The British PM speaks on the Special Relationship

 

Mrs. Theresa May, Great Britain’s new Tory Prime Minister, whose self-appointed task is making a new future for her country by leaving the European Union, is now visiting America to meet the majority party and the new president. I have recently given you a summary with reflections on her important Brexit speech of last week, and will offer something similar on her speech of January 26, addressed to the Congressional Republican Retreat in Philadelphia, in advance of her meeting with your president.

The exordium is the important part of this speech. It emphasizes a certain understanding of the Declaration of Independence as “the textbook of freedom” and the signal of America’s destiny “to bear the leadership of the free world.” At the same time, Britain has always been there to help America during the last 100 years. The implication is that there are worldwide historical consequences to the famous theoretical statement of the second paragraph of the Declaration, which Mrs. May paraphrased: “that all are created equal and that all are born free.”

I see in this statement the almost unique lack of interest in foreign affairs, including foreign adventures, of the American people, who are a world unto themselves. The prime minister sees it otherwise. Mrs. May quotes Reagan (the signatories of the Declaration were “56 rank-and-file, ordinary citizens”) and then tries to deduce America from the individual rights perspective of the Declaration and simultaneously to urge all Americans — at least as represented by her immediate audience of national politicians — to concern themselves with the world beyond America. This they would do had they the ambitions of the Founders, who shifted effortlessly in-between private life, holding public office in America, and doing America’s business in Europe, in both private and diplomatic capacities. The Founders are the exemplars of American individualism, but also a limit upon it: once Founded, the country needs no more founding. As John Adams famously said, in a few generations, Americans would be led by prosperity away from political and military concern to commerce and leisure.

This is a bold rhetorical attempt, but bound to fail. America has never matched that interest in European, let alone world affairs, since the Founding era. Americans do insist on being American in a way that separates them from the rest of the world and America’s national politicians are now ignorant of foreign policy, in pious obedience to their people. So Prime Minister May is facing the insurmountable triple burden of bad timing:

  1. With regard to the present, Americans do not wish to involve themselves in the affairs of other nations, and have no experience of such successful involvements, or even of what success might mean. The politicians are not quite the same as the people they represent, but foreign policy did not matter in the recent elections.
  2. With regard to the past, Americans do not know quite what good things they have bestowed on the world in the 20th century and do not have evidence of gratitude beyond the profuse gratitude now professed in this speech, which at the same time is meant to obligate them nobly to continue their striving on behalf of political freedom across the world.
  3. With regard to the future, Americans are too worried and lacking in confidence about their domestic affairs to be able to hope for good things or worry about bad things from abroad. And, too, they lack the trust in Congress and the press that would orient them concerning foreign affairs, had the press and the Congress any intention in doing so.

The rhetoric strategy of the PM is to remind Americans of their historical ties to the world through their British alliance in order to persuade them to believe again in the good they can, and therefore must, do.

Thus, the captatio benevolentiae:

  1. America fought side by side with Britain three times in the 20th century. They were both loyal to each other and victorious, with civilization winning over barbarism every time. But notice that only WWII was a defensive war for America and that neither of the world wars brought America lasting peace through victory.
  2. Moreover, America and Britain together made the post-war world. Out of the capacious mind of FDR, the great politician of the century, an entire system of institutions came forth, like the virgin Athena from the skull of Zeus: the UN, WB, IMF, and NATO–in short, all the institutions of triumphant mid-century liberalism which conservatives have detested in varying, but usually increasing, degrees for two generations. Even NATO is now of dubious worth to the victorious Republicans of 2016.
  3. These institutions need changes now, but are of continued importance. Invoking the city of the Declaration, in the words of Churchill, Mrs. May declares America the perfection and repository of justice and freedom as they developed in Britain. This may justify the Special Relationship, but not world leadership. The PM mentioned that billions of people depend in some way on America. One wonders whether this is of any importance to American politics.

1. The meaning of the elections of 2016

“The value of liberty, the dignity of work, the principles of nationhood, family, economic prudence, patriotism, and putting power in the hands of the people. Principles instilled in me from a young age. Principles my parents taught me in the vicarage in southern England in which I was raised.

And I know it is these principles that you have put at the heart of your plan for government. And your victory in these elections gives you the opportunity to put them at the heart of this new era of American renewal, too.

