New Labour came to power declaring they would pursue an ethical foreign policy based on the ideals of liberty and democracy rather than sordid national interest, but a decade on and after the debacle of Iraq, such rhetoric rings hollow. Gordon Brown’s new National Security Strategy and David Miliband’s ‘The Democratic Imperative’ speech have promised a robust and meaningful role for Britain in the international arena, but it is unclear whether they can live up to this promise.
The National Security Strategy claims to present a single overarching strategy, yet can there be a strategy that can deal with everything from international crime, to terrorism, energy competition, international poverty and inequality, and failed states? Meanwhile, Miliband has sought to breathe new life into ‘ethical foreign policy’ by disassociating the ideal of spreading democracy from the so-called neocons and the failures of Iraq. Can ethically orientated intervention in support of human rights and struggles for democracy elsewhere in the world provide Britain with a coherent moral sense of itself either domestically or internationally? Too often, debates are limited to the question of whether such strategies ‘work’, but beyond that, what do they tell us about the state of the political elite, and what might they mean for Britain’s ability to act in the world? How do we define the national interest today, and is Britain’s foreign policy a coherent expression of it?
Brussels correspondent, The Times; co-author, No Means No
senior researcher at Demos; author National Security for the Twenty-first century
professor of media and communications, London South Bank University
|Dr Ian Kearns
deputy chair, Independent Commission on National Security in the 21st Century; regular media commentator on international affairs and security.
|Dr Tara McCormack
lecturer in international politics, University of Leicester; author, Critique, Security and Power: the political limits to emancipatory approaches
When the Conservatives wanted to damn Gordon Brown's stance on 42 days earlier this week, they accused him of putting "his own interest before the national interest". Last week, on the other hand, David Cameron promised that the Conservatives would respond to the financial crisis by "helping the Government" deal with "important issues regarding the national interest".Dr Tara McCormack, Independent Open House Blog, 8 October 2008
When he visits Kiev, the Foreign Secretary should remember the threats posed by Nato's drive eastwardsAnatol Lieven, The Times, 26 August 2008
The Government has published a National Risk Register which sets out our assessment of the likelihood and potential impact of a range of different risks that may directly affect the UK.The Cabinet Office, Cabinet Office, 8 August 2008
The Prime Minister has announced the publication of the first National Security Strategy for the United Kingdom.The Cabinet Office, Cabinet Office, 19 March 2008
The ippr is hosting an independent all-party Commission on National Security in the 21st CenturyInstitute for Public Policy Research, 13 February 2008
Discussion about the Iraq war has clouded the debate about promoting democracy around the world.David Miliband, David Miliband Website, 12 February 2008
The report provides a balanced analysis, examining both successes and failures in national policy, and offers an innovative set of recommendations which should be of interest to policy-makers, officials and analysts alike.Charlie Edwards, Demos, 10 December 2007
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, governments across the globe have struggled to keep up with the growth and complexity of the challenges facing them.Charlie Edwards, Demos, 23 February 2007