America’s Cold War “Tugboat”

Photo by Daniel Lobo | CC BY 2.0

Several years ago, I had occasion to interview the Guardian’s Russia correspondent, Jonathan Steele, and asked how he assessed Britain’s ties to US foreign policy. He humorously described the US as the big ship in the harbor and Britain as its “tugboat.” No longer a world power on its own, Britain these days escorts the US into foreign outposts where neither belongs. British propaganda scholar Emma Briant appears to agree: “Britain’s defence strategy was pragmatically steered towards complementing US capabilities and spinning its ‘expertise’ in counter-insurgency warfare… to engineer inroads for relative influence.”

The Middle East Prologue

One will remember the Tony Blair-George Bush bromance in 2002, when the Labour prime minister began a collaboration with the US toward the 2003 invasion of Iraq on the pretext that the Saddam government was producing and storing weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Blair pledged to Bush, “I will be with you, whatever.” It’s no wonder he was widely seen in Britain as “America’s poodle.” A memo written by Matthew Rycroft, then private secretary to Blair and later (2015 to early 2018) UK ambassador to the UN, was leaked to the British press. It disclosed that “theintelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” (i.e., a propaganda operation) to make the case against Saddam, with “little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military…

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