President Trump’s victory, achieved in defiance of all of the pundits and the polls, and rooted not in the corridors of Washington, but in the hopes and aspirations of working men and women across this land, you’re part of his victory, in both the Congress and the Senate, where you swept all before you, secured with great effort, and achieved with an important message of national renewal.”

Theresa May is not attempting to discuss domestic American politics, which would be somewhat inappropriate, but only to acknowledge the remarkable victories of Mr. Trump and of the GOP, to state that Britain rejoices in American strength and that it is good for the world. At the same time, Mr. Trump’s new view of American foreign policy — America’s allies have to do their part in their own self-interest — is saluted by Mrs. May, partly because she can assure her American audience that Britain already is meeting its Treaty goals, partly because she can boast that she has defended in Parliament Britain’s nuclear deterrent. A tough, no-nonsense attitude to defense is necessary for the British-American Special Relationship. (Mrs. May also introduced yet another one of those quaint differences between American and British English: What Americans call ISIS and Mr. Obama ISIL, Britain calls, in the European fashion, Daesh.)

Mrs. May gave her understanding of the elections of 2016 indirectly, by a statement on Britain: a global and international country in both spirit and action, but insisting on its national sovereignty. This would mean Britain is looking forward to get into the troubles America is looking forward to get out of just now! Mrs. May is proud of the humanitarian and military and intelligence work Britain is doing around the world and committed to the welfare of the working men and women of England by worldwide free trade. That, supposedly, is the meaning of the elections of 2015, which yielded the first Conservative majority in Britain since 1997, when Britain handed over Hong Kong to China, and the referendum of 2016, which committed Britain to Brexit and catapulted Mrs. May into the PM’s office.

That was America in 2016, so far as the liberals led by Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton were concerned! Of course, Mrs. May understands there are changes coming, but she would rather keep America as close to where it was internationally last year. This would require making America a great deal or appealing to American idealism or both.

2. The world is in crisis

We must gather American politicians’ opinions by their applauses and silences. As you will see, the lawmakers in the audience were flattered to be addressed, and flattered, by such a speaker; and eager to show their affection. The American audience obviously was not prepared for the kind of speech a British prime minister gives. Indeed, the applause kept interrupting the speech: My favorite instance was the prime minister’s declaration of the independence and national sovereignty Brexit claims again for Britain. Applause! Then came the end of the sentence, Britain can be even more global! Silence.

Silence also graced Mrs. May’s attempt to sell America on going back to the global system America once built. When she mentioned that the end of the Cold War brought forward no End of History, no New World Order, there was no answer. When she mentioned ancient ethnic-religious strife coming unfrozen, no answer. At the mention of Islamic terrorism, however, the Republicans applauded, again, interrupting. The mention of dangers from Russia & China fell on the ensuing silence. Raucous applause followed the end of that section.

There was also this other kind of applause, the formal, at the end of a paragraph, polite but rather perfunctory in light of the more intelligible interruptions I mention. When Mrs. May declared that the failures of the past — nation-building — are not to be repeated, but the international system of alliances has to be defended there was raucous applause.

Concerning terrorism: killing terrorists is good, it saves lives, but killing the ideology is what removes the threat. Applause again interrupted her. Mrs. May boasted of Britain’s anti-Islamic extremism accomplishments, which I could not name and she did not deign to. The suggestions for fighting terrorism were unimpressive: trying to get a handle on extreme ideology before it comes to violence. Yes, but how? What’s new? What’s working? Also, worrisome: trying to find a diplomatic solution to the horrors in Syria and becoming serious about Iran’s evildoing in Syria.

On Russia, Mrs. May quoted Reagan’s favorite Russian proverb, “trust, but verify.” And again applause interrupted her as she started the next sentence. In this case, one feels she had it coming… She rephrased this quote in the sequel: Engage, but beware, only to be interrupted by applause again going into the next sentence.

Mrs. May mentioned the illegal annexation of Crimea and the need to reassure the next countries to be swallowed up that this will not happen to them, too, while NATO watches helplessly, but nothing was said as to how warlike ambition might be checked. Raucous applause followed the statement.

