Deep In The Heart Of Texas

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Back to the ‘Heart of the Rio Grande’

Well okay, way down at the southern tip of Texas, a few miles from the Mexican border, to be more precise.

I’m off to Texas to spend the Christmas and New Year celebrations with my American family. Blogging will continue (I hope to resurrect the Postcards from America series started last year and have the chance to write a few more reflective pieces) but will be at a slightly slower tempo, with occasional hiatuses on those days when we are either travelling or making merry.

I am currently seeking recommendations for good places to eat in Austin, Houston and Las Vegas – if you have any inspired ideas, please do get in touch!

Many thanks as always for reading, commenting, cheering and arguing with me here at Semi-Partisan Politics. Stay tuned!

 

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Happy Thanksgiving

O beautiful for glorious tale of liberating strife

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers, as well as everyone in Britain preparing for the Black Friday sales which we seem to have greedily imported without the heartwarming national holiday which precedes them.

Here is James Taylor, performing “America The Beautiful” at the second inauguration of President Barack Obama on January 21, 2013.

And perhaps, at this rather fraught and contentious time, we might all do well to take particular inspiration from the oft-overlooked second verse, too:

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness.
America! America!
God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

 

Thanksgiving Proclamation - Abraham Lincoln

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John McCain, The Man Who Gave Us Sarah Palin, Criticises Brexit

The man who wanted to put Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the American presidency has something to tell us about Brexit

Following swift on the heels of former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton’s welcome words of support for Brexit and the campaign for Britain to reclaim our democracy, Senator John McCain comes charging in to defend the status quo.

From the Times (+):

It is a few weeks before we get Barack Obama’s intervention in the EU referendum debate, but today we get a foretaste of America’s view of Brexit.

John McCain, the US senator defeated by Obama in 2008, has issued a blunt warning after meeting MPs on the Commons defence select committee that the “need for a strong and united Europe is greater than ever”.

Warning that Britain and the US are “confronting the most diverse and complex array of crises since the end of World War II”, McCain claims that “British membership in the EU is a vital contributor to the security and prosperity of Europe and the United States”.

He insists it is a decision for the British people, but notes that “whatever the outcome of the referendum on EU membership, it will send a strong message to Vladimir Putin”.

At least McCain does little to disguise that his view of Brexit is coloured almost entirely by his view of the American national interest, rather than what might be best for America’s strongest and closest ally, or for democracy in general – so in that regard he is slightly better than President Obama, who presumes to lecture the British people on what is best for them.

The Times – which seems to have deliberately ignored Ambassador Bolton’s contradictory intervention in the debate yesterday – goes on to suggest that Brexit supporters might have a difficult time dismissing a decorated war veteran like John McCain, as though a person’s military exploits from close to half a century ago have a direct bearing on their judgement about another country’s internal affairs.

Nonsense. If John McCain’s judgement is a factor at all here, then the failed presidential candidate who selected Sarah Palin to be his vice presidential running mate hasn’t a leg to stand on.

Let’s recall Senator John McCain’s finest hour:

The person I’m about to introduce to you was a union member and is married to a union member, and understands the problems, the hopes and the values of working people; knows what it’s like to worry about mortgage payments and health care, the cost of gasoline and groceries. A standout high school point guard; a concerned citizen who became a member of the PTA; then a city council member, and then a mayor; and now a governor who beat the long odds to win a tough election on a message of reform and public integrity. And, I am especially proud to say in the week we celebrate the anniversary of women’s suffrage, a devoted wife and a mother of five.

She’s not — she’s not from these parts and she’s not from Washington. But when you get to know her, you’re going to be as impressed as I am. She’s got the grit, integrity, good sense and fierce devotion to the common good that is exactly what we need in Washington today. She knows where she comes from and she knows who she works for. She stands up for what’s right, and she doesn’t let anyone tell her to sit down. She’s fought oil companies and party bosses and do-nothing bureaucrats, and anyone who puts their interests before the interests of the people she swore an oath to serve.

She’s exactly who I need, she’s exactly who this country needs, to help me fight — to help me fight the same old Washington politics of me-first and country second.

My friends and fellow Americans, I am very pleased and very privileged to introduce to you the next vice president of the United States — Gov. Sarah Palin of the great state of Alaska.

And this is the person whose advice we should be fawning over when it comes to global security, the future of our democracy and our right to self-determination here in Britain?

We have enough politicians and high profile public figures with calamitous judgement and weak powers of prognostication here in Britain, without importing any more uninformed voices from overseas.

I think you can sit out this round, Senator.

 

European Union - United Kingdom - Britain - Flags

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John Bolton’s Alternative American Position On Brexit

John Bolton - Brexit

Former United States UN ambassador John Bolton provides a refreshingly different – and much more authentically American – position on Brexit to that of the sitting president

In marked contrast to President Obama – who treats his country’s closest ally with utter contempt by urging the British people to accept a continued loss of sovereignty and self-governance which America would never tolerate for herself – there are a number of other, more respectful American public figures who treat British democracy with the respect it deserves.

Some of these individuals not only recognise that the EU referendum is a sovereign decision for the British people alone to make without unwelcome hectoring from the Oval Office, but also appreciate that Brexit is the far better outcome for Britain, America and the world.

