Clinging to Grandeur: British Attitudes and Foreign Policy in the aftermath of the Second World War

Clinging to Grandeur: British Attitudes and Foreign Policy in the aftermath of the Second World War

Clinging to Grandeur: British Attitudes and Foreign Policy in the aftermath of the Second World War

Clinging to Grandeur: British Attitudes and Foreign Policy in the aftermath of the Second World War

Synopsis

An innovative study of the forces that shape the decisions of foreign policy leaders, this book examines the attitudes of British policy makers after World War II and considers their impact on foreign and economic policy. Blackwell analyzes the origins of the Foreign Office officials' traditional attitudes about Britain's preeminent position in international affairs and draws a distinction between the cognitive and affective components of these attitudes. Finding that Britain could no longer play a major part in influencing world events, yet unwilling to contemplate a more modest role, policymakers accommodated their attitudinal conflicts by seeking the illusion of power. The work should be of interest to those concerned with the implications for contemporary U.S. policy as well as to British historians.

Excerpt

In this final substantive section of the book, this brief chapter discusses the way in which attitudes towards foreign policy evolved during the early postwar years and the way in which those attitudes predisposed the policymakers to seek to maintain and indeed to create an illusory image of Britain's real world power situation. the following chapter focuses on certain specific issues in British foreign policy that arose during the period under review and considers the possible significance of attitudes in the decisions that were taken. It should not be deduced from the synchronic nature of earlier chapters that the attitudes of the policymakers were static throughout the period under study. As the events of the early postwar years unfolded, there was some movement in attitudes towards the acceptance of a world role for Britain that was commensurate with her resources, but it was not in the least smooth or unidirectional; steps toward change would often be retraced; movement towards reduced intervention in one direction might be accompanied by movement towards increased intervention in another. Moreover, the speed at which attitudes evolved varied from one policymaker to another.

The growing perception of Britain's economic weakness and financial dependence on the United States, the failure to hold Palestine, the necessity of backing away from policy objectives in Greece and Turkey, and the expedited granting of Indian independence were events that must have undermined to some extent the more grandiose views of Britain's world role held at the end of the war. It will be remembered, however, that dissonance arising from contradictory cognitions or from differences between cognitive and affective attitudinal components can be dissipated in several ways; as the previous chapter made evident, the gradual acceptance that Britain could not afford to exercise the world role its leaders desired led to changes in attitudes at a cognitive level, but not to the same extent at an affective level. in matters of foreign policy, the cognition that Britain was a great power of the first order was weakened by the country's . . .

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