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6/10/15

Britain: Cameron, the Realist: A Message to America - by Stephan Richter

David Cameron, Britain’s Prime Minister, is increasingly thought of as a wet noodle in Washington. That charge stings, especially when it is raised not just by Republican hawks, but also by the Obama Administration.

In rare bipartisan agreement, Mr. Cameron is seen in the U.S. capital as positioning his country to duck when the going gets tough.

In addition, on strategic business matters Cameron is seen by Washington as coddling up to the Chinese. He not only coldshoulders the American ally by declining to meet with the Dalai Lama, but also by choosing to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. That move occurred against explicit U.S. wishes to stay out of the Chinese-inspired (and likely Chinese-dominated) body.

A senior U.S. administration official even went as far as criticizing the British government for its “constant accommodation of China, which is not the best way to engage a rising power.” Ouch.

With all that in mind, it is high time for a reality check. Yes, some of the charges Washington levels against David Cameron and his government seem on target. By 2020, the British Army is supposed to have a headcount of no more than 82,000 – fewer people than fit into Wembley Stadium for a soccer match. Some say the troop level could go down into the 50,000 range.

His core analysis – that countries need to be more selective about when to engage and where to make a real difference – very much applies to the United States as well.

With one notable difference: That new reality has not yet entered most of the minds on Capitol Hill. And Obama himself is shackled from talking about this – for fear of being called unpatriotic, not loving America or unilaterally hollowing out its exceptionalism.

Cameron’s realization that the foreign policy establishment’s traditional appetite for global expansiveness is much larger than the people’s stomach certainly applies to the American people just as much – if they were ever faced with the real choices.

The crucial difference for now is that the U.S. Congress is one gargantuan grandstanding machine. On foreign policy matters, just about every member gets to sound off, without any concern for the consequences or the practicality or affordability of their suggestions.

Witness the Senator Tom Cotton/Iran negotiations letter affair – or the never-ending announcements by John McCain to expand the defense budget and take military action in just about any corner of the world.

Read more: Cameron, the Realist: A Message to America - The Globalist

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