Mrs. May spoke against Iran’s push toward the Mediterranean, too, and for help to Middle Eastern allies who do not seem much by way of allies, which is just as well, for they do not receive much help, either, and very little public consideration of any kind in either America or Britain. At the same time, she legitimized Mr. Obama’s Iran deal, guaranteeing that Iran has kept up its end of the bargain. This leaves Britain & America to police the agreement in future. Nothing was said about any bad things Iran may have done or be doing with regard to nuclear weaponry. No applause. The only obvious reason for this view of the Middle Eastern situation is an attempt to show the international order of treaties and organizations in its best light, requiring least commitment, or at least worry.

Indeed, Mrs. May then turned to legitimating the international institutions Americans — especially Republicans — dislike, promising that these institutions can be made to serve American and British interests. The UN is supposed to reform under its new Secretary General. How could it stop being a hotbed of anti-American politics? NATO-Europe is supposed to start spending more on defense. These do not seem easily-accomplished goals, nor is it clear what one achieves by them. Putting a good face on the status quo while making it seem like it’s responsive to Mr. Trump’s challenges to it is a very difficult task.

The closing of the section on the world crisis is a promise that the nation state is still the most important institution, legitimating and employing for its enlightened ends the world system. Mrs. May declared both for a more united EU and Brexit for Britain. She declared Britain’s Commonwealth ties and also quoted Churchill again to beautify British-American ties. Finally, applause came.

In regard to British-American relations, she mentioned the British-American trade deal, an early priority of the new administration. Applause. The trade deal is supposed to help the beleaguered working classes. The only laugh-line of the speech came when the prime minister was again interrupted, perhaps one last time, by lonely applause this time, as she mentioned the extent of Britain-Pennsylvania commerce: Somebody from Pennsylvania was there!

The peroration

In closing this rather unpersuasive speech aimed to make the world more attractive and more rewarding an object of political concern and action for America, the prime minister had recourse to a strange modern phrase: The world demands leadership. That seems to be a hopeful way of saying the world is going to hell. Indeed, the context suggests it: the call to renew the special relationship echoed Truman and Churchill’s Cold War alliance, a time of crisis that baffled those who had hoped victory in 1945 would bring peace. The prime minister also mentioned the F-35 fighter as proof of the British-American defense relationship, which must be read as bitter irony due to the technological-advancement-by-bureaucracy that is the F-35.

In the coda, the prime minister referenced to the most outgoing and imperial of America’s presidents when mentioning Teddy Roosevelt’s quote about “the man in the arena.” She attributed it only to “another American president.” She moved on to the safer territory of quoting Reagan with attribution to make the same point, that America must act throughout the world, wherever the liberal commercial order is threatened. She ended with some of Teddy Roosevelt’s lofty strains about striving.

There was raucous applause, even as America withdraws from the world system it created.

There are 32 comments.

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  1. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    With regard to the future, Americans are too worried and lacking in confidence

    I’ve never seen the words American and lacking in confidence together before.

    Ms May and Mr Trump may well be called on to save the world some day.   Let’s hope they’re up to it.

    • #1
  2. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    DocJay (View Comment):
    With regard to the future, Americans are too worried and lacking in confidence

    I’ve never seen the words American and lacking in confidence together before.

    Well, the Seventies had people pretty depressed.

    This is also one reason I’m cautious, but confident about the new administration. It’s made more confident people of a lot of the conservative friends who were saying fearful, worried things last year to me and were letting America-on-TV embitter them too much.

    I’ve not infrequently found myself in the position of reminding my American friends of the great resilience of the American people…

    Ms May and Mr Trump may well be called on to save the world some day. Let’s hope they’re up to it.

    Damn skippy, Doc! From your keyboard to God’s ear! Whatever people think about politics in America, now it’s important that praise and blame of your president be made with a view to helping him do the best he can.

