“Pushing back against the notion of an Old World in decline, President Obama told Britain’s Parliament that while the US and United Kingdom no longer can single-handledly carve up the world, they remain the fundamental forces pushing the rest of the globe toward democracy and open economies…The relationship between the two countries has been a hot topic since Mr. Obama arrived in London, so much so that the president and Prime Minister David Cameron have upgraded its status from ‘special’ to ‘special and essential’. ” Stephen Dinan and Naomi Westland, ‘Obama: U.S., U.K. not in decline globally’, The Washington Times, May 26, 2011″
By all accounts, this public upgrade in the special relationship met with a mixed reception in the Palace of Westminster:
“Labor parliamentarian Sadiq Khan said the warm reception Mr. Obama received shows that ‘our political and cultural ties are still incredibly strong. It was clear from what we heard today that this is a president who wants to work with others to help tackle some of the world’s biggest problems’. Others were more muted in their praise. ‘I felt that standing there was a man…who had no particular emotional attachment while trying to explain the value of the relationship between the U.K. and the U.S. and his commitment to it,’ said Secretary of State for Transport Philip Hammond.‘ibid.”
My sentiments conform with those of Mr. Hammond. Englishmen, especially, might want to reflect on the rise and fall of a similar ‘special relationship’ in the mid-17th century: that between King Charles I and Thomas Wentworth, The First Earl of Strafford.
Thomas Wentworth – created Earl of Strafford by King Charles in 1640 – was a particular favorite of the King. King Charles commissioned Strafford to engage in a military resolution of the Scottish problem. At the Battle of Newburn on August 28, 1640, an out-numbered and ill-equipped English army fled the field, allowing the Scots to seize Newcastle, a strategically-important city that provided London with coal, its basic heating fuel.
In October 1640, Charles I was obliged to concede, in the Treaty of Ripon, that the Scots should continue to occupy Northumberland and Cumberland and that a parliament should be summoned to cover the full costs of that occupation. Meeting at Westminster in November 1640, the Long Parliament was adamant in seeking revenge for the Scottish victory. Not daring to fix responsibility on its sovereign, Parliament instead sought the impeachment of the Earl of Strafford.
Unable to present convincing evidence of Strafford’s alleged treason, in April 1641 the House of Commons decided instead to proceed against him by an Act of Attainder. However, the Bill foundered in the House of Lords, where many of Strafford’s fellow peers were swayed by his defence that he had been faithfully obedient both to his King and to the English law.
At that very moment, King Charles I rashly declared that his conscience would never allow him to sign an Act of Attainder against his most loyal servant. Relying on this royal oath, the Lords passed the Bill of Attainder on May 8, 1641, by 37 votes to 11.
On May 10, frightened by the threat to himself and to his family from angry mobs surrounding Whitehall, and urged on by his terrified Queen, Henrietta Maria, King Charles I signed the Act of Attainder into law. Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, upon hearing that his King had forsaken him uttered the following fateful words:
“Put not your trust in princes, nor in the sons of men, for in them there is no salvation.”
Strafford was mutilated as a traitor, and executed on Tower Hill on May 12, 1641.
When your military adventures in the Middle East at the bequest of your U.S. sovereign, ultimately fail, Mr. Cameron, as fail they assuredly will, given your ill-equipped and out-numbered forces, do not rely on any special relationship. For that relationship is a figment of your imagination, not that of Barack Obama. By comparison with the conscience-stricken King Charles I, you will find President Obama will react to your plight with an unemotional and essentially amoral ruthlessness:
’Be gone, I say, and have done with you!’
Of course, the ultimate outcome will be the same for you, as for the Earl of Strafford.