The relationship between the United States of America and the United Kingdom goes a long way back, before the declaration of independence in America. The arrival of the British pilgrims in America heralded the beginning of a relationship that would last for hundreds of years. The two countries have collaborated on several fronts from war to commerce and international affairs.
This relationship can be seen as a love hate affair as it has been characterised by intense affection and rivalry between these two historic friends. Despite the rivalry, the two nations have found themselves mostly on the same side of a conflict. The term special relationship was coined during the World War Two to define the close ties between these two countries.
The special relationship between the United States of America and the United Kingdom is founded on the historical association between these two nations. The special relationship goes beyond politics to shared ideologies both in the government circle and amongst the citizens of these two nations.
Over and above the shared ideologies, the special relationship has also been shaped by the personal relationship between the British Prime Minister and the president of the United States of the America. The closer the personal affiliation between the two heads of states, the closer the ties. The opposite of this is also true.
This special kind of friendship has survived many challenges up to the present and continues to thrive even under the greatest pressure. The special relationship has always been skewed against the balance of power, yet still manages to survive the many challenges because of its mutual benefits to both countries.
The term special relationship describing the relations between the United States of America and United Kingdom was coined in 1949, by the then British Premier, Sir Winston Churchill. The term is a description of the very close and unrivalled relationship between any two countries in the history of across country affairs: United States and United Kingdom. The special relationship gained much significance during the Second World War.
Both the US and the UK were concerned by the increasing threat of the communist Russia and the Nazi Germany. Suffice to say that the special relationship between these two countries goes beyond the threat of communism and Nazism. Despite the many conflicts between them the two countries see each other as brothers; they have always been ready to support each other upon requests (Fichtner 3).
The relationship between the US and the UK goes way back into history. The relationship between these two countries effectively began by the arrival of the British pilgrims in the new world.
This was about 200 years before America declared her independence from the British (US Foreign Policy 2011). British pilgrims are known to have sojourned to the new world, the Americas, by the year 1620. Most of these pilgrims were Christian puritans who had sought to establish a purified Church of England far away from home.
It is estimated that by the end of 17th century, more than 350000 Briton had moved to America as permanent immigrants. During this time, the two countries were joined in war. The French and the Indian wars, fought in American soil, saw the saw the two counties fighting on the same side. During the America civil war, Britain was again involved.
The Britishmercantilist polices were introduced into the American law. However, Britain and America were not always on one side of the war. Their relationships between these two counties was alsocharacterise by sever conflicts pitting the two countries against each other.
Most of these wars were influenced by the need for the British to assert control over most of the American territories.The conflict arose because the British immigrants colonised and controlled most of the productive land in the new world. The British effectively became the settlers.
With time, the relationship between the settlers and the British government was effectively affected because of the effort of the government in England and the desire to control America. Some of the measures instigated by the British government such as new tax levies were strongly resisted by the British settlers. This led to the famous war of independence.
The war between England and America was not restricted to America alone. In 1812, America wage d a fierce war against England which was motivated by a number of factors such as business, politics and most importantly, the mistreatment of Americansolders by the Britishsoldiers into British ships in high seas.
Even though the war ended with the signing of a treaty in Ghent Belgium, there were to be other confrontations that involved these two countries in subsequent years (Fichtner 5 to 5).
The relationship between these two countries has not always been limited to politics and war. In 1895, the term was coined to describe the social political ideologies shared between the two countries.
The Great Rapprochement is the term used to describe the period that the relationships between these two countries improved tremendously. This period lasted from the 1890 up to and including the World War One.
What significantly indicated the improvement in its relationship is an event that happened during the Spanish-American war. Britain which was expected to support Spain instead opted to support America, unlike most of the European countries which supposed Spain. Britain’s decision to support America not only led to victory on the American side but also much stronger ties between the two countries.
The improved relationship was to continue during World War One when America was forced to side with Britain due to America’s own self-interests as well as her ambitions to contain the threat that Germany posed to America’s international influence. The feeling of mistrust for the Germans was not restricted to the high office as most of the Americans felt that Germany posed a threat to her sovereignty.
As such, they pressured America to join the war. America thus had no alternative but to support Britain and her allies who were realistically facing the reality of defeat. Again American and British were joinedtogether in war, like during the pre-independence time, against the common enemy. The relationship between the two countries in the period after the World War One was characterised by a lot of uncertainties due to a number of reasons.
Most significantly is a series of events that weakened America’s preoccupation in world affairs. Such events include the great American depression and America’s refusal to join the League of Nations. These two events especially led to America losing her niche on world affairs, which effectively led to her isolation in the world politics.
