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Friday, 23 April 2010

Anglo-American Relations: "An Immensely Special Relationship"

A disappointing election debate last night from a foreign policy perspective.

What were the big questions (of interest to USBlog) on which hardly anything was said:
1. The Iraq War
2. British authorities' complicity in torture of terror suspects in US detention facilities
3. The timetable for withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan or the illegitimate character of the Karzai regime
4. The attitude to the emergence of China as a global power.

Nick Clegg stood out as the only candidate opposed to the next generation of Trident nuclear missile systems and both David cameron and Gordon Brown told him to "get real": New Labour has travelled very far since the unilateral disarmament days of the early 1980s. They don't even listen to elements of the UK military establishment on this matter, raising the spectre of a nuclear-armed Iran (no evidence advanced on that matter, of course) and North Korea.

USBlog applauds Clegg on taking that stand and not caving in to extreme pressure, though he did justify scrapping Trident on the grounds that Obama was also decommissioning large numbers of US nuclear missiles (ironic really given what he said later in the debate). Cameron repeated the usual guff about Trident being Britain's "independent" nuclear deterrent, although he knows full well that the United States controls the "trigger" and targetting of Trident.

It was also Nick Clegg who declared that Britain should not be at America's "beck and call" on all matters, although qualified his comment by preceding it with the usual line: the UK's alliance with America is "an immensely special relationship" - though he did not define the characteristics that make it "special". As a recent book by Durham's John Dumbrell argues, America has quite a few "special relationships".

Yet, Brown (quite gratuitously) accused Clegg of being "anti-American". On that issue, USBlog may comment later.

But let's be clear: all three parties are for continued war in Afghanistan; are likely to go for more interventions abroad in the global war on terror; and will spend whatever it takes to finance military operations. Indeed, Gordon Brown emphasised that Somalia and Yemen are already in Britain's (and America's) sights.

Why? Because "Britain is a force for good in the world", according to Nick Clegg last night, the MoD, and the other liberal and conservative interventionists that dominate debate and decision-making. There are monsters to destroy out there and Britain will do its bit.

"IT CAN BE DIFFERENT," according to Nick Clegg: not on last night's performance.

3 parties, one view!


  1. I think you are spot on with this analysis, and to be honest I was shocked about the absolutely atrocious debate last night. The second half of the debate turned into a re-run of last weeks and didn't deal with foreign policy at all!! Obviously there isn't a lot to say on these little issues of life and death during war time!?!

    Of all the parties though Brown by far presented the most shocking of positions and approaches, which I think guarantees that he won’t be leader of the labour party in a few weeks time. To accuse Clegg of being anti-American was just shameful (and in fact won't hurt Clegg electoral prospects, even though it’s obviously nonsense). If anything it supports Clegg's point about this government blindly following the US it catastrophes.

    On the most substantial point however, I think that Brown is seriously risking alienating the Labour party with comments like "get real" over trident. The old labour party members are still by and large in support of unilateral disarmament, but have had to swallow Blair/Brown’s non-sense for years. This not only insulted Clegg, but also core labour supporters and swathes of the military establishment. Yet what is most amusing about this, is that the debate isn’t should we/shouldn’t we, it is a debate about whether it should be up for grabs in a strategic defense review – so a vote for the liberal democrats isn’t a vote against trident, as much as a vote for it being placed within the contemplation of a review… What an odd democratic system we have.

    P.S. On Immigration, the line from Clegg that "you can't deport them if you don't know where they live" I thought was priceless.

  2. I commented on this post on TransAtlantia, so no need to repeat, but the author is right on the money. All three candidates are Atlanticists first.

    Now I am waiting for that post on claims and disclaims of anti-Americanism in the second debate ;)