Commentary Magazine


Obama Downgrades “Special Relationship”

The once-”special relationship” between the UK and the U.S.–which as recently as the past decade produced remarkably close collaboration between George W. Bush and Tony Blair–grows less special by the day. President Obama began his term by exiling from the Oval Office a bust of Winston Churchill that had been displayed by Bush; although he kept an identical bust which has been in the presidential residence since the Johnson administration, this was a small, symbolic move that indicated Obama’s diminished regard for the greatest of British prime ministers.

Now Obama has snubbed the second-greatest British prime minister by refusing to send any members of his administration to Margaret Thatcher’s funeral. The U.S. delegation was led by former secretaries of state George Shultz and Jim Baker–great men, to be sure, but they served in the Reagan administration. Where was Joe Biden? Isn’t the vice president’s chief job to attend funerals? But apparently he had more urgent things to do–as did, it seems, every single member of the Obama cabinet and even such unemployed politicians as Bill and Hillary Clinton.

This snub has been noted across the Atlantic where Tories are seething about the lack of love for the Irony Lady–and by implication the lack of regard for the “special relationship” which has been the bedrock on which the security of the post-1945 world has been constructed.

This is not just an issue of symbolism, either: The Obama administration is maintaining a studious neutrality over the renewed dispute over the Falkland Islands, which Argentina once again appears bent on claiming in spite of its centuries under the Union Jack. The rights and wrongs of the situation are crystal clear: 99 percent of the islanders have just voted to remain part of Britain. Yet Obama has refused to offer any support to Britain in the face of renewed Argentine saber-rattling.

Don’t be surprised if the next time Washington wants British support in a future crisis, that backing will be mysteriously lacking.