Foreign policy is often the poor relation when it comes to election campaigns, and with good reason. All the major parties have for the last two decades broadly agreed on the core principles of Britain’s relationship with the outside world, with only the odd tweak here and there when Foreign Secretaries came and went. This is not unique to Britain – one of the most reassuring things about Western democracies is how boring their internal foreign policy debates are.
This time however it’s different. The Leader of the Opposition and would-be Prime Minister is a veteran opponent of the cornerstones of British foreign policy – the nuclear deterrent, NATO, and membership of the EU (clumsy attempts to delete anti EU articles notwithstanding).
These are not individual policy positions, but part of a much broader, much deeper outlook on the world which goes to Jeremy Corbyn’s core, and which would colour every decision of administration.
It is a worldview formed during the Cold War, a simpler time with clearly delineated goodies and baddies. And to be fair, both East and West actively encouraged this, even helpfully denoting their respective military alliances in blue and red pallets…just in case there was any doubt. For wide eyed students and activists looking for moral clarity in a seemingly immoral world, the West was the cause of all the world’s ills, and thus any group that opposed the West was fighting the good fight and deserving of, if not outright support, then at least a sympathetic ear.
Jeremy Corbyn standing in front of the flag of Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah.
The problem is that Corbyn has never moved beyond this. His view of the world calcified sometime around 1982. For him the West and Britain in particular, are always the guilty party – everybody else is simply reacting. This laughably simplistic approach to geopolitics has been reinforced by three decades of comfortable echo chambers, speaking to receptive halls full of people who agree with him.
It’s important to remember that during the Cold War terrorism was more ideological than religious in nature and motivation. The IRA, Baader Meinhof, ETA, Tupamaros, Red Army Faction, Action Directe, FARC and even the PLO had overt Marxist-Leninist messages and ambitions. For many on the hard Left these groups were legitimate fronts in a global ideological battle. They may not always agree with some of the methods, but the ultimate aim was just. Left Wing terror groups received funding, training, equipment and moral encouragement from China, Cuba, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union among others which further legitimised the groups and their actions.
So when the titans of socialism were laid low by the collapse of the Soviet empire, Corbyn simply looked for another outlet for his pathological anti-Western impulses. In 2009 a Palestinian lobby group paid for Corbyn to travel to Syria to meet the brutal tyrant Bashar al-Assad. The same lobby group, the PRC, had hosted events featuring hard-line anti-Israel speakers where incendiary remarks about Jews were made. The now deceased Labour MP Gerald Kaufman told one of the group’s gatherings that “Jewish money” was influencing the Tories. Jeremy Corbyn himself isn’t anti-Semitic but he seems awfully forgiving of people who are.
On five occasions between 2009 and 2012 Jeremy Corbyn appeared on Press TV, an Iranian State broadcaster. Not only was Corbyn happy to accept £20,000 from a government that executes homosexuals, he seemingly has no issues appearing on a television channel that had, six months previously, had its licence revoked by Ofcom for airing a forced confession from a tortured journalist.
Jeremy Corbyn appearing on Press TV, the Iranian Government’s English language propaganda channel.
In March 2014 Corbyn went to great lengths to discuss how Ukraine’s ‘national borders have ebbed and flowed with the tides of history’ and it being ‘the original heartland of Russian civilisation’. This is bordering on outright apologist dogma for what is in reality territorial aggrandisement – military imperialism of the sort that should have died out in the 19th century. Yet it’s Russia, which always has a special place in the heart of Cold War ideologues.
The list goes on. Corbyn has spoken at rallies alongside speakers who genuinely defend or ignore the atrocities of Stalin and Mao, even going as far as to hire one the form of Seumas Milne. Volumes have been written about Corbyn’s infatuation with the IRA, and the lies he told about it. The Labour Leader famously called Hamas and Hezbollah ‘friends’, an act he now regrets. The Argentinian ambassador to London quipped in 2016 that Jeremy Corbyn “is one of ours” after doubts resurfaced over his commitment to defend the islands. Jeremy Corbyn, among others, loudly praised the Chavez government of Venezuela despite Human Rights Watch reporting the use of torture and arbitrary detention of political opponents.
Taken on their own each public expression of sympathy with a terrorist or tyrant could be written off as a poorly judged gaff – a fop to this core supporters that got picked up and reported on nationally. But taken together they form an unpleasant picture. There’s no common theme or thread, no policy platforms links Putin’s expansionism with IRA bombs. There are no ties between Hamas violence and the overwhelming desire of Falkland Island residents to remain British. The only thing they have in common is that they feed into a narrative of the overgrown student protestor. The groups and causes Corbyn sympathises with are anti Western or anti British – and for Jeremy Corbyn, that’s all that matters.