Last week, you couldn’t turn on the television or get on the web without being subjected to some sort of coverage of the royal wedding. It was truly a global phenomenon, and the American fascination with it was remarkable. What other event would prompt 22.8 million viewers across the country to wake up at an ungodly hour to witness an event taking place thousands of miles away? (Worldwide viewership is estimated at a staggering 2 billion, reportedly making the ceremony the most-watched event in history.)
In addition to the media frenzy, there was much consternation and speculation about the deliberate omission of Barack and Michelle Obama from the guest list for the wedding. Explanations for the snub ranged from the fact that the wedding was not a state occasion to possible security concerns. But I can’t help but wonder if the reason for not inviting the Obamas runs much deeper than those reasons. After all, Barack Obama has presided over a stunning and shameful deterioration of the “special relationship” between the United States and the United Kingdom.
“Special relationship” is the term often used to describe American-British relations. Winston Churchill used it frequently, though the term itself goes back to the 19th century. The phrase is a tip of the hat to our nations’ shared heritage and intertwined history, as well as a nod to the unique military, diplomatic, and economic alliance between the two countries. From the World Wars to the Reagan-Thatcher friendship, to Britain’s support of the War on Terror, the “special relationship” has been an obvious one.
Unfortunately, President Obama has done severe damage to the “special relationship.” A series of gaffes in diplomacy and protocol on the part of both Barack and Michelle Obama have strained the bond between the US and Britain:
Obama has been criticized by some for not embracing the ‘special relationship’ that has existed between the U.S. and Britain since the Second World War. Shortly after he arrived in the White House, the president presented Queen Elizabeth with an iPod and then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown with a bundle of American DVDs that would not work on British players. He also returned a bust of Winston Churchill that had stood in President George W. Bush’s Oval Office.
Last year, Mrs. Obama also touched the back of Queen Elizabeth’s back which, as White House watcher Keith Koffler notes, is considered a major breach of protocol when dealing with the royals.
The Obama administration has strained the US-British friendship with a series of political moves as well. In 2010, the administration, led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, refused to acknowledge British sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, a territory that has been a source of tension between the UK and Argentina for years.
During the oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico last summer, many Britons were offended by the Obama’s continual references to “British Petroleum,” in spite of the fact that BP is a truly international corporation that hasn’t called itself “British Petroleum” in ages. And this year, those upstanding folks at Wikileaks released evidence that the United States shared with Russia secrets about Britain’s nuclear capability.