This weakened the relationship between Britain and America because Britain was chagrined by America’s refusal to join the League of Nations as well as other issues of which Britain accused America of being too self-interested. However, the relationship between these two countries was not irreparably damaged. At the advent of the Second World War, the friendship between America and USA was renewed, a period in which the term special relationship was coined (Perkins 59).
The term specialrelationship was first coined by the British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill in his address in his Sinews of Peace Address in Fulton, Missouri in the year 1946. As such the beginning of very close ties in politics, trade and socials cultural issues is credited to Sir Winston Churchill.
The British premier was extolling the need for a special kind of bond between the two countries, which he saw as the genesis of world peace and to check the rise of what was then considered devil power embodied in communism. He therefore called for a special relationship between the English speaking people referring to Britons and Americans.
This implies that Sir Churchill was calling for not just a political alliance, but also an ideological alliance to face out communism. It also implies that he was calling for the support and the involvement of the citizens of these two countriesbehind a unified force.
During the pre-American independence time, when much of the association between these two countries was based on war, the relationship between the two counties in 1940 had taken a special dimension, and was also motivated by among other factors, the threat and the need to join the World War Two as a unified force.
Sir Winston Churchill in a previous speech had thus urged the people of Britain to join the people of America and not abandon the special relationships between the two countries.
Britons were thus urged to help America in guarding the atomic bomb, a weapon that Sir Winston Churchill saw as the symbol of world peace. These statements were backed by the event that happened between 1890 and the World War Two, a situation christened as the Great Rapprochement. Just like during the Word War One, America joined the British side due to perceived insecurities against the Nazis.
As such, it was forced to join Britain and her allies to fight the increasing threat posed by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi forces. During the Word War Two America and Britain fought alongside each other in many battles against the Germans and the Japanese most of which ended in victory of the alliance between America andBritain.
This thus forged a very close relationship between these two countries. Some of these battles include the theatre Fortress, Battle of Monte Cassino, Battle of Overloon, Battle of the Bulge, and the Battle of Okinawa, amongst many others (Perkins 63).
The special relationship between these two countries has endured many twists and turns during and after the Word War Two. Actually, many critics argue that the special relationship is a victim of circumstances.
When closely monitored analysts argue that the special relationship is more of an effort to avoid conflict between two world super powers. Beneath the layer of polite diplomacy there is always an elaborate fight between the two countries on who is more powerful between the two superpowers. Analysts argue that the special relationship is more of an egg and a chicken scenario.
The questions of who comes first always dominate the politics of special relationship. Diplomats and technocrats engaged in managing this relationship are always in a dilemma as to whether policy issues should come first over friendship between the two countries. This is so especially when the foreign policies of the two seem to run into conflict.
The rivalries between the two countries have been well managed over the years with each of the two countries doing the best to maintain good public image. However, the differences of who controls this relationship have at times come to the fore.
At such times, most of the critics have been quick to point fingers at Washington for treatingBritain as the smaller brother. So much is the domination of America over Britain that Britain has always been called the America’s poodle due to its tendency to play into American game plans.
The tendency of the British government to always fall prey to America’s schemes has always angered Britons who have at times called for the severance of the ties between London and Washington. These beliefs are not far-fetched and have been shared amongst the higher authorities in London who at times have felt the weight being dragged too deep into matters that were not of interest to it.
A classic example of the domination of the special relationship is the decision by the two countries to go into the Iraq war in the early 2000s. Britain has been accused of not prevailing upon its partner into making special predationsform the war, a war that was too costly for both countries.
Tony Blair, the then prime minister of Britain was accused of expending too much political capital in, what analyst argues as unconditional agreement to go into the war with Iraq. This was a move that would cost Blair too much on the political level. Despite the fact the Blair publicly supported the war, those at close quarters argued that he was pressurised by George Bush, a move that he regretted (Freedman para 3 to 5).
The nature of the special relationship between the two countries has been determined by the personal relationship between the US president and the British premier. The relationship was coined during the time when the Britain’s Sir Winston Churchill and the then US President Franklin D. Roosevelt enjoyed a very close and personal relationship (Gardiner para 1).
Sir Winston Churchill used the very close relationship between the two leaders to woo President Roosevelt to engage in the World War Two for a period of two years. Churchill was able to write to Roosevelt asking for among other things arms and financial support. Churchill was also able to secure the engagement of more than a million US soldiers to support the British army in the battle against the German Nazis.
At this moment in the history of the special relationship, Britain had the upper hand and this was reflected in the words of Churchill who remarked that “no lover ever studied every whim of his mistress as I did those of President Roosevelt” (Shipman para 4).
