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Would McCain or Obama be Better for Britain?

Christopher Meyer, former British Ambassador to the United States during 9/11, writes in the Telegraph:
I have no idea - I have never met him - what Obama thinks of Britain, though in one of his attacks against Bush, he dismissively brackets the UK with Togo. McCain, whom I knew well and liked, is to all appearances a declared anglophile. But, none of this is relevant. America will act on an unsentimental calculation of where its national interest lies. The problem with the rhetoric of the Special Relationship is that it implicitly denies this reality, putting a burden of expectation on the ties between our two countries, which they cannot bear.

Whoever wins, Britain must rest its relationship with America on four propositions: is America our single most important ally and partner? Absolutely. Does this mean that our national interests will always coincide? Absolutely not. Should we stand up for our interests when they diverge from the Americans? Absolutely. Will having rows with the US from time to time fatally undermine the closeness of the relationship? Absolutely not.
While Meyer concludes with a subtle endorsement for Obama, overall he leaves the impression that neither Obama nor McCain will necessarily be better for Britain, since "America will act on an unsentimental calculation of where its national interest lies." That is, it does not matter who is president, because the United States will always act the same way, based on what is in its best interests.  As President Lincoln once said: "I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me."

However, the argument that neither president will be better for Britain (or other allies in Europe, or the transatlantic alliance as a whole) attributes too little influence to the US executive branch.  The fact is, different presidents push different policies and weigh the importance of allie's opinions differently.  If Al Gore had been president in 2003, there is a good chance the US would not be at war in Iraq (or at least would have approached it in a less unilateral way), which would have prevented the transatlantic alliance from reaching a major low following the Iraq invasion. 

McCain and Obama have different approaches to foreign relations, different world views, and different personal styles -- and one of them will be "better" for Britain than the other, regardless of events.

Financial Turmoil: Merkel Blames the United States and Britain

DW World:

Chancellor Angela Merkel has revived Germany's campaign of a year ago for global regulation of financial markets to prevent another crash like the past week's. [She] criticized the US and British governments for obstructing Germany's efforts in the first half of 2007 to bring greater transparency to the markets.

Yep, it is "We told you so"-time again.

• Germany's state-owned KfW lender is called the 'dumbest' bank for transferring 300 million euro to Lehman Brothers on the same day it declared insolvency, reports the IHT.

• SuperFrenchie concludes from the US response to the market turmoil: The United Socialist States of America (USSA)

Britain: Pro-European And Pro-American At Once?

Gordon Brown’s administration, despite its domestic (foremost economic) troubles, has a great foreign policy opportunity, claims Philip Stephens in the Financial Times:

The next year or so offers Britain the best chance in a generation to get its foreign policy right. Whoever wins the White House, the time has come for Britain to rebalance its European and transatlantic relationships. [...]

While Foreign Minister David Miliband insists on the "special relationship" between Britain and the US, he's also been making remarks hinting at a new recognition of Great Britain being part of Europe, says Stephens.

The implication is that a British government will speak from a European perspective in Washington as much as from a US one in Paris or Berlin. Behind this – at least I hope this is what Mr Miliband means – is an understanding that strong ties between London and Washington work in Britain’s interest only in so far as they also reflect wider transatlantic cohesion. [...] What has changed [though] is that a less subservient British relationship with Washington need no longer imply a weakening of broader transatlantic ties. The message for Britain from the Iraq war was that it could not have the best of both worlds – a privileged place in Washington and a leadership role in Europe. But France too learned a tough lesson: it cannot unite Europe against the US. [...] The governments of Europe’s three most powerful nations are now more or less at one. France’s Nicolas Sarkozy has abandoned his predecessors’ anti-Americanism. Angela Merkel has restored Germany’s Atlanticist tilt. [...] What this means is that Mr Brown can be at once pro-European and pro-American.

Eurosceptism Does Not Win Elections in Britain

Anti-Americanism can only have a small influence on winning elections. Likewise nobody gets elected in Britain by being Eurosceptic, argues Alex Harrowell in A Fistful of Euros and goes back in history, when Tony Blair characterized as a poodle, but not Bush's poodle:
1997 was the election when John Majors campaign ran huge posters of Tony Blair as a poodle on Helmut Kohls knee; and it wasnt a great year for Eurosceptic Tories, was it? Of course there are confounding factors. Euroscepticism in 1997 involved either voting for the proto-UKIP Referendum party or a Conservative party as popular as nuclear waste; probably the issue was buried under the Labour landslide in places. The principle, however, holds; nobody gets elected in Britain by being Eurosceptic. There are no votes in it; in a sense, Euroscepticism is a luxury.
He also points out that a solid majority in Britain "supports EU membership and has done consistently over time. Further, the public does not worry very much about Europe; some 4 per cent according to a recent poll."

Will Brown's Dinner With Merkel Leave Bush Hungry?

UK US FlagTraditionally, the British prime minister's first foreign visit is to Washington, but Gordon Brown chose dinner with Angela Merkel instead. Is this the beginning of the end of the special relationship between the UK and the US?

