By C.J. Bartlett
An account of British overseas coverage within the twentieth century, discussing the demanding commitments, international Wars, chilly warfare and readjustments to the current day.
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Additional info for British Foreign Policy in the Twentieth Century
Not only did the United States fail to join the League, but differences with Britain over war debts, naval, commercial and other rivalries threatened to push the two countries further apart. British efforts to reduce these causes of friction have not found universal favour among historians. Although W. N. Medlicott accepts that the Washington Treaties of 1921-2 conferred some benefits upon Britain, he nevertheless insists that the British government 'must be criticised for its willingness to secure the immediate emotional satisfaction of a dramatic act of friendship and temporary pacification at the cost of a permanent weakening ofthe British position in the Far East'.
This sense of weakness helped to determine poliey in advanee and was not simply trotted out as an ex post facta rationalisation for what had been deeided. As early as 1924 Admiral Beatty was warning that Britain's eastern empire was dependent upon Japanese self-restraint or Ameriean assistanee. WhenJapan eut loose in the early 1930s Vansittart was soon arguing that Britain eould eseape disaster in a war in the east only with Ameriean assistanee. But at the same time even those ministers who were prepared to aeknowledge that the world might not yet be ready for arms limitation and the triumph of reason over ambition feared that extensive British rearmament would alienate the eleetorate onee living standards were put at risk.
Nor was it possible in the early 1920s to anticipate the Great Depression, its effects upon a country such 36 Too Many Challenges as Japan, or the failure of other powers to res pond to renewed Japanese militancy. The early 1920s in Europe were domina ted by the German question and the French occupation of the Ruhr. Britain had only limited leverage at this time, and immediately following the fall of Lloyd George the nation had litde taste for an innovative foreign policy. The economic consequences of the French occupation of the Ruhr, however, were serious enough to prompt action by the Uni ted States as well as by Britain, and the succeeding Dawes (1924) and Young (1929) plans gave the impression that the problem of German reparations was being managed if not solved.