American perceptions of the "Special relationship"

I’ve just seen Obama and Cameron doing a press conference where talk about how our two countries have ‘a special relationship’…

I was curious what the perception of this is in the states. This exact same press conference seems to happen whenever an american president visits, and is always used in UK politics to justify our involvement with American affairs (such as in Afghanistan or Iraq). I was curious how this sells in America.

Over here, I think most people find it a bit embarrassing. Not because they have anything against the US, but it always comes off like the school geek trying to tell everyone he is friends with the cool kid.

I think there is also the public image that we often come off second best in this relationship, with the US telling us what to do and we do it. For example, there are extradition laws that allow the american government to get UK citizens sent for trial in the US (without having to provide much evidence), but no reciprocal agreement (Extradition Act 2003 - Wikipedia)

I was curious if 1) The American population are even aware of the “special relationship”, or if it is just something that British politicians get the president to talk about, and 2) If you are aware, do you think it is something that benefits both countries, and in what areas?

What “special relationship?”
If it doesn’t affect our taxes we don’t care, in general.

I think you have this backwards. Americans are aware that we are a bit of a bully. That we invented the whole “big stick” doctrine but seem to have forgotten the “walk softly” part. We look to our UK allies as the voice of reason.

Just about any American who knows anything about foreign affairs is aware of the Special Relationship. It’s had its ups and downs, but seems strong at the moment. Despite Obama and Cameron being somewhat far apart on the domestic political spectrum, they seem personally simpatico and in agreement on most foreign policy issues. The UK has been our closest friend and ally since WWI, and believe me, we appreciate it.

Its actually quite nice to know its not just something dreamt up by UK politicians to big themselves up.

Strangely, we always seem to be slightly out of step when it comes to presidents/prime ministers ie. Major was from the right and Clinton from the Left, then Bush from the right, and Blair from the left, now we have Obama from the left and Cameron from the right.

The only time I can remember having both from the same side was when it was Thatcher and Reagan

We definitely see Britain as our closest ally, probably even closer than Canada. We also do realize that we usually are the more dominant member in the relationship, but if Britain was attacked and we did not assist you can bet there would be public outcry.

Aside from the obvious political issues, there’s also the historical and cultural. We were the bad-boy colonies that ran away from home and made it on our own. That’s a relationship that will never entirely go away. We even, in a strange way, think of British royalty as “our” royalty . . . mention “the Queen” and there’s no doubt whom you’re referring to. And of course there’s the language, which unites us and also separates us. And on some level I think there’s a mutual inferiority complex. We’re obviously “superior” when it comes to global influence, but the minute we hear a Brit begin to speak, the dialect gets our immediate respect.

Well, left and right from their domestic points of view. How far apart are they from each other in absolute terms?

Seriously, which is which?

ETA - Must type faster - **DrFidelious **was the last post when I loaded the page. Sorry for the repetetive entry.

Amongst the rank and file American who pays essentially zero attention to foreign affairs, it’s pretty much what **DrFidelious **said. The code phrase “Special relationship” is meaningless to them.

Amongst the few percent of Americans who follow foreign affairs in general or Britain in particular, the term is well-known & well understood.

Loosely, to us it means that we can assume that our interests are very closely aligned on darn near anything. And given aligned interests, we can usually assume aligned behavior.

Much like we can assume that even though our interests are generally aligned with those of France, the French will refuse to see it that way and will take the opposite tack just to be opposite.

Definitely we see it as an unequal partnership. Very much Batman & Robin, not so much the Fantastic Two. That sounds a bit patronizing, and I’m not surprised to hear the average Brit finds the idea faintly embarrassing.

OTOH, if you guys ever got in deep ***t we’d be lot more likely to do what it took to keep you going than we would for, say, France. If your government drives your economy off a cliff we may have to pull that rescue.

The special relationship is really about all manner of governance interests, from environment to policing to health. There is a lot of intergovernmental cooperation on these things which the specialist press takes notice of.

Newspaper editorial pages & the TV instant expert talking heads, to the degree they speak of it at all, place it in the context of foreign relations and military cooperation in particular.

In terms of International Politics, completely the same.

Well… I’ve always understood it to be a bond formed from a lot of shared culture (believe it or not, overall, I’d say the US and UK are at least as similar as they are different), a shared language, and a lot of common aims, reinforced by a little more than a century of cooperation and alliance vs. common perceived threats.

In the common perception, I think the best way to describe the “special relationship” is one of trust. I think the average American trusts the British people and their government in a way that we trust very few other countries (Australia and Canada being the other two), and if the chips were really down(i.e. the UK were threatened in a serious way), I think that the majority of Americans would support bringing our full military might to bear on their enemies.

There’s also a perception of the UK as a older, wiser uncle or brother who tries to temper our hotheadedness.

That being said, I think that we (the US) haven’t been as supportive as we should have been. I’m more than a little ashamed that we didn’t sail a carrier battle group down and help out vs. the Argentines during the Falklands War. While satellite photos and armaments are nice, we should have had some skin in the game, if we had wanted to be the allies to the British that they are to us.

Also, I think we’ve been more than a little remiss in the diplomatic department as well, but in the last half-century, I think the US has been the lead actor, with the UK as a supporting role.

Even more recently than that, as this aptly-named movie shows: The Special Relationship (film) - Wikipedia

Yes. Most of this applies, as you say, to Canada and Australia too, and I’d argue (as Obama just did) for something of a special relationship with Ireland as well.

While Argentina was never a close ally of ours like Britain is, we still had an interest in not alienating them, and other South American countries, more than was necessary. There was actually debate about whether we should assist Britain at all.

Also, everyone (except the Argentines apparently) understood that Britain could probably smack down Argentina with one arm tied behind its back — as they in fact did.

Many in the US are well aware of the “Special Relationship”. If I had to guess it would be something like 10% of high school graduates, and maybe 50% among college grads…so maybe 25-30% of Americans are familiar with the notion. It would be very much higher among those that follow international policy at all.

I would say it is probably >90% among House members and the press corps, and near 100% in the Senate and Cabinet.

I don’t have the sense that anyone thinks it is an equal partnership. Though we might not always treat Briton as well as she deserves, we really do love her.

And after checking which forum I am in, the rest of my post has been deleted. If this gets moved, or a similar GD thread is started, I’ll be happy to add my partisan commentary.

Yes, we are aware of the “special relationship.” The UK is like our great great great grandparents and Canada is our distant cousin.

I don’t consider the UK royalty our royalty at all.

I imagine that the offer was extended but politely declined (Thacher to Reagan: “Sit! Stay!”) with a wink and a nod.

I’m just looking at things in a similar way to friends/acquaintances. There are people you’re friendly with, but probably wouldn’t help change a tire on a rainy day, people you’ll help out when it’s inconvenient, but there are a close, select few who you’ll help hide the bodies.

I’ve always thought that in international terms, the US, UK, Australia and Canada are on that last set terms with each other, and the rest of NATO is in the second category, and other countries like say… Argentina, who we’re friendly with, but really wouldn’t go to bat for if the chips were down.

I think most intelligent American realize that England and Canada are really our top allies and we have a very close relationship with England. I guess I’d call it special.

Kind of like ally +1. We’re “bff’s”. :slight_smile:
I just want to point out that Tony Blair and Bill Clinton were quite close from '97-2001 and were fairly similar in politics. Blair continued the closeness with Bush despite being quite different from him.