Lord Salisbury: A Model for Aspiring Imperialists

Lord Salisbury: A Model for Aspiring Imperialists

Mini Teaser: Perhaps Lord Salisbury's most useful and permanent lesson, lies in the particular nature of his patriotism and of his conduct of foreign policy.

by Author(s): Anatol Lieven

To recommend Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil (1830-1903)--third Marquis and twenty-third Earl of Salisbury and three times prime minister of Great Britain--to contemporary American leaders as a role model may well seem quixotic, given the immense cultural difference between him and them. If brought face to face, they would probably find him quite incomprehensible. For his part, Salisbury would find them--well, his opinions of both America and democracy were rather harshly expressed 140 years ago, and it is unlikely that he would think that things had improved in the meantime.

Nonetheless, the recommendation is worth making, for the combinations of vast apparent strength with great difficulties in actually mobilizing and using that strength, and of enormous world prestige with equally great world resentment of that prestige that characterized the British Empire of the later nineteenth century are not without their echoes in the U.S. world hegemony of today.

There were other problems with which Salisbury had to deal that should evoke sympathy from an American statesman of today: one was the tendency of nineteenth-century British public opinion to swing wildly between interventionism and isolationism in its attitude to the outside world; another, the tendency of military experts and professional geopoliticians vastly to exaggerate both the scale and the permanence of security threats from particular rival nations--and in consequence, to try to tie Britain into rigid alliances with what turned out later to be exactly the wrong set of countries. Then again there was the tendency of powerful domestic lobby groups to commit themselves with blind moral fervor to one side or another in disputes between other nations (though British foreign policy was at least spared the baleful impact of domestic ethnic lobbies in the service of foreign states). And finally, there was the tendency, familiar to any observer of American foreign policy, for parts of the foreign policy establishment to try to drag the country into international commitments far beyond what the people were prepared to fight or pay for.

Perhaps Salisbury's most useful and permanent lesson, however, lies in the particular nature of his patriotism and of his conduct of foreign policy, which in turn were rooted in his personal character and religious sense. These moral qualities made his policies as distinct from the ruthless realpolitik of Bismarck (or, some would say, Kissinger) as they were from the sentimental-liberal-humanitarian-democratic effusions of his day and ours. His hatred of diplomatic lies and tricks, of secret treaties, as well as of unnecessary violence is striking in a "realpolitiker", and is a reminder that realism can be combined with conscience and honor.

It is Salisbury's very unusual combination of realism and morality, cynicism and principle that helps make his record of enduring value to would-be statesmen. His moral sense was backed up by a powerful and above all an independent and skeptical intellect, and his clear-sighted detachment from the dominant ideological shibboleths of his time would be striking in a politician of any period. On the one hand, he was highly skeptical of the benefits supposedly guaranteed by democracy, economic "progress", and unrestricted national self-determination; on the other, though he was resolutely committed to the defense of the British Empire, he wrote with contempt of the hypocrisy and theft that characterized much of Western (including British) imperialism. Such detachment is a quality that U.S. statesmen would do well to cultivate. For a constant danger to clear analysis and prediction by U.S. diplomats today is not so much that they echo in public the pious platitudes of their leaders about the state of the world--it is that so many otherwise intelligent and able officials actually believe them.

For Aristocracy

Salisbury's capacity for detachment was in part due to his birth into the highest ranks of the aristocracy. Salisbury was the last British prime minister to sit in the House of Lords, where the founder of his house, Lord Burghley, had sat as Elizabeth I's chief minister 250 years earlier. However, as a younger son he was far from wealthy, and he only succeeded to the Salisbury title and estate at the age of thirty-eight as the result of the death of his elder brother. Until then, he had supported himself largely from journalism, as his father had given him no financial support after he contracted a non-aristocratic (though respectable) marriage. On the other hand, family connections were responsible for his entry into the House of Commons in 1853 as Conservative MP for a "pocket borough" controlled by his cousin, Lord Exeter.

