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Conclusion 329

Given this, we can return to an evaluation of British strategic foreign
policy. Before doing so, it is necessary to recapitulate just what were its
goals and how they were to be achieved. In general, British aims were
quite straightforward and easily defined. The British wished to manage
the status quo. However, that should not be read as meaning that they
were opposed to any changes to it. In fact, as British policy towards both
China and India made clear, London was determined to bring British
policy more in line with the new sensibilities of the post-war period. Nor
was this determination confined to the British Empire. The British
shaped their European policy “ to the chagrin of many among the
´
foreign-policy making elite who were not convinced that the millennium
had arrived “ in the context of the new world order of which the League
of Nations was only the most obvious manifestation. What the British
opposed was unnegotiated change, whether this was brought about by
unilateral action, as in the case of German rearmament, or by force of
arms, such as Japan™s advances in Manchuria or Italy™s depredations in
Abyssinia. As to means, the British preferred to pursue what they termed
a ˜general settlement™, what would now be called a ˜multi-lateral™ ap-
proach. This could take the form of either collective security through the
League or Locarno-style pacts whose mutual guarantees were deemed to
be compatible with the Covenant.
With these aims and means in minds, we must now look at the two
major periods “ those of ˜persuasion™ and of ˜deterrence™ “ in British
strategic foreign policy. The period of ˜persuasion™ was relatively
straightforward, as British ˜soft™ power was sufficient to maintain their
vision of the new world order, although with respect to economics and
finances they required American assistance. Looking at the policy of
successive foreign secretaries makes this evident. Curzon, whose mental
outlook was pre-war and imperial, pursued a policy designed to enlarge
the British Empire while bringing an end to the lingering conflicts
spawned by the Great War and the collapse of the Russian Empire.
MacDonald attempted to follow a liberal internationalist course. He
hoped to bring Soviet Russia back into the comity of nations, taming it
with the liberal panacea of trade while pursuing arms limitation gener-
ally. He had only limited success, at least in part due to the shortness of
his time in office. His successor, Austen Chamberlain, had more success.
Chamberlain ignored Soviet Russia as much as possible, pursuing a


War™, in B. J. C. McKercher and D. J. Moss, eds., Shadow and Substance in British
Foreign Policy, 1895“1939. Memorial Essays Honouring C. J. Lowe (Edmonton, Alberta,
1984), 19“56, and Neilson, Britain and the Last Tsar, xi“xii. For ˜unspoken assumptions™
see James Joll, 1914. The Unspoken Assumptions (London, 1967).
330 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order

policy of ˜aloofness™ towards it. More generally, he maximized Britain™s
˜soft™ power through leadership of the League, and found a typical
British compromise to get round the difficulties caused by the fact that
Franco-German relations could not be normalized by any of the vague
expedients that liberal internationalism permitted. He did this by man-
aging to marry the tenets of liberal internationalism with ˜old diplomacy™
through the Locarno agreements. These provided a halfway house: they
provided concrete guarantees in the fashion of pre-1914 alliances, but
were seen as a means to prevent conflicts rather than something that
would cause them. However, Chamberlain™s success rested on shifting
sands. The Locarno agreements were effective only if there was never
any need for them to be honoured. The benign international situation
that had permitted them to be reached was fragile, and collapsed in 1929
with the world economic crisis. Labour™s brief effort to renew its liberal
internationalist foreign policy had several successes “ the renewal of
relations with Soviet Russia, the signing of a Temporary Commercial
Agreement with it and the London Naval Conference “ but its grip on
domestic power was brief and the international situation was rapidly
changing. By the end of 1933, the new order created in 1919 had
collapsed, and new regimes, implacably hostile to the status quo were in
power in Italy, Germany, Japan and Soviet Russia.
This ushered in the period of ˜deterrence™, wherein ˜hard™ power
ruled. From 1933 to mid-1937, British strategic foreign policy lacked
any intellectual coherence. The underpinnings of liberal international-
ism were shattered, and Austen Chamberlain™s Locarno halfway house
was unable to be replicated in other regions. General disarmament
collapsed for good in 1934. Naval disarmament continued at the 1935
conference. But, while that gathering was successful in ameliorating
American suspicions of British good faith, Japan™s withdrawal from it
marked a final breakdown of efforts at even naval arms limitation. With
the League increasingly irrelevant “ Germany™s and Italy™s withdrawals
underlining this point “ the British were left searching for a replacement
means to guarantee their new world order. This led to a series of half-
measures. Rearmament was begun by the Defence Requirements Sub-
Committee, but its breadth was curtailed due to financial exigencies, and
its approach was warped by Neville Chamberlain™s misunderstanding of
strategic and technological issues. Hesitant moves were made towards
alliances and agreements “ the Stresa front and the Anglo-Soviet loan
discussions of 1935“6 “ but abandoned.
This muddle was exacerbated by the impact of personalities. Sir John
Simon was ill suited to be foreign secretary. As one acute observer
recalled, Simon ˜approached foreign affairs like a legal case: you fought
Conclusion 331

