4.9 Britain: between the US and Europe
In international politics, Britain, while European, tends to stand between the US and its fellow members of the European Union. Britain has long been the closest international ally of the US and this association, sometimes referred to as the ‘special relationship’, was strengthened in the aftermath of 9/11. As prime minister, Tony Blair endlessly argued that Britain had to act as a ‘bridge’ between the US and Europe if it were to defend its national interests:
There is only one superpower in the world today [the US] and we [Britain] are its strong ally. The most powerful political grouping that has created the largest economic market in the world is the European Union—and we are a leading member. It’s a great position.
Activity 12 Security policy in an insecure world
Academics Michael Cox and Tim Oliver, both of the London School of Economics, argue that Britain’s closeness to the US after 9/11 reflected Britain’s longstanding ‘special relationship’ with the US. But it also reflected Tony Blair’s longstanding support for the need for ‘liberal interventionism’ by the leading world powers. Please read this extract now.
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Bush and Blair were in complete agreement over the need to wage a war on terror and Britain played a key role in the US led interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many people criticised this.
Activity 13 The collapse of British foreign policy
William Wallace is Emeritus Professor of International Relations, again at the LSE, a Liberal Democrat Peer in the House of Lords, and a trenchant critic of Labour’s foreign policy and of Blair’s close association with the Bush Administration. In ‘The Collapse of British Foreign Policy’ (2005), he argues that Labour’s failing owed much to Britain being too pro-US and not being sufficiently European. Please read the extract now.
Click to view The collapse of British foreign policy
The Iraq war has demonstrated that the US is not always and everywhere able to impose its will. However, it is still the undisputed global hegemon and British foreign policy, alongside numerous geopolitical developments, is largely structured around this fact. It is the concept of the US as global hegemon that we turn our attention to next section.