5 Pages


On 11 January 1968, British Foreign Secretary George Brown met his American counterpart, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, in Washington DC. Brown, who was exhausted at the end of a whirlwind round-the-world trip he had commenced one week before, had bad news. He told Rusk of the British government’s decision to advance its withdrawal from global defence commitments as quickly as possible. This meant terminating its presence in Singapore, Malaya and the Persian Gulf by 1971 at the latest, bringing forward previous plans by between two and five years. Now the entire British defensive effort would be directed towards the North Atlantic area, Brown said. Rusk was dismayed at the decision and subjected Brown to a lengthy and devastating verbal onslaught. He wanted the British to reconsider. Another US official persisted: ‘Be British, George, be British – how can you betray us?’1