The British Commonwealth and International Security: The Role of the Dominions, 1919-1939

The British Commonwealth and International Security: The Role of the Dominions, 1919-1939

The British Commonwealth and International Security: The Role of the Dominions, 1919-1939

The British Commonwealth and International Security: The Role of the Dominions, 1919-1939

Excerpt

More than other small states, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa have considered security in terms of world security. Their global distribution has laid them open to the impact of events in North America, Africa, or Asia. Their need of outside markets for their raw materials, agricultural and dairy products, or specialized manufactures, has made them dependent upon the free flow of international trade. Their intimate association with a great power of world-wide interests and commitments had made them susceptible to the currents of world history. Each has distinctive internal problems and strategic concerns which limit its sphere of action. But the common features of their position and the imperatives of growth have created in all the overseas Dominions a certain unity of international outlook. This outlook has been reflected in their security policies which have moulded the character of the British Commonwealth of Nations and helped to shape the growth of international organization.

The characteristic external policies of the Dominions developed empirically in the period preceding 1914, a period characterized by the relative security of the pax Britannica, based on sea power and financial strength. This security made it possible for the, Dominions to concentrate almost exclusively upon their internal development, to which external policies could generally be subsidiary. Unprecedented economic expansion provided markets for the primary products of the Dominions and the wealth needed to support advanced programmes of social legislation in Australia and New Zealand, the vast railway lines which bound the Canadian provinces together, and machinery which could tap South Africa's underground resources. Side by side with largescale construction work went programmes of immigration and protective tariffs which formed the framework for the building of distinctive social and economic structures. Political programmes were in general the expression of these social and economic aims. There was little outside check upon them for, in a setting of general peace and British predominance, the Dominions were allowed to broaden the interpretation of responsible government to an accepted autonomy in internal affairs. This autonomy was extended also to certain restricted external relations such as those of Canada with the United States. General harmony between the limited interests of the Dominions, which were firmly rooted in their local situations and the world-wide commitments of Great Britain . . .

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