Tuesday, December 05, 2006


"The foreign policy of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom is determined by certain fundamental factors:-

(a) The United Kingdom has world responsibilities inherited from several hundred years as a great power.
(b) The United Kingdom is not a s self-sufficient economic unit.
(c) No world security system exists, and the United Kingdom with the rest of the non-Communist world is faced with an external threat....

If, on a longer view, it must be assumed that the maintenance of the present scale of overseas commitments will permanently overstrain our economy, clearly we ought to recognise that the United Kingdom is over-committed and must reduce the commitment.
The only practical way of removing this permanent strain would be for the United Kingdom to shed or share the load of one or two major obligations....Our present policy is in fact directed towards the construction of international defence organizations for the Middle East and South-East Asia in which the United States and other Commonwealth countries would participate. Our aim should be to persuade the United States to assume the real burdens in such organisations, while retaining for ourselves as much political control---and hence prestige and world influence---as we can....As regards the United Kingdom (sic) part, a policy of this kind will only be successful with the United States in so far as we are able to demonstrate that we are making the maximum possible effort ourselves, and the more gradually and inconspicuously we can transfer the real burdens from our own to American shoulders, the less damage we shall do to our position and influence in the world".

Anthony Eden, "British Overseas obligations", 18 June 1952, in CAB[inet] 129/53 (copy of the original in my possession).

"In conversation with Mr. Dulles I asked him whether he did not think that the United States sometimes over-emphasized the importance of not ganging up, to the extent of falling over backwards to treat us asif we were in he same category as Benelux, Iceland and Portugal. Mr. Dulles said that he was really shocked that anyone could entertain such an idea. He, for his part, well saw that the United Kingdom was in a totally different category, as far as United States policy was concerned, to any other power in the world, including France. There might be areas such as North Africa, where it was France that counted; but on becoming Secretary of State his whole-hearted intention was to ensure that the United States and the United Kingdom consulted each other on every issue and in every quarter".

John Foster Dulles in conversation with John Colville, 7 January 1953 in
FO 371/103519 (copy of the original in my possession).

"We may have been the junior partner in the enterprise but the ace up our sleeve was that America did not want to go it alone. Had Britain so insisted, Iraq after Saddam might have avoided the violence that may yet prove fatal to the entire enterprise....

"Tony Blair chose to take his stand against Saddam and alongside President Bush from the highest of high moral ground. It is the definitive riposte to Blair the Poodle, seduced though he and his team always appeared to be by the proximity and glamour of American power.

"But the high moral ground, and the pure white flame of unconditional support to an ally in service of an idea, have their disadvantages. They place your destiny in the hands of an ally. They fly above the tangled history of Sunni, Shia, Kurd, Turkomen and Assyrian. They discourage descent into the dull detail of tough and necessary bargaining: meat and drink to Margaret Thatcher but, so it seemed, uncongenial to Tony Blair."

"Had Blair told Bush in clear and explicit terms that he would be unable to support a war unless British wishes were met? I doubted it."

"[London] was not fertile ground for the notion of leverage or the tough negotiating position that must sometimes be taken even with the closest allies - as Churchill did with Roosevelt and Thatcher did with Reagan...."

"Political energy in London had become consumed by a titanic struggle to keep public opinion, parliament and the Labour party onside for war. There was little energy left in No 10 to think about the aftermath. Since Downing Street drove Iraq policy, efforts made by the Foreign Office to engage with the Americans on the subject came to nothing."

"This would have been the appropriate quid pro quo for Blair's display of cojones at this Camp David meeting with Bush."

Sir Christopher Meyer, British Ambassador in Washington 1997-2003, in The London Guardian, 7 November 2005 in www.guardian.co.uk.

"There never really has been a special relationship or at least not one we've noticed."

"As a State Department employee, now I will say something even worse: it has been from the very beginning very one-sided."

"The State Department and the American Embassy in London, by God they'll be pushing the special relationship till the end of time."

"The last prime minister to resist American pressure was Neville Chamberlain who was a much more brilliant figure in British diplomacy [than Winston Churchill]."

"We typically ignore them and take no notice. We say, ‘There are the Brits coming to tell us how to run our empire. Let's park them'. It is a sad business and I don't think it does them justice."

"It's hard for me to believe that any British leader who follows Tony Blair will maintain the kind of relationship he has. There'll be much more of a distant relationship and certainly no more wars of choice in the future."

