J.Downie, Treasury official to R.Clarke, Permanent Under Secretary, Treasury, 3 July 1959

“I suppose that the ultimate policy aim (to put it rather grandiloquently) is to conduct our affairs so as to maximise the capacity of the United Kingdom to influence the course of world history in a way satisfactory to us. At least, I take this to be the object for any country with pretensions to great power status, by which I mean the ability to influence history as opposed to being subject to what Wright Mills calls the mechanics of fate. In other worlds, the object is to conduct our strategy in such a way as to maximise our tactical advantage in any issue of world history which arises. Two things are necessary if we are to succeed in this aim. (a) we should try to influence in advance the direction in which world events develop in such a way that the international issues which do arise are of a kind which we are best fitted to influence. For example, if we felt that we could never exercise decisive influence in military confrontations, we should try to arrange things so that history is made up of other issues. This is partly a matter of influencing the minds of other history makers; for example, turning the Americans from military to economic competition. (b) we should try to ensure that our own pattern of development conforms to the shape in which world events unroll, so that our strength is mobilised in a form which is appropriate to the sort of issue which will arise. For example, if development problems were to be one of the key issues of the future, we might exercise an influence out of proportion to our strength in other directions, if we have organised ourselves as an immense training centre for administrators and technicians of all kinds from underdeveloped countries”.

National Archives: DEFE23/67

 

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