Friday, June 18, 2010

Victor Davis Hanson: The Great Anglo-American Spat

In today's NRO, Victor Davis Hanson has a great piece examines the rift that has opened up between the US and Britain since Obama took over the White House:

Various irate British observers — from columnists like Peter Hitchens and Geoffrey Wheatcroft to parliamentarians and former cabinet officials — have recently declared the “special relationship” with America to be over. The Anglo animus, perhaps brought to a boil by the World Cup soccer match and by President Obama’s handling of the BP spill, has now reached comical levels. Everything from the War of 1812 to American neutrality in 1939 is evoked to prove that the present estrangement is more typical than aberrant in our post-1776 relations.

To be fair, the miffed British are reacting to two years of both perceived and real slights from the Obama administration. Who does not know the familiar litany? There was the rude return of the magnificent Churchill bust. The asymmetrical gift exchange with Gordon Brown — at the end of a visit in which the president repeatedly snubbed the prime minister — and the banal choice of gift for the queen the following month revealed a certain symbolic spite on the administration’s part.

The State Department’s suggestion that there was nothing particularly special about American-British relations did not help, especially given the feeling that America does not fully appreciate the singular British military contribution in Afghanistan — to be seen in the light of the meager European commitment.

Then there was Secretary Clinton’s unnecessary preemptory announcement of American neutrality in the next round of disputes over the Falklands. All this is topped off by the constant presidential trashing of “British Petroleum” and its mess in the Gulf, with the implication that a foreign interest perhaps does not care too much for a former colony’s ecology.

In reaction, polls reveal that a vast majority of British citizens believe that their relationship with America has worsened since 2009. Of course, we now show the same indifference to almost all our allies, such as the Colombians, Poles, and Israelis. Yet two ancillary considerations perhaps explain why the British are especially upset at these real and hyped slights.

One is embarrassment, and the second a sort of fear.

First, in 2008 the British public heavily invested in candidate Obama as a long-awaited social-democratic anti-Bush. Four years earlier, in 2004, the British media had closely followed the American presidential election, with some commentators haughtily berating the voters of Ohio for giving Bush the margin of victory — as if one swing state that went conservative was responsible for ensuring a continuance of global discord. In this regard, the boorish and untrue slur against George Bush’s supposed lack of interest in reading, offered earlier this month by the new court jester, Paul McCartney, as a sort of toady tip to a smiling Obama, is par for the course rather than a clumsy divot.

Hanson alludes to Obama's Kenyan forebearers ( although he doesn't mention their connection to the Mau-Mau atrocities) and in my view, that's certainly part of it. So is Obama's orientation and education, which as Hanson tells us, is inherently anti-Western.

But the real reason deep down is that to acknowledge the Anglo-American roots of our institutions and our democracy would be to de facto endorse American exceptionalism, a concept Prez Zero reacts to like a vampire to garlic.That, by the way, is one of the reasons Obama has also distanced us from Israel, the symbolic pillar of America's Judeo-Christian roots.

Obama of course is not about to change, so we will have to wait until he's out of office to try to repair our relationships with our allies.

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