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Hague's call for Britain's relationship with America to be "one of friendship coupled with honest criticism" is 'dangerous and perhaps self-indulgent'??

There's no point in having a 'special relationship' if it isn't characterised - where necessary - with honest criticism, whether that be in public or private. If Britain can't state its honest opinion then the relationship is simply slavish.

As America's closest friend Britain has not only the opportunity but also the duty to be honest and highlight (where they exist) any failings of a US administration. Britain should not have a strong relationship with America simply because America is the most powerful nation in the world, it should have a strong relationship because we share so much. Where we disagree we should not be afraid of saying so.


Right, I agree with all your suggestions, but surely it's a question of being aware when we are influencing the relationship and when we are merely slavishly following? There is a difference between a close relationship in pursuit of a common goal using common methods and us adopting US foreign policy.


Is this what they call counting chickens?


Why will Hague be jeopardizing anything?I have read his speech and seen absolutely nothing in it which the US should find offensive.
Blairs handling of our relationship with the US has lead to widespread anti American feeling in this country. A more balanced relationship will be better for them and for us.

Oliver McCarthy

Oooh, yes! Let's spice up our relationship with a bit of danger.

This is just Bush-bashing, though it's Bush-bashing of the most feeble, limp-wristed sort. Hague is not going to become Foreign Secretary any more than Cameron is going to become PM, but at the moment he's living in a fantasy world where he can hobnob in the White House with President John McCain. And hence his Little Englander attitude to the War on Terror in Iraq (which will go down well with The Guardian and The Daily Mail) and his more-hawkish-than-thou attitude to Iran.

Andy Mercer

Margaret Thatcher's attitude to the Special Relationship was about right. It should be like brothers; we have our differences, but when it comes to the crunch, we come through for each other.

Our differences over the Soviet Gas-pipeline and Grenada did not impinge on our cooperation on intelligence, nuclear weapons, joint operations, etc.

We need to be able to say those things that only your close friends can say; the things that could hurt if they weren't said by a sincere, supportive and above trusted, friend.

In recent years, Blair has drifted away from that role, and more into that of an unquestioning acolyte. It has been to the disadvantage of both Britain and the US.

We and the US went into Iraq without a proper exit strategy. (The State Department had one, but Runsfeld binned the 800-page document.) I am certain that Thatcher would have raised this issue, and forced Bush Jr. to see sense. (She upbraded his father prior to the first Gulf War within the hearing of journalists!)

Repairing the Special Relationship will be an important task for the incoming Conservative administration. It will help that Bush Jr. will have gone soon.

Jason O'Mahony

As an Irishman, I continue to be flabbergasted at the Conservative obsession with demoting Britain's EU role in return for a submissive relationship with the US.
In the EU, Britain is a senior player and treated as such by France and Germany, yet in the US, Britain gains less than Israel and even Ireland in terms of core national interest objectives.
The key mistake is that you feel you must choose. Why? Ireland is both strongly European and strongly pro American. Why are you so obsessed with tearing apart a strong US-EU partnership?


Harold Macmillan had worked very closely with Eisenhower in North Africa - he was very close to John Kennedy who succeeded Ike and didmuch to keep JFK afloat over Cuba. it was Macmillan who secured The Test Ban Treaty.

The presence of Douglas Hurd, former MP for Witney, as adviser to the current MP for Witney is not reassuring.

Neville Chamberlain desperately worked for an alliance with the USA but could not get one - without sufficient power to meeet the challenge of Italy and Germany in Europe or of Japan in the Far East; his only option was to give ground in the hope he could avoid conflict - the police was called Appeasement.

That is the only option for a Britain without a heavyweight friend in the world


Ireland is both strongly European and strongly pro American.

Ireland lives on EU transfer payments - Britain pays for them

Ireland uses transfer payments to cut taxes and entice US corporations to run invoicing centres in Dublin

Ireland has a history of neutrality in the face of major conflicts - Britain does not


Many Conservatives rightly wish to keep Britain and America close, but how close would the Americans wish to stay to us in the wake of defeat in Iraq? The Clinton crowd, not the least likely beneficiaries of such a disaster, were not notable Anglophiles during the Major years, as we found to our discomfort in both Bosnia and Northern Ireland. Certain factions and forces within the American political system that have never been particularly pro-British might very well also seize this opportunity to blame Britain for having helped embroil America in Iraq in the first place. Howeverr unjust such an accusation might be at bottom, is that any guarantee against the more isolationist-minded kind of American voter believing it? Time for a re-assessment of our current degree of dependence on the U.S.A. perhaps?


