Getting Our Way

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[edit] General Information

History Documentary hosted by Christopher Meyer and published by BBC in 2009 - English narration

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Image: Getting-Our-Way-Cover.jpg

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Sir Christopher Meyer, former British Ambassador to the USA, presents a series telling the behind-the-scenes story of British diplomacy over 500 years of intrigue and adventure.

[edit] Security

In the opening episode, he puts himself in the shoes of diplomats battling to protect British national security at three very different stages of our history. From the Machiavellian days of Elizabethan espionage, he shows how the Virgin Queen's diplomat, Sir Henry Killigrew, foiled the Catholic terror on England's doorstep - as her ambassador to Scotland.

At the Congress of Vienna, arguably the most important summit in history, Foreign Secretary Lord Castlereagh survived the endless balls and bed-hopping to mastermind the redrawing of the map of Europe following Napoleon's defeat in a way that kept Britain safe and supreme for close to a century.

As British power waned in the 20th Century, there's a look at the crucial role played by one of Sir Christopher's predecessors in Washington, David Ormsby-Gore, in artfully manoeuvring to acquire nuclear weapons from a reluctant United States. This coup not only guaranteed Britain's security in the Cold War, but also its continuing place at the top table of nations.

Meyer uses these examples to tease out the timeless essentials of diplomacy - the need for tact, patience, charm, cunning and a focus on helping Britain Get Her Way at all costs.

Interviewees include Henry Kissinger, Douglas Hurd, Chris Patten, Alex Salmond, William Hague, JFK's speechwriter Ted Sorensen, Mrs Thatcher's foreign policy aide Charles Powell, former head of the FO Patrick Wright and 'the mandarins' mandarin', the late Sir Percy Cradock.

Meyer concludes by arguing that a nation which loses sight of its interests and neglects its diplomacy is a nation lost.

[edit] Prosperity

In this second episode, Meyer looks at how for 200 years Britain's lust for trade and cash has shaped our chequered relationship with China. He follows in the footsteps of Lord Macartney, Britain's first envoy to China, and finds out how the 1792 mission ended in fiasco when Macartney refused to conform to Chinese court etiquette and was sent home in disgrace - the first but not the last time that deciding whether to kowtow to China has troubled Britons desperate for a piece of the Chinese action.

60 years later, governor of Hong Kong Sir John Bowring went for the row rather than kowtow and was more successful, but only after provoking a dubious war (the second Opium War) with the aid of a 'sexed up' dossier.

The consequences of this unsavoury diplomacy were finally played out in the negotiations over handing back Hong Kong in the 1980s and 90s, when passions ran high among British diplomats who disagreed about the best way to handle China.

13 years after the Hong Kong handover the argument still rages, and contributors include the last governor, Chris Patten, and his adversary, the late Sir Percy Cradock, formerly Britain's top negotiator with the Chinese. Former foreign secretary Douglas Hurd and Hong Kong super-tycoon Sir David Tang also feature.

Meyer concludes that it is time we started learning from our diplomatic history - now more than ever, as trade with China is a crucial element for British prosperity. It necessarily forces our diplomats to tread a delicate tightrope - in both standing up for human rights and looking out for British interests.

[edit] Values

The final episode is devoted to values, as Meyer explores the troubled history behind the idea of an 'ethical foreign policy'. Should we intervene to stop atrocities or instigate regime change to rid the world of dictators?

The film shows that these are not new dilemmas. There was public outcry in Britain when 19th-century Ottoman Turkey suppressed an uprising in Bulgaria, and the British ambassador in Constantinople was caught in the crossfire between realpolitik and values - ultimately losing his job for pointing out that the moral high ground was the opposite of the British national interest.

Fifty years later, after World War One, statesmen liked to boast they had ushered in a new era of altruistic international cooperation, where principles of human rights would dictate foreign policy. But the so-called 'new diplomacy' ran into trouble almost immediately and the League of Nations proved powerless to save Haile Selassie's Abyssinia from the clutches of Mussolini. Britain's attempt 'to buy Mussolini off' left the Foreign Office tainted with the dread charge of appeasement.

Finally, Meyer revisits the catastrophic failures of British and international diplomacy to prevent genocide in Bosnia in the 1990s. Whether it is ethnic cleansing in the Balkans or Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the last two decades have shown that infusing British foreign policy with values is far from straightforward.

Inteviewees include Henry Kissinger, America's Balkans envoy Richard Holbrooke, EU peace envoy David Owen and our man in Belgrade during the Bosnian war, Ivor Roberts.

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[edit] Technical Specs

  • Video Codec: x264 CABAC Main@L3.1
  • Video Bitrate: 1600Kbps
  • Video Resolution: 704 x 400
  • Video Aspect Ratio: 1.760
  • Frames Rate: 25 FPS
  • Audio Codec: AC3
  • Audio Bitrate: 192Kbps CBR 48KHz
  • RunTime Per Part: 59mins
  • Part Size: 760MB
  • Number of Parts: 3
  • Source: PDTV
  • Encoded by: JungleBoy

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