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Kim Darroch's Resignation Highlights the Weakness of Britain
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The resignation of Sir Kim Darroch as British ambassador to Washington, because of his leaked messages to London criticising President Trump, is highly revealing about the real state of British knowledge of what is going on in the US.

Supporters of the former ambassador portray him as a skilled and experienced foreign office official who was “only doing his job” until brought low by the machinations of the Brexiteers and the treachery of Boris Johnson. His detractors view him, on the contrary, as an old-style representative of a europhile British foreign policy establishment which is out of place in the age of Trump.

Most striking in the copious excerpts from Darroch’s cables to the home government between 2017 and the present day – published by the Mail on Sunday – is that they do not contain a single original fact or opinion. They are a relentless repetition of the shallowest Washington conventional wisdom about the intentions of the Trump administration.

“This is a divided administration,” Darroch tells his readers and says that there are angry disputes within the White House which he compares to a knife fight. He suspects that Trump could be indebted to “dodgy Russians” and fears that his economic policies could wreck the world trading system. Possibly the president could “crash and burn” because he is “mired in scandal”, though politicians in London should “not write him off”.

Our man in Washington since 2016 believes that Trump has the ability to shrug off scandals and emerge from the flames, battered but intact, “like [Arnold] Schwarzenegger in the final scene in the Terminator”.

A senior diplomat from the British embassy goes to a Trump rally and finds the crowd to be almost exclusively white. He describes the enthusiastic atmosphere as being similar to that of home fans at a sporting event and the faithful attending a religious meeting. The ambassador suspects that Trump’s campaign strategy in the presidential election will be to “go with what he knows best” and appeal to his core supporters. Cunning fellow!

Darroch demonstrates a firm grip on the obvious, citing his own sources as confirming information which was already the lead item on every news channel and newspaper front page across America. On occasion, even these sources fail, as they do when Trump is deciding whether or not to launch retaliatory airstrikes on Iran after the Iranians shoot down a US drone over the Strait of Hormuz.

In an excerpt from a cable written at 12.39am UK time on 22 June, Darroch detects disarray in Washington: “Even our best contacts were unwilling to take our calls.”

Isabel Oakeshott, who obtained and published the cables, does her best to make Darroch’s words sound interesting and original by claiming “astonishingly” that the ambassador was dubious about Trump’s statement that he changed his mind on US airstrikes because of his concern over Iranian casualties. Similar scepticism had earlier been expressed by every new channel in the country.

Looking through the excerpts from Darroch’s cables, I searched for something that was not common knowledge and found nothing. Could Oakeshott, known to be sympathetic to Brexit, have deliberately excluded anything really new from her quotes? This is unlikely because journalists generally boost the explosive nature of the “bombshell comments” in their scoops.

It is equally unlikely also that she would deliberately fillet Darroch’s prose style and leave in only the cliches and tired phrases. Assuming that her excerpts are representative of the rest of his cables, it becomes clear that Britain’s most senior man in Washington knew so little about developments in the White House that he might as well have stayed in London, or, for that matter, the Outer Hebrides.

Does this matter? Yes it does, because it highlights the real weakness of Britain at the very moment that a British warship is in the Gulf – with another one on the way – confronting Iranian Revolutionary Guard gunboats, in a conflict which is driven by the US, and whose direction we cannot predict or even influence.

Is Britain kowtowing to the US? You bet she is, but this is scarcely fresh news. In the 40 years that I have been writing about British foreign policy in the Middle East, the priority of British governments has invariably been to find out what the Americans want, do the same thing as them as cheaply as possible and demonstrate what a valuable and irreplaceable ally we are.

This has been the ongoing British approach since 1940 with a brief wobble at the time of the Suez crisis in 1956. The British drew the conclusion from Suez that they must be more closely allied to the US, while the French decided that, on the contrary, they needed to cooperate more closely with other continental states in Europe.

There is nothing foolish about a policy of Britain piggy-backing on American power though the strategy was accompanied by a great deal of self-deception. Brexit or no Brexit, it is not likely to change much. Tony Blair is unfairly blamed by many for cravenly joining the US in invading Iraq in 2003, but another prime minister – Labour or Conservative – would have done exactly the same thing.

The British acted in lock-step with the Americans and appeared to have little other purpose in being in Iraq. As soon as the bulk of US forces left, the British did the same thing and promptly lost interest in the place. The same was true when Isis captured Mosul and advanced on Baghdad in 2014. A House of Commons Defence Committee report the following year that as Isis was preparing to capture Mosul “the political section of the British Embassy in Baghdad consisted of three relatively junior, although extremely able, employees on short term deployment.” When Isis attacked the Kurds in northern Iraq the same year, the Germans poured in thousands of machine guns, assault rifles and anti-tank weapons while we managed to send just 40 heavy machine guns.