His election was unopposed--which was just as well, because although he later showed himself to be a superbly effective leader and organizer of electoral campaigns, a mixture of aristocratic pride, chronic shyness, and profound honesty meant that Lord Salisbury hated the very idea of begging or bribing people for their votes. His feelings about this are so out of key with contemporary touchy-feely political behavior as to sound positively bizarre--which gives them a certain moral shock value. His daughter and biographer, Lady Gwendolen Cecil, wrote of "his dislike of manifestations of popular applause. . . . He could not believe in their genuineness, and he classed the motives which induced men to seek after him or cheer him with those which drew them round the last monstrosity in a showman's booth." She sums up his inability to stir mass emotions and attract political support on those terms in words that could stand as the memorial for a particular English upper and middle-class tradition, to which the symbolic death blow was surely given by the schwaermerei following the death of Princess Diana: "Though by no means without strong emotions of his own, his incapacity or his dislike for displaying them made them rarely if ever contagious. This was particularly the case with his moral emotions to which he rarely if ever gave public expression. When such reserve was criticised in his presence he defended it by asking whether his critics would consent to appear naked before their fellows--'there is a sense of moral decency which is quite as natural and defensible as the sense of physical decency.'"

Although himself a very good public speaker, Salisbury greatly distrusted public rhetoric. He wrote almost admiringly in the Quarterly Review of how Lord Castlereagh--the great foreign minister during and immediately after the Napoleonic Wars, and Salisbury's own role model--was a hopelessly bad public speaker: "The House [of Commons] had been strung by danger to a higher tone than that of literary fastidiousness. It looked in its leaders for something more sterling than the glitter of eloquence; and it was content to condone the metaphors over which Lord Brougham and Mr. Moore made themselves so merry. Lord Brougham has himself confessed in later times that those who held Lord Castlereagh cheap on account of his style of speaking, cast rather a reproach upon representative government, which ranks eloquence so high among a Statesman's qualifications, than upon him."

Salisbury's fundamental distrust of democracy made him at first a leading opponent of the decision of the Conservative government under Benjamin Disraeli to introduce the 1867 Reform Bill widening the electorate. He resigned as secretary of state for India in protest against this initiative, but returned to the same post after the Conservative election victory seven years later. In 1878, he was made foreign secretary at the height of the international crisis resulting from the Russo-Turkish War--which he helped prevent becoming as well an Anglo-Russian War--and held this post until the Conservative defeat in 1880. On Disraeli's death, he became joint leader of the Conservative Party (with Sir Stafford Northcote), and in 1885, after defeating Gladstone and the Liberals, he formed his first government as prime minister. He also kept for himself the post of foreign secretary, which he was to retain in his subsequent governments.

Salisbury is best remembered for presiding over a vast expansion of the British Empire in Africa, though as far as his own motives were concerned, this expansion was not for its own sake but to forestall rival European empires and to defend existing possessions, especially in India and Egypt. Indeed, as J.A.S. Grenville reminds us, he referred frequently to the pointlessness of acquiring "malarious African deserts."

At the time, the period of his ascendancy was dubbed that of the British Empire's "splendid isolation", and has been seen in retrospect as the very apogee of British power and self-confidence. But, in reality, throughout these last decades of the nineteenth century British policymakers were frightened (often indeed irrationally terrified) of external threats, and from the mid-1890s on the decline of British economic power relative to that of Germany and the United States became a constant theme of public debate. Salisbury was prime minister in 1897, at the time of that greatest ever display of British imperial splendor, Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. But only two years later the initial British defeats in the Boer War revealed deep weaknesses both in the British army and in the Empire's capacity for military mobilization--weaknesses that were to appear again in both the world wars of the twentieth century. In 1902, shortly before his retirement, Salisbury (who was never an isolationist and knew that Britain always had to interest itself in European developments and dangers) heralded the end of "splendid isolation" by drawing up a treaty with Japan, the first of the international commitments that in 1914 were to help take Britain into the major European war that he had worked all his life to prevent.

At home, under his leadership, the Conservatives were to control the government for all but four of the twenty years from 1885 to 1905. It was this period that laid the basis for the Conservatives' subsequent image (in their own eyes and to some extent in reality) as Britain's "natural party of government", founded in their ability to appeal to a mass electorate on the basis of patriotism (and imperialism), low taxes, public order, traditional morality, and a combination of support for moderate progressive measures (mass education and the beginnings of social welfare) and opposition to radical reforms. A stereotypical view of Salisbury has him as "the aloof, sceptical inheritor of a great name and a famous house, standing rock-like in the advancing tide of democracy." In fact, the domestic record of the governments over which he presided is more an example of how an apparently hopeless conservative rearguard action, if carried out with sufficient courage, skill, and flexibility, can in the end become the vanguard of a victorious new advance.