"Harold Wilson was a great deal more clever in my opinion than Tony Blair. He managed to fool us all on Vietnam."

"The deal was not one cent, not one Bobby, not one Johnny, nobody, not one participant in the Vietnam war. Wilson succeeded by sounding good but doing nothing… Blair got it the other way round and in the end joined in this Iraq adventure."

"You would have to say that the key fact was the British perception of the special relationship that when the Americans decide a major issue of national importance the British will not oppose. The way that Iraq developed it would have been extremely difficult for Tony Blair to have done a Harold Wilson."

"I think it was probably a done deal from the beginning. It was a one-sided relationship and that one-sided relationship was entered into I think with open eyes. Tony Blair perhaps hoped that he could bring George Bush along, that he could convince him but of course George Bush has many other dimensions politically and intellectually."

Mr. Kendall Myers, State Department Official, 28 November 2006 quoted in www.telegraph.co.uk

Now that the smoke from the 'revelations' if one may call them that of Mr. Myers' unscheduled remarks at SIAS in Washington DC, last week, have cleared what may one say about their import, or lack their of? Particularly in light of the long, post-World War II, Anglo-American diplomatic intimacy. First off, as has been emphasized on more than one occasion, by Sir Christopher Meyer's own infamous memoirs (in the UK, they have yet to be published here...which, just as the virtual silence in the USA, about the Kendall Myers comments speaks volumes), Tony Blair's own dogged pursuit of diplomatic intimacy with George Bush has not by any stretch of the imagination, paid off, in terms of concrete influence on American decision-making. Except perhaps in the decision to attempt (fruitlessly) to obtain a Security Council Resolution in favor of the invasion of Iraq in the February-March 2003, it is difficult to see a single major instance where the UK's fabled 'influence' and consultation with the USA has garnered something for London. So for instance, notwithstandng Blair's repeated attempts to get the Americans to push both prior to as well as after the beginning of the Iraq war, for a major effort by the USA, to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Washington appears to have been impervious to any such arguments. Despite the self-evident recognition by all except our Neo-conservative friends, that resolving that conflict would massively reinforce stability in the Near East. To repeat, there was a great deal of consultation between Washington and London, as the famous telegraph sent by Meyers to 10 Downing Street in March of 2002 clearly shows. It is just that nothing, rien, came of the aforementioned consultation.

What perhaps the consistent failure of Blair to exercise influence on George Bush demonstrates, is that the Harold Macmillan thesis that the USA is always susceptable
to 'friendly' advice (from the UK) rather than stern opposition (from Paris), needs to be seriously re-examined. As anyone may remember the atmosphere back in 2002, while there was not very serious opposition to the war, there was enough, that a British decision to not proceed, would have given a great deal of pause. Enough to have stopped the decision to proceed? That is impossible to say for sure. Perhaps as Harold Wilson discovered in connection with Lyndon Johnson's decision to escalate the war in Indochina in 1965-1966, there are some decisions which a great power, any great power, must be able to take unilaterally. Being unable to do so, being perhaps the mark that the great power in question, is one no longer. With that in mind, and, with some degree of knowledge of the mindset of the American President, it would not appear that a British decision to exercise a 'veto' would have prevented Mr. Bush from pursuing the policy of va banque that he in fact did. Still if Blair had in fact opted out, of the Bush regime's policy of 'overthrow', just as Eisenhower and Dulles, correctly opted out of Eden's misconceived attempt to militarily overthrow Nasser in the Fall of 1956, if nothing else, the West's overall position in the Near East would to some small extent be less compromised. But, perhaps that is merely a reflection of the fact, that the UK, has few if any real, hard interests in the Near East: except for some small base(s) in the Gulf perhaps, and of course arms contracts with the Gulf Kingdoms and Saudi Arabia, but nothing on the scale of say 1965, much less 1955 or 1945. As a consequence, Blair's muddle headed, Gladstonian moralism can overrule any idea of sound policy. Which is further explained by the fact (confirmed in the Meyer Memoirs) that the Foreign Office has been almost completely overshadowed by Number Ten, in terms of decision-making. Something which of course, we all are quite familiar with on this side of the Atlantic: the responsible professionals are shoved aside by ignorant and aggressive amateurs (if not worse, such as the egregious Alastair Campbell). The consequences of which we are all living with today, and for quite sometime to come. In that respect, Anglo-American relations are still highly intertwined...


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