Mad, or just a Mad Man?

How our United Kingdom acts on the world stage is a subject of much interest not only to the subjects of our country, but to those many foriegn citizens who are affected by the momentous ripples of the sixth largest economy in the world. As such, to understate the importance of the United Kingdom’s actions on the world stage in the modern age would be to signal a myopic outlook equivalent to that of Cameron holding a referendum on membership of the EU so as to quieten Europsceptics. Given the responsibility that rests on the shoulders of our nation, it remains a task of as great importance as ever to enquire as to the outwards facing behaviour of our prime political movers, such as Boris and his Cabinet. 

The recently halted strategy of our government was one of true Conservative reserve and restraint, harkening back to an age when Tory politicians recommended a firm but remote hand on foreign policy, and did much abhor the European tendencies to give in to rash and jingoist dialogue. The issue it suffered from, however, was a lack of direction. Whilst I do agree that it would be quite swell to be “Strong and Stable”, merely wishing it to be so does not constitute much of a policy.

In comparison, the strategy so far adopted by the Boris team is unabashedly headstrong. We all know that looming issue of the past three years, and Boris’ new take on it: we must leave the Union of Europe, deal or no. He betrays no doubt, and although considering a deal a great desideratum, the government has clearly shown that they are willing to entertain the possibility of crashing out of the EU. Furthermore, they even show evidence of preparing for such a sudden event, with billions of pounds sterling dedicated to this end very recently.

This new message has little time to go stale in a similar fashion to its predecessor. Whilst a great political boon, what we risk in missing the approaching deadlines on international treaties are slightly more serious than what I risk in missing my essay deadlines. The economic good of millions of people could be on the line, and we must seriously consider how we can justify our current do-or-die approach. Perhaps politicians like Boris, and like Trump, who refuse to back down are merely foolhardy, or trying to save face - when frankly their visage would be a cheap price to pay for the good of the nation.

To condemn without proper consideration would be far too hasty. Sometimes political negotiation is not so simple, and on the political stage, every single moment is broadcast to big players who one day may hold a key to something you require. To state upfront that something is important to you is to admit that you are willing to pay a lot for it, and hence to allow those in possession to take more than they are owed in payment. The flip side of this coin is the aversion to loss; as such, if one acts as though one is willing to harm oneself in order to harm another, the other is less likely to admit of any provocation.

So were Nixon’s thoughts formulated in his ‘Mad Man’ theory: if he seemed willing to act to the US’ own detriment in international affairs, and to give away only the minimum required to secure his desires, then the US would hopefully acquire the most beneficial of agreements by those fearful of the consequences if they did not settle immediately. This too seems to be how Trump’s international policy stands, and to some extent, how the policy of our own Boris rests. 

This could suggest that the bullish approach to negotiation by our current government is nothing more than a bluff. I cannot say for sure; if we do end up gaining due to the new front put on, then I have little choice but to rejoice. I can say for certain that this approach looks much more likely to yield fruit than any which would have been attempted by a certain Corbyn, who understands so little of the practical arts and subtleties of a politicians role, that he stated that he would never authorise a retaliatory nuclear attack - a statement which would cost so little to bluff, and could help form a disincentive disaster of literally world ending proportions.

In our very immediate future, I hope that we do not lose our game of chicken for the sake of us all, and that if we do, that Johnson turns out to be more politically adept at swerving than his stature suggests.

Ben Hack (Publications Editor, Ex-Committee Member, Balliol College) is an undergraduate in his first year of reading Computer Science and Philosophy.