Find the rant I did on MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan show here: http://on.msnbc.com/q9QA4O
And here’s the full text:
Obama’s foreign policy during the events of the Arab Spring has often been labeled “leading from behind”. It has been criticized by many – Romney has stated that “America is seen as being weak”.
Not this time. After decades of debatable American foreign policy decisions, this new “Obama doctrine” is looking like a stellar one.
America has a bit of a history of “leading from behind”. The US went through a long phase of isolationism over the past century. World War One began in 1914 but the US didn’t join until 1917.
My small island of the UK was on its knees after two years of World War Two, before America finally entered the fray in December 1941 and saved the day. World War Two of course altered the political alignment and social structure of the world. Europe had stitched itself up and America rose to dominance, its isolationism at an end.
There started the phase of America leading from the front. Safeguarding a grateful free world was not without controversy. Korea, Vietnam, Iraq – and the rest.
Obama’s incarnation of “leading from behind” isn’t about abandoning American leadership or a return to isolationism. It’s about policy that’s not utterly self-defeating.
Facing facts, pursuing American interests now requires a bit of subtlety as unfortunately the U.S. is reviled in many parts of the world. A massive show of leading from the front is just going to hand out the anti-imperialist and anti-American PR card to dictators, whose first resort is always to blame foreign intervention as cynical neo colonialism.
No system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other. A people have to own their own revolution. The images of the rebels stomping on the head of a Gaddafi statue inside his Tripoli compound, will play far better in Libya and across the Arab world, than the pictures from 2003 of US Marines pulling down a statue of Saddam Hussein with an American flag draped over his head.
I don’t recall seeing footage of a single burning of an American flag during the recent mass protests and revolts across the Arab world. America leading from behind has enabled the region to regain pride in itself, to embrace human rights not as western ideals but as global ideals that belong to them too. This defangs the narrative of radical Islam.
And make no mistake. That is a major victory for America. It makes America stronger.
Below is the full text of my remarks on MSNBC today about the Lockerbie bombing and the appearance is here: http://on.msnbc.com/nQWxEc
It has been repeatedly asserted that the release of the only convicted Lockerbie bomber, Megrahi, has done more to damage British relations with the American general public than anything since the 1956 Suez Crisis.
Scotland has a separate legal system to the rest of the UK and Megrahi was tried under Scottish law in the Netherlands. He was convicted of 270 counts of murder for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103. The victims included 189 Americans and 43 British citizens.
Megrahi was released by the Scottish to Libya in 2009 on compassionate grounds, supposedly with three months to live. The Scottish obviously made an extremely bad judgment call. Two years later and Megrahi is still alive in Tripoli. Albeit according to the reporter who recently discovered him, appearing to be “at death’s door”.
I would like to take this opportunity to perhaps reiterate to America that there was an utter outcry throughout Britain about Megrahi’s release, not least from our current Prime Minister David Cameron, who was not in power at the time.
Gaddafi’s regime was by no means Britain’s Best Friend. Lockerbie remains the UK’s biggest terrorist atrocity. In 1984 a British police officer, Yvonne Fletcher, was shot and killed while policing a protest outside the Libyan embassy. The diplomats responsible within invoked diplomatic immunity and escaped. The Libyans used to supply arms to the IRA.
So Megrahi’s release was greeted with much disgust in the UK. Those responsible for allowing him to return to Libya continue to claim that it was solely a Scottish legal decision and that there was no conspiracy involved.
That hasn’t stopped some, such as former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, from claiming that Megrahi’s release was for British oil interests. Would the Scots really be manipulated by the English for oil?
Knowing the Scots, I’d venture not. But I will also say this. If you buy into the conspiracy theory that the Megrahi release wasn’t a Scottish legal decision and instead the “British government” made it – I can’t see how the UK, which has beenaccurately described in recent years as America’s “poodle”, would have made the call without the tacit approval of the US government. Blair supposedly had the Bush administration’s when he met with Gaddafi in 2004.
Truth will out in the end. There will eventually be the release of the British, Scottish and American governments classified documents. In the near term the fall of the Gaddafi regime may finally reveal some new evidence. Megrahi’s conviction has been repeatedly called into question and there are undoubtedly other perpetrators of the Lockerbie tragedy still at large.
The Scottish investigation into the bombing has remained open. The British people stand with their American counterparts demanding that the Lockerbie victims’ families and loved ones get the answers they deserve.
There have been some fascinating pieces written about the riots that have been afflicting the UK of late – and published by papers that you would not automatically assume would take such a stance. Thus their impact is possibly all the more powerful.