    • #2
  3. Jim Beck Inactive
    Jim Beck
    @JimBeck

    Evening Titus,

    Do you think Trump’s age offers us room for optimism?  In talking to the younger folks in my neighborhood they look upon many of their generation as having the same struggles as all men have had but they get stuck there and do not proceed to work toward a solution.  Trump does not seem to think that a speech or a multi-lateral organization will make a problem go away. In thinking about foreign policies which have failed in the past, it seems that those whose goal is conflict avoidance are most likely to produce conflict.  With Trump it seems we have a leader who does not want to change the world but who also wants to have the most dangerous warriors in the world and will state in plain language his concerns.  He says plainly his relationship with Putin may or may not work out.  Concerning Americans of my age (69), we would be happy with partnerships,  both in trade and in defense.  My contemporaries have thought that many countries have used us as their defender and have contributed little either in real effort or in appreciation of the umbrella we had made for them.  Britain, has been better than most, a great ally, I can not remember a time, especially since Thatcher, when I have heard anyone complain about our relationship with Britain.  Obama has in a way cleared the air, our allies have seen what a world looks like when America steps off stage, Trump is in a interesting position where he can say to Britain, how can we use cooperation to become more secure and stop Putin from dreaming too large.  Trump can also look at NATO and ask if the current structure and commitment will work, I think many countries may up their game and be willing to take their responsibilities more seriously.  Trump/Mattis combination might be strong.  Mattis thinks NATO is essential, Trump would lead but he wants allies to pay their fair share and not take advantage of the US.  Do you think the EU members are nervous enough to work with Trump or are they all going to try to avoid contributing and maybe cut their own deals?  Or have they given up hope?

    • #3
  4. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    DocJay (View Comment):
    Ms May and Mr Trump may well be called on to save the world some day. Let’s hope they’re up to it.

    In a democracy one has a greater duty than just to hope.

    (And tell me true: does either of these worthies seem interested in, or capable of, saving the world?  To be honest, that wasn’t what either of them was elected for. It wasn’t what the people wanted.  Too late.)

    • #4
  5. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    I  love her.

    • #5
  6. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Zafar (View Comment):

    DocJay (View Comment):
    Ms May and Mr Trump may well be called on to save the world some day. Let’s hope they’re up to it.

    In a democracy one has a greater duty than just to hope.

    (And tell me true: does either of these worthies seem interested in, or capable of, saving the world? To be honest, that wasn’t what either of them was elected for. It wasn’t what the people wanted. Too late.)

    Monami, it is against the character of democracy to say, too late. Making the sovereignty of the people work together with what’s reasonable is a never-ending struggle. I think it’s broadly speaking true that confidence comes first to a people, a sense of mission second. Grandeur is a strange burden in a democracy, less of a spur & more of a ignominious sense one should be doing better, feeling happier than one is. That requires political changes & then those changes have to make sense in governance. Always–what’s the alternative…

    • #6
  7. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Titus Techera (View Comment):

    Monami, it is against the character of democracy to say, too late.

    Of course you’re right.  It’s never too late – just very unlikely at this point in time.

    Making the sovereignty of the people work together with what’s reasonable is a never-ending struggle. I think it’s broadly speaking true that confidence comes first to a people, a sense of mission second.

    Also true, but to that add a sense of responsibility.

    Noblesse oblige, but only if a country is cognizant of its own noblesse/luck/position in the world.

    I guess it comes down to how people perceive themselves in the world.

    Grandeur is a strange burden in a democracy, less of a spur & more of a ignominious sense one should be doing better, feeling happier than one is.

    Grandeur comes naturally, imho, from great deeds greatly done – and from nothing else.

    Mind you – great deeds are not always good deeds. (Empires, as a rule….)

    Right now I’d say Russia has a sense of its own grandeur, China has it in spades, even India is starting to feel it.

    I cannot understand why America and Americans feels so powerless in the world that pulling up the drawbridge is the most popular option.

    • #7
  8. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Sure, how a people see themselves is their confidence.

    I don’t think you pay enough attention to how democratic Americans are. This is the source of their world-defying strength, but it is also what saps their confidence–like it did in the Seventies.

    Americans always need leaders, but they do not always allow them to choose which way to lead. This is a problem implicit in free government, combining wisdom with consent.

    Americans have for a long time lived on the moral inspiration of Civil Rights, because that gave them publicly a sense of shame they could act on: MLK shamed white people, divided them against themselves–a part feeling shame at another part–but also intended that shame to remind them of their better half & thus helped Americans come together again. Equality made sense again as freedom for people who had not had it before, but deserved it. Striving for freedom in itself was a sign of just desert.

