David Cameron should be careful of the President

President Obama is in political trouble. He is not having a good war, nor has his handling of the Gulf oil spill done him any favours. His healthcare plans have proved very divisive as well as expensive. Sacking a General worked because he replaced him with a better General, but the underlying chatter revealed problems in the Obama High Command that go wider than one person.

David Cameron’s answer that he wants British troops out in less than five years could act as a useful stimulus to the conversation they need to have in private. They do need to be honest with each other about what can realistically be achieved in Afghanistan by Coalition forces. They need to inject some pace into the transfer of responsbility from our troops to Afghan forces. Mr Obama inherited Bush’s war and made it his own by the surge. He will want to show good progress and take troops out before he runs for re-election. Mr Cameron is wise not to make Mr Brown’s war his war. He needs to be privately realistic about the situation, whilst always offering strong public support for our troops as he has been doing all the time they are at risk in Afghanistan.

The President needs reminding in private that BP is an important US and international company making a crucial contribution to providing oil hungry USA with the fuel it needs. If the President has a better answer to capping the well he should tell us and do it. If he does not, he has to accept that and not raise expectations he cannot fulfil. He also needs to be told that controlling excessive public sector borrowings is essential to economic recovery, not part of the problem. The biggest threat to recovery is a worsening sovereign debt crisis. Actions to avoid default and allow states to meet their obligations are crucial to our future growth.

There is no need for the PM to agree with the President on all matters. This is a time for private truths to be told and new directions to be agreed. By all means smile and be friends in public. That may help both men, but not at any price.

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11 Comments

  1. @jpands
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Once again you are so insightful Mr. Redwood. I am glad I am following you on Twitter otherwise I would have missed this gem of an observation.

    It's time that the "Special Relationship" was re-balanced as it has for far too long been in favour of the US, an unbalanced relationship! Hopefully our excellent new PM will get the balance back on equal footing!

  2. michael read
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Best to read the Rolling Stone article which prompted the general's departure to understand US thinking on Afghanistan.

    The personal stuff was irrelevant. It is the light it threw on US policy which was the interesting thing.

  3. A.Sedgwick
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Five years – he cannot be serious!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Ross J Warren
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Thankfully the President has not stopped referring to BP as British Petroleum, there could hardly be a more international company. I don't think we need worry to much about D.C. being contaminated by the Presidents less intelligent ideas. We will not be encouraging the Bank of England to continue QE, even if the President would like us to.

    As for the spill I tend to agree that there is little point making a big song and dance, setting deadlines, when the problem cannot be solved overnight.
    He runs the risk of raising expectations and then suffering the fall out, but then that's our Prez all over big on the sound bite, his messianic election campaign has not been forgotten, sadly he is all to human in his delivery.

    Getting our troops out in Five years is a reasonable aspiration, but I would caution against setting dates, we do not wish to embolden our enemies.

    By all means let there be an appearance of unity between our leaders, as long as that doesn't extend to watering down of our ideology. When it comes to firm action and sensible fiscal action the US President can learn from our man.

  5. Mark M
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Soon after Obama was elected I picked him as a one term president. I still stand by that prediction. He's shown himself to be completely out of his depth and all the fancy rhetoric has been shown to be pure hot air.

  6. Demetrius
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    There will be few things, if any, that the PM will be able to agree with the President. What is little realised is that part of the fall out of the last couple of years is that the UK will now need to discover a Foreign Policy instead of simply playing "follow my leader" around the World and Europe. Unluckily as a result of the last ten years we have a Foreign Office who do not know what one is or how to find one.

  7. DennisA
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    "British troops out in less than five years" – they should be out in less than five months. David Cameron had the chance to step away from this and put it right, but he has made this his war now, by repeating the Brown Mantra that it is keeping the streets of Britain safe. What twaddle.

    Disgraceful loss of life for no good reason and incredible waste of resources. I wonder what the carbon footprint is?

    • Kevin Peat
      Posted June 26, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      Ask any soldier. It's not being left dead – it's being left barely alive and with little semblance of human form. The Taliban relish doing this to our troops in particular and for every death four are mutilated.

      I understand that our PMs can't be squeamish nor sentimental – but a field hospital visit would be in order.

      After all, some of our greatest PMs fought in wars themselves and have seen battlefield trauma up close. Doubtless it would disturb Mr Cameron but I believe he would be a far better PM for it.

      Political face has been lost for good, whether we leave Afghanistan this year or next it's not going to be won back – only the body count changes from now on.

  8. Steve
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Obama is isolated as the last major world leader still advocating chucking ever more public money (and recently printed dodgy money too) at whatever (word left out) Bernanke tells him is, or might be, or possibly even slightly could be, an economic problem. It won't last and he will have to stop trying (very unsuccessfully) to walk on water. Sooner or later, once the Euro debacle is sorted out one way or another I guess, the currency markets will turn on the USD and Obama will have no choice but to come down and join the rest of us on planet Earth. What a disaster for the Americans and indeed for us all to have such a posturing, rank-amateur in charge of the largest economy at this point in time. Who says that the electorate always gets it right? The Yanks really screwed up electing this (man-ed) as their leader.

  9. christina sarginson
    Posted June 27, 2010 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    I was pleased when Obama got into office I thought he would do a good job, but so far I have been very disappointed to see the mistakes he has made with the different issues in America. I was particularly surprised to see how he snubbed our PM yesterday, surely he needs our support and help.

  10. Austin
    Posted June 30, 2010 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    As I repeatedly pointed out; I'm very sorry to say that our President does not operate in good faith and is hostile to Anglo-Saxon culture. I'm relieved Mr. Redwood seems to know what I mean and can articulate it in a diplomatic fashion for Mr. Cameron.

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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