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The British warfare state and the challenge of Americanisation of Western defence

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This article examines the response of British policy-makers to American thinking on how to organise Western defence following the formation of the Western military alliance in 1949. As part of their vision, American policy-makers argued for the integration of Western European armed forces and defence production. As the British defence production base had largely survived the war unscathed, the British warfare state was better placed than other Western European governments to resist this American vision for Western defence. Seeing Britain as a major power, British policy-makers remained committed to an independent defence posture within the alliance, ignoring the disapproval of American military leaders. Convinced that its defence industry could produce technologically advanced military weapons equal to those developed in the United States, the British Government continued to maintain an independent armaments production capability rather than participate in the Western European armaments cooperation in the 1950s. When serious problems affected several military aircraft projects in the mid-1950s, the British Government nevertheless looked to the United States for models of how to improve the efficiency of its weapons acquisition process. This article argues that while never Americanised, Britain's participation in Western defence cooperation undermined the British warfare state as a techno-nationalist project from the late 1940s.
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Keywords: American military assistance to Western Europe; Americanisation; British defence policy; British warfare state; Cold War; European defence cooperation; North Atlantic Treaty Organisation; Operations Research; defence industry; national security state

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Manchester, UK

Publication date: August 1, 2008

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