The Special Relationship

Harmesh Bhambra '16

Harmesh Bhambra '16

By Harmesh Bhambra ‘16

The relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is as strong as ever. Yet all talk is of decline.

The United States and the United Kingdom have enjoyed a special relationship stretching back decades. Critics, however, are quick to write its requiem -- Obama’s “pivot” to Asia and the relative economic decline of Britain are proof that the relationship is dying. For those critics, I have some unfortunate news -- as a Briton who moved to Chicago three months ago, I declare that the special relationship is alive and kicking.

There are some prosaic reasons for the continuing survival of the relationship. Beyond the fascination with the British accent, fellow American Boothies watch the Premier League, visit London and study in Britain. These shared experiences highlight and strengthen the commonalities between our two nations. Surely these individual bonds matter more than clashes in the geopolitical arena?

A poster from World War I showing Britannia arm-in-arm with Uncle Sam symbolizing the Anglo-American alliance.

A poster from World War I showing Britannia arm-in-arm with Uncle Sam symbolizing the Anglo-American alliance.

It is fortunate that Britain has the capital of globalization, London, which continues to exert a unique pull. The capital simultaneously fascinates and hosts many Americans. I am pleasantly surprised by the desire for many Boothies, both American and international, to spend part of their lives in London. And it is not really policy or geography that attract Boothies to the city, it is the culture of boundless openness -- a shared value amongst our generation. This again provides reassurance that the bonds between our two countries will persist for posterity.

The special relationship endures not just because of our collective experiences, but also due to the bonds of language and history, stretching back to the birth of the Thirteen Colonies. The rule of law and self-determination are enshrined in our common values, and our military alliances have protected and progressed these values across the world.

It is understandable to ask whether these bonds can hold the special relationship together against significant headwinds. One party is clearly senior, reducing the UK to a minor partner, or a subservient “poodle” according to some. Moreover, failed military endeavors in Afghanistan and Iraq have led to the argument that the relationship has soured to the point of nihilism, serving a political mission to impose Western-style government on the world. Further, political gridlock and isolationist policy in the US, and Scotland, and EU referenda in the UK pose existential threats by pulling the two countries apart on a policy level. These arguments, however, relegate the relationship to a tool for politicians and therefore miss the point -- the special relationship is not about them, it is about us.

In the end there is something romantic about Americans and Britons sharing a worldview, values and relationships. In a world where it is easy to focus on differences, it is refreshing to know that we have so much in common and we are just all in this together.

The writer is a Briton in America and a Class of 2016 MBA student.