In a gripping story of international power and deception, Jeffrey Engel reveals the "special relationship" between the United States and Great Britain in a new and far more competitive light. As allies, they fought communism. As rivals, they locked horns over which would lead the Cold War fight. In the quest for sovereignty and hegemony, one important key was airpower, which created jobs, forged ties with the developing world, and, perhaps most importantly in a nuclear world, ensured military superiority.
Only the United States and Britain were capable of supplying the post-war world's ravenous appetite for aircraft. The Americans hoped to use this dominance as a bludgeon not only against the Soviets and Chinese, but also against any ally that deviated from Washington's rigid brand of anticommunism. Eager to repair an economy shattered by war and never as committed to unflinching anticommunism as their American allies, the British hoped to sell planes even beyond the Iron Curtain, reaping profits, improving East-West relations, and garnering the strength to withstand American hegemony.
Engel traces the bitter fights between these intimate allies from Europe to Latin America to Asia as each sought control over the sale of aircraft and technology throughout the world. The Anglo-American competition for aviation supremacy affected the global balance of power and the fates of developing nations such as India, Pakistan, and China. But without aviation, Engel argues, Britain would never have had the strength to function as a brake upon American power, the way trusted allies should.
The "special relationship" between the United States and Great Britain did not extend to aircraft development during the Cold War, contends Engel in this thoroughly researched, well-reasoned case study. He presents aircraft technology as a critical area of competition between a rising superpower with prodigious production capacity and a state seeking to establish a lead in quality. Underlying this contest was an ideological tension between American commitment to free market competition and British movement toward a managed economy. In an emerging Cold War, the answer was complicated by the conflicting demands of security and sales. Corporations sought to distribute their products as widely as possible, while governments feared losing ground in the technological competition. Rigid control of exports, however, risked crippling the infant jet aircraft industry. Engel describes a series of policy conflicts that, through the 1960s, repeatedly, and seriously, shook the Anglo-American relationship. Britain consistently took "astounding" risks with its American relationship, while the U.S. judged its intimate ally by its acceptance of American security concerns. Yet both parties valued their relationship enough to stand together despite their differences over trade and security issues--a decision Engel considers cultural as well as political. (Mar.)
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Harvard University Press
March 30, 2007
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