(Author's note - as ever, I am not 'The Devil's Kitchen')
Today, the distinguished beardie, professional Europhile and homme serieux Timothy Garton Ash has a piece entitled 'We need a benign European hydra to advance the cause of democracy' up on 'Comment is Free'.
One is sure that Mr. Garton Ash is a perfectly civil and personable fellow when away from the barricades; however, the quality of his reasoning sometimes does seem to leave something to be desired.
"...from Portugal to Croatia, the prospect and process of joining the EU have strengthened democracy in country after country."
That may be the case - yet the existence of the EU's own democratic deficit is an insurmountable objection to our own continued membership. For the new nations to democratise only to join the EU is like the SNP's policy of ending the British Union only to suck up to Brussels - what's the point of everyone 'democratising' just to throw it all away again?
"...a great idea is stalking the corridors of Europe. It is that Europeans should resolve to promote a modern, liberal version of demokratia in countries beyond Europe's borders - in our own interest, and in theirs. This should become a central purpose of the European project for the next 50 years. Not imposing a single model of democracy by military means and not "exporting" democracy, but supporting it, by peaceful means. "Showing the way does not mean imposing the way," as European commission president José Manuel Barroso said earlier this week, at the launch of a new, non-governmental European Foundation for Democracy through Partnership."
As all those pounds mulcted from us and pis-frittered away on, inter alia, the Department for International Development show and have shown, this is not a specifically 'European' idea.
The rest of it - well, it doesn't really say much apart from the fact that having democracy is a jolly good idea, and as Europeans we should all be good chaps and enourage everyone to have as much of it as possible.
This is not the first time I've seen what might perhaps be described as lacunae in Mr. Garton Ash's writings. I'm reading his book 'Free World' at the moment; it's not quite a mortification, but it's certainly no walk in the park either.
On Page 62 of the paperback version he writes,
"The populations of Europe are ageing fast, so more immigrants will be needed to saupport the pensioners, and these will largely be Muslim immigrants. For this increasingly Muslim Europe to define itself against Islam would be ridiculous and suicidal".
Ash's analysis that opposing Islam is 'suicidal' is certainly open to several interpretations - if needed, can we not get non-Muslim workers from anywhere else? Like, say, Poles? Or should we all just roll over and convert? - but on top of the Ossa of fogginess he seems to mount the Pelion of inconsistency. On Page 80, he writes,
"Especially in the 'Mediterranean' societies, ('Social Europe') leaves more time for the other good things of life: family, friends, food, recreation, la dolce vita. However, that comes at a price; one that is paid most painfully by the long-term unemployed, including a disproportionately large number of young people from Europe's Muslim immigrant communities."
Why are so many Muslims in Europe unemployed when their labour is apparently so necessary? Does not compute.
I realised that this was a book that should be read with a pin of salt when, on Page 27, Ash wrote that,
"(a) former head of the CIA has said he thinks the CIA is much closer to ...MI6 than it is to the FBI"
The relevant footnote indicates that the remark was made to the BBC by 'Admiral James Woolsey' on 26 April 2000. Woolsey himself might be delighted with the attribution - particularly as he's never been an admiral.
Ash is certainly a morally serious man - but if his aim to persuade, rather than tell, people that engagement with Europe is somehow 'a good idea', he needs to do very much better than this.