Amid the to-ing and fro-ing of the unwieldy European Union over its uncommon currency, the Brits have managed to distinguish themselves for clumsiness and may pay a steep price. Tory PM David Cameron reacted to the latest save-the-euro scheme by picking up his marbles and withdrawing across the channel, saying that the UK would veto any change in the operative EU treaties rather than subject its financial sector to new rules that might cost it cash.
While this dramatic huffing and puffing was cheered by the tabloids and the permanently aggrieved nationalists (the ‘Euroskeptics’), the Brits soon found themselves in a certain unenviable solitude as the other 26 EU member nations more or less went along with the tentative plans, which in any case are far from a done deal and may flop spectacularly just as all prior magic bullets deployed to date. Nevertheless, in diplomacy and especially EU diplomacy, splendid isolation is the one thing a country wishes to avoid. But in the short run, it’s popular.
We see the same here in the Greatest Country Ever as the America-Firsters insist on special treatment and special rules and subject anyone daft enough to question them to Foxocide. This was the attitude deployed against, for example, the International Criminal Court designed to bring war criminals and genocidists to trial—and which the U.S. is not above utilizing despite refusing to join the treaty as it would subject U.S. personnel to its rules.
Another demented manifestation is Obama’s follow-up to the spy drone falling out of the skies over Iran by asking for it back. Um, right. This would totally work if farmers outside of Pittsburgh suddenly came upon an enemy spyplane, they’d just package it up nice and call UPS.
It’s the same mentality at work when W and then Obama insisted that U.S. soldiers and mercenaries in Iraq not be subjected to local laws (failed); when they undermined the Kyoto global warming treaty so that we can continue to churn out greenhouse gases (succeeded); and when they built protectionist measures into the ‘free-trade’ pacts that are all the rage so that our professional classes and intellectual property-holders are safe from competition while our workers must go toe-to-toe with Chinese wage slaves and malnourished Cambodian seamstresses (succeeded wildly).
What these measures have in common is that they play well to nationalists and xenophobes and always will. Bipeds are pretty much convinced that their particular affinity group is special and should be recognized as such while fairness and as sense of a worldwide commonweal mean nothing. It will come as a nasty shock, however, when other countries eventually acquire the power to apply the same principles to themselves. One day, Chinese and Indian leaders will stick their tongues at us while the rising oceans lap at the shores of Miami and Manhattan. We have every right to burn more coal, they will say, under the rules you have set.