Why is Ukraine the West’s Fault? John Mearsheimer (viral Youtube lecture notes)

PRELIMINARY COMMENTS
-What are core strategic interests? Areas of the world where you’re willing to fight and die. For the USA: Europe, northeast Asia and the Persian Gulf.
-Through WW2 the USA was Europe-first, the great powers in Europe were more important than the great powers in northeast Asia.
-The Persian Gulf is important because of oil.
-“Since the beginning of this country Europe has been #1”
-But a fundamental shift towards Asia is taking place where northeast Asia becomes the most important region thanks to the rise of China.

-The Persian Gulf is still important as it’s connected to Asia because of oil flowing to India and China.
-The USA is leaving Europe behind and that’s important because Ukraine and NATO concern Europe.
-France, Germany, Poland, Ukraine and Russia are the big countries that matter in Europe strategically speaking.
-They are connected: Ukraine is right next to Russia, Poland is right next to Ukraine, Germany to Poland, France to Germany.
-Ukraine is a badly divided country and what’s taking place in Ukraine can be called a civil war, roughly between the east and west of the country.
-The east-west divide in Ukraine is by language: Ukrainian speakers in the west and Russian speakers in the east.
-In the 2010 election Viktor Yanukovych was elected and the voting pattern look like the voting pattern in the 2004 election (east vs. west).
-The divide is also at the level of economic orientation (a customs union with Russia vs. preferring the EU). Ukrainians are also divided about joining NATO or not.
-Europe is dependent on Russian gas. Many of the countries in Eastern Europe and Germany are heavily dependent on Russian natural gas which gives Russia huge leverage and makes it difficult for the USA to put pressure on the Russians.

CAUSES OF THE CONFLICT: Mearsheimer’s View
-There are three different levels of causes: deep causes, precipitating causes (ie. things were not terrible until Feb 22nd 2014 so what caused it then?), and the Russian reaction (why the Russians do what they did with regards to Crimea and eastern Ukraine?).
-Bottom line: the west is principally responsible for this mess, not the Russians.

DEEP CAUSES
**THE AIM OF THE UNITED STATES AND ITS EUROPEAN ALLIES IS TO PEEL UKRAINE AWAY FROM RUSSIA’S ORBIT AND INCORPORATE IT INTO THE WEST**
-The aim is a western bulwark on Russia’s border and Russia says “we will do everything to prevent that”.
-The first part of this strategy is NATO expansion. We have been moving NATO eastward to Russia’s border (big “NO NO” for Russians).
-EU expansion is all about integrating Ukraine into the west (in this case economic integration as opposed to military via NATO).
-The USA fostered colour revolutions like the “Orange Revolution” which meant promoting democracy in Ukraine and in others places. The USA “runs around toppling regimes” and puts in place democratically elected leadership.
-In Moscow and Beijing they don’t like democracy promotion.
-The Chinese believe that the USA was behind the protests in Hong Kong with the goal of promoting democracy and getting leaders who are pro-American (this is the USA strategy with democracy promotion).
-There were two tranches of NATO expansion in recent years: 1999 (Poland, The Czech Republic, Hungary) and 2004 (Baltics, Romania, Bulgaria).
-The Russians made it clear from the mid 1990’s that they were adamantly opposed to NATO expansion. However, they were too weak to do anything and it didn’t involve a major state on their border. The Russians were willing to live with smaller states in NATO.
**Key moment: NATO Bucharest summit in April 2008. NATO’s final declaration was: NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s euro Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO**. The Russians made it perfectly clear this was unacceptable.
-Putin said at the time that Georgia and Ukraine becoming a part of NATO is a direct threat to Russia.
-The August 2008 war with Russia was a consequence of this. Georgians thought that that the USA was sending them a signal that could get “uppity”.
-The Russians clobbered the Georgians and Georgia is in deep trouble today.

