes and recognition that crime is not just a policing issue.  If I can work that out in more detail I might be able to work out what my next steps are.  I do know that my country, the United Kingdom, is worth fighting for, at least from my point of view.  I just need to work out the best way to do that.

 

 

What did you (D)EU Ray? (See what I did there :-)?)

Its done, the votes are in and the UK has decided to finish its pint and head home before last orders. Or if I’ve lost you already we are leaving the European Union. I’m torn about whether to write about what I’m feeling right now and even as I type I may not publish this because if it goes the way I’m feeling I may end up pissing off a large group of my friends…

 

Am I disappointed we are heading for the door? Yes I am for many reasons. They’re the same as what many of you have articulated over the last few weeks and months and they are based on a foundation of what may happen to European stability over the coming decade. See previous note.

 

I looked at Facebook this morning (I’m still not sure whether I hate it or not) and I saw the disappointment echoing up and down the country. Also, sadly, I saw the anger, the sweeping generalisations, the recriminations. I saw “I hate this country”, “well done you mass of racist bigots” and other, I’m hoping, emotionally driven knee jerk responses. I’d hate to think that my FB feed had gone from well reasoned and argued points to “you’re all a bunch of racist pricks and I don’t want to play with you anymore”. The thing that REALLY annoyed me this morning, the thing that nearly caused to me to just post an emotive response on FB without thinking was this: “I’m off to X”, “Lets go to Canada” etc etc. I nearly posted, bleary eyed and pre-coffee and in caps (because that’s how I roll) “Ok, don’t let the fucking door hit you on the way out”. But I didn’t (OK pedant I’ve written it here but it was as a demonstration of how annoyed I was).

 

I get that people are worried,scared for themselves and for their families. For the idea that the rest of the world know thinks we might be a bit more “What Ho!” rather than “Alright mate?” after all. I get that people are truly terrified that the face of the Leave campaign is how we will be seen from now on and that we have the potential to head down the path of rampant nationalism. I get that (some) people, me included, are worried about the potential break up of the Union. I get that this will cause massive economic uncertainty which could have ramifications everywhere. In general I get that it looks like a dark and lonely road ahead with the spectres of economic deprivation and mass rallies at Wembley Stadium.

 

But to want to up sticks and head for Canada or parts elsewhere? Well cheers. You liked the country enough to stick around (most of you) when the times we’re good and everything was going along in a rough direction you liked, but now that more people disagreed than agreed with you over this issue you’re off? So the country is worth fighting for when its part of the EU but its not worth fighting for when its not? Its not worth sticking around and fighting to make the country as good as it can be outside of the EU? To fight against the potential rise of nationalism? To try and make it a better society in a globalised world?

 

We won’t have suddenly descended into V for Vendetta world this morning. Yes you might hate the tories, you might hate labour, you almost certainly hate UKIP and parties of that ilk. But you still get the opportunity to change it. We’re still in a parliamentary democracy where you get to vote for possible change at least once every five years. Don’t like the way it is currently? THEN WORK FOR CHANGE! SHIT OR GET OFF THE POT! I can think of maybe half a dozen people on my FB list who are directly involved in the politics of this country, or who have family members who are.

 

Too busy? Bullshit! If its that important you make the time. Even the smallest activity contributes to a larger whole. The system in this country is this way because We (the royal collective We) have allowed it to stay this way. We are fundamentally disengaged from the political system because we hate it and don’t trust it. Voting once every five years, in bi-elections etc is not longer enough. Annoyed at the Masses(TM) for blindly (?) voting the other way? Feeling desperation at the power of the mass media and its ability to influence the Masses (TM)? Get involved in changing the debate, in changing the message. Work to convince people through other mediums that there are other ways. Is it going to be easy? Of course not. Are you going to convince everybody? Don’t be daft.