Against Ireland

The Conservative Party, however, triumphed above all because of its opposition to Home Rule for Ireland. Gladstone had swung round to support for Home Rule in 1885, splitting the Liberals and sending a large portion of them into Salisbury's camp in the process. While most of the great political controversies in which Salisbury was involved have long since vanished, the Conservatives' ruthlessly successful campaign against Home Rule remains bitterly controversial to this day--and understandably so, given the bloody character of the century of Irish history that has followed. With hindsight, it is easy to argue that while Salisbury may well have been right in thinking that Home Rule would inevitably lead sooner or later to Irish independence, civil war, and the fatal undermining of the British Empire, nothing could in fact have been worse for Britain or Ireland than the rebellions and ethnic and political strife that actually occurred from 1916 on.

Nonetheless, one's judgment of Salisbury's policy depends largely on whether one believes that the Protestant Unionists of Ulster were so violently opposed to domination by Irish Gaelic Catholics that they would have fought against Home Rule even if abandoned by all the main parties in London. As Conor Cruise O'Brien and others have pointed out, Irish nationalists have always preferred to believe that the Ulster Protestant political identity, in its anti-Catholic and anti-Irish nationalist aspect, was simply the product of "manipulation" from London. But as I have myself pointed out in these pages, such manipulation, while all too real in this as in other cases, can only work if the material for it is already present.

Salisbury's own views on the subject are worth quoting because they challenge a fundamental set of interlinked American beliefs of our own time, beliefs which have thoroughly befuddled U.S. analyses of several important developments and helped fund an infinity of "International Relations" seminars: that national self-determination is an absolute right rather than one that needs to be heavily qualified by other competing considerations, including minority rights, internal stability, and international security; that democracy automatically leads to international peace; that democratic institutions in and of themselves contribute to harmony between different ethnic groups living in the same territory; and that the natural course of every nation's history, when not diverted by wicked individuals, is toward a frictionless free market democracy. This optimistic faith is useful in that it is an important source of American international self-confidence and is a key part of U.S. ideological hegemony--just as in Salisbury's time a British belief in the superiority of their institutions and culture was an indispensable foundation of empire. It is, however, often a very poor key indeed to understanding what is actually happening in the world. In Salisbury's own memorable words: "The optimist view of politics assures us that there must be some remedy for every political ill, and rather than not find it, it will make two hardships to cure one. [But] is it not just conceivable that there is no remedy that we can apply to the Irish hatred of ourselves? That other loves or hates may possibly elbow it out of the Irish peasant's mind, but nothing we can do by any contrivance will hasten the advent of that period. . . . There is no precedent, either in our history or in any other, to teach us that political measures can conjure away hereditary antipathies which are fed by constant agitation. The free institutions which sustain the life of a free and united people, sustain also the hatreds of a divided people."

The fact that Salisbury himself might well be accused of contributing to the "constant agitation" on the other side does not diminish the force of his argument. Moreover, it could well be argued that the contemporary peace process in Northern Ireland bears out his words. Formally, the critical factor in its tenuous success has been its quasi-democratic constitutional provisions, intended to secure the interests of both communities (but guaranteed in the end not by democratic elections but by British military power). Far more important in reality, however, have been the gradual cultural and social changes of recent decades--due above all to economic development in the Republic of Ireland--which have gradually undermined traditional loyalties, stereotypes, and hatreds. Whatever the mistakes and occasional crimes of British rule over the past two decades, British forces did at least prevent civil war and "held the ring" while these positive changes occurred.

Against Humbug

Salisbury's words about "Irish peasants" might suggest a stereotypical English colonialist bigot, but in the context of his time nothing could be further from the truth. In nineteenth-century Britain, it was usually not the aristocracy but the most "liberal" and "progressive" politicians who were most ruthless in their attitudes toward "backward" peoples and states, to British treaty obligations, and to traditional diplomatic restraints and conventions. This was precisely because their belief in their own righteousness made it impossible for them to imagine that any opposing state or people could have legitimate interests at all, or that traditions and laws could take precedence over their vision of morality and progress as carried on the back of British military and economic hegemony. The arrogance and hypocrisy to which this habit of mind gave rise contributed more than anything else to the hatred directed so widely against England--a fact that contemporary Americans would do very well to ponder.

