The Obama Show….
President Obama’s speech to Parliament confirmed to me that one of the central components of the ‘special relationship’ is the vast amount of ego-stroking that goes on. The United States knows it is massively unpopular in the wider world – so, the presence of the doting and submissive United Kingdom makes it feel like it’s wanted in the world. Meanwhile, the UK gets out of it a feeling of being needed – cleft of its former imperial glory it needs to feel that there is a power within the world that needs it and it seems there is.
Other nations meanwhile look on incredulous at this blatant display of narcissism. A display that this time came complete with some a bit of a self-hug for a skittish West:
But he rejected arguments that the rise of superpowers like China and India meant the end for American and European influence in the world.
“Perhaps, the argument goes, these nations represent the future, and the time for our leadership has passed. That argument is wrong. The time for our leadership is now,” he said.
“It was the United States, the United Kingdom, and our democratic allies that shaped a world in which new nations could emerge and individuals could thrive.
“And even as more nations take on the responsibilities of global leadership, our alliance will remain indispensable to the goal of a century that is more peaceful, more prosperous and more just.”
In other words, we are still relevant and powerful, honest. The relationship between the two countries is less sociological and political and as much about the individual psychology of the two countries as nations. This is how a Democrat President and Conservative Prime Minister can share a podium and convince us of their ‘special bond’. This is a huge problem for those who want to change it or at the very least redress the power-balance; in practice, I don’t think many voters approve of the UK’s stance of seemingly blind submission but they feel the same compulsion that the UK’s body politic does; the need to be needed and are unable to resist. Really the only way around this is the support of an opposite pole of attraction – those fuming at how the UK behaves with the US need to be the most ardent proponents of a leading role for the UK in Europe. This would be an altogether better, more healthy, relationship for the UK and incidentally the world.