PRECIPITATING CAUSES
-Key events leading up to the coup.
-The coup of Feb 22nd 2014 is of enormous importance. That’s what really throws the crisis into gear, “the coup”.
-What causes the coup? It all starts in November 2013.
-Yanukovych is negotiating with the EU to form an association agreement that brings the EU and Ukraine much closer together.
-Putin was not willing to countenance Ukraine going with the EU only, so he offers a very sweet deal (the question of corruption is relevant here, the EU wants to eliminate corruption and the Ukrainians don’t really want to).
-Jan 20th the first two deaths.
-Feb 18-20 lots of people die on the streets.
-On Feb 21st a deal is worked out for May elections that will remove Yanukovych from power. But protestors refuse to accept the deal and there are significant fascist elements amongst the protestors. More violence ensues.
-Yanukovych flees for his life to Russia on Feb 22nd.

KEY EVENTS AFTER THE COUP
-Feb 23rd the Ukrainian parliament votes to repeal minority language laws.
-Feb 27th Russian units begin seizing checkpoints in Crimea.
-Feb 28th Russian forces begin moving into Crimea.

-Key point for Mearsheimer: the Russians didn’t invade Crimea, they were already there because they had a leasing agreement with a naval base and had military forces there. Russian units were already in Ukraine.
-On March 6th the Crimean parliament votes to join Russia and hold a referendum on the matter.
-March 16th referendum is held in Crimea.
March 18th Russia incorporates Crimea.
-Fighting then breaks out in eastern Ukraine. Is Russia involved? Not sure, but Russia is certainly intent on support them.
-Bottom line: Russia took Crimea and they’re not giving it back.
-What some say is that Putin wants to conquer Ukraine. They say Russia wants to run rampant and recreate the Soviet Union. Not going to happen, Putin is too smart.
-If you really want to wreck Russia you should encourage it to conquer Ukraine.
-Putin is wrecking Ukraine and saying to the west you have two choices: either back off OR continue to trying to make Ukraine a western a country on our doorstep in which case we keep wrecking the country.
-The name of the game from a Western perspective is to make Ukraine a part of NATO and in that case Crimea would be a NATO base, NOT HAPPENING from Russian POV.
-Do you want a frozen conflict or do you want to wreck Ukraine?
-Russia’s motivation: it’s a great power and has no interest in letting a major country on its border be incorporated it into the west.
-For the USA the Monroe Doctrine dictates that the western hemisphere is “our backyard”. We went crazy at the idea of the Soviets putting military forces in Cuba.
-What if China were massing troops in Canada and Mexico? How would we react? No one should be surprised about Russia’s reaction. They told us after Bucharest and we didn’t listen
-Was Russia’s response surprising? For some reason Obama and all the elites in the west were surprised, perhaps because they are 21st Century people and think the balance of power politics doesn’t matter anymore (joking, laughs).
-If we’re having trouble with the Russians think about how much trouble we’re going to have with China. “I’m at home” in China because they are 19th century people.

CAUSES OF THE CRISIS: CONVENTIONAL WISDOM **NOT MEARSHEIMER’S VIEW**
-Putin is the main cause. He’s crazy and irrational. He’s bent on creating a greater Russia and bears resemblance to Hitler.
-But the idea that Putin bears any resemblance to Adolf Hitler is absurd.
-If Putin could create a greater Russia he would do it. He can’t do it because Russia is a declining great power.
-AS I SAID, IF THEY WERE TO TRY AND CREATE A GREATER RUSSIA BY INVADING UKRAINE .. THEY WOULD BE “JUMPING INTO THE BRIAR PATCH”
-If you want to wreck Russia, tell them to create a greater Russia, it will lead to no end of trouble.

-Putin is much too smart for that and is in the process of wrecking Ukraine so the West can’t have it. Putin is very strategic, not irrational and not the main cause of the crisis.
-The USA sees itself as a benign hegemon seeking to promote stability in Europe. Japan, Poland and Germany see the USA as a benign hegemon.
-Russia, China and Iran DON’T SEE IT THAT WAY. Because they don’t see it that way, when you take measures that you think are going to be interpreted as benign, the other side will not agree. They see them as threatening (take democracy promotion, they don’t understand it. You have to put yourself in their shoes).