    The other spring of confidence was the economic success of the Reagan years, which was taken for granted afterward instead of being reinforced & supported with new powers. No American administration after Reagan got the country back into fighting shape really tried to help the worst off or even to reassure those who were not sure they could keep on keeping on. In the W. Bush years, economic growth faltered & this began to reveal what the hope about growth had concealed.

    • #8
  9. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    You could say, America gave Reagan a generation to make the change. There was a lot of success, but also too much failure of the wrong kind. First, growth failed to reach everywhere, so hopelessness began to brew; next, growth failed to foster new powers in the economy–instead, there was the dot com bubble–so the future began to look hopeless; then, Boomers desperate to make their retirement comfortable bet the one thing holy in the American economy, the house. Homeownership as a political ideal throughout the Nineties & Aughts was a sleepwalking attempt to cure a national hysteria. It failed.

    Mr. Obama was situated to give American economic growth & moral confidence–unlike the foolish immorality of the Clinton years–but he failed utterly to realize what it would take to unite the American people. He thought he could browbeat a free people–no doubt, because he had a sense, often enough justified, that he was right. He did not understand that the freedom of a free people looks to them like a question of equality when faced with authorities, especially the government. People felt their equal rights, not their special privileges, under attack. This is what it took to get the immiserated parts of America to a common sentiment with the middle classes of America. This is how white America voted against the Dems in 2016, young & old. It’s not love of Trump–it’s a sense of breach of promise on the equality question.

     

    • #9
  10. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Mr. Obama was not supposed to deliver fabled 4% growth a year; he was not supposed to create technological revolution; nobody expected things to soar after 2008. He faced a nation as sobered as it had been since 1980.

    He failed to give them a sense that they were all in it together. For all the media resources at his disposal, he failed to persuade people that he really had their back. Unforced errors after unforced error told a lot of people who voted for him–fewer of whom voted for him in 2012 & fewer still for Mrs. Clinton in 2016–that he was not going to give them the sense of dignity that in America requires getting everyone together.

    Some constituencies, some groups of Americans were going to get a renewed sense of dignity–but not most. Most people had to either go with it or live with hurt pride. More & more went the wrong way; he showed less & less interest in them.

    Dems cannot govern like the GOP, but they have advantages of their own. It’s hard for them to be believed that they care about business & individual property rights, but they can sell America on big gov’t, if they do it right. Obamacare was supposed to give America the sense of dignity that the NHS gives Britons. But it failed, partly because America’s so different, but partly because Mr. Obama could never work hard enough to make Obamacare a sensational success.

    • #10
  11. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Jim Beck (View Comment):Do you think Trump’s age offers us room for optimism? In talking to the younger folks in my neighborhood they look upon many of their generation as having the same struggles as all men have had but they get stuck there and do not proceed to work toward a solution.

    Hello, sir! I think there may be something to this. He certainly expects to get things done & recalls an age when Americans trusted big things–corporations, unions, government, construction projects, scientific projects…

    Trump does not seem to think that a speech or a multi-lateral organization will make a problem go away. In thinking about foreign policies which have failed in the past, it seems that those whose goal is conflict avoidance are most likely to produce conflict.

    He’s very undiplomatic. He would have to be a fool to trust or oblige his partisan adversaries in every large organization to do with governance. They, at any rate, have very little to recommend them to the American public. He’s got an instinctive American distrust of authority & lack of respect for habit. If the experts had produced proud successes beatified by the man of moral glory, Mr. Obama, things would be different.

    Americans are right to ask themselves, what’s the good that comes from all these alliances & treaties? Partly, politicians have not respected the electorate enough to explain what good things really do come; partly, they used those good things to frustrate the people.

    • #11
  12. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Jim Beck (View Comment):
    With Trump it seems we have a leader who does not want to change the world but who also wants to have the most dangerous warriors in the world and will state in plain language his concerns.

    In this case, he’s going back to basics. He’s defending the uneducated, even vulgar sense of the American people–what kids & soldiers call badass. This does need defending among the few Americans who talk politics publicly. Since 9/11 politicians have failed to produce any national agreement on what the self-defense of America requires. I doubt Mr. Trump will fix this failure, but he did not cause it, & the people really had no better choices. They were asked to trust in more of the Clinton-Obama foreign policy. Why!

    He says plainly his relationship with Putin may or may not work out.

    This is not smart, but it’s at least showing that things are not going to go on the way have before.

