United States & United Kingdom: Special & “Essential”
President Obama has just returned from a State visit to the United Kingdom where he and Prime Minister David Cameron cemented the ongoing “special relationship” between the two countries and then took it up a notch noting that it is no longer only special but essential.
President Obama has often been criticised as being a “Pacific” president who is more focused on Asia than America’s traditional allies in Europe. With today’s emerging economies in the Pacific region, a focus on Asia is important until one remembers that the U.K. still is America’s # 1 trading partner with total import and export totalling over 100 billion dollars annually. Couple that with the shared history, language, and culture and it becomes very important that the President spend some time in Mother England keeping the special relationship “special“.
Although the relationship has been strong since the 19th century (forgetting the War of 1812 when the Red Coats burned down the White House) it was Winston Churchill who coined the phrase “special relationship.” Since then the relationship has had its ups (Thatcher & Reagan) & its downs (Kennedy & Macmillian) depending on the President & Prime Minister at the time.
However, despite testing and strains at times the two allies have had a diplomatic relationship almost unprecedented in history.
Said Prime Minister Thatcher, “There is a union of mind and purpose between our peoples which is remarkable and which makes our relationship a truly remarkable one. It is special. It just is, and that’s that”
To which President Reagan responded, “Prime Minister, the United States and the United Kingdom are bound together by inseparable ties of ancient history and present friendship”
For myself, I remember the pride and solidarity I felt when President Bush, while addressing Congress just after the attacks of September 11, publicly thanked Prime Minister Tony Blair for Britain’s unwavering support with us at that time. He declared, “America has no truer friend than Great Britain. Once again, we are joined together in a great cause. I’m so honored the British prime minister has crossed an ocean to show his unity with America. Thank you for coming, friend.”
It is for that reason that I am happy that the present leaders of the two countries have cemented the bonds that have proved so valuable to each country for more than 200 years. A relationship both “special” and “essential.”
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