At first the total absence of Foreign Policy from the election confused me, whilst one expected the economy to dominate, I did at least expect some meaningful discussion on British Foreign Policy. Then it hit me, there was no discussion of British Foreign Policy because for all intents and purposes we no longer have one.
Be it expansion of imperial might, Splendid Isolation, maintaining the balance of power in Europe, even the doctrine of liberal intervention, historically you can point out the clear aims and thrust of British Foreign Policy, for 2015 what buzzwords could historians in the future use to describe our current foreign policy aims? “All dictatorships are bad, but some are worse than others?” “Benevolent Idiocy” Who knows, I shall leave that to posterity, what I can say is that posterity will surely view our recent foreign policy as woefully inept and potentially reckless for the future.
David Cameron has presided over a total hash in Foreign Policy, perhaps surpassed by no Prime Minister in 50 years. How he managed to survive the Libyan disaster unscathed is beyond me, they might be “no votes in defence” but surely there are still votes in competence? Then again maybe not. Policy towards Russia is handicapped by the failure of policy makers to think outside of the Cold War mind set and acknowledge the deep seated fear of Russia at its perilous security position, and perhaps the biggest issue for Cameron, the EU negotiations are a total sham, indeed to call it a negotiation might fall foul of the Trades Description act. The gutting of the budgets of the Foreign Office have seriously damaged our ability to use our soft power on the ground, and elsewhere contradictory messages and policies are espoused – Libya killing its own people requires intervention, Saudi Arabia does not, China requires trade envoys and grovelling. Assad is evil and we must help the resistance, until the resistance turns out to be ISIS and then we must bomb them instead. We cannot negotiate with Terrorists, but we must get the Queen and Prince Charles to shake hands with the IRA.
In other areas we seem to wish to reverse the wisdom of Teddy Roosevelt and talk loudly and carry a small stick – building Aircraft carriers without jets is a well-known joke of our recent arms procurement, but downsizing the standing army, and removing our ability to detect submarines in our waters whilst at the same time ramping up rhetoric towards Russia makes our ability to defend British Interest increasingly hollow. Whilst the largesse at the Department for International Development faces no pressure to come to an end, and indeed even increase, our Government refuses to promise that we meet our NATO commitment on defence spending. This is before we see our ultimate security used as a mere political football as the decision for Trident nears. Who knows, perhaps the confusion that has reigned will result in us allowing the Islamic Republic of Iran nuclear weapons just as we throw ours in the bin.
There is no truer expression of the primary role of government in stating that its first priority is the safety of its people. I hear politicians of all hues repeat this refrain; I only wish some of them believed it.