and why he needs us…
Should he be invited on a State Visit? Yes. Should he be invited to address the Houses of Parliament? Yes.
Why? Because it would be self-defeating and hypocritical to do otherwise.
The voices calling for the invitation to the American President to come on a state visit to the UK to be rescinded seem unaware of the harm they would cause not only to British/American relations, and therefore the economy, but also potentially to international stability.
The invitation is not merely to one person; it is to the person who represents the UK’s closest ally. The U.S electoral system elected Donald Trump and, like it or not, that is who the British will have to do business with.
Given the personality of the current inhabitant of the White House it is quite possible that the public humiliation of being ‘uninvited’ would result in difficult relations especially on the issue the British need more than anything in the near future – a trade deal.
Is that ‘kowtowing’ to a fascist? No. Firstly the American president is many things, but a fascist is not one of them. Secondly, the British authorities invite all sorts of unsavoury leaders on state visits without infuriating so many people. Singling out this one is selective outrage.
It is to be expected that the usual self-hating westerners will put virtue signalling before grown up diplomacy, but on this occasion, they have been joined by people who are normally more sanguine.
Consider that under President Obama deportations of illegal immigrants from the USA rose more than 20% compared to the Bush years. Consider that he raised the level of drone attacks to almost industrial levels. Consider that he temporarily banned people from a majority Muslim country from entering the USA. If that was not worth showing outrage about – why is now so different?
I suspect it is because Mr Trump comes across as such an unpleasant buffoon and is part of a continuum in which some strands of liberalism are outraged that opposing views have triumphed at the ballot box. Mr Obama had similar policies but a more plausible manner, easy smile, humour, and likeable personality.
Ah, but back comes the accusation – the new guy’s a fascist! Hardly. He’s right wing, he’s boorish, he’s a misogynist, but the British Queen has met many of them in her time and somehow survived. She’s even met mass murderers without many in the British public feeling the necessity to sign a petition about it. Under Obama the drone strikes killed thousands of people, often in circumstances which human rights activists say were of dubious legality. There were few voices raised in protest at him gaining access to the Palace.
So, let’s examine the record of this new infant ‘fascist’ presidency. As well as the ineptly handled temporary visa ban (which built on an Obama executive order) the new man has also established new ethics ‘to limit the influence of lobbyists and Washington insiders’.
He met with African American community leaders ‘to honor their contribution’ and signed a ‘proclamation honoring February 2017 as Black History Month’.
He oversaw the swearing in of the Secretary of Transportation – Elaine Chao.
He confirmed he will not be repealing President Obama’s legislation defending LGBT rights in the workplace.
These may have been the more palatable acts in a chaotic mean spirited fortnight, but they were not the acts of a fascist.
Now to international stability. The more we turn our backs on a Trump presidency, the more America will turn its back on the world. Obama began the process with his ‘leading from behind’ and wafer thin ‘red lines’ in Syria, but we are now even deeper into an era in which Russia and China are becoming increasingly aggressive, and in which the democratic world is losing confidence in its own abilities.
This is exactly the wrong time to ensure that the American president, who shows alarming and ill-informed tendencies towards isolationism and protectionism, has his fragile, childish ego so publically humiliated that he will refuse to listen even to America’s friends in the Western world.
The stability of the international order is not written in stone. The last century showed us how bad things can get when it breaks down. We have also seen that when America withdraws, a more malign influence usually attempts to fill the vacuum.
Mr Trump gives the impression that he may acknowledge that Russia has a sphere of influence. He shows no signs of being sophisticated enough to understand that from Moscow’s perspective that sphere does not stop at Eastern Ukraine – it continues north west to the Baltic States, south west to the Balkans, and due west to central Europe.
The domestic ideologues he is surrounding himself with in the White House can be expected to have greater influence on him than his more considered and globally minded appointees in the Pentagon and State Department.
This is not the time to shun a man in need of a range of views, and that is not appeasing him, it is attempting to constrain him.
If Bashar Assad can come to Downing Street and Ceausescu can come to Buckingham Palace – so can the president of the United States of America.