-Conventional wisdom: Putin’s behaviour proves that it was wise to expand NATO eastward to include Ukraine and Georgia.
-But, there’s no evidence that we thought Putin was aggressive before the crisis.
-There’s no evidence that we were expanding NATO because we had to contain Putin. We were thinking like 21st Century men and women, we did not think that Russia was aggressive (after Feb 22nd we then decided that Russia was aggressive, before “the crisis” there was no notion of containing Putin so the West had no clear notion/strategy even by the anti-Putin logic).
-Putin is a 19th Century man.
-President Obama and all of Washington were caught with their pants down, they did not see it coming.
-We’re doubling down, getting tougher and tougher with the Russian’s because we never do anything wrong. We’re a benign hegemon and this is the 1930’s all over again.
Can we succeed? My argument is we’re playing a losing hand. The mindset is you can punish the Russian’s economically, but when core strategic interests are at stake countries will put up with a lot. Ukraine is not a vital strategic interest for the West.
-Lets assume we’re backing Putin into a corner, is this good? We’re talking about a country that has 1000’s of nuclear weapons and the only circumstance where they choose that option is when they are desperate, when they think their survival is at stake. All this over a country that is not a vital strategic interest to the USA.
-When you incorporate Ukraine into NATO you give them an Article 5 guarantee. What sense does it make to give an Article 5 guarantee to a country that is not a vital strategic interest?
-Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Ukraine. The USA has a reverse Midas Touch.

WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?
-Create a neutral Ukraine that is a buffer state between NATO and Russia.
-WHAT YOU DON’T WANT IS A WESTERN UKRAINE IN NATO AND EASTERN UKRAINE IN RUSSIA AND THE RUSSIANS AND AMERICANS WHO HATE EACH OTHER EYEBALL TO EYEBALL.
– We have to explicitly abandon NATO expansion and fashion an economic rescue plan for Ukraine that includes Russia, the IMF and EU.
-We have to guarantee minority rights esp. language rights in Ukraine.
-We have to dampen down the conflict in Ukraine, give the east autonomy and protect minority rights. Are we going to do any of this? NO.
-Will there be a new Cold War? No, Russia is not the Soviet Union and China is going to be something like we’ve never seen.

-We need SOUTH KOREA, JAPAN, VIETNAM, TAIWAN, SINGAPORE, INDIA and RUSSIA to balance vs. China. We’re driving the Russians into the arms of the Chinese and we need the Russians on Iran also.
-Will the United States pivot to Asia? Yes, it’ll only take one big crisis in the South China Sea. Russia is not a peer competitor.
-NATO IS IN SERIOUS TROUBLE AND WILL END AS A FUNCTIONING ALLIANCE OVER TIME IN THE CONTEXT OF THIS PIVOT TO ASIA.

-The Japanese wonder whether we’re going to be there for them because if we have trouble with Ukraine and fighting ISIS can we really pivot to Asia?
-If the USA does pivot can they be trusted? Do we want to depend on them?
-Also, Iran and Syria (we need the Russians on both).

WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS FOR UKRAINE?
-People in the West think my position is deeply immoral because Putin has authoritarian or thuggish tendencies.
-But the West is leading Ukraine down the “primrose path”, with the end result being Ukraine is going to get wrecked.
-We ought to create a neutral Ukraine and build it up economically. Getting it out of contention is the best thing that could happen to the Ukrainians. We’re encouraging the Ukrainians to play tough with the Russians, we’re encouraging the Ukrainians to think they will become part of the West.
-The Ukrainians are almost completely unwilling to compromise with the Russians and want a hardline policy but their country will be wrecked and we’re encouraging that outcome.
-It would make much more sense to create a neutral Ukraine.

