« Cameron outlines a 'liberal conservative foreign policy' | Main | ConHome admin »


All politicians are (and should be) aware of their electorates at home when making foreign policy statements. David Cameron is merely acknowledging the fact that (unpalatable as it may seem to many here) there is a strong thread of anti-American feeling (fostered by the BBC!) amongst the British public including a number of floating voters - especially those wavering between Lib Dem and Conservative. They will feel he is quite right in what he says and that it contrasts his approach with that of the Republican presidencies in the US. What will be interesting is to see how his stance affects the "special relationship" especially if McCain should win.

Look at his speech (as excerpted by CH) and wonder at his flounderings. It wasn't supposed to be like this.

Foolish, vacuous, vain, ignorant, closed-minded, embarrassments.

Dave, get back and let someone else do this stuff. Someone who has done business or at least lived outside London/UK. Someone who has an affinity for Islam. I'm free - well, excellent value anyway. I'll just see if I can get leave from Mr Farage. Believe it or not, you are more important, because you will actually be in power over this country soon.

Here endeth the Commercial Break!

You're right, but I think it goes further. The unfortunate soundbite doesn't just demean what our Armed Forces are doing, it seems to paint him awkwardly into a generally anti-war corner, and could come back to haunt him should he ever have cause to send our forces into a new campaign (though I hope, of course, that he doesn't have to.)

It's a shame because he looked exceptionally statesman like on the 10 o'clock news last night; and though I'm a huge supporter, it's the first time that I've thought unequivocally of him at the Prime Minister-in-waiting.

The UK and the US have a long history of liberating people - my own country of birth, Belgium, was of course liberated by them in 1944.

Gosh, the neo-Cons on ConHome are excessively touchy.
Are you saying, Tim, that democracy CAN be dropped from 10,000 feet?
What DC was saying amounts to a repudiation of the Rumsfeld Doctrine - 'massive force, get in, get out, leave 'em to it, democracy follows as if by magic' - but is not a repudiation of the Bush Doctrine - the West has a duty to pre-empt tyranny and terrorism and to foster democracy around the world.
It was a politically astute speech which would have drawn close attention across the Middle East and South Asia. DC is setting out his credentials as a British leader who is not slavishly following Washington, does understand the complexities, but is not going to shirk strong words and actions.

lol.. a good number of the ConHome contributers have been telling us for years that they're proud to be neo-con.

Good for Cameron. Don't see anything wrong with what he's saying. He has better judgement than most politicians.

Excuse me, where does Cameron include what is happening in Iraq today within his critique of neoconservatism? Indeed the situation there is surely evidence for the sagacity of his views on the subject.

“These things happened, they were glorious and they changed the world … and then we f**ked up the end game." - Charlie Wilson.

Apologies for the coarse language.

"The "drop democracy from 10,000 feet" soundbite isn't just silly, it borders on the offensive."

Why is ConHom suddenly being precious about a term that Cameron has used before to express a perfectly reasonable view?
Also a bit cheeky to try and turn it away from its exact meaning by focussing on troops on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan.

We never disputed the *phrase* that the IRA were trying impose their political views down the barrel of a gun back in the 70's and 80's?

Given that Cameron is all for the idea of giving NATO membership to Georgia and Ukraine, there is surely some doubt about his anti-war credentials. Cameron talks about avoiding the use of war to impose democracy then talks about tying Britains hands when it comes to military involvement in the Caucasus.

Was Hussein that much of a threat? We went to war on the basis of WMDs, not the threat Iraq posed to Britain. Lets get that bit straight. It was only when they realised the WMDs werent there that the excuse for the war changed to regime change.

Cameron isn't saying it's 'wrong to drop bombs' - he's saying that 'dropping bombs to impose democracy is wrong' - which is something that any sane person should agree with!

I agree with the piece in the FT. Cameron is the typical politician in kidding us that he can be all things to all men; visiting the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan; and then the contradictory rubbish about dropping bombs from 10,000.

With all due respects to Henry Mayhew and his self-proclaimed membership of the pro Islam wing of UKIP (I suspect he is the sole member) it will be interesting how Cameron will view the unfolding drama of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons - will 10,000 feet get a mention?

Yes, he's right. It's the USAF who have been imposing democracy at 10,000 ft. The RAF fly low-level missions, thus imposing democracy at a few hundred feet.

Joking aside, I'm trying to remember which conflict Cameron voted against. I can't seem to recall...

"Joking aside, I'm trying to remember which conflict Cameron voted against. I can't seem to recall..."

