British Prime Minister David Cameron visited the White House for the first time as Prime Minister yesterday. At a time when the United States is engaged in a war in Afghanistan, when Iran is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons, and while the world economy is teetering through a weak recovery, one would hope our press corps would focus on lasting issues of physical and economic security. Unfortunately the press conference and the media coverage focused exclusively on the Scottish government’s release of the 1988 Lockerbie bomber and whether BP was involved in the decision.
As leader of the opposition party in Britain at the time, Cameron objected to the terrorist’s release when it happened. As Cameron said yesterday, there is “violent agreement” between President Barack Obama on the issue, adding: “It was the biggest murder in British history, and there was no business letting him out of prison.” Unfortunately Cameron parroted President Obama on another key issue as well, telling BBC News about Afghanistan: “People in Britain should understand we’re not going to be there in five years’ time, in 2015, with combat troops or large numbers because I think it’s important to give people an end date by which we won’t be continuing in that way.” This echoes President Obama’s mistaken decision to identify July 2011 as the beginning of U.S. withdrawal from the region. As long as we are being frank, we ought to acknowledge that the biggest problem with the presidents entire strategy was setting that artificial timeline for withdrawal. That led our military leaders to question the strategy in Afghanistan and put tremendous, unnecessary pressure on our armed forces to accomplish the task at hand, and gave a psychological advantage to the Taliban who will convince their recruits that the American will is lacking and thus they can just wait us out.
As U.K. Defence Secretary Liam Fox recently put it in a major speech at the Heritage Foundation, an early departure from Afghanistan “would be a shot in the arm to jihadists everywhere, re-energizing violent radical and extreme Islamism. It would send the signal that we did not have the moral resolve and political fortitude to see through what we ourselves have described as a national security imperative To leave before the job is finished would leave us less safe and less secure. Our resolve would be called into question, our cohesion weakened, and the Alliance undermined. It would be a betrayal of all the sacrifices made by our armed forces in life and limb.”
At least Cameron is still taking a hard line on government spending and deficit reduction. A position in direct opposition to President Obama’s call on all G20 nations to spend themselves further into debt. Instead of pushing for a fifth round of deficit spending like the Obama administration has done, U.K. Chancellor George Osborne has identified 85 billion pounds’ worth of budget savings and cuts.
The world needs robust U.S.- British leadership, which has been strikingly absent in recent years. But from the lack of U.S. ratification for the U.S.-U.K. Defense Trade Cooperaton Treaty to the Obama administration’s slap in the face on the Falkland Islands, the once “special relationship” between our two nations has faltered under the Obama administration. Britain — not China — is the largest foreign investor in the U.S. economy, and the U.S. is the largest investor in Britain’s. There are three times more U.S.-owned firms in Britain than there are in any other European country. The ties go on and on: From tourism to defense procurement to intelligence sharing, the U.S. and Britain are the best partners in the world. The British government should cooperate fully with any Congressional investigation into BP’s role in the Lockerbie decision, because there is so much more that our countries can do together.