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Cameron’s Terrible Foreign Policy Record

Freddy Gray tries to make sense of David Cameron’s political career. Here he comments on Cameron’s recent eagerness for military intervention:

One day, we may look back on Cameron as a heroic figure who only went to war reluctantly for the noblest causes, while at the same time pulling off massive political, economic and cultural reforms at home. But Cameron’s obvious impulsivity in foreign affairs suggests a far different verdict—a meretricious figure who would rush to war for the sake of his own conscience, or just some good headlines.

Cameron had the good fortune to become the leader of the opposition when Blair was still in power, since this made it very easy to position himself as the voice on reason on foreign policy by comparison without having to commit to much. Even though he was a supporter of the Iraq war all along, he benefited from the fact that Blair and Brown were far more deeply implicated in the debacle. In that respect, the long years in the political wilderness were a blessing for the Tories, since it prevented them from being as closely identified with the extremely unpopular war as Labour was. Nonetheless, the foolish impulsiveness that Gray identifies was always there, as we saw when Cameron out-McCained McCain in his enthusiasm for the cause of Georgia during the August 2008 war. Alex Massie recalled that incident in the weeks before the Libyan war this way:

His Dash to Tbilisi was straight from the pages of the John McCain Foreign Policy Manual, substituting feel-good sloganising and photo ops for measured calculations of both the national interest and anything Britain could practically or usefully do.

Since taking office, Cameron has proven that his foreign policy judgment is almost always just as bad as McCain’s. As if the Libyan intervention had not been bad enough, he was quite ready to fall in line behind the U.S. to bomb Syria last year out of a misguided desire to show “solidarity” with the U.S. in waging another unnecessary war. The only good thing that can be said about his foreign policy record is that he at least had the sense to abandon the attack on Syria when Parliament and the public had rejected the idea.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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