It would be easy to get depressed about the state of global leadership and world politics. What we are seeing is a vacuum and absence of leadership in a period of time where it is needed the most. Let us first look to our American friends over the Atlantic. The presidential choice that awaits them can only be compared to choosing between sticking needles in your own eyeballs or extracting your teeth without anaesthetic. In President Trump, we have seen a total lack of leadership on the coronavirus, an amoral leader who is liberal with the truth and has accommodated the neo-Soviet exceptionalism of Vladimir Putin. In Vice-President Biden, we see someone who has so many faces a scientific calculator could not process, someone with declining cognitive function, someone who indulges in the culture wars that inflame U.S. tensions and proposes such ridiculous policies such as “national mask mandates”.
Elsewhere we see the rise of rogue states such as China, too long appeased by Cameron and Osborne, who seek to trample all over the rules-based international order, who intern and kill Uighur Muslims, continue to oppress their country’s Christians, destroy any semblance of Hong Kongese democracy and spread their technologies around the world as a platform to enshrine Chinese hegemony in our networks.
In the East, we continue to see Putin exert his influence over states like Belarus and Georgia with only polite gestures being deployed by the West in solidarity with the Belarusian protestors against Alexander Lukashenko. In Turkey, President Erdogan increasingly becomes Islamist as his tenure goes on decimating all of Mustafa Ataturk’s founding secular values of the Republic of Turkey. And the European Union which has real power to deal with the likes of Russia, their biggest gas and oil customer, sits on its hands.
The international rules-based order has disintegrated and is on the verge of extinction. It was entirely preventable. The EU position of ever-closer union and seeing national sovereignty as a threat to its existence has rendered them weaker. Western liberal leaders were more interested in champagne-swivelling in the likes of Davos than looking to correct some of the economic imbalances of globalisation. They were more interested in creating more global-governance than protecting the unique roles that nation-states play.
This is a rather gloomy picture. However there is some cause for optimism for Britain. FBPEers mistakenly claim that Britain is now consigned to be a diminishing middle power. Its economic and political soft power is still remarkably strong and even among this period of British realignment in its relationship with Europe, we are seeing the seeds of a new British optimism. We led the way on sanctions on Russia following the Salisbury poisonings. Liz Truss, the International Trade Secretary, has shown ambition in the trade deals she seeks to conduct, with Japan, the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. We are seeing the Anglophile world coalesce around the CANZUK model which Britain being the strongest economic and political power is leading the way on. We have seen us getting tougher on China- excluding Huawei from our networks, offering refuge to the people of Hong Kong, righting the wrongs of Cameron’s appeasement.
Britain abroad seems to know what it stands for. Our biggest threat to realising this potential is not what happens overseas, but what happens at home. A bold and confident foreign policy may be what the peoples of these islands needs to realise that we can be a lighthouse in a world that seems so dark, but only together.