Two pieces in the Telegraph have really caught my eye. One by Mary Riddell, writing quite brilliantly on inequality: http://tgr.ph/oCFEE3. The other is written by Cristina Odone, on how “immigrants love this country more than we do”: http://tgr.ph/mVZ5r4.
History will reveal whether we learn from this dark episode or not, but such perspectives are a starting point.
There seems to have been some mutterings in the blogosphere about a segment I did on MSNBC this afternoon.
Reuters Editor Chrystia Freeland, who spoke after me, directly linked David Cameron’s radical austerity program for the UK riots.
I was unable to respond on air – but I made my thoughts clear on this yesterday, in my blog below. I disagree with her on this point – but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a problem in the UK, mirrored in the US, of social and economic inequality that must be addressed.
I am a born and bred Londoner. Apart from three years at university and a move across the Pond last year, I’ve spent my whole life living, working and loving in the City. It will always be my home – it contains the vast majority of my family and friends. Many of the latter live in the areas affected by the riots we’ve seen over the past few days.
What has happened? Less than four months ago #proudtobeBritish was trending on Twitter. Londoners were looking at each other after the Royal Wedding thinking, we had a million people on the Mall, peacefully – we might just pull off the Olympics. But over the past few days, social networking has been used to anti-social ends. The trending topic #prayforLondon appeared as London burned.
These riots are not us Brits as a whole. Overnight, another trending topic appeared, #riotcleanup. Here are a few of the Tweets I’ve read over the past 24 hours from Londoners:
“The Middle East youth rise up for basic human freedoms. The youth of London rise up for trainers and flat screens. Disgusted.”
“16000 police on the streets. These thugs are a minority. There are far more law-abiding citizens. Maybe we need to all stand together…”
“Let’s get one thing straight: these people aren’t ‘protesting’, they are thieving and destroying.”
“How Twitter is helping clean up the aftermath of the London riot [link].
Some politicians have been quick to point the blame for the unrest at the cuts that were put in place by the Coalition since they took office in May 2010. The policy of deficit reduction that has meant that the UK retained the “Triple A” rating, which the USA has just lost from one ratings agency, S&P. I’ve spent the past few days commentating on America’s reaction to this dent in its pride and its portfolios. “Will this cause a double dip?” is now one of the many questions on peoples’ lips. Multiple criticisms within the US have been made of S&P, while other Americans have tried to take an approach more akin to the Benjamin Franklin maxim: “Our critics are our friends, they show us our faults”
Churchill once said: “The British nation is unique in this respect: they are the only people who like to be told how bad things are, who like to be told the worst”. We then face the issue and deal with it. We did with our finances. We must with the unrest that we have seen. It may be mindless and criminal but there are absolutely endemic, systemic problems in sections of British society. They did not spring up overnight – or in little over a year. Discussions along the lines of Camilla Batmanghelidjh’s thoughts in today’s Independent [link] need to occur. Communities rebuilt, lessons learned – and money found if needed in a balanced, responsible way. Another tweet: “If society turns a blind eye to the creation of a generation of young with nothing to lose, it risks losing everything.”
London is resilient. London will rebuild. It has burned before and come back stronger and greater than ever. From the anti-Catholic Gordon riots of 1780, where more than 280 died as half the City was set ablaze in four days of violence, to the unrest of the 1980s.
We will move forward and I look forward to a glorious Olympics next year. (And I’m sure Team USA will dominate, never fear America… I’d take you over the Eurozone. But that’s another story.)
With the debt limit debate, Washington has recently taken on a new level of dysfunction. The Federal Aviation Administration’s impasse brilliantly illustrates how ridiculous the situation now is.
As I understand it, the argument between Republicans and Democrats stems from a $200 Million a year subsidy to 13 rural airports.
By the politicians not reaching an agreement and going off on vacation, the shutdown is costing the federal government around $200 Million per week in passenger ticket taxes that can no longer be collected.
You read that right. The money that the politicians are arguing over has already been lost. This is how pointless the debate is.
The US could lose upwards of $1 billion in all of this. Take away the “window dressing” figure of $2.1 trillion in cuts that the recent debt deal apparently achieved. Short term, over the next two years, we’re talking around $20 billion in cuts. And a Congress, so apparently worried about deficit reduction, is currently on its way to wasting a billion dollars.
The same Congress that tells us it is so worried about jobs. 4000 FAA employees are currently on a leave of absence due to the partial shutdown, while 70,000 construction workers have been laid off in the middle of construction season.
It is not as if the FAA is not vital – there is the small matter of airline safety, as written about in the Daily Beast today [link].
America is a great country. Americans deserve more than having to vote in 2012 for the politician and the party that has irritated them the least.