Sunday, 9 February 2020

splendid isolation

Having heard the phrase I suppose outside of geopolitical contexts, I wasn’t sure what meaning to attach to it until discovering that it referred to British reluctance in entering permanent alliances with outside powers from around the time of the Congress of Vienna in 1814 that helped establish and more or less maintain the European balance of power through 1902 and the Boer War and the eventual Entente Cordiale with France that helped both colonial powers retain their grip in the Far East.
The formative Victorian policy of avoidance in world affairs was extoled and lamented by George Eulas Foster in January 1896, Canadian political scientist and long-serving parliamentarian, in the waning years of the policy—though no one could have predicted the end and what was to follow: “In these somewhat troublesome days when the Great Mother Empire stands splendidly isolated in Europe.” Generally it is now understood as a naïve belief that power dynamics are largely self-regulating and will correct themselves (like laisse-faire economics) despite or because of one’s lack of involvement and that allies are unnecessary for settling disputes with a third party.