I held the UK/Europe brief at one of the major Washington, DC think tanks for eight arduous years.
Every manner of European statesman trooped through my door, invariably trying to use me to leverage the US to do something they thought was in their country’s interests. Of course, my senior staff and I were well aware of the diplomatic game being played, though we affected a constant air of American innocence and naiveté – which still goes down surprisingly well – as a defence mechanism.
But we found the diplomatic corps amazingly ignorant of what it was that the United States wanted in turn. For it is only when you put these two basic interests together – crafting foreign desires in terms of how they further specific American interests – that diplomats are likely to get anywhere. As almost none of the people who visited us could do that, in general they were laughingly ineffective, and surely not worth what their governments were paying for them to loiter around countless receptions in Washington. For their knowledge of what American elites actually thought, and precisely wanted, was negligible.
All this brings me to US trade representative Michael Froman’s deeply misunderstood remarks of this past week about the UK’s role in Europe. Froman alleged that the US wanted the UK to remain in the EU, and that Washington was unlikely to have much enthusiasm in offering the UK an enhanced economic deal should it vote to leave. The British newspapers’ response to these gormless comments was depressingly superficial.
I must say that, for all the talk of our Special Relationship, the general British understanding of how America works politically (and what it wants) is shamefully nonexistent. So let me go through the looking glass, here, charting out what it is America desires from Britain regarding the vital issue of Europe.
First, there is no single American position regarding Britain, or any other foreign policy topic of significance. There are about three: the Wilsonian, Realist, and Neo-Conservative views. Wilsonians dominate the Democratic Party, Neo-cons the Republicans, with realists amounting to the minority view in both.
Read the rest of Dr John C Hulsman’s piece about Michael Froman’s comments here.