Leading article: The Tories must demonstrate they have moved on from the old dogmas

Share
Related Topics

Britain's new Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has promised "a solid but not slavish relationship with the US". The implication is clear: the days of British poodledom are over.

Many will find this rather hard to stomach. In the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Conservative Party was even more gung-ho over Iraq than Tony Blair. And Mr Hague himself has always been a Thatcherite Atlanticist, as reflected by the speed with which he set off for yesterday's meeting in Washington with the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. One of the reasons Mr Blair hugged George Bush so tightly was out of fear that the likes of Mr Hague would take his place and adopt a still stronger embrace.

Iraq is now history. And in Barack Obama the US itself has a leader who opposed that calamitous invasion. Yet both America and Britain are in danger of making similar mistakes over the Nato mission in Afghanistan. Mr Hague made it clear to Mrs Clinton yesterday that the new coalition Government will not deviate from the strategy of its predecessor on Afghanistan. Britain's 9,500 troops, according to Mr Hague, will stay until "their job is done".

It is probably sensible for Mr Hague to wait until after the impending Kandahar operation before reviewing Britain's involvement in this conflict. The Nato assault on the birthplace of the Taliban will be a crucial moment for General Stanley McChrystal's strategy to stabilise the country. But, whatever happens, bigger questions over the Afghan mission cannot be ducked for ever. In particular: would the West's interests be better served by supporting the Pakistan government's counter-terrorism efforts further east, rather than expending blood and treasure propping up a corrupt regime in Kabul? It remains to be seen whether Mr Hague will raise such difficult questions with Washington, or whether he will be swept along with the unthinking tide like so many of his predecessors.

Afghanistan is not the only test of our new Government. Mr Hague is known to hold hawkish views on Iran. But an overly belligerent policy towards Tehran, at a time when Iran is in the grip of acute civil strife, could escalate, rather than defuse, the crisis of its nuclear policy. The issue of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks is also of vital importance. Will Mr Hague be prepared to join the Obama administration in pressuring Benjamin Netanyahu to come to the negotiating table? Or does Britain's new Government have an unreconstructed neo-conservative outlook?

One area that certainly does not bode well is Britain's relations with the European Union, to which the Tories have a deep-rooted hostility. It is hard to envisage greater pooling of military resources with our Continental neighbours, despite the clear logic of such co-operation at a time of tight military spending.

Foreign policy is one of the few areas of government where the Tory side of this Lib-Con coalition has free rein. That is both a pity and an opportunity. It is a pity because the multilateralist, pro-European Liberal Democrats would have been a valuable stabilising influence in the Foreign Office. But it is also an opportunity because now the Conservatives can demonstrate that they have moved beyond the dogmas of former eras and can act effectively and pragmatically in concert with all our international allies.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Online Advertising Account Executive , St Pauls , London

£26K-30k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

Advertising Account Executive - Online, Central London

£25K-28k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

Senior Infrastructure Consultant

£50000 - £65000 Per Annum potentially flexible for the right candidate: Clearw...

Public Sector Audit - Bristol

£38000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Do you have experience of ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

It’s two decades since ‘education, education, education’, but still Britain’s primary school admissions are a farce

Jane Merrick
United Nations special rapporteur Rashida Manjoo addresses journalists in central London  

We could have had a proper debate about sexism after Rashida Manjoo's comments. Instead, we’re fencing over a media-garbled paraphrase

Archie Bland
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
Supersize art

Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
James Dean: Back on the big screen

James Dean: Back on the big screen

As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
10 best activity books for children

10 best activity books for children

Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books
Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1: Five things we learnt from the battle between the London sides

Five things we learnt from Arsenal's win over West Ham

Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot and Carroll can make late charge into England’s World Cup squad
Copa del Rey final: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right

Pete Jenson on the Copa del Rey final

Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right
Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

With the tennis circus now rolling on to the slowest surface, Paul Newman highlights who'll be making the headlines – and why
Exclusive: NHS faces financial disaster in 2015 as politicians urged to find radical solution

NHS faces financial disaster in 2015

Politicians urged to find radical solution
Ukraine crisis: How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?

Ukraine crisis

How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

A history of the First World War in 100 moments
Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert as human activity and climate change threaten ‘lungs of the world’, says study

New threat to the Amazon rainforest:

Fires that scorch the ‘lungs of the Earth’
Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City: And the winner of this season’s Premier League title will be...

Who’s in box seat now? The winner of the title will be ...

Who is in best shape to take the Premier League prize?