Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Obama’s British Problem

‘The United States has no truer friend than Great Britain’

The US-UK alliance brought down Nazism and defeated imperial Japan. For nearly half a century, it guarded the frontiers of democracy against communist aggression. This was the relationship that built the global economic expansion.
But in failing to support British sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, President Obama is undercutting our greatest friend. And understandably, the British are growing increasingly angry.

This isn’t a remote issue. It matters.

Like any friends, America and Britain sometimes disagree. Sometimes strongly. We disagreed with Britain on Suez. Britain disagreed with us on Vietnam. These occasional divergences continue to the present day. The US-UK intelligence relationship is deep but imperfect. Our extradition relationship is often frustrating. At the cultural level, we share many similarities alongside many differences – civilian gun ownership being one. And yet, our commonalities are overwhelming. A reality reflected in Afghanistan today.

To be fair to the President, his position towards the UK has been consistent if nothing else. First there was Churchill, then came the DVDs, next was the idiotic insult from a Foreign Service officer. Then, while standing next to the Queen, the President talked through the British national anthem. Not exactly a stellar record. 

But these errors are nothing compared to the President's position on the Falklands.

The Falklands, a set of Islands in the South Atlantic have long been a British overseas territory. Having failed to conquer the Islands during the 1982 Falklands War, Argentina, who claims the Islands as their own, now resorts to using diplomatic pressure to drive the UK to the negotiating table. This is a position contrary to international law and irreconcilable with freedom. Two weeks ago, the Falkland Islanders voted by a 99% majority to remain a British territory. Yet, in a pathetic acquiescence to Argentine pressure, the Obama Administration has decided to ignore this self-determination. And so, US policy is now at war with basic logic. Our position should be simple – ‘we support the UK’; the UK is our closest ally and the right to self-determination is our most sacred national belief. Instead however, our chosen policy is a flaccid lump of dishonorable weakness.

Some argue that the President is simply representing US interests. Far from betraying an ally they say, the President is trying to re-build increasingly important relationships with Latin America. This is a poor excuse. Our relationship with Latin America is obviously crucial. But if we’re unwilling to stand up for our most central values, then we’ll simply feed false but pervasive perceptions of an America devoid of values. Like Britain, Latin America wants an America that’s an honest friend. After all, that’s the only type of friend there is.

Again, let’s be clear. The relationship between the US and UK is not symbiotic and nor should we expect it to be. And yes, it’s true, too many Britons take a pathetic and intellectually redundant pleasure in a casual anti-Americanism. However, on essential issues of sovereignty, the UK deserves our unhesitating support.

In the end, this isn’t just about our responsibility as an ally, it’s also about our identity as a nation. We either stand for freedom or we don’t.


  1. The author has got a bee in his bonnet about freedom.

    Freedom is under threat because the Obama administration has not supported the result of the Falklands referendum
    According to Rogan, the allies face a crisis comparable to any one of Nazism, Imperial Japan, Suez and Vietnam. They must face it united!

    Has Tom Rogan not stopped to think that maybe Obama is shrewd in maintaining strict neutrality?In fact if he supported the referendum he would be devaluing freedom. For the islanders are claiming something - a right of self-determination - which has been denied to them by the United Nations. General Assembly resolution 2065 (XX) Question of the Falkland Islands/Malvinas classifies the islanders as a "population". Only "peoples" enjoy the right to self-determination which is cited in Article 1 of the UN Charter.

    So the author is wide of the mark when he writes that:-

    "...Argentina, who claims the Islands as their own, now resorts to diplomatic pressure to drive the UK to the negotiating table. This is a position contrary to international law and irreconcilable with freedom."

    Argentina has international law on its side and Obama knows this.

    A final reflection:- If Obama, and not Reagan, had been President of the USA in 1982, he, with his deeper understanding of the issue, might have successfully steered the two parties away from the disastrous conflict.

    1. You'd make a great EU politician - using warped legalese to spin 'freedom' for your own agenda. If Obama had been President in 1982, he would have seriously degraded the UK-US relationship but would not have prevented the conflict. The impact then would have been one of profound negativity for the US, the UK and the world.

    2. Tom- Nice piece.

      Peter- Where to begin, I suppose I'll begin with your own leap of language. Tom doesn't equate this situation to Nazism, etc but merely uses these past examples as just that, examples of the history between our countries when we have acted in unison. Tom also highlights areas of disagreement. Tom doesn't make the leap that because we fought these issues together we must also face this issue united but merely, as before, using the past as an example of when our countries have acted together. As for 'population vs people'...well...are you therefore saying that a population should not decide who governs it, but only peoples? If a population is made of a variety of people (perhaps a large city) should they not be entitled to self determination? Or what about a people with a permanent place of residence? Ambiguity of language is also in the whole 'genocide' and 'acts of genocide' issue. The real heart of the matter is simply- should a group of people, a population, decide who governs them? Are you suggesting they should have this matter forced upon them? Decided by peoples (and populations) outside of the land they live, utterly separate and distinct from themselves, without having their own opinions heard?