 

But fight for the system you want. Get on the rooftops and shout it out. Harrass your MP’s, Councillors, MEP’s (Ooops…..too soon?) and local activists. My FB feed has lots of people belonging to various communities based around some kind of nerdery where they are organising events and meetings and talking about ideas all the time. Yes that’s fun and nice, but use those skills to better the country too. You can’t in all good conscience sit there and say “loving this, loving that, not sure about that, but happy to tolerate it” and then go “fuck this noise, i’m off” when something really upsets you. We live in a world that is more connected than ever before. It should be easier to mass organise, to create different parties, to reach different viewpoints, never before has it been so easy to make our voices heard. We don’t need to march from Jarrow in a big mob anymore just to be heard. Although there is still very much a place for that kind of activity.

 

But you have to get involved. You have to take a stand and say “fuck you” we’re not going down this route. You have to have courage and commitment to do this. Even the smallest thing can help. I get that We’re busy. Instead of playing XBOX, watching the latest reality TV show or posting on FB about how great “x” is, spend 5 or 10 minutes of that time engaging. Find other like minded people and organise. Make your message heard. The information age is truly the time to be able to do this. Communicate, talk to people. Raise the level.

 

Don’t just quit. Who’s to say it won’t happen in the paradise you end up in?

The EU “Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?”

So reading through Facebook today and I came across a note from Jessica Smith explaining her feelings over the referendum and which way she intends to vote. It was a really good read and I thought it was a good way of explaining how she felt. I’ve struggled over the past few weeks about whether to make my feelings known about the EU especially given that my reasoning is nothing to do with the economy, immigration or of regaining sovereignty. Nothing about the debate from either side has smacked of well-reasoned and researched arguments. Also I’m usually very fearful of engaging in political debate online as it just isn’t suited to it as a forum. But having been educated to a relatively high standard in International Relations (BA & MA) I really should say something, otherwise I’m just sat smugly waiting for vindication of my own opinion quietly in the corner.

 

The most important political decision for a generation and instead of trying to educate the populace (on either side of the argument) it has come down to a mudslinging match with the lowest common denominator as the target. Rather than presenting the arguments in an informative manner we seem to be offered a choice between “Coz Churchill would want us to build the Empire again” to “OMG we are all totally boned if we leave”. Really? I understand why it’s gone that way, of course I do, but it is symptomatic of our entire political process in general at the minute. I mean does anybody actually believe that even if the £350million figure was accurate it would be invested back in the NHS? Does anybody actually trust Osborne and Cameron when they say “Trust us…the economy will be in a worse shape if we leave?” Neither side has any real credibility, I shudder with fear when I realise it will largely come down to who has the most effective media machine to inform opinion.

 

I don’t even think it should come down to a referendum really. The masses are too easily swayed by mass media. Few people have the time, energy or inclination to go out and do the necessary objective research to formulate their own opinion on the subject. Whether we like the system or not, whether we have trust in the representative that were elected, the truth is that they were elected to make the hard choices. This is nothing but the biggest political sidestep in history. We don’t usually make laws or policy by referendum. Why? Because the masses are too easily whipped up into a fervour to make any objective and rational decision (yes I know its ultimately more complex than that). I can’t remember where I first heard it but I’ve always like this line “A person is clever. People are stupid.” Yes I know, another oversimplification but in this case the decision should be made by our elected representatives. It’s not even as if it would be dominated along party lines as there is plenty of cross bench support for both platforms.

 

However ranting aside my reasons for voting to remain are to do with security, which will be of no surprise to long term readers and listeners. For me there is so much uncertainty around the main issues and I am not really sure how much things on the ground (i.e at the level of us peasants) will change in case of a Brexit. My concerns are also focused very much on the potential worst case scenario, but any discussion around risk and security always comes back to that because of the serious consequences of the worst case scenario.

 

A few weeks ago defence and security raised its head in the debate in a way that I hadn’t seen previously and I groaned straight away knowing that the demon of the EU Army was about to be rolled out and it was. I was further annoyed by the collection of Generals, Admirals and Air Marshals who stated that UK defence capability was being held back by the EU and that only a Brexit would bring us back to where we needed to be. None of them explained further what they meant by that. Surprise. It’s an argument that does not ring true for me in the slightest. Is the UK armed forces less capable than we were 10/15/20/30/40 years ago? Yes and No.

