Even America's most loyal and important ally is not as much appreciated as it used to be in Washington. The UK-US special relationship is being reconsidered in both Britain and the United States.
In an article about the British army's lack of soldiers, lack of money and lack of conviction, The Economist writes:
British commanders have belatedly realised that they have much to learn, or rather relearn, about fighting small wars in distant lands. "We have lost our way," says one general. Underlying this malaise is concern about Britain's relationship with America, its most important ally. Generals worry that the United States is losing confidence in Britain's military worth. Some Americans have indeed been expressing doubts: policymakers ask whether British leaders are losing the will to fight, soldiers whether their British counterparts are losing the ability to do so. There is talk that Britain is becoming "Europeanised", more averse to making war and keener on peacekeeping. Britain remains America's closest and most able ally; its special forces are particularly prized. But one senior official in the former Bush administration says there is "a lot of concern on the US side about whether we are going to have an ally with the capability and willingness to be in the fight with us".
Alex Harrowell with A Fistful of Euros takes issue with the assumptions behind the accusation that Britain is "Europeanised:"
First, the UK cannot do this because, having spent the last 8 years chasing various US-inspired missions, it doesn't have the troops, and more to the point, it doesn't have the air transport fleet to support them in the interior of Asia. Simple. But more importantly, there are two huge unexamined assumptions here. The first is that the Europeans have to come when the US calls them. What is in it for us? After all, NATO declared that the alliance had been invoked back in September 2001, and was told that its assistance was not required, at the same time as hordes of rightwing publicists accused it of not helping. Then, later, the US accepted the need for an international peacekeeping force, which was led by European NATO members for most of its existence.
And then, the US withdrew much of its own forces in Afghanistan for use in Iraq. Specifically, the special forces whose mission in counter-insurgency and as military advisors was crucial in the vast majority of Afghanistan away from Kabul were drawn on, as were the satellite and other reconnaissance assets.
He also asks a tough rhetorical question, which our regular commenter Don Stadler, an American living in London, has been asking many times in the exact opposite way:
If, as they do, the Americans whine about having had to contribute to IFOR/SFOR in Bosnia (which consisted of two European divisions and a partly-US one), why should EU member states happily fork out for a much more dangerous, violent, expensive and uncertain commitment which is not much more remote from their real interests than Bosnia was to the US?
I think the UK understands that to succeed in Afghanistan and elsewhere the United States and NATO need support from its European allies as well. More British troops will not lead to success. Moreover why should Britain continue to carry the burden, if other Europeans are not helping? Besides, what has Britain gained from its "special relationship" with the US in the last three decades?
Last month, British Defense Secretary John Hutton has called upon NATO allies to pull their weight and share the burden in Afghanistan. In one of the most outspoken speeches from a British defense minister in years, Hutton reprimands some EU members for a lack of commitment to global security interests. Atlantic-community.org published excerpts of his speech: UK Slams Poor European Commitment in Afghanistan