David Cameron did not talk much about foreign policy during his leadership bid. He gave the EPP promise, of course, and promised to champion the people of Darfur but he gave few other clues to his foreign policy outlook. Although he gave strong backing for the Iraq war once it had happened, he is known to have been sceptical about the initial Tory decision to support Tony Blair over the plan to topple Saddam. Since be became leader the one international issue he has prioritised has been climate change. This lack of clear leadership has created uncertainty within the parliamentary party about what he thinks about future stages of the war on terror. This uncertainty has reached America where former Bush speechwriter David Frum has criticised the new Tory hesitancy on Israel - echoing earlier concerns expressed by Matthew d'Ancona.
In this week's Spectator Fraser Nelson says the Tory leader finds himself "buffeted by two competing currents of Conservative opinion" - the "Arabist" contingent who object strongly to the influence of Conservative Friends of Israel ("one of the party’s most powerful internal lobby groups) and the neocon Atlanticists who believe in strong, pre-emptive action against terrorist groups and terrorist-supporting states.
Watlington, on the Social Affairs Unit blog, writes that "through the activities of the Conservative Middle East Council and MPs like Crispin Blunt and Alan Duncan, the Michael Moore conservatives have been working overtime to dilute the effects of leading neoconservatives like Liam Fox and Michael Gove." Crucial to the balance of thinking within the party is William Hague. Once thought to be clearly in the neocon camp he may be repositioning. Watlington blames his advisers:
"Hague's senior advisers - spurred on by Shadow Foreign Minister, Keith Simpson - Arminka Helik and Chloe Dalton view the neoconservatives in the party with suspicion. Dalton's father was a leading Arabist diplomat in the Foreign Office. Their influence is rubbing off on William Hague who has made increasingly anti-American statements of late and has been noticeably critical of Israel."
David Cameron is looking for a way forward he may want to study David Brooks' recent column
- Onward Cautious Soldiers (subscription required). Mr Brooks notes
the debate within conservative circles between 'Burkeans' - who know that "efforts to initiate
change can produce unintended consequences" - and 'Churchillians' - who
"know that occasionally civilization is confronted by enemies so
ideologically extreme and so greedy for domination that decent nations
must use military power to confront and defeat them". Brooks says that
'neoincrementalism' absorbs both sides' best insights:
"We neoincrementalists thought [George Bush and Condoleezza Rice] were right to offer the Iranians an incentive package before the hard choices have to be faced. And we’re impressed with how they are handling the Hezbollah crisis. They understand that the first goal must be to ensure that Hezbollah loses. Israel must be given time to dismantle the terrorist state within a state. But they also understand that the second goal must be to ensure that the democratically elected Lebanese government be seen to win. That’s why administration officials spent so much time on the phone last week, organizing a Security Council resolution to sanction an international force in Lebanon. This force would police not only the south but also the Syrian border (to prevent Hezbollah resupply), and would help the Lebanese government reoccupy its land. Senior administration officials know they have no hopes of really disarming Hezbollah (the terrorists can hide rockets under beds) or of really expelling it from Lebanon (it is integrated into society). But they do hope to change the environment, and slowly begin to crowd out Hezbollah influence, the way healthy grass crowds out weeds in a lawn."
Related link: Is David Cameron a 9/11 person?