Good Riddance to US-UK "Special Relationship"

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,,, at 3/28/2010 09:45:00 AM
We could sail away, or catch a freight train
Or a rocketship into outer space
Nothin' left to do; too many things were said
To ever make it feel like yesterday did...

As Motley Crue perhaps unwittingly predicted for Sammy and Vicky, it's don't go away mad, just go away time as far as the famed transatlantic relationship is concerned that has helped shape the modern world in the transition from one hegemon to another. Regular readers won't be surprised when I liken current US-UK ties to an abusive relationship. On the security front, the UK has gone to bat for America time and time again despite continental European powers becoming increasingly distant. I am sure you have friends like Sammy who do not think twice about making you relive past nightmares. Think about the Empire's past excursions in Afghanistan and Iraq. While the latter has been discounted as a fiasco launched on false pretences in the UK complete with multiple circuses [1, 2], the former is still unfolding. Despite the Afghan conflict probably being better justified, there is no doubt that it's not going too swimmingly, either.

Perhaps fittingly, the straw that broke the camel's back was likely America's blind faith in another buddy with behavioural issues of its own, Israel. A few days ago, there was the spectacle of the UK expelling an Israeli diplomat for the country's alleged use of British passports to facilitate the killing of a Hamas official in Dubai. And we haven't even discussed Washington telling the UK to talk with Argentina over the current Falklands impasse.

And so the newswires here in Britain are alight [1, 2, 3] with the publication of a new policy document emanating from the UK Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee suggesting that putting more daylight between the UK and US on foreign policy issues is for the best for all parties concerned. Are Britain's days of, pardon the term, being America's poodle nearly over? Here's the press blurb; you can view the entire report, too:
The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee today (Sunday 28 March) publishes its report: Global Security: UK-US Relations, the first time the Committee has looked specifically into the topic of relations between the United Kingdom and the United States since 2001. Chair of the Committee, Mike Gapes MP, says

"The UK needs to adopt a more hard-headed political approach towards our relationship with the US with a realistic sense of our own limits and our national interests. Certainly the UK must continue to position itself closely alongside the US but there is a need to be less deferential and more willing to say no where our interests diverge. In a sense, the UK foreign policy approach this Committee is advocating is in many ways similar to the more pragmatic tone which President Obama has adopted towards the UK.

"The UK and US have a close and valuable relationship not only in terms of intelligence and security but also in terms of our profound and historic cultural and trading links and commitment to freedom, democracy and the rule of law. But the use of the phrase 'the special relationship' in its historical sense, to describe the totality of the ever-evolving UK-US relationship, is potentially misleading, and we recommend that its use should be avoided.

"Yes, we have a special relationship with the US, but we must remember that so too do other countries including regional neighbours, strategic allies and partners. British and European politicians have been guilty of over-optimism about the extent of influence they have over the US. We must be realistic and accept that globalisation, structural changes and shifts in geopolitical power will inevitably affect the UK-US relationship. It is entirely logical for the US to pursue relationships with other partners who can provide support that the UK cannot. Having said that, recent minor disagreements between the UK and US do not threaten the relationship. Rather they highlight a need for better understanding between our governments to maintain its strength.

"It is likely that the extent of political influence which the UK has exercised on US decision-making as a consequence of its military commitments is likely to diminish. Over the longer-term the UK is unlikely to be able to influence the US to the extent it has in the past."
It's full of qualifiers, no doubt, but here's the question for the America #1-style cheerleaders: If America were still "all that," would its staunchest ally be signalling an end to its days of being Washington's toady, lackey, sycophant, bootlicker, and minion? There comes a time when the calculus of dissent suggests going the other way, and Britain apparently no longer feels it can meaningfully influence US policy in a way that compensates for being perceived as such. Not only is it getting so little benefit, but its global image is being hurt in being so closely allied with a washed up has-been.

I certainly hope this precedent will bring the UK closer to continental Europe, especially in the economic realm. In the past, I have made no bones about being an EU admirer and attribute a lot of Britain's woes to trying to be so slavishly faithful to the fiscally and morally bankrupt US example. Financial WMD, anyone? Perhaps some retail therapy is the cure. I will forever be wary of George Soros being the man who broke the Bank of England by forcing the UK out of the ERM and, by consequence, the Eurozone. The counterfactual I relish is of the Germans leading a crackdown on Britain's current Yankee-style fiscal hemorrhage right about now had Soros not speculated. Plus, I'd be earning real money (euros) instead of play money (pounds).

Ah, but let's not cry for yesterday for there is still hope in breaking free of Washington's asphyxiating embrace as today's events have demonstrated. Full of hubris, debt, and cellulite, the US is weighted down by its own woes. While it chews the fat, its allies are deserting it. The UK has seen this movie before with the demise of Pax Brittania. Now, it seems it doesn't want to sink together with another country hellbent on repeating this fate. The US goes its way, the UK goes another way. For the sake of Britain, embrace Europa. America is a menace to itself and others, and a strong, positive countervailing influence is what this world needs right about now. Don't go away mad--just go away.