 

We can do more advanced stuff with the whizz bangs we have at our disposal these days and doctrine has arguably improved to the point where we are better at getting the right part of the world to blow up when we want it to. Can we do it as often as we’d like? Can we be a global force able to conduct multiple simultaneous operations? No, clearly not and that’s nothing to do with the EU. That’s to do with constant cutting of the defence budget as domestic needs took precedence. We’re not going to leave the EU and suddenly find we have the capability to take back the Empire, it just doesn’t work that way. The UK armed forces have been on operational deployment EVERY YEAR since the end of the Cold War. The so called Peace Dividend never really arrived as the bi-polar world dominated by the US and USSR fragmented into a multi-polar world where everybody wanted to prove how big and clever they were. We are arguably better at doing the military tasks that need doing, we just can’t do it on the scale or frequency that we used to. The EU hasn’t stopped us once popping overseas and blowing up a country that couldn’t possibly defend itself against us (Quote Toby Zeigler).

 

The spectre of the EU Army? Please! They haven’t been able to get operational multi-national battlegroups off the ground effectively despite over a decade of trying…battlegroups are between 1000 and 5000 personnel. A whole EU wide armed service? If we started now nothing would happen (in my opinion) for the next 30 years. Assuming of course that all the other EU states are up for it. Germany quite likes the idea but then it never wants to send its armed forces anywhere for obvious historical reasons. France on the other hand likes to independently flex its diplomatic and military power from time to time and because of this I find it hard to believe that they are willing to sacrifice that capability. The EU’s third pillar the Common Security and Foreign Policy has struggled constantly to get traction over the years because too many member states like having control over their own armed forces and foreign services and that really isn’t going to change anytime soon.

 

But even all of this isn’t the reason I’m voting to remain. David Cameron made the statement that a Brexit would lead to WWIII….or at least that’s what was presented in the media. This was obviously a pivot to a resurgent Russia and highlighting the fear that a EU without the UK would look weak which would further embolden Russia to take strategic chances abroad. This was obviously shouted down with calls that NATO is our main security organisation and that membership of that group would keep us safe from the prospect of the 8th Guards Tank Army strolling down Whitehall. This is of course correct in many ways. All hail Article V of the NATO treaty which states you start a fight against one of us then we’re all in. Effectively a “99” call in Rugby or perhaps more famously the Musketeers motto.

 

NATO is creaking under its own weight and the demands of relevance in a post-Cold War world. As soon as commentators started calling the organisation mission-less and irrelevant NATO planners started to look around for something for NATO to do. It was after all an important multinational institution…more on these later. So the concept of Out of Area operations was born. Instead of focusing purely on the defence of Europe, NATO would look to helpfully blow up other parts of the world as needed. So all the NATO members were told to start re-configuring their militaries away from armour heavy forces for deployment in Europe into light and medium weight expeditionary forces that could be deployed quickly across the globe for extended periods to fight bad guys everywhere. The UK, France, the Dutch, the Norwegians, the US and Canada all moved towards that model at varying paces. What did the rest of NATO do? Fail to spend the requisite 2% of the budget on defence, letting their militaries fall apart and generally undermining the overall effectiveness of NATO on an operational level. And then what happens? After all the bureaucratic inertia has been shifted to enable us to perform expeditionary operations the Eastern Front becomes popular again with Putin’s games in Ukraine and all the NATO members in that part of the world start screaming at the rest of us to deploy some tanks in their countries. If I was NATO, I’d be pissed….

 

But even this isn’t the reason I want the UK to remain. After Cameron made this statement and it was then refuted, it was just left. Nobody mentioned it anymore. Why do I care? Because I’m not sure it was what Cameron was referring to (or at least I hope not, he is after all a world class douche). The leave campaign is right…NATO is the body that will (?) protect us against the Russians. But that was never the EU’s job. The EU’s job (from a security aspect) was to protect us (in a wider European sense) from ourselves.