Passingleftie, you missed the column that Cameron wrote about his very real doubts about voting with the government on the Invasion of Iraq. Still, I suppose that like many other MP's he did not take his decision lightly, while others thought it okay to run around sexing up documents....

Passingleftie, you missed the column that Cameron wrote about his very real doubts about voting with the government on the Invasion of Iraq. Still, I suppose that like many other MP's he did not take his decision lightly, while others thought it okay to run around sexing up documents....

He should take responsibilty for his choices. Much as I disagree with the invasion of Iraq, there is no doubt that Blair believed and still believes it was the right thing to do. Is Cameron going to admit he was wrong to vote for the war, that he has changed his mind? I don't think so.

He supported the neo-cons before the war when it was convenient; now he is putting political expediency before principle with this student soundbite.

I don't disagree with the sentiment and I'm delighted that David Cameron has chosen to distance himself from the neo-cons but the soundbite about 10,000 feet was not strictly true. The bombing campaign in Serbia worked.
I would think the Americans would be more offended about Cameron's remarks about Guantanamo than anything else.
As regards the Iraq war I would hope than one day all those both Labour and Conservative who voted for the war would admit that they got it wrong.I expect I'll be waiting a long time!

Oh I don't know. Democracy was imposed at the barrel of a gun and, indeed, dropped from great height in Germany, Austria, Italy, Japan, probably a few others. Seems to have worked.

The neo-Cons were (or are) a phenomenon of the noughties.

Given that it's likely DC may not become PM until '10 this bit of 'branding' is entirely superfluous. Nobody, not even the most ardent Islington Trot, thinks DC is a neo-Con.

As to nicking the term liberal and appending it to Conservative, it makes about as much sense to the average punter as if DC called himself a Whig. It is all about semantics of course, but haven't we already won that battle? Isn't 'the brand' now decontaminated and surely we should be getting on with a program for government?

Oh, silly me, Francis Maude's in charge of that.

Oh bugger.

How easy it is to be confused by aims, means and results. This is apparent in the original piece by the Foreign Affairs Panel produced above. They have outlined the reasons why we intervened in Afghanistan and Iraq but in no circumstance did this include the imposition of democracy. They have merely adduced this result in their final judgement without any supporting arguments or rationale.
It would be unnecessarily restrictive anyway, if we said we would not deal with those nations that are not democracies by our standards. That would be self-limiting and dangerous, so what would be the point of starting some crusade to dictate to others how they should govern themselves? In any case, not everything that calls itself democracy has all that much to write home about. While I am far from being of the UKIP tendency, I understand their preoccupation with the anti-democratic way in which we are inexorably being drawn in front of the EU "democratic" steamroller, where the "demos," ie you and I, will have little or no say in how this will operate once we are finally in its thrall.
Cameron is right. There are many reasons to intervene abroad when it is in our national interest, but trying to impose so-called democracy is not a valid one.

Was Cameron criticising any involvement in Iraq? I don't think he was. Hasn't he said his leadership supports the Iraq campaign? From the report on here, at least, it seems Cameron may well have been saying with ConHome is urging him to say!

David Cameron's remarks appear to have been sensible and correct. The Bush/Blair view of the world has been shown to be wrong. Cameron must be free now to put that on record.

How he voted on the Iraq invasion is irrelevant at this time. He was voting on a dossier based on disinformation.

The fact that I was opposed to the Iraq adventure on practical grounds does not prevent me from welcoming Cameron's change of stance.

History, Tim, moves on - that is why it becomes history. The future is still before us and can be moulded.

Cameron's reference here, and his discussion of "liberal Conservatism" relate back to a speech he made in Berlin last year, in which he was explicit that the doctrine of liberal Conservatism was meant to be an alternative to that of liberal interventionism, specifically by being more sceptical about intervention. The doctrine is also supposed to involve being keener to work to acquire international consensus.

Thus, when Cameron says "We cannot drop democracy from 10,000 feet and we should not try", his previous remarks definitely indicate that he should be taken as saying that we should therefore sometimes not "drop anything from 10,000 feet", not that on those occasions we should seek to "drop something", just not democracy.

Liberal Conservatism is a selfish realist doctrine. Mercifully, I believe that Cameron would not act in this way in practice - can you really imagine Gove sitting there quietly in a realist cabinet?

There was nothing wrong with what Cameron was saying and, of course, it was in no way offensive to anyone (except Rumsfeld). The real issue here seems to be the opportunity for the UKIP/anti-Cameron brigade to invent more reasons to throw wobblers.

