Last week’s appalling declaration by Washington that the US would remain neutral in the conflict between Britain and Argentina over the Falklands, has prompted this list of the ten biggest insults so far by the Obama administration against America’s closest friend and ally. For a government that pledged to “restore” America’s standing in the world, it is doing a spectacularly bad job, kowtowing to America’s enemies while consistently kicking her allies.
Without a shadow of a doubt, Barack Obama has been the most anti-British president in modern American history. The Special Relationship has been significantly downgraded, and at times humiliated under his presidency, which has displayed a shocking disregard for America’s most important partner and strategic ally.
There are a multitude of reasons forPresident Obama’s dismissive approach to the UK, and here are a few: an obsession with engaging and appeasing America’s enemies rather than cultivating allies; personal animosity towards Britain because of his grandfather’s role as a Mau Mau supporter in 1950’s colonial Kenya; Democrat resentment over British support for the Bush Administration over Iraq; left-wing disdain for the idea of Anglo-American exceptionalism and world leadership; support for supranational institutions such as the European Union over the supremacy of the nation state.
So here’s my top 10 list, which will no doubt be expanded to a top 20 in a few months.
1. Declaration of neutrality over the Falklands
For sheer offensiveness it’s hard to beat last week’s incredible statementfrom the State Department on the Falklands dispute, not least considering the fact that 255 British soldiers died retaking the islands from Argentina in 1982. Here it is:
“We are aware not only of the current situation but also of the history, but our position remains one of neutrality. The US recognises de facto UK administration of the islands but takes no position on the sovereignty claims of either party.”
As I wrote previously, over the course of the last year, we’ve seen a staggering array of foreign policy follies by this administration, from the throwing under the bus of the Poles and the Czechs over missile defence to siding with Marxists in Honduras. But this latest pronouncement surely takes the biscuit as the most brazen betrayal so far of a US ally.
2. Downgrading of the Special Relationship
Barack Obama never refers to the Special Relationship, and has not even mentioned Britain once in a major policy speech, either before or after taking office. The Anglo-American alliance is barely a blip on Obama’s teleprompter screen, and he acts as though it simply does not exist. The Special Relationship has also been largely erased from the official lexicon of the State Department, and is not even used by US officials in London. Despite being America’s only major reliable ally when the chips are down, London is now treated in Washington as though it were the same as any other European power, albeit less charitably than either Paris or Berlin.
3. Support for a federal Europe
The Obama administration’s relentless and wrongheaded support for the creation of a federal Europe, from backing the Treaty of Lisbon to the European Security and Defence Policy, is a slap in the face for the principle of national sovereignty in Europe. While the Bush Administration was divided over Europe, the Obama administration is ardently euro-federalist, despite the fact that the likely next British government will probably fight them tooth and nail over it. British sovereignty is non-negotiable, and Obama’s willingness to undermine it is both insulting to Britain and self-defeating for the United States.
4. Undermining of British influence in NATO
Despite Nicolas Sarkozy’s distinctly unflattering opinion of Barack Obama, the president has gone to great lengths to appease French interests, even going as far as apologising to the French people in Strasbourg for hurting their feelings over the war in Iraq. The Obama administration has also done its best to give Paris a lead role in the NATO alliance at Britain’s expense, granting it one of two supreme NATO command positions – Allied Command Transformation (ACT). And this, despite the fact that France has for decades been ambivalent and obstructionist over NATO, and is failing to carry its weight in Afghanistan. And as I noted before, there is currently not a single British general in charge of any of the big five supreme and operational commands in the alliance (in contrast to two Frenchmen and a German), even though Great Britain provides more troops for NATO operations than any member apart from the United States.
5. Refusal to recognize Britain’s sacrifice in Afghanistan
It is particularly galling that the president cannot even be bothered to acknowledge the sacrifice made by over 250 British servicemen and women on the battlefields of Afghanistan alongside their American allies – especially evident during his lacklustre speech at West Point in December. Britain currently has as many soldiers stationed in Afghanistan – 10,000 – as all the other major European powers combined. In contrast to George W. Bush, who frequently thanked the British armed forces and people for their role in the War on Terror, Obama has spectacularly failed to do so.
6. Throwing Churchill out of the Oval Office
It is hard to think of a more derogatory message to send to the British people within days of taking office than to fling a bust of Winston Churchill out of the Oval Office and send it packing back to the British Embassy – not least as it was a loaned gift from Britain to the United States as a powerful display of solidarity in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Obviously, public diplomacy is not a concept that carries much weight in the current White House, and nor apparently is common sense.
7. Insulting words from the State Department
The mocking views of a senior State Department official following the Prime Minister’s embarrassing reception at the White House in March last year says it all:
“There’s nothing special about Britain. You’re just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn’t expect special treatment.”
One would have thought that this kind of hugely damaging gaffe would have resulted in at least a formal apology and a reprimand for the official involved, but unfortunately Obama administration apologies are strictly reserved for the French and assorted enemies of the United States.
8. DVDs for the Prime Minister
Readers of this blog will know I’m no fan of Gordon Brown, but whatever one thinks of his less than stellar leadership skills or his downright awful policies, Brown travels abroad not as a private individual but as the leader of America’s closest ally. He represents 61 million Britons including the Armed Forces, as well as a huge amount of British trade and investment with the United States. He was treated shabbily when he visited the White House last March, and denied a Rose Garden press conference as well as a dinner. To cap it all, the decision to send him home with an assortment of 25 DVDs ranging from Toy Story to The Wizard of Oz – which can’t even be played in the UK – was a breathtaking display of diplomatic ineptitude that would have shamed the protocol office of an impoverished Third World country. And we haven’t even mentioned Obama’s iPod for the Queen.
9. Refusal to meet the Prime Minister in New York
Not content with humiliating the Prime Minister with a bargain basement DVD collection, President Obama proceeded to give him the run-around at the UN General Assembly in New York last September in a farce worthy of an episode from Benny Hill, declining to meet with him privatelyafter no less than five requests. I can understand why Obama might not want to spend much time with the dour and easily angered Brown, who was apparently mightily enraged over the whole affair. It is also the case that Brown himself has done a good deal to undermine the Special Relationship and shares much of the blame himself for this debacle. But it is insulting to the British people as a whole when the president of the United States is happy in principle to sit down and negotiate with tyrants like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but won’t hold a bilateral meeting with the leader of America’s top ally, when thousands of British troops are fighting in Afghanistan.
10. Robert Gibbs’ embarrassing attack on the British press
No list of Obama administration slights against Britain would be complete without mention of White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ sneering rant against the British press (first reported by Politico) after spotting an article in The Telegraph he disagreed with. Here’s what Gibbs said:
“Let’s just say if I wanted to look up, if I wanted to read a write-up of how Manchester United fared last night in the Champions League Cup, I’d might open up a British newspaper. If I was looking for something that bordered on truthful news, I’m not entirely sure it’d be the first pack of clips I’d pick up.”
As I wrote at the time, this kind of attack would normally be made against the likes of the North Korean or Iranian state media, but in the current climate of “engagement” with America’s enemies the White House is far more likely to attack its own allies. And by the way, Gibbs, as my colleague James Delingpole noted in a superbly penned response, it’s the “Champions League” not the “Champions League Cup”.