LECTURE Q&A
-The Republicans and Democrats are the same on foreign policy.
-We have huge power so we are free to do foolish things, we’re allowed to pursue foolish polices. In that context it’s hard to make arguments against the establishment.
-China’s rise will force the United States to think more strategically.
-We’re the most secure great power in the history of the world.

-Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union all broke up because they contained different nations. Inside Ukraine do you have a similar situation?
-The majority of Ukrainians in both the west and east want to maintain the integrity of Ukraine, they don’t want to split Ukraine. We should maintain that attitude amongst the Ukrainian people.
-But as time goes on there might be enough bad feeling to break the country.
-The idea was to press Western European institutions eastward and make the East like the West over time. Many are now pessimistic about where Europe is headed. There’s no optimism now like in the early 1990’s.
-Three things about China: Taiwan, South China Sea “rocks” in dispute with Japan and the Japanese are very worried about China.
Nationalism is very important in the Chinese case: communism as an ideology no longer has much legitimacy and they had to find substitute and it’s nationalism. At the core of Chinese nationalism is the century of national humiliation 1850-1950. China was humiliated by the European powers, the USA open door policy and Japan.
-Because nationalism is so important this narrative is front and centre.
-There’s the possibility of Chinese and Japanese nationalism being at odds and spinning out of control.

-Angela Merkel said that bringing Ukraine into NATO is a prescription for disaster. Based on that I thought the Germans would play a key role in tamping down on the USA.
-The Germans are scared to look themselves in the mirror, they are scared of taking the lead on anything.
-Since 2014 Russian nationalism has ramped up and that’s shored up support for Putin.
-What’s going on inside Ukraine is inextricably bound up with WW2. There are some fascists involved in Ukraine which spooks the Russians.

Steve Bannon, gaming and “these rootless white males”

“Bannon made another decision that wasn’t immediately obvious but that would have a significant effect on the size and nature of Breitbart’s audience and eventually on the 2016 presidential campaign. He wanted to attract the online legions of mostly young men he’d run up against several years earlier, believing that the Internet masses could be harnessed to stoke a political revolution. Back in 2007, when he’d taken over Internet Gaming Entertainment, the Hong Kong company that systemized gold farming in World of War craft and other massively multiplayer online games, Bannon had become fascinated by the size and agency of the audiences congregating on MMO message boards such as Wowhead, Allakhazam, and (his favorite) Thottbot. ‘In 2006, 2007, they were doing 1.5 billion page views a month,’ he recalled. ‘Just insane traffic. I thought we could monetize it, but it turned out I couldn’t give the advertising away.’ Instead, the gamers ended up wrecking IGE’s business model by organizing themselves on the message boards and forcing the companies behind World of Warcraft and other MMO games to curb the disruptive practice of gold farming.

IGE’s investors lost millions of dollars. But Bannon gained a perverse appreciation for the gamers who’d done him in. ‘These guys, these rootless white males, had monster power,’ he said. ‘It was the pre-reddit. It’s the same guys on Thottbot who were [later] on reddit’ and 4chan-the message boards that became the birth place of the alt-right.

When Bannon took over Breitbart, he wanted to capture this audience. Andrew Breitbart had drawn a portion of it enchanted by his aggressive provocations on issues such as race and political correctness. Bannon took it further. He envisioned a great fusion between the masses of alienated gamers, so powerful in the online world, and the right-wing outsiders drawn to Breitbart by its radical politics and fuck-you attitude. ‘The reality is, Fox News’ audience was geriatric and no one was connecting with this younger group,’ Bannon said. But he needed a way to connect. He found it in Milo Yiannopoulos, a gay British tech blogger and Internet troll nonpareil.

The purpose of all this incitement, at least in Bannon’s mind, was to entice the online legions into the Breitbart fold. ‘I realized Milo could connect with these kids right away,’ he said. ‘You can activate that army. They come in through Gamergate or whatever and then get turned onto politics and Trump.’ In this way, Breitbart became an incubator of alt-right political energy. Although Yiannopoulos was most interested in cultivating his own celebrity -Bannon thought he looked like ‘a gay hooker’- he was more than willing to do his part and make the political connection explicit. ‘How Donald Trump Can Win: With Guns, Cars, Tech Visas, Ethanol… And 4Chan’ read the headline of an October 2015 article he wrote.”

