- Editor's Note
The first two articles in this issue deal with British policy and transatlantic relations during two major armed conmflicts—the Arab-Israeli war of 1973 and the VietnamWar. The first article, by Geraint Hughes, discusses British policy during the October 1973 MideastWar, an event that sparked rifts between the United States and its European allies. U.S. policymakers at the time, especially Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, were deeply irritated by the West Europeans' refusal to join the United States in providing military assistance to Israel to withstand the Arab onslaught. Kissinger was worried not only about Israel's security but also about the strategic benefits the Soviet Union would gain from an Arab victory. In Western Europe, by contrast, for both economic and political reasons, most of the governments were at least tacitly on the Arabs' side. Leaving aside the relative merits of the U.S. and European positions, the disagreements about this matter show that Britain was willing to defy the United States on an issue of vital importance. The U.S.- British "special relationship," even at the height of the Cold War, never was one of subservience.
The second article, by Rhiannon Vickers, shifts the focus to British policy during the Vietnam War. Vickers underscores the dilemma facing Harold Wilson during his first term as British prime minister, from 1964 to 1970. On the one hand, Wilson strongly supported close ties with the United States, the so-called special relationship. He was not inherently opposed to the VietnamWar and believed, at least initially, that victory might be attainable. On the other hand,Wilson's moral support of the United States risked antagonizing left-wing activists in the Labour Party, many of whom wanted far-reaching changes in British foreign policy and called on Wilson to denounce U.S. military operations in Vietnam. Because the Labour Party prior to April 1966 enjoyed only a four-seat majority in the British Parliament, Wilson had to be mindful of sentiment within the party. Although he declined to condemn the overall U.S. war effort, he felt compelled for domestic reasons to urge the Johnson administration to avoid further escalation and to seek a negotiated settlement. Wilson himself sought to act as an intermediary on several occasions during this period in the hope of facilitating peace talks. His efforts did not generate any tangible progress toward a ceasefire, but they did help to placate some of the disaffected elements in the Labour Party. On the whole,Wilson handled the conmflicting domestic and international pressures with considerable skill and success. He managed to preserve Britain's special relationship with the United States while demflecting Lyndon Johnson's numerous requests for Britain to contribute troops to the war effort. Wilson also managed to fend off pressure from radical leftists in the Labour Party who were hoping to exploit anti-war sentiment to provoke an open break with the United States.
The third article, by Norbert Götz, discusses Finland's position vis-à-vis the [End Page 1] United Nations (UN) from 1945 to 1956. During most of this period, the Soviet Union prevented Finland from gaining admission to the UN. The Finnish government sought to join the organization as early as 1947, but both then and afterward the Soviet Union used its veto in the UN Security Council to block Finland's entry. Not until December 1955 did Moscow finally relent and agree to accept Finland's membership. In the late 1940s, after Finland was first denied admission, Finnish attitudes toward the world body soured. Some Finnish commentators and politicians asserted that Finland was better off staying outside the UN—a sentiment that reached its peak in late 1950 after the UN was enlisted by the United States to provide legitimacy for the U.S.-led effort to repulse North Korea's invasion of South Korea. But after the death of Josif Stalin in 1953, which was soon followed by an armistice in the Korean War, Finnish leaders and commentators expressed renewed interest in gaining UN membership. Finns who supported this policy argued that joining the UN would bolster Finland's sovereignty and give it a valuable forum in which...