Alex Massie

Why-oh-why-oh why does Obama hate the Irish?

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In the name of the wee man, has it come to this? Apparently it has. Barack Obama has not "committed" himself to appointing a US "Special Envoy" to Northern Ireland. He believes, a spokesman said, that the "crisis point" in Ulster has passed. Cue much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the usual Irish-American suspects. Cue too, to no-one's great surprise, this response from Team McCain:

Barack Obama, once again demonstrating his total lack of experience and profoundly poor judgment on matters of foreign policy, has issued a statement questioning 'whether a special U.S. envoy for Northern Ireland continues to be necessary.'

The special U.S. envoy was first appointed by President Clinton and has been critical to fostering peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

John McCain is committed to maintaining the special U.S. envoy for Northern Ireland and that commitment has been enshrined in the 2008 Republican Platform. That Sen. Obama would be willing to toss aside one of the signature diplomatic accomplishments of the Clinton administration and put the progress in Northern Ireland at risk is only further evidence that he is simply not ready to lead.

Well, I'd be interested to know if any of the senior players in the McCain camp, let alone the candidate himself, could actually name the curent envoy (it's Paula Dobriansky). I'd be even more astonished if they could point to anything the envoy is supposed to be doing that goes anyway beyond the mouthing of platitudes and the usual back-slapping and glad-handing.

Certainly, McCain's statement is, shall we say, inconsistent? If the "Peace Process" has been such a success and amounts to being a "signature diplomatic accomplishment" you might think an envoy was no longer required. Clue: the word "accomplishment" has to mean something, even for Presidential candidates.

Now, as it happens I take the (admittedly minority) view that the Peace Process has, in many respects, been a grievous disappointment. Or, as I've argued before, we have arrived at a destination that would once have been sign-posted Failure and chosen to label it Success instead. Still, if everyone agrees to pretend that it is instead a triumph, it is reasonable to wonder what the role of this American representative is supposed to be and why, exactly, Obama is demonstrating his lack of judgment by suggesting that changing circumstances might justify changing policy

Of course, McCain has no interest in any of this. It's just a stick with which to rile the Clintons, each of whom labour under the misapprehension that they delivered "peace" to Northern Ireland. Unwittingly, however, this absurdity demonstrates that McCain's not interested in letting the "facts" interfere with his policy-making decisions anywhere...

UPDATE: Ben Smith reminds one that, back in the early to mid-1990s, McCain sharply criticised the Clintons' continual willingness to give Sinn Fein the benefit of the doubt.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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