Larison does a good job of demolishing Nile Gardner’s delusional systems in Gardiner’s homage to the tea Party as being the saviour of the Special Relationship between American and Britain yesterday. But in full “we’ve written about this before, so we can write about it again” mode, I just wanted to add a further comment on something that Gardiner actually gets right, which is this (my italics):
There is no doubting the fact that the Tea Party movement is primarily focused at present upon domestic policy issues. It is largely driven by intense opposition to Obama’s Big Government agenda, and by a belief in low taxation and reduced government spending, greater individual freedom and limited intrusion by the state. But it is also at its heart a movement that cherishes a belief in American exceptionalism and US leadership, worships the concept of national sovereignty, and is suspicious of supranational institutions such as the United Nations or the European Union that seek to impinge upon America’s ability to act independently. In other words, it stands for almost everything the current US administration does not.
Aside from the fact that Gardiner’s last sentence simply isn’t true, as Larison and others have pointed on numerous occasions, the rest of it is pretty spot on. And here’s the rub. Tea partiers (and a whole raft of other Americans) still do believe in American exceptionalism, and will make little compromise with this notion. Gardiner seems to think this is a good thing. The notion that America has a moral imperative to do what it wants, when it wants to, and whenever it feels like it, is not new—in fact, it’s been a driving factor in American foreign policy for decades, if not more. The alarming thing is that this shows that there still exists a large number of Americans (and British media pundits, apparently) who seem to have learned nothing from the events of the past decade. And it shows a blistering state of denial about the world, and about how America, in bankrupting itself (both financially and morally) by its foreign policy misadventures of the past decade, has deluded itself into increasing irrelevance for much of the world, except as a potential antagonist. And it trivializes the real accomplishments of the American and British governments during this period—when everything receives equal status to the Cold War, then the Cold War, which was a genuine victory achieved after decades of diplomacy and realpolitik, but which is now seen as something equivalent to a fantasy “war on terror,” becomes devalued as a significant accomplishment.
It’s certainly clear that the current British leadership—both Prime Minster David Cameron and Foreign Minister William Hague—are going to some length to avoid some of the more obvious obsequiousness of the Blair government. I have to say I have been pleasantly surprised by Hague in this regard. When Cameron talks about a Special relationship these days, it’s usually about India. And, of course, the Lib Dems, the Conservatives’ governing coalition partners, have long been dubious about the wisdom of too close an alignment with America, which extended to outright opposition to the Iraq invasion. And it’s not clear that the Special Relationship has much place in British hearts these days. For every fawning piece of nonsense like Gardiner’s, there’s usually a counterblast or more from someone like Peter Hitchins (a raging Conservative, as a matter of fact).
There’s no doubt that there are strong relations of all sorts—historical, political, cultural, economic—between the US and Britain, and that these will remain strong over time. But that’s no reason to assume that delusional obeisance–what Gardiner apparently would prefer—is ever going to return. Just as in America, Britain continues to have its citizens who long for an imaginary past. And some of them will always be writing for The Telegraph.