Britain’s domination of the relationship would be severely affected in the 1960s in an ironical twist of events. Prime Minister Anthony Eden and President Dwight D. Eisenhower did not enjoy a close personal relationship leading to Britain joining forces with France to prevent Egypt from seizing the Suez Canal.
Instead of America joining British, it chose to attack the British force in Eden, leading to the disgraceful defeat of Britain and her allies. But instead of severing the relationship, Britain’s defeat strengthened the relationship as it reinforced the fact that America was always an equal partner in world affairs (para 5).
The relationship between Blair and Bush also heighted the personality influences on the special relationship. While the two enjoyed something akin to a comical relationship, their close personal relationship did little to hide the cracks that exist in this relationship. Blair willingly supported Bush in his Iraq misadventure, Bush publicly refused to give in to Britain’s requests (para9).
The special relationship almost took an intimate perspective during the reign of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan. So close was their personal relationship that the pair was popularly referred to as Ronnie and Maggie. Analysts referred this relationship as the true transatlantic marriage, characterised by more affections than tensions.
The then British premier, Thatcher, is reported to have claimed that Ronald Reagan was the second most important man in her life (para 8). The two were able to use their close personal relationship to prevail upon each other against maters of international policies. Such matters include Thatcher’s ability to gain Reagan’s support in the matter over the Falkland’s.
In present times however, the special relationship has come under heavy criticism especially from the British MPs who claim that the relationship was always blown out of proportions and as such should be abolished.
The MPs have reacted to a situation in which the relationship has left Britain weakened in global affairs, which creates the impression that Britain is a subservient poodle. The MPs argue that even though the special relationships have served the two countries well in the past, recent events and occurrences render the term invalid.
This is a reflection of the very distant relations between the current US President Barrack Obama and the former British premier Gordon Brown (BBC para.3). Furthermore, President Barrack Obama has been accused of treating Britain as a distant friend. This statement can be reflected in Obama’s recent bashing of British Petroleum (BP), following its oil spill (Gardiner para 7).
The departure of Gordon Brown and the arrival of James Cameron into the picture brought with it a lot of optimism. Cameron and Obama enjoy a much closer personal relationship than Obama did with Brown.
Coincidentally, the relationship between London and Washington has slightly thawed after the arrival of Cameron. However, analysts are quick to warn against the rising optimist, blaming it on Obama’s indifference to the role of Britain in world affairs. Obama is reported to have mentioned Britain’s name on very few occasions.
The Obama administration is also criticised for treating Britain as any other country that does not deserve any special treatment. Political analysts have advised Cameron to bypass Obama and reach to the Republican controlled US House of Representatives for support. Another key factor in that indicates the strain that affects the special relationship is the decision by the UK government to cut on defence spending, a move criticized at the White House as a unilateral disarmament.
This move leaves Britain as a very weak partner on the military front and should there ever be a need for the two countries to engage in war together, America will be left with a bigger burden. Furthermore, the ambition and the rise of the European Union does not help the special relationship.
Suffice to say that despite the current challenges, claiming that the special relationship is on its death bed is a gross misinterpretation. This is because the relationship between the two countries has come from far and is deeper than the personal relationship between the US president and the British premier. As such, the relationship will continue to grow amidst the challenges (Gardiner para. 14).
The relationship between the United States of America goes deeper historically, politically and ideologically. For a long time, the two nations have been involved in many joint ventures, most of them involving war. Events have conspired to make these two nations victims of fate as most of the times they are forced to fight on the same side of a war.
So intense and deep is the relationship that the term special relationship has been coined to describe the relations between American and the United Kingdom. This relationship has gone through a lot of challenges but it does not crumble. This is due to its complexity. The two countries espouse the special relationship due to the mutual benefits that it portends for each of the country.
Currently, the special relationship is facing significant challenges such as the rise of the European Union, disinterest of the Obama administration in having closer ties with Britain and Britain’s efforts to cut her defence spending. Despite all the challenges analysts say that the relationship is under no threat of extinction and that it is here to stay.
BBC. ‘Special relationship between UK and US is over, MPs say.’ 2010. July 6, 2011
Fichtner, Jan. The special relationship between great Britain and the USA – myth or reality? Norderstedt: GRIN Verlag. 2003. Print
Freedman,Lawrence.‘The Special Relationship, Then and Now.’Foreign Affairs Journal.2006. July 6, 2011
Gardiner, Nile. ‘Mind the Gap: Is the RelationshipStill Special?’2011. July 6, 2011 http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/articles/2011-MarApr/full-Gardiner-MA-` 2011.html
Perkins, Bradford. Prologue to War, England and the United States. Berlin: Springer Verlag. 1999. Print
Shipman,Tim. ‘History of Britain’s special relationship with America the telegraph.’ 2009. July 6, 2011