November 22, 2014
During the Cuban missile crisis, Macmillan’s role was totally passive, as a large arsenal of Soviet nukes were targeted on the tight little island. JFK and his advisers knew and accepted that, so when things got really hot the White House dispatched the legendary ex-Secretary of State Dean Acheson to brief de Gaulle, and it assigned the American ambassador to London, David Bruce, to brief Mac. In fact JFK had no contact with 10 Downing Street for the first five days of the crisis. So much for the special relationship, a phrase first used by Winston Churchill in 1946.
The special relationship—if there ever was one, which I doubt—came to an end when Eisenhower made Eden eat humble pie and end his military operations at Suez in 1956. This was done overnight by a threat to sell sterling bond holdings by the U.S. government (something the Chinese could do today and make Uncle Sam scream uncle). Supermac became super because of the way he choreographed Britain’s post-empire decline. Being the great actor that he was, old Harold made it look as if John Bull were guiding Uncle Sam behind the scenes. The “people” ate that up, and that was enough. But Washington never trusted Downing Street because of the EEC/EU contradiction. While de Gaulle preached independence from Washington, London was playing sur deux tableaux—not good enough for the Yankees.
Oh, well; this was long ago, and Supermac fell from power after the Profumo affair in October 1963. One month later JFK was assassinated in Dallas. The bully LBJ was not about to play nice, like JFK had, with people who spoke without a Texas accent, and Lord Home did not. There was never “our Greece” and “their Rome,” as Macmillan claimed. What I regret is how different our elected officials are today from those during my youth, in character, savoir faire, personality, even dress. Could Supermac ever be elected today if he spoke now the way he did then? Perhaps he wouldn’t even be welcome in a grouse shoot, that’s how bad things have become.