Ententes Cordiales may come and go, but for the better part of seven decades the US and the UK have enjoyed the mutual benefits of a “Special Relationship” that far exceeded those between major powers historically. The Special Relationship under-girded the Atlantic Alliance, and enabled each party to count upon the other for “cooperation in economic activity, trade and commerce, military planning, execution of military operations, nuclear weapons technology and intelligence sharing.”
The Special Relationship took a hit during 2003, when Britons protested in record numbers against Tony Blair’s decision to throw his lot in with George W. Bush for Operation Iraqi Freedom. This was either a courageous or foolish decision, dependent upon your point of view, for Blair was also pronouncedly “pro-EU” in country where Euro-skepticism ran high (although the UK wisely negotiated opt-out provisions for its membership in the Eurozone).
In November 2001, Bush proclaimed that the US had “no better friend” than the mother country, and in scrapes and scraps around the globe, that had often seemed true. Apart perhaps from the Ozzies of course, who make up for their relative paucity in numbers with an apparent willingness to brawl with the best of them, given a half-way plausible reason.
The UK have fallen on hard times lately, as have the rest of us. British Prime Minister David Cameron has made no bones about the need to wrestle spending under control, leaving the NHS of course unmolested. A country which once “ruled the waves” is building two aircraft carriers to replace those just retired, one of which will immediately be laid up in ordinary upon completion, while the other will have no fixed wing aircraft to operate from for a decade, if that. With the retirement of the Nimrod ISR aircraft, British ships enforcing whatever-it-is we’re doing in Libya are forced to rely upon US aircraft.
And then there’s this:
The Daily Telegraph last week revealed that David Cameron has ordered British commanders to draw up plans to start pulling hundreds of British troops out of Afghanistan within weeks.
The Prime Minister is expected to discuss a co-ordinated Afghan withdrawal in London next week.
The prospect of an imminent British withdrawal is understood to have alarmed American generals, who are trying to resist political pressure for a major reduction in US troop numbers.
Well-placed sources said that US generals have delivered a blunt warning to their British counterparts about the impact of an early UK withdrawal.
We’ve rather got it coming to us: The president bowed to Saudi royals while the first lady gave the queen a hug. President Obama sent a White House bust of Winston Churchill home, and repaid Gordon Brown’s gift of “an ornamental pen holder made from the timbers of the Victorian anti-slave ship HMS Gannet” with 25 American movie CDs incompatible with the UK’s CD players. The queen herself got a better deal, an iPod containing – among other things – a pair of Obama speeches.
An iPod, at least, can be re-gifted.
The Department of State pitched in as well: “There’s nothing special about Britain. You’re just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn’t expect special treatment.”
Sauve qui peut.