The transatlantic irony of the presidential election is that most Britons favor the anti-British candidate. Pew Research found 73 percent of Britons support President Obama’s re-election; only 11 percent support Mitt Romney.
But Romney’s demolition of Obama during their first debate shortened the odds that U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, an Obama cheerleader, wagered on the wrong American horse.
The saving grace for Cameron is that Romney is an instinctive anglophile with a transatlantic worldview. He’d be a natural ally who would prioritize the strengthening of America’s relationship with its key strategic partner.
Romney favors the unfashionable, yet still vital, U.S.-U.K. “special relationship.” An advocate of decentralized political decision-making, he’s inherently unsympathetic to the ongoing transfer of sovereignty from London to Brussels.
Obama, though, displays no more than a perfunctory appreciation for the U.K.’s external role. No fan of the special relationship, Obama set the new tone early.
Following his inauguration, the bust of Winston Churchill that the U.K. lent America as a symbol of the special relationship was removed from the Oval Office. Obama has publicly slighted the U.K. on more than a dozen occasions and, according to British diplomatic sources, on several other private occasions.
Why does he act this way? At his core, Obama is an anti-colonial politician. His paternal relatives’ experiences left him unsympathetic to Britain’s interests and suspicious of her motives.
For example, Obama’s memoir discusses his Kenyan grandfather’s imprisonment and torture in a British colonial prison camp. It’s through this personal, yet anachronistic, prism that a supposedly post-modern president views relations with London. Hence, Obama instructed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to take Argentina’s side regarding sovereignty over the Falkland Islands.
The Obama administration’s indifference to British interests is tantamount to the betrayal of America’s oldest, best friend. Obama’s treatment of his nation’s most steadfast ally should worry Britons (and Americans) tremendously, for the special relationship still matters a lot.
First, U.S.-U.K. economic ties are enormous and growing. U.S.-U.K. bilateral trade is worth more than $200 billion annually. American investment in the U.K. economy totals well over $500 billion; U.K. investment in the American economy stands at nearly $450 billion.
During the past decade, U.S. net investment flows into the U.K. were nearly seven times U.S. net investment flows into China. U.K. net investment flows into the U.S. were 100 times Chinese net investment flows into the U.S.
Pivoting toward Asia, as Obama is doing, may be the trendy move; however, it may be unwise. No matter how tempting Asian attractions may be to pursue, taking one’s eye off the transatlantic economic ball is a high-risk strategy with potentially costly consequences for both nations’ economies.
Second, the U.K. makes a critical contribution to American security. Many of the past decade’s most significant counterterrorism successes, for instance, resulted from an essential, if severely tested, U.S.-U.K. security partnership.
The British military and security services continue to provide their American counterparts with pivotal logistical, operational, and intelligence cooperation. The bilateral security relationship has prevented many terrorist attacks on British and American soil, as well as against their respective interests abroad.
Yet, Obama is still planning large cuts in defense and intelligence spending. A militarily weaker America will be a less secure, and a far less reliable, British ally.