One such person is former US ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, who writes in the Telegraph:

President Barack Obama embodies the conventional wisdom, unabashedly supporting continued construction of a European superstate. Obama’s fascination with Brussels, however, reflects his own statist inclinations. His lack of international leadership perfectly mirrors the EU’s timid, ineffective defence of its own interests and values. Of course Obama loves the EU.

Arguing that today’s EU is collectively stronger than a continent of free nation-states misreads history, distorting it through a quasi-theological lens. The EU is less than the sum of its parts. Its politico-military “unity” is purest symbolism. Flags and anthems not only do not embody unity, but instead mask a poisonous, paralysing disarray.

Nor is unity reflected in incessant affirmations of Europe’s economic size, as if it were truly integrated. Indeed, if Europe had single-mindedly pursued a single market, abjuring political abstractions, it could have achieved more economic integration and broader political consensus together, rather than getting wrapped around the axle of “ever closer union”. And just as symbolic gestures do not ensure unity, reversing those symbolic gestures does not forestall Britain’s ongoing descent from representative government into Europe’s bureaucratic oligarchy. David Cameron’s proposed changes to London’s relationship with Brussels in no way addresses, let alone cures, the systemic failures inherent in EU decision-making structures.

Brilliant, stirring stuff. This blog does not often  share common cause with prominent neoconservatives in the model of John Bolton, but in this case he is absolutely correct. The point about Europe being less than the sum of its parts is particularly astute and counters the lazy (and never supported) trope that the EU amplifies our economic, military and diplomatic output, when in fact the European Union does no such thing.

The EU is far from a single, integrated economy – as John Bolton goes on to argue, the single-minded obsession with forging a political union has in many ways actually detracted from the creation of a true single market, such as could ever exist in a continent with such diverse cultures and no common language. Therefore, if we vote for Brexit, Britain will not be leaving some dynamic and prosperous unified economy – we will be leaving a political bloc dominated by an ill-fated currency union which imposes utter economic misery on the south and imposes financial obligations in the form of necessary transfer payments with the northern countries are unwilling to meet.

Bolton is also absolutely correct when he turns his analysis to the military and diplomatic angle:

America is partially at fault for the EU mirage because Nato, largely a US creation, has been so successful. For decades, sheltering under Washington’s military umbrella, Europe, including Britain, has recklessly shrivelled defence budgets and increased social-welfare expenditures. The results are not pretty. The EU has not only retreated from the world stage, it is becoming incompetent in ensuring security within its own “borders”. Europe’s loss of defence capabilities, as well as will and resolve, are deeply inimical to defending the West against today’s increasing global threats.

[..] If advocates of Britain remaining in the EU haven’t noticed, America’s international commitments are under attack from several populist directions in our ongoing presidential campaign. Some, especially among Democrats, simply do not value national security, preferring to focus on domestic issues, hoping – God forbid – to make America look more like social-democratic Europe. Others, especially among Republicans, think America’s allies have got a free ride, don’t appreciate US efforts, and should be made to fend for themselves. If Britain votes to stay In, this view may prevail across Washington. So be careful what you wish for.

These criticisms are entirely justified. Though Britain does best of the European powers in terms of maintaining any form of credible military, our armed forces have been pared back relentlessly while money is funnelled in an unearned peace dividend toward vote-winning social programmes.

And appallingly, many of the worst cutbacks have taken place under the current supposedly conservative administration of David Cameron, whose government’s disastrous stewardship of defence matters has left Britain with no maritime patrol capability and (far more crucially), no aircraft capability until the two (or possibly just one) new carriers currently being built come into service.

America has traditionally regarded Britain as her most stalwart ally because we have maintained moderate expeditionary capabilities together with the political will to use them where necessary. The political will has clearly ebbed away, as evidenced by the recent debacle with Parliament’s response to the Syrian crisis, and the expeditionary capabilities are gravely imperilled too. The Pentagon has always operated on the assumption that Britain could be relied upon to field an entire division operating independently of American forces in any joint action, but this is now being re-evaluated.

Part of the EU’s problem is that it has pretensions of significance on the world stage which are simply not matched by its willingness to divert money from generous social programmes to pay for them. Our defence is literally being guaranteed by the American working poor, who go without the kind of welfare perks (like working tax credits) and government-provided universal healthcare that we take for granted, in order to fund the American military machine.

Then there is also the issue of duplication. As well as spending far less on defence spending in real terms, the stubborn refusal of EU member states to give up the last vestige of sovereignty by abolishing national armies and contributing to joint European armed services means that there is massive duplication of HQ and some core infrastructure, while not nearly enough of everything else. There are probably enough European generals and admirals to fully man a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, and yet Europe does not possess even one comparable ship (to America’s ten).

In all of these ways, the European Union fails to pull its weight, let alone punch above its own weight, and actively contributes to making Europe far less than the sum of its parts.

As Bolton rightly notes, flags and anthems do not embody unity. And in the European Union’s case, these ostentatious pretensions of statehood only mark the desperation of certain political elites to escape the irritant of accountability to their own electorates and instead dissolve themselves into the unaccountable anonymity of Brussels supranational governance. Or – to see the project in the kindest possible light – they reflect a desperate effort to create a single European demos through sheer force of will, the geopolitical equivalent of “if you build it, they will come”.

But no European demos came, and none is coming. The entire European Union is built on an imaginary foundation and cannot hope to succeed, let alone win the respect and devotion of an informed citizenry.

Ambassador John Bolton gets it. Tragically, Barack Obama does not.

 

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