Sunday, June 3, 2018


The Westminster elite from time to time display's an almost desperate desire to retain a publicly perceptible closeness to US interests something that is barely concealed beneath the ever so thin veneer of so called 'special relationship '. This special relationship is worth exploring as it explains many of the decisions (and the consequences of decisions) taken over the last 60 years and much hangs on it for good or for ill post BREXIT.

This relationship in its current form exists in its current form as a direct result Suez. Thwarted by the USA, the Franco-British-Israeli alliance of convenience broke up. After a brief sulk - the Brits and the French then made two very different decisions, the French decided to pursue and independent foreign policy (and an independent nuclear deterrent), if from time to time French and US interests were the same, all well and good, if not then tough - French interests would always prevail even if they put France at odds with the USA.

This side of La Manche, the Brits made a very different decision, British and US interests it was decided would remain forever intrinsically linked - where the US went so would the Brits regardless. This was despite (in not because) of the threat of economic dislocation used by the US to effectively engineer the removal of a very ill Antony Eden from number 10 - something that should have remained relatively fresh in the Brit elites minds. 

In the late 1960's Harold Wilson, publicly (and privately) refused to commit Brit military assets to the on-going war in Vietnam. This reality was that this decision was carefully cleared in advance by Wilson with Washington (who cut the PM some slack) and was taken purely and simply for domestic political reasons rather than being a matter of high moral principal. 

The so-called special relationship was founded from combination of desperation, expediency, misunderstanding, and post war debt management. At the heart of the relationship lies a fundamental misunderstanding of US history and society which remains to this day. 

It's based from the start on a simple but fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of America. In the 19th and 20th centuries the Brit elite imagined that the Americans were basically trans Atlantic English people ( Personified as 'Brother Jonathan' so beloved by 19th century Brit cartoonists especially in Punch magazine ).

While this may have been true to a degree in Mid to late 18th century (to a degree) the opening up of the frontier to settlement (something the Brits had resisted when running their colonies in the New World) had resulted in a surge of European immigrants seeking a better life in the USA. They were joined by Poles, Germans, Ukrainians, Russians, Swedes, Mexicans, Irish and many others who flooded into America. The retention of the American form of English as a language of communication had little to do with trans Atlantic kinship with England and more to do with simple practicality.

The Brits, were at the end of the 19th century genuinely alarmed at US hostility towards Britain during the border dispute with Venezuela. Forgetting that support from Britain for the Confederacy during the civil war, with military supplies, the supply and construction of blockade runners and naval vessels was freshly and angrily remembered by the generations of US politicians that held power from the civil war until the start of the 20th century.

The USA buoyed up by manifest destiny within the continent, and the Monrow doctrine - a  policy of preventing external inference in both north and South America set out from the 1890's onwards to thwart, undermine and destroy the British Empire - and by and large they succeeded - partially as a result of the First and Second World wars and partially because that was the real price (aside from the hard cash, gold reserves, financial bonds and the sell off cheaply of UK assets within America) to pay for lead lease.

Despite the best efforts of Brit leaders to persuade people within the UK to the contrary the USA's oldest ally is actually France. The French supported the insurgent United States against their former imperial overlords.  The USA is the end result of a vast melting pot of peoples from across and around the globe - a number of whom had little love for Britain. 

Labour in power in 1945 perhaps hoped that by withdrawing from India - they might yet retain the potentially mineral rich in perial territories in Africa. This would help pay if the war debt and lessen the financial consequences of the loss of India. This illusion disappeared pretty rapidly after Suez - with the famous Winds of Change speech  calling down the curtain on the Empire in Africa. The hasty withdrawal from Africa that followed was a direct consequence of economic and political impotence following Suez.

This side of the pond, the Westminster / Brit elite over the last 50 years despite generating a lot of rhetoric to the contrary have consistently wound down the UK defence establishment to the point where it as shrunk to insignificance and moved the UK from potentially useful Ally to potential liability.

The over reliance on US defence equipment, some of dubious worth in some cases has become self fulfilling as the aerospace and armaments industrial sector had been run down and weakened to the point of destruction. The production of 2 aircraft carriers (which will have no aircraft for the foreseeable future) is merely a blatant example of poor decision making coming home to roost. 

The consequences of 5 defence reviews since the late 1950's rather than cutting our cloth to match realities have merely run the defence sector into the ground and cutting the armed forces to the very edge of impotence. The thousands of jobs in Westland in Yeovil and aerospace in Bristol (and many dependent jobs in the extended supply chain) were sacrificed in plain sight along with the coal and steel jobs in Wales and elsewhere. 

In the last decade the UK has moved from being unsinkable aircraft carrier and useful ally to a modern day version of Austria-Hungary - overblown with pomp and circumstance, politically unstable, unreliable and ill-equipped in less than 25 years. The decline economic and strategic is no doubt perceived as quite shocking in most of Europe's chancelleries. The UK's last 6 sea harriers were retrieved from storage to bomb Ghadafis Libya. Over last Christmas and the New Year all the Royal Navy's 15 surface ships were in home ports - something that had probably not happened since the days of King Alfred. 

The inhabitants of these islands are now going to be living on the edge of Europe, we're the UK (for good or ill) will have little influence having burned our bridges with the EU and irritated the USA by ceasing to be their boy inside the EU tent. Blair and Bush's much trumpeted New World Order, envisaged somewhat triumphantly when the USSR disintegrated has crumbled rather rapidly into a New World Disorder.  

Despite the tabloid and broadsheet headlines / delusions Empire 2.0 is not going to coming riding to the rescue. That ship rather than sailing away was quietly scuttled or abandoned in the early 1970's when the UK joined the then EEC - leaving potential commonwealth partners to sink or swim. Thanks to Brexit (potentially a gift that will keep on taking in so many different ways) the Brit elite finds itself about to be outside of the EU. 

The UK may well be doubly diminished- as its no longer as far as the other European's are concerned the USA's observer / representative in the EU tent. From the US perspective the UK is also diminished in US eyes as it's less useful bring unable to observe or influence events in the EU. Post BREXIT the UK may find itself dependent on the so called special relationship with the US largely because they have not got anyone else to turn too. The Recently steel tariffs imposed by US President Trump may well be just the start...

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