Has the West Gone Soft?

By Lord Powell of Bayswater
Chairman, Atlantic Partnership
Thursday, 19 June 2014

“Has the West gone soft?” That is the question I and others were asked to address yesterday at the Margaret Thatcher Conference on Liberty, hosted by the Centre for Policy Studies – and given recent events in Iraq, it is a question that is more urgent than ever.

It was always unavoidable that, as the power and capability of other nations rose, ours would fall in relative terms. But there has also been an avoidable decline in the West’s will to act – in short, our backbone. There is none of the passion, none of the moral sense that inspired foreign policy in the time of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. We are not driven by the desire to see freedom triumph. We can’t articulate the need to respond to the challenges we face, and, as a result, we can’t make the sacrifices that have to be made if our global needs are to be advanced.

Of course, today’s international environment is rather different from that in which Baroness Thatcher operated. I am not sure if she would have taken Britain into the second Iraq war, but I suspect she would have done, if with the limited aim of getting rid of Saddam and getting out – in the same way that she supported Reagan’s bombing of Libya because “that is what allies are for”. She would have supported our more recent intervention in Libya, and I am sure she would have backed retribution against Syria. But on Ukraine, I doubt she would have done more or else than the Government now.

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Further remarks made by Lord Powell at the Liberty2014 conference are available here.