America's 'Special Relationships': Foreign and Domestic Aspects of the Politics of Alliance

America's 'Special Relationships': Foreign and Domestic Aspects of the Politics of Alliance

America's 'Special Relationships': Foreign and Domestic Aspects of the Politics of Alliance

America's 'Special Relationships': Foreign and Domestic Aspects of the Politics of Alliance


This unique volume offers an original collection of essays on the theme of America's 'special relationships'. It interrogates in an original and provocative manner the distinctive character of America's interactions with an array of allies and clients, both international and domestic.

The essays vary in their focus; some are primarily historical, some are more contemporary. All consider the quality of 'specialness' in the context of America's relationship with particular countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Holland, Russia, Iran and Israel. The collection also concerns the relationship between the American state and key 'special' foreign policy interests, notably ethnic lobbies and religious groups.

Bringing together a wide range of experts, this timely collection provides a valuable addition to the debates surrounding US foreign policy, and will be of great interest to students and scholars of American politics, American history and international relations.


Since the end of the Cold War, and especially since the later 1990s, journalistic and academic commentary on the United States has been preoccupied with the nature and sheer extent of American international power. The United States has been variously described as the global hegemon, the lone superpower, the indispensable nation, the hyperpower and the Überpower. By the close of the twentieth century, American global pre-eminence, rooted in the triad of military, economic and political/cultural ‘soft power’, was widely recognized as having assumed extraordinary proportions, to a degree arguably unparalleled in human history. In turn, a major academic industry developed to explain, denounce and unravel the story of America’s rise.

One aspect of this recent preoccupation with American hegemony – its roots, its impact, its possible supercession – has been a new concern with the politics of alliance. How have ‘friends’ of the United States – allies or clients of the hegemon – adapted to the realities of American global power? The policies of the Bush administration of 2001–9, especially in the three or four years following 9/11, set the tone for this contemporary sharpening of interest in the politics of alliance. Ever since the close of World War II, America’s alliances have been characterized by a radical asymmetry of power. However, the early twenty-first century saw a confluence of vast, hegemonic power with a newly imperial style. Chris Patten recalled the effect on US–European relations: ‘Even for a senior foreign official dealing with the US administration, you are aware of your role as a tributary: however courteous your hosts, you come as a subordinate bearing goodwill and hoping to depart with a blessing on your endeavours’.

As a result, the Bush administration will be recalled in historical memory as, especially in terms of its foreign policy, one of the most controversial in American history. President Bush himself was reviled outside the United States to a degree unknown in recent history. European perspectives on the Bush administration were shaped by two concepts which, between them, came almost to define the politics of alliance in the early twenty-first century: the concepts of unilateralism and of imperialism.

The pre-2005 penchant for unilateralism, and the willingness of Bush appointees to embrace it, grew from neo-conservative thinking about the nature and purpose of American international power. It also grew from the logic of the . . .

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