Where are America's friends today?
Dateline 18 January 2006
Of all countries in the world, which is America’s closest ally? Ask around and you will get a myriad of suggestions: Britain? Israel? Canada? The more sophisticated might suggest Australia. Certainly Britain and America have been on the same side in virtually every military conflict for the past 100 years. (Full disclosure: this writer is British, and married to an American). Australia, which unlike Britain sent troops to Vietnam, has perhaps an even stronger claim. Britain and Australia, respectively, are the countries with the second and third largest commitments to Iraq, and Tony Blair and John Howard have become fairly famous on American TV.
Canada’s economy is closely enmeshed with America’s, especially with the North Country’s, though Canada has wavered on key foreign policy issues, most notably Iraq.
The close economic and security relationship between America and other English speaking countries has led some to start speaking of a new global force: the Anglosphere. When trade was mostly a matter of shipping heavy goods such as steel and cars many saw an advantage in building regional trading blocks such as the European Union (EU) and NAFTA. Why ship goods halfway round the world, when the cost of transport can often make them uncompetitive?
But the nature of trade has changed. Trade these days is mostly a matter of providing services. Services, and even goods such as software, can be delivered electronically. Distance is not a factor. Language, however, is a big factor. So is the system of law, and most English speaking countries – along with many others of the former British Empire – share the Anglo-American system of Common Law.
As a British citizen I have a legal right to work in any EU country. The trouble is that as a professional wordsmith – writer, PR consultant and educator – I have very limited opportunities to do so. My basic grasp of foreign languages is simply insufficient to write articles for Le Monde or Die Welt. Were I not married to an American, I would have no legal right to work in the US, though this would be of far more value to me.
Which western capitalist countries, then, are most hostile to America’s interests and policies? Most people would immediately jump to France or Germany. But Germany is a loyal member of NATO, and until Iraq had few differences with the US. France has been a more awkward ally but French troops fought alongside Americans in the WWI, and despite the early surrender in WWII the ‘Free French’ made minor contributions to the allied cause. France fought Communism in Indo-China before the US became involved.
Surprisingly, the single country most hostile to US policy is another member of the Anglosphere: Ireland. “Neutrality” in WWII was expressed as quiet support for the Nazi cause. Irish President Eammon De Valera sent a message of sympathy to the German people when Hitler committed suicide. Ireland opted out of the fight against Communism, refusing to join NATO. In the battle against Islamic extremism Ireland has opposed every American initiative from the Libyan bombing of the 1980s to current struggle in Iraq.
So why is Ireland treated so favorably by America? When the Green Card lottery included allocations by country Ireland had by far the largest allocation per head of population. Today the lottery is meant to promote ‘diversity’. Loyal American allies such as Britain and Poland are entirely excluded while Ireland – which has never aligned with America on any issue at all – is still in.
Copyright © Quentin Langley 18 January 2006