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We should become friends of the US, not ‘partners’

There has in recent years been far too much subservience

By on Monday, 2 August 2010

We  should become friends of the US, not ‘partners’

The reverberations from David Cameron’s recent spate of apparently off the cuff remarks in various foreign cities continue to rumble on. I wrote last week about his remarks in Turkey, which greatly gratified his Turkish hosts but probably not many here.

But the remark which I suspect he will take quite a long time to live down was made in Washington. I don’t know if President Obama was particularly gratified to be told by Mr Cameron that the UK was America’s “junior partner”. But what “Dave” said as well, remember, was that “We were the junior partner in 1940 when we were fighting the Nazis.” (incidentally, a Catholic connection will emerge in the course of this post, though admittedly a tenuous one).

The fact is that you only make that kind of “slip” (Downing Street’s lame excuse) if you have a very sketchy grasp of the historical period you are talking about. And the fact is that the “junior” nature of the relationship of Churchill and Roosevelt, though  certainly it led to the achievement of the great overriding objective, the defeat of National Socialism, led also to at least one great historical disaster. It also involved Churchill himself (despite his sedulous courtship of Roosevelt) in some bitter humiliations, especially, though not uniquely, at Yalta, where (as you may read in Nikolai Tolstoy’s classic account, Victims of Yalta), Roosevelt handed over Easter Europe to Stalin’s tender mercies, entirely ignoring Churchill’s opinions on the matter.

This is usually excused on the ground that Roosevelt was ill: the fact is, however that throughout the war, he demonstrated ignorance and arrogance towards his allies. He refused to acknowledge De Gaulle or the Free French (at once stage he actually forbad Churchill to allow De Gaulle to broadcast to France) and tried to hand over North Africa to the control of the Pétainist Admiral Darlan and then the Pétainist General Giraud even after Pétain had met Hitler and publicly agreed actively to collaborate with his war aims.

Roosevelt wanted to treat France after the war as an occupied country under American tutelage. He had the mad as well as arrogant idea of carving off a slice of North Eastern France and uniting it with Belgium to form a new country called Wallonia.  He refused to involve the Free French in the Normandy landings, or even allow De Gaulle to be told about them until the last minute. This and many other humiliations of this great man are detailed in Jonathan Fenby’s brilliant new biography The General: Charles De Gaulle and the France he saved. (My excuse for saying so much about this here is that De Gaulle was a staunch Catholic who, for instance, after his famous triumphal walk down the Champs Elysées during the liberation of Paris went straight to Notre Dame, still under sniper fire, for a Mass of Thanksgiving).

However, as the General would no doubt have said, revenons a nos moutons. The fact is that Americans (and many Americans have said it to me) can be remarkably ignorant of and insensitive towards the world beyond their borders. I am not anti-American: I have always loved America and have addressed audiences in over half the states of the Union. But we would do well in future to treat this great nation as a friend but not necessarily a partner. There has been of late too much subservience. And the first thing Dave should do is to tear up the existing grossly unequal extradition treaty (under which our people can be subjected to their unjust judicial system for crimes allegedly committed here). That’s for starters. I’m sure many of you will have other suggestions.

  • Vincenze

    When it came to manpower and resources, all countries pitted against the axis powers were 'junior' to the US. The USA, just out of its then worst economic crisis in history was something of a seventh cavalry via its lend-lease program to GB, Russia, France and China – all virtually on their knees by late 1941. The human sacrifice, a matter not for league tables, shows the US and Britain to be largely equal partners having each lost about 400,000 soldiers, but pale when compared to Russian and Chinese estimates. In this sacrifice, both western powers were junior partners.

    It seems that all the world's nations are junior partners to the USA when it comes economics, though the rise of the BRIC nations and the hegemony of the so-called eurozone economy are the reasons touted why this will not in fact be the case for much longer. Certainly, the Chinese are very keen to depose the eagle.

    The economic miracle of 30s America is a staggering testament to the ingenuity and determination of a country to modernise, much like post-war USSR (without the consumer fun, of course). The Yanks gave us everything we recognize in the modern world and we are still slightly in awe of this. America still sits in the driving seat when it comes to world power, though quite a tussle is going on in the back seats to get hold of the steering wheel and it will come as a shock to western (european) countries who have always slipstreamed behind US decision-making in global politics when that changes.

    So, I think having a senior partner around is a good and inevitable thing (from my western-based perspective). The spectre of global oligarchism and renegade nations is a terrifying one.

    Dave may have pulled a bit of a Tony (Hayward) with his comment, which I didn't think was fundamentally incorrect, unlike his misapprehensions about Afghanistan. Woe betide, though, any British corporation that soils US sensibilities….every American becomes a New Yorker then….God Bless 'em.

  • GabrielAustin

    Interesting about FDR. He had a high opinion of himself and his powers.

  • Thomas Poovathinkal

    Honourable men seek friendship not partnership. Look at the Lord Incarnate where did He lead His 12 at the end to Friendship or partership? Let us promote Friendship among all world nations provided they cultivate and promote an open culture based on Human Freedom, Truth, Justice and Love.