Tories on defence

Posted by Helen Monday, September 04, 2006

Being a Tory Historian, one is naturally interested in ideas that are Tory, rather than the more modern Conservative. Reading Professor Jeremy Black’s most recent book: “The Dotted Red Line” about British defence policy Tory Historian found the following interesting comments in the Introduction:

“[T]he distinctive Tory approach to defence began in the early days of the Tory party in England, at the close of the seventeenth century and in the opening decades of the eighteenth. Furthermore, defence and foreign policy were not then on the margins of party positions, but indeed were central to them. The Tory position was based on hostility to continental nterventionism associated with the rival Whigs; instead, the Tories counselled caution over foreign commitments, and particularly alliance politics and warfare on the European continent.”
Interventionism on the European continent, the Tories judged, led to an increase in the army and centralized government, both politically dangerous. Instead, they focused on a “blue water” policy:
“an expansion of naval strength, and its use in the unilateral pursuit of national interest, and particularly in pursuit of maritime hegemony and colonial gains outside Europe.”
These two, sometimes contradictory, sometimes complementary aims have continued to bedevil foreign policy decisions, in particular those made by the Conservative Party at various times.

Being only half-way through Professor Black’s book Tory Historian is unable to say (but will do so on a future occasion) what his conclusions will be about the present day but the duality of aims has not disappeared simply because the Empire has gone and Britain’s defence and armament policy has reduced her to a minor player in the field.

The question might be posed differently now: should political and diplomatic (as well as defence) discussions be aimed largely at Britain being involved in the European project of the new state, the European Union; or should greater emphasis be placed on close relations with the countries of the Anglosphere, which are over the blue water?


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