Is the UK Getting Dangerously Friendly with China?

My new feature for The National Interest looks at the recent Chinese state visit to the United Kingdom, and the growing closeness between London and Beijing.

Perfidious Albion strikes again. Or so one would be forgiven for believing, given the international press coverage of Xi Jinping’s historic state visit to the United Kingdom. Britain has “sold out” to the Chinese, critics argue, by downplaying widely held Western concerns over human rights, cyber security and maritime disputes in the South China Sea in hopes that Beijing will funnel lucrative investment towards Britain. In doing so, London is pursuing a mercantile-realist brand of foreign relations that undermines U.S.-led attempts to coax China into ameliorating its foreign policies and improving its record on human rights…

Click here for the full piece.


H-Diplo Roundtable on The Strategist: Brent Scowcroft and the Call of National Security

My book review of Bartholomew Sparrow’s The Strategist is now available as part of an H-Diplo Roundtable.  Other contributors to the roundtable include Charles Edel, Daniel Sargent and James Graham Wilson.  The introduction is by Robert Jervis and the author responds.

The Strategist is a biography of Brent Scowcroft, an American statesman most famous for holding the post of National Security Adviser under George H.W. Bush – although Scowcroft held several other prominent positions in government and the private sector throughout his long career.  It’s worth reading for several reasons.  For history buffs, the book covers a staggering amount of historical material (Vietnam, the US-China rapprochement, Iran-Contra, the First Gulf War, and much more) in exacting detail.  For IR scholars, the book is a peerless exploration of realism as a philosophy and a foreign policy roadmap.  Sparrow describes Scowcroft as the quintessential realist and, indeed, given Niall Ferguson’s recent description of Henry Kissinger is a strident idealist, Scowcroft could even be considered America’s most notable practitioner of realism since George Kennan.  There can be few better books that explain what motivates realists than this.  And for political scientists, The Strategist is a masterclass in how to use biography to explore interesting questions in a rigorous, systematic and thoughtful fashion.

Click here to the read the roundtable in its entirety; and click here for more information on The Strategist.

Why Law and Politics Matter for Marine Conservation

I have a short article included in the latest edition of Environmental Policy and Law, entitled “Why Law and Politics Matter for Marine Conservation: The Case of the Chagos Marine Protected Area.”

Click here to access the piece, which addresses the international legal ruling – issued in March of this year – that the United Kingdom violated international law by declaring a no-take marine protected area in the Chagos Archipelago (British Indian Ocean Territory).

The next few weeks and months will be critical for deciding the future of the Chagos Islands.  Not only is a decision between the UK and US governments due in 2016 regarding the extension of the US military base on Diego Garcia, but the UK Supreme Court is soon expected to rule on the legality of the Chagos Islanders’ exile; and the UK Government will finish its public consultation on whether to allow resettlement of the islands.  Whether via legal or political means, then, a resolution to the Chagos Islanders’ long-running campaign to return home might finally be in the offing.

Short commentary on UK politics

I have a very short piece, “Why Jeremy Corbyn must look beyond the politics of austerity,” on the Left Foot Forward blog.  The point is to argue that fiscal austerity in Britain is a “wedge issue,” uniting Conservative voters but splitting supporters of the Labour party.  Opposition to austerity is therefore a bad strategy for the Labour party to adopt.

Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour party largely on the back of his promises to fight austerity. And given the groundswell of support that Corbyn has managed to gin up, the left could be forgiven for assuming that robust opposition to austerity can similarly serve as a silver bullet to return Labour to power.

Such a conclusion, however, would be wishful thinking: it will be the Conservatives, not Labour, who benefit from making the next election a referendum on austerity alone…

Click here to read the full piece.