ORDER IT NOW

What Brexiteers – as well as many anti-Brexiteers – fail to understand is the degree to which Britain’s real political and commercial power has declined. There are lamentations about the decline of the foreign office and the defence forces, but it is too late to do much about this. It was, after all, the slogan of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher that the government apparatus was the problem, not the solution. This was always nonsense, but one result has been the ebbing effectiveness of the British state in general of which the weakening of the diplomatic and armed forces are only one aspect.

The vacuous cables and humiliating departure of Darroch, and Britain’s reliance on the US in any confrontation with Iran, tell the same story. Both expose in different ways just how isolated and ill-informed about the world Britain has become. So long as it stuck to old routines and alliances, this was not as obvious as it is now becoming. The only option will be to stick even closer to Trump’s America, but we have no means of influencing or even knowing about Trump’s chaotic course, as our former ambassador has discovered to his cost.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Britain, Donald Trump 
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  1. Sean says:

    Darroch was brought up in a council house, what do you expect?

    • Replies: @Jonathan Mason
  2. Good article. There WAS nothing in the published excerpts from the diplomatic cables that was revelatory.

    Trump just used Britain to get his photo-op with the ancient Queen to use for his next set of campaign commercials before King Charles III gets into office, and now has no further use for Britain other than as an airstrip and golf course, so he is mugging her Majesty’s Ambassador to the US.

    He knows that the Queen will not order “Off With His Head” or send the Royal Navy up the Potomac.

    There is supposedly an investigation as to who leaked the intelligence. Perhaps Julian Assange can give Scotland Yard a few hints on how to start their inquiries.

    Meanwhile, if Darroch had his druthers, he would drop the bombshell that the “leaked intelligence” is fake and that it is insulting to a man of his intellect to suggest that he would try to pass off such derivative commonplaces as intelligence, and that in fact he had reported that Trump is an imposing and majestic President, a worthy successor to George Washington, and possibly one of the greatest amateur golfers of all time, a close rival of the great Korean player Kim Il Jong.

    • Replies: @Hibernian
  3. @Sean

    Darroch was brought up in a council house, what do you expect?

    I expect him to be evicted from his subsidized public housing in Washington, evoking memories of childhood trauma from the Thatcher era.

    • Replies: @Sean
  4. Sean says:
    @Jonathan Mason

    CIA man meets the British intelligence establishment just before Suez

    The Art of Betrayal: Life and Death in the British Secret Service by Gordon Corera

    [O]ld school British intelligence establishment was all too clear to the CIA’s representative on the Joint Intelligence Committee staff. The new boy from out of town, Chester Cooper, arrived in London just before Suez.The new boy from out of town, Chester Cooper, arrived in London just before Suez. At his first meeting he found everyone to be very tall and wearing identical black suits (Savile Row), identical blue striped ties (Eton) and identical spectacles (National Health). At one point someone stuck his head through the door to announce the latest cricket score. There were groans. Cooper was then proudly shown a Latin translation of the Greek verse …

    Darroch studied Zoology at Durham.

  5. Darroch studied Zoology at Durham.

    A knowledge of primate behavior could be quite useful for a diplomat.

    As a young diplomatic he served as desk officer for the channel tunnel project, he seems unlikely to be a subterranean Brexiteer.

  6. Seriously, though, you have to wonder what went on behind the scenes at the recent state visit to England. Is it not possible that the split really occurred earlier when European leaders told Trump that a war on Iran was a war on Europe, and forced him to back off.

    He then did the state visit to get some good selfies with the Queen, and promptly disposed of the British Ambassador on his return to Washington to show Europe that he did not give a toss about diplomatic relations.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jun/05/donald-trump-us-war-iran

    • Replies: @Hibernian
  7. [Formerly Great] Britain is well on the way to becoming a slightly larger version of Portugal.

    • Replies: @Gordo
  8. Gordo says:
    @Diversity Heretic

    [Formerly Great] Britain is well on the way to becoming a slightly larger version of Portugal.

    And from the same cause?

  9. From way over here in Texas it appears that the Brits, with or without BREXIT, are doomed to become an Islamic state. The Germans, French and Swedes seem similarly fucked.

    Kim Darroch is obviously a moron. Like Pompeo or Bolton or Kushner.

    • Replies: @Verymuchalive
    , @anonymous
  10. Miro23 says:

    In the 40 years that I have been writing about British foreign policy in the Middle East, the priority of British governments has invariably been to find out what the Americans want, do the same thing as them as cheaply as possible and demonstrate what a valuable and irreplaceable ally we are.

