I attended an excellent debate in London on Saturday chaired by none other than Sir Michael Portillo MP. Also present was one of my favourite authors, Philip Bobbitt, who duly signed my copy of the Shield of Achilles, a book I have mentioned several times on this blog. I dont have the list to hand of the others who attended, but it also included Lindsey Hilsum from Channel 4 news, Robert Cooper one of the head foreign policy guys in the EU, Michael Gove, a columnist for the Times.
The question of the debate was whether or not the United States is an empire. It was an excellent discussion lasting some 2 hours.
Now as regular readers of my weblog will know, I have a keen interest in the current and future state of transatlantic relations. There has been a number of references here to the idea in the future of a US-EU war within the next 30 – 100 years. There has been some chatter in the Blogosphere too, but not a significant amount. Glenn Reynolds put the chance of such a conflict, albeit cold, at about 40%.
So being the keen and inquisitive person you all know and love, I asked some of the panel members the same question.
Philip Bobbitt listened with interest to the question, and his reply was simply “the chances are not negligable”. I think he was staying safe there, but he had considered carefully no doubt, he is exceptionally articulate.
Michael Portillo had simply never heard of the idea, but failed to give an opinion, simply saying it was a very interesting question.
Lindsey Hilsum had obviously thought of it before, she had alread noted the ‘deep schism’ growing between Europe and American. She thought it “a distinct possibility within that timeframe”.
And I didnt get a reply from any of the others due to time constraints. But when I did ask the question of the panel, the audience of some 150 people were aghast, with several ruffles of laughter, and some ghasps of astonishment at the question. That in itself was interesting.
The most common argument I came across in the discussion afterward was the such a split or conflict could not occur simply because of the shared culture and history of Europe and America. Another common rebuttal that politcal entities such as Chine would have a far greater impact on future EU and US policy that such a split would be impossible.
I digress, I believe such a schism to a point of a cold war or even an actual conflict to be a distinct possibility. It is something we should discuss now.