Monday, December 04, 2006

A British columnist, viewing the "abusive" state of the U.K.-U.S. "special relationship," suggests that it's time for the Brits to fend for themselves


Just yesterday we were talking about the comment Howie reported on his travel blog from an Argentine dinner companion: "Now tyrants all over the world are learning something else than democracy from Bush. They learn to steal elections and undermine democracy. Did Tony Blair use Bush's methods in the last U.K. election? Does anyone doubt Putin will in the next Russian election? The very legitimacy of democracy itself has been undermined by Bush, not just in our country, but around the world."

Earlier this week a well-respected senior analyst at the State Department caused an international to-do by suggesting, with regret, that the famous "special relationship" between the U.S. and the U.K. is kaput. Mags passed on this wry response from a columnist in Britain's
Observer newspaper, who suggests that the Brits make the best of it.--Ken

[Note from the DWT photo editor: If there's a photo of this State Department analyst Kendall Myers in circulation, our photo research staff couldn't find it. The only consolation is that nobody else seems to have either.]

This 'special relationship' is an abusive one

Jasper Gerard
Sunday December 3, 2006
The Observer

London Bridge, says a senior Bushite, is 'falling down'. Actually, it has never looked in better nick, probably because the Americans captured it and carted it back home; the old London Bridge resides in the most preposterous place I've visited, an English theme village in the Arizona desert. And, postwar, that has pretty much been America's way with Britain: coo over our quaintness, take what it wants, then ship out.

Yet the underlying point made by the State Department's Kendall Myers is sound: we can no longer act as bridge between America and Europe because George Bush has dynamited it at his end. Our 'special relationship' is more an abusive marriage crying all the way to the divorce courts, or a love-struck teenager's infatuation with an old crooner who can barely remember her name afterwards: 'Yo! Blair!'

There is, Myers confessed, 'no payback'. So now an American - who even Labour-Tory grandees cannot dismiss as a rabid Europhile bent on some dastardly plot to shoo Brenda from our banknotes - has had the decency to admit what many have long said. Yet still ministers ignore reality. So tomorrow Tony Blair, that battered wife in denial, will seek to renew Britain's 'independent' nuclear deterrent - perhaps forgetting to mention America will retain the key. Well, Washington wouldn't want the little wife getting ideas.

And, in America's defence, it has never hidden what kind of husband it is; Blair has just tactfully ignored the truth. I recall sitting in stunned silence as John Bolton, America's UN ambassador [right], told me that America will always remorselessly pursue its interests and other nations must follow simply in deference to American power. If this was courting, it smacked of rape, not romance.

Even Roosevelt was determined to dismantle Britain's empire, and not on sound liberal principles: he sought our colonial markets and military bases. Heath, Wilson, even Thatcher, saw what Blair denies. Curiously, nostalgia for the wartime alliance has actually grown among contemporary politicos, whose closest shave with Reich firepower was watching The Guns of Navarone.

Their view was best articulated by William Hague [right, who succeeded former Prime Minister John Major as Conservative Party leader after the party's election rout in 1997, but stepped down after the party's 2001 election debacle, and is currently the party's shadow foreign secretary] during the debate taking us into Iraq: 'It is part of our national interest to act in concert with the United States of America in matters of world peace and stability.' I'd love to know if he would now add a little caveat.

As Myers said, Britain must work with Europe, as Heath, Lib Dems, Peter Mandelson et al have said for years, only to be dismissed as club bores. Sure, it will be frustrating cajoling France to send more than two choppers to a war zone. And it is less fun for premiers ruling a country that begins to resemble plucky Belgium more than old Great Britain; there will be fewer preening photo-ops in the White House rose garden and less a sense, however illusory it proved, of being at the epicentre of events. But at least premiers might focus on domestic policy (no bad thing after Blair's adventurism), and when we do fight - such as in the Balkans - there will be international backing.

And if we ceased to feel abused, we could fall in love with America again. To carry on choking back tears in darkened rooms will only lead to divorce most ugly. But after a trial separation we could once more celebrate the innate warmth of Americans and their dynamic brilliance. No longer would every bigoted anti-American jibe win applause from British audiences. How much better than to shuffle along, cursing quietly, feeling powerless to stop not only domestic violence but international violence. America can live with our resentment. Can we?


Al Kamen has the story of Kendall Myers' naughty remarks--"at what he apparently thought was an off-the-record gathering at the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies"--in his Washington Post "In the Loop" column today, with this parting shot:

"Myers, who was said to be thinking about early retirement, reportedly got a talking-to from supervisors. State deputy spokesman Tom Casey told reporters that 'the comments, frankly, I think could be described as ill-informed, and I think, from our perspective, just plan wrong.' Not to mention way off-message.

"Associated Press reporter George Gedda helpfully noted that the ill-informed Myers is a 30-year member of the civil service and is an expert in U.S.-British relations."


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