Churchill, Dullas, Falklands, Fulton Missouri, Obama and Syria, post war politica, Roosevelt, Special Relationship, Suez, Syria crisis, UK view of America, US foreign policy, US foreign relations, US world politics, US world view, US/UK relations
Much is being made of the “Special Relationship” between America and Britain. At least in Britain, and even then mostly by British politicians on foreign jollies looking for a bit of a boost back home. The relationship usually rears its battered head when British Politicians visit the United States. Remember how incensed Gordon Brown was when he was seemingly “snubbed” by Obama at just that moment when he most needed a lift in his ratings?
Most of this over-vaunted relationship is, and always was, rubbish. It was a fiction dreamed up by the establishment, standing in the ruins of a country broken by war, desperate to hold things together and trying to make the most of a very poor hand of cards. It was designed to win over a very sceptical British population who historically never really went a bundle on the bloody Yanks, and by the end of the War had had quite enough, thank you. If it kidded anyone at all, Dullas did for it in the Suez debacle within ten years.
For those who are not aware what the “Special Relationship” is, it harks back, as so many things that have gone wrong for Britain in the last century do, to Winston S. Churchill. He invented the phrase, which he delivered in a speech in November 1945 at Fulton Missouri, to provide the British with a fictitious fig leaf to cover the fact that by the end of the Second War they stood bankrupted, and in hoc to the USA with their nation in ruins and the Empire either gone, or handing in its dinner plate. We hoped that we might cling onto influence through this relationship. We thought that we might speak wisdom to power, and guide the fledgling superpower even as the Greeks advised their barbarian Roman masters. The enduring picture of this relationship usually is that of the picture above with Churchill and Roosevelt at Yalta. An image already being overwhelmed by events, even as it was being taken. Power never needed wisdom, because let’s be honest, it already has the power.
It was a very British fiction designed to cover the wreckage of empire. I suspect the Americans gave the term little if any thought.
There was never much to base this special relationship on. Historically the British, as a people, had never been very trusting of the Yanks. At best they blow hot and cold about their country cousins made good. Historically there were the irritants of the 1812 to 1815 war where the British burned the Capitol and the White House, through border disputes on the Canadian Border with Polk and his “Fifty four forty or fight”. Most supported the South in the Civil War.
They can nowadays, depending on age, cite any number of reasons not to trust the USA, from betrayal of the League of Nations, through war debts, Suez (a bad one was Suez) right up to The Falklands, when it is insisted the United States gave the United Kingdom every assistance short of actual help, and right through to today with its extradition treaties, International Courts, renditions and torture. Churchill was seeking to sugar what was, even then, a very bitter pill.
Now we have concrete proof of the doubts. A series of Polls have been taken following the astonishing reversal that Prime Minister Cameron suffered last week trying to get on side with Obama.
Polling has dealt the relationship an enormous blow. This week, to test the waters, the BBC commissioned a poll that showed that two thirds of Brits couldn’t care less about the Special Relationship. Guantanamo, dodgy dossiers containing outright lies about Iraq and Afghanistan, along with insane banking practises and failed economic models have taken their toll. It’s not even that the British are angry with America, they are not going to storm an Embassy or march in the streets, it is far worse than that – they just couldn’t care less for American Politicians or anything that they say. They are no longer listening.
The reason Obama is in the present pickle is simple. He just isn’t trusted to tell the truth.
And that lack of trust is bad, not just for any Special Relationship there may or may not be between Britain and America, it is bad for the whole democratic West.
Copyright David Macadam 2013