Obama roars in the Brexit den

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL - [Yossi Mekelberg is an As­so­ciate Fel­low at the Mid­dle East and North Africa Pro­gram at the Royal In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs, Chatham House, where he is in­volved with projects and ad­vi­sory work on con­flict res­o­lu­tion, in­clud­ing Track II ne­go­ti­a­tion

the right of the US Pres­i­dent to in­ter­vene in what is os­ten­si­bly a Bri­tish do­mes­tic af­fair, and the wis­dom of his ad­vice it­self.

This crit­i­cism epit­o­mizes the tun­nel vi­sion of those who push for the UK to re­lin­quish its EU mem­ber­ship. The glob­al­i­sa­tion of world af­fairs has passed them by, as much as the fact that the Bri­tish Em­pire ceased to ex­ist more than seventy years ago. The Bri­tish public is en­ti­tled to ig­nore the US ad­min­is­tra­tion’s read­ing of the wide range im­pli­ca­tions of Brexit, but it is important, nev­er­the­less, that the voice of the clos­est of al­lies is heard.

To be sure, it feels at times that Obama has al­ready started writ­ing his mem­oirs while still in the White House. He is set­tling scores and is vent­ing frus­tra­tion with lead­ers and coun­tries, who he per­ceives as hav­ing hin­dered his pres­i­dency.

Tens of thou­sands of graves of Amer­i­can sol­diers in ceme­ter­ies across the con­ti­nent serve as a silent wit­ness to US com­mit­ment to the free­dom and in­tegrity of Europe in two world wars

Nev­er­the­less, Brexit is dif­fer­ent as it pro­vides him al­most a last chance to im­pact a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional is­sue which is con­se­quen­tial to his coun­try and the world. It would be al­most ir­re­spon­si­ble of him not to speak up on such a sig­nif­i­cant is­sue.

More­over, the United States has more than earned its right to ex­press its views on Euro­pean af­fairs. The US earned this right by blood, money and po­lit­i­cal clout.

Tens of thou­sands of graves of Amer­i­can sol­diers in ceme­ter­ies across the con­ti­nent, serve as a silent wit­ness to US com­mit­ment to the free­dom and in­tegrity of Europe in two world wars. The Mar­shall Plan which aided in re­cov­ery af­ter th­ese wars, pro­vided a se­cu­rity um­brella dur­ing the Cold War and as­sisted Europe to sur­vive and pros­per.

Lev­el­ling ac­cu­sa­tions against Obama that he is anti-Bri­tish or a hyp­ocrite is de­risory. Th­ese kind of ac­cu­sa­tions merely sug­gest that the rock star like qual­ity of the US pres­i­dent un­nerves Brexit diehards. Lon­don’s Mayor, Boris John­son’s ar­gu­ment, that since the US is not part of a sim­i­lar union with the en­tire Amer­i­can con­ti­nent it ex­cludes Pres­i­dent Obama from ex­press­ing his opin­ion on the mat­ter; is com­par­ing ap­ples and or­anges. John­son’s re­marks on Obama’s eth­nic back­ground and how it af­fects his po­lit­i­cal judg­ment are dis­taste­ful and have no place in a 21st cen­tury po­lit­i­cal de­bate. Re­gard­less of whether one agrees or dis­agrees with Obama’s views, a warn­ing that the spe­cial re­la­tions be­tween the US and the UK might suf­fer as a re­sult of a Bri­tish exit from the EU, is worth lis­ten­ing too. When the leader of the big­gest econ­omy in the world can­didly ad­vises that by opt­ing to leave the EU, Bri­tain would go to the “back of the queue” for trade deals with the US; it would be a folly to ig­nore such a warn­ing. Those who de­cry Pres­i­dent Obama for in­ter­ven­ing in the Bri­tish ref­er­en­dum to serve US in­ter­ests, fail to un­der­stand the na­ture of the spe­cial re­la­tions with the US, the Pres­i­dent’s job and his call for unity in th­ese un­cer­tain times for world or­der. In his own words, “To­day, we face tests to this or­der – ter­ror­ism and ag­gres­sion; mi­gra­tion and eco­nomic head­winds – chal­lenges that can only be met if the United States and the United King­dom can rely on one an­other, on our spe­cial re­la­tion­ship, and on the part­ner­ships that lead to progress.” The spe­cial re­la­tions have served the in­ter­ests of both coun­tries for many decades. Com­mon in­ter­ests have been in­ter­wo­ven with shared his­tory and val­ues. Mil­i­tary, di­plo­matic, eco­nomic and in­tel­li­gence co­op­er­a­tion, com­bined with a sense that Bri­tain is the US’s most re­li­able link to the Euro­pean Union.

US-UK spe­cial re­la­tions have en­hanced the UK’s po­si­tion in the world since the demise of the em­pire, be­yond its real power. Notwith­stand­ing the EU’s short­com­ings, mem­ber­ship in the Euro­pean Union be­came the pre­text for the in­abil­ity of UK gov­ern­ments, past and present, to pro­vide an­swers to some un­der­ly­ing chal­lenges in the Bri­tish so­ci­ety has been fac­ing.

The po­lit­i­cal tur­moil that we were all thrown into as a re­sult of call­ing this ref­er­en­dum, was more to do with ap­peas­ing some el­e­ments of the Con­ser­va­tive Party and en­abled David Cameron to win the 2015 elec­tions. The worst out­come would be if the UK ends on the mar­gins of Europe, while also badly damaging the spe­cial re­la­tions with the United States. —Cour­tesy: AA

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