Discussion: How much longer will the British stay in Afghanistan while Obama continues demonizing one of their signature companies?
My grandfather was an Englishman. He fought against the Italians in Abyssinia as a Leftenant in the Royal South African Army Corps of Engineers, and died in 1945. My grandmother, an Australian, kept a shrine to him until she passed just a few years ago. Because of my Grandmother, and my Mother, I've been able to keep dual US/Australian citizenship. Out of respect for them I chose to keep my dual citizenship, even though it kept me from getting a chance to go to Ranger school when I was at 2/75 -- which was pretty absurd considering Australia, like Britain, is one of this country's strongest and most capable allies, and has been since World War II, when Australians, Canadians, Englishmen and Americans all fought on the same side, for most of the same reasons, to defeat the same totalitarian enemies. Except Stalin. But whatever. The point is that this special relationship has continued, with British troops fighting next to us in Korea. Our opposition to Suez screwed things up temporarily -- and ensured the British wouldn't be with us in Vietnam. But NATO stayed strong. More recently we provided some critical help to them during the Falklands war, and the Brits were with us in Iraq during the first Gulf war, and then in Afghanistan, and then during the invasion of Iraq. Britain and the Commonwealth countries have been tremendously helpful. A Canadian sniper team claimed the record for the longest confirmed kill in Afghanistan back in 2002, and it was a British sniper who finally improved on this Canadian's record -- not an American -- just this year.
Which brings us to Afghanistan. Frankly, I'm pretty tired of our war over there. Stability is a nice thing, to be sure, but stability in Afghanistan is much more important to the Chinese, to the Indians, and to the Russians than it is to us; I frequently wonder if we aren't suckers for doing their work for them, while serious problems in Mexico and South America and Africa -- where Africans actually seem to appreciate us -- could use more attention, and while our military is pretty severely strained already. In the Kissingerian realpolitik worldview, I no longer see a vital national interest at stake in Afghanistan. And even if there is a vital national interest, as President Obama has stated, I remain unconvinced that a political problem with roots in Pakistan can be solved militarily by attacking its branches in Afghanistan. Be that as it may, it is President Obama's call whether or not to continue things in Afghanistan, not mine, and since he's my President, I continue to offer my support to him in Afghanistan, tepid though it may be.*
The point I'm trying to make here is that the British are no strangers to empire. They think a lot more like Kissinger than you and me, and in their cost-benefit analysis decided keeping it no longer made sense. And I think that many of the more sober conservative minds in Britain have had a tough time convincing the left to stand by our side for these last seven years. These conservatives are now running on fumes. And at the end of the day, much of their argument looks like this: "We don't care about Afghanistan. We don't care about Iraq. We simply want to maintain our special relationship with the US remains strong, because one day we may need them to do something for us -- something they don't want to do -- just as the Amerucabs didn't want to piss off the Argentinians and ignore the Monroe Doctrine in order to help us during the Falklands war, but ended up coming through for us anyway."
But what happens when these conservative Britons no longer believe we are on their side? Certainly our current administration has been cool to the special relationship since the days of Gordon Brown, and in its zeal to deflect criticism from itself over the Deepwater Horizon fiasco, Mr. Obama has chosen to demonize one of Great Britain's greatest companies. A company that pioneered deep water drilling in the North Sea, and whose engineering prowess is a source of tremendous national pride for the British. We can piss off the left wing Britons all day long, but when we irritate Britain's few remaining conservatives, we may bet ourselves into trouble:
Mr Obama has been repeatedly referring to the company as 'British petroleum', a name that has not been used in years.
London mayor Boris Johnson branded some of the comments "anti-British".
"I do think there's something slightly worrying about the anti-British rhetoric that seems to be permeating from America," he told the Today programme.
"I would like to see a bit of cool heads rather than endlessly buck-passing and name-calling. When you consider the huge exposure of British pension funds to BP it starts to become a matter of national concern if a great British company is being continually beaten up on the airwaves.
"It was an accident that took place and BP is paying a very, very heavy price indeed."
Lord Tebbit, former trade and industry spokesman, lambasted the president for his response to the crisis."The whole might of American wealth and technology is displayed as utterly unable to deal with the disastrous spill - so what more natural than a crude, bigoted, xenophobic display of partisan political presidential petulance against a multinational company?" he wrote.
In spite of these feelings, how long can the British conservatives continue to offer their support to us? Indeed, what are we to make of the following news?
British Prime Minister David Cameron says he will not send any more troops to Afghanistan amid a surge in Taliban attacks against the foreign forces in the country.The price of disloyalty can be steep. If David Cameron worries he'll have to fight his next Falklands war alone -- and he will as long as President Obama is in power -- what reason does he have to continue bucking public opinion in his own country? Your thoughts below, please.
In a press conference in Kabul, Cameron said Afghanistan is his government's most important foreign policy and national security issue.
But he underscored that sending more troops is not on the UK's agenda.
Since the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan, 292 British soldiers have been killed. Polls show most of Britons want UK troops to return home immediately.
Britain has about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, mostly based in the south of the country.
-- Uber Pig
* Don't get me wrong. I feel the case for Iraq was pretty strong. I believe Hussein's nascent WMD program was a threat not just to us, but to modernity. And even without the stockpiles of WMD we thought he had, I still buy into the neo-con plan. The road has been long and filled with hundreds of thousands of IED's, and whether or not the price was worth it, we now stand poised to leave behind a relatively secular and modern Iraqi state, one that has a chance to defeat militant Islam from the inside.