Salisbury himself was too genuinely skeptical and honest a thinker to entertain any automatic belief in British righteousness. As a conservative nobleman convinced--with reason--that his own world was gradually sinking under him, he had an instinctive sympathy for defeated traditional peoples. In his early journalism, he repeatedly denounced the atrocities and land-grabbing by white settlers in New Zealand and North America in the name of "Christianity" and "progress." He wrote scathingly that, "Seizing a coloured man's land and giving it to a white man is an operation now generally known as the progress of colonisation." Again: "[The settlers in New Zealand] are clamouring now . . . for a general and systematic 'opening of the waste lands to colonisation.' As far as right goes, there are no waste lands, and they might as well talk about 'opening' the Duke of Bedford's park to colonisation." And yet again, in the Saturday Review of 1863: "On the settlers' side, the 'damned nigger' principle with which we are so familiar in India and the United States, is showing itself more and more distinctly through a thin veil of commonplace professions. It is easy to see, by the tone of argument employed, that treaties and the rights which rest on them are looked on as of very small account compared to 'the advance of civilisation' and the 'prevalence of the stronger race.'" He later wrote, too, that racism "belongs to that phase of British temper which in the past few months has led detachment after detachment of British troops into the most obvious ambuscades--mere arrogance." He took the same dismissive view of British politicians who expected other countries to make concessions to Britain simply because of its evident moral righteousness.

Closely related to these feelings was Salisbury's dislike of the "gunboat diplomacy" sometimes practiced, and more often threatened, by the Liberal Prime Ministers Lord Palmerston and Lord John Russell in the mid-nineteenth century. He thought that the latter in particular had undermined British prestige by bullying weak nations, while backing away from confrontation with stronger ones after first hurling empty threats (as had been done with Russia in 1863, during its suppression of a Polish rebellion). "It is only when the two qualities of heroism and meekness are cunningly combined that they earn unmitigated contempt", he wrote of Russell. Salisbury hated war, but he was nonetheless, as his daughter wrote, "primarily a fighting animal", and the principle that "if you draw a gun, kill a man" would have been akin to his spirit. "Are you prepared to fight? Because if not you had better hold your tongue" was a favorite rebuke to colleagues who wanted to take a high line with some foreign state.

Salisbury was also well aware, and bitterly ashamed, that on several occasions (as in the case of the Poles and also that of Denmark in its conflict with Prussia and Austria over Schleswig-Holstein) British blustering and promises of support had led other threatened states or peoples to take a harder line of resistance than they would otherwise have done, out of a belief that, in the end, Britain would fight for them. This proved not to be the case, as it has proved not to be the case with a number of peoples who have been led to believe in the availability of U.S. military aid in recent times. According to his daughter, Salisbury "never used language of menace or of encouragement without having first, so far as he was able, reckoned up the cost of translating it into action, and without having come to the conclusion that it was a cost that he was prepared to meet." In the words of Grenville, "Bluff played no part in the conduct of Salisbury's diplomacy. A policy based on so false a foundation, he was convinced, was bound to lead to disaster. He therefore insisted on knowing exactly whether Britain's military strength was equal to support whatever policy happened to be under discussion." He strongly criticized the instinctive belief among both diplomats and democratic politicians that substantial results could be achieved through clever use of language, soothing public speeches, or clever bargaining tricks. "Substantial results", he believed, "must always be paid for."

Salisbury's honest awareness of the real basis of Britain's empire in any case made him hesitant about supporting the national independence movements in other imperial systems, or taking too high-minded a view of other countries' imperial sins, whether Austrian, Turkish, or Russian. He was thoroughly hostile to the theory of national self-determination, however much it was wrapped up with ideas of progress and enlightenment. In his words, "An answer [to arguments for national self-determination] is only possible where there is some common ground to start from, some principle equally acknowledged on both sides to refer to. The modern theory of nationality is safe from refutation. The blows of argument fall harmlessly on its insubstantial forms."

Most British politicians at the time, and all too many British historians in the years following, saw no contradiction in damning Russian rule over Poland while finding elaborate justifications for British rule over Ireland in terms of "progress" and law. Salisbury, by contrast, wrote frankly that, "Ireland must be kept, like India, at all hazards, by persuasion if possible, if not by force." Of Castlereagh's use of corruption to bring about the union of the British and Irish parliaments in 1801, he wrote "The independence of the Irish parliament was a position from which it was absolutely indispensable to dislodge the enemy if the integrity of the empire was to be preserved [against attacks from Revolutionary and Napoleonic France]. It naturally never occurred to him that he was doing anything contrary to morality or honour in bribing the enemy to open the gates."