Goebbels on Radio

“The old regime was content simply to fill empty offices or change the faces, without however changing the spirit and content of public life. We on the other hand intend a principled transformation in the worldview of our entire society, a revolution of the greatest possible extent that will leave nothing out, changing the life of our nation in every regard.

It would not have been possible for us to take power or to use it in the ways we have without the radio and the airplane. It is no exaggeration to say that the German revolution, at least in the form it took, would have been impossible without the airplane and the radio.

It is in fact a modern revolution, and it has used the most modern methods to win and use power. It therefore does not need saying that the government resulting from this revolution cannot ignore the radio and its possibilities. To the contrary, it is resolved to use them to the fullest extent in the work of national construction that is before us, and in ensuring that this revolution can stand the test of history.

As in all other areas, the changes are primarily spiritual in nature. The radio must be brought out of the stubborn emptiness of its technical limitations into the lively spiritual developments of our age. It is not possible for the radio to ignore the times. More than any other form of public expression, it has the duty to meet the needs and demands of the day. A radio that does not seek to deal with the problems of the day does not deserve to influence the broad masses. It will soon become an empty playground for technicians and intellectual experimenters. We live in the age of the masses; the masses rightly demand that they participate in the great events of the day. The radio is the most influential and important intermediary between a spiritual movement and the nation, between the idea and the people.

The more committees, review committees, bureaucrats and higher offices there were in the German radio system, the less its political accomplishments. Here more than anywhere else, there were no personalities who took pleasure in responsibility. The spiritual energy, the flexibility necessary to reach the people in changing times, may not be the responsibility of boards, commissions or committees. They only get in the way. Here, too, faster than is generally believed, we will clearly and resolutely introduce the leadership principle.

We will eliminate excessive organization as quickly as possible, replacing it with Spartan simplicity and economy. We will also systematically increase productivity in all areas. We will bring to the microphone the best spiritual elements of the nation, making the radio into the most multifaceted, flexible means of expressing the wishes, needs, longings, and hopes of our age.

We do not intend to use the radio only for our partisan purposes. We want room for entertainment, popular arts, games, jokes, and music. But everything should have a relationship to our day. Everything should include the theme of our great reconstructive work, or at least not stand in its way. Above all it is necessary to clearly centralize all radio activities, to place spiritual tasks ahead of technical ones, to introduce the leadership principle, to provide a clear worldview, and to present this worldview in flexible ways.”

On Decline by Andrew Potter (book review)

Do you think we’re* in “decline”. This book argues that we are. Basically, economic stagnation breeds zero sum (your gain is my loss) thinking, playing into political tribalism which inhibits reason. All this taking place in a media environment (social media, smartphones and everything else designed as “casinos”) intended to short-circuit critical thought. That’s the overall argument. It’s heavy on “the enlightenment” and lacks for political and social context. That said, I was well prepared to dismiss the book but it kinda won me over. The basics of the analysis are true even if much is true in addition.

More content not saying I agree or disagree: we’re lucky to live in the current day rich world where “survival” isn’t a concern but… status seeking has replaced survival resulting in absurd behaviours and beliefs detached from practical reality. This can be generalized to the level of countries (for ex. Canada’s mismanagement of Covid-19 is papered over by how rich we are). The political right is the new counterculture** (flouting rules and conformity) while the left imposes new social rules. Smartphones and social media are genuinely more bad than good. “Democracy, technology and progress” once aligned but we’re out of “low hanging fruit”. Decline is not a matter of apocalypse but rather many different smaller problems amounting to one giant slow moving disaster.

*Who comprises the “we” anyway? Always a fun and uncontroversial question.

