In May 2008 then presidential hopeful Barack Obama spoke to a fundraiser of US ex-patriots in Britain via telephone link. The "special relationship" between the two countries needed to be "recalibrated," he told the audience. "We have a chance to recalibrate the relationship and for the United Kingdom to work with America as a full partner," Obama said. Britain's "poodle" status would end, and in this new equal partnership that Obama would bring about, there would be times when Britain would lead and the US would follow, and vice versa.
Britain has been the US's staunchest ally since the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. Its support leant moral weight to the "war on terror." And its soldiers were sent to Iraq and Afghanistan after the attacks on the US, even though Britain itself had not then been attacked. More than 300 British soldiers have been killed and many others have been seriously wounded since. So, Obama's overtures made sense, even if they were unnecessary – President Bush's relationship with Britain's administration had nearly always been positive.
But, then something happened. The first sign came in January 1, 2009, when The Times of London revealed that the British government was preparing to take foreign terrorists from Guantanamo Bay, to help the soon-to-be President Obama close the facility down. Poodle status?
In February, Obama returned a bronze bust of Winston Churchill to Great Britain, leant to the US, and displayed in the Oval Office since 2001. And it was returned despite Britain offering to extend the loan of this artifact, symbolic of the ties of the two nations. But as Diana West has remarked:
Having achieved a Washington-like apotheosis in the American imagination, Churchill serves not only as the preeminent symbol of resolve, courage and faith against the enemies of Western civilization. He serves as a symbol of Western civilization, period. One of President Obama's first acts as president was to consign that symbol to a box and send it packing.
In early March, the Obama administration was preparing for a visit by Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The usual full-blown press conference and state dinner did not occur, and complaints from British officials about this only caused consternation – the administration was "overwhelmed" by the economy, after all. When The Telegraphcquestioned one official about the treatment, he reportedly became enraged, inveighing "There's nothing special about Britain. You're just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn't expect special treatment."
Brown presented Obama with thoughtful and priceless gifts – a penholder made from the timbers of the anti-slavery ship, the HMS Gannett, the commissioning certificate of HMS Resolute; and a first edition of a biography of Winston Churchill. The exchange of gifts is customary. Obama presented Brown with a box set of 25 DVDs.
You may have noticed, I'm not exactly a fan of the British government. It understands neither Islamism nor democracy, and has facilitated the growth of the former with a combination of ineptitude, wishful thinking, disdain for the nation's culture, and a policy of appeasement. Britain now has approximately 2,000 known terrorists inside its borders.
The extent of the problem is no secret, however. And has been common knowledge for several years. In March 2008, US Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff said that the US government was exploring the possibility of banning British citizens from flying over the US, if they did not pass security checks.
The growth of Islamism in Britain, then, might seem a plausible reason for the cold shouldering of Britain's Prime Minister. But Obama's overtures to Middle Eastern dictators suggest that – signifying the "war on terror" – the "special relationship" is now seen as an obstacle to the new approach to foreign policy.
Moreover – and more troublingly – Obama also appears to be taking very similar steps to those taken by the British government, and which facilitated the growth of Islamism in the UK.
Rather than emphasize those values that have allowed different people to live together, such as democracy, pride in the nation, liberty, religious freedom, etc., British politicians began promoting "multiculturalism," accentuating differences, and referring to "Muslims" at what seemed to be almost every opportunity, in the belief that by singling them out they would feel "included." Obama famously remarked in his inauguration speech that, "we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers."
Britain changed its language in regard to Islamist terrorism to be as innocuous as possible. Obama began to phase out the phrase "war on terror" almost immediately after inauguration, replacing it with "Overseas Contingency Operation." (No problem with Islamism at home, then?)
Britain has seen a veritable parade of Islamists – though unrepresentative of most British Muslims – walking hand in hand with various Leftwing politicians. As part of Obama's inauguration events, Ingrid Mattson of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) said a prayer at the National Cathedral. The event was the interfaith National Prayer Service. Fine. But in 2007 ISNA was named an "unindicted co-conspirator" in an alleged criminal conspiracy to fund Hamas. And it has been criticized by Muslim Wake Up for "alienating 90% of American Muslims" with its ultra conservative religious stance. (Does the presence of ISNA's president at the prayer service, then, send the right message to the American "patchwork"?)
And, again, Obama's March video appeal to Iran used phrases and expressed sentiments that one is accustomed to hearing from the British government, not from the American.
But, not surprisingly, Obama's overture was rebutted by Ayatollah Khamenei who responded by demanding that the US "change" its foreign policy, whipping the crowd up into a frenzy of chanting of "Death to America."
And Hamas's response was to welcome the new language of the US presidency, saying that, "The challenge for everybody is for this to be the prelude for a genuine change in U.S. and European policies."
But, we're seeing that already, aren't we?