The US alliance served the UK well in the Cold War, and was at its best under Reagan and Thatcher when their combined pressure helped bring communism down in Eastern Europe. The relationship has not always been so strong.
In 1939-41 the US was reluctant to come to the aid of the UK at its time of greatest danger. Only the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour brought the US decisively to the war and ensured ultimate Allied victory worldwide as the US cranked up its mighty industrial and military machine. In the 1960s a UK Labour government refused to offer military support to the USA in Viet Nam. The US subsequently lost a major military encounter with communism.
Mr Blair and Mr Brown decided to support the various military endeavours of the US during their terms of office. Looking at today’s Iraq and Afghanistan, and across the borders to Iran and Pakistan, it is by no means clear that our joint strategy will bring lasting peace or secure better government in that troubled part of the world. The UK needs to ask itself if it should commit to such military interventions in countries with such different cultures and traditions, where there has been a long and sorry history of unsuccessful western interference.
The prime task of the UK government should be to ensure the defence of our home islands and of our dependent territories. Today these are less threatened than usual. Our nearest powerful neighbours and former opponents France and Germany are both peace loving democracies with no territorial claims on us. The Russian threat to western Europe has been lifted by the end of the Cold War and the collapse of Russia’s Eastern European empire. The new powers in the East have preoccupations with their Pacific area, not with our Atlantic territory.
Our island situation is a great strength, as it always has been. Our home defence can be achieved by keeping sufficient capability in ships and planes to make it impossible for any invader to cross the seas close to us as a precaution even though there is no such threat currently. Our dependent territories also require us to keep sufficient sea power supported by air power to act as a warning to any country with military expansion plans.
As the government has stated, the new threats come from terrorist groups and rogue states prepared to embark on asymetric warfare. That requires us to be strong in intelligence and ready to handle attacks through cyberspace and on the streets of our cities. It is also wise to retain an effective nuclear deterrent. It might also be both wise and sensible to wnsure we have possession of all the military technology we might need here at home. After all, the UK had to develop its own nuclear bomb after 1945 , and could doubtless do so again.
The US has strong views on the future of the Middle East and Far East, and a substantial military presence to back up its view. We need not always share that view, nor always be available with military support for it.