There are important lessons for the U.S. in the apprehension in Belgium, after four months, of one of the chief perpetrators of the November 13, 1915 Paris massacre which took the lives of 130 innocents.
This security lapse has its parallel in the current relations between the U.S. and Britain.
It’s hardly worth arguing how much in common British and American societies and polities hold, a commonality developed over more than two centuries and based on everything from history through language to religious and political institutions.
Unfortunately, Pres. Barack Obama came to office antagonistic to that relationship. Whether as part of his general strategy of worldwide withdrawal or a personal anti-colonial ideological bias [as Dinesh D’Souza with his own personal knowledge has argued] is to some extent irrelevant. What common sense tells us is that with our shared values and our mutually extensive formal and informal intelligence networks around the world, cooperation and interchange of information is not only necessary but indispensable.
Obama’s pinprick statements against London and the British continue unabated.
In his recent remarks to Jeffrey Goldberg in an essay attempting to set out the President’s philosophy and strategy of government, Obama snidely remarked that David Cameron had created the current chaotic and dangerous Libyan situation because the U.K. Prime Minister was “distracted by a range of other things.” It is breathtaking that this comes on the heels of Obama’s notorious “leading from behind” strategy which failed so miserably in the overthrow of Mohammed Qadaffi, and with the almost daily revelation of details of policy misjudgments by the White House and the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The failures, or indeed absence altogether of policy, which Congressional investigators are daily revealing led to the death of four U.S. officials including the ambassador in the Benghazi affair.
In what are less than discreet leaks, even now in the last months of his presidency, Obama has made jarring evaluations of Winston Churchill, with their implications for a view of U.S.-U.K. history which few, if any, American political leaders or academics would accept.
Given the bedrock on which U.S. and British relations are built, in the long run Obama’s malicious pecking may be insignificant. But his sabotage of Washington-London relations comes at a time of crisis in Britain which is trying to sort out its difficult relationship with the European Union, whether to continue to remain a member on negotiated terms, or suffer its loss of sovereignty in issues as critical as immigration.
Britain and Cameron deserve better from their trusted ally. And it will be one of primary tasks of the new president in 2017 to repair the damage to the U.S.-UK “Special Relationship”, strengthening it for the many crises which face both countries in an increasingly interconnected but unstable world.