The cartoon images of former Prime Minister Blair playing poodle to President Bush wonderfully captured the perception many held about Britain's role in the so-called 'special relationship' - subservient, unquestionably loyal, and ultimately inferior. The playful mockery reflected serious concerns that stretched back decades before Blair ushered a new wave of Atlanticism into No. 10. In 1962 Dean Acheson, former US Secretary of State, remarked that Britain had lost an Empire but not yet found a role. In periodic spells over 60 years, it seemed Britain would try to define herself by clinging onto the coat tails of the great liberal superpower.
It has always been an unequal relationship if defined in statistical terms where primacy is given to economic and military prowess. But this misses the point. Parity in bi-lateral relations is not paramount. It is not necessarily even helpful. As with trading models, both countries can gain through the principle of comparative advantage. If we are evaluating the strength of the trans-Atlantic relationship by the size of our standing armies or GDP, Britain is always going to come out on the losing side. But as the exceptionally warm welcome extended to Prime Minister Cameron this week shows, America values our support as much as we need theirs.
Commentators and comedians have enjoyed mocking the teenage love affair that blossomed this week between Obama and Cameron, or Barack and David as the two premiers prefer to call one another. The trip on Air Force One, tickets to a basketball game, the lavish state dinner - Obama spared no expense in courting our Prime Minister. For some the visit felt like déjà vu, raising the spectre of the Bush-Blair years and two disastrous wars that we have still not fully extricated ourselves from. Personalities matter but the trans-Atlantic relationship was built on shared interests and remains vital to both countries, irrespective of the bonhomie or back-slapping between our leaders.
America and Britain's close working partnership has endured despite cool, and sometimes frosty, relations between our premiers. Atlee and Truman never really got on; Churchill tried to restore the relationship with Eisenhower but was rebuffed; Eden took it for granted with disastrous results in 1956; we enjoyed an Indian summer under Macmillan and Kennedy but after that no British Prime Minister carried weight in the US until Thatcher and then Blair.
It's a myth that the two countries have always been in lockstep on most issues - the US led the international condemnation of Eden's botched mission in Suez in 1956 and during the 1960s and 70s Britain seemed to warm to the idea of closer relations with Europe than with its Atlantic ally. Nevertheless, the durability of the relationship is found in the same reasons as its origins, namely common fears and interests. When these converge a powerful alliance emerges which has few equals.
Our close military and intelligence collaboration, the cultural and scholarly ties stretching back centuries, our financial and economic inter-dependence, our shared global responsibilities, our nuclear capabilities - these dynamics will outlast the Cameron-Obama relationship. But what the warmth of the last week illustrates is a realisation in the White House that Britain's support and the trans-Atlantic alliance, regardless of whether you choose to label it special, is undeniably indispensable.