Nicola Sturgeon has startled many on the Scottish Left by her explicit endorsement of US and UK foreign policy and her wish to be a “key ally of the US” in her address to the US Foreign Relations Council.
Just three years after winning the decision to drop opposition to Nato by only a narrow margin in her own party, the First Minister’s statement in Washington that it’s “business as usual” in foreign policy matters seems to warn critics of the “special relationship” not to hope for too much from Scotland: “Do not think that the SNP and the Scottish Government takes a markedly different position from the UK Government on the vast majority of international issues, we don’t.”
Citing only the Iraq invasion and Trident as significant areas of disagreement, and apparently avoiding completely any comment on Israel/Palestine (which many view as critical to peace prospects in the Middle East), Sturgeon’s address to the Foreign Relations Council must be seen as a diplomatic exercise, designed to bolster US confidence in Scotland; she speaks in broad terms of wanting to remain in the EU and to approach global peace issues through Nato – a body seen by many on the Left as warmongering and imperialist.
The white paper stated that Scotland would take a “different approach” from the UK: “We will direct our international efforts, first and foremost, into deepening and consolidating relationships with friends and partners.”
This contrast with the UK position (starting with the removal of Trident) was applauded and promoted by many on the Left throughout the Scottish referendum campaign including significant numbers in the Scottish National Party.
I hope that when it comes taking detailed positions on foreign policy issues, SNP representatives will take this constructive attitude to international relations described in the white paper, and not worry too much about maintaining US approval in every detail.
South Sloan Street
One of Nicola Sturgeon’s alleged “jokes” on John Stewart’s US Daily Show was the accusation that America doesn’t ask “permission” before taking military action. Well, where should the US get such permission from?
Presumably it is not to be sought from the targeted regimes themselves – such as the Taleban or Saddam Hussein in Iraq – so who can grant this “permission”? If it’s the 193 members of the UN General Assembly, then permission is being sought from mostly undemocratic, often corrupt, and mainly self-interested governments. If it’s the UN Security Council, then Russian and Chinese dictators are being given a veto over military action.
Ms Sturgeon would do well to remember this the next time she repeats her election campaign sneer about “illegal wars” – and may also wish to reflect upon her predecessor’s condemnation of America’s “illegal” military response to the Slobodan Milosevic campaign of ethnic cleansing and genocide.
To Mr Salmond, such a response was, of course, “unpardonable folly”!