Saturday 5 March 2011

Look to Napoleon for the basis of David Cameron's foreign policy

Much acreage of newsprint is rightly being written about the escalating crisis in Libya but significant interest is also given to the Prime Minister's handling of events.

Many commentators have been critical of David Cameron suggesting that he is inconsistent on the Middle East confused on what he wants his foreign policy to achieve and even of 'shooting from the hip'. Many fail to acknowledge that British Prime Ministers are not elected on a foreign policy platform so their foreign policy tends to evolve and emerge as and when the need arises.  

A glance at the Prime Minister's approach over the first 10 months of his tenure in Downing Street and it looks pretty consistent to me. Foreign policy shouldn't be about one thing; it is not a choice between pushing trade, development or democracy but instead a choice between having a proactive interventionist approach or a reactionary policy marked by timidness.

As to what drives a Prime Minister's approach, on this I take a lesson from Napoleon's view that to understand a man fully one has to know what was happening in the world when he was 20. Cameron was of this age as the Cold War reached its zenith with President Reagan asserting himself and the United States, through boosting military spending and the famous summit meetings with Gorbachev.   

This proactive, assertive and interventionist approach to diplomacy, perhaps best illustrated with Reagan's 'tear down this wall' speech at the Brandenburg Gate, is likley to have made quite an impact on a 20 year old Cameron. Liberal commentators and Labour politicians may be critical of a British Prime Minister looking to be assertive on the world stage. They forget that history proves that, more often than not, it works.  


  1. But doesn't Baroness Ashton handle our foreign policy these days?


  2. Yes indeed, pointing at, and hitting others has been popular amongst our leaders, although I'm not sure you can say it "works" unless our aim is dominance at any cost!

  3. Loud and aggressive has certainly helped them get their own way, I'm not sure this qualifies as a policy that works!

  4. Your post fails to display comments!!

  5. My apologies in the delay in clearing your comments. Thanks for your thoughts although I did, very specifically, refer to diplomacy rather than armed intervention.


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