Alex Massie

Paying Tribute to the New Emperor

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One of the odder characteristics of a certain strain of British right-wing thinking is the terror that British Prime Ministers might ever disagree with the American president. It's almost as if there's a fear that if Britain takes an different view then Washington will chuck us overboard and find a new european friend with whom to play. (Sometimes that's the Germans, though at the moment the French might be thought the more likely rivals). Such fears are, I suspect, overdone. Still, here's Con Coughlin today:

But the quid pro quo for a bigger American military commitment to Afghanistan is that Washington's European allies - which includes Britain - step up to the plate and commit more resources of their own. But although Britain currently makes the most important contribution in terms of fighting the Taliban, Mr Brown seems strangely reluctant to support the proposed American surge, which could immediately put him on a collision course with the new American president.

It is very much in Britain's national interest to have a good relationship with the White House, and Mr Brown will sacrifice a lot of important political capital if he does not soon come up with a workable strategy for the future deployment of British forces in Afghanistan. 

Indeed, a good relationship with the White House is important, but is it everything? Coughlin's last paragraph has a whiff of antiquity about it: you can imagine such calculations being made by one of Rome's allied (ie, vassal) states or tribes, desperate to remain on good terms with the new emperor and, consequently, reviewing battleplans to impress the man in Rome with the zeal with which you're prepared to send your sons into battle alongside or on behalf of the Empire's own legions... Above all, a "collision course" with the new Emperor must be avoided at any cost...

This is in response to a Times piece claiming that the Americans are disatissfied with British military performance in Helmand province. Perhaps they are. And perhaps the public is increasingly of the view that if the Americans want Helmand province, they can bleedin' well have it...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articleSocietyafghanistan