The special relationship becomes essential

 

            Today I plan to hear President Obama’s foreign policy speech. He will deliver it in Westminster Hall, a building which has seen more than 900 years of English and British history. The struggle to control the King and impose Parliament’s will was acted out here: it was the scene of the trial of King Charles I. It was the place to try powerful advisers to monarchs who were thought to have abused their positions. The Parliamentary chamber that witnessed the great debates to establish Parliamentary democracy was destroyed by fire, whilst Westminster Hall, old  home to the courts and host to great state trials has survived as a memorial to the growing pains of democracy.

The President will doutless genuflect to any British nervousness about the state of the US/UK relationship. The British in private will probably wish to show some independence of thought over the joint approach to the Middle East.  The President in his early days did not control all of the details to reassure the UK he understood the long term nature of the joint actions, whilst the Prime Minister in his early days wanted to show he would be no US poodle. All this has been written up and written about too much. In practice the US and UK remain linked by common language and history, by many cross Atlantic family ties, by substantial mutual investment in each other’s countries and by their common causes through NATO.

US Presidents usually come round to the view that even though there is  a large imbalance in size and power between the two countries, having the UK’s moral and mililtary support in pursuit of common world aims can be helpful. UK Prime Ministers usually take the view that they need to get on well with the world’s superpower, though occasionally they may show flashes of independence. Margaret Thatcher had a close working relationship with the US but was memorably caught telling the US not to wobble. Harold Wilson wisely stayed out of the Viet Nam war but the relationship survived that display of independence.

Today I want President and Prime Minister to rethink the past approach to the Middle East and the spread of democracy. Mr Cameron has said that you cannot impose democracy from above by bombing from 30,000 feet. In private they should agree a timetable for getting out of military  commitments in Afghanistan and Libya.

Whether they call the relationship special or essential does not matter as much as the press seem to think. What they do decide on future military commitments to the Middle East matters much more. If we believe in self determination of peoples, democratic process and peace, we need to amend what we do and learn from recent wars.

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17 Comments

  1. lifelogic
    Posted May 25, 2011 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    A great shame that Blair and Cameron did not follow Harold Wilson’s fine example on
    Viet Nam.

    A great shame too that Obama felt the need for his pathetic and rather childish attacks on “British” Petroleum. Then again what does one expect from lefty politicians like Cameron and Obama.

    You say you are concerned about “the spread of democracy”. I am too but rather more concerned by the lack of any real effective democracy within the UK and the EU as the last vestiges are being carefully extinguished and crushed by Cameron/Clegg and the EU machine.

    • lifelogic
      Posted May 25, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      46 Votes is however many more than UKIP are ever likely to have as MPs under the current voting system – and even if they won every MEP seat (apart from Dan Hannan and similar of course) it would still change nothing I suspect. Well done the 46.

  2. Mike Stallard
    Posted May 25, 2011 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    I would like to say that (the middle east -ed) seems to be the battlefield at the moment.
    We are not going to impose democracy on Islam at all. It doesn’t do democracy. Israel does.
    So I warmly want to support your idea that we ought to get out of the two wars which we seem to have got caught up in.
    Arabs have always been a quarrelsome lot. Canaan and Israel have been fighting since the time of Moses.
    We aren’t going to get peace in either place.
    Meanwhile both countries are going broke very fast as they spend a lot more than they earn.

  3. Javelin
    Posted May 25, 2011 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    I think the US will cause us huge problems next year. Simple because Obama has been told by his economic advisers to cut spending by at least 3.5% next year and Osborne will be cutting by the same amount over 4 years. The rating agencies and the eastern bond markets have already woken up to this, hence the negative outlook from China. US bond prices will look relatively more attractive and squeeze the UK further. Osborne is doing exactly as predicted and is cutting as little as possible 1. to shut the Labour out and 2. to keep soft pressure from the rating agencies as a sign he is doing as little as possible. but in the face of real cuts from the US the UK is getting itself into a highly negatively geared sovereign beauty contest if there are further problems in the bond markets – and there will be because the PIGs simply can’t afford their debts.

    • lifelogic
      Posted May 25, 2011 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      Agreed – what I do not really understand is why Cameron and Osborne want to go down this mad self destructive route.

      Is it just that they want a nice EU or similar jobs in four years and they really do not care about the UK interests at all or are they just completely deluded? Can they put forward any rational arguments for their agenda – I have heard none?

      • Mike Stallard
        Posted May 25, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

        This is never discussed.
        I too have been wondering about it too.
        The only conclusion I can come up with is that like mixes with like and it is much more comfortable to mix with other politicians than with your own (often very stroppy) countrymen. Look at how relaxed O’Bama and Cameron were playing table tennis on TV. It was more than a photo shoot.
        I suppose that when Mr Cameron or one of his entourage goes to Brussels, he meets a lot of like minded people and he moulds his ideas (politicians are awfully clever at this) to fit in with “the general will.”
        It is a very short step from there to listening to the civil servants who are, of course, very much Brussels.
        And then there is Cleggie…….

        • lifelogic
          Posted May 26, 2011 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

          Yes – Certainly it is amazing how anyone who works at the BBC seems to think along on almost identical “Poly Toynbee” lines and even uses almost identical wording on any issue. Perhaps you are right. The politicians just move in a circle of similar mindsets. They all reinforce their distorted views of the world on each other. A sort of self infecting “think” club where no one dares to point out that their ideas clearly have no clothes and won’t actually work – lest they are banned from promotion or membership of this same self serving club.

  4. acorn
    Posted May 25, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    I see two Typhoon jockeys, got sent home for drinking the bar dry in their four star Italian hotel; between Libyan bombing missions. You have to pray that these guys never get jobs as 747 pilots when de-mobbed.

