UK-US Relations Deep if Not Frequent: Special Relationship Still “Special”


Special Relationship.jpgThe report of my death was an exaggeration.
Mark Twain

What follows below is a note from Martin Longden, Press Secretary and Head of Communications at the British Embassy, who recently concocted along with UK Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald the quip tagged to the outcome of a recent Ambassador to Ambassador steak dinner bet on the UK-US soccer match: “the Ambassador takes his steak like American soccer victories – somewhat rare.”
Longden was responding to my “term search” blog post about Obama’s mention of various countries — good nations and rogue — as well as Britain’s fall from the heights.
I had originally reported that the United Kingdom appeared in only 8 of Obama’s major speeches, statements and media commentaries as organized by The Washington Post. The number really should be 12 — as the UK has so many aliases — “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”, England, Great Britain, Henry’s Place (been watching The Tudors again). . .are there more?
Former House Foreign Affairs Committee Senior Staffer Hillel Weinberg, a regular reader of TWN, told me that we needed to upgrade the UK from 8 to 12 — which still makes my point — that even with aliases, Britain is not on the President’s roster as much as was true previously.
Longden responds — brilliantly as he usually does. We share his comments in reaction to our earlier piece:
big ben.jpg

Dear Steve:
What good fun! Thanks for flagging.
On a point of fact, it’s not quite true that the UK “recently pushed through a resolution that it was downgrading the “special relationship” with the US to an important relationship”.
A parliamentary committee last year recommended that, given the British press get so excited about the “special relationship”, and that the state of the bilateral relationship generates such febrile media speculation, British Ministers should not use the phrase. And in a fantastically ironic affirmation of the committee’s point, all the British media then wrote up this recommendation as “Death of the Special Relationship”!
In fact British Ministers continue to use the phrase – and do regard the relationship as special. In terms of the intelligence, defence, diplomatic, economic, cultural and all the other links, I think it’s pretty special too.
I’m not sure there is any other relationship between two countries that rivals the depth and breath of our co-operation. But those of us who deal with the Americans at the diplomatic coal-face have never really obsessed about labels: the relationship is what it is, and we can be comfortable that both sides recognise that.
I still like the Post’s new tool. But I’d caution against drawing a correlation between the number of mentions a country clocks and the warmth or importance of the bilateral relationship. Pace Nile Gardiner’s most recent blog in the Telegraph, I’m not sure we need conclude that the stats reveal “Obama’s blatant lack of interest in the Anglo-American alliance”.
Talking publicly about a country doesn’t necessarily reflect an intimacy of relations – indeed sometimes quite the converse. Nazi Germany figured a lot in Churchill’s speeches – but I’m not sure he got on too well with the Fuehrer!
Trust all is good with you,
Martin Longden
Head of Communication & Press Secretary
British Embassy
3100 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington DC

The relationship is still special to me, but even more so after notes like this from the UK’s cleverest diplomats. (In contrast, I had a recent note from a former senior US diplomat that opted instead for the bomb and bulldoze approach.)
— Steve Clemons


7 comments on “UK-US Relations Deep if Not Frequent: Special Relationship Still “Special”

  1. Sand says:

    While reading my ‘fluff’ rag:
    –Hillary Clinton to look into ‘shady’ BP deal with Colonel Gaddafi and its role in the freeing of the Lockerbie bomber
    By Sam Greenhill [15th July 2010]
    “…The Democrat senators


  2. downtown says:

    Some relationships are worth keeping…others just pull you into a black hole.


  3. Jackie says:

    So, you got a note from John Bolton? Bomb and bulldoze?


  4. nadine says:

    Another relationship Obama can now call “unbreakable,” having tried and failed to break it.
    Is it dawning on Obama yet that January 20, 2009 was not the Year Zero of American foreign policy, that he does not have the ability to rip up everything that came before him and reinvent it according some scheme cooked up in the Harvard faculty lounge?


  5. ... says:

    ‘partners in crime’ as the saying goes…maybe they can pull another illegal war off, even if they have to knock off a few david kelly types and etc. etc. these 2 world powers need to be taken down quite a few notches..
    call me cynical..


  6. David says:

    The connections between the United States and the United Kingdom have very little to do with any particular moment. Only the changing demographics of the United States can have any significant effect on those connections.
    And while Ireland might be an independent country now, since it is the connection between the United States and Britain, Scotland, and Ireland that is the culturally resonant connection, one is talking about a profoundly powerful connection. Political connections matter, but they are secondary to cultural connections.
    For me personally, the point was driven home the first time I visited London. I was totally at home, and not just because of that other dialect of the English language. I was awash in family names, and when I walked into the British Museum and stood in the presence of one of the four extant copies of the Magna Charta, I was moved in a way that is hard to describe. It was an expericence similar to standing in the presence of our stateside founding documents.


  7. JohnH says:

    It sure is comforting that the British cabinet is still the same bunch of lap dogs that they have been for the last 70 years.
    The ordinary Brit must wonder when they’ll grow up and put Britain’s interests first…


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