Monday, July 27, 2009

William Hague and gun boat diplomacy

Three Thousand Versts of Loneliness does not just have one of the coolest blog names you could possibly imagine he/she has also written a very useful post on Conservative foreign policy.

William Hague's latest speech gives a good indication of how the Tories are attempting to style themselves as a mixture of economic pragmatism and social liberalism.

For example, Hague said that the Conservatives would stick to existing commitments in Afghanistan but would "renounce the interventionism which Labour has practised during its time in office." He went on to denounce "the proselytising style favoured by David Miliband and other government figures [which] will be replaced by respectful engagement."

Which, to me at least, reads as distancing himself from everything that's now universally regarded as a foreign policy failure (even when the Tories supported it at the time) whilst not rocking the Afghan boat.

More than a little shade of Obama there, which is a clever move as Labour is utterly contaminated by it's behaviour during the Bush years. Whilst Labour will have to justify their foreign policy disasters for years Hague does a convincing impression of someone who has learned from mistakes he had nothing to do with and certainly did not vote for. Oh no.

However, there's nothing here that goes beyond good spin on a realpolitik forced on any government in an age of economic crisis and the growing power of non-Western states. For example Hague's speech was "predicated on financial constraints which the UK will experience during the next number of years. "

So he's committing not to fight new wars that we can't afford to fight anyway. All credit to him for dressing it up as respect for other cultures, not everyone would have thought of that.

When Hague says he wants to "develop a "sustained dialogue and close understanding with China", which would involve raising human rights but not allow the issue to cloud relations" he's essentially restating the current policy, frowning about human rights for the benefit of the UK press whilst pressing ahead with unhindered trade relations.

And again Hague wants to "Work with Muslim countries even if they do not have democratic and liberal values that are taken for granted in the west." Same policy on Saudi Arabia then. No surprises here, but thanks for the warning.

It seems that this time we're not going to be Bush's attack dog, we'll be Obama's fancy poodle. Plus ca change.

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