31 December 2020

U.S. & U.K. - Is It Over?

There's been a lot of water under the bridge since MM wrote this rather pessimistic essay five and a half years ago. Brexit comes to mind, for one thing. 

From The Mad Monarchist (13 April 2015)

So, here’s the story as I heard it; the Daily Mail says that The Mail on Sunday found a secret memo to the United States Congress from the Congressional Research Service’s chief European affairs analyst saying that the time of the “special relationship” between America and Great Britain may be over and that Great Britain simply may no longer be “centrally relevant” to the United States with the rise of new powers and power blocs around the world. Seeing this, and some of the reaction to this news, has frankly left me wondering how I should really feel about it. It has played upon some doubts and troubled thoughts I have been having for quite some time about my entire operation here. One thing that does seem certain is that the “special relationship” does not seem to be understood by either side. After seeing what Britons and Americans had to say on the subject, neither seemed to have a full grasp of the facts. Some of this is connected to issues fairly recently discussed here about Britain in the last world war.

For example, I noticed that Britons tended to speak of the “special relationship” as if it were some sort of sinister code-phrase for American domination of Great Britain. In fact, it was the British who came up with the concept, starting with Winston Churchill, and it has been most often spoken of by British prime ministers rather than American presidents. I suspect this attitude is mostly due to the fact that the decline of British power in the world coincided with the rise of American power, causing the paranoid to think that there must have been some conspiracy involved. In fact, as we discussed here in January, this came about for the simple reason that British leaders in 1939 chose to enter a war they could not hope to win on their own. This changed who occupied the top spot in world affairs and, given the available options, Britain preferred American leadership to Bolshevik leadership. Then, after the conflict, a socialist government was elected that decided it was better to have a welfare state than an empire. Naturally, with the break-up of the empire, British influence around the world declined. No one can claim to be deceived in this process as President Roosevelt made it clear from day one that his government was prepared to assist in the defense of the British Isles but had no intention of fighting to preserve the British Empire which Roosevelt stated openly that he opposed.

American historians have noted that U.S. support for Britain retaining Malaysia after the war went against Roosevelt’s Atlantic Charter but was undertaken because of the recognized threat of communist expansion. The U.S. sent arms and intervened to urge Thailand to support the British-led war in Malaysia (Thailand was then on friendlier terms with America than Britain as Britain had declared war on Thailand in World War II whereas the United States had not). There were also considerable loans and grants from the U.S. to the U.K. to help the country recover economically. As part of the “Program of Assistance for the General Area of China” the U.S. sent $5 million to the Malay states specifically to aid in fending off the communist threat. But, American support for the British empire in opposition to communist insurgencies or independence movements was undercut by the lack of real resolve in Britain itself to maintain the empire. Anti-colonialism was the popular thing and the mostly left-of-center governments in both Britain and America did not want to be seen as fighting to uphold colonialism. When the Suez Crisis came, the United States backed Egyptian independence rather than Britain and France, a move that President Eisenhower would later admit was the biggest mistake of his administration.

The succeeding Kennedy administration took a more strident anti-European line across the board, from Africa to Indonesia and so it was no great surprise when things began to get rough in Vietnam, the British refused to participate. The days of Anglo-American solidarity in World War II and Korea seemed to be over. Yet, the two countries would cooperate again on other fronts but while governments pledge friendship the people seem to cling to acrimony, or the reverse. Britons, for example, frequently complain of being “dragged” into “America’s wars” while America did nothing to aid Britain during the Falklands War (which is not true, America did support the UK in the Falklands War and was prepared to do more if it proved necessary). Most Americans don’t give it much thought but those who do tend to be confused by this reaction. To the general public, it did not seem that Britain needed any help with Argentina and when the Reagan administration took action to stop the communist invasion of Grenada and set again at liberty the Queen’s representative, Britons tended to respond with anger that they had not been consulted in the matter which in turn caused American frustration by those who thought they were doing the U.K. a favor with the operation. Likewise, in the build-up to the first Iraq War, Britain had more interest in the region than America did and it was British PM Thatcher, who was in America when Iraq invaded Kuwait, who showed more ferocity than President George H.W. Bush, urging him to use American forces to expel the Iraqis.

However, it is clear that most of this seems to always boil down to the ever-unpopular Second Gulf War, the consequences of which are still being dealt with today. From what I have seen, the British public still tends to view this as an American war they were dragged into against their will. Americans, on the other hand, look at the huge and multiple electoral victories of Tony Blair in the U.K. and wonder how his decisions could possibly be placed at their door. Britain contributed more than any other ally but was, necessarily, a drop in the bucket compared to the U.S. commitment and British troops were used in defensive roles only, basically holding ground already taken to free up American troops for offensive operations. Similarly, after Tony Blair’s speech to a joint session of Congress, many Americans thought he had presented a more zealous defense of the Iraq war than the American president ever had. Indeed, many Democrats were furious at their fellow leftist for making such an eloquent defense of a war they (by then) opposed. It certainly did not seem, on the American side of the Atlantic, like the U.K. was an unwilling hostage to an all-American war.

To some extent though, going over such details is rather pointless as the democratic nature of both the U.S. and U.K. means that almost nothing these days is considered “national” policy but rather “government” policy with factions on each side shifting according to their own interests with no clear consensus on what is in the national interest. New administrations take different positions, some American presidents being more pro-British, others noticeably less so and the same for British prime ministers, with some being very supportive of the U.S. and others less so. There is also no lock-step unity, despite the democratic process, between governments and the public. Britain, which in social and economic policies tends to be much further to the left than the United States, has tended to dislike Republican administrations and favor Democrats. President George W. Bush was widely despised in Britain and the election of Barack Obama was cheered, in spite of the fact that, in America at least, Bush seemed almost gushingly pro-British and Obama noticeably cold if not borderline antagonistic towards Britain.

