Leading Article:Meanwhile, back at the ranch ...

Share
Related Topics
The Prime Minister is in Washington today and tomorrow, and the less that is heard of Gerry Adams, spurned presidential phone calls and special relationships, the better. For anyone with a sense of proportion, the ``hyperventilating'' (to borrow the apt description used by Mr Clinton's press spokesman) in Britain over the fate of our ties with America has been humiliating - reminiscent of the insecure schoolboy who wonders whether he has fallen out of favour with the house prefect, calls him nasty names behind his back, yet secretly prays that he will be restored to grace.

These last few days, the prefect has been doing his best to oblige. "Unique" and "exceptionally important" are the phrases that trip off the tongues of administration officials when questioned about relations between London and Washington. All of which is true, but the very fact that such reassurance is neccessary somehow only increases the insecurity and humiliation of those upon whom it is bestowed. Before national self-flagellation gets out of hand however, a little objectivity might be helpful.

Yes, relations with the United States are going through a bumpy patch. Yes, the personal chemistry between the Prime Minister and Mr Clinton is poor. Yes, in terms of the position it had staked out, Britain "lost" over Gerry Adams. Obscured, however, by that setback (which in any case might yet prove to have been vital for the peace process) has been a notable triumph of diplomacy. Thanks largely to unremitting British pressure, the Clinton administration has come down unequivocally against lifting the arms embargo on Bosnia, a step that probably would have caused the worst crisis in Nato since Suez. In the Senate, it is doubtful whether Bob Dole, the Majority leader, can even drum up a simple majority in favour of lifting the ban, although that might change if the current ``ceasefire'' unravels. But a two-thirds majority required to override a presidential veto, is out of the question. Britain's performance, as Mr Dole has tartly observed, may not have been heroic, but it hardly bespeaks a lack of influence.

Add to this the "institutional" side of the relationship - the military, nuclear and intelligence collaboration probably unrivalled between any two countries - and Britain has even less ground to feel shunned. As Tony Lake, Mr Clinton's national security adviser puts it, "these are realities". Not bad for a middling European power, professing to be a bridge between the US and Europe, but whose ruling party cannot even agree on its role in Europe. The "special relationship", insofar as it existed, was forged in the Second World War and survived the Cold War which followed it. The Cold War is over. Perhaps we should be thankful we are still friends.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Whitehall Editor: The spurious Tory endorsement that misfired

Oliver Wright
 

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband hasn’t ‘suddenly’ become a robust leader. He always was

Steve Richards
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence