10/20/2004|||109826536095055569||||||
THE SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP IS LOOKING LESS THAN SPECIAL

An unmissable op-ed by Stephen Robinson in today's Daily Telegraph (may require registration) exposes the rift developing between the American and British worldviews. Very worrying, and all too true, I would say. If I had a vote in the US election I would cast it for George W. Bush, but his team's curious neglect of friends (and potential friends) does worry me:

To anyone who spends any time in America, this type of awkward encounter has become familiar. You are standing in a queue in a shop, and when your turn comes and you start to speak, someone will turn round, beam and say something like: "I just want to say how great it is that you Brits are right behind us." Occasionally, older Americans will add glowing words of approval for "your Tony Blair", with some flattering reference to Winston Churchill or Margaret Thatcher.

If I worked for the Independent, I would probably feel duty bound to correct my interlocutor, to suggest that the conduct of the occupation leaves something to be desired, and that, in some respects, Mr Blair might well have been less than candid with the British people about going to war. But I tend to bask in the warm glow of national approval and mutter lamely, "Thank you" or "You are most welcome", and so by default, I am adding to the great fog of misunderstanding that shrouds that most asymmetrical of alliances, the Anglo-American "special relationship".

Perhaps because of re-runs on US cable stations of 1950s war films, and 1970s British sitcoms, we perpetuate a giant fraud. Americans think we are still a martial nation and have no idea how soppy our culture has become. They assume we are right behind Tony Blair in being right behind George W Bush. Americans think we joined the coalition of the willing because we want to kick butt, when in truth we are there because we find it very hard to say no to an American president (which is not necessarily a bad reason for being in Iraq).

This mutual incomprehension is now so severe that it is quite possible - if sanity is not restored - that Mr Blair's decision to support Mr Bush could have the perverse consequence of destroying the Atlantic alliance.

Robinson castigates the anti-Americanism in the Labour and Tory ranks, but he has harsh words for US diplomacy too:

Not that the Americans make it easy for the British who want the relationship to thrive. No president in recent times has been so careless in keeping allies onside. Mr Bush cites his support from London, Rome and Poland when John Kerry accuses him of being diplomatically isolated, but it is a rhetorical tic, and he shows not the slightest inclination to work hard at fostering good international relations or bolstering allies who have taken huge political risks to back him.

If you find you are unable to put a name or a face to the American ambassador in London, that is because there hasn't been one here since the early summer, and a replacement is unlikely to arrive until the middle of next year. An administration anxious to reward Mr Blair for his loyalty might have been expected to make its case to the British public, but I cannot remember the last time I saw the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, or the National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, on British television. Come to think of it, most of us would probably struggle to remember what Mr Powell looks like, so invisible has he been since the Iraq war started.

A relationship so unequal as the one between Britain and America has immense potential for awkwardness, particularly for the junior partner to take umbrage when it thinks it is being taken for granted. It would be a shameful reflection on the combined political skills of George W Bush and Tony Blair if the historic Atlantic relationship completely unravelled at a time when American and British soldiers are fighting and dying together
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|||Clive|||http://clivedavis.blogspot.com/2004/10/special-relationship-is-looking-less.html|||10/20/2004 10:28:00 am|||||||||
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