RELEASE OF THE LOCKERBIE BOMBER &
DEATH OF THE ANGLO-AMERICAN ALLIANCE
By Dr. Michael Rubin
Even though he was sentenced to life in prison, he served just over 11 days for each of the 270 men, women, and children killed on the ill-fated airliner, or in the village below.
Two weeks later, the political storm is worsening.
Documents show that what the British government said was a compassionate release for a cancer-stricken man had more to do with British commercial interests.
The diplomatic fallout will be even greater.
Not only did Libyan celebrations destroy the goodwill which Prime Minister Gordon Brown hoped would jump-start Anglo-Libyan relations, but his clumsy and transparent attempt to substitute an oil contract for justice has shredded the seven-decade U.S.A.-U.K. Special Relationship beyond repair.
The Special Relationship developed in the face of tyranny -- first Nazi, then Soviet -- which led Americans and Brits alike to treasure liberty and freedom and no longer take constitutional democracy for granted.
U.S. and Britain's interests are never identical, but petty politics took a backseat to principle and broader strategic interests.
Debate in Washington, D.C., about how to respond to Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait ended when British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher telephoned U.S. President George H.W. Bush to tell him that it was no time "to go wobbly."
Sacrificing allies for oil did not cross either leader's mind. In the wake of 9/11, President George W. Bush declared to a Joint Session of Congress, "America has no truer friend than Great Britain."
Alas, today it is clear that Bush was wrong.
The Special Relationship was a compact not between countries, but between generations. As the "Greatest Generation," which liberated Europe retired and began to die, appreciation for Anglo-American solidarity wore away.
The trust upon which the relationship was grounded eroded as British officials -- former Labor Minister Clare Short, for example -- exposed sensitive espionage operations for political gain.
Partnerships take investment. Because public pacifism undercuts British support for its own military, Washington can no longer count on London to pull its own weight.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's campaign video, replete with captured British soldiers waving the Iranian flag, resonates. Whatever spin British politicians put on their military's "softly-softly" approach in southern Iraq, it was a failure.
Accommodating extremists for shortterm gain backfires. It is not the stuff upon which serious alliances are built. As fighting toughens, the Pentagon worries about Britain's commitment in Afghanistan.
Washington is not blameless. President Barack Obama's gifts to British officials -- DVD collections and iPods loaded with his speeches -- lacked tact. His return of a bust of Winston Churchill, loaned to the White House after 9/11, was an unnecessary slap.
The Anglo-American alliance was always made of tough enough stuff to withstand errors of etiquette. Not even the most committed Anglophile, however, can save the alliance when British politicians are willing to subordinate principle to the highest bidder.
Britain -- The United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland:
Mother Country & Close Ally of the United States of America
The Anglosphere -- The English-Speaking World:
The U.S.A., Britain, Canada, Australia, & New Zealand
Dr. Michael Rubin, a Ph.D. in History (Yale University, 1999) and a specialist in Middle Eastern politics, Islamic culture and Islamist ideology, is a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly, a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School, and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Dr Rubin is author of Into the Shadows: Radical Vigilantes in Khatami's Iran (Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2001) and is co-author, with Dr. Patrick Clawson, of Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005). Dr. Rubin served as political advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad (2003-2004); staff advisor on Iran and Iraq in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense (2002-2004); visiting lecturer in the Departments of History and International Relations at Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2001-2002); visiting lecturer at the Universities of Sulaymani, Salahuddin, and Duhok in Iraqi Kurdistan (2000-2001); Soref Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (1999-2000); and visiting lecturer in the Department of History at Yale University (1999-2000). He has been a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, the Leonard Davis Institute at Hebrew University, and the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs.
The foregoing article by Dr. Rubin was originally published in the New York Daily News, September 2, 2009, and can be found on the Internet website maintained by the Middle East Forum, a foreign policy think tank which seeks to define and promote American interests in the Middle East, defining U.S. interests to include fighting radical Islam, working for Palestinian Arab acceptance of the State of Israel, improving the management of U.S. efforts to promote constitutional democracy in the Middle East, reducing America's energy dependence on the Middle East, more robustly asserting U.S. interests vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia, and countering the Iranian threat. (Article URL: http://www.meforum.org/article/2456/ british-government-lockerbie-bomber)
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