The abject submission of British authorities to the Master in Washington in the case of journalist Julian Assange is painful to observe but – unfortunately – not difficult to understand.
The roots go back to the Second World War, when Britain handed the mantle of world domination over to its former colony. The US had long surpassed the UK as an economic power and had displaced it from “our little region over here,” as Secretary of War Henry Stimson described the Western hemisphere. But it had not yet become a truly global power.
At the time, British officials were well aware that the UK was becoming a “junior partner” to the US, now subject to its will, which was often exercised crudely.
Given their own ample experience with imperial arrogance, brutality and hypocrisy, British diplomats could easily read between the lines when their American counterparts protested that US global domination is “part of our obligation to the security of the world…what was good for us was good for the world”, as Abe Fortas, a leading figure in the New Deal administrations, put it.
The British Foreign Office, parsing this apparent altruistic concern, concluded that Washington was, in fact, guided by “the economic imperialism of American business interests” and was “attempting to elbow us out…under the cloak of a benevolent and avuncular internationalism”.
UK officials continued that their American counterparts believe “that the United States stands for something in the world – something of which the world has need, something which the world is going to like, something, in the final analysis, which the world is going to take, whether it likes it or not.” What true believers in the historical profession call “Wilsonian idealism”.
From then, Britain takes it, whether it likes it or not. Things could have gone a different way at various points in modern history, recently if Jeremy Corbyn hadn’t been destroyed by a vicious media campaign. But today’s British authorities just take the orders and Julian Assange is one of the victims.