Don’t Weep for the “Special” Relationship (II)
Raphael Cohen and Gabriel Scheinmann worry about the “special” relationship with Britain:
For all the importance placed on the Anglo-American alliance, the partnership has grown increasingly out of balance. If present trends continue, the United Kingdom’s ability to act as the United States’ primary military partner will vanish.
The authors make a good case that the “special” relationship, such as it was, is gradually disappearing, but they don’t explain why this is undesirable. They may take it for granted that the U.S. should want Britain to be able to act as its reliable junior partner in foreign interventions, but this arrangement isn’t healthy for the U.S. or Britain. Britain gets the least out of this relationship and bears a disproportionate share of the burden for keeping it going, but insofar as it enables the U.S. to fight unnecessary wars with more international support and political cover it has become harmful to America as well. The Syria debate last year was instructive. Had it not been for British opposition to the proposed strikes, it is very doubtful that Obama would have asked for Congressional authorization. In that case, both the American and British publics would have been ignored as their governments proceeded to bomb Syria over their objections. British refusal to participate in an ill-conceived and illegal war was arguably one of the best things it has done for the U.S. in the last twenty-five years. It was also bitterly condemned by devotees of the “special” relationship, which should tell us all we need to know.