Pursued with venality yet vigour by the likes of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld and having both its summit and its very nadir in Iraq. Now it’s enduring its death throes in Afghanistan, yet who could have imagined it would come so suddenly and in this manner.
Global American leadership has been trashed. Of course, it remains a superpower, but the hegemony’s long gone and the image irreparably tarnished. Joe Biden’s presidency now seems reminiscent of Jimmy Carter’s after the Iran hostage crisis – in office but counting down the days to an ignominious departure.
It’s hard to see how Biden can recover from this. It was always going to be a hard shift with the economic consequences and social divisions brought about by Covid. Now it looks a lingering death until the democratic process finally puts him out his misery.
In many ways, as with Carter, it’s not directly his fault. All empires come to an end but he’s the incumbent and this is cack-handed to say the least. American pride will be hurt, and he’ll carry the can.
But where does this leave Global Britain, the brand promoted by the right-wing Brexiteers? It was almost to be a new age of empire and old glories were to dawn by jettisoning the EU and aligning more closely with the USA.
G7: US will not keep troops in Afghanistan past August 31
The cold reality is that America never had a special relationship with the UK, anymore than it cared about democracy in Afghanistan. It’s about America First and that’s trumpeted by all, not just by Trump.
But the delusions of Britain being a force for good and a counterbalance to the American behemoth have been exposed as fictitious. If this is how they treat their allies in time of crisis, God help us when it comes to a trade deal.
It was Trump’s Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, who said that Brexit was a chance to steal the UK’s trade. And not just trade, but business, the NHS and anything else. All that’ll be left for us will be a few morsels of chlorinated chicken.
But it’s not just the delusions that are gone. The idea of Britain as a force for good, argued as being a strength of the Union, has also been trashed. The hopes that Theresa May and others, especially Scottish unionists, had of a Britain playing on the global stage is gone, and not just from the streets of Kabul.
Having departed the EU with rancour and alienating old friends, the UK is now isolated. It’s gone from being a big player in the EU – arguably with increasing influence as the age of Merkel comes to an end – to a bit-part player with few friends and even less influence. It’s going to be a cold world out there for this shrunken Britain.
Suddenly, an independent Scotland looks far less powerless and potentially even possessing greater influence as the Republic of Ireland and Scandinavian nations show.
Kenny MacAskill is the Alba Party MP for East Lothian
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