It would be wrong, however, to regard Salisbury as gratuitously ruthless or indifferent to the sufferings of oppressed peoples--British repression in Ireland in his time was not too harsh in comparison with that practiced by other empires then or now, and he did more (or tried to) to prevent Turkish massacres of Armenians in the 1890s than any other European statesman of the day. But attempts to tie British foreign policy to moral crusades against particular states or regimes infuriated him on several different levels. He was aware of the hypocrisy--the humbug--of Britain taking such stands, both given its own past (and sometimes present) history, and because of all the cases in which it had to turn a blind eye to cruelties committed by an ally. Moreover, as already noted, he hated all public displays of moral and religious sentiment--which is one reason why he disliked Gladstone so much, although the two were actually very close in terms of their fundamental religious values.

Salisbury was well aware, too, of how many of these crusades were in fact picked up by opportunist politicians, bored literary figures, and second-rate academic hacks who at heart didn't give a tuppenny damn for the well-being of the peoples concerned. Writing in his famous essay on Castlereagh about the British liberal agitations in favor of various European national revolutions in the 1820s, he said: "There were plenty of 'causes' about the world at that time, concerning which associations agitated, and young men raved, and poets published spirit-stirring stanzas. But, except as they might influence votes in the House of Commons, these exciting movements did not affect Lord Castlereagh. It was this impassibility which worked so badly for his fame. It was an affront and an offense to the literary class, by whom these enthusiasms were chiefly fed, and who on secondary points and for a certain space of time have the power of mobilising public opinion at their will. He might have maintained his policy with impunity, if in his speeches he would have done readier homage to the liberal catch-words of the day."
Finally, Salisbury well recognized the potentially fatal element of volatility and irrationality that such campaigns introduced into British policymaking. From the 1820s to the 1850s, British support for national independence movements in Italy, Hungary, and elsewhere horribly complicated relations with Austria, Britain's oldest major ally and the only European great power from which it had nothing to fear. This in turn served to strengthen France, Russia, and in due course a Prussian-dominated Germany.

Again, in the 1870s public anger (however justified) at Ottoman Turkish atrocities against Bulgarians and others made it much more difficult both to reform the Ottoman Empire and to resist the expansion of Russian power at Turkey's expense. Thus, wrote Salisbury's daughter, "At the time of the Constantinople Conference [of 1876] he complained bitterly that he had been sent to do business without either money in his pocket or a sword in his hand. He would have been willing to have used either--to have offered the Turks a conditional alliance against all comers, or to have joined Europe in a scheme for practical partition. The first policy was rendered impossible by the feeling stirred in England during the Bulgarian agitation of 1876, the second by the Turco-philism of his colleagues and party."

Throughout the period, too, hypocritical denunciations of Russian imperialism exaggerated British fear and hatred of Russia, and risked pushing Britain into unnecessary conflicts, mistaken and expensive military deployments, and potentially disastrous anti-Russian alliances. Russophobes (then as now) had to tie themselves in knots to explain why Turkish atrocities were not so atrocious after all, and why Russian expansion in Central Asia was somehow more inherently imperialist than British expansion in South Asia or Africa. As for Salisbury, his daughter continued, "His national sympathies and antipathies were clearly defined but on more than one occasion I have been struck by his entire independence of them in action. When a question was at issue between two powers he would be quite as likely to exert himself diplomatically in opposition to the cause which his sentiments favoured as in support of it. I think indeed that he would have been rather puzzled by the expression of any expectation that he should do otherwise. He would as soon have thought of modifying his plan in a game of chess on account of his dislike of the pattern of one of his opponent's pieces."

This model of unsentimental professionalism is one that a U.S. secretary of state above all needs to follow, precisely because so many powerful lobbies in America--and even within the State Department--have as their primary purpose to shape U.S. policy to suit their own ethnic and other priorities and prejudices. For the pressure of such lobbies will not matter much as long as those at the top themselves share Salisbury's clear, hard-headed, and patriotic sense of their own country's real interests in any issues at stake.