The likes of Henry Mayhew are talking absolute rubbish but the reason for the rubbish is not because they believe in it but because by writing it here they give Gordon et al a sound bite to say what "Tory grassroots" think. I suspect this sort farce is going to increase as the election draws nearer.


I am still waiting for you to explain to me the meaning of Mr Cameron's:

"I am sceptical of grand utopian schemes to re-make the world according to a politician’s timetable."

I am sure a man of your calibre is busy, but would you take the time to read my identifier as a ukipper before accusing me of passing myself off as an all-things-to-all-men Tory. Thank you.

"we also had to intervene in Iraq because Saddam Hussein was an unrepentant threat to the peace of the region and wider world."

Which alternate reality was that?

Liberal Conservatism is a 'selfish realist doctrine'. It may be realist it is certainly not selfish.
Moichael Gove is an intelligent man, he must realise that the age of neocon ideas died with Blair in Britain and are passing with Bush in the USA. Not before time.
I very much suspect that Cameron 'would act that way in practice' and that if any member of the cabinet sought to gainsay him they would be gone.The vast majority of the Shadow Cabinet are after all realist.

Afghanistan is one thing , Iraq is another and
"More controversially, we also had to intervene in Iraq because Saddam Hussein was an unrepentant threat to the peace of the region and wider world."

I do not agree. Saddam was an unpleasant piece of work (so are plenty of other dictators) but he was not a particular threat despite Blair's lies. With a bit of guile he might have been peacefully eliminated or at least neutralised, even made useful. Churchill said "jawjaw is better than warwar" and he was right.

Such a pragmatic and careful approach to foriegn affairs should be the hall mark of any Conservative administration and I suspect that this would appeal broadly to England. Don't know about the rest of the UK. Generally, an English adminsistration should endeavour as far as possible not to get involved in the endless quagmire of foreign affairs and certainly not go out seeking it. There is enough already that one cannot avoid.
I wish Mr Cameron would realise this. It might also be of note that the opposition are under no obligation whatsover to delve into foreign affairs. Leave it to the government.Bland platitudes will do nicely and this will also be the electorally sensible way forward.

Dave is just so cool. He's so au courant. I love his turns of phrase not to mention his bicycle. I wish I had his savoir faire and vivre. He is so cool I wonder if he would like to have been part of Tony Blair's generation or at least their heir. Perhaps he and Boris will make Eton Oxford and the Bullingdon cool again.

We're not hading Iraq over to democrats. We're handing it over to local war-lords and/or chosen religious fanatics. The war aims long since ceased to be the establishment of democracy and have become a face-saving exit.

I disagree. that's exactly what happened.

CAMERON IS A NEOCON because he accepts neocon premises as self-evident truths. He said yesterday that we should gear our foreign policy to ensure we protect Georgia's security 'through NATO' and 'enhance their prosperity' by inviting them into the EU. He also said the Russians had no right to be angry about being encircled. This is a man who has internalised the neocon ideology and doesn't notice it. He is dangerous and is not fit to be PM.

John W,

excellent use of that quote, it is a favourite of mine . I challenge anyone not to be moved by ending
of the film Charlie Wilson's War. The problem with iraq is not that we commited to war , but that we were not commited to the country soon enough.

i still find Bush's aim for a " global democratic revolution" inspiring if not entirely practical overnight. Cameron dissapoints me here, im with the editors.

Are the Liberal Conservatives a new political party?

What happened to the Conservative Party - are they extinct?

"I am sceptical of grand utopian schemes to re-make the world according to a politician’s timetable."


Surely Cameron was saying that democracy is something that is progressed issue by issue and country by country and not something imposed overnight by UN resolutions and invasions etc. Seems fair.

Er, I was suggesting you were a UKIPer antiCameron type. Anyway that's was I said, not an "all things to all men Tory."

Perhaps your speed reading of the contributions has suffered in the same way as reading Cameron's speech. Nice of you to suggest I'm a busy man.

"i still find Bush's aim for a " global democratic revolution" inspiring if not entirely practical overnight."

Language like 'global democratic revolution' should sound repellent to any conservative ears. It reveals a contempt and impatience with historical and cultural differences. It's an ideology, not quite as disgusting as internationalist socialism but an ideology nonetheless.

Cameron is absolutely right that we cannot export democracy at the barrel of a gun. It's just a shame he didn't apply that view when he voted to go to war in Iraq over Bliar's lies (supported by the ConHome editorial).

