This book does not aim at describing all the interests of the United Kingdom. Those interests cover a field too wide for a single volume. Even when the subject has been narrowed down to ' political and strategic ' interests, it is necessary to apply still further limitations if we are not to be carried into controversies too general to be usefully discussed in a work of this kind. It is urged in many quarters that, quite apart from ethical considerations, it will be found politically and strategically impossible for Great Britain to secure her own advantage or her special interests in the present anarchical condition of the world without concerning herself, first and foremost, with the task of converting this anarchy into order. On this view, the whole-hearted effort to secure some kind of world order is a policy whose pursuit is an interest transcending in importance those special and peculiar interests which differentiate the United Kingdom from the other countries of the British Commonwealth, as well as from the rest of the world.But this argument could be applied, with equal force, to many other countries, and while a study of the special needs of Great Britain may leave out of account some important considerations which should determine British foreign policy, these peculiar interests are none the less sufficiently important and sufficiently extensive to justify a survey of the kind which is here attempted.
It is often maintained, and with an obvious measure of truth, that the first interest of the United Kingdom is peace. It is indisputable that under modern conditions a war in almost any part of the world, especially if a Great Power is involved, must inflict injury upon British financial and commercial interests, and that Great Britain has no ends which could be served by the initiation of war.The British people, law-abiding at home, have a deep-rooted belief in the desirability of establishing a rule of law throughout the world, a belief derived from their own experience of centuries of internal peace, order and equality before the law.For a hundred years—from 1815 to 1914—Great Britain's combination of sea-power and money-power in some degree imposed the characteristics of her internal régime upon world relations : her navy kept open the channels of trade, and her financial power promoted the development of industry and commerce.But in the latter half of the nineteenth century Germany and Italy achieved national unity and, with Japan, rose . . .