We are prepared to forgive and forget. On 4th July you will commemorate the 235th anniversary of your expulsion from the British Empire for bad behaviour. You are a perverse people, celebrating such a dark day in your history, but there you have it.
I can only hope the truly titanic (good word that) quantities of burgers you will doubtless consume and beer you will quaff will ease the pain. I would like to post this blog on the day to help ease your pain, but sadly I will be doing something important. And, for the rest of this week I will be in London dealing with matters imperial.
Now, let me give you a brief history lesson as you have not got much. Being a generous people back in 1776 we British agreed to a period of probationary independence. The kind of thing one does with less mature teenagers. But, frankly, recent events make one wonder if one is in a position to extend said probation, let alone confirm independence. I do not use these words lightly but you should be aware that there are senior people in London (your betters) who are fast becoming more than a little, dare I say, miffed. Having sub-contracted out bits of the Empire to you to run, your record has been a tad patchy, to say the very least. You clearly have a lot to learn about leadership, but we are patient.
Now, of course, whilst 1776 is a painful date for you, sooner or later you must confront it. Naturally, it had little impact on the Mother Country, as Trafalgar and Waterloo only proved to demonstrate. I bet you wished you had been part of those two bashes, as we did give the French such a sound thrashing. You never quite mastered that art, did you. Having failed to think through your ‘Revolution’ (you do have a tendency to exaggerate) your little bout of petulance only led to tears. We cannot say we did not warn you, but you ended up paying for your own security after all, and in time our own.
There is good news. In a spirit of penitence you recently created the Tea Party to consider how you might reimburse us for that minor riot in Boston during which some very good Earl Grey was given a shaking. Poor show that. Given the state of your coffee though this is hardly surprising. Moreover, rumour has it that secret classes have been established to learn the rules of cricket. That should keep you out of mischief for at least a century.
We also recognize your failed but worthy attempts to re-create the monarchy through their Royal Highnesses the Bushnesses. But let’s face it ‘president’ does not have the same ring as Her Imperial Britannic Majesty. One not only needs the right family to be royal, but ideally they should not come from Texas. Germany will do.
So, in principle we would be willing to re-admit ‘yooz all’ (I believe that to be the correct vernacular) to the Empire, although this does create somewhat of a poser; how?
We could of course offer you a period of pretend independence in the European Onion. I was in Brussels yesterday at the heart of said Onion and floated the idea. The broad consensus was that whilst you have proven to be a tad unruly the price tag for membership is imposing and probably beyond you right now, and in any case the Onion is only for the truly self-deluded – such as the Greeks.
The other option is of course NATO – No Action, Talk Only. However, the widespread sense in London was that if you joined the Alliance it would have a membership of one within a week – No Talk, Americans Only. Your greatest thinker, Groucho Marx, was indeed correct when he suggested that his membership of any club rendered the reputation of said club questionable, which makes me concerned for the Empire. Certainly, your recent efforts at ‘going it alone’ leadership have not met with overwhelming success, but the Empire is probably big enough to cope.
Thankfully, after a considerable rummage around in dusty cupboards and strange brown boxes with fading labels, I came across a thing called the Commonbroke. From reading the paperwork it seems to refer to a motley collection of broke colonies playing at independence but which are still on our payroll, together with our few remaining dependent volcanoes, such as Montserrat, and of course Scotland, which we can never get rid of. Clearly, you qualify on both counts and to be fair you are so much more reasonable than our lunatic Celtic fringe.
There would even be some benefits of, let’s call it reintegration, to both the Mother Country and yourselves. For example, the Royal Navy would become marginally bigger and you would no longer have to drink that coloured water you call beer. We would certainly be willing to scrap all your politicians and lawyers thus eradicating your budget deficit in a trice. And, finally, Hollywood would be able to make proper films that gave an accurate account of our glorious role in your history. We did indeed win World Wars One and Two and it is about time the true story was told.
Now, we would of course demand something for all of this largesse and good grace. You would be expected to turn up on time for our wars – for once. And, we would insist that you meet all expenses in full incurred by the British Army when burning down the White House in 1812, during a previous bout of intolerable bad behaviour (note the spelling). Otherwise we might have to do it again.
It must also be understood that an apology is needed for the Declaration of Independence – it was just so tedious and quite upset Buckingham Palace, interfering gratuitously with the horse racing at Royal Ascot. Clearly, the Special Relationship, which clearly matters so much more to you than to us, will depend to a significant degree on the revoking of this so-called Declaration of Independence. And, by the way, you should read the small print – it was after all written by ‘American’ lawyers.
So, next steps? 2012 is the sixtieth anniversary of Her Imperial Britannic Majesty’s accession to power. What a wonderful gesture it would be if you voluntarily changed the name of your regional capital from George the Unmentionable to Elizabeth.
And one final thing, you will of course need to learn to spell. Happy 4 July!
Professor Julian Lindley-French, a member of the Atlantic Council Strategic Advisor’s Group, is Special Professor of Strategic Studies, University of Leiden, Netherlands and Associate Fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, London. This essay first appeared on his personal blog, Lindley-French’s Blog Blast.