Politics has most blatantly crept into American foreign policy on both the left and the right. The only consistency is that Democrats oppose whatever a Republican president does and Republicans oppose whatever a Democrat president does even if their own side previously did the exact same thing. This has led to some downright laughable scenes when President Obama has “dithered” on foreign policy issues which in turn caused Republicans to fume and sometimes back-peddle as they didn’t know what to be against since Obama was not making a decision. When Obama was staying out of Libya, they demanded that he intervene and when he did intervene they condemned him for making things worse. The same happened in Syria, Republicans criticized Obama for meddling and saber-rattling with his “red line” speech and then later condemned him for not making good on his threats and sending support to the Syrian rebels. Looking at Great Britain and the conservative opposition to American policies in the Middle East in particular, I have to wonder if their position would be the same were it not for the fact that Tony Blair happened to be in office at the time those decisions were made. Surely it was a gift from Heaven for the Tories that Blair was on duty when Britain became involved in a war that proved so widely unpopular. They are then placed in the awkward position of arguing for more support for the British armed forces while seemingly being opposed to them ever actually doing anything. It makes little sense that while the British public votes for more entitlements, keeping the NHS sacrosanct and so cutting the military down to absolute minimum so that the commanders of the armed forces have said that the U.K. is currently incapable of military action to then spurn the alliance Britain has with the most militarily powerful country in the world.

The people in power, to some extent in both major parties (as is common around the world) realize that there are bad people with bad intentions out there and so it is better for Britain to be a friend of America rather than an enemy. The public, however, has no such knowledge and no such worries. From what I have seen, most Britons do not think their country benefits from a “special relationship” with America and most Americans do not see any gain from it either. Are the masses ill-informed or is it truly useless? I must confess I have begun to doubt and re-think my own position on this issue since late last year. Previously, my view was always one that favored a strong alliance and Anglo-American friendship. My example was the late, great, King George III who famously said that he was the last to agree to America’s separation from the British Empire but, the separation having occurred, would be the first to welcome friendly relations with the new country. The only time subsequently that Britain and America came to blows, it almost lead to the break-up of the United States due to the large numbers of people who so adamantly opposed hostilities with Britain. In both world wars the United States gave considerable support to Great Britain long before actually joining the conflict. Afterwards, despite occasional tensions, both countries were partners in the Cold War against communist expansion and have cooperated in the “War on Terror”, in each case not without opposition from certain sections of society. Have things changed?

Before late last year I would have said that the “special relationship” should be preserved and strengthened as part of my desire for overall greater solidarity throughout the English-speaking world, among all the countries of the former British Empire. Today, however, I am more hesitant on the subject and have been reflecting a great deal on whether Anglo-American friendship is something worth pursuing. The British public, from what I have seen, seems to oppose it and the American public does not see where it has been of any benefit. Most, in my experience, would prefer it to continue but would not consider it a great loss if it did not. Both sides of the American political spectrum have their criticisms of Great Britain (the Democrats for what Britain used to be and the Republicans for what Britain has become) just as there is no shortage of criticism from Britain about America, seemingly no matter which party is in power, no matter if the subject is past or present. It is part of an overall questioning I have had about the attitude of the United States towards monarchies around the world.

As I have pointed out before, there is scarcely a single monarchy in the world that is not currently under the protection of or allied with the United States. In almost every case this is the result of policies set in place decades ago and maintained regardless of the governments in power, something based on national interest. However, I have been made very aware of just how many monarchists viscerally oppose the United States and would condemn all of the monarchies of the world, even their own, at least in regard to this one relationship. I have had to consider then whether or not I have wasted a great many years trying to impress upon Americans the value of monarchy and encouraging friendship with the monarchies of the world. Given the attitudes I have seen and the sentiments of a great many people on the subject, I have to wonder if this was not totally incorrect and perhaps monarchists would be more supportive of their own national institutions if America opposed rather than supported them. In the case at issue today, it then ceases to be a question of whether or not there is a “special relationship” between Britain and America (as some deny it) but rather whether there should be at all.

Personally, I prefer friendship and goodwill, I look forward to royal visits to the United States by British monarchs and other family members but if that goodwill does not genuinely exist, I would have to set my own preferences aside for the good of the monarchist cause. If the United States abandoned the monarchies of Europe protected by NATO, it would certainly make for better Russo-American relations and if the United States dropped its alliance with Japan, Sino-American relations would improve dramatically. Likewise, if the U.S. refused to lend any further support to the monarchies of the Middle East, Obama would have a much easier time achieving his goal of restoring relations with Iran. Would all of that be good for the cause of monarchy in the world? I don’t see how, but as so many seem to think it somehow would, I must consider that I may be the one in the wrong. Should the “special relationship” continue? At this point, I want to say “yes” but am increasingly at a loss for a way to justify it.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are subject to deletion if they are not germane. I have no problem with a bit of colourful language, but blasphemy or depraved profanity will not be allowed. Attacks on the Catholic Faith will not be tolerated. Comments will be deleted that are republican (Yanks! Note the lower case 'r'!), attacks on the legitimacy of Pope Francis as the Vicar of Christ (I know he's a material heretic and a Protector of Perverts, and I definitely want him gone yesterday! However, he is Pope, and I pray for him every day.), the legitimacy of the House of Windsor or of the claims of the Elder Line of the House of France, or attacks on the legitimacy of any of the currently ruling Houses of Europe.