- - Wednesday, June 29, 2016


George Bernard Shaw observed that England and America are a common people separated by a common language, and nothing has happened since to change what has made that friendship unique among nations. Now Britain’s decision to escape the European Union, and the pout of the Europeans to make the British pay for what the Brussels technocrats regard as British insolence and ingratitude, will inevitably put a renewed emphasis on the Anglo-American alliance, “the special relationship” that is the envy of every world leader except Barack Obama.

The president, steeped in the left’s religion of anti-colonialism, sometimes has to grit his teeth to be nice to an Englishman, even a prime minister. The Europeans did indeed exploit their colonial acquisitions, sometimes shamelessly and sometimes not, but they accelerated the arrival of certain valuable aspects of modernism to backward and pre-industrial societies struggling to climb out of the 17th century.

Mr. Obama’s attempt to “transform” American foreign policy, like his attempts to transform other aspects of America, has either misfired or collapsed over the last seven-plus years, and his attempt to derail the historic relationship between the United States and Britain has also gone astray. The common language, shared democratic values and shared mutual interests throughout the world have made a working relationship between Washington and London irreplaceable.

The world will survive Brexit. Henry Kissinger, secretary of state for two presidents, writes in The Wall Street Journal, “The cascade of commentary on Britain’s decision to leave institutional Europe has described the epochal event in the vocabulary of calamity. However, the coin of the realm for statesmen is not anguish or recrimination; it should be to transform setback into opportunity.”

President Obama’s skepticism of the special relationship, his buffoonish attempt to influence British voters to vote against leaving the EU, boomeranged, as a more astute president would have expected. The expanding American interests in the post-World War II world sometimes tended to eclipse that relationship.

The changes brought about by Brexit will be profound and long-lasting, and the first among them is likely to be the end of Germany’s attempt to persuade others that the EU must go forward with further political integration, or collapse. Signs are abundant. France, once Germany’s twin partner in European unity, has been transformed and is abandoning the advocacy of economic planning and control by the state, and skepticism under a Socialist government yet.

The British departure, the terms of which will continue to be bargained, means a return to Britain’s robust role as a world economic power. The good sense and good luck that kept Britain out of the EU’s monetary union, now faltering as London feared, means that once again the pound sterling will resume a stronger international character.

The City, as the London economic nerve center is called, has been slowly ceding its traditional role to Frankfurt and Zurich, and now it can be reinvigorated by the British withdrawal, felt through the Middle East oil countries to Hong Kong and beyond. The Japanese will have to decide what to do with their extensive investments in British manufacturing as a base for the EU.

The restoration of the special relationship will proceed under a new president. Despite Mr. Obama’s original policy of encouraging high energy prices, the shale revolution in North America has put a new floor under world energy prices. The producers in the Middle East will inevitably have to cut back their enormously spendthrift policies of the past. The United States might well become the major supplier of energy and energy technology for British development of its resources.

The British decided that autonomy is more important than collaboration with a continental bureaucracy with no appreciation of the values that made Britain what it had been and what it could be again. If the Europeans are wise, as Henry Kissinger observes, they will not treat Britain “as an escapee from prison but as a potential compatriot.”

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