America, Britain, and the Special Relationship

The Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack.

Britain and the United States share the same language, culture, history, and values. Together, we have weathered World Wars I and II, the Cold War, and the conflict in Iraq. The special relationship — official policy since the legendary camaraderie of Churchill and Roosevelt — has been a boon to both nations and has endured British and American governments of all stripes. Yet today, that important tie — the linchpin of US foreign policy — is under fire and it is up to America to shore it up.

Last month, the new Tory-led British government of David Cameron came to power with the help of its junior coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, and that party’s leader, Nick Clegg. Clegg, who is now deputy prime minister, and whose foreign policy positions stand in stark contrast to Cameron’s, wants to end the special relationship, as stated in a January Daily Telegraph piece, and “repatriate [British] foreign policy.” This rhetoric has caught on among others as well, with Prime Minister Cameron declaring that the UK seeks   “a strong, but not slavish” relationship with the US.

Britain's Premier, David Cameron, (right) and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg (left).

To be sure, Britain certainly has some legitimate gripes. There is a natural resentment in the UK over its place as the junior partner in the Anglo-American relationship, a role it has played since the Suez Crisis of 1956. There is also anger at the United States for having dragged them into an unnecessary war in Iraq, which has cost thousands of British lives and billions in British treasure.

However, these complaints should not translate into the termination of the special relationship. Rather, America should act to salvage this bond by putting the UK on more equal footing with the US, hesitating before it asks our best friend to commit blood and bullion to a war, and re-emphasizing Atlanticism and the trans-Atlantic alliance. It is a tie worth saving for its sentimental worth and practical value. As the two countries march hand-in-hand into the 21st century and confront the challenges of a new age, they will need strong, dependable, and trustworthy friends to rely on and fall back upon.


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