British Foreign and Defence Policy since 1945: Challenges and Dilemmas in a Changing World


The end of the Cold War, 9/11, conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the emergence of 'rogue' and 'failing' states, have all fundamentally served to transform the international arena and Britain's role and position within it. This volume sets out the choices, problems and dilemmas facing contemporary policy-makers against a background of British external policy responses to emerging challenges since 1945.

The author provides a systematic and up-to-the-minute analysis of ...

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The end of the Cold War, 9/11, conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the emergence of 'rogue' and 'failing' states, have all fundamentally served to transform the international arena and Britain's role and position within it. This volume sets out the choices, problems and dilemmas facing contemporary policy-makers against a background of British external policy responses to emerging challenges since 1945.

The author provides a systematic and up-to-the-minute analysis of Britain's attachment to an increasingly unbalanced and ambivalent 'special relationship' with the United States, the complexities of its selective Europeanism, the problems created by its retreat from empire and the successes and failures of the search for an 'ethical dimension' in foreign policy. In addition, there is a detailed assessment of the commitment to 'humanitarian intervention' that evolved during the Blair years and the more fundamental dilemma it highlighted as defence planners continue to struggle with the consequences of a chronic long-term misalignment between over-extended foreign policy ambitions and the financial and military resources available to fulfil those expectations.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780230220799
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 8/3/2010
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

ROBERT SELF was formerly Professor of British Politics and Contemporary History at London Metropolitan University. He has authored or edited ten books including the first major biography of Neville Chamberlin to be based principally on an extensive range of archival sources.

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Table of Contents

List of Tables and Maps ix

List of Abbreviations xi

1 Introduction: Britain's Place in a Changing World 1

From 'superpower' to 'global hub' 1

Trying (and failing) to adjust to harsh realities? 5

'Traditionalist' versus 'transformationalist' perspectives 7

2 British Power and the Burden of History 13

The rise of British imperial power 13

New threats and challenges: the British Empire and the 'resource gap' before 1914 16

The First World War and its legacy 20

Foreign and defence policy challenges of the 1930s 22

The Second World War and the consequences of relative economic decline 27

Continuity and consensus in post-war foreign and defence policy 31

Ernest Bevin and the foundations of the post-war foreign policy consensus 34

3 From Empire to Commonwealth 40

The imperial legacy and the test of war 40

The withdrawal from Empire, phase 1: India and Palestine 42

Retrenchment and resistance, 1945-57 47

The Suez crisis, 1956: the last blast of imperialism? 50

Withdrawal from Empire, phase 2: Harold Macmillan and the 'Wind of Change' 55

Forces driving the process of decolonization 59

Constraints upon Britain's imperial retreat 60

Britain and the transition to black majority rule in southern Africa 62

Fighting for the Falklands 64

Britain and the Commonwealth of Nations 68

Britain and European decolonisation: a comparative perspective 70

4 Britain, the Atlantic Alliance and the 'Special Relationship' 74

Wartime cooperation and conflict 74

Ernest Bevin and the policy of containment 77

Fluctuating fortunes: Churchill, Eden and Macmillan, 1951-63 83

The Atlantic alliance in decline, 1964-79 86

'Special' once more? Thatcher, Major, Reagan and Bush, 1979-97 87

New Labour, Clinton and George W. Bush 94

Gordon Brown and 'our most important bilateral relationship' 101

The nature of the 'Special Relationship' 103

'Special Relationships': a sectoral perspective 105

Anglo-American relations since 1945: a cost-benefit analysis 107

5 Britain and Europe 111

Paying the 'Price of Victory' 111

Britain and the limits of cooperation, 1945-55 117

'Missing the boat': Britain's first two applications, 1955-69 120

Edward Heath's European crusade and Labour's referendum, 1970-79 126

Margaret Thatcher and the EU budget, 1979-84 129

The Single European Act (SEA), the Delors Report and monetary union, 1984-90 132

John Major: a change of tone but not substance 134

Tony Blair and the 'Europeanisation' of New Labour 136

New Labour, the euro, the Constitutional Treaty and other problems 142

Gordon Brown and selective Europeanism since 2007 146

New Labour and the EU: continuity and change 150

6 The Problems of Conventional Defence 152

British military power: reacting to economic decline or adjusting to change? 152

Disillusioned hopes of military power with reduced expenditure, 1945-57 159

Duncan Sandys and the defence White Paper of 1957 162

The Wilson governments and the retreat from 'East of Suez' 165

The Thatcher governments and 'the Way Forward' 168

'Options for Change' in a world turned upside down, 1989-97 171

New Labour and hopes of delivering security in a changing world 173

Too many commitments, too little money? Defence funding since 1997 176

Blair, Brown and the crisis of military overstretch 180

Expenditure priorities and the failures of defence procurement 186

Conventional defence forces since 1945: Plus ca change 188

7 Britain and the Bomb: The Quest for a Nuclear Deterrent 192

Wartime collaboration and US betrayal 194

The Attlee government and the independent nuclear deterrent 197

Churchill and the hydrogen bomb 200

Great power status - but at a price 202

Trying (and failing) to keep up with the superpowers 205

The Thatcher government and the purchase of Trident 207

New Labour and the upgrading of Trident 209

The US connection and the 'son of Star Wars' 214

8 New Labour, the 'Ethical Dimension' and 'Liberal Intervention' 216

Labour's commitment to an 'ethical dimension' in British foreign policy 216

New Labour and human rights abroad 220

New Labour, ethics and arms exports 225

The arms trade, bribery and the control of international corruption 231

International development and developing world debt relief 234

Climate change and the environmental agenda 241

The 'Blair doctrine', liberal intervention and the Kosovo campaign 242

Afghanistan, the Taliban and the 'war on terror' 245

Saddam Hussein, Operation Desert Fox and the Iraq War 248

Gordon Brown and the' 'Responsibility to Protect' 250

The 'ethical dimension' in retrospect 252

9 Making Foreign and Defence Policy in a Changing World 255

The complexity of the foreign policy process in Britain 255

Executive dominance in the formulation of foreign policy 259

Who makes British defence policy? 264

Outside the magic circle: who is excluded from the policy process? 268

Executive 'overload' and the problem of priorities 270

The problems of long-term planning and 'horizon-scanning' 272

Redefining the role of the FCO within a challenging Whitehall environment 274

Reviewing Britain's overseas representation 279

A much too Diplomatic Service? Defending the national interest 282

Reforming the composition and career structure: the Foresight initiative 283

The role of the intelligence services 284

10 Conclusion: the Challenge of an Uncertain Future 288

The changing international environment after 1945 288

Continuity and change in British policy 289

The challenge of the unknown: redefining the threat 291

Devising a strategy for an uncertain world 295

Britain's position in the world - the more that changes the more that stays the same 299

Useful Websites for Foreign and Defence Sources 302

Bibliography 303

Index 327

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