the case, won or lost it, and that was the end of the matter. But foreign
affairs are not like that; little if anything is finally put to rest.™27 Simon™s
approach and mentality were more suited to a world in which legalities
were both respected and the norm in international affairs. This was not
the case during his time in office. Simon was also under the influence of
Neville Chamberlain. As a result, in 1934, efforts were made to move
Britain closer to Japan, something resulting from the Treasury™s belief
that this would both limit the need for naval expenditure and moderate
Japan™s ambitions in East Asia. This was ill advised, as the Foreign Office
made clear. Japan™s aims in East Asia involved the elimination of Brit-
ain™s position there. And, importantly, any rapprochement with Japan
meant a worsening in Anglo-American and Anglo-Soviet relations. With
Simon™s having no ideas of his own and no drive, British policy floun-
dered.28
This might have been repaired when Hoare became foreign secretary.
While he initially supported the Treasury™s ongoing attempt to improve
Anglo-Japanese relations by supporting the Leith-Ross mission, Hoare
soon learned the folly of doing so. And he was willing to approach Soviet
Russia despite his ideological antipathy to it. But events cut Hoare™s
career short, and he was replaced by Anthony Eden. Eden™s tenure in
office was largely a failure. This fact resulted from a number of things.
First, he still clung to the ideas of internationalism, a legacy of his time at
Geneva. Second, he was vain, inexperienced and ambitious. Eden™s
desire to be liked was not always an advantage: ˜Can your foreign
secretary frown?™, a senior Conservative peer asked Baldwin, ˜can he
rap the table?™29 Third, Eden was unwilling to deal with the dictators due
to his personal dislike of them, and he much preferred to put his eggs in
the basket of co-operation with the United States. These latter predilec-
tions would not necessarily have led to bad foreign policy had Eden
remained in office, but they were certainly bad politics, for Neville
Chamberlain, when he became prime minister, was determined to treat
with Mussolini and had no confidence in Roosevelt. The result was
Eden™s resignation, something that many attributed as much to personal
pique as to policy differences.

27
Frank Roberts, Dealing with Dictators. The Destruction and Revival of Europe 1930“1970
(London, 1991), 11.
28
Sir William Tyrrell, the British ambassador to France, was reported as saying ˜that he
could not waste his time on John Simon, since he had discovered that “you could load
him, but he never fired”™: ibid.
29
Crawford diary entry 22 Mar 1937, in John Vincent, ed., The Crawford Papers. The
Journals of David Lindsay Twenty-Seventh Earl of Crawford and Tenth Earl of Balcarres
1871“1940 During the Years 1892 to 1940 (Manchester, 1984), 578.
332 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order