**His point is that the whole concept of “counterculture” is stupid though.

Northrop Frye on literature and imagination

“…modern writers speak of these visions of sacred golden cities and happy gardens very rarely, though when they do they clearly mean what they say. They spend a good deal more of their time on the misery, frustration or absurdity of human existence. In other words, literature not only leads us toward the regaining of identity, but it also separates this state from its opposite, the world we don’t like and want to get away from. The tone literature takes toward this world is not a moralizing tone, but the tone we call ironic. The effect of irony is to enable us to see over the head of a situation-we have irony in a play, for example, when we know more about what’s going on than the characters do-and so to detach at least in imagination, from the world we’d prefer not to be involved with.

As civilization develops, we become more preoccupied with human life, and less conscious of our relation to nonhuman nature. Literature reflects this, and the more advanced the civilization, the more literature seems to concern itself with purely human problems and conflicts. The gods and heroes of the old myths fade away and give place to people like ourselves. In Shakespeare we can still have heroes who can see ghosts and talk in magnificent poetry, but by the time we get to Beckett’s Waiting for Godot they’re speaking prose and have turned into ghosts themselves. We have to look at the figures of speech a writer uses, his images and symbols, to realize that underneath all the complexity of human life that uneasy stare at an alien nature is still haunting us, and the problem of surmounting it still with us.”

“…in literature you don’t just read one poem or novel after another, but enter into a complete world of which every work of literature forms part. This affects the writer as much as it does the reader. Many people think that the original writer is always directly inspired by life, and that only commonplace or derivative writers get inspired by books. That’s nonsense: the only inspiration worth having is an inspiration that clarifies the form of what’s being written, and that’s more likely to come from something that already has a literary form. We don’t often find that a poem depends completely on an allusion, as Chesterton’s poem does, but allusiveness runs all through our literary experience. If we don’t know the Bible and the central stories of Greek and Roman literature, we can still read books and see plays, but our knowledge of literature can’t grow, just as our knowledge of mathematics can’t grow if we don’t learn the multiplication table.”
….
“One of the things I’ve been trying to do in these talks is to distinguish the language of the imagination, which is literature, from two other ways of using words: ordinary speech and the conveying of information. It has probably occurred to you already that these three ways of using words overlap a good deal. Literature speaks the language of the imagination, and the study of literature is supposed to train and improve the imagination. But we use our imagination all the time: it comes into all our conversation and practical life: it even produces dreams when we’re asleep. Consequently we have only the choice between a badly trained imagination and a well trained one, whether we ever read a poem or not.

When you stop to think about it, you soon realize that our imagination is what our whole social life is really based on. We have feelings, but they affect only us and those immediately around us; and feelings can’t be directly conveyed by words at all. We have intelligence and a capacity for reasoning, but in ordinary life we almost never get a chance to use the intellect by itself. In practically everything we do it’s the combination of emotion and intellect we call imagination that goes to work. Take, for example, the subject that in literary criticism is called rhetoric, the social or public use of words. In ordinary life, as in literature, the way you say things can be just as important as what’s said. The words you use are like the clothes you wear. Situations, like bodies, are supposed to be decently covered. You may have some social job to do that involves words, such as making a speech or preaching a sermon or teaching a lesson or presenting a case to a judge or writing an obituary on a dead skinflint or reporting a murder trial or greeting visitors in a public building or writing copy for an ad. In none of these cases is it your job to tell the naked truth: we realize that even in the truth there are certain things we can say and certain things we can’t say.

Society attaches an immense importance to saying the right thing at the right time. In this conception of the ‘right thing,’ there are two factors involved, one moral and one aesthetic. They are inseparable, and equally important. Some of the right things said may be only partly true, or they may be so little of the truth as to be actually hypocritical or false, at least in the eyes of the Recording Angel. It doesn’t matter: in society’s eyes the virtue of saying the right thing at the right time is more important than the virtue of telling the whole truth, or sometimes even of telling the truth at all. We even have a law of libel to prevent us from telling some truths about some people unless it’s in the public interest. So when Bernard Shaw remarks that a temptation to tell the truth should be just as carefully considered as a temptation to tell a lie, he’s pointing to a social standard beyond the merely intellectual standards of truth and falsehood, which has the power of final veto, and which only the imagination can grasp.”

