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Journal of Cold War Studies 4.4 (2002) 118-120

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Book Review

The Rise and Fall of the European Defence Community:
Anglo-American Relations and the Crisis of European Defence, 1950-55

A Special Relationship:
Anglo-American Relations in the Cold War and After

Kevin Ruane, The Rise and Fall of the European Defence Community: Anglo-American Relations and the Crisis of European Defence, 1950-55. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000. 252 pp. $69.95.
John Dumbrell, A Special Relationship: Anglo-American Relations in the Cold War and After. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2001. 258 pp. $69.95.

The Anglo-American "special relationship" still holds a powerful place in the public rhetoric of British and American leaders. It was reaffirmed in the summer of 2001 in London by President George W. Bush, who announced:

We've got a lot in common between our countries, most of which are values. We value freedom. We value political dialogue. We value freedom of religion—freedom of the press, for that matter. But we also value the fact that we're responsible nations, and that we realize there are some who are less fortunate than the great land Tony [Blair] is the leader of, and our great land, as well.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair responded by saying that the relationship between Britain and the United States remained "very strong, very special," and emphasized that "when Europe and America stand together, and when they approach problems in a sensible and serious way and realize that what unites them is infinitely more important than what divides them, then the world is a better, more stable, more prosperous place.... It is a very strong relationship, a very special one." The two then went on to disagree between themselves about many of the issues on the table.

If the ardor of the 1940s has dimmed, neither side seemed to be rushing to abandon the special relationship, which remains embedded in the public image of international relations. The two books under review raise rather different issues concerning the post-1945 special relationship. Both, however, demonstrate that much of the relationship is elusive and comes down in the end to personalities, though unfortunately neither author tries to draw any systematic link between structure and agency or between "interest" and sentiment or culture. Both authors highlight the importance of [End Page 118] West European actors—France and Germany in particular—and West European international institutions for the Anglo-American relationship over time.

Can the smaller power, the United Kingdom (UK), make a difference to policy outcomes, and, if so, does this depend on personalities? Kevin Ruane's welcome monograph, which is based on extensive British and American archival sources, deals with the Anglo-American relationship during a period of crisis. From 1950 to 1954 the European "Six" (France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg) were striving to build a European Defense Community (EDC) to integrate the newly-created West Germany into Western defense structures. Ruane rightly likens the complex EDC negotiations to a junction box on the circuit board of Cold War Europe (Ruane, p.9). These discussions took place against the backdrop of the Indochina conflict and the Korean War, when the threat of general war seemed greater than at any time since 1945.

Both the United States and the United Kingdom initially had grave doubts about the EDC proposal. The British were concerned that the United States might disengage from Europe if the EDC succeeded. But when U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles took a more active interest in the project, fears in the UK shifted to the consequences of the EDC's possible failure. British leaders gave numerous assurances and guarantees to the Six: Second-guessing the Americans was part of the game. Even if Dulles was bluffing when he promised an "agonizing reappraisal" and consideration of peripheral defense if the EDC...