    Elsewhere I hear, that blighter Gadfly, is lighting fires in defunct Tanks and making it look like exhaust smoke. Result; we have allegedly bombed the same tank five times. Time to get the expensive jet jockeys out and put in the Marines. They are exercising off Cyprus and are combat ready, apparently.

    As Cam said, you can’t impose democracy from 30,000 feet. And, it is much easier for a Squaddies to plant their size elevens on the ground from a chopper. Planting those size elevens is the only way you take ground. Should the choppers have to land, they are terribly unreliable, then naturally the troops will have to deploy to defend themselves. Won’t they?

  5. Peter
    Posted May 25, 2011 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    (Makes allegations about detention without trial, maltreatment of prisoners etc) Not Obama though. Apparently no matter what he does we get the media (particularly BBC) tugging their forelocks ferociously and whining on about the special relationship like a little kid wanting to be the bully’s friend in the playground. What a pathetic country we are. If there was any justice at all the man would be (challenged over alleged US violations of normal rule of law-ed).

  6. Neil Craig
    Posted May 25, 2011 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    The “special/essential relationship” is valuable to both parties when we have something intellectually to contribute”. Thus Thatcher’s “don’t go wobbly on us” was valuable as indeed was Wilson’s refusal to support the Vietnam war. Blaor’s poddleness was not – indeed since he loyally encouraged the US into a disater it was clearly damaging to both sides.

    Regretably the only thing Cameron can contribute “intellectually” to America is to press them to join our Luddite programme of destroying the eco0nomy to reduce “catastrophic global warming”. Obama is not quite stupid enough to do that and the next President will be correctly contemptuous of such calls.

  7. John B
    Posted May 25, 2011 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Good analysis, calm and balanced.

    As for spreading democracy, how do you Mr Redwood reconcile the “spreading” thereof in other Countries with its erosion in the UK and Europe generally by that monster the EU.

    “It [ the Westminster Hall]was the place to try powerful advisers to monarchs who were thought to have abused their positions.”

    So a good opportunity whilst you have Cameron and other ‘abusers’ in situ to hold a trial.

    Reply You should have noticed that I also oppose EU led reductions in our democracy.

  8. forthurst
    Posted May 25, 2011 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    The ‘special relationship’ has been disastrous for ths country. Big brother was always willing to come to our aid, especially if the conflicts we became engaged in had been substantially fomented by elements within the US administration in the first place, and our politicians were consequently reckless in dragging this country into perilous situations we had every reason to wish to avoid. Of course each left this country immeasurably weaker and ever more dependent on the USA. Now with oil, ‘banking’, ‘defence’, our productive economy is heavily enmeshed with that of the USA, since our politicians sat around whilst trotskyites trashed our engineering industry, as theirs is substantially dependent on Chinese subventions.

    As the USA continues its rapid deterioration from a republic to a tyrany under the Patriot Act, ‘justified’ by the 9/11 false flag operation, we need urgently to start detaching ourselves from this criminal enterprise apparently directed by a group with a supernatural belief in their own specialness and a disregard for anyone else and especially whose who sit on oil they covet or territory they desire.

    Our politicians have made an horrific mess of this country. Miost of them are traitors but with insufficient insight to even realise the fact.

  9. sm
    Posted May 25, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Special?

    (Maybe our armed forces only but for how long)

    We are but one of the regions of the EU with a local administrative legislature.
    We are ruled by a cabal of bureaucratic interests at EU level and party political self interest in the UK (but always under EU dictat)

    We have elections which have no real purpose on substantive issues except to ensure the prevalent public view is marginalised , legally and administratively blocked by clever people. (The AV referendum Mr Clegg? The least the Lib Dems could have done was insist on an EU referendum, an honourable legacy.)

    We are the land of the ‘super injunction’ versus the constitutional rights of the US.

    We have the EU / ECHR delving deeply into the UK law making laws which should be for the local sovereign parliament. We are now seemingly locked into a possibly illegal fiscal transferunion – without being in the Euro? Ultra vires and personal liability spring to mind.

    Do the Courts in the UK concur that the UK is Sovereign and Supreme in law making. I think not. If this is not so we are no longer a democracy.Maybe judge led law should be a check on an undemocratic EU foisted on the UK, but they appear to be a part of the pincer on freedom.

    I am waiting for the Human Rights Law – to insist on a UK EU referendum? before it implodes.

    I worry more about our own democracy and institutions and the guardians who have by some means temporarily acquired control of them.

  10. Conrad Jones (Cheam)
    Posted May 25, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    “Harold Wilson wisely stayed out of the Viet Nam war but the relationship survived that display of independence.”

    It is as refreshing for a latter day Conservative Politician to recall this as it disheartening to see a Mr Cameron drop the UK into another Middle Eastern War under the guise of “Humanitarian Intervention”.

    If Britain had joined the Americans in Vietnam, what would the State of the British Economy be now? The Vietnam War was the costly mistake that forced – or allowed; the United States to ditch the Gold Standard thanks to the enormous costs involved. They haven’t learnt a thing from History. And nor have we except – obviously; our host.

  11. electro-kevin
    Posted May 25, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    One does sense that upon electi0n our newly appointed PMs are told the secret truth about our relationship with America – there behaviour seems to change soon after coming to office.

    • electro-kevin
      Posted May 25, 2011 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

      ‘their’ of course.

    • Gary
      Posted May 26, 2011 at 8:03 am | Permalink

      This is a recurring theme. No matter who gets to power they are molded by some unseen force into the status quo, despite anything they may have professed before they got to power. Which begs the question, dismissing the remote probability that they are all actually the same, who gets to them and if so, do we in fact have a shadow govt ?

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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