In the nearly 15 months since Barack Obama was inaugurated as President and Hillary Clinton installed as his Secretary of State, our Smart Power team has done something I thought impossible: make me yearn for the days of Jimmy Carter as a model of a strong and effective foreign policy. Consider three recent items:
First, he has managed to do almost certainly fatal damage to our “special relationship” with Great Britain, an alliance forged between FDR and Winston Churchill in crucible of the Second World War. After that, the two nations cooperated closely in the Cold War against Soviet communist aggression, operating hand-in-glove whether the governments in Washington and London were Democrat or Republican, Labour or Conservative. In the years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the welcome death of the USSR, America and Britain have continued to work together, even to the point war.
No more. The special relationship is dead, and Obama and Clinton own the corpse:
BRITAIN’S special relationship with the US — forged by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt in the second world war — no longer exists, says a committee of influential MPs.
Instead, America’s relationship with Britain is no more special than with its other main allies, according to a report by the Commons foreign affairs committee published today.
The report also warns that the perception of the UK after the Iraq war as America’s “subservient poodle” has been highly damaging to Britain’s reputation and interests around the world. The MPs conclude that British prime ministers have to learn to be less deferential to US presidents and be “willing to say no” to America.
Gosh, I’m not sure why they would conclude that, after the respect Obama has shown for the UK, such as returning a bust of Churchill loaned by London as a show of solidarity after 9/11, or insulting Prime Minister Brown and the Queen with gifts from the Wal-Mart bargain bin. I mean, why should they be bothered by his failure to acknowledge the sacrifice made by British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, or other acts of deliberate rudeness? And why should Whitehall care that Secretary Clinton is willing to negotiate the status of sovereign British territory? Nial Gardiner implores Conservative leader David Cameron to do all he can to preserve the relationship, but, really, what is Britain to do when Obama repeatedly spits in her eye?
Special Relationship, we hardly knew ye.
Then we come to something just appalling. Regardless of what one thinks of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Israel is a close ally of the United States, until recently the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, and certainly one of the most humane and ethical nations on the planet. Thus for the President of the United States to treat the Prime Minister of Israel as a recalcitrant child beggars belief:
For a head of government to visit the White House and not pose for photographers is rare. For a key ally to be left to his own devices while the President withdraws to have dinner in private was, until this week, unheard of. Yet that is how Binyamin Netanyahu was treated by President Obama on Tuesday night, according to Israeli reports on a trip viewed in Jerusalem as a humiliation.
After failing to extract a written promise of concessions on settlements, Mr Obama walked out of his meeting with Mr Netanyahu but invited him to stay at the White House, consult with advisers and “let me know if there is anything new”, a US congressman, who spoke to the Prime Minister, said.
“It was awful,” the congressman said. One Israeli newspaper called the meeting “a hazing in stages”, poisoned by such mistrust that the Israeli delegation eventually left rather than risk being eavesdropped on a White House telephone line. Another said that the Prime Minister had received “the treatment reserved for the President of Equatorial Guinea”.
Translation: Obama says to Netanyahu, “You just think about that young man, and you’d better have a different answer when I get back, or there will be no TV for you!” It reminds one of the rumors of his bizarre behavior in Copenhagen and calls into question his vaunted judgment and even his maturity. Israel is a key ally in our war with jihadist Islam and for the furtherance of Western interests in the region, in general. And yet, time and again, Obama and Clinton have gone out of their way to turn minor incidents into causes celebres requiring the public pillorying of Israel and to put it on the same moral level as the despotisms that surround it. (More at Legal Insurrection, Fausta’s blog, Hot Air, the Telegraph, Contentions, and The Jawa Report)
This is “smart power?”
Face it. The only conclusion one can draw from these and other blunders is that we are lead by callow and incompetent (and even delusional) leaders. Their conduct of American foreign policy has been a disgrace.
The only question is whether this mangling of American interests is unwitting or the fruit of deliberate choice.
You can guess my answer.
ADDENDUM: At least Obama and Clinton have created a bipartisan consensus on their policy toward Israel – both conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats hate it.