Whither the Special Relationship?

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Is the U.S.-UK Special Relationship in trouble?

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The House of Commons report on U.S.-UK ties that Kevin linked to below is sure to generate further angst about the state of America's alliances. But, in this case at least, such angst is probably unwarranted.

You can just as easily read the report as saying "no more Iraqs." That is, the U.S. can't simply assume British support for any policy Washington endorses. This might be bad news for those pining for a war with Iran, but from a UK perspective at least, why wouldn't they want to preserve a little more flexibility? The report also states:

"We must be realistic and accept that globalisation, structural changes and shifts in geopolitical power will inevitably affect the UK-US relationship".

That sounds reasonable enough to me. It's worth remembering that there have been a number of much more serious flare-ups in U.S.-UK relations than President Obama's reported "coolness" to Great Britain (Mark Tran has a nice run down of them here). I don't think there's any reason to seriously worry about the fundamentals.

Will Inboden disagrees somewhat, saying the relationship is suffering from neglect on both sides of the Atlantic:

Yet the Special Relationship is "not dead yet." There are opportunities here for political leaders in both countries. President Obama, as I have written before, should seize the initiative and set up an official visit with whichever man wins the U.K. elections on May 6, as soon as the new Prime Minister is determined (still most likely to be David Cameron). Last Sunday, Shadow Foreign Minister William Hague and Foreign Minister David Miliband held a Sky News television debate, which revealed few substantial differences between Labour and the Tories on national security policy. Now this foolish House of Commons report offers a chance for Cameron and Hague to draw a clear distinction between their party and Labour.

I personally don't see this becoming a huge issue in British politics, but it would certainly be interesting to watch if it did.

UPDATE: Writing in the Times, John Charmley takes a more jaundiced view of the special relationship:

After being dropped straight into the guano at Suez in 1956, Eden wondered in his memoirs whether it would have served Britain better if we had taken a leaf from de Gaulle’s book and treated the Americans mean to keep them keen. Now even this committee of MPs has realised that behaving like a love-struck co-dependent only works when the object of that dependency reciprocates.

To be fair to the Americans, they have long made their attitude clear: the sudden end of lend-lease in 1945; insisting on interest on the loan Britain begged them for in 1946; leaving us and the French dangling at Suez; insisting that we should join the Common Market; and even when the Argentinians invaded British territory in 1982, President Reagan had to be pushed by his Defence Secretary out of neutrality. One might have thought then that an inability to be able to distinguish between a nasty dictatorship and an ally might have given the British Government a clue to the real nature of the Anglo-American relationship.

(AP Photo)

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