Julia Lovell, in her new book The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China, finds something funny in the tragedy
Great Britain has many reasons to feel great about itself. Its empire was the largest in history and covered over a fifth of the world's population. It had more Asian and African colonies than any other European power. It came, it saw, it divided, and it conquered. It raped and it reaped, it slaughtered millions of people, massacred entire populations, caused civil wars, flattened countless cities and towns, and destroyed whole civilizations and dynasties with impunity. It implemented racism as state policy. It sucked the life out of its colonies and reduced them to what we now call third-world nations. It drew and redrew boundaries and created whole new countries randomly on a whim. Most of the conflicts in the world today can be traced back to British Imperialism - the Kashmir issue and India-Pakistan hatred, the Sino-Indian border dispute and India-China rivalry, the Tibet issue, the Israel-Palestine conflict, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Sudan - the list goes on.
Yes - Great Britain had reason to feel greatly proud about itself. It had the largest empire in the world. It had managed to keep its European competitors in check. There was no known threat to its global dominion. It seemed that Great Britain was destined to rule the world.
And then it all came tumbling down. Sometime in the past century, the Island Story crumbled to pieces, and the empire followed. Slowly but surely, the empire on which "the sun never sets" went out like a cigar puff. Today it finds itself with the geopolitical influence of an American missile base. Once great, Great Britain is now America's bitch - a tart of a nation that will obediently suck America's coattails whenever ordered to do so. The relationship between the two countries is much like that between a dog and its master, or to use its official name: a "Special Relationship".