No Fixed Enemies

It was in the steady, unflappable nature of his response to both the Russian and the French challenges to British influence that Salisbury performed his greatest service to British foreign policy--for on several occasions, over-reaction could have led Britain into either an unnecessary war or an unnecessary and dangerous alliance. To maintain this calm course, Salisbury had to ignore not just the alternating waves of moral fervor and jingoism in the British Parliament, press, and public opinion, but also at times the advice of his own military experts. In this he was greatly helped by the strength of his character as well as by the independence of his mind. His daughter writes: "The fact that colleagues or friends or party, the public opinion of his class, his country or his age, took any particular view seemed to leave not the slightest impression on the judgement at which he himself arrived. Such a fact was a force to observe and to reckon with but in his eyes had no other relevance to the question at issue. . . . His impulse towards concentrating his attention on the real facts of a problem or of a situation was immediate and instinctive. While others were discussing as it were the clothing of a question, or trying to accommodate its developments to some general theory of their own, his mind would travel straight towards the discovery of the actual realities that underlay it."

It is worth remembering, as a variety of professional geopoliticians throw themselves into a supposed new round of the "Great Game" for Central Asia, just how empty of real importance was the original "Game" between Russia and Britain. It is not just that in the end, when they were faced with the growing threat from Germany, both countries were able to resolve their differences in the area with remarkable ease. More important is the fact that the supposed Russian military threat to India was always essentially a chimera. In order to breathe life into this mythical beast, British generals, officials, geopoliticians, and journalists resorted to a whole battery of conscious and unconscious falsifications, some of which are all too familiar from the security debates of our own time. They exaggerated both Russian military strength and Russian aggressive intentions; they exaggerated the closeness of the Franco-Russian alliance; they howled about Russian imperialism while ignoring the fact that the British Empire in India was not exactly an indigenous product; they predicted that the slightest military reverse would lead to a massive Indian revolt; they stressed the appalling logistical difficulties British troops would face if deployed in Afghanistan (while ignoring the fact that the same obstacles would face the Russians); they hypothesized that Russia would be able to build railways across the Afghan mountains at the same rate as across the Russian plains; and so forth on and on.

Salisbury reserved some of his most withering sarcasm for this kind of military paranoia. He declared famously that the alleged Russian presence within an easy march of the Indian border was the result of British generals "using maps with too small a scale", and said that if the generals had their way, they would have him "fortify the moon against an attack from Mars." His calm and realistic assessment was amply borne out by Russian imperial military defeats in the years that followed, and later by evidence of the difficulty of conducting large-scale, modern military operations in Afghanistan.

Similarly, his refusal to overreact to French imperial moves in Africa was thoroughly in tune with Britain's real interests. It reflected original and accurate perceptions: that Russia would never fight for the French empire in Africa any more than France would fight for Russia in Asia; and that under all the jingoist and imperialist propaganda what European peoples really cared about were immediate threats from their neighbors in Europe.

Salisbury's distrust of alliances was in part the reflection of an old English prejudice, but it also reflected both personal honor and, more surprisingly, an acute sense of the limits that democracy placed on a British government's ability to make - or rather to keep - major foreign commitments. Grenville observes:

Salisbury was opposed to signing alliances precisely because he was not certain that a British government at some future date would honour its provisions. ... Another principle important to an understanding of Salisbury's diplomacy was the belief that, in the last resort, the English people and not the cabinet were the arbiters of foreign policy.

This sense underlay a great deal of his - perhaps sometimes excessive - diplomatic caution. For Salisbury realized that while the English people would fight over an issue that really touched their pride or their vital national interests - as they did in both 1914 and 1939 - it was very dangerous to mix up this capacity for national courage and resolution with the foreign policy agitations and enthusiasms of particular lobby groups, whether liberal, imperial, or both.

This too is something well worth bearing in mind today, given the even greater sluggishness of the great mass of the American people when it comes to foreign policy issues. It is precisely this lack of interest that allows small groups of activists from time to time to impose their will on U.S. policy. But woe betide them if they think that by doing this they can determine how the American people will behave when real commitments and sacrifices have to be made, if the issues at stake do not really and obviously touch America itself. This was a mistake that Salisbury, supposedly the most aloof and least democratic British prime minister of the past 150 years, never made with regard to his own people, and for this alone he would be worth remembering.

Anatol Lieven is editor of Strategic Comments at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. The views expressed in this article are his own.

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