In his essential book on UK foreign policy, Web of Deceit: Britain's Real Role in the World, historian Mark Curtis notes "the ideological system promotes one key concept that underpins everything else - the idea of Britain's basic benevolence." Criticism of foreign policies is possible "but within narrow limits which show 'exceptions' to, or 'mistakes' in, promoting the rule of basic benevolence". I would only add one caveat to Curtis's enduring maxim - the ideological system in the UK also promotes the basic benevolence of the United States, our closest ally. And arguably it is the UK's liberal media who are the biggest cheerleaders and apologists of the US as an active and aggressive world power.
Writing about President Obama's State of the Union address in January Simon Tisdall, the Guardian's foreign affairs commentator, explained the speech "was evidence of unabashed retreat from attachment to the imperious might, the responsibilities and the ideals that once made America an unrivalled and deserving superpower" (my emphasis added). Writing two months later, the BBC's North America Editor Mark Mardell argued this retreat was so significant the White House now "thinks military power is a relic from a past age." Mardell seems to be unaware the Obama Administration has launched drone attacks on seven nations since coming to office.
What about Channel 4 News? They always provide an alternative, critical voice to the mainstream, don't they? In February Paul Mason, Channel 4 News's Culture and Digital Editor, wrote a blog titled 'How the west slipped into powerlessness' looking at the crises in Ukraine, Syria and Egypt. This is what Mason said about Syria:
When the USA decided, last summer, it could not sell military intervention in Syria - either to its parliaments, its people or its military - it sent a signal to every dictator, torturer and autocrat in the world that only diplomats, at the time, truly understood. The British diplomat in charge of Syria, Reza Afshar, tweeted a one-word summary of the UK parliamentary vote on Syria: 'Disaster!' Only now are we beginning to understand how widely that judgement applied.
Mason, then, is clearly endorsing Afshar's view on the subject. Elsewhere the deeply deluded Mason seems to assume the continuing government crackdown in Egypt is down to the West not intervening enough in the country. Mason, wilfully blind to the 30+ years of support the US has given to the Egyptian military, even has the audacity to argue "Russian diplomatic influence has bolstered the position of General Sisi".
Over at the Independent Yasmin Alibhai Brown has been agonising over the "foreign policy paralysis in Western nations." Explaining why she initially supported the likely illegal US-UK invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 she makes some truly bizarre leaps of logic:
Twenty years ago, no nation or international body stepped in to stop the genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda, and left a stain on history, as did the Holocaust, Pol Pot's killing fields, Sri Lanka's war and other such horrors. So there were good reasons to want us to go into Afghanistan.
Kosovo is also trotted out as evidence to support US-UK intervention abroad, with Alibhai Brown making the extraordinary argument that "citizens would still be killing each other" in Kosovo without Western involvement in 1999 - 15 years ago.
What is most remarkable about the articles from Tisdall, Mardell, Mason and Alibhai Brown is their timing - so soon after the devastating US invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq and aerial attacks on Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and the Philippines. In contrast, a recent Win/Gallup International survey of 66,000 people across 65 countries around the world found the country seen as representing the greatest threat to world peace was the US. Or consider the results of a Gallup poll taken in Baghdad in 2003. Fully 1 per cent of respondents believed the US invaded "to establish democracy". The most popular answer (43 per cent) given for the reason behind the US-UK invasion was "to rob Iraq's oil". It seems, then, that those on the receiving end of US foreign policies have a better understanding of US imperialism than the so-called informed, independent, questioning, liberal journalists who are supposed to educate the British public about the world they live in.