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More Change, Less Continuity? The Future of Intervention in British Foreign Policy

Maxine David
University of Surrey
Michael Aaronson
University of Surrey
Maxine David
University of Surrey
Open Panel

Abstract

Early signs from the current British government are that Britain is rethinking its attitude towards operating an interventionist Foreign Policy. Debate is increasingly focused on the problems rather than solutions brought about by operation of an ethical FP, such that intervention is becoming a ‘dirty’ word amongst policy-makers. Further evidence of this increased tendency to ask questions rather than resolutely posit answers about intervention can be found in the new discourse on Afghanistan and the upcoming Strategic Defence Review. At least two questions remain to be answered: i) What is and should be Britain’s role in the world?; ii) What has driven this shift from conviction to uncertainty? This paper seeks to answer these questions, beginning with a review of post-Cold War British Foreign Policy, focusing on critical junctures in FP and the forces for change. Secondly, we consider the extent to which British FP is actually culturally embedded and can therefore be expected to exhibit signs of continuity. Our analysis therefore considers variables associated with change and continuity, including the role of personality and Party politics as well as key moments and events, versus the impact of history, culture and international structures on the making of British FP.