The French have a saying that sums up the foreign policy of the United States: «Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose» – «the more things change, the more they stay the same». Nothing exemplified America’s enthusiasm for the status quo more than President Obama’s appearance at a news conference alongside British Prime Minister David Cameron prior to the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day held the next day in France. In answer to a question about Scotland remaining in the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom remaining in the European Union, Obama demonstrated his advocacy for «no change» by rejecting Scotland’s «Yes» campaign for independence in a September referendum and the recently victorious UK Independence Party’s (UKIP) vow to withdraw the UK from the European Union…
Obama shocked Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and his Scottish National Party government by stating «the United Kingdom has been an extraordinary partner to us. From the outside at least, it looks like things have worked pretty well». Obama appears not to have understood that Salmond was to join him and other world leaders on the beach of Normandy for the D-Day observances. So, while the world was talking about Obama’s awkward meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, no one paid attention to Obama’s equally awkward encounter with Salmond, whose long independence struggle Obama completely trashed in Brussels.
For many who have followed Obama’s entourage of foreign policy advisers, the U.S. president’s rejection of Scottish independence came as no surprise. The previous year, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who serves as an ex-officio adviser to Obama on foreign policy matters, stated, in reference to Scotland’s independence referendum, that «fragmentation does not help» either the EU or the U.S. Ironically, Albright was the American foreign policy matron who presided over the fragmentation, as she calls it, of Yugoslavia into seven separate countries, some not able to function on their own without being virtual protectorates of NATO and the EU.
Obama’s involvement with the anti-independence forces in England and Scotland coincided with polls that show the gap between pro- and anti-independence forces a few months before the referendum was narrowing. While the anti-independence British Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, and Labor hailed Obama’s intervention in the delicate relationship between London and Edinburgh, not every Labor official was happy with Obama’s snub of Scotland. Lord Malloch-Brown, who served in the Labor government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, warned of anger from Scots who would resent Obama’s interference in their political affairs. Moreover, the current and former U.S. ambassadors to London have warned Washington to stay neutral in the debate over Scotland’s independence. However, Obama, who is notorious for ignoring the advice of his seasoned and experienced foreign policy, military, and intelligence advisers, decided to throw caution to the wind and trumpet Cameron’s call for Scotland to remain in a very unequal relationship with a neo-colonialist mindset England.
Some Scottish supporters of independence were not so diplomatic in their reaction to Obama’s statement. Some Scots sent out tweets telling Obama to «kindly f*** off,» «shut up» and pay attention to the «mental asylum» known as the United States.
Obama’s only interest in Scotland is seeing to it that Britain’s nuclear submarines continue to be based in Scotland and that nothing upsets the Anglo-American intelligence relationship that has seen the two nation’s signals intelligence agencies jointly sweep up trillions of phone calls, emails, and other communications around the world. The national security myopia suffered by Obama does not permit him to see beyond the policy doctrines drawn up by the neo-cons who continue to infest his administration.
Obama’s message to not only Scotland but the rest of the world was loud and clear. Countries were to leave international supranational organizations at the risk of becoming enemies of the United States and secessionist movements could face a whole range of American retribution: from punishing economic sanctions as seen with Crimea’s decision to leave Ukraine and rejoin Russia, or with drone strikes hitting wedding and funeral parties, as seen with covert U.S. Special Operations directed against South Yemen’s attempt to restore its once proud independence.
Likewise, Obama, seemingly ignorant of the anti-EU vote in recent elections for the European Parliament, including the first-place finish in the Britain for the UKIP, said he prefers Britain to remain within the 28-member European Union, the will of the British electorate be damned.
Behind the scenes, it was clear why Obama chastised the Scottish National Party government of Scotland and the UKIP. Their leaders, Salmond and Nigel Farage, respectively, have voiced admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Their statements of support for Putin echo those of victorious French National Front leader Marine Le Pen. It is clear that Obama has some sort of personal animosity toward Putin, perhaps a result of Obama’s own «manhood» issues in comparison with the well-publicized machismo of Putin. At any rate, praise by any leader for Putin results in Obama criticizing some aspect of that leader’s policies, whether it be Scottish independence or opposition to continued British or French membership in the EU.
Because outgoing Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai criticized Obama’s drone and other military attacks against civilians in his country, Obama did not even pay Karzai a visit during the American president’s visit to Afghanistan. The two leaders, supposed allies, have barely been on speaking terms. Obama has been known to engage in «hissy fits» based on even minor criticisms of his policies or leadership. A number of world leaders understand the quirks associated with Obama, including his insistence on undiplomatically calling leaders by their first names – «David,» «Angela,» «Francois,» «Shinzo,» etc. — during joint news conferences. Many leaders would rather avoid having to deal with Obama professionally or socially.
Last March, Forbes magazine ranked the 50 greatest world leaders. No where on the list was found Barack Obama. The first rank went to Pope Francis I, second to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with former Irish President Mary Robinson, Indonesian presidential hopeful and Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo, and Barcelona Mayor Xavier Trias all placing in the top fifty among political leaders. Trias is a member of the major Catalonian separatist party and with the slight of placing him and Widodo, the governor of Obama’s boyhood hometown of Jakarta, in the top 50 of world leaders over Obama, Trias and Widodo have likely ended up on Obama’s ignore list, along with Salmond, Farage, and Le Pen.
Obama’s continued political immaturity after well over five years in the White House has become a liability for the United States in all facets of foreign, military, and intelligence policy. Obama is more than willing to allow his personal inadequacies to mar his relationships with such important leaders as Putin, President Xi Jinping of China, President Hafez al-Assad of Syria, President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, and President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, among others. In February 2014, a Gallup poll showed that a majority of Americans for the first time believed that Obama was not respected on the world stage. A number of world leaders did not require an American poll to tell them that Obama is a lightweight when it comes to statecraft and world leadership.