Ken Coates Full Spectrum Sycophancy (Socialist Renewal Pamphlets, Sept. 2001)

In addition to tearing up any possiblity of the US committing to the Kyoto agreement, one of the early moves of the Bush administration was to launch the National Missile Defence programme(NMD), along with the nullification of agreements reached over many decades for the control of weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear ones. This pamphlet by veteran former Labour (and later independent left) MEP and peace campaigner Ken Coates sets out  the proposals made by the Bush administration, and the craven support which this has received from New Labour. More specifically it addresses Foreign Secretary Jack Straw’s article in Tribune magazine on 27th July 2001, to which Coates replies ,and Straw’s Parliamentary Labour Party Briefing, the CND response to which is also excerpted in the pamphlet.

First, let us recall that Tony Blair won his Parliamentary seat in 1983 as a seemingly committed supporter of CND, but, along with many others who subsequently became twinkles in the New Labour firmament, Blair took the trip to America where he underwent a miraculous conversion to the wisdom of US-style capitalism, the European Union, and of course, nuclear weapons. This clique returned to the UK to accelerate the centralisation and rightward shift of the Labour Party –already initiated by Kinnock- no doubt seeing the rewards of office, fame and so forth at the end of their pilgrimage.

The principle instrument of this divine conversion is an organisation brought together in the days of the Reagan administration called the British-American Project for the Successor Generation (BAP), whose function is to invite “promising” politicians, policy developers and opinion formers to attend annual meetings of the BAP in which the military-strategic and political-economic agenda of US Big Business –above all the military – is imbibed by these “promising” starlets. Not only George Robertson and Mo Mowlam, but also opinion formers such as BBC Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman and BBC Radio 4’s James Naughtie have also taken the (mutually beneficial) trip to the Land of the Free.(The reader may also like to know that Gordon Brown, and new Labour’s favourite TUC leader, John Monks, both attended the Bilderberg get-together in Toronto in 1996).

In the introduction, Coates tells us that , with the help of the BAP, Blair thinks that the leaders of New Labour have all stopped worrying and learnt to love the bomb, like Dr Strangelove. Coates notes that the relation between the US and Russia is of course different following the end of the Cold War, and that Russia must negotiate more space within a subordinate relation to the US. But this leaves the US potentially much more politically vulnerable, since opposition to nuclear weapons is no longer enfeebled by competing preferences for the US or the USSR. Rather, National Missile Defence potentially exposes the US as never before , as it seeks to achieve “full spectrum dominance” over space, land, sea, air, and communications, and no longer has a convincing “enemy” with which to justify this.

The replies to Straw by Coates and CND are clear and witty, and highlight the stupidity of one who epitomises New Labour careerism. The replies are also prescient, in that they were almost certainly written before the terrible events of September 11th 2001, and the calculated horror which has been visited on the world by the US government in the succeeding months. Coates mentions that the US declared it’s intention of making strategic inroads into the territory of the former Soviet Union (which Putin has said he wants as a Russian “sphere of influence”),and the military campaign against Afghanistan in 2001 (which included large military cooperation involving the former Soviet Central Asian republics) was a clear confirmation of this –even though there are those on the left who foolishly fell for the propaganda offensive used to justify the bombing of this small destitute nation, and others who simply said it was all about oil, forgetting the geo-strategic imperatives which the Americans have themselves declared: Coates’ pamphlet contains sections of brochures from US Space Command and declarations from senior US personnel outlining the strategic US posture in it’s “New World Order”,  specifically to the effect that NMD is about the militarisation of space and the nullification of treaties –such as the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty- to which the US had agreed over many years.

As Coates says: “If we face this fear together, cooperation may be seen to be possible. It is already necessary.”

The reviewer, Brian Precious, is a student based in London.