Media, status anxiety and advertising (history)

“The burgeoning of the mass media from the late nineteenth century helped to raise expectations even higher. At his newspaper’s launch in 1896, Alfred Harmsworth, the founder of Britain’s Daily Mail candidly characterised his ideal reader as a man in the street ‘worth one hundred pounds per annum’ who could be enticed to dream of being ‘tomorrow’s thousand pound man.’ In America, meanwhile, the Ladies’ Home Journal (first published in 1883), Cosmopolitan (1886), Munsey’s (1889) and Vogue (1892) brought an expensive life within the imaginative reach of all. Readers of fin de siècle American Vogue, for example, were told who had been aboard Nourmahal, John Jacob Astor’s yacht, after the America’s Cup race, what the most fashionable young ladies were wearing at boarding school, who threw the best parties in Newport and Southampton and what to serve with caviar at dinner (potato and sour cream).

The opportunity to study the lives of people of higher status and forge a connection with them was also increased by the development of radio, film and television. By the 1930s, Americans were collectively spending some 150 million hours per week at the cinema and almost a billion hours listening to the radio. In 1946, 0.02 percent of American households owned television sets; by 2000, the figure stood at 98 percent.

The new media created longings not only through their content but also through the advertisements they imposed on their audiences. From its amateurish beginnings in the United States in the 1830s, advertising had by the end of the nineteenth century grown into a business worth $500 million a year. In 1900, a giant Coca-Cola sign was erected on one side of Niagara Falls, while an advert for Mennen’s Toilet Powder was suspended over the gorge.”

Tony Blair on “globalisation” in 2005

“I hear people say we have to stop and debate globalisation. You might as well debate whether autumn should follow summer. They’re not debating it in China and India. They are seizing its possibilities, in a way that will transform their lives and ours. Yes, both nations still have millions living in poverty. But they are on the move. Or look at Vietnam or Thailand. Then wait for the South Americans, and in time, with our help, the Africans.

All these nations have labour costs a fraction of ours. All can import the technology. All of them will attract capital as it moves, trillions of dollars of it, double what was available even 10 years ago, to find the best return. The character of this changing world is indifferent to tradition. Unforgiving of frailty. No respecter of past reputations. It has no custom and practice.

It is replete with opportunities, but they only go to those swift to adapt, slow to complain, open, willing and able to change. Unless we “own” the future, unless our values are matched by a completely honest understanding of the reality now upon us and the next about to hit us, we will fail. And then the values we believe in become idle sentiments ripe for disillusion and disappointment.

In the era of rapid globalisation, there is no mystery about what works: an open, liberal economy, prepared constantly to change to remain competitive. The new world rewards those who are open to it. Foreign investment improves our economy. Or take immigration. We know we need strict controls. They are being put in place, along with identity cards, also necessary in a changing world. But one of the most satisfying things about the election was that the country saw through the Tories’ nasty, unprincipled campaign on immigration. People who come to work and make their lives here make Britain not weaker but stronger.

But there is a lesson here, too. The temptation is to use government to try to protect ourselves against the onslaught of globalisation by shutting it out – to think we protect a workforce by regulation, a company by government subsidy, an industry by tariffs. It doesn’t work today.

Because the dam holding back the global economy burst years ago. The competition can’t be shut out; it can only be beaten. And the greatest error progressive politics can make is to think that somehow this more open and liberal world makes our values redundant, that the choice is either to cling onto the European social model of the past or be helpless, swept along by the flow.

On the contrary, social solidarity remains the only way to secure the future of a country like Britain. However, today its purpose is not to resist the force of globalisation but to prepare for it, and to garner its vast potential benefits.”