Brexit: the U.K.’s Greatness Agenda

The 64th post from the Journal of American Greatness originally published in April, 2016.


We don’t have much to say about “Brexit” because we recognize that it’s none of our business.  However, apparently no one else in the American political or intellectual class agrees. Obama lectured the British yesterday from a podium at 10 Downing Street.  Not long before, eight former U.S. Secretaries of the Treasury did the same, but at least in writing and not from the center of British authority.

The quality of the “arguments” is poor.  But we’ll let others more qualified make that case, as they are doing.  We’re more interested in the motives.

It has long been bipartisan dogma in the U.S. foreign policy establishment to support every possible permutation of European integration as somehow vital to U.S. interests.  One could argue that this made sense during the Cold War, when any glue to help hold the Western Alliance together was welcome.  But that this premise is no longer true can be seen from a number of factors.  First and foremost, the Brussels-based E.U. bureaucracy is at the very least cool to trans-Atlantic cooperation and at worst openly anti-American.  One price of admission to the Euroclub is to agree to take foreign policy cues from Brussels—which means from the trans-European managerial elite, which is not friendly to America.  Remember Chirac’s outburst against the “not well brought-up” Eastern Europeans?  Thus, in pushing for more European integration, we push friendlier countries into the arms of an unfriendly blob, which makes those friends less friendly, while strengthening the unfriendly blob.

Granted, we deserve some of the blame for our weakened ties to Europe.  We divided the continent over the Iraq War, and then proceeded to make a hash of the whole thing.  But this larger trend began before Iraq and has continued well after.

What explains it?  The response of elite America to the possibility of “Brexit” is telling.  Aside from it being none of their (our) business, it’s hard to see the vital American national interest at stake.  And if there is one, it would seem to be better served by Brexit than by Britain staying in the E.U.  The U.K. (in spite of its experience in Iraq) remains America’s closest ally.  That has many roots.  But one, surely, is the relative distance that London maintains from Brussels and the E.U. generally, for instance in not joining the euro. Greater “Europeanization” of Britain would mean greater distance from the U.S.  Which, of course, has already been the effect of the British-E.U. integration that’s already taken place.  We’ve come a long way from the Reagan-Thatcher partnership.  Why do our grandees want to widen the distance between the two countries?

They don’t, not exactly.  But if that’s the necessary outcome of policies that tie the global elite more closely together, then they’ll gladly accept it.  Because they are not acting in the interests of America (nor, it should go without saying, of Britain) nor of any nation at all.  No, this is all about the interests of the Davoisie—of trans-nationalism in general and of one type in particular.  Resurgent nationalism in Europe—whether driven by immigration, the currency, or whatever else—shares much in common with Trumpism.  Both threaten the Davoisie’s grip on power and the economic system through which it maintains its status as the aristocracy of globalization.

American diplomats long ago perfected a short speech (and taught it to every post-Cold War president) that “explains” to any foreign government or people: “We understand your best interests perfectly.  Better than you do, even.  Do everything we say, and the outcome for you will be the best possible.”  It’s slightly subtler than that.  But not much.  Now, there is a necessary element of … misdirection in all foreign policy.  Traditionally, American diplomatic B.S. was geared toward getting good outcomes for the American people.  But for the past 20 years at least, it’s been employed to get better deals for the Davos class.  The fear that the British people may be on to the scam is what drives elite anti-Brexit lectures.

Trump is often mocked for his insistence that he can “get better deals” for America.  And the mocking is not confined to the claim the he, personally, is capable of doing it; rather, it extends to the very possibility of getting better deals and whether that would help anything anyway.  So unsophisticated!  Doesn’t that orange rube understand that the global economy is complicated, and the only possible way to do things is exactly the way we’re doing them now?

But Trump is right, at least on the second part.  It is possible to make better deals for America, just as it’s possible for the Brits to make better deals for Britain.  JAG wishes them the best.  The only advice we would venture to give is: pay no heed to any American advice.  The givers don’t have your best interests at heart.  (Except us, of course.)

—Decius

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