Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

We May Not Be So Special after All

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

We May Not Be So Special after All

Article excerpt


IN November 2003, the North East had a visit from the 43rd President of the United States, George Bush, who met Tony Blair in Sedgefield and then announced that it "reaffirmed the special relationship between the two countries".

What a shame the timelines weren't slightly different and that it was the 44th President, Barack Obama, in the region.

Dropping by the Dun Cow Inn for a pint might not be the style of Barrack Obama; it's more likely he'd host a mass rally at St James's Park before euphoric crowds. If they listened carefully, however, those crowds might hear some unsettling truths about what the future holds for our special transatlantic relationship.

We don't need to say too much about the economy. If there's one thing that definitely binds us together, it's the fact that when the American economy gets the flu, we all get flu together. It's fairly obvious that all of our economies will carry on needing bed rest and plenty of fluids for a fair while yet.

Beyond that, however, the strongest link in our special relationship will be our closeness on military and security policy. Above all, this means facing up to the fact that we still have a huge challenge on our hands in Afghanistan.

Since the Iraq war, the British public has paid relatively little attention to what is happening there; perhaps we are aware that the fighting is still rumbling on, but most of us aren't too sure why or how much it matters.

In fact, the security situation in much of the country has deteriorated and Nato is on the back foot.

President Obama will soon be urging his European allies to follow his lead and commit many more troops to stabilise the country, which will be predictably unpopular. Our Defence Minister, John Hutton, has already declared support for this policy by criticising our Nato allies for not contributing to the mission. …

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