The ˜deterrence™ period of British strategic foreign policy under
Chamberlain was not muddled. Instead, it followed a remorseless
pattern shaped by Chamberlain™s own mentality and logic. In Chamber-
lain™s approach, Soviet Russia was largely irrelevant and often a nuis-
ance. If Britain lacked sufficient power to attain its ends, Chamberlain
argued, then the number of enemies must be reduced. His long-pre-
ferred method “ squaring the Japanese “ was prevented by events: the
attack on Knatchbull-Hugessen and the ferocity and brutality of the
Japanese campaign in China. But there was another opponent that he
believed could be won over: Italy. Here, Chamberlain was duped by
Dino Grandi, and the mirage of an Anglo-Italian understanding con-
tinued to retreat into the distance, although the attempt to follow it was
never abandoned. Chamberlain™s efforts to buy off Germany by means of
economic appeasement and colonial concessions reflected just what a gap
there was between his businessman™s mentality, in which bargains were
made on the basis of a careful calculation of mutual advantage, and that of
Hitler, whose notions of Volk, Lebensraum and Weltmacht rested on intel-
lectual foundations completely separate from those of Adam Smith, the
Manchester School and the imperial preference of Chamberlain™s
father.30
Chamberlain™s conceit, contempt for his advisers and his genuine
hatred of war combined to make him keep the control of British strategic
foreign policy firmly in his own hands. Chamberlain disliked the idea of
alliances. He realized that joining with the French, whom he disliked and
did not trust, would mean that Britain might be dragged into war by the
actions of Paris. Here, the Franco-Soviet Pact was anathema, for, if
London were linked with Paris, this extended Britain™s liabilities even
further and potentially put the decision for war or peace into the hands
of the Bolsheviks. And, as the negotiations with Soviet Russia in 1939
revealed, the mental and moral gap between the two states was too wide
to be bridged. The fact that Chamberlain honoured his pledge to Poland
in September puts paid to the argument that Stalin was right to be
suspicious of British sincerity, and underlines the fact that the Anglo-
Soviet talks collapsed because of Soviet intransigence and a lack of
common interests between the two states.
British strategic foreign policy from 1919 to 1939 was distinguished
by the disappointment of great expectations. Those who had hoped for
the dawning of a new era after the Great War found that the new world
order created in 1919 was a fragile one incapable of dealing with the

30
For them, see Andrew J. Crozier, Appeasement and Germany™s Last Bid for Colonies
(Basingstoke and London, 1988), 207“40.
Conclusion 333

stern realities of international politics. The new Jerusalem that many had
hoped to build to redeem and to justify the sacrifices of the First World
War did not come about. Instead, the clash of ideas that was such a
feature of the inter-war period became a clash of arms. This was not the
fault of the British, nor merely the result of their flawed policies or
strategies. Rather, it was due to the actions of others, including Stalin,
who refused to accept the new world order. As the British discovered,
the pursuit of peace still depended on power.
Appendix I


A S S I S TA N T A N D D E P U T Y U N D E R S E C R E TA R I E S , F O R E I G N
OFFICE, 1919“1939
(excluding establishment, finance and legal)
A. Assistant undersecretaries

Dates of service
Name

15 Jan 1935“3 Aug 1937
Craigie, Robert Leslie
11 Jan 1912“1920
Crowe, Eyre
30 May 1938“?
Douglas-Scott, D. J. M.
1 Nov 1916“1919
Graham, Ronald W.
1 May 1925“1928
Gregory, John Duncan
1 Jan 1921“2 Feb 1924
Lindsay, Ronald C.
1 Aug 1922“31 Aug 1930
Montgomery, C. H.
15 Jul 1929“1939
Mounsey, George Augustus
30 Apr 1930“1939
Oliphant, Lancelot
14 Aug 1933“10 Sept 1939
Sargent, Orme Garton
11 Sept 1939“1943
Strang, William
1 Oct 1918“30 Apr 1925
Tyrrell, William G.
2 Feb 1924“30 Apr 1925
Wellesley, Victor A. A. H.


B. Deputy undersecretaries

Dates of service
Name

1 Oct 1937“31 Dec 1937
Cadogan, Alexander M. G.
1 Sept 1930“1933
Montgomery, C. Hubert
1 Mar 1936“1939
Oliphant, Lancelot
11 Sept 1939“1946
Sargent, Orme Garton
1 May 1925“1 Oct 1936
Wellesley, Victor A. A. H.




334
Appendix II




HEADS OF CENTRAL, FAR EASTERN AND NORTHERN
D E PA R T M E N T S , F O R E I G N O F F I C E , 1 9 2 3 “ 1 9 3 9
(prior to 1923, department heads are not indicated)
A. Central Department

Name Dates of service

Lampson, Miles W. 1923“Oct 1926
Sargent, Orme Garton Oct 1926“Aug 1933
Wigram, Ralph F. Aug 1933“Dec 1936
Strang, William Dec 1936“11 Sept 1939
Kirkpatrick, Ivonne 11 Sept 1939“8 Apr 1940

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