As an American, I can certainly understand the British desire for more policy freedom. But looking at the spectrum of possibilities, one wonders how far Britain can go in criticising before it is written off as continental Europe already is.

France built Iraq's nuclear reactor and is pushing to end the arms embargo on China, and I believe there is a geniune sense of hostility towards France among the American public. Consequently, France's view is almost entirely discounted when American policymakers form their position (France will oppose us no matter what we do, so why bother). Is this the future that Britain seeks?

I think Britain is the major reason why the US remains engaged with the EU as an entity, and this further enhances Britain's senior status within the EU. I wonder what a weaker relationship with the US would achieve for Britain besides a transient boost of self-esteem.

Kolran Fett

I keep hearing about disaster in Iraq, it's getting old. If the liberals would just shut up about it and the media would start reporting posively...

Kevin Sampson

"Why are you so obsessed with tearing apart a strong US-EU partnership?"

Are you on crack? There is no US-EU partnership. As JF has already pointed out, Britain, and to a lesser extent (or maybe a greater extent) the former Soviet satelites are the only reasons the US still pays lip service to Europe.

As for the authors proposal for rebuilding the "Special Relationship", it looks good on paper, but I doubt there would be enough support from the British public to make it work.

Tory T

Donal, a few comments.

America is not "the" rather than "an" indispensable partner, for, de facto, a relationship must have more than one partner. This comment, I think, underlines what I disagree with in your post.

Is America a superpower? This is not a disinenuous question. I am not so sure that they are, in fact, a superpower. To be powerful, more than physical armaments are required. The courage to use those arms are also required.

We have seen precious little courage from the American people and media on the matter of Iraq. They love short, bloodless wars of victory but have no stomach for the deaths of their soldiers. Remember when the US spy plane was captured by China in the early days of Bush's term? I do. Did they get itr back? Could they enforce their will? No, not til every last item and technology had been stripped from it.

If they scarper from Iraq, I cannot see why they should be regarded as a powerful nation in any sense other than economic. France, after all, is a nuclear power with a sizeable armed force. But nobody thinks of her as a powerful military nation, for she utterly lacks the guts to fight.

Britain has been the loser in the so-called Special Relationship. She has offered America large, serious benefits of "blood and treasure" and in return, other than a few platitudes before Congress, she has been treated with contempt. I for one will no longer stand for it.

If I were in power, and the US government refused to have soldiers who killed Britons in "friendly fire" incidents even turn up to inquests, I should immediately withdraw my troops from Basra. As simple as that.

If I had gone to Washington after being the only real ally in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and had been told by the Senate there would be no exemptions over steel punishments handed out to the EU, imperilling British jobs, and, as a Prime Minister, been told to talk to a mere US Senator and see if I could persuade him, I again would have withdrawn my troops.

I would never permit American courts to extradite British citizens while the American Congress refused the opposite right.

I would not sit there, with my soldiers dying as American allies, whilst the US administration sought the opinions of mere journalists for the Baker Report but did not consult the British on it.

Donal, the scandalous disrespect and contempt with which Britain has been treated appears to have passed you by. We have no more out of our relations with the US than France, also MFN trading status. A standing ovation for Blair in Congress puts lipstick on the pig. Given the realities of the contempt and derision you find on the ground, it is in fact even more insulting.

America will find itself fighting its wars alone, and as we all see from the last set of elections, Americans apparently have no stomach for war. I am not sure they are a superpower in the military sense. When they withdraw from Iraq, that suspicion will be most regretfully confirmed.

Jason O'Mahony

" Ireland lives on EU transfer payments - Britain pays for them "

Hey, the IMF and the US both bailed out Britain. We'll be a net contributor soon, and rightly so. Fact still stands. We get more out of our relationship with the US and the EU. Britain's failure to get the best out of the US and EU relationships is due primarily to a lack of confidence. I mean, being afraid of Brussels? Come on!


