Don’t be surprised by Joe Biden’s latest comments; the Special Relationship was always a mirage

There is a tragic insistence from many on the British right that a special, intimate relationship exists between this country and the United States of America. Joe Biden’s comments on the Internal Market Bill were taken by many as an indication that this relationship could only be relied upon with Republicans at the helm, or merely that ‘the left’ didn’t understand the implications of the bill for Northern Ireland. Leaving aside the Internal Market Bill in particular, this line from such a senior Washington political figure should not be surprising. There is no Special Relationship. The Transatlantic relationship is based on American abuse of our one-sided feeling of kinship in order to support their practical aims and objectives. The Americans talk of the UK as a treasured friend because it is convenient for them, not because of some deeply-felt sense of commonality, and view us in much the same way as any other European country. As any student of post-war political history will know, to call their friendship ‘fair-weather’ would be an understatement. Only after the Second World War did the idea of a Special Relationship emerge. Before that, the two countries were more often adversaries than allies, and when they fought a common enemy (most often in East Asia), it was out of convenience, or as part of a broader coalition. In the haze of post-war realignment, the Americans were more than happy to let us think that we enjoyed a unique partnership, all the while pressuring us to hastily divest ourselves of our worldwide strategic commitments. It was simply in their interests, as an emergent superpower, to not alienate a potential rival. In 1956, when a coalition of British, French, and Israeli forces sought to secure the vitally important Suez Canal, under threat by the Arab nationalist government of Egypt, it was American threats of all-out war that stopped the operation, and shattered any delusion of Britain maintaining proper influence in the world. “We will blast the hell out of them” said Admiral Burke, American war hero, about the British troops. Not exactly the sentiment that one would expect from a treasured friend. But what about the heady days of the Thatcher-Reagan partnership? Not only were British objections to the American invasion of Grenada (a Commonwealth nation) ignored, but when push came to shove in the Falklands, there were serious moves at the top levels of the Reagan administration to either take an “even handed” position, or to actually support Argentina. In the end, a purely strategic decision was taken to give passive and unofficial support to Britain. Compare that to the impassioned, emotional words of support offered by New Zealand Prime Minister Robert Muldoon in his article ‘Why we Stand by our Mother Country’; the difference is striking, and casts into sharp focus how the bond of kinship with the Commonwealth differs from the American alliance of (imagined) convenience. Those curious can read more about that here - https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2253926/How-US-nearly-betrayed-enemy-Secretary-State-threatened-tell-Argentina-British-troops-landing-South-Georgia.html. Even more egregiously, the Irish-American contingent has a nasty habit of open and active support for the IRA, which runs through to the highest levels of government. Irish-American financial support for the IRA is well documented, but support for militant Irish republicanism is to be found in the halls of Congress too. Sitting Republican Congressman Peter T. King’s description of the IRA as “carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism” and of the British government as a “murder machine” should shatter any illusions that Anglophobia is the reserve of Democrats. Again, those interested can read more about that here - https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/02/AR2005080201943.html. Even more recently, the Iraq War, and the one-sided 2003 UK-US Extradition Treaty stand as shining examples of Britain giving everything, and receiving nothing in return. Wherever and whenever one looks, this is the story, regardless of party or Prime Minister. Those still clinging to the myth will insist that despite all of this, the fact that the USA was founded by British-descended landowners means that our cultures are somehow inherently compatible, and that such an alliance should naturally blossom. In truth, all that remains of these Founding Fathers in modern America is the English language, and even then, a version altered by nearly 250 years of separation. Their constitution is, by design, antithetical to ours. Their legal system has diverged so far from its basis in English common law as to be essentially unrelated. Their responsibility-shedding, nouveau riche world-view, shaped by settlers and a frontier mindset is totally unsuited to a nation so rooted and culturally bound-together as the British. Their understanding of liberty is an unthinking rejection of government for the sake of it; entirely different from the old English concept that we should be generally permissive unless there is a good moral or practical reason not to be. The modern America is heavily influenced by an eclectic mix of French, African-American, Mexican, German, Irish, Italian and Native cultures, bearing little resemblance to the original Thirteen Colonies, and none to the UK. If only they spoke a different language; this comparison might never have arisen. Now that the rose-tinted goggles of the Atlanticists have been crushed firmly underfoot, keep in mind this geopolitical reality and historical record when thinking about the United States. Keep in mind that Trump’s insistence on a trade deal is for the benefit of their bloated agricultural industry, not because of a desire to support a “treasured friend”. The idea that we have to toe the American line as an antidote to Russia or China is a silly Cold War-era delusion. In an increasingly multipolar world, we now have the opportunity to craft an innovative, exciting, and independent foreign policy, which sees us reunite with our genuine good-faith allies (Australia, New Zealand, India, and Japan spring to mind), and reach out to new partners – but we can only do it by letting go of this misguided Yankophilia.


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