And of course I am sure he does not particularly care what I think either. In an article titled Europe and Liberalism, he notes that Ramesh Ponnuru has praised him for changing his mind about the European Union.
Sullivan now thinks the European Union is not such a good thing as he once thought and both he and Ponnuru have finally noticed that having the EU completely swallow Britain is also not in the national interests of the USA. In fact that Americentric utilitarian observation seems to be the entire basis for their opposition to The Great European Project. Massive regulatory statism? Dramatic erosion of due process? Ever higher taxes? ‘Fortress Europe’ trade barriers with the rest of the world? Spectacular corruption? Higher unemployment? No… the reason to finally start glaring at the EU across the Atlantic is to preserve the UK’s ability to support the US in foreign policy matters and to work for US interests from within the bastions of Fortress Europe.
This narrow utilitarian argument seems to be what has brought Sullivan to stop being a cheerleader for the EU without much of a nod to the idea that maybe the EU is bad for Britain. So whilst I am happy to see a fairly influential commentator like Sullivan stop arguing Britain should embrace the EU even more deeply, he has nothing whatsoever to contribute to the British domestic debate on the subject. In fact, the stated views of Sullivan play to anti-American sentiments within Britain so harmoniously that I really wish he would just shut the f**k up.
To argue that the reason Britain should not allow its national sovereignty and identity to be submerged by Europe is because it does not suit the United States, is to put many of the people who dislike the EU in Britain in rather a quandary. Many such folks dislike the EU because British interests matter far more to them that those of the EU… and for exactly the same reason they are also highly suspicious of the USA, seeing it as subordinating ‘our’ interests to ‘their’ interests. For an example of anti-EU sentiments allied to deep and festering suspicion of the USA, you need look no further than Air Strip One. I see little value in Sullivan actively kicking the none-too-tight lid off latent anti-Americanism with statements like:
Keeping Britain both in the [United States of Europe] and outside of it militarily, diplomatically, and monetarily should become a prime U.S. objective in foreign policy. Without it, the United States could lose its most valuable military and diplomatic ally.
But the fact is almost no one who actually (in theory) gets a vote on the subject, not even Atlanticist enthusiasts like myself, think US interests are more than passingly germane when trying to argue against Britain sleepwalking to the gaping maw of that half-dead and half-mad leviathan called the European Union.
It seems Sullivan is no fan of the social/cultural Anglosphere meme. What with him being a party political right-statist (a Republican) and only a passing commentator on things like objective rights and moral philosophy, I suppose it is not all that surprising to read him taking a highly collectivist ‘American national interests’ view of pretty much everything, but then this is precisely why his views are of little value in any positive way to people outside his American national collective.
I would argue that the Anglosphere does exist as a cultural vibe, but it is something that can be made a great deal weaker precisely by attitudes like Sullivan’s. The underlying cultural basis for UK political support for US actions in Iraq sprang from these very real Anglosphere notions. Yet if I thought the United States government was working to keep Britain inside a United States of Europe (just not too far inside) for its own interests and at our expense, which is to say working against people like me who are calling for the UK’s complete withdrawal from the EU, then I would be bulk purchasing US flags to burn in demonstrations in central London… and if a relentlessly Atlanticist Anglosphere person such as me thinks that, one can only speculate what less pro-American segments of popular opinion might think.
If the US government wants Britain as an ally, fine. But if it wants to sacrifice individual British people as political cannon fodder to mitigate the effects of EU power? Want to know where you can stick that? I will continue to regard US civil society as having many admirable qualities and still feel an Atlanticist affinity to it regardless… but at that point the US government loses its ‘lesser evil’ status for me and becomes just another enemy on every level as the last basis for having incidental common goals vanishes.