October 10, 2004


The Breakup: The Iraq war is isolating the U.S. and killing the American-British 'special relationship' (Niall Ferguson, October 10, 2004, LA Times)

[B]lair's fervid Atlanticism marks a discontinuity. It makes sense partly as a backlash against the dismal failures of Major's European strategy, especially its hopelessly miscalculated responses to the breakup of Yugoslavia. It was Blair's conversion to the U.S. view of the Balkan problem — Slobodan Milosevic — that led him to support war against Serbia in 1999. And it was the success of that war, opposed as it was by so many of Blair's critics on both the left and the right, that led him to favor wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The road to Baghdad led from Pristina via Kabul.

Religion is the other bond between Bush and Blair. The born-again Christian and the High Church Anglican share a strong belief that war is not just an instrument of policy but also of morality — a weapon to be used by the forces of righteousness against wicked dictators like Hussein. The trouble is, although a majority of Americans are receptive to what might be called a faith-based foreign policy, few Britons are. Americans are still a deeply Christian people. The British ceased to be some time ago.

This is just one aspect of a fundamental divergence in popular culture that increasingly makes the special relationship. Perhaps nothing illustrates more clearly how European the British are becoming than their attitudes to U.S. politics. Asked in a recent poll to choose between the two candidates for the presidency, 47% favored Kerry, compared with 16% for Bush — at a time when the president was between 5 and 10 percentage points ahead in U.S. polls. On the legitimacy of the Iraq war, too, the British public is now closer to Continental opinion than to American.

All this suggests that Blair's Atlanticism may represent the special relationship's last gasp. For a strategic partnership needs more to sustain itself than an affinity between the principals and the self-interest of a few professional elites. It requires a congruence of national interests. It also needs some convergence of popular attitudes.

All true except for one thing--Britain is just one 9-11 or Bali bombing away from popular attitudes converging with Tony Blair's attitude and the majority of the nation becoming only slightly less hawkish than we Americans. This is particularly the case because, unlike the United States, England has a domestic problem with Islamic extremists. Nothing would be easier, even now, than for the Tories to reinvent themselves as an anti-immigration, anti-EU, anti-Islamicist party and ride such soft nationalism back to power. In fact they may need to do so just to fend off UKIP. It would be best for the nation if they combined that with a socially and theologically conservative appeal to traditional British Christian values, but it's not essential to the merely political question of how to respond to Islamic extremism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 10, 2004 1:37 PM

Britain's leading exponent of Kitchenerism, should
stop talking down to us. We weren't the ones who
took Egypt and held it for 40 years, because they
were late on their payments to Barings Bank, and
who appointed a Barings heir as the proconsul there (Holy Halliburton)We weren't the ones who
blundered in the Dardanelles with a half baked
strategy, with notorious consequences, who split the Middle East, with the Saud's, the Hashemites, the Jews and the French at the same time. Who
had a Corregidor size disaster with the run up to
Baghdad, and followed through with a hamhanded uprising that claimed what today would be 8500
dead, and introduced aerial terror bombing as a
new tactic. We may be making some mistakes on our
own, but the kind which would claim a regional commander, a General, the lead cultural liason
as it was with Leacherman, Maude, & Gertrude Bell
the Hashemites

Posted by: narciso at October 10, 2004 2:18 PM

Do we really need to hear from another Colonel Blimp who still believes Britain has an empire and we are just a bunch of colonial bumpkins who need guidance from their inbred, gayboy upper class?

Posted by: Bart at October 11, 2004 10:56 AM