British Foreign Policy since the Second World War

British Foreign Policy since the Second World War

British Foreign Policy since the Second World War

British Foreign Policy since the Second World War

Excerpt

Let me save reviews the trouble of saying that this book is superficial by saying it myself at the beginning. It deals with the surface of events, which is all that a contemporary book on foreign policy can do. Ideally a study of foreign policy should take account of what was done, what were the intentions with which it was done, and what were the motives that lay behind those intentions. What was done is entirely public knowledge, and it is on this that I have concentrated in the present book. Much of the rest could only be guesswork.

Intentions are sometimes known in part from what ministers said when they did what they did, and also from their later memoirs, such as Sir Anthony Eden's. But they cannot be fully known without access to official sources. I do not share A. J. P. Taylor's view that 'the Foreign Office knows no secrets', because I know it to be untrue from my own experience. In one or two instances where I happen by the accident of government service to have specialized knowledge that is not public, I have suppressed it for the sake of uniformity. This book should therefore be read as based entirely on published sources. It consequently also leaves out of account any consideration of the influence upon foreign policy of permanent officials, though I believe this to be greater than is generally appreciated.

There is nevertheless a sense in which intentions and motives in British foreign policy are fully as public as actions. No government can escape the basic, objective facts of international politics. The purpose of British foreign policy is to protect British interests abroad. (Much confusion can be averted by thinking of it in terms of 'protecting interests' rather than 'pursuing objectives'.) British interests abroad are dictated by Britain's circumstances at home. These are that Britain is a small overcrowded island, which cannot feed more than half of its population from its own resources; which has practically no major industrial raw materials except coal; and which is practically indefen-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.