Ne penitus misera patria deleretur nomenque Romanorum

“the unfortunate fatherland should not be erased to the end”

The Roman Bridge Abutment On The South Side Of The River, originally uploaded by TyB.

Britain appears to be agog that President Obama has not explicitly backed their country’s claim to the Falkland Islands in its never-ending territorial dispute with Argentina.

Washington refused to endorse British claims to sovereignty over the Falkland Islands yesterday as the diplomatic row over oil drilling in the South Atlantic intensified in London, Buenos Aires and at the UN.

Despite Britain’s close alliance with the US, the Obama Administration is determined not to be drawn into the issue. It has also declined to back Britain’s claim that oil exploration near the islands is sanctioned by international law, saying that the dispute is strictly a bilateral issue

…“We are aware not only of the current situation but also of the history, but our position remains one of neutrality,” a State Department spokesman told The Times. “The US recognises de facto UK administration of the islands but takes no position on the sovereignty claims of either party.”

— Whithhell, Giles.  “US refuses to endorse British sovereignty in Falklands oil dispute.” The Times (of London), 25 February 2010.

Even the left-wing Manchester Guardian is aghast that the United States is not backing its historic ally:

Washington’s neutral policy and its failure to uphold automatically the right to self-determination is fuelling the already widespread suspicion that Obama’s America has more respect for its enemies than its friends.

…If the dispute became serious, [British] diplomats are certain that Obama would back Britain, and most Latin American governments would quietly applaud him.

I am sure they are right, but I am equally sure that Obama’s critics are not all wrong however much they overdo it. There will not be a second Falklands war this year because the Argentinians know we would defeat them. But if not over the Falklands then on some other crisis, Obama will have to make up his mind whether he wants to be a liberal president or to follow the worst rather than the best traditions of neoconservatism and hold that basic principles can always be sacrificed for the sake of a usually deluded view of the American national interest.

— Cohen, Nick.  “Obama should back our claim to the Falklands.” Manchester Guardian, 28 February 2010.

South American nations are falling into line behind Argentina, of course, and this—combined with studious US neutrality—has upset the British.

I cannot say that I am overly surprised, though.  This president has demonstrated clearly, from his first few meetings (or lack thereof) with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, that Britain (and Europe) are yesterday’s news, worth little thought and expenditure of energy.  It should likewise be obvious to observers of United States foreign policy and defence that isolationist sentiment has risen, as it has historically whenever the American economy enters a prolonged period of contraction.

Given that the United States has issued its Honorian rescript and told the foederati to look to their own defence, one wonders why the tribes of Europe refuse to do so.

I am not an apologist for the president’s foreign policy, but there is admittedly a certain logic in re-orienting US relations so that its energies get spent primarily in its own hemisphere and in Asia, where future superpowers are developing.  Historical ties aside, this picture does not look good for Europe.  It is a continent awash in economic, financial and social troubles, unable to come to grips with home-grown radicalism, and unwilling to adequately fund its own defensive forces.  At the very least, it does not appear logical to tie America’s fortunes to that of its slowly drowning European cousins.

The real problem arises because in previous eras, America’s isolationism was underwritten by the existence of the British Empire, which continued to expend its treasure and resources keeping sea lanes open and international trade flowing, maintaining national borders of competing regional states, and so on.  Today’s American empire is itself isolationist, and a world without a global superpower ensuring security of trade and stability of borders is a recipe for increasingly predatory behaviour amongst rival nation-states.

Still, this is the world to which the Obama Adminstration has set its course, and it has not been delinquent in signalling such to its many allies and client states.  Is it the fault of the president that no one seems to take him seriously in this regard?  Or is it the fault of those who receive the message, but cannot quite bring themselves to believe its contents?

It is time for Britain, and Europe at large, to understand that they really are on their own, however unpalatable that might seem.  America’s focus has shifted elsewhere.  You must look to yourselves for your own defence.

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2 Responses
  1. MichaelB says:

    Last time around, the US was not willing to be much help in public either. That said, if Wikipedia is to be believed Argentina’s military has shrunk significantly further and faster in capability than the British. Distance and logistics are still a problem for the Brits of course, but I’m hard pressed to say the new correlation of forces is less favorable to the Brits. Which surprises me, because I’ve been shocked and appalled at the state of British defense policy for several years now!

    In the US though, isolationism is indeed growing by leaps and bounds. Congress won’t even adopt the Law of the Sea convention – which the US Navy supports, says will even enhance their ability to protect US interests! The events of first the Clinton Administration, and then the second Bush administration seem to have severely weakened the internationalist sentiment in both parties. As far as I can tell, there’s no major force pushing to rejuvenate them.

    • Chris Taylor says:

      The rejuvenation may come when they realise nobody else is stepping up to the plate.

      Or someone else may assume the mantle of leadership, say India or China, and thus spare Americans the trouble.