Commentary Magazine


Cool to Brittania

During the campaign, President Obama made his foreign policy goals clear. Among them was to put our relationships with traditional allies on new footings.

It now appears that he is doing just that — but in ways no one envisioned.

The “special relationship” between the United States and the United Kingdom has existed for well over a hundred years. We have been allies to various degrees in wars, diplomatic colleagues, trading partners, technological and military collaborators, and in general pretty much “the bestest of buds.”

But Obama seems to have his heart set on “restoring” the relationship we enjoyed with the British up through the American Civil War, when they were supportive of the Confederacy.

First up, Obama packed up and shipped back a bronze bust of Winston Churchill that had graced the Oval Office for nearly a decade.

Then, during a state visit from Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Obama set aside the tradition of meaningful, thoughtful, symbolic gifts and gave Brown a set of great American movies on DVD — in a format incompatible with British DVD players. Along with those coasters, Obama tossed in some stuff for Brown’s kids — a couple of models from the White House gift shop.

Then later, when Obama visited England, he presented Queen Elizabeth with her very own iPod. Fortunately, it was preloaded with show tunes, making it an appropriate accompaniment for the more substantial gift, a coffee table book of songs by Rodgers and Hart and autographed by Rodgers.

Earlier this month, during the observation of the anniversary of D-Day, all the Allied nations gathered to pay their respects to that momentous effort. Oddly enough, the one current head of state who actually served in uniform during World War II — the selfsame Elizabeth II, who was a truck driver and mechanic in the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service, entering as the equivalent of a 2nd Lieutenant and ending her career as the equivalent of a Captain — was left off the guest list. Obama and the French each blamed one another, with Obama insisting on her being invited. In the end, she stayed home and sent Prince Charles.

Then this past week, the Obama administration finally figured out what to do with the Chinese Uighurs held at Guantanamo Bay: pay Bermuda to take a bunch of them off our hands.

Of course, it might have been nice if someone had remembered — or cared — that Bermuda is a British colony, and its foreign relations are handled out of London. London is not amused. Playing ball with Obama might cost the Bermudan governor his job.

The United States was born out of bloody rebellion from England, and we had to reassert our independence at the dawn of the 19th century, in a conflict that saw England seize and burn the White House. It took about a century after the American Revolution for relations between us and England to grow cordial, and well over another century for the relationship to become one of the greatest friendships in history.

And it seems that Obama is set on restoring our prior relations with England.

Well, that is pretty much what he promised us…