    This is also all I’ve ever seen in 40 years. The US will do nothing for Britain.

    What Brexiteers – as well as many anti-Brexiteers – fail to understand is the degree to which Britain’s real political and commercial power has declined.

    Inside or outside of the EU, Britain has to be realistic, and find a good working relationship with Europeans (and forget about the U.S.).

    The vacuous cables and humiliating departure of Darroch, and Britain’s reliance on the US in any confrontation with Iran, tell the same story. Both expose in different ways just how isolated and ill-informed about the world Britain has become.

    Linking to the US could prove fatal. The whole Anglo world is in real trouble (inc. Canada, Australia and New Zealand).

    • Replies: @Oleaginous Outrager
  11. Kim Darroch’s Resignation Highlights the Weakness of Britain

    Yes, as if losing its Empire was not enough to signal that.

    • Replies: @David
  12. David says:
    @The Alarmist

    Or even a grown man going by the name Kim.

    • Replies: @The Alarmist
  13. @David

    He was undoubtedly named after that lion of British intelligence, Kim Philby, who himself did a turn in the DC Embassy, albeit just as a spy and not as an ambassador.

  14. @WorkingClass

    From way over here in Texas it appears that the Brits, with or without BREXIT, are doomed to become an Islamic state

    Except Texas is going to be part of Mexico even sooner. For God’s sake, man, what do white working class people like you actually do in Texas. Do you still actually work. The 1% are replacing you ASAP and there is no minimum wage. Get a grip.

  15. anonymous[191] • Disclaimer says:
    @WorkingClass

    Never trust a British diplomat with the first name Kim, (Kim Philby, Kim Darroch), it means they’ve been reared in all the “right” schools and are open to homosexual blackmail.

  16. Paul says:

    Patrick, don’t be so negative. Think of the resignation as highlighting the strength of President Trump and the United States.

  17. @Miro23

    In

    side or outside of the EU, Britain has to be realistic, and find a good working relationship with Europeans (and forget about the U.S.).

    Yep, the best course is to be ready to spend a big ol’ buttload of taxpayer sterling to bail out Deutsche Bank.

    Linking to the US could prove fatal. The whole Anglo world is in real trouble (inc. Canada, Australia and New Zealand).

    And it’s your contention that anywhere else in Europe is on the upswing? That a better future lies in aligning with the likes of the even-more-delusional-about-their-world-status French? Or the “Weimar days’ return ain’t far away” Germans?

    • Replies: @Miro23
  18. Miro23 says:
    @Oleaginous Outrager

    There’s a lot to be said for friendly neutrality. The UK got dragged into the Iraq war by the US (WMD lies and Neo-con collaborator Tony Blair) and had open frontiers forced onto it by the EU SJW elite.

    The UK is physically located in Europe, and Europeans are its main trading partners, same as for Norway and Switzerland. They are friendly with the EU (but not EU members) and usefully keep their political independence.

  19. Hibernian says:
    @Jonathan Mason

    “…send the Royal Navy up the Potomac.”

    Where anything larger than a cabin cruiser would run aground.

  20. Hibernian says:
    @Jonathan Mason

    Leaked diplomatic communications, such as the Zimmerman telegram, are nothing new. The oh so professional Mr. Darroch should have found more diplomatic language in which to state that the President’s Mom had worn Army shoes.

  21. sarz says:

    Kim Darroch rose from a humble background and came to occupy a number of EU centric posts. One assumes his loyalties are with the banksters. His last service was to associate the name of Trump with failure and, particularly, “disgrace”. Wonder if he knows what’s happening with the Epstein arrest.

    http://www.twf.org/News/Y2019/0711-TrumpRothschild.html

  22. Half the trouble is that Brits are always trying to be too nice and do the decent thing, like Tony Blair sucking up to George W. Bush and supporting the Iraq War, when there was no support for it at home in Britain at all.

    American politicians don’t really respect this, and the Brits would do better to act a little crazy, which Trump respects. So on Trump refusing to deal with the ambassador, Whitehall should have retaliated by banning the US ambassador in London and threatening to order the closing of the US bases at Menwith Hill and the shutdown of all US activities at RAF Lakenheath forthwith.

    None of this would come to anything, but it would get the attention of Fox News, and thus of Trump too.

    As it is, the next thing will be the UK getting dragged into a war with Iran that no one in the UK supports, simply to suck up to Trump and show him that the UK is a loyal ally.

    If North Korea can stand up to Trump, then so can the UK.

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