Stronger United-Stronger UK@United Europe: Remain & Transform!

USA: Special Relationship No More?

We already discussed in detail the recent Atlantic magazine article by Jeffrey Goldberg entitled The Obama Doctrine which is being portrayed in the UK as an unprecedented attack by Barack Obama on Prime Minister Cameron and as further evidence of the almost total breakdown of the special US-British ‘special relationship’ that has been the hallmark of British foreign policy for over seven decades. And yet President Obama has also announced that he will be visiting the United Kingdom in April to help his friend David Cameron make a strong case for why Britain should remain an active and influential member of the European Union. Despite appearances there is no contradiction here: when one reads carefully Jeffrey Goldberg’s article one notices that President Obama's foreign policy rests on his reliance on working together with responsible and capable international partners - and in particular with the United Kingdom - in order to address the world's most pressing issues. The concepts of 'burden sharing' and of 'assumption of joint responsibilities' where all partners 'pull their weight' are fundamental principles of the Obama Doctrine that Prime Minister Cameron has not lived up to on at least three major occasions since taking on the Prime Minister’s job in 2010. Britain's membership in the EU is another such critical occasion where President Obama expects the Prime Minister and his government to live up to Britain’s responsibility of taking the lead in the European Union and of remaining a critically important player on this side of the Atlantic. Only in this manner will we be able to go on pulling our weight as a country in the European Union in what is undoubtedly a complex and difficult international arena in the early 21st century.

But the US attitude towards the UK is not limited to the political relations between top politicians; it also takes place at the institutional level, between governmental organizations sharing the same purposes, goals, and methods. Nowhere is this truer than at the level of the two countries’ Armed Forces, whose level of integration, cooperation, information and technology sharing, as well as personnel training has reached a degree unparalleled in world history between two major powers. Beginning with the Second World War and continuing throughout the Cold War, in our common membership in NATO, and all the way to the present, the British and US Armed Forces have developed joint doctrinal, strategic, tactical, and operational principles and methods that underlie a common vision of international society and a common goal of maintaining Western military predominance in defense of freedom, liberty, and human rights at home and around the world. This type of integration is not limited to the military but also continues in the fields of intelligence, antiterrorist policing, and diplomacy. For all intents and purposes Britain and United States have developed a common trans-Atlantic approach to international relations that clearly transcends the neorealist paradigm of sovereign nation-states cynically pursuing their own national interests in ta global zero-sum game for power and influence.


The importance for the United States of Britain remaining in the EU goes beyond this however; as we have seen previously, a sizable faction of continental European politicians wish to create a supranational European federal state with its own distinct army, intelligence agencies, and diplomatic corps that would accelerate the development of the multi-polar world order in which such a European superstate could shift alliances between major global powers such as the United States, Russia, China, and India. Barack Obama's objective is to ensure by that by remaining a critically important member of the EU, the United Kingdom can use its weight in the military, intelligence, security, and diplomatic fields to reinforce the European Project - not as an emerging supranational state in competition with the United States, but a system of multilevel governance where these critical matters would be dealt with at the trans-Atlantic level by all European and North American partners, in a coherent and collaborative manner. Only such a joint approach will allow us on both sides of the Atlantic to shape the 21st century global international order according to our shared basic values of respect for the dignity of each individual, for the human rights of people everywhere, and for principles of peace, prosperity, and participative governance.

Although as expected Barack Obama's upcoming tour of the United Kingdom designed to allow him to speak in favor of Britain's continuing membership in the EU has already been harshly criticized by supporters of the ‘leave’ camp - and especially by Boris Johnson and the Eurosceptic wing of the Tory party, the reality is that US influence on British foreign policy decision-making circles both within the government itself and in private academic, research, think tank, and business circles remains substantial and pervasive. Barack Obama's intervention is likely to play primarily a positive role in persuading influential decision-makers who may otherwise have had second thoughts on the importance of Britain's continued membership in the EU that our best available choice in the decades ahead is to build a stronger UK in a United Europe – and that in the process, we will strengthen again the weakened bonds of our ‘special relationship” with our most important friend and ally, the United States of America.