The world is a frightening place at the moment. War in Ukraine, US hostility towards China, environmental and economic crises. But don’t worry too much. One Tory MP has written a four point plan to save the world. And at the centre of it sits Britain – and his own undeniable strategic genius.
Bournemouth East MP, ex-soldier, and hawk Tobias Ellwood sketched his plans for world domination in Conservative Home. His master plan involves beating Russia and containing China. And he says Britain is the ideal vehicle for this mission.
As an example of his smarts, Ellwood was an avid supporter of the plan to send more tanks to Ukraine, despite warnings it could escalate the war there:
Sending tanks to Ukraine is the right call but exposes the sorry state of our own diminished land warfare combat effectiveness.
Ukraine needs 300 tanks.
We cannot exhibit conventional deterrence ourselves with a fleet of just 148.
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— Tobias Ellwood MP (@Tobias_Ellwood) January 25, 2023
Man on a mission
Ellwood warns us of “a new Cold War”, and attempts to present an answer:
…one grand strategy – the New Containment – comprising three interrelated operational actions: for Russia, for China, and for the West.
His proposals include, amongst other things:
- building an arms factory in Poland
- declaring as a victory aim the complete expulsion of Russian forces from all-Ukrainian territory
- declaring the port of Odesa as a ‘UN Safe Haven’ so Ukrainian grain can be exported.
He also tells us we must support Taiwan as a bulwark against China. He urges the government to convince the British people that China is a danger to us all. Nothing is said of the inevitable rise of anti-Chinese racism which would result. Ellwood also recommends finding allies in the Chinese diaspora and developing a parallel NATO-type organisation for Asia.
What this amounts to is moving imaginary chess pieces around a board. This is itself very much in keeping with the brand of analysis favoured by Westminster hawks. And it also somewhat denies the complexity of the situation at hand.
The West’s mission
As for the West’s role in his plan, Ellwood opens highly originally – with a reference to Churchill:
In 1941 Churchill braved the Atlantic to meet with President Roosevelt and dared to speculate what a post-war world might look like.
The resulting Atlantic Charter paved the way for the international economic and security model that served the globe well for decades.
The assumption appears to be that the post-war economic and security model (capitalism and imperialism) was in some sense effective or equitable enough to deserve a reprise. Though looking at the state of the world today – including Ukraine – one might feel the need to reflect a little deeper.
Could it be possible, for example, that many of the issues we face today flow from the post-war settlement of Western military and capitalist hegemony? This doesn’t seem to figure at all for Ellwood.
Our security architecture, Ellwood says, must not decline any further. By which he appears to mean the West’s capacity to make imperial war. Britain, however, is positioned to lead a renewed policy of containing our enemies:
Britain is well-placed to help lead this balancing act with our reputation as a nation that defends and promotes hard-fought standards and values. But we have become risk-averse and distracted.
Climate change, the most pressing global security threat of all, is relegated to a mention in the closing sections of Ellwood’s piece. And there is a weird sense from Ellwood that it is a battle that we are currently winning:
We have led in the most serious global battle of our times – climate change – but now we must widen our horizons further.
Ellwood’s article belongs to a distinct genre. There is a generation of hawkish scholars, MPs, and former military officers who spend their time trying to re-draw the map of the world in their heads – and then write terrible articles about it.
The themes are usually similar: nostalgia, power, decline, and more than a hint of bloodthirstiness. The assumptions are always nationalist, capitalist, and imperialist. These offerings usually try to reduce to the complexity of international affairs to worryingly simple to-do lists.
And that would be fine, if some of these people were not near the levers of power. That’s why this kind of dross must be challenged wherever we find it.Support us and go ad-free
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