The American Option
Editorial of The New York Sun | February 24, 2014
It’s one of the most consarned things we’ve ever seen. The revolution in Ukraine is being levied by a citizenry desperate to move out of the orbit of Russia and to become part of the European Union. Yet on the other side of Europe a movement is building for Great Britain to exit the Europe Union and return to English ideas of liberty. Why in the name of George Washington isn’t any American leader — the President, the Secretary of State, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the leader of the opposition — why isn’t someone making the case for an American option?
SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP: Advising Britain to join a hostile European Union isn't the only option for American policy, and why need it be for Ukraine, either? Above is the face of the Jay Treaty that framed relations between America and Britain.
These columns have been banging on this drum for years now, most recently in May, when we read a headline in the London Financial Times that said: “Obama warns Cameron that Britain would lose influence in the US if it pulls out of EU.” Mr. Obama was then publicly advising Prime Minister Cameron to try to “fix what’s broken” in the European Union rather than pull out. That amounted, we noted in our editorial, to an intervention by Mr. Obama into Britain’s domestic political situation.
That was a reference to the United Kingdom Independence Party that has been challenging Mr. Cameron’s government over Europe. The party forced Mr. Cameron to promise, in January 2013, that if the Conservatives won the next election, a referendum would be held on whether Britain should stay in the European Union. The next election is now little more than a year off, so the question gets hotter, particularly since almost every poll taken in the past year has found more people favored a British exit, or “Brixit,” as it has come to be known. Just the other week the Guardian described the referendum with the word “time bomb.”
Why should it be America’s policy to oppose this? Why should the maundering socialists of Europe be the only option for countries ambitious of freedom? Has America no longer anything — no combination of trade relationships, common language, shared heritage of liberty — to offer in the way of a new pact cementing the special relationship? Can we not think of a way to invite into such a pact other countries who share our values, maybe someday even a free Ukraine that has been tested by time and revolution?
This idea has been met with some derision by our friend Conrad Black, a critic we greatly respect. He is the author of biographies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Richard Nixon and a strategic history of America. He is a member of the Lords, to boot. The idea that in the Era of Obama, with America in retreat and with our economy hobbled by a dysfunctional system of justice and a hectoring intelligentsia . . . well, let us just say that Lord Black thinks the American idea as it is now practiced would be a hard sell in Europe.
For our part, we would respond that it’s a question of leadership. Right now, our president is being urged on nearly every quarter to make threats and bluster in respect of Kiev that he has no intention of keeping. He’s like an “oh, dear” in the headlights. He couldn’t even raise a political mandate for an attack on Syria in the midst of its massacre of its own people. How is he going to make a credible threat in the back yard of the Kremlin? The Republicans themselves are hobbled by a rift between the neo-conservative heroes of the Cold War and the libertarian wing that is wary of war and expeditions.
Well, here is an opportunity for both of them. While the Democrats wage their campaign to reduce the Army of the United States to pre-World War II levels, let us engage with the ideas of liberty. Surely something can be put together that is better for the aspiring Ukrainians than the dirigisme of Brussels. Surely the Britons who are polling so consistently that they want out of the trap of the European Union need not be met with opposition from the White House. Surely America can find something to offer other than hollow threats or paeans to retreat. We’d like to think it’s a job that could unite such champions as Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, and Paul Gigot.