A special relationship

By 2020, 30,000 armed forces personnel will have lost their jobs in the U.K. as a result of planned cuts to the British military. This, in the eyes of former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, will limit the U.K.’s ability to be a major player on the world’s stage and also weaken the “special relationship” between the U.K. and the U.S.

The “special relationship” is a term used to describe the close political, diplomatic, cultural, economic, military and historical relations between the U.K. and U.S., Gates believes that because of the recent policy changes in the U.K.’s military, the U.K. is weakening their bond with the U.S.

In a survey of 54 students, 70 percent of those surveyed  are aware of the “special relationship” that Gates coined. “If the relationship didn’t exist, this school wouldn’t be here,” Josh Mills (’16), a British citizen, said.

The “special relationship” dates back to 1859, the first time British and American soldiers fought side- by-side in the Opium Wars. This developed further during World War II and the two countries continued to grow closer together as they developed a distinctive relationship that remains intact today.

Social Studies Teacher Terry Gladis, who is American but has lived in London for the past 16 years, believes that the basis of the “special relationship” was founded on more than wars. “The foundations are the shared history, shared language, shared culture, shared commerce, and a shared value of the democratic process,” he said.

The survey also revealed that out of the 54 students questioned, 43 percent felt that the relationship still strongly exists today, 39 percent felt that it is currently deteriorating, while another 18 percent believe that there is no “special relationship” currently between the U.K. and the U.S.

Ben Hewett (’17), a Briton, believes that the relationship is very much alive today. “The U.K. government seems to support everything the U.S. government does, and there’s rarely any conflict between the two,” he said.

However, the relationship goes beyond political alignment. Jack Potrykus (’16), an American who has lived in England for less than a year, believes that militarily the relationship has become weaker. “I don’t think it’s as strong in terms of a military aspect. Other countries, especially in Europe, are starting to become isolationist and in terms of conflicts England has a problem with America being more imperialist in their engagements,” he said.

This is the same viewpoint shared by Gates, who has continually expressed that the U.K. is failing to provide sufficient military backup between the U.S. and U.K., weakening their ability to be a useful ally to the U.S.

The bond is also apparent through the countries’ cultures and the way in which people live their lives.“I’m more compelled to English and American people because of the language and culture we share,” Max Barnett (’15) said.

Gladis believes that the “special relationship” is extremely significant because of the capabilities and results the two countries can produce. “I think it is one of the most vital relationships present because global politics and diplomacy is of grave importance at this point in time, and the indispensable partnership that [the U.S. and U.K.] have has also directed a lot of other countries to fall in line,” Gladis said. “Together, we are among a handful of countries that have the capability to offer a potent and global response to something that is going on in the world.”

A unique liaison remains between the two countries. Science Teacher Derek Fleming, who is a Briton, said, “There’s a sense that, even though we’re different, we understand each other.”