British Foreign Policy

Book Review

Reviewer: Andrei Babadac

Publisher: Cambridge: Polity 2013 ISBN: 9780745651156
Author's page: Jamie Gaskarth

British Foreign Policy

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This work summarises the key elements of the British foreign policy making to date and, at the same time, deploys solid historical references, making a thorough introduction to the key actors and elements that shape it. This work is merely an introduction to the complexity of the mechanisms that put together make the contemporary British foreign policy. It aims to answer questions such as: who makes the foreign policy and what is the role of the British identity, at the same time addressing issues such as ethics, defence and economics.

Gaskarth’s understanding of British foreign policy embraces a new perspective on a topic that is no longer in vogue of many analysts of international relations. Not only does he argue over the continued importance of the role played by the UK, but makes a statement of the importance of the Western world in the 21st century despite the rise of the emerging powers. The recent events in the War on Terrorism, the financial crisis and the coalition interventions in the Middle East does, of course, demonstrate that Britain still plays a role, but perhaps not a leading one? One of the important features throughout the book is the approach to the role of the governments in world politics and how these addressed the changes brought about in recent decades. Great respect is given to the role of the government as part of international mechanisms and how it can cooperate and be part of collective action schemes. The second chapter sets out the most important actors in developing British foreign policy, providing food for thought and a thorough examination of the public policy and the external foreign policy environment.

The next chapter deal with the mechanisms that create British foreign policy, presenting Britain as an international actor, giving the reader a comprehensive image based on first hand materials as well as interviews. It provides a balanced approach and introduces the broader debate on how policy making gravitates around several experimental models—the comparison unfortunate as these were initially created to explain policy-making in the US. Gaskarth tries to establish his own model by introducing two conceptions and blending them. Chapters four and five go beyond this setting and debate Britain itself as an international actor from historic, economic, social and geographical perspectives.

The following three chapters go further into the debate of the debate of the British foreign policy-making, examining the ethical, military and economic agendas. An interesting assumption is that foreign policy decisions produce ethical consequences and how they shaped the decisions in cases such as the military intervention in Iraq. These analyse wide subjects and are analytically limited to emphasising the importance of Britain’s involvement in the world, which is affected by negative phenomena related to such insecurities and omitted from decision-making procedures. The all-encompassing topic of human security is convincingly criticised and revised, similarly to the challenge posed by maintaining an inviolability of science as the field of study.

Gaskarth presents some critical arguments and theories using a very wide range of sources, which vary from scientific and academic studies to military reports. The book does not lack historical evidence, as he spends a substantial amount of time explaining the roots of British foreign policy. Regarding the audience for whom this book can be both useful and interesting, it should be noted that the historical backgrounds that are represented in the majority of articles give the opportunity to understand the situation for any reader, even if they have little exposure to the role of Britain in the World.

2019 - Volume 13 Issue 3