Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Why Boris is right to endorse Obama

The US election is politics’ Premier League. Throughout the world there are people who aren’t going to the match, indeed they're not entitled to attend a match, but nevertheless, almost everyone has a favourite team.

This morning Boris Johnson declared himself an Obama fan in the Daily Telegraph, which represents a significant addition to the list of British Conservatives who will be celebrating, should the Democratic candidate win, in the wee small hours of the fifth of November.

Traditionally, of course, Conservatives feel much more inclined toward Republican candidates in American elections. However, there is something of a sea change in this particular election. Iain Dale previously examined the phenomenon in an article which suggested that David Cameron himself might quietly favour Obama.

Meanwhile Burke’s Corner turned its erudite gaze toward the underlying reasons which are making Conservatives in the UK comfortable with the Democrat ticket and uncomfortable backing McCain and Palin. In addition to the ‘themeless pudding’ which has constituted McCain’s message, the strident populism and anti-intellectualism which has come to characterise recent Republican campaigns (personified by the GOP’s Vice Presidential pick), is particularly inimical to more thoughtful conservatives.

Boris’ article ponders a number of good reasons to choose Obama over McCain, which are pertinent whether you share the London mayor’s Tory politics or not. In particular, it seems scarcely believable that the United States would consider returning a President who is even more hawkish than the current incumbent, given the disastrous American interventions over the last 6 years. McCain prides himself on his grasp of foreign policy and his belligerence therein, but it is hard to refute Johnson’s analysis of how inappropriate this outlook has become in the modern world.

“However well-intentioned it was, the catastrophic and unpopular intervention in Iraq has served in some parts of the world to discredit the very idea of western democracy. ……….., it is not clear how America under McCain would recover her standing in the eyes of the world …… But is this bellicosity really what the world is crying out for today?”

Boris, no doubt mindful of his own history of gaffes, is actually relatively forgiving of McCain’s outrageous, “Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran”, synopsis of policy toward that country. Charity aside, Johnson recognises, “if I were an Iranian politician, those words would make me want a nuclear deterrent all the more”.

Not only is McCain intending to escalate the existing conflict in Iraq, he is also prepared to use the threat of American military intervention to bully and coerce other perceived opponents, from Iran to Russia. His presidency would have an aggravating, rather than a palliative effect, in the fraught arena of international politics.

Of course, as the election becomes closer, it is increasingly easy for politician pundits, such as Boris Johnson, to endorse the overwhelming favourite. On this occasion he happens to be right to do so.

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