“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Can We Stop the Nonsense About 'Special Relationships'?

Mostly Claptrap from Obama
We don't have permanent enemies, who we will hate forever and will always be adversarial to us do we? Germany, Japan, Russia, China, are but a few recent examples. We slaughtered German and Japanese by the millions, fire bombed and nuked their cities and did so within the living memory of many.

Today both countries are close allies of the United States.

The rapprochement with Germany started within months of the ending of WW II.

Our wartime ally, Stalin's Russia, became an almost immediate enemy.

Talk and rhetorical claptrap about special relationships, undying friendship and indivisible bonds is fatuous nonsense. Nation states and great and lesser powers are not lovesick teenagers carving their initials into perpetuity.

A healthy national relationship is always in need of examination and reevaluation. A true ally is so in a time and in a place. Sentimentality in statecraft is both silly and dangerous. Ending the concept of special relationships is well past due.


Rupert Cornwell: PM must not be blinded by the might of America
Wednesday, 21 July 2010

In his article in The Wall Street Journal, previewing his first meeting here with President Obama yesterday, the Prime Minister said all the right things.

Relations between Britain and the US, David Cameron correctly observed, were absurdly over-scrutinised, picked over by analysts with a zeal once reserved for decoding the mysteries of the Kremlin. The two countries were bound to have their differences. They were natural and battle-tested allies, he noted, but Britain obviously was the junior partner.

The question is, can he put this "hard-headed and realistic" approach into practice? In other words, can he resist the White House dazzle?

During his Washington visits, Tony Blair was always visibly thrilled to share the stage with the most powerful man in the world. Alas, his determination to march in lockstep with the US led Britain into the utterly avoidable disaster of Iraq, earning him the label of "Bush's poodle". Mr Blair, of course, was not the first British Prime Minister to find it more agreeable to discuss the great issues of war and peace in the Oval Office than to haggle with French, Germans, Poles and Greeks into the early hours in Brussels over the minutiae of some arcane EU issue. Just ask Margaret Thatcher.

But if ever there was a moment to put Mr Cameron's avowed philosophy into practice, it is now. Although recent British ambassadors here have banned staff from using the term, the official demythologising of the "special relationship" began in earnest in March, when the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee concluded that the phrase was "potentially misleading" and "its use should be avoided".

Amen to that. The problem is that the "special relationship" has been verbally resurrected by Mr Obama himself, even though he has fewer sentimental ties to Britain than his predecessors and removed a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office (a sin for which the Tory press in London has never forgiven him).

But Mr Cameron should not take the bait. This doesn't mean he should keep Mr Obama at arms length. If they strike up a close personal relationship, so much the better. Leaders who trust and like each other can do business more quickly and effectively than those who do not. But Mr Cameron must not be blinded by the reflected might of the American presidency.

Right now, that should not be too difficult. Mr Obama is preoccupied by domestic issues and is not seeking sidekicks for a new international adventure. His concern is to pull US troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and rebuild the economy at home. Even on Iran, the most dangerous challenge he faces, his instincts are cautious. Mr Cameron, therefore, faces no litmus test of loyalty.

His visit is overshadowed by the two BP controversies: the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and allegations BP lobbied for the transfer to Libya of the convicted Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. Washington and London also disagree on the urgency of tackling budget deficits. But BP and economic policy differences are reminders that the countries can be close allies without being joined at the hip.

View from the US: 'He's no Gordon Brown, but there's a long way to go'

Lloyd Grove The Daily Beast

Cameron and Obama might want a family therapist, if sovereign nations can make use of such services... The long-vaunted "special relationship" between the United Kingdom and the United States has seldom been more tetchy and irritable. The new prime minister, of course, is no Gordon Brown — a dour Scot with no gift for small talk. Cameron is young and charming, and on several previous meetings, he and Obama were very simpatico... but there is a litany of substantive sore points.

Nile Gardiner The National Review

David Cameron has the skill and charisma to build up a powerful partnership with Washington, but must be careful to maintain British interests while doing so... Cameron should be under no illusions that the current US president is pro-British in outlook, or has much empathy at all for the Anglo-American alliance. While building ties with the White House, he must look beyond the current administration in his meetings on Capitol Hill, and seek to engage with conservative leaders in Congress, who may hold the balance of power in Washington after this November.

Matt Browne Politico

The Obama-Cameron relationship is not a special partnership in the mold of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan or Tony Blair and Bill Clinton. True, the Cameron-Obama friendly scenes do mark a dramatic shift in the two nations' public relations strategies. Consider that Obama's advisers never afforded photo ops like these to Britain's former prime minister, Gordon Brown. Unfortunately, this is little more than stagecraft... On closer inspection, the forced bonhomie between the two looks more like the declarations of love that elderly married couples give publicly to friends and family after a turbulent spell in their relationship. All while they privately negotiate an amicable divorce

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