    Concerning Americans of my age (69), we would be happy with partnerships, both in trade and in defense.

    Yeah, Americans are mostly not for war.

    My contemporaries have thought that many countries have used us as their defender and have contributed little either in real effort or in appreciation of the umbrella we had made for them.

    Yeah, but at the same time, America became the most prosperous country in history. Here, mutual envy & resentment will tend to separate countries.

    • #12
  13. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Zafar (View Comment):

    DocJay (View Comment):
    Ms May and Mr Trump may well be called on to save the world some day. Let’s hope they’re up to it.

    In a democracy one has a greater duty than just to hope.

    I agree.

    (And tell me true: does either of these worthies seem interested in, or capable of, saving the world? To be honest, that wasn’t what either of them was elected for. It wasn’t what the people wanted. Too late.)

    As you say, I did not vote for the Savior of the World, thank goodness, but rather the President of USA, a much more focused and therefore doable job.

    With human beings, we run into trouble when we mind others’ business and start interfering, invariably to the neglect of our own work.

    If my president keeps his focus on being my president I believe the whole world will benefit. If he starts worrying about his legacy or the world’s opinion, there is chaos as per President Obama. Listening to his interview with David Muir was like a fresh breeze in a stagnant cigar-smoke filled room.

    https://youtu.be/I_jbZzjfTLo?t=19m38s

    • #13
  14. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Jim Beck (View Comment): Britain, has been better than most, a great ally, I can not remember a time, especially since Thatcher, when I have heard anyone complain about our relationship with Britain.

    True.

    Obama has in a way cleared the air, our allies have seen what a world looks like when America steps off stage, Trump is in a interesting position where he can say to Britain, how can we use cooperation to become more secure and stop Putin from dreaming too large.

    Britain is not the anti-Russia mover in Europe or anywhere. I’m not sure Mr. Trump will want to get tough on Russia either. He has more urgent concerns home.

    But the Tories now need Trump’s America to look like a better partner than the EU. This is a great opportunity. I will write on it today. I hope Ricochet will publish this stuff because nobody else is talking about it.

    Trump can also look at NATO and ask if the current structure and commitment will work, I think many countries may up their game and be willing to take their responsibilities more seriously.

    I hope so!

    Trump/Mattis combination might be strong. Mattis thinks NATO is essential, Trump would lead but he wants allies to pay their fair share and not take advantage of the US.

    Yeah, SecDef Mattis will always be able to use the mercurial Trump to get people to get serious with him; so, possibly, SecState Tillerson.

    Europe is clueless.

    • #14
  15. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Folks, vote to recommend this: I’m working on an essay about the need for America to make a great deal with Britain as soon as feasible. I’d like to get some of these things published, share them on the internet, have people who go on the Main Feed see at least some foreign policy commentary!

    • #15
  16. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):

    As you say, I did not vote for the Savior of the World, thank goodness, but rather the President of USA, a much more focused and therefore doable job.

    Perhaps you’re right MT, but the US doesn’t think as small as Switzerland yet – and diminishing your horizons (and a lower assumption of ability and right  to order parts of the world – eg the ME – as you would wish) is part and parcel of the change in focus.

    As the say in France, il faut payer la danseuse.

    • #16
  17. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Americans will want to have their way in world affairs again. The public is not hard to perplex–events do it more than once in a generation. They abandon policy–sometimes their leaders are at fault, sometimes the leaders use their constitutional powers to protect policy from popular perplexity. But when their confidence is restored in domestic affairs, they turn again to moralize with the rest of the world. This is because democracies forget so much.

    I’ll add something. I think Gen. Mattis above all is a man who does not want to see Americans shirk, as TR would have put it. He’s as good a guarantee of American commitments as the world is likely to get any time soon. If other countries understand that, they have a good chance to reorient themselves.

    Diplomacy is a very complicated thing in a democracy. Added to the much that cannot be said openly or publicly is the presumption of openness, transparency, & publicity that democracy demands. So the government needs public support for which it cannot really ask. It must pretend to confidence it cannot possess within reason. It is often tempted to ignore the people or act behind the people’s back, because the attempt to connect events to principle by policy is eminently questionable.  American politicians who talk foreign affairs make such fools of themselves not through their own fault, usually, but because of their position: They play the stentorian moralist despite the natural angry recalcitrance of American freedom

    • #17
  18. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    TT your comments in the OP about the applause of the audience to the PM’s speech are perfect. Great observations.

