The Heritage Foundation

WebMemo #1091 on Europe

May 24, 2006

May 24, 2006 | WebMemo on Europe

Beyond Friendship -- The Future of Anglo-American Relations


The purpose of this book is to look forward to the future, but the reader will quickly observe that about half of it relates to the past. I make no apology for this. The "Special Relationship" between the United Kingdom and the United States-which I shall argue does truly exist, ought to exist, and should be made still stronger-is rooted in the two nations' history. It cannot properly be understood outside that context.

To recognize this is not to be nostalgic: It is to be realistic. British Prime Minister Tony Blair's favorite touchstone for policymaking is "what works." Within limits, it is a good one. The Special Relationship can indeed be shown to "work," though not always. In assessing the conditions under which it flourishes and under which it withers, we must examine the triumphs and tribulations, and even the banalities its trouble-free existence, from the past.

On the other hand, history does not teach everything we need to know about the future. Adapting to global changes, using them, not misreading or falling foul of them will be a major challenge for the leaders of Britain and America over many decades to come. In doing this, good personal relationships, though useful, will not be enough.

Indeed, it is the argument of this book that somewhat too much time and energy has been invested in dressing up what is essentially a close alliance in the garb of a slightly corny romantic friendship. It is by understanding the two countries' national interests, addressing public concerns about them, and then cementing those interests still more closely together that the Special Relationship will be made to hold.

Robin Harris
May 2006


Dr. Robin Harris served during the 1980s as an adviser at the United Kingdom Treasury and Home Office, as Director of the Conservative Party Research Department, and as a member of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's Downing Street Policy Unit. He continued to advise Lady Thatcher after she left office and has edited the definitive volume of her Collected Speeches. Dr. Harris is now an author and journalist. His Dubrovnik-A History was published by Saqi Books in 2003, and his biography of Talleyrand will be published by John Murray in the spring of 2007.

About the Author

Robin Harris, D. Phil. Senior Visiting Fellow