SOMETIMES lowering the volume is as arresting as turning it up. Tact can be as expressive as bombast. That is true of the coalition government’s diplomacy. It has been eloquently muted, with both old problems and the oozing challenge in the Gulf of Mexico: a British administration that some expected to be spikily assertive seems determined to get along with everyone.更多信息请访问:http://www.24en.com/

有时候降低音量和调高音量一样引人注目。老练圆通和高调浮夸同样具有表现力。对于联合政府的外交来说,情形同样如此。面对老问题及墨西哥湾漏油事件的挑战,英国明显变得温和了:曾被预期为果敢易怒的英政府似乎决心交好每个人。

Right-wing British newspapers are often every bit as shrill as the American media. Leaping on the chance to display some easy, knee-jerk patriotism, several urged David Cameron to stand up for “British Petroleum” and rebuke Barack Obama for demonising the company. Instead, the line has been that the government neither owns nor will disown BP—and quietly to point out that the firm has lots of American shareholders and employees too. Ministers saw Mr Obama’s rhetoric for what it was: the flailing of a politician in a desperate fix. By saying very little in public, they defused what threatened to become a juvenile spat.

英右翼报纸通常和美国媒体一样尖锐。为彰显轻松及下意识的爱国主义,有人敦促大卫•卡梅伦支持“英国石油公司”,指责奥巴马将其妖魔化。事实上,英国的策略是政府既非BP的拥有者,也不会与其断绝关系——并平静地指出英国石油公司拥有众多美国股东及雇员。英国大臣们看到了奥巴马阐述缘由时的辩术:一个政治家在危急的进退两难境地的煎熬。在公共场合他们尽少说话,以减少可能产生的幼稚口角。

It would have been foolish to do otherwise. More striking has been the emollient attitude to Britain’s friends in Europe. As The Economist went to press, Mr Cameron was making his debut at the European Council in Brussels. His reception is likely to be warmer than once seemed plausible. The impressively polyglot deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, has helped to soften up continental leaders who were troubled by the idea of a Conservative-led government. In David Lidington, Mr Cameron appointed a Europe minister who is much more palatable to the neighbours than Mark Francois, the Tory who held the brief in opposition. Even William Hague—unusually, in recent times, a foreign secretary who is both a big-hitter and an eager holder of that office—is sounding relatively Euro-friendly. It helps that, as part of their deal with the Liberal Democrats, the Tories ditched their quixotic bid to repatriate powers from the EU.

除此之外只会显得愚蠢。更引人注目的是来自欧洲友邦的安抚态度。正如《经济学家》杂志的报道,卡梅伦在布鲁塞尔欧洲理事会的首次亮相所受接待似乎比之前的预期热情很多。通晓多种语言的副首相尼克•克莱格给人留下深刻印象,也帮助缓解了欧洲大陆各国领导对保守党领导下英国政府的忧虑。David Lidington被任命为欧洲事务部长,较之为在野党辩护的保守党Mark Francois而言,更为邻国所接受。更为罕见的是,连总在部门内唱反调的外交大臣威廉•黑格近来的言论也出乎寻常地亲欧。作为与自民党协议的一部分,这不无帮助。保守党抛弃原来不切实际的目标已重拾在欧盟的权利。

The prime minister has already visited Afghanistan, where he embraced Britain’s fighting men more convincingly than his predecessor, Gordon Brown, ever managed to. He calls their fight a “war”, rather than the pussyfooting “conflict”. Yet for all Mr Cameron’s vows to stay the course, his underlying message was humble. The definition of victory in Helmand has been revised downward (a process that began under Mr Brown); simultaneously, the official view of how close British forces are to achieving their diminished goals is being revised upwards. The length and scale of the deployment still largely depend on decisions made in Washington. But Mr Cameron’s government seems increasingly keen to pull back as soon as it possibly can.

出访阿富汗时,比起上任戈登•布朗的刻意为之,卡梅伦给战士的拥抱更令人信服。卡梅伦称他们的战斗是一场“战争”,而不是谨小慎微地将其叫做“冲突”。但卡梅伦所有坚持到底的誓言中隐晦的信息却是卑微的。赫尔曼德胜利的定义降低了标准(这一做法始自布朗),与此同时,对于英国军队与已然降低的目标间的距离,官方的却在拔高。行动部署的时间及规模很大程度上还要依据华盛顿的决定。但卡梅伦政府似乎愈发渴望尽早撤军。

What explains this modest and conciliatory mood—the urge to ingratiate rather than swagger? The nature of the coalition is part of it. Foreign affairs were widely billed as a potential source of fractures in the Lib-Con double act. So far, they haven’t been. The mixed Foreign Office ministerial team, and the cabinet’s European-affairs committee, are said to be dreams of harmony. The less proactive foreign policy is, of course, the longer that unity can be made to last: it is generally easier to agree on not doing things than on doing them. More than that, though, the two parties’ world views may prove more reconcilable than they once seemed. The Tories harbour a neocon tendency; the Lib Dems have a pacifist wing. But there is also a realist strand in Tory thinking and a sane but quietist strain among Lib Dems. A cautious, status-quo mentality is where they overlap.

