Friday, 30 July 2010

on the Cameron Doctrine?

Honesty is the best policy, or so my mother told me. Granted she wasn’t a diplomat, but it seems to make sense to most people that when something becomes so big to hide, you only look ludicrous for ignoring it or worst denying it.

So some would applaud David Cameron this week for a few truths which needed to be said: Gaza is a prison camp, Pakistan should do more to control terrorists and Turkey should become an EU member.

He said it, a few gasped, and then we moved on.

Cameron said he wanted British foreign policy to be realistic, practical and hard headed. He isn’t the first to adapt this style of diplomacy so perhaps the title of this article is a bit farfetched; Reagan afterall did like to tell it like it is (Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall, and all that). You could of course argue Reagan was a nut and back then people gasped and told him to turn it down.

That interestingly hasn’t happened this time, aside from the reaction from David Miliband who called Cameron a ‘loudmouth’, Miliband would do well to remember Ernest Bevin, Labour’s post-war foreign secretary who was reported as saying that his foreign policy was “to be able to buy a ticket at Victoria station and go anywhere I damn well please!”, although Cameron is fortunate not to have issues such as the birth of Israel to contend with.

But what is the point in all this? Poll ratings?

One could assume Cameron’s logic is to make himself so unpredictable so as to become more important, especially in Europe. Britain was isolated during the Blair years in Europe, because the general assumption was that we would go along with whatever America did, hardly ground breaking stuff but similarly it gave the impression that a conversation with Britain was pointless. Cameron’s position can be likened to a mad man with a gun, you tend to watch him closely to see what the next move will be, in such a case the lack of being predictable becomes an asset.

This is a very tight rope to walk; we only have to look at the recent example of Bush Jnr to see what can happen when the mad man gets bored and ends up using the gun, repeatedly.

Invariably most world leaders get dragged back home to the realms of domestic politics (a.k.a. winning elections), in such circumstances established diplomats retake their position as the dominant forces in world politics, unless Hague can exert himself enough to take over the mantle when the poll ratings start to sink.

For those among us enjoying the refreshing sight of the leader of a country telling it like it is, enjoy it while it lasts as I suspect it would be around forever.


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