“Debased Realism” and “selective opposition to tyranny”

George Eaton at The New Statesman has an interesting post on the shift in Prime Minister Cameron’s rhetoric.  Gone is the explicit realism of 2006.  Cameron is now “a full-blown convert to liberal interventionism”.  Yet this rhetorical shift is not enough for Eaton.  He wants an end to the government’s ‘selective opposition to tyranny’, and he cites British policy toward the Gulf states as an example of policy inconsistency.  This begs the question of how far Eaton would go in the name of policy inconsistency?

There’s a hint in his nice phrase ‘debased realism’.  To maintain relations with autocracies for the purpose of an economic growth agenda based on arms exports is ‘debased’.   This implies that there can be another form of realism, one that is less selfish; one that has the interests of the repressed in mind, as well as the national interest; and one that might reach a similar conclusion to the government, which is that western-led regime change is not always appropriate.  

I agree that a profitable arms industry at the expense of the repressed is a debase form of realism.  The additional point, however, is that there is more than one way to oppose tyranny and more than one realism. Policy inconsistency might not always be wrong.

About Jason Ralph

Jason Ralph, Professor of International Relations, University of Leeds
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