In many James Bond movies, time and again cooperation between the U.S. and the U.K. against an enemy is emphasized. While the spymasters in intelligence headquarters in the U.K. mention “Langley” in the movies, there is also an American friend for Bond in his overseas missions that provides him with important intelligence in regards to the target. However, as mentioned previously in researching geopolitics by James Bond observers, there are different roles for these characters. While James Bond represents a sophisticated, intelligent and smart actor in the fight against the enemy with his looks and charm as his soft power, his American friend is less sophisticated but more powerful because of the militaristic capabilities of his men.
That 007 needs the help of others in the movie represents two interrelated geopolitical realities. First, despite its former super power status and its interest in various parts of the world, the U.K. was unable to handle geopolitical pressure and threat anymore without the support of the U.S. Second, a more general reality is that without allies, it was hard to survive in the Cold War environment. It was recognized that alliances and partnerships mattered to achieve victory against rivals. In the Cold War, these were important realities. Just before the beginning of this period, the cooperation and coordination between FDR and Churchill demonstrated a smooth transition to a new world order with changing roles for both countries. Throughout the Cold War years, James Bond in part represented the importance and strength of this alliance.
The end of the Cold War made these realities a little more complicated. Despite unipolarity and U.S. hegemony in the world in the 1990s, threats became more diverse, more global and more unpredictable. These risks made the alliances even more significant. The significance of alliances not only with the UK but also with most of the allies around the world increased rapidly.
However, in this critical juncture of increasing need for alliances, U.S. unilateralism started to rise, angering many of its allies. During the Iraq War for instance, the U.S. lost the support of most of its allies. However, the U.K. still acted with the U.S. and despite harsh public opposition and European pressure, the Blair government supported the war in Iraq in 2003. Since then, the Middle East has become more unstable and the international order has become less structured. During the Obama administration, the unilateralism of the U.S. continued, this time through its inaction and indecisiveness. Most of its allies lost their trust in the U.S. in terms of keeping its commitments. They started to go their own way. British parliament for instance did not support a military intervention in Syria following the chemical weapon attack by the regime on Ghouta, which accordingly shocked many policy makers in Washington, D.C. In addition, Britain also joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, led by China, despite opposition from the U.S. Later during the Brexit referendum, despite calls by President Obama not to leave the EU, British voted in favor of Brexit. Most recently, during the Jerusalem voting at the U.N., the U.K. and U.S. were once again on different sides.
This downward pattern in relations with allies is a pattern that hurts the U.S. and made allies follow a more autonomous path and look for more options. When President Trump cancelled his visit to Britain by mentioning the location of the embassy and its cost, it definitely demonstrated another major rupture in trust between the U.S. and its allies. It raised different questions in regards to the future of U.S.-U.K. relations as well as U.S. commitment to alliances and partners. Every country in the world, U.S. allies or rivals, are watching this gradual falling out of alliances carefully. Some are trying to pick up the pieces to fill the vacuum that the U.S. has left in the international system, and other countries will continue to find different options and paths preparing for a new international system.
Either way, it is generating major unpredictability for the future of the international system. At this new juncture, James Bond may find other allies and partners in the fight against rivals and enemies in coming films or may try to deal with lesser evils, leaving major threats alone.
This article was first published by Daily Sabah on January 14, 2018.