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The Anti-Churchill

Brown undoes the special relationship.

12:00 AM, Mar 26, 2008 • By NILE GARDINER
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Tony Blair was a firm believer in a muscular and interventionist British foreign policy, an approach that frequently united Britain and America, from Kosovo to Baghdad. Brown prefers the tools of soft power, such as foreign aid and international development assistance, to the flexing military might, and his approach has naturally brought him at odds with the White House. Not only has Brown dropped the term "special relationship," he has also rejected the phrase "war on terror," and British civil servants have now been instructed to use the term "criminals" instead of Islamic terrorists. In contrast to their American counterparts, Brown's political mandarins do not believe that Britain is fighting a global war, a fundamental divide that now separates Washington from London.

Under Brown, Britain has begun to adopt a more typical European approach to the fight against al Qaeda, viewing it more as a law and order exercise than a full-scale war. This despite the fact that there are at least 2,000 identified Islamic terrorists operating in the UK itself. In the words of the National Security Strategy, "while terrorism represents a threat to all our communities, and an attack on our values and our way of life, it does not at present amount to a strategic threat." This softer approach has gone hand in hand with the further surrender of British sovereignty to Europe. Brown has embraced the new European Reform Treaty, almost identical to the former European Constitution, and for all intents and purposes a blueprint for a European superstate. He has steadfastly refused to agree to a popular vote on the Treaty despite overwhelming public support for a referendum.

There is a real danger that the special relationship could eventually die a slow death through a combination of political indifference, a decline in British defense spending, and the erosion of British sovereignty within the European Union. It will be up to a future Prime Minister to reverse this process, as there is scant evidence that Brown has any appetite for doing so. It remains to be seen whether David Cameron, the increasingly popular leader of the Conservative party, will reinvigorate the alliance if he is propelled to power at the next election, which must be held by 2010. For the future of the free world though it is vital that he does. The special relationship has been the most enduring and successful alliance of modern times, and provides the best hope for defeating the threat of militant Islam and protecting the West against rogue regimes.

As Margaret Thatcher so eloquently put it in a speech at the end of the Cold War, "whatever people say, the special relationship does exist, it does count and it must continue, because the United States needs friends in the lonely task of world leadership. More than any other country, Britain shares America's passionate commitment to democracy and willingness to stand and fight for it. You can cut through all the verbiage and obfuscation. It's really as simple as that."

Nile Gardiner is the director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation.