Sunday, May 2, 2010

Obama's Diplomacy: The UK

One of Obama's big promises during the campaign was his pledge to restore America's standing in the world.  The aggressive foreign policy of Bush got things done, but it also alienated our allies in Europe and upset pretty much everyone else.  Obama's theory essentially came down to being nice so that potential conflicts could be avoided and we get a bit more support when needed it.  Things like getting more European combat troops in Afghanistan, more sanctions in Iran, and easing tensions with Russia.

In theory it's not a bad plan, however it completely fails to account for people who don't like us because our goals directly conflict with theirs.  Nations like Russia and Iran have no reason to comply with us diplomatically, and pursuing a policy which tries to appease them is dangerous as we're finding out now.

More dangerous than how Obama is treating our enemies and rivals is how Obama is treating our friends.  Israel, the United Kingdom, and Poland are among our closest allies, and they've all be insulted, ignored, or sold-out in some way.  For the most part these insults aren't random occurrences, they're part of pattern of abuse that suggest Obama just doesn't like that nation.

Let's look at UK.

The slights against the UK started just a few weeks in to the Obama administration with the removal of Churchill's bust from the White House and it's return to the British:

A bust of the former prime minister once voted the greatest Briton in history, which was loaned to George W Bush from the Government's art collection after the September 11 attacks, has now been formally handed back.

The bronze by Sir Jacob Epstein, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds if it were ever sold on the open market, enjoyed pride of place in the Oval Office during President Bush's tenure.

But when British officials offered to let Mr Obama to hang onto the bust for a further four years, the White House said: "Thanks, but no thanks." 

The insults continued with a low key reception for the British Prime Minister and with an exchange of gifts:

As he headed back home from Washington, Gordon Brown must have rummaged through his party bag with disappointment.

Because all he got was a set of DVDs. Barack Obama, the leader of the world's richest country, gave the Prime Minister a box set of 25 classic American films - a gift about as exciting as a pair of socks.

Mr Brown is not thought to be a film buff, and his reaction to the box set is unknown. But it didn't really compare to the thoughtful presents he had brought along with him

The Prime Minister gave Mr Obama an ornamental pen holder made from the timbers of the Victorian anti-slave ship HMS Gannet.

The unique present delighted Mr Obama because oak from the Gannet's sister ship, HMS Resolute, was carved to make a desk that has sat in the Oval Office in the White House since 1880.

As if trying to make things worse the Obama administration's excuse was that he was "too tired" to give Brown and the British the respect they were used to and deserved.  The British noted that the Obama administration seemed to have no idea what they were doing and were "bemused" by the complaints of the British.  Even if we excuse this as an amateur moment for Obama it makes you wonder who decided that the British deserve the same treatment as a minor nation.

Still one could argue that, up until now, Obama may of just been making honest mistakes.  But then Obama did something which is both irresponsible and disrespectful no matter how you look at it.

In his effort to close down Gitmo Obama's weak strategy relied on other nations taking in the prisoners.  Despite the heavy criticism the US has received for having the facility, few were willing to actually take the prisoners themselves, and few Americas were interested in bringing the prisoners moved onto the continental US.  Of the prisoners seventeen were Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic group from China.  Unwilling to return them to China where it was feared they would face torture or worse, we looked for other options. The tiny pacific island of Palau accepted thirteen of the prisoners, and the remaining four were to be sent to Bermuda.

The problem is that Bermuda is a British territory who's defense and security is completely handled by the British.  Moving four terrorists into British territory would certainly fall under the category of security, and yet not only did Obama do it, but he saw fit to to actively keep the whole thing a secret until the Uighurs were being put on the plane. 

It could just be me, but I don't think releasing four terrorists into your friend's land is a good way to treat them.

In case all of the above wasn't enough Obama snubbed Brown again, and then refused to back Great Britain's sovereignty over the Falkland Islands:

There is one big difference between the situation regarding the Falkland Islands in 1982 and today - the Americans will not endorse Britain's claim to sovereignty. Furthermore, they are refusing to back Britain's argument that it has the right under international law to drill for oil in the waters surrounding the islands. They says it's a matter for the Argentines and the British to sort out between themselves.

In short, Barack Obama's administration is determined not to allow the US to be dragged into the issue as President Reagan was three decades ago when, to the fury of South Americans, he offered Margaret Thatcher public support and intelligence back-up during her war to regain the Falklands following Argentina's invasion.

The British have long been a strong supporter of America, but their support truly stands out as exemplary more recently with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Where most of our "allies" have abandoned us or actively worked against us, the British have fought and died beside us.  It seems to me that if the British want to retain control of a tiny island at the bottom of the world then we owe them our support.

The fact is that Obama's foreign policy has not only failed to win over anyone at all, but it's harming our relations with those who have remained loyal friends.  Most of these incidents have gone unreported in the US outside of conservative blogs, but the people in the UK have taken notice to the repeated insults and it serves only to strengthen those who would end the "special relationship" established  between our two countries.  Recently British MPs declared that the special relationship was over and the Liberal Democrat candidate in the British elections saw a huge surge after the first debates, which is worrying for America since he doesn't believe in the special relationship either.

If this is how Obama plans to restore America's standing in the world we have to once again wonder if he's a radical, stupid, or simply incompetent.

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