Hey, the IMF and the US both bailed out Britain

Not true.

Britain had loans from the US to fight a war in Europe - Ireland was neutral - thousands of British Merchant seamen died bringing food across the Atlantic which fed neutral Ireland (or did the Irish use cooking oil to run their vehicles 1939-45 ?)

The IMF was founded by Britain to handle B of P problems - in fact it should have helped the USA throughout the Reagan years....Healey was duped by the Treasury into spending cuts on infrastructure which is why water was later privatised and why pipes are being re-lined rather than replaced now.....

Healey was stiffed just as in 1931. The IMF was used to bluff people like Benn who did not accept the Treasury view. Healey had a dimwit like Callaghan who had already botched the 1967 Devaluation...the Treasury knew it had idiots and it fed them false numbers.

The 1976 farce is a good reason to dismember The Treasury which is staffed by half-wits who have done immense damage to this economy for decades

Jason O'Mahony

"Britain had loans from the US to fight a war in Europe - Ireland was neutral"

Our foriegn policy represented our interest at the time. Morally suspect, definitely, but a reality. An ethical foriegn policy it was not. And no, I'm not a DeValera fan, so don't ask me to defend him.

My point is that the proposed policy would give the UK less influence than either Israel or Ireland, on the core issues that matter respectively.

I can see what Ireland and Israel and Australia get out of their relationships with the US. I don't believe that France or Germany have suffered from pursuing more independent lines with the US. So, what's in it for Britain?



Offhand, I'd say Britain gains through Trident and access to the US' advanced military technology (e.g. source-code level access to the JSF), and a unique level of intelligence sharing.

Let's flip this around: what does the US gain from the "special relationship"? (Do you believe that the UK's military contribution to US efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq is essential to the US?)

A variant question might be: what does Britain gain by explicitly destroying the special relationship?


What is Britain doing to destroy the 'Special Relationship' JF? Have you actually read Hagues speech?


As a friend of America I suggest we Brits stop using the expression "special relationship". We are deluded if we think the Americans think of it this way. We have long-standing military and commercial interests relating to the USA, but we are very much the junior partner to neo-cons such as Rumsfeld. We should get real and honest for a continued strong relationship.


Malcolm, my comment was directed at Jason regarding sacrificing ties to the US for the sake of a closer relationship with the EU. On the broadest level, the special relationship is probably nothing more than shared values: when the US looks to the international stage to carry out policy, it calls/consults with Britain first. We believe that Britain, more than any other country (except perhaps Australia) largely shares our values and, more importantly, has the will and capability to employ force to implement them.

Perdix, perhaps you're correct, but your misuse of the term "neo-con" baffles me. Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Bush are certainly not neo-cons, even if they have adopted certain policies shared by the neo-cons.

I would also posit, however, that Britain has even less to gain from imitating France's tactics and distancing itself from the US. In a mercenary sort of way, the UK has historically been able to influence the US only so long as it has been willing to fight alongside the US. Let's be honest: Americans appreciate and have a genuine affection uniquely held for the UK because of our shared values, but we have no desire to beg or bribe the UK to support our policies. In the harsh light of fact, we spend 10x what the UK spends on defense, and would probably not be held back from action to which the UK objects.

I would think you would prefer the special relationship and shared values with the US to the EU. Unless, of course, you prefer higher taxes, higher regulation, lower levels of employment, and delegating power to an unelected cabal in Brussels.

Jason O'Mahony

" I would think you would prefer the special relationship and shared values with the US to the EU. Unless, of course, you prefer higher taxes, higher regulation, lower levels of employment, and delegating power to an unelected cabal in Brussels."

JF, Why do you have to choose between the two? Ireland doesn't. Either do NATO members like the Netherlands. As for the above, I pay less taxes than most Brits, our unemployment is comparable to the UK, regulation is not unique to the EU (Try dealing with the federal govt in Washington, or the vehicle licencing centre in Swansea) and I would happily support an elected EU commission limited by a short and tightly worded EU constitution. It is much easier to repair the damaged EU-US relationship, which is a Bush related anomaly. As for your benefits, France didn't need US help for its deterrent, and as for the much vaunted CIA-SIS relationship, I'm sure plenty of your compatriots in Iraq sing the praises of it everyday.



