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Important: A Fast One On An Ally

June 19, 2009

Diplomacy: Should the U.S. scrap its special relationship with the U.K. to fulfill an ill-considered campaign vow? That’s the trade-off the Obama administration made by secretly foisting terrorists onto Bermuda. It’s wrong.

The British Foreign Office had a right to be angry at the U.S. transfer of four Uighur terrorists from Guantanamo detention to the U.K. colony of Bermuda without its knowledge.

After all, Britain is a sovereign state and, like any nation, has a right to know who’s on its territory. Instead, it got treated like some banana republic. It didn’t learn of the move until after the four Gitmo detainees were set to land on the island.

Britain is our top ally, having a long-term “special relationship” that has been carefully built over 200 years. Seen in this context, the U.S. move is unprecedented and will likely cost the U.S. more than just Britain’s trust.

Any nation pondering an alliance with the U.S. will think twice after seeing how the U.S. treats its best allies when it’s in a pinch.

The root of this pickle is the Obama administration’s ill-considered campaign promise to shut down Guantanamo detention camp, in a bid to win far-left voters unconcerned about terrorism.

If not for that promise, there’d be no such pickle. The president could make an honest reassessment of the promise in light of the absent alternatives but hasn’t.

Instead, he’s now strong-arming an ally against its own interests, something sure to create resentment.

The four Uighurs now sampling the good life on Bermuda are wanted back in China for terrorism. Britain will now get heat from China — and possibly retribution for a problem it didn’t cause.

No doubt, an angry China could reduce its cooperation with the West in the global war on terror. As China sizes up the West’s tough words about fighting terrorism, it sees a spectacle of Uighurs living high on the hog in “free” cottages, splashing around in blue Bermuda waters, savoring butter-pecan ice cream, going bowling, talking of opening a restaurant and looking forward to their new British passports. It’s the wrong message to send to other terrorists.

Obama’s creation of this situation shows considerable contempt for Britain, and seems part of an escalating pattern of slights.

It started around the time a State Department official said there was no special relationship with Britain, and Britain was just one of 180 nations the U.S. has relations with — a view which, by the way, was first propounded publicly in 2006 by a State Department official now accused of being a Cuban spy.

It then spread to insults directed at Prime Minister Gordon Brown, everything from not holding a joint press conference during Brown’s visit to the U.S., to a cheap and useless range of personal gifts. Foisting terrorists onto Britain takes it to a whole new level.

Sure the Obama administration says it’s just trying to shut down Gitmo and has justified its failure to inform the Brits as an effort to protect them from China’s wrath. Well, it hasn’t.

And as far as diplomatic moves go, it wasn’t worth it if the result is that the Britons will question whether they can ever trust us again.

It’s far more likely to raise bells of recognition that Obama seems willing to throw an ally over the side for political advantage at home.

After all, during his campaign, Obama sent an adviser to secretly assure the Canadians he didn’t mean it when he blasted Canada over free trade in public. Instead of affirming Canada’s long-standing friendly ties with the U.S., he used our closest hemispheric ally as a whipping boy. The Canadians didn’t put up with this and made sure that word of double-dealing got out.

It’s likely the British will get wise to this pattern of slights rooted in selfish political expediency and ask if it’s worth it to have this alliance. They’ll ask if America really wants a special alliance with Britain, and adjust their calculations accordingly.

Make no mistake — if that happens, it will reverberate far and wide.

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