IN MARCH 2001, the once youthful but now veteran Tory politician William Hague gave a speech at a Conservative Party conference in which he banged the anti-European drum. In March 2003, he gave another speech, in Parliament, in which he warmly endorsed Tony Blair’s support for the American invasion of Iraq. In July 2010, he spoke once more, this time in the celebrated Locarno Room at the Foreign Office. But his tune had changed: like Prime Minister David Cameron, now–Foreign Secretary Hague has intimated that he seeks to distance Britain from reflexive support for Washington, and he says that, in a new multipolar world, he wants to move more generally from an obsession with the “blocs”—the United States, Europe and the Middle East—to forge fresh links with such emerging powerhouses as India, China and Brazil.
What a difference a few years make! Not only has Hague’s career turned out in ways he did not foresee, and certainly didn’t intend, the world has quite tilted on its axis. Few things have been more affected by those changes than British foreign policy, in particular the connection with the United States, often called the “special relationship,” whether the phrase is apt, or even has any meaning. After many vicissitudes, this relationship reached an apotheosis of sorts when Tony Blair took a largely unwilling country into the Iraq War, for a variety of motives, but above all because of a belief that he ought to support the United States in all its actions. Although Blair didn’t quite say “their country, right or wrong,” that was the clear implication of his position—and Hague’s at that time.