Post-Blair Foreign Policy
Friday, September 08, 2006

Post-Blair Foreign Policy

Reginald Dale of the Centre for Strategic and Intelligence Studies (CSIS), looks at post-Blair British foreign policy. He argues that the 'special relationship' will survive despite the current antipathy towards the foreign policy of the United States. Given that this relationship oscillates between hot and cold spells, we are moving towards a lukewarm era where the imtimacies of Bush and Blair are lost.

There are a number of issues on which Dale is too optimistic and underestimates the potential for blue water to open up between Britain and the United States. He correctly notes the current antipathy of the elites to the wars of the Middle East, but he does not take the antedeluvian attitudes of the Labour Party into account. Blair's very enthusiasm for the United States may engender a long-lasting reaction. The Left is in no mood to compromise. The trade unions are in a far stronger position than they have been for twenty years. Any new leader will find that their hands are tied, and that the 'special relationship', Trident and other baggage may become sacrifices to an unelectable Labour administration.

The other assertion that Dale makes lies on the other end of the pendulum's arc. Dale states that "no British prime minister is likely to join America in major military ventures for the foreseeable future." Again, there is no clear indication that this has acquired permanent status. Polls show that British attitudes towards the United States and the 'war on terror' have become personalised and contradictory: the public wishes to prosecute the war on terror through European rather than US agencies, primarily because they distrust the judgment and the effectiveness of Bush's policies. The anti-American flavour of current polls is unlikely to last beyond the end of Bush's term and Blair's downfall, since the United States is the only reliable ally who can prosecute these campaigns with vigour. Once the current preconditions for the polling results disappear, support for military action may resume. This is without the play of contingency, where further 'spectaculars' may result in more diplomatic revolutions.

It is not possible to predict a post-Blair foreign policy. You can define what it will not be, when the personal relationships and ideological rhetoric of the Prime Minister are taken into account. The constraints tying his successor are also clear: the demands of the Left and the public dislike of Bush render an enthusiastic Atlanticist policy problematic until 2008.

(Crossposted to The Bewilderness)


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