    • #18
  19. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Thanks, Mama Toad! I tried to bring out what’s going on in the performed speech & tell the story in an attractive way. We don’t do much speech analysis here, but I’m making a contribution! I’m making oratory great again!

     

    • #19
  20. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Or making oratory great fun again, at least!

    • #20
  21. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    So thanks for the support everyone–I’m trying to get these things published in preparation for my next article about how America can restore the Special Relationship.

    • #21
  22. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    Or making oratory great fun again, at least!

    The actual applause kinda made me cringe but you made me smile, then chuckle, then laugh out loud (“Someone here from PA!”). Thanks!

    • #22
  23. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    We don’t do much speech analysis here

    I try to do my part to foster discussion on important oratory as well, but your in-depth analysis is top-notch!

    • #23
  24. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    We don’t do much speech analysis here

    I try to do my part to foster discussion on important oratory as well, but your in-depth analysis is top-notch!

    Debate’s also a step in the right direction. I hope some of that gains a kind of popularity–trying to be a good debater is more about mocking, within the rules, the opponents, less about outrage. There is less enmity & at least some dialogue.

    • #24
  25. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    trying to be a good debater is more about mocking, within the rules, the opponents, less about outrage. There is less enmity & at least some dialogue.

    One of the most powerful moments in the Monk Debate with Steyn and Farage vs Arbour and Schama (aside from Steyn’s magnificent tirade at Schama’s jokes) was when Steyn spoke of Louise Arbour’s own important work on rape as an act of war influencing the way he thinks about this issue.

    • #25
  26. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    trying to be a good debater is more about mocking, within the rules, the opponents, less about outrage. There is less enmity & at least some dialogue.

    One of the most powerful moments in the Monk Debate with Steyn and Farage vs Arbour and Schama (aside from Steyn’s magnificent tirade at Schama’s jokes) was when Steyn spoke of Louise Arbour’s own important work on rape as an act of war influencing the way he thinks about this issue.

    Yes, indeed. I think holding feminists to their principles is step one. I think step two is persuading the people that conservatives really care for human dignity. & then, feminists can choose between joining in the consensus or abandoning their principles publicly.

    • #26
  27. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Zafar (View Comment):
    I cannot understand why America and Americans feels so powerless in the world that pulling up the drawbridge is the most popular option.

    Our political leadership didn’t have the gumption to fight harshly and definitively.

    Our mindless economic policies, including hyper-regulation and anchors like Obamacare, have made the prospect of endless military campaign expenses particularly burdensome. Mattis argued much the same in Peter’s interview — that a sound military policy requires sound economic policy.

    Additionally, millions of American voters cannot recall a time the US was not at war and balk at the suggestion that we have no other option.

    The last might be wishful thinking. But the first and second were practical concerns which have been arguably offset by Trump’s election.

    Unexpectedly, we have a Commander-in-Chief likely willing to hit fast and hard, with none of Powell’s “break it, you own it” sympathies. Democratic government isn’t conducive to prolonged military campaigns divorced from domestic impact. But retaliatory strikes, such as President Bush promised after 9-11, are politically feasible.

    Also, we have a president talking about deregulation, freezing federal hiring, and acting boldly to free American markets.

    The world might find a US more militant than even Republican voters anticipated a year ago.

    • #27
  28. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    FYI: always-interesting MEP Dan Hannan on UK-US trade possibilities:

    • #28
  29. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Yeah, more British-American free trade. What else has he got!

    Britons need to speak more thoughtfully about their British-American relationship now that they hope to escape the clutches of the EU. That’s not as easy to do as the PM’s saying it’s gonna happen. The consequences of it, including small-scale, but real economic war in Europe are worrisome. The better America treats Britain, the better Britain will do in Europe.

    There is precious little said about this–perhaps because British politicians calculate that popular discussion is not good.

    • #29
  30. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Every time May told the congressional conference that Britain was spending money on defense, the conference applauded. Not just free trade, military coordination and strength.

    I think May is hoping the UKUS alliance (better than USUK!) will dominate NATO & bend it to their united bellicose will.

    • #30

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