We need to be careful of revisiting Robin Cook's "ethical" foreign policy. Foreign policy should always be about self-interest. Pretending our foreign policy was based on ethics, benevolence or the projection of democracy led us to the unedifying situation of the sexed-up dossier in an attempt to fool us all into supporting the war. Sadly, many on here seem to have been taken in by Bliar's lies. George Bush may be a simpleton, but at least he was honest enough to go to war by invoking America's interests, only to be herded through the pathetic UN by Bliar desperate for some kind of ethical approval.

I actually think Cameron begins to understand this, which is why he took his time before engaging with Georgia, while avoiding sabre-rattling. The French, with Iraq, Iran and now Sarko's role in Georgia have shown the benefits of jaw-jaw, while we look like the sidekicks of Bush/Cheney, waiting for our instructions.

Thanks David. Apart from being a tortured, verbose, straw man, isn't that hypocritical from the creator of the A list? What exactly do you think you are supporting? I am not anti-anything, I believe in proven conservative principles.

If you re-read your previous post slowly you will see you state that I hope to pass my comments off as emanating from the Tory grass-roots. Not true at all. I am posting conservative points on a conservative discussion board.

The Cameroons make it up as they go along. First they tried to out Blair New Labour (heirs to Blair, standing ovations etc etc). Now the chickens have come to roost on both the domestic and international fronts they have the difficult task of addressing the world as it really is without appearing transparently opportunistic.

Just a further point to Henry Mayhew, I rather undersold my enthusiasm for Cameron's comments by saying "seems fair" to Cameron saying he is sceptical of grand utopian schemes. In fact Cameron's approach to democracy is the only way to do anything in this complicated world. You don't just "pull out of the EU" or promise specified tax cuts years before you are the government and, as Green points out elsewhere, you don't use big government with grand utopian schemes to solve the social problems of individuals.

A few reactions:

I just held back from describing the soundbite as offensive but I agree with Matthew Dear (08:28). It does come close to demeaning the work of our armed forces. I'm sure that wasn't the intention.

Victoria Street (09:05): No I'm not saying that democracy can be imposed from 10,000 feet. I'm saying that noone is and so why is David Cameron attacking a straw man? Many Americans and British soldiers have died because they are eyeball to eyeball with danger everyday.

John W (09:16): I can't think of what David Cameron is referring to if he doesn't mean us to think of Iraq.

ChrisD (09:28): Yes, Cameron has used this term before. I've never liked it.

James Maskell (09:30): I have never thought the actual existence of WMD was the key issue. Saddam's potential to create and use them was. It wouldn't have taken him long to rearm if he had won his end-2003 stand-off with the west. Saddam was the WMD.

Passing leftie (11:01): I believe supporters of the Iraq war have an extra responsibility to see things put right. That is why I supported the surge and regret my party's silence on the issue.

Malcolm (11:08): The Serbian bombing did work but it was to stop an aggression, not build something new.

Malcolm (13:18): "The vast majority of the Shadow Cabinet are after all realist." I hope not. Realpolitik has been tried in Pakistan and I am very worried where that nation is going...

Cleethorpes Rock (17:34): "The French, with Iraq, Iran and now Sarko's role in Georgia have shown the benefits of jaw-jaw, while we look like the sidekicks of Bush/Cheney, waiting for our instructions." What benefits? Iran is still on course to become a nuclear power. Russia fulfilled nearly all of its dastardly aims without meaningful censure.

I admire your willingness to upset the 'Roons Ed. They have a lot of work to do, almost certainly with a strengthened foreign policy team. Experience and philosophical depth can't be faked.

"Victoria Street (09:05): No I'm not saying that democracy can be imposed from 10,000 feet. I'm saying that noone is and so why is David Cameron attacking a straw man?"

The US, and hence us with them, saw the military invasion of Iraq as bringing them democracy; we have always been a little more pragmatic about introducing democracy. US military is substantially based on bombing, hence the term. I am sorry Tim I don't see what you are complaining about and there does not seem anyone being demeaned either.

What is so frustrating is that perfectly democratic organs exist in the arab world. As many will know, they are called Majlis. The system is that everyone is a member of a small tribe with its own majlis or discussion lounge at which a sheikh presides. He represents the tribe at the majlis of the sheikh of a larger tribe and so on. This works very well in conjunction with the theory of equality present in Islam, which, of course, means submission by all to God.

Western democracy is being tried in Kuwait, Bahrain, and famously, Iraq, and has brought with it all sorts of storms that are possibly rather unnecesary given the ethnic diversity of the 'countries'.

