The Corner

Re: Foreign Affairs Experience

Since Andy has more or less invited me to second his comment on foreign policy “experience,” let me do so. He’s broadly right. Mrs. Thatcher had little experience of foreign policy on becoming Tory party leader. She knew it and immediately contacted those experts whose general outlook she trusted. Robert Conquest was, I think, the first such expert she recruited, and she continued to see him regularly during and after her premiership. She also asked the historian Hugh Thomas, now Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, to get together a group of like-minded foreign policy people whom she consulted as a kind of counterweight to Foreign Office caution. From her second term onwards she relied very heavily on the advice of Charles Powell, an independent-minded Foreign Office official who combined diplomatic expertise with firm opinions similar to those of his boss. And, knowing her own original lack of expertise, she threw herself into mastering the full range of international issues. Of course, it helped that she was extremely brilliant, hard-working, initially cautious but decisive, tough-minded, brave, and determined.

So, yes Andy, you can start out by not being experienced in foreign policy. The test then becomes: Show me your advisors and I will tell you what you are.

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