What Has Sustained the Anglo-American Special Relationship Since 1945

Topics: World War II, British Empire, United States Pages: 7 (2185 words) Published: March 8, 2011
What has sustained the Anglo-American ‘Special’ Relationship since 1945

The Anglo-American Special Relationship describes the close partnership that Great Britain and the United States have had since the Second World War. This relationship started as a defensive strategy against the common enemies of Nazi Germany and later the Soviet Union. However, a common enemy has not been the only reason for the relationship to continue as occasionally both nations were faced with conflicting interests. The shared history and culture of both nations have been put forward to explain the maintenance of the relationship, while the functionalist view attributes the relationship as a realist one in which the relationship has been necessary for each nation’s personal interests.

The shared history culture between the United States and Great Britain has often been used to attribute the Special Relationship. In fact, Winston Churchill brought the use of the “Special Relationship” to the General Public during his Fulton speech in which he urged for the English speakers of the United States, United Kingdom, and the Commonwealth to have a Special Relationship against Communism. Churchill further attributes shared culture as he says, “The British and American peoples came together naturally, and without the need of policy and design”[1]

The shared culture between both nations comes from the fact that the United States used to be a British colony. Great Britain and America share the same Anglo-Saxon heritage of language and liberal beliefs and a large portion of Americans can claim English origins.

While it is not the reason of the relationship, it helped maintain it as the shared culture and history set Great Britain apart from other European nations. During the Second World War, the United States found it more convenient to deal with Great Britain than with its other allies such as the Soviet Union or France. Later during the Cold War, shared culture made the diplomacy easier between both countries which helps explain why Great Britain was the United States’ primary ally.

The shared culture also helped shape public esteem in both countries as both nations have traditionally had relatively high public opinions of the other. For example in 1976, the Gallup Poll recorded 87% of Americans had a positive view of the United Kingdom, a number that only Canada topped[2]. Favourable public opinion has allowed for the citizens of both countries to accept the close relationship and has seen supporters of the ‘Special Relationship’ take high positions in each government.

Both nations also share the beliefs of liberalism and democracy. Unlike many other nations during the Cold War, these two never had strong Socialist oppositions and overwhelmingly supported Capitalism. The similitude in beliefs was best demonstrated during the Neo-Liberal Reagan-Thatcher era when their economic policies were closer than ever.

Similar culture was a bridge between both nations, but its importance has been overstated. There has regularly been large anti-American feelings in Great Britain and anti-British feelings in America. Americans have been critical of British imperialism and protectionism while the British have criticized American Capitalism. In fact, the largest ever protest in Britain was against the US lead invasion of Iraq. It is also to note that Britain shares more culture with the Commonwealth nations such as Australia and New Zealand, while the United States is more similar to its North American neighbor Canada.

The fact that the relationship between The United States and Great Britain was ‘Special’ only in 1945 shows how having a common enemy brought both nations closer together. Had it not been for the Second World War, the United States could have remained an Isolationist country against the protectionism of the British Empire. Bartlett describes the relationship as, “not instinctive. It was at...
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