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Nothing Special About Britain? Britain!?



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Re: the anonymous Obama administration dufus who said: “There’s nothing special about Britain. You’re just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn’t expect special treatment.”

As an unapologetic, full-throated Anglophile I find those comments idiotic, offensive, ahistorical, and in a certain sense anti-American.* I’m of course appalled.

But it’s worth focusing on one aspect of this sentiment: It’s idiocy. According to the liberal-realist school, some countries matter more than other countries because they are powerful and have the ability to adversely affect our national interest. According to the liberal-internationalist school, allies matter more than non-allies because grand international coalitions are the best way to do the wonderful things want to do on the world stage. So, China matters because it’s a rising hegemon. Burkino Faso matters . . . eh, not so much. “Europe” matters because they are allies on security, global warming, human rights, etc. Well, Britain just happens to be our most important, reliable, and powerful ally.

So even if you take the pragmatist’s razor to our shared history, culture, and all other romantic attachments to Great Britain, the bulldog still matters — a lot. In other words, to say that Britain isn’t any more special than the other 190 countries in the world, you actually have to dislike Britain to the point where you’re willing to suspend what are supposed to be your guiding principles and objectives about foreign policy.

* Just to be clear, what I mean by anti-American isn’t a knee-jerk attack on anyone’s patriotism. Rather, I simply mean that if you think the country that gave us our system of laws, our democratic tradition, our dominant culture, much of our greatest literature, and even our language is no more special than any backwater country which immiserates or brutalizes its people, then you must not think very much of America’s culture, traditions, etc. either.



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