ROBIN RENWICK, (New York: Times Books, 1996), 496 pp. $35.00 cloth (ISBN 0-8129-2709-5).
Toward the end of his life, Harry Hopkins, (special aide to Franklin D. Roosevelt summarized his view of U.S. foreign policy interests with the following statement:
If I were to lay down the most cardinal principle of our foreign policy, it
would be that we make absolutely sure that now and forever the United
States and Great Britain are going to see eye to eye on major matters of
world policy. It is easy to say that. It is hard to do, but it can be done
and the effort is worth it (p. 122).
This statement could stand as the theme of Robin Renwick's insightful portrait of the "special relationship" between the United States and Great Britain. Fighting With Allies is a detailed work that examines the bilateral relationship across a number of dimensions--the effect of personal relationships, the evolution of historical ties, and the areas of strategic agreement and disagreement between the United States and Great Britain.
The volume focuses especially on the post-war relationship. This is appropriate, since the "special relationship" between Great Britain and the United States was born during World War II with Roosevelt and Churchill's 1940 "Destroyers for Bases" agreement. After the war, the relationship was both reinforced and reoriented, as the Soviet Union replaced Nazi Germany as the greatest threat to Western security. The result was an "extraordinarily close relationship" in which disagreements were viewed as "family quarrels" rather than fundamental policy clashes (p. 392).
Yet there is a double meaning in the book's title. Fighting With Allies is as much an account of the frictions that have characterized the bilateral relationship as it is a chronicle of the alliance's solidity. The coexistence of conflict and cooperation raises a question: To what extent has the special relationship rested on a natural affinity between the two countries--and to what extent has it been a strategic (rather than natural) alliance? Much of the post-war political rhetoric has focused on the natural affinities that emerge from cultural and linguistic similarities. But pre-war rhetoric often had a very different flavor. Note for example, Woodrow Wilson's 1918 statement to King George V:
You must not speak of us ... as cousins, still less as brothers; we are
neither. Neither must you think of us as Anglo-Saxons, for that term can
no longer be rightly applied to the...