The Churchill Complex
The Rise and Fall of the Special Relationship and the End of the Anglo-American OrderIan Buruma
3 September 2020
Published by Atlantic Books
It is impossible to understand the last 75 years of British and American history without understanding the Anglo-American relationship, and specifically the bonds between presidents and prime ministers. FDR of course had Churchill; JFK famously had Macmillan, his consigliere during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Reagan found his ideological soul mate in Thatcher, and George W. Bush found his fellow believer, in religion and in war, in Tony Blair.
In a series of shrewd and absorbing character studies, Ian Buruma takes the reader on a journey through the special relationship via the fateful bonds between president and prime minister. It’s never been a relationship of equals: from Churchill’s desperate cajoling and conniving to keep FDR on side, British prime ministers have put much more stock in the relationship than their US counterparts did. For Britain, resigned to the loss of its once-great empire, its close kinship to the world’s greatest superpower would give it continued relevance, and serve as leverage to keep continental Europe in its place. As Buruma shows, this was almost always fool’s gold.
And now, as the links between the Brexit vote and the 2016 US election are coming into sharper focus, it is impossible to understand the populist uprising in either country without reference to Trump and Boris Johnson, though ironically, they are also the key, Buruma argues, to understanding the special relationship’s demise.