The political theatre of David Cameron’s trip to America will have
Downing Street drooling. The PM is, today, not only going to become the first world leader to fly aboard Air Force One with Barack Obama, but then they’re also going to take in a game of
basketball together. It’s a carefully calibrated blend of statesmanship and down-to-earth-ship that will suit both men. Obama, because it might appeal, in some way, to conservative voters ahead of
this year’s presidential election. Cameron, because, well… does Ed Miliband do this sort of thing?
The theatre carries over into print too, with a joint article by Cameron and Obama
in today’s Washington Post. It reads a bit like a whistle-stop tour of every issue in the world today — the economy, Syria, Iran, health, poverty, etc, etc — with some slender
prescriptions for each. But one thing does stand out: the emphasis on matters military. There are two paragraphs on the ‘difficult mission’ in Afghanistan towards the top of the
article, and it ends with a dedication to serving and retired soldiers:
‘Finally, as two peoples who live free because of the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, we’re working together like never before to care for them when they come home.
With new long-term collaborations to help our wounded warriors recover, assist in veterans’ transition back to civilian life and support military families, we recognise that our obligations
to troops and veterans endure long after today’s battles end.’
No doubt this reflects what will be a prime talking point for Cameron and Obama in their meetings: what happens, in their words, ‘after today’s battles end’. The
military endgame is approaching in Afghanistan, and — against the advice of various military types — it could come even sooner than we expect. Today’s New York Times reports that the Obama administration is considering several options for pulling out
of Afghanistan even quicker, ‘reflecting a growing belief within the White House that the mission there has now reached the point of diminishing returns.’ And if that happens, then
Cameron will probably reach a similar conclusion too.