CHRISTOPHER HILL The Changing Politics of Foreign Policy Basingstoke, Palgrave/MacMillan, 2003,376 pages.
Christopher Hill, Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics, is one of the leading British authors interested in foreign policy, particularly in the European context. Several of his previous publications have dealt with both the Europeanisation of the foreign policies of the Member States of the European Union and the emergence of the EU as an international actor.
The book he gives us here is more general, since it deals with foreign policy as a “mediation process” aimed at linking national societies to international society, in the shattered context of the post-Cold War era, the erosion of Westphalian sovereignty and globalization. Foreign policy is then broadly defined from the outset as the sum of official external relations conducted by an independent actor (usually a State) in international relations.
Theoretically, the author calls for a “liberal realism” (p. 37) recognizing both international insecurities as a fundamental feature of international relations and the possibility of promoting multilateral cooperation based on shared values (human rights, environment, etc.).
Above all, however, C. Hill’s aim in this book on foreign policy is to revitalize a category of the study of international relations neglected by neo-realists. They are too interested in the structure of the international system regarding the distribution of power and not enough in the internal structure of States; by neoliberals, who focus on the processes of cooperation and international organizations. This is done by the transnationalist school, which tends to disqualify C. Hill is quite convincing here when he seeks to demonstrate the need to renew the study of foreign policy by keeping the “meta-theories” of international relations (such as realism or constructivism) at arm’s length and by using intermediate theories, such as the postulate that democracies are not at war (chapters 1 and 2).
It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the answer to Robert Dahl’s famous question (who governs?), here transposed to foreign policy (p. 53), is also classic: it is the Minister of Foreign Affairs, under the control of the head of state or government.
Nor are there any very original developments on the place of advisers and other eminent greys, or on that of the secret services (pp. 66 et seq.). The author is insisting as much on the key role they played in the anti-Hitler strategy of a Churchill as on the relative negligence in which they would have held De Gaulle at the beginning of the Fifth Republic.
Let us turn to the somewhat journalistic aspect of the pages devoted to the impact of the disease or nervous breakdown of statesmen on their foreign policy (p. 60), even if some anecdotes are not lacking in salt (the fifty-one phone calls made by Nixon in one night, at the height of the Watergate scandal).