British Foreign Policy: Continuity and Transormation29
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European Union is also seen essentially as a network o twenty-seven individualstates with which Britain should develop largely bilateral relations.But i we look behind the rhetoric about roles that underlines the idea o con-tinuity and try to analyze the substance and the sources o contemporary Britishoreign policy, we see evidence o substantive change and transormed environ-ments in which policy is made and implemented. The central dilemma that Brit-ish political leaders ace today is the need to adapt oreign policy to a rapidly changing regional and global environment while at the same time giving theimpression, at least to domestic audiences that nothing undamentally haschanged with respect to sovereignty and independence. This chapter identiies the major problems aced by both the British policy maker and the oreign policy analyst. To this end two key distinctions are drawn—one historical and the other analytical. The irst distinction deals with the periodbetween the late 1940s and 1990, generally known as the Cold War, and theperiod since 1991, still labeled rather unsatisactorily the post–Cold War era.Comparing and contrasting dierent themes, issues and problems over time canhelp us to make sense o change in British oreign policy. The past is a particularly important guide to the present in the case o Britain. The second distinction,drawn or more analytical reasons, involves the domestic and international set-tings o policy. This analytical perspective helps us to understand the sources o policy and policy change. How has a changing international environment aectedBritish oreign policy? Is it now more appropriate to see British oreign policy asan extension o domestic politics, explaining policy in terms o domestic ratherthan international actors? More radically, what are the implications or our anal- ysis i we accept the important point made in Chapter 1 that the distinctionbetween internal and external environments has become increasingly blurred? Without that clear boundary, it might be argued, oreign policy itsel may lack distinctiveness.
When the Cold War began to rame British oreign policy in the late 1940s, therecould be little doubt about the distinctiveness and importance o oreign policy.
With World War II still a very resh memory, it is not surprising that politicalleaders relected on Britain’s role in an international environment that remained very threatening but also changing. When ormer Prime Minister Churchilladdressed the annual Conservative Party conerence on this theme in 1948, there were already important indicators o change, such as the ceding o independencethe previous year to the Indian subcontinent. What was signiicant aboutChurchill’s three circles vision, however, was its prescriptiveness. In it he sought toestablish the continuing “realities” that should guide British policy makers despiteclear indications o signiicant change in the postwar international environment. Three key assumptions underpinned this powerul and continuing vision.First, it depicted Britain as a global power with global interests to deend rather