On March 5, 1946, in Fulton Missouri, Winston Churchill gave one of the most memorable speeches of the 20th Century. Officially titled “The Sinews of Peace,” the speech came to be known for Churchill’s prescient warning about the dark intent of the Soviet Union and by the phrase he used to describe it: the “Iron Curtain that has descended up the Continent.” The speech is also remembered for Churchill’s use of another term, “special relationship,” to denote the unique ties between the United States and Great Britain, but the broader context in which he used term, which was the main thrust of his speech, has been largely forgotten, perhaps because it never came to pass: The establishment of a permanent Grand Alliance between the United States and Great Britain, in particular, and the English-speaking peoples, in general.
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Such an axis, Churchill said, would include mutual defense treaties, joint air squadrons and naval units and even common citizenship for the English-speaking nations, much like the European Union of today. It would provide “an overwhelming assurance of security” to the entire world, he pledged. It would ensure that the then-fledgling United Nations Organization would be “a true temple of peace in which the shields of many nations can some day be hung up, and not merely a cockpit in a Tower of Babel.”
Churchill’s speech was lauded in some conservative circles, but not received very well overall, either in the United States or in Great Britain. The former prime minister, humiliated by Labour’s Clement Atlee in the 1945 elections, was accused by liberals of stoking tensions with the Soviet Union, which, less than a year after the end of World War II, was still being lauded for bearing the brunt of the war against Nazi Germany. His championship of a fortified U.S.-U.K. axis was seen as a desperate effort to prop up the crumbling British Empire on the back of America’s emerging prowess. Critics lambasted Churchill’s outdated views on Anglo-Saxon supremacy, inscribed in his mammoth, yet-to-be published four-volume "History of the English Speaking People." Even American conservatives who embraced Churchill’s view of the Communist Peril rejected his recommendation for a permanent alliance with Britain. Anti-British sentiment is constant feature of American worldviews since the revolution and it continues to influence them to this very day: Trump supporter Patrick Buchanan is a virulent British-baiter.
Churchill’s concept of a common bond and common purpose of the British Isles and its outposts in the Commonwealth and in the breakaway United States came to be known later as Anglosphere. It was rejected, in essence, in favor of Atlanticism, the alliance between the United States and Western Europe that gave birth to NATO and has been the bedrock of the security of the West for the past seven decades. Margaret Thatcher endorsed Anglosphere but did not pursue it, although her close relationship with fellow conservative Ronald Reagan was indeed special. In recent years, Anglosphere has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts in British conservative circles that has now been turbocharged by the recent Brexit decision that potentially decouples Britain from the European continent. With Donald Trump as president, the stars may be aligning for Churchill’s ideas and for Anglosphere.
Of course, the very mention of such a brilliant orator and towering intellect as Churchill in the same sentence as the clueless and barely comprehensible Trump may seem like sacrilege, but international circumstances and Trump’s instinctive, gut-reaction foreign policy may be leading him in the British Bulldog’s footsteps. Reading Trump’s recent interview with the Sunday Times, one is struck by the president-elect’s clear embrace of post-Brexit Britain and his concurrent disparagement of Germany’s Angela Merkel, of the European Union and of NATO. Trump not only touted his Scottish roots and his mother’s admiration for the Queen, he offered to conclude a quick trade deal between the two countries, as an alternative to Britain’s trade relations with the EU that might be lost. His statement was echoed by British Prime Minister Theresa May this week as an important element of the U.K.’s post-Brexit efforts to engage with the wider world.
Though May obviously sounds more restrained and knowledgeable than Trump and has spoken out against his misogyny, she and her government share a common outlook with American conservatives. This ideological affinity extends, albeit to a lesser degree, to Australia and New Zealand, both ruled by right-leaning parties, though both concerned now by Trump’s repeated and seemingly superfluous challenges to China. The odd man out, it seems, is Canada’s liberal Justin Trudeau, which is ironic because his predecessor Stephen Harper was the hero for many years of die hard Anglosphere proponents. Interestingly, the only “special relationship” May mentioned in her speech was not with the United States but with Ireland. Though Churchill included Ireland in his “English-speaking peoples,” it does not feature in most Anglosphere proposals or arrangements.
It’s true that in his Iron Curtain speech, Churchill warned about the dangers of spreading Soviet tyranny while Trump is forever embracing Russia and Vladimir Putin. But modern proponents of Anglosphere view it not as a tool against Russian expansionism but as the only effective means of repelling militant Islam. This is also the position of British historian Andrew Roberts, who completed Churchill’s book by writing its sequel, "A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900."
Tellingly both Britain and Australia have now joined the incoming Trump administration in bucking the international consensus and disparaging both Security Council Resolution 2334 about Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the recent Paris conference on the Middle East. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is already gushing at the prospect of working with a Republican president, would like nothing better than to nestle under the wings of a grand Anglo-Saxon alliance. He and several of his close associates are not only English-speaking, they view themselves as co-champions of capitalism and laissez-faire economies. They share with Trump and as well as other conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic a disdain for Europe, a distrust of the United Nations and a focus on radical Islam. Their critics on the left would claim that what unites Netanyahu with conservative leaders in English-speaking countries is actually their joint embrace of white supremacism and colonialism.
Some infrastructure for Anglosphere already exists. The most prominent is the joint intelligence-gathering group known as “Five Eyes” which encompasses the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The five countries are also linked by technological treaties as well as the collaborative agreements such as ABCA Armies that seek to standardize their military equipment. Since World War II, however, Churchill’s vision of a common front of English-speaking nations has never been the focus of policy for political leaders in either the United States or the United Kingdom. And while it may never blossom into the kind of EU-type union that Churchill had in mind, with Trump, ironically, it might no longer be just a pipe dream. The concept of Anglo-Saxon unity could be closer to realization more than ever before.