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John Eatwell Britain and America: Ameliorating Unilateralism NO CONSIDERATION OF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES of America and the rest of the world can start other than from the fact ofAmerica’s total dominance in so many dimensions of modem life: its technological dominance, its economic dominance, its academic domi­ nance, its cultural dominance, and its military dominance-and, hence, its political dominance. This political dominance means that there can be no major economic, military, or political endeavor, anywhere in the world, without the acquiescence of the United States. And there can be no major political or military realignment without the active involve­ ment of the United States. It would be surprising if this sort of dominance did not generate resentment. But here is where an important ambivalence to the United States arises. At the same time as the United States is resented as a domi­ nating force, it is also seen as the embodiment ofenlightenment values. America is the city on the hill, the home of democracy, of religious tolerance, of opportunity, of generosity and the rule of law. America seems to define the society that for most of the world’s population is an ideal. This is not so in those parts of the world in revolt against the enlightenment, and it is jeopardized by the rejection of enlightenment values in some sections of US society. But these developments have not yet undermined the essential message of the Statue of Liberty. These ambivalent opinions have conditioned the world’s attitude to the United States since the Second World War. After September 11, social research Voi 72 : No 4 : Winter 2005 791 these fundamental positions have been supplemented by an extraordi­ nary roller coaster in sentiment. Immediately after September 11, with few relevant exceptions, there was enormous surge of support for the United States throughout the world. Today that huge upsurge of good­ will has been largely dissipated, although the dissipation is in itself quite complicated. A recent major international opinion poll shows quite conclusively that worldwide there still exists an extremely positive image of the US. That image is deteriorating, but remains, on balance, positive. In so far as negative views are held, these tend to be associated with the current administration, not with the United States as such. The specifically British view of the United States must be consid­ ered from this general starting point: the resentment ofUS dominance, the embodiment ofthe enlightenment, and the extraordinary twist and turns of recent sentiment. THERE ARE THREE MATN INGREDIENTS THAT HAVE, OVER THE LAST 5 0 years, formed the British attitude towards the United States. First, Britain was, of course, the preceding imperial power, and Britain was keenly aware that a dominant objective ofUS foreign policy, particularly in the late 1930s and early 1940s, was the dismantling of the British Empire. Even while the United States was an ally of Britain during World War II, that objective of US foreign policy was sustained. A significant proportion of US wartime economic policy, in particular, was designed to weaken Britain after the war. American hostility to the British Empire was a significant contributor to a party political divide in UK attitudes toward the United States. The more imperialist politi­ cal force in the United Kingdom, the Conservative Party, developed a persistent suspicion of the United States. This suspicion was reinforced by the 1956 Suez crisis, when the Conservative government was effec­ tively abandoned by the United States. However, the Labour Party, as an anti-imperialist party, has tended to see this particular aspect of the US policy in a somewhat favorable light. Up until the time of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership in the 1980s, when a sea-change takes place, the pro-American party in the UK was the Labour Party, and the rather 792 social research anti-US party (or, at least, suspicious party) was the Conservative Party. Being the preceding imperial power has thus been an important compo­ nent in shaping Britain’s view of the United States. America may have humiliated Britain over Suez, but Britain, despite President Lyndon Johnson’s entreaties, refused to be involved in Vietnam. However, the second component of the British view embodies...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-768X
Print ISSN
0037-783X
Pages
pp. 791-798
Launched on MUSE
2014-04-30
Open Access
No
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