Did Obama Just Threaten The British?
It is a general diplomatic given, that outside powers when viewing elections in foreign jurisdictions keep their opinions to themselves – or rather at least they do not publically intervene on the political stage – and most certainly never use the vehicle of the official foreign visit to seek to influence an internal election. Barack Obama clearly feels differently, as we saw last week, when he chose to use the pulpit offered him by a formal State Visit to tell the British what to do. And he seems to have threatened the British!
The video above is worth watching. It is jaw-dropping in its presumption. It is also almost certainly likely to achieve the exact opposite of Obama’s intention. Now I will admit to being pro-Europe but this performance just raised the hackles.
Special Relationship Anyone? “Back of the Queue! Indeed.” So when did the special relationship turn to being abusive? He stood there like some unelected Eurocrate telling the proles what to vote.
What the British have seen from the above was far from the concerned thoughts of an old and esteemed ally, more the rebarbative bullying of some jumped up Johnny Foreigner.
And he used the royal “we” too! The affrontery. All in all, it went down with the British public like a pint of cold puke.
Most of this over-vaunted special relationship is, and always was, rubbish. It was a fiction dreamed up by the establishment, standing in the ruins of a country broken by war, desperate to hold things together and trying to make the most of a very poor hand of cards. It was designed to win over a very sceptical British population who historically never really went a bundle on the bloody Yanks, and by the end of the War had had quite enough, thank you. If it kidded anyone at all, Dullas did for it in the Suez debacle within ten years.
For those who are not aware what the “Special Relationship” is, it harks back, as so many things that have gone wrong for Britain in the last century do, to Winston S. Churchill. He invented the phrase, which he delivered in a speech in November 1945 at Fulton Missouri, to provide the British with a fictitious fig leaf to cover the fact that by the end of the Second War they stood bankrupted, and in hoc to the USA with the nation in ruins and the Empire either gone, or handing in its dinner plate. Churchill hoped that we might cling onto influence through this relationship. MacMillan thought that we might speak wisdom to power, and guide the fledgling superpower even as the Greeks advised their barbarian Roman masters. The enduring picture of this relationship usually is that of the picture above with Churchill and Roosevelt at Yalta. An image already being overwhelmed by events, even as it was being taken. Power never needed wisdom, because let’s be honest, it already has the power.
It was a very British fiction designed to cover the wreckage of empire. I suspect the Americans gave the term little if any thought.
There was never much to base this special relationship on. Historically the British, as a people, had never been very trusting of the Yanks. At best they blow hot and cold about their country cousins made good. Historically there were the irritants of the 1812 to 1815 war where the British burned the Capitol and the White House, through border disputes on the Canadian Border with Polk and his “Fifty four forty or fight”. Most supported the South in the Civil War.
They can nowadays, depending on age, cite any number of reasons not to trust the USA, from betrayal of the League of Nations, through war debts, Suez (a bad one was Suez) right up to The Falklands, when it is insisted the United States gave the United Kingdom every assistance short of actual help, and right through to today with its extradition treaties, International Courts, renditions and torture. Churchill was seeking to sugar what was, even then, a very bitter pill.
So punting the Special Relationship here has its disadvantages. It invited sour comparisons.
Obama’s speech was seen as cynical attempt to use American war dead to bolster a political union that never existed at the time. It also ignored the British soldiers who died helping the US in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Wars which are seen by many as having been illegal. Shameful.
As far as trade deals are concerned this met with incredulity. Australia has a free trade agreement with the US but we wouldn’t? Mind you if we are at the back of the queue there would be no TTPI – hey now that’s a benefit straight off!
Obama seemed to forget that US global reach is only possible because of British bases. Diego Garcia, Ascension Island, Cyprus sovereign base, Gibraltar, Falkland Islands and the UK itself of course. Without use of those airfields, staging posts or listening facilities the US military and intelligence assets shrink considerably. The US would be at risk of putting out its third eye. And then of course there is Trident….
Very well then ALONE.
The UK is also a member of the Security Council and could veto, at any time, America’s dafter ideas. The British have an ingrained ability to be part of the awkward squad and make difficult at every turn. Maybe then a “free” UK under a government less in thrall to Washington might make life interesting?
Clearly Obama really, really does not understand the bloody minded, thrawn shower of bastards that is the British public. Perhaps Hillary, ably advised by her pal David Miliband, will get the tone better after November ?
So gentle reader, on a scale of 1 to Jimmy Carter, how useless was this?
Copyright David Macadam 2016