Barack Obama seems determined to shoot himself in both feet as far as his relations with Britain go.
Barack Obama seems determined to shoot himself in both feet as far as his relations with Britain go. In Afghanistan he is, it seems, building up for a diplomatic and perhaps military disaster that may have repercussions far beyond that country’s borders.
Obama has already brought U.S. relations with Israel and some Latin American states to their lowest point in modern history. However, in addition it seems almost as if he is determined to break up the Atlantic alliance, and sees the war is just the way to do it. Sending back the bust of Winston Churchill from the White House to the British Embassy was a good start to his presidency by way of signaling that the special relationship was dead, and that the world’s fourth-biggest economy, constant ally, and a nuclear power to boot had nothing in particular to offer the U.S. But that was not really more than a curtain-raiser. An equivocal, quasi-neutral, quasi-hostile stance over the Falkland Islands, where huge undersea oil reserves have apparently just been discovered, has pushed things along. His undiplomatic, hysterical gutter-language attacks on BP (which most British probably still think of as British Petroleum and still have some pride in) have pushed things further yet.
More importantly, however, his attack on BP — sometimes giving the impression he thinks it caused the oil-spill deliberately — has hit the ordinary British citizen hard in the hip-pocket. BP shares are in free-fall and a large number — probably a majority — of British superannuation and retirement funds have invested heavily in them: Obama is immediately felt to be not so much behaving undiplomatically — that’s something far away for diplomats and readers of the high-brow press to sort out — but as directly pushing individual British people: “You! You! And You!” into poverty-stricken old ages — and to be old and poor in Britain is no joke. BP has seen its market value drop by 40% since the explosion at the Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20. Obama seems determined to talk its share price down further. Previously it was Britain’s biggest company and worth £122 billion, but now more than £49 billion has been wiped from its value. It is also facing a multi-billion dollar bill for the clean-up operation
Further, it is an obvious course for traders to dump BP stocks due to fears of ongoing costly legal action and possible punishment by the U.S. Government — normally governments don’t talk, or give an impression of lusting to “punish” large companies owned by friendly countries. The only outcome — financially, politically, economically, and strategically — can be negative and damaging.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has told the Senate BP would be asked in addition to repay salaries to workers laid off because of the six-month ban on deepwater drilling imposed since the spill.
The British response to Obama’s continued attacks has already gone well beyond the niceties of diplomatic language and the next step looks all too obvious: pull the British troops out of Afghanistan, both to save money and in a retaliatory gesture. There are nearly 10,000 British troops from all services in Afghanistan — not a huge army but a considerable one, and there are many complaints about their underfunded and obsolete equipment. However, unlike some of the NATO partners they actually fight. The death-toll among British forces is now approaching 300. General Petraeus has said British support is vital to the success of the war: “The scale of the British contribution in Afghanistan is such that the coalition cannot succeed without you,” he said in London, where he met David Cameron. Cameron, in his latest visit to Afghanistan, however, said the British public expected to see progress and hinted that he would like British forces to pull out at the end of the year. Insulting Britain seems the worst way of trying to keep them there.
The Times has reported that a senior member of the Bush Administration delivered a warning in early 2006 to Ministry of Defense officials preparing the plan for Helmand province: “I remember going to London and saying it would be good to have more troops, but I was told that Britain couldn’t add more until they were out of Iraq,” said Eric Edelman, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy during George Bush’s last term in office. Mr. Edelman said that British officials told him that UK troop numbers would not be increased until France and other European powers committed further to the coalition in Afghanistan. The whole thing looks like a house of cards that Obama’s irresponsible and amateurish diplomacy might knock over.
A British pullout at this time would be disastrous for the U.S., especially because the Australian, Canadian, and other NATO troops would probably follow. At the very least it would increase the load on the U.S. economy enormously.
There is not, or not yet, a strong anti-war movement in Britain as there was during Vietnam (one reason being that there is no KGB to bank-roll and organize it this time). Rather, across the political spectrum there is a war-weary disillusionment, with the right as unenthusiastic as the left. Indeed some sections of the right are leading anti-war protestors.
It is surprising, and a tribute to the KGB’s organizing skills in the early 1970s, that an anti-war movement has not gained more traction now. It is not at all hard to imagine Britain suddenly deciding it needs its scanty defense assets to protect the new Falklands oil-fields. The push-me-pull-you ass of a coalition government also contains the far-left Liberal Democrats, infected with the European Left’s reflexive anti-Americanism. They are shutting up for the moment, but for who knows how long?
By what may be no coincidence at all, an article by senior journalist Simon Jenkins in the far-left and anti-American Guardian calling for the total disbanding of British armed forces has just been reprinted in the whacky, grotesquely misnamed American Conservative. It could have come straight from the New Statesman circa 1938, pooh-poohing any possibility of a threat to Britain and suggesting that displays of military hardware were provoked by nothing more than Freudian egotism. So far, I have only seen one article like this, but it is unlikely to be the last.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online