Tag Archives: International Relations

The Coalition That Could Have Been

Foreign policy undertaken unilaterally is disdained and feared. It meets vast, instinctive criticism. Action, especially military action, which is seen to be arbitrary elicits the same response. When democratic states seek to act on the international stage, they desire not only to succeed in their chosen course of action, but also to be seen to be acting justly, within limits, and without caprice. Continue reading

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How to Build Nations

The story of Emma Sky, newly told in her memoir The Unravelling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq, is a fascinating one. An opponent of the war in Iraq – someone, in fact, who had proposed serving as a human shield in the first Gulf War – does not generally end up in effect administering a province, as Sky found herself doing very soon after her arrival in the country in 2003. But this is what she did. And more than that, she spent much of the following seven years in Iraq, working closely with the very American military she and many like-minded individuals opposed so vigorously before the war began. Continue reading

Saving Syria: An Interview with Kyle Orton

The issue of Syria, it seems, will be with us for a long time to come. With analysts and even American officials predicting that Bashar al-Assad, the country’s dictatorial nominal ruler, will outlast President Obama, it seems good news – or at least insight which does not subscribe to entirely defeatist or entirely unhelpful positions – is in short supply and retains a vital importance. To this end I decided to investigate further the tales, visions and fates of those who form perhaps the most debated concept within Syria’s already complex conflict: the ‘good guys’. Many – including, perhaps paradoxically, those on the political Left – have alleged that they do not exist; that they are, in effect, politicised fabrications designed either to undermine or actively to overthrow Assad and restrain the influence of his Iranian allies. Others – possibly those of a less pessimistic mien – contend that while the ‘good guys’ may once have existed, they have since disappeared amid the fog of war, some of them becoming Islamists or being crushed, others fleeing the country entirely. Continue reading

Did the League of Nations Serve Only British and French Interests?

The failure of the League of Nations was not due, in whole or in part, to its serving only British and French interests. Rather, it can be seen that the League was essentially misconceived, and it was burdened with a machinery and a world order which could not live up to its idealistic mission. It is clear that the League was in essence an optimistic project, not equipped to deal with the change described by James Joll in his Europe Since 1870;  David Thompson agrees with this assessment, and highlights the point at which ‘the assumptions [of the League] were disappointed’, where ‘there remained no cohesive force’ in order to effect its objectives, in his book Europe Since Napoleon. If anything, as Joll suggests, the League over-depended on Britain and France, therefore alienating the only two member states capable of acting with enough authority to rescue the League from the volatile and revisionist powers of the 1930s. Continue reading

Lord William Bentinck and Sicily: Building a Nation or an Empire?

In the beginning of the nineteenth century, Europe was aflame, rent in two by the Napoleonic Wars which had effectively redrawn the map of an entire continent. Kingdoms had fallen; nations had been conquered, vanishing into the great mass of Napoleon’s burgeoning dominion; the old order seemed on the run, and a succession of Coalitions drew up to face the French threat. The location of some of Napoleon’s first campaigns, Italy, remained pivotal throughout the ensuing decades. With its cultural heritage, material wealth and long coastline, Italy represented a valuable prize for both sides. British domination of the Mediterranean, long established, had to be maintained. It was that sea which bore the trading vessels that Nelson devoted so much time to defending; it was both the lifeblood of British trade in Europe and the means by which much British aid made the journey to other Coalition partners. In this calculation, the island of Sicily was a valuable asset. It, like Malta and Gibraltar, could be a valuable base and it could provide several essential ports. To that end Lord William Bentinck, a former governor of Madras, was dispatched as Commander in Chief of British forces in the Mediterranean with a special responsibility for Sicily. Continue reading

Did the League of Nations Fail Because of American Isolationism?

While the League of Nations was undermined from the outset by the absence of the United States – it was the supposed ‘keystone’ in the arch, according to Punch – this was not the proximate reason for its failure during the interwar period. Rather, it appears that the League was undermined by the selfish actions of Britain and France, as well as the problems of its own creation; it appears that the idea of a supra-national body on this scale was a unique product of the post-war climate, and was therefore misconceived and ill-suited to the rise of fascism in Italy, militarism in Japan and Nazism in Germany. Continue reading