Liberal intervention in the foreign policy thinking of Tony Blair and David Cameron

Daddow, O. and Schnapper, P., 2013. Liberal intervention in the foreign policy thinking of Tony Blair and David Cameron. Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 26 (2), pp. 330-349. ISSN 0955-7571

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David Cameron was a critic of Tony Blair’s doctrine of the international community, which was used to justify war in Kosovo and more controversially in Iraq, suggesting caution in projecting military force abroad while in opposition. However, and in spite of making severe cuts to the defence budget, the Cameron-led Coalition government signed Britain up to a military intervention in Libya within a year of coming into office. What does this say about the place liberal interventionism occupies in contemporary British foreign policy? To answer this question, this article studies the nature of what we describe as the ‘bounded liberal’ tradition that has informed British foreign policy thinking since 1945, suggesting that it puts a distinctly UK national twist on conventional conservative thought about international affairs. Its components are: scepticism of grand schemes to remake the world; instinctive Atlanticism; security through collective endeavour; and anti-appeasement. We then compare and contrast the conditions for intervention set out by Tony Blair and David Cameron. We explain the similarities but crucially also the vital differences between the two leaders’ thinking on intervention, with particular reference to Cameron’s perception that Downing Street needed to loosen its control over foreign policy-making after Iraq. Our argument is that policy substance, policy style and party political dilemmas prompted Blair and Cameron to reconnect British foreign policy with its ethical roots, ingraining a bounded liberal posture to British foreign policy after the moral bankruptcy of the John Major years. This return to a patient, pragmatic and ethically informed foreign policy meant that military operations in Kosovo and Libya were undertaken in quite different circumstances, yet came to be justified by similar arguments from the two leaders.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Cambridge Review of International Affairs
Creators: Daddow, O. and Schnapper, P.
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Date: 2013
Volume: 26
Number: 2
ISSN: 0955-7571
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 03 Nov 2015 10:53
Last Modified: 24 Aug 2016 10:29

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