如何解释这一谦逊调和的情绪——急需迎合而非自大?联合政府自身的特性是一部分原因。外交事务很大程度上被看作自民及保守两党合作裂痕的潜在源头。迄今为止,两党还未出现这一情况。据说联合外交部大臣小组及内个欧洲事务委员会是两党和谐之梦想。当然外交政策越消极,两党联合政府的时间就越长:通常否定事情比肯定来得简单。保守党抱有新保守主义趋向;自民党则是反战派。但保守党思想中也包含一丝现实主义,而自民党中也存在一种理智同时又淡泊的思想。谨慎的现状心态是两党的交集。

Another part of the story is money, or rather the lack of it. It doesn’t take the strategic-defence review, to be completed this autumn, to understand that very soon Britain will have less to spend on military kit and adventures, perhaps a lot less. And the impact of the country’s fiscal plight on its ability and inclination to project power is much wider than that. Even more than is the case already, political energy and capital will soon be overwhelmingly consumed by domestic woes. Moreover, Britain’s standing and esteem abroad have been punctured by the crashing end of its economic boom. The much-touted miracle of Anglo-Saxon capitalism turned out to be a mirage. At least, that is the widespread perception, in Europe and beyond.

另一方面的原因则是钱,更确切地说是缺钱。这并非出于今年秋天出台的战略防御考虑,很快即将明白英国在军事装备和活动方面的支出会减少,也许会大幅减少。与此同时,英国财务困境对其计划能力及意向的影响远远超过支配金额的减少。情况目前甚至已经超过于此。政治活力及资本很快将被国内的困境以势不可挡之势耗尽。此外,经济繁荣期的彻底结束打击了英国的外界声望。吹嘘过度的盎格鲁撒克逊人的资本主义的奇迹最终成为一场海市蜃楼。至少在欧洲乃至世界,这是普遍接受的观点。

In these political and economic circumstances, modesty and niceness are a sensible strategy. The understated tone suggests a government suitably aware of its limitations. How nice the world will be in return, however, is doubtful.

这种政治经济环境下,谦逊友好不失为明智之策。这一低调的风格表明政府适时认识到自身的不足。然而世界将如何以待尚未可知。

Less blood, no treasure
Even before the oil spill, some Britons worried that Mr Obama was predisposed by his Kenyan ancestry to dislike them. But he is most usefully thought of, not as a post-colonial president, but as a post-war one—the wars being the second world war and the cold war. For American politicians of his generation, the 20th-century experiences that bound America to Europe, and to Britain in particular, are history; the continent and Mr Cameron’s country are no longer priorities. Mr Obama is probably too rational to bear the grudge against Britain that some detect in his railing against BP—but also too rational to be sentimental about the place.

甚至在漏油事件之前,一些英国人就担心奥巴马会因其肯尼亚祖先而对英国人有偏见。但奥巴马更多地被认作一位战后总统——二战及冷战,而非后殖民时期总统。对于他这一代美国政治家而言,20世纪美国的历史经历与欧洲密不可分,尤以英国为甚。奥巴马对BP的责怨使一些人认为他积怨于英国,事实上奥巴马足够理智,不至于此。——然而他过于理智以至没能照顾英国的情面。

Meanwhile, enchanted as the Europeans may be by the British new boys, and however mature Mr Cameron plans to be in his EU dealings, there will, in the end, be rows: over financial-services regulation, oversight of national budgets, the British rebate, reform of the common agricultural policy…There always are.

与此同时,欧洲人也许为英国初来乍到的小年轻倍感欣喜,但慎重成熟的卡梅伦却计划着在欧盟的交易,结果必然争吵不断:财政服务规则方面,国家预算监察,英国的税额减免,公共农业政策改革……问题层出不穷。

Compared with other countries, it is notable how much cross-party consensus there tends to be on British foreign policy, not just within the coalition, but between it and the previous government too. As before, Europe is an opportunity but also an irritant; Britain is still locked into a gradual, half-willing decline, destined to be less loved by its closest ally than it would like. Those are the facts. No amount of ingratiation can change them.

相对于其它国家,政党间就英国外交政策达成统一意见的程度更加引人注目,这不仅指联合政府内部,也涉及现任及上届政府之间。正如此前欧洲一方面意味着机遇,但同时也是痛楚;英国继续受困于半不情愿的渐衰之中,注定不能像其希望的那般为亲近盟国所喜爱。这些就是事实,再怎么逢迎讨好也不能改变什么。