Choose Your Weapons
This book, which was co-written with historian Edward Young, though he is not credited on the cover, is, perhaps, a less daunting prospect than the subtitle, “The British Foreign Secretary: 200 Years of Argument, Success and Failure”, might lead the reader to expect. This is due in large part to Douglas Hurd’s lucid prose and his waspish sense of humour. It is also a tribute to both authors’ considerable historical understanding, which enables them to give clear, concise accounts of complex diplomatic manoeuvrings. Mainly, however, it is because Hurd and Young do something here which more politicians still in public life should do more often. They use history as an example, to convey an opinion and a warning of great contemporary resonance. “Knowledge of history does not change politicians into statesmen. But ignorance of history is foolishness,” they state in the prelude to their series of essays on a number of 19th- and 20th-century Foreign Secretaries, looking at the development of modern diplomacy and speculating as to how it might continue to develop in future.
Choose Your Weapons is an excellent read, but also timely and thought-provoking, as we continue to grapple with the mess left in Iraq by the consequences of political zealotry and Afghanistan, whose first appearance in this book dates back to a massacre of the British in 1841, continues to cost lives and resources for no clear purpose. Worth packing for your holiday in the Eurozone or a trip to the World Cup in South Africa.