Although former British Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, has been forced to resign because of his relationship with an unofficial adviser, Adam Werrity, the saga reveals another example of the numerous networks - pretty much all of them under the cover of being non-political and/or charitable - that operate to strengthen and consolidate the so-called special relationship between Britain and the United States.
The Fox-Werrity Atlantic Bridge organisation was wound up earlier this year after the charities' commission ruled it had no charitable functions or benefits and seemed largely a vehicle for channeling funds in Werrity's personal direction. Yet, the political functions of the Atlantic Bridge, which unified elements of Britain's and America's aggressively interventionist establishments, should not be overlooked. Its members included William Hague, the current foreign secretary, as well as George Osborn, the chancellor of the exchequer; American members included US Senator Joe Lieberman, the Democratic hawk who backed the Iraq War. Its neoconservative ethos of aggressive support for military intervention is shared by PM David Cameron - as evidenced by his enthusiasm in backing military force to oust Colonel Gaddafi from office in Libya.
Yet, it is not only the extreme right in British and American 'mainstream' politics that maintains such 'charitable' networks: the British-American Project, funded by major oil and other corporations and by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the subject of little public awareness or enquiry, represents a similar network on the centre-left, along lines Tony Blair and Gordon Brown would have approved. Indeed, it complemented the various schemes under which the future leaders of 'New' Labour were primed for high office, under the tutelage of the FCO's Jonathan Powell, who later went on to become Blair's chief of staff. Indeed, Powell was a member of BAP, as was David Miliband for many years.
What precisely does BAP do that is 'beneficial'? Is it not overtly political in its aims of developing and nurturing British elites to steer a path close to Washington's? Does it also benefit from tax exemptions under charities law?,
The BAP is a political project aimed at incorporating and developing rising stars in Britain - in a diverse range of fields - and ever so subtly helping them conclude that the United States - for all its faults - remains the power to which Britain's own chariot must remain hitched. The propaganda, to be sure, is subtle and needs to be - the sort of people attracted - whether Trevor Phillips of the Equalities Commission or Yasmin Alibhai Brown or Anatol Lieven, all critics of George W. Bush's adventurism - are not dupes. Yet, it is the very presence of such 'critics' that lends such weight to BAP.
Famously, Henry Kissinger ran for over 20 years a transatlantic organisation out of Harvard University for the very same ends - a bridge between Europe's emerging leaders who appeared seduced by 'neutralism' between the US and USSR and the American foreign policy establishment. It cemented relations that endure to this day. They made possible almost seamless cooperation between the foreign policies of Labour's Tony Blair and Republican George W. Bush, and the current cooperation between Democratic Obama and 'liberal-conservative' David Cameron.
The power of networks is considerable - they ensure the flow of money, people, and ideas that strengthen certain lines of thought and action while simultaneously marginalising others. Networks tend to legitimise some ideas and policies, making them 'normal' or 'conventional', beyond dispute at basic level. They tend to unify a range of people and organisations -public and private - and help develop new ideas or leaders. Being elite networks, they are by definition well connected with the media and politics and thereby gain a broader audience, skewing the 'free market of ideas' in specific directions.
The Atlantic Bridge has been exposed for its overtly political character: perhaps the British American Project should be subject to much closer investigation too?