 

Look back at European history over the last 200+ years and what do you notice the most? How good we are at kicking the shit out of each other (and anybody else who looks at our pint funny). Napolean, the Crimea, the Franco-Prussian war(s), World War One, World War Two are just the most modern examples I can think of whilst typing this. We were forever getting riled up in a fervour of one sort or another and then marching to war to kick over a castle or two and reclaim a piece of land that had changed hands hundreds of times. Each time the cry was heard “Noooo we won’t do that again, there will be no need” etc etc. World War One….the War to End All Wars. Clearly the nationalist, fascist and communist elements across Europe didn’t get the memo as the sequel kicked off with far more horrifying results.

 

So what happened at the end of World War Two? Well this time they really really meant it. No more. Well there might be…we need to try and do something to stop that. The TL:DR version of what happened is that all the nations got together in a multi-national body called the UN in an effort to make countries discuss their differences rather than killing each other’s citizens through a common set of regulations and behaviours. All fine and dandy till the five “victors” of WWII said that’s a brilliant idea but we want the ability to block anything we don’t like to ensure we can still protect our own interests. Thus were born the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. You could almost hear Woodrow Wilson banging his head on his desk repeatedly. But in spite of that colossal fuck up the core theoretical idea was a good one. Get everyone together to talk and influence and negotiate rather than fight. Everyone signs up to common rules and agrees to act in the same way and peace should rule. Way to go P5.

 

What else was happening around this period? NATO was formed in response to a perceived threat from the Soviet Union. A slow process of getting the Western nations to band together under common rules and behaviours (see where I’m heading with this?) to protect each other against the Red Horde. Brilliant. But how do we get France and Germany to stop kicking up a ruckus and invading their neighbours every so often? Belgium and Luxembourg were particularly keen to hear the answer to this one…

 

So the first steps towards European integration were taken. A series of treaties were signed between France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries that would create a set of institutions which would tie the nations so closely together that it would be too difficult to kick off on one another even if a psychotic Austrian painter was sat in the Reichstag or a Corsican midget liked the idea of expanding his borders. What was one of the first things they did? They placed some of the most crucial war making industries beyond national control – Coal and Steel. It’s hard to secretly build a massive army if you’re not running the weapons factories directly. Secondly they put the newest hip research area, atomic energy, beyond national control (although clearly the French cheated their way out of that somehow). So it went from there. More integration tying the nations of the continent closer and closer together so that war becomes a lot more difficult (not impossible by any stretch of the imagination). We’ve always resisted the closer integration because we have always thought of ourselves above that. We never started the wars we just helped prolong/finish them off…honest guv. Therefore there was no need for us to go through the same level of integration.

 

So how does this, especially given the last few sentences above, translate into a position to remain in the EU? Quite simply…if we pull out will it end there? The EU has been on very shaky ground in the last few years. Grexit was talked of before Brexit and polling data in some countries indicate a scarily high level of support for them to follow us out, even in places like Italy, France and Germany. If the EU collapses there is a strong likelihood that major parts of the continent will be wracked by increasing right wing nationalism, all trumpeting how they are better than everyone else for whatever reason. Major instability will reign as everyone starts looking out for themselves and national leaders start looking abroad once more for someone to blame for the domestic turmoil. Next thing you know Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia decide that “yes it really is in our best interests to leave NATO and accept the stationing of Russian forces on our territory to help us maintain security”. But that won’t happen will it? NATO will prevent that! NATO is only as strong as the US commitment to European security and if the worst happens come November that commitment may not be as strong as would hope. What is more important to our colonial cousins…the troubled Old World who won’t spend the money to help secure themselves or the Pan Pacific region with a rising China? Obviously the last parts are (well reasoned I believe) speculation and are obviously a worst case scenario. If we leave no one else may follow us and the EU may stay strong and together for decades to come. We can hope. I for one do not want to take that risk. Or to put it another way I don’t want the us to be the brick in the Jenga tower that causes Europe to come crashing down.

 

As is par for this campaign I could be talking absolute bollocks and I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who will think “nope, sorry Dan you’re talking shite and here’s why….” Thats’s fine. You’re allowed to. This is just my informed (I like to think) opinion. Its based on an area that nearly no one else will be bothered about in this referendum as it is simply to abstract for them to comprehend. Doesn’t make it any less important.

 

TL:DR? Multi-national institutions with shared values, laws etc are good for stopping countries from kicking off on each other.