I wrote here about the upcoming vote in Scotland on this question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?” The referendum is set for September, and support for independence is growing. According to the Washington Post, the unionist lead has dropped to single digits.
The Post reports that, in response, “British officials from across the political spectrum, European Union leaders, corporate executives, and retired military commanders” are all urging Scottish voters to reject independence. Even David Bowie has asked the Scots to “stay with us.”
The reasons for concern are obvious. The Post explains:
A vote for independence would dismember Washington’s closest and most important ally, leaving behind a not-so-great Britain at a moment when Russia is waging the stiffest challenge to Western authority in a generation. . .
[L]osing Scotland would cleave away a third of the U.K.’s landmass and a tenth of its gross national product, including a sizable chunk of the revenue from rich North Sea oil reserves. Independence could also render Britain’s nuclear weapons without a port to call home. . .
“Nobody in the West wants this to happen,” said Phillips O’Brien, who directs the Scottish Center for War Studies at the University of Glasgow.
But President Obama has remained silent. He insists that “the future of Scotland is an internal matter.” Obama thus distinguishes Scotland — as well as Britain, our closest ally — from Israel and Egypt, for example, about whose futures he has not been reticent.
Why has Obama stayed on the sidelines? One theory is that he fears that weighing in on the side of union might be counterproductive because Scots would resent outside interference. But this explanation seems implausible. Obama has a great regard for his ability to persuade.
Moreover, according to the Post, the president is popular in Scotland. For one thing, he is believed to have Scottish ancestry. For another, Scotland is hard-left politically.
I propose two alternative hypotheses. First, Obama has Anglophobe tendencies, perhaps due to his ancestors’ opposition to, and alleged mistreatment by, the British in Kenya. Readers will probably recall that Obama purged the White House of a bust of Winston Churchill.
Second, as I argued here, the main impetus for Scottish independence seems to be the fact that England isn’t sufficiently left-wing. Perhaps Obama would like to see a splinter country with close ties to the U.S. committed to leftist principles.
This is speculation, of course. Indeed, Obama may finally weigh in against independence as the vote draws near. But until he does, his silence, as the Washington Post acknowledges in its front page story, is quite curious.