After Empire

An Era of British Decline

The Westminster Bridge, Big Ben, and the Houses of Parliament at dusk in central London, December 15, 2014. Toby Melville / Reuters

The United Kingdom is at risk of slipping into irrelevance: its potential exit from the European Union threatens its membership to the world’s largest economy; Scottish nationalism has shaken certainty about the country’s territorial integrity; and its foreign policy is widely derided for both its passivity and short-term outlook. Indeed, not long after British Prime Minister David Cameron’s re-election last May, CNN anchor Fareed Zakaria commented that the country had “resigned as a world power” and columnist Ross Douthat penned a eulogy for the “suicide of Britain” in the The New York Times.

The current government deserves its share of the blame for the United Kingdom’s strategic shrinkage: For five years, the country has lacked a coherent foreign policy. When Cameron came to office in 2010, he inherited not only an economic crisis, but also a public that was war-weary after Iraq, impatient with U.S. unilateralism,

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