Gordon Brown's "Mini-Me", the Secretary of State for International Development Douglas Alexander, gave a controversial speech in Washington DC on Thursday. He was talking about forming "new alliances." He expressed his preference of a "rules-based international system" and of multilateralism over unilateralism. For some reason, many observers got the impression that he was not just talking about the fight against global poverty. His speech was interpreted as "coded criticism" of the Bush administration... Really? Isn't that an over-interpretation of the tea leaves?

Meanwhile, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung predicts that French President Nicolas Sarkozy will fill the "vacuum" that Blair left in Washington. Yeah, right...

More about all this in my post in the Atlantic Community.

Vigilant, But Not Afraid

After three failed terror attacks in London and Glasgow, the Brits continue with the big public events this weekend, like the Gay Pride Parade, Wimbledon and the concert for Diana. The German paper Tagesspiegel praises the "stiff upper lip." The Nosemonkey in London has the right attitude and writes "Terrorists these days are rubbish."
Would Germans and Americans be as cool and continue with business as usual?

Werenot AfraidShortly after the London attacks of 7/7/2005, the We're not Afraid campaign started. Remember the funny pictures demonstrating fearlessness in solidarity with Britain and in defiance of the global terror movements? A good reminder from the "We're not Afraid" About us page:
We refuse to respond to aggression and hatred in kind. Instead, we who are not afraid will continue to live our lives the best way we know how. We will work, we will play, we will laugh, we will live. We will not waste one moment, norAlan Johnston banner sacrifice one bit of our freedom, because of fear. We are not afraid.
Related posts in the Atlantic Review:
Responding to "Al-Qaeda's Revival"
The State of Emergency Infrastructure
Increased Terror Threat: Germans in Pakistani Terror Camps

Europe and Missile Defense

Peter Zeihan writes for the private intelligence agency Stratfor about "The New Logic for Ballistic Missile Defense:"
The Czech Republic and Poland are not the only European states to have changed their thinking about BMD either. A number of countries not only are responding warmly to U.S. overtures regarding facilities, but in some cases actually are initiating the siting requests. For central European states, the benefits of such deals are obvious. Most of the political elites in these states fear a future conflict with the Russians, and anything they can do to solidify a military arrangement with Washington is, to their thinking, a benefit in and of itself. But even in Western Europe, further removed from the Russian periphery, opposition to the United States' BMD programs seems to have relaxed considerably. The United Kingdom has specifically requested inclusion in the system (though Washington so far has declined), and the German government has called for the United States to address the issue of BMD in the context of NATO.
The interesting analysis is for premium subscribers only, but Stratfor grants free access, if you visit their homepage via Google. Just google for the headline and then click on the Stratfor link.

Ulrich Speck has written an excellent post in his Kosmoblog (in German) about Stratfor's analysis concerning Europe and missile defense.

Related post in the Atlantic Review: Munich Security Conference: "Clear Messages Instead of Icy Silence"

Day of German Unity and German-American Day

German papers regularly point out that British Prime Minister Thatcher and French President Mitterrand were not very enthusiastic at all about German unification in 1990. The US government, however, was very supportive. Former Chancellor Helmut Kohl and former President George Bush attended the Celebration of the Day of German Unity at the German Ambassador’s Residence in Washington, DC on October 3, 2006. You can read, listen and watch the speeches by both statesmen as well as Ambassador Scharioth and Minister President Milbradt on the German Embassy's homepage. Helmut Kohl said:
During the historic times, it was truly a stroke of luck when the iron curtain slowly lifted that we Germans were able to rely on you, George Bush, who was president of the United States. When the opportunity for reunification became clearer and drew closer, and when others were still skeptical and hesitant, it was you and your government who encouraged and supported us and helped us on the road toward unification. Mr. President, you will always have a special place in the book of German history.
George H.W. Bush:
As this audience knows, both Margaret and Francois had reservations about a unified Germany. In fact, at one point Mitterrand jokingly told me, "I like Germany so much, I think there should be two of them!"
Klaus Scharioth:
We will never forget the essential role you played, as we won't forget the Marshall Plan, we won't forget the Berlin Airlift, or John F. Kennedy's 'Ich bin ein Berliner' or Ronald Reagan's 'Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall, open up this gate.' Mr. President, thank you for what you and the American people have done for us and for being our guests of honor tonight.
October 6 has been German-American Day for 20 years. In part of this year's proclamation, President George W. Bush encouraged "all Americans to celebrate our Nation's German heritage and the many ways German Americans have enriched and strengthened our country." Ambassador Scharioth said in his message of greetings:
America will commemorate its 400th anniversary in 2007, when the first settlement was established along the banks of the James River. The first Germans who arrived in Jamestown in 1608 were among the earliest settlers. During the year, we will also look back on 400 years of transatlantic relations, mutual enrichment, and shared experiences across the Atlantic. Truly a time to celebrate! I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those German-Americans who work so hard to preserve our German heritage, culture, and language in the United States.
The 60th anniversary of the Speech of Hope was celebrated on October 4, 2006 and Henry Kissinger represented the United States. (About Kissinger's influence on the current White House see the Atlantic Review's post on Bob Woodward's latest book.) I have not found an English source about that event. However, the Atlantic Review explained the background and importance of the speech by Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, who gave hope at a time of even greater uncertainty than 1990.