Interesting and valid points, all. I very much admire the Irish model on the economic front, and yes, the US must continue to deregulate.

But the crux of the blog post was about influence, wasn't it? Ireland or the Netherlands can't pretend to have any influence on US policy, especially these days. When the conflict in Afghanistan is largely being fought by Americans, Canadians, and British, NATO looks like an increasingly unreliable (and eventually, irrelavant) entity. I think you'll be surprised once Bush leaves office if you expect a radical change in US foreign policy. September 11th may sound like a tired excuse to you by now, but it will be many more years before the US reverts to the Clintonian years of apathy that is so applauded by the international community.

True, France does not depend on the US for deterrence, but France's only deterrence is its nuclear stockpile. Its army is decrepit and incapable of fighting a conventional or unconventional war. France is not perceived as an ally by John Q. Public here in the US.

I don't mean to ramble. Regarding the original topic of the "special relationship," I would just ask again what Britain wants from us. (Please don't tell me this is all about the Kyoto Protocol.) I believe we have a special relationship because we share the same values. If the US must bribe the UK to continue the relationship, I'm not sure it's worth keeping.

If the UK feels it isn't getting enough and would prefer to take the French, Russian, and Chinese route of blackmailing the US at every turn for concessions or simply to score points with the developing world, it's welcome to do so. But should the UK take that step, I believe the US would lose interest in the EU and turn the full focus of its diplomatic efforts to Asia.

Jason O'Mahony


Fair points. But surely the crux of the issue is that the western world is fighting for its life against a fundamentalist threat to our very way of life, and the last thing we need now is to divide the two key components of western civilisation, The US and the EU.
The core division between the US and Europe is not over 9/11. It's over Iraq. The failure to eliminate the Taliban/Al Quaeda threat is primarily about a lack of resources given in Afghanistan, which was a failing primarily of the Bush administration that withheld those forces in order to use them in Iraq. I'm sure that John Q Public in the US is not generally aware that France put 25% of its army into Afghanistan, fighting alongside US forces.As an aside, I've always thought that US/French tensions are caused because both nations are so similar in their outlook!
You write as if the US regards the EU as a minor detail. I think the folks at Microsoft, GE, Honeywell, Boeing and those in the Steel division at the US Trade Rep's office would beg to differ. The amount of money they spend lobbying the European Parliament would also attest to that fact.
Europe owes its freedom from Nazi and Communist tyranny to the US, and there are many of us who still remember that. But friends treat each other with respect, and that is not what Britain is getting out of the current special relationship.



I wholeheartedly agree that the US and EU should maintain solidarity in the face of Islamofascism. However, rhetoric is one thing and action is another. The EU members are not spending enough on their respective militaries, and it shows. With the French, I am not surprised that the average American isn't aware of France's contribution. Thanks, France, for the TWO HUNDRED soldiers you sent to southern Afghanistan. I'm sure the 2,500 Candian soldiers, 5,800 British soldiers, and 10,000 US soldiers fighting there are grateful. My mistake, France has withdrawn its soldiers from the field of battle. So typical of France.

I would contend that the failure to defeat the Taliban is a failure of NATO, or more specifically, all the NATO members except for the US, Canada, the UK, and the Netherlands. NATO has 800,000 troops available to draw upon, but the members would not contribute the additional 2,500 soldiers needed for the southern Afghanistan offensive, so the four countries mentioned above had to make up the difference. Why should the US give any respect to the opinions of these non-contributing NATO members? They are failing their ally in its greatest time of need. So much for Article 5, so much for NATO.

Finally, as far as the commerce ties go, I absolutely agree with you. The EU is the United States' most important trading partner, and I believe the reverse is true as well. For that reason, I cannot envision the EU imposing economic penalties against the US due to its foreign policy. Thus, the US need not take EU objections into consideration when formulating foreign policy goals.

The past is past. We have been discussing the decline of the world's perception of the US in general terms. I think the US is always interested in gaining the support of its nominal allies. Going forward, what specifically does the US need to do at this point to reverse the trend and get any respect without endangering its national security?

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