Wednesday, January 29, 2003

The most special of relationships

Geoffrey Wheatcroft writes a decent article on the "Special Relationship" saying that while the British foreign policy elite see the relationship in terms of mutual interest (dare one say "Anglosphere") in reality the American foreign policy elite see us as a useful middling ally, and nothing more. I think he overstates the case - there have been Anglophiles in the State Department - but in essence it is sound. Who seriously thinks that the future of Britain is more important to the State Department or the White House than the future of Japan, Israel or Saudi Arabia. Here's the last two paragraphs:

Washington conspicuously did not support us in the years when we tried to defeat the IRA. Blair's devoted loyalty the autumn before last was shortly rewarded by a US tariff designed to destroy what's left of the British steel industry. And if the prime minister really enjoyed the influence he claims, then Washington would have backed his pet scheme for an Israeli-Palestinian peace conference, at least to the extent of telling Sharon to let the Palestinians come to London. Nothing of the kind happened.

The sad truth is that Tony Blair is the last victim of an illusion which has long bedevilled British policy, the myth of the "special relationship". Actually, the chief characteristic of this relationship was that only one side knew it existed - and relationships don't come more special than that.


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