I reckon we would have a lot less mental illness in this country if we had a local majlis system. Before making ignorant comments please reflect on the fact that our concept of chivalry comes from arab culture through the invasion of Europe (to Tours in France). Sheriff is Sharif, admiral is emir al bahr 'commander of the seas', algebra is al jabr, alcohol is al guol. A large part of our civilisation is based on arab islamic culture, but we are too ignorant and proud to know that, aren't we?

Even Barack Obama would not say such a stupid thing.

Our political leaders know to always salute the bravery of the military.

I was out on the road in Iraq. Each day we worried about roadside bombs and snipers.

We walked through the streets wondering if someone would shoot from unfriendly windows.

We handed chocolates to children.

We played ballgames.

We did not try to impose democracy from 10000 feet but on our feet day by day by day.

My best friend lost his legs.

David Cameron does not know what he is talking about.

Henry I can't keep up with all these different titles you've got!! I see you are now the Emir of UKIP - does this mean you will be making a speech to the Red Squirrels of Bournemouth?

Tim, the problem is not so much Cameron's use of words, but more the fact he does not share your world view on Foreign policy.

Please don't try and use the desperate excuse that this is about undermining or offending our troops, its not, its about undermining and offending those on the right who favour that type of intervention.

Chris: Please tell me which serious figure has been arguing that we can impose democracy from 10,000 feet and I'll then agree that it was a worthy soundbite...

'why is David Cameron attacking a straw man?'

Exactly right Tim. David Cameron is attacking an extremist caricature of the 'neo-con' position that no-one would want to support, and which cannot be applied to any of the NATO or US military actions in recent years.
In Bosnia and Kosovo the bombing of Serb military targets was to deter aggression and stop ethnic cleansing.
In Iraq it was accompanied by ground forces to overthrow the government of Saddam Hussein, in response to his invasion of Kuwait and failure to keep to the terms of the peace treaty of 1991.
I cannot think of a single case in which 'imposing democracy from 10,000 feet' has been either advocated or attempted.
What concerns me is whether David Cameron will have the guts to stand up to latter day Milosevics or Saddam Husseins when they attempt ethnic cleansing or territorial aggression, or will he resort to the excuses for inaction such as the 'moral equivalence' which was shamefully applied by the Major government to the Bosnian crisis, or a reliance on 'international mediation' by the hopeless and pathetic UN and EU ?

"What concerns me is whether David Cameron will have the guts to stand up to latter day Milosevics or Saddam Husseins when they attempt ethnic cleansing or territorial aggression"

I believe he will! Don't forget that DC isn't acting alone - he has a great team with people of experience such as Pauline Neville-Jones.

Pauline Neville-Jones was nicknamed 'Pauline Neville Chamberlain' by the Americans in the 1990's for the leading role she played in the appeasement of the Serbs in Bosnia, so I'm afraid I have no confidence in her ability to stiffen David Cameron's spine. Thank goodness it looks increasingly likely that John McCain will be elected the next US President - someone who certainly knows how to face and overcome evil in the world.

As others have said it's not the first time David Cameron has used this term - the following is an extract from a speech he gave to the Conservative Middle East Council's annual dinner, a speech which was very well recieved,
"Let me say a word about the approach we will take to foreign policy more broadly. I have said that our approach to foreign affairs will be both liberal and conservative. Liberal – because Britain must be open and engaged with the world, and play our full part in making that world a better place for the rest of humanity. So we will support human rights and champion the cause of democracy and the rule of law at every opportunity. But our policy will also be conservative – hard-headed and practical, dealing with the world as it is and not as we wish it was. We want a better world – but we will be sceptical of grand utopian schemes to re-make the world. Above all we understand that nurturing democratic governance and the rule of law takes time, that democracy cannot be dropped out of an aircraft at 10,000 feet."

The rest of the speech can be read here: http://www.cmec.org.uk/images/stories/cmec/pdfs/david-cameron-speech-100608.pdf

I personally cannot see how anyone can take issue to what he is saying, Cameron is acknowledging that simply dropping bombs does not bring about change. A fact we must surely have learnt from Iraq, where it is painfully obvious that military force alone does not bring about democracy.

Just because he has used the soundbite twice doesn't make it any less silly and offensive - or unoriginal.

The comments to this entry are closed.



ConHome on Twitter

    follow me on Twitter

    Conservative blogs

    Today's public spending saving

    New on other blogs

    • Receive our daily email
      Enter your details below:

    • Tracker 2
    • Extreme Tracker