The Anglo-American”Special Nuclear Relationship”: The Origin of Contemporary British Bi-Partisan Defence Strategy

The Anglo-American”Special Nuclear Relationship”: The Origin of Contemporary British Bi-Partisan Defence Strategy

Harold MacMillan, however, like Churchill, was half-American. He also had established a close relationship with Eisenhower during the war as the British Minister Resident in Eisenhower’s Mediterranean Allied Force Headquarters in 1943-44. Eisenhower had trust in MacMillan’s “skill, his insight, his intelligence, his ability to handle complex issues and advise on them in a way in which Eisenhower had great confidence.”12 Eisenhower also wanted to come to grips with the political complexity of dealing with the allies and the Soviets. Therefore, MacMillan was the most suitable leading figure in the Conservative Party to become the Prime Minister and re-establish the transatlantic relationship which had almost disintegrated during the Suez Canal crisis.

MacMillan, his Foreign Secretary, Selwyn Lloyd, and Lord Home, the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, had long been troubled by the threat from Communism, which I mentioned in this article. Therefore, like Churchill, MacMillan saw that a ‘special relationship’ with the United States was a necessity. Although Britain had the technology for developing both the atomic bomb and the hydrogen bomb, and had explained them, she was financially unable to keep up with the costs involved in their military development. Fear of the threat from the U.S.S.R. and the spread of Communism to the remaining and former British colonies persuaded MacMillan to resume normal relations with the United States as soon as possible, in conjunction with continuing with the decolonisation process. This latter point requires further examination at this point, in the context of MacMillan’s colonial policy.

MacMillan’s speech in Cape Town in 1960, from which extracts were quoted earlier in this article, was a clear indication of his policy towards the colonies and a reflection of Oliver Stanley’s warning, which we saw in his speech also in this article. When MacMillan too office in 1957, the spread of Communism and the danger that the colonial people of Africa might fall into the hands of the socialist states, became a preoccupation for the new Prime Minister. In 1959, one of the main architects of modern colonial policy in Africa, Andrew Cohen, urged that nationalism should be turned into an ally against Communism. He wrote, “if we confuse nationalism with Communism, we are doing a most harmful thing, because successful co-operation with nationalism is our greatest bulwark against Communism in Africa.”13 In line with this philosophy, MacMillan went ahead with the process of granting of full nationhood to the remaining colonies, mainly in Africa. By the time he left office, in 1963, a Modem (British) Commonwealth had virtually reached completion. MacMillan recalled, in his autobiography, a conversation, during his 1960 visit to Africa, that, as he put it, was “with one of the men most experienced in these problems, who had spent his life in the Colonial Service.”14 Then MacMillan continued, by saying, “I asked him to give me his frank opinion whether the people over whose destinies he was now presiding were ready for independence…for this change for which they are shouting so vigorously? Freedom, freedom, freedom.”15 The reply to MacMillan’s question was “oh no, of course, they are not ready for it. When will they be ready?, in perhaps fifteen or twenty years. They are learning fast; but it will take at least that time before their leaders are ready to take full responsibility.”16 MacMillan asked the Governor to elaborate his reply a bit further. The Governor’s reply was, “I should give it [freedom] to them at once – as soon as possible,”17 and he developed this argument. “If the fifteen or twenty years were to be applied in learning the job,  in increasing their experience of local government, or of central administration, only then I would be all for it. But this is not what will happen. All the most intelligent men capable of government will be in rebellion. I will have to put them in prison. There they will learn nothing about administration, only about hatred and revenge. They will not be fruitful, but wasted years; so I say, give them independence now.”18

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