In the media frenzy surrounding Tucson, a potentially infinitely more significant event has been almost ignored. Obama has set the seal on his anti-British caste of mind by declaring that France is America’s “greatest ally,” and that “We don’t have a stronger friend and stronger ally than Nicolas Sarkozy, and the French people.”
The first time I read this, I had trouble believing he was capable of such stupidity. To insult Britain so at this time (following up his earlier insult of returning the bust of Winston Churchill) is matches-in-the-powder-magazine stuff.
For one thing, Britain has 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, nearly three times as many as France. It is the British, not the French, who have been doing the actual fighting beside America in the war. Britain has lost nearly 350 men and women dead — about seven times as many as France. One can only speculate on the effect reports of these comments by Obama may have on the morale of British servicemen in the field, as well as on the increasing number of wounded veterans and the families of the dead.
It is not exactly news that the war is deeply unpopular in Britain and a huge strain on the battered British economy. If the British leadership is looking for a reason to get out of Afghanistan (and the far-left Liberal Democrat part of the governing coalition would certainly love to do just that), Obama has just given them — with no conceivable benefit to U.S. interests — an excellent reason that would resonate with the British public. The fact that a unilateral British withdrawal would have a disastrous effect on a vitally important alliance, and poison U.S.-British relations, as well as leaving the U.S. to do all the heavy lifting in a difficult war, evidently does not bother him.
This is very bad. It gets worse. Britain, faced with major economic problems, has recently made huge cuts to its defense budget, in the opinion of many observers far beyond the basic margin of safety. Its Air Force is being reduced to a total of just six fighter and bomber squadrons (Belgium has five) and its Navy is scrapping its last aircraft carriers and carrier-borne Harrier aircraft, the victors of the Falklands War, largely to save enough money to keep the Afghan commitment viable. One or two replacement carriers will not be ready for years.
All that will be left of the Royal Navy, apart from the submarine force, will be 12 destroyers and 12 frigates: watch out for an exodus of the best and brightest officers and seamen who have suddenly found themselves without promotion prospects, and who may not be attracted to the idea of a valiant death in battle against hopeless odds.
One of the points this raises is that the South American countries are watching with keen interest. On the same day Obama’s insult was announced, and the week the last Harriers made their last flight, it emerged the Brazilian Government had refused the Royal Navy’s Falkland Islands protection ship, HMS Clyde, permission to call at Rio.
This was the clearest possible indication that Brazil has decided to back Argentina over the Falklands. It is otherwise completely unprovoked and until now the Royal Navy and the Brazilian Navy had had friendly relations. It is the first time Brazil has refused a Royal Navy ship permission to dock in such circumstances.
The new far left-wing President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, is paying a state visit to Argentina in a few weeks, and it is impossible to imagine that the Falklands will not be high on the agenda. The Argentine government has hailed the Brazilian Government’s action on banning the Clyde, an action that is entirely pointless save as a demonstration of hostility to Britain.
At present Britain has just four aircraft and about 1,000 troops in the Falklands. If they were again attacked by Argentina, it is hard to see how they could be reinforced. Its only friend in the area would be Chile.
The last time Argentina attacked the Falklands, Britain had strong U.S. support. It also had a powerful Navy and the Falklands task force included two aircraft carriers. It had Vulcan bombers which could reach the Falklands and crater the Argentine-held runways. The U.S. and Britain also had Reagan and Thatcher as leaders, and Brazil was a fairly friendly neutral. This time, Obama’s behavior might be taken in Argentina as a go-ahead signal. Argentina does not have particularly good armed forces, but they are there, and in any renewed fighting would have huge advantages in numbers. Britain has no carriers and no Vulcans. How long can four aircraft, that is assuming that they are all air-worthy, put up an air-defense? The British press, which has a habit of dwelling masochistically on Britain’s alleged “shame” and “humiliation” when defeated at football and the like, might get a chance to find out what those words really mean.
On inspection, other nasty angles emerge: if the British did make a fight of it, the U.S. would have to choose sides, and incur the lasting enmity of whoever it did not support.
Obama’s anti-British obsessions combined with Britain’s culpable and myopic dismantling of its own defenses create a highly dangerous situation.