From the UK: To see ourselves as others see us
Given Mr. Obama’s Kenyan father and the grim history of British colonial rule over its former colony, one might understand Mr. Obama’s desire to end the “Special Relationship” with Great Britain. British bitterness over the end of this historic partnership may explain, in part, why Nile Gardiner, writing in the UK Telegraph, dismissed the recent State of the Union address with such distain:
“As expected, Barack Obama’s 70 minute State of the Union Address focused heavily on the economy and the domestic political agenda. This was hardly surprising in the aftermath of last week’s catastrophic defeat for his party in the Massachusetts special Senate election, where the Republicans scored an historic victory. American voters are turning strongly against the president’s health care reform package as well as his big government vision for the economy, which has contributed to spiraling public debt and mounting unemployment, now standing at over 10 percent.
“But the scant attention paid in the State of the Union speech to US leadership was pitiful and frankly rather pathetic. The war in Afghanistan, which will soon involve a hundred thousand American troops, merited barely a paragraph. There was no mention of victory over the enemy, just a reiteration of the president’s pledge to begin a withdrawal in July 2011. Needless to say there was nothing in the speech about the importance of international alliances, and no recognition whatsoever of the sacrifices made by Great Britain and other NATO allies alongside the United States on the battlefields of Afghanistan. For Barack Obama the Special Relationship means nothing, and tonight’s address further confirmed this.
“Significantly, the global war against al-Qaeda was hardly mentioned, and there were no measures outlined to enhance US security at a time of mounting threats from Islamist terrorists. Terrorism is a top issue for American voters, but President Obama displayed what can only be described as a stunning indifference towards the defense of the homeland.
“The Iranian nuclear threat, likely to be the biggest foreign policy issue of 2010, was given just two lines in the speech, with a half-hearted warning of “growing consequences” for Tehran, with no details given at all. There were no words of support for Iranian protestors who have been murdered, tortured and beaten in large numbers by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s thuggish security forces, and no sign at all that the president cared about their plight. Nor was there any condemnation of the brutality of the Iranian regime, as well as its blatant sponsorship of terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“As the example of Iran showed, the advance of freedom and liberty across the world in the face of tyranny was not even a footnote in the president’s speech. I cannot think of a US president in modern times who has attached less importance to human rights issues. For the hundreds of millions of people across the world, from Burma to Sudan to Zimbabwe, clamoring to be free of oppression, there was not a shred of hope offered in Barack Obama’s address.
“Obama’s world leadership in his first year in office has been weak-kneed and little short of disastrous. He has sacrificed the projection of American power upon the altar of political vanity, with empty speeches and groveling apologies across the world, from Strasbourg to Cairo. He has appeased some of America’s worst enemies, and has extended the hand of friendship to many of the most odious regimes on the face of the earth. Judging by the State of the Union address tonight, we can expect more of the same from an American president who seems determined to lead the world’s greatest power along a path of decline.”
Here, it seems appropriate to quote the Scottish Poet Laureate, Robert Burns, who wrote: “O wad some Power the Giftie gie us to see ourselves as others as see us.”
Syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, studied at Harvard’s JFK School of Government. Dr. Hamilton is a former assistant professor of political science and history at Nebraska Wesleyan University.
©2010 William Hamilton.