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Disraeli on foreign policy

The 19th century statesman can teach us something about the hash currently being made of foreign policy. This is because a hash was being made in 1864 as well, as Disraeli was quick to point out to Parliament.

"Do you find . . ..that sagacity, that prudence, that dexterity, that quickness of perception" and that mood of "conciliation" that are necessary in the transaction of foreign affairs? No, you do not. All these characteristics have been "wanting," and because they are wanting, three results have accrued: The policy of Her Majesty's government has failed, England's "influence in the councils of Europe has been lowered," and that waning of influence has left the prospects for peace diminished.

. . .Regarding influence, "I mean an influence that results from the conviction of foreign Powers that our resources are great and that our policy is moderate and steadfast." Disraeli wanted the return of a conservative approach. "I do not mean by a Conservative foreign policy a foreign policy that would disapprove, still less oppose, the natural development of nations. I mean a foreign policy interested in the tranquility and prosperity of the world," one condition of which is peace. England should be "a moderating and mediatorial Power." Its interest, when changes in the world are inevitable and necessary, is to assist so that the changes "if possible, may be accomplished without war; or, if war occurs, that its duration and asperity be lessened."

Moderate, thoughtful and steadfast while supporting peace and opposing violence.

A tall order.

Peggy Noonan provided the Disraeli quotations in her WSJ opinion piece on American foreign policy.

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