The Un-Diplomat

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on April 1, 2009

I’m sure that at some point in the near future, the Smithsonian will have a whole bunch of news articles and op-eds from the 2008 Presidential campaign that discuss how Barack Obama would usher in a new era of smart, savvy, clever and culturally sensitive diplomacy that would make the United States look good throughout the world.

Those of us who see those pieces can point to them and laugh:

The goods news out of London is that Barack Obama has reaffirmed America’s “special relationship” with the U.K. The bad news is that the “affinity and kinship” that the U.S. president spoke of apparently only extends to England.

Mr. Obama’s first major foreign trip has been seen as a test not just of his leadership skills, but of his ability to navigate the protocols of diplomacy. In the U.K., that means mentioning the famous special relationship between the countries, which has been important here ever since Winston Churchill first referenced it after World War II.

On Wednesday at a joint conference with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Mr. Obama made a pass at acknowledging the special relationship. Unfortunately, he inadvertently broke a cardinal protocol by at one stage using England to denote U.K.

“We owe so much to England; that when you come here there’s that sense of familiarity, as well as difference, that makes it just a special place,” he said, leaving Wales, Northern Ireland and Mr. Brown’s home country of Scotland out in the cold.

But in a statement to make any republican-minded Scots wince, Mr. Obama conceded one thing he loved about the U.K. — the Queen.

Let’s once again imagine what might have been the reaction if George W. Bush said something so unbelievably gauche.

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