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Trousers Brown Counterpoint: Is Gordon right?

Energy + Food = Political Stew

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Many EU farmers are only just managing to stay in business thanks to trade-distorting subsidies and restrictions. Dropping the barriers would soon see Blighty and the EU with actual, real food security issues. Agribusiness would go offshore and food would be imported.

The Third World could be expected to benefit, as they could go with nice Western investors for their farming projects instead of cruel Gulf or Chinese landlords. Africa should, after all, be more than able to feed itself; places like Zimbabwe and Rwanda used to be food exporters. They could be again.

But Fortress Europe would no longer be able to pull up its drawbridge, tighten its belt a bit and stand a siege the way it can now. The world's oceans and ports would have to stay open for food to move, just as they now must for oil. The tariffs would have to stay absent; wars would need to be few and small. Nations would need to trust one another in a way that they mostly don't right now.

Fortress Mentality - Whose trousers are the Brownest?

Does it make sense to strain every muscle building renewables and nuclear - as Mr Brown also advocates - in order to snap the shackles imposed by Muscovite gas and Saudi oil, only to find ourselves even more dependent on African food?

As Mr Brown would see it, we have no real alternative. If we try to pull up the drawbridge right and proper - grow our own grub, make our own energy out of wind and nice Canadian or Australian uranium, trade only with relatively established places like India and China - we're in for trouble. The rest of the world will go down the tubes and spew out ever more waves of starving, ill-educated, burdensome refugees, who we probably can't really keep out without abandoning many of our most treasured freedoms. We might not be able to do it at all, at least not at any reasonable cost.

Meanwhile, there will be more and more mad, genocidal conflicts. Starving people can still fight, and can still buy weapons from Russia* even if we stop selling them. The biggest genocides are done with machetes and AKs, in any case, not with MiGs or tanks; and no matter what we or the Russians do, the atomic cat is now out of the bag. The secret of the nuclear bomb will continue to spread. At best, this means more and more regions where the international community can't intervene without the consent of the local nuke-armed dictator. At worst, it means nuclear strikes - some, perhaps, aimed our way.

Mr Brown would say he is, actually, concerned for his British citizens first. He'd say there is no security in a fortress surrounded by madness and devastation and people with nukes but without Western customers to lose. He'd say that true security means Fortress World, not Fortress Europe, and that it is not he but his critics who seek to embrown the British national trouser; who would have us all cower behind high walls until Chaos and old Night come for us too.

Is he right? Or would it be better to dig in here? Are the rest of the G8 really as on-board with his ideas as he says? If he's really all for freedom and justice and bold global chumship without any silly climate of fear and suspicion, why 42 days?

Interesting times coming, anyway. Possibly in the apocryphal Chinese sense. ®

Bootnote

*Ethiopia and Eritrea were able in 1999 to indulge in quite serious air-to-air combat, both sides using Russian jets and missiles. Famously, a female Ethiopian pilot, Captain Aster Tolossa, reportedly shot down her old Russian flight-school instructor, serving as a mercenary on the Eritrean side.

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