Shared Values Define U.S.-U.K. Ties, Obama Tells Parliament

WASHINGTON, May 25, 2011 — The Unit­ed States and the Unit­ed King­dom are drawn togeth­er not just by lan­guage and shared sac­ri­fice, but also by shared val­ues that are an exam­ple to the world, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma said in Lon­don today.
In a speech to both hous­es of the British Par­lia­ment, the pres­i­dent said the Unit­ed States and Unit­ed King­dom have faced and over­come great obsta­cles in the past and togeth­er will over­come the chal­lenges of the future.

“In a world where the pros­per­i­ty of all nations is now inex­tri­ca­bly linked, a new era of coop­er­a­tion is required to ensure the growth and sta­bil­i­ty of the glob­al econ­o­my,” he said. “As new threats spread across bor­ders and oceans, we must dis­man­tle ter­ror­ist net­works and stop the spread of nuclear weapons, con­front cli­mate change and com­bat famine and dis­ease.

“And as a rev­o­lu­tion races through the streets of the Mid­dle East and North Africa,” the pres­i­dent con­tin­ued, “the entire world has a stake in the aspi­ra­tions of a gen­er­a­tion that longs to deter­mine its own des­tiny.”

Not­ing that the inter­na­tion­al order has become more com­pli­cat­ed with the rapid rise of Chi­na, India and Brazil, the pres­i­dent said he wel­comes these devel­op­ments, but that Amer­i­can and Euro­pean influ­ence is still key.

Many argue that India, Chi­na and Brazil rep­re­sent the future and that the time for U.S. and British lead­er­ship has passed, Oba­ma said.

“That argu­ment is wrong,” he added. “The time for our lead­er­ship is now. It was the Unit­ed States and the Unit­ed King­dom and our demo­c­ra­t­ic allies that shaped a world in which new nations could emerge and indi­vid­u­als could thrive. And even as more nations take on the respon­si­bil­i­ties of glob­al lead­er­ship, our alliance will remain indis­pens­able to the goal of a cen­tu­ry that is more peace­ful, more pros­per­ous and more just.”

The Unit­ed States and Unit­ed King­dom are the nations most will­ing to stand up for the val­ues of tol­er­ance and self-deter­mi­na­tion that lead to peace and dig­ni­ty, Oba­ma said, while acknowl­edg­ing that Amer­i­can and British lead­er­ship must change with the times.

“In this cen­tu­ry, our joint lead­er­ship will require build­ing new part­ner­ships, adapt­ing to new cir­cum­stances, and remak­ing our­selves to meet the demands of a new era,” he said. For more than 70 years, the U.S.-U.K. alliance was at the heart of NATO, but today’s chal­lenges are dif­fer­ent, the pres­i­dent said.

“Ter­ror­ists have tak­en the lives of our cit­i­zens in New York and in Lon­don,” he said. “And while al-Qai­da seeks a reli­gious war with the West, we must remem­ber that they have killed thou­sands of Mus­lims – men, women and chil­dren – around the globe.”

The Unit­ed States and Unit­ed King­dom are not at war with Islam, Oba­ma said. The fight, he added, is focused on defeat­ing al-Qai­da and its extrem­ist allies. “In that effort, we will not relent, as Osama bin Laden and his fol­low­ers have learned,” the pres­i­dent said. “And as we fight an ene­my that respects no law of war, we will con­tin­ue to hold our­selves to a high­er stan­dard — by liv­ing up to the val­ues, the rule of law and due process that we so ardent­ly defend.”

Afghanistan is the cen­tral front of the fight against ter­ror, and the lat­est bat­tle­ground where Amer­i­can and British ser­vice mem­bers have bled togeth­er, Oba­ma said. “Togeth­er, let us pay trib­ute to all of our men and women who have served and sac­ri­ficed over the last sev­er­al years — for they are part of an unbro­ken line of heroes who have borne the heav­i­est bur­den for the free­doms that we enjoy,” the pres­i­dent said. “Because of them, we have bro­ken the Taliban’s momen­tum. Because of them, we have built the capac­i­ty of Afghan secu­ri­ty forces. And because of them, we are now prepar­ing to turn a cor­ner in Afghanistan by tran­si­tion­ing to Afghan lead.”

Lead­er­ship from the Unit­ed States and the Unit­ed King­dom is cru­cial to many secu­ri­ty issues, Oba­ma said, and lead­ers in both coun­tries are work­ing to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

“From North Korea to Iran, we’ve sent a mes­sage that those who flaunt their oblig­a­tions will face con­se­quences,” Oba­ma said.

The nations share inter­ests in resolv­ing con­flicts that pro­long human suf­fer­ing and threat­en to tear whole regions asun­der, Oba­ma not­ed.

“In Sudan, after years of war and thou­sands of deaths, we call on both North and South to pull back from the brink of vio­lence and choose the path of peace,” he said. “And in the Mid­dle East, we stand unit­ed in our sup­port for a secure Israel and a sov­er­eign Pales­tine.”

Amer­i­can cit­i­zens and British sub­jects also share an inter­est in devel­op­ment that advances dig­ni­ty and secu­ri­ty, the pres­i­dent said. “To suc­ceed, we must cast aside the impulse to look at impov­er­ished parts of the globe as a place for char­i­ty,” he added. “Instead, we should empow­er the same forces that have allowed our own peo­ple to thrive. We should help the hun­gry to feed them­selves, the doc­tors who care for the sick. We should sup­port coun­tries that con­front cor­rup­tion, and allow their peo­ple to inno­vate. And we should advance the truth that nations pros­per when they allow women and girls to reach their full poten­tial.

“We do these things because we believe not sim­ply in the rights of nations,” he con­tin­ued. “We believe in the rights of cit­i­zens. That is the bea­con that guid­ed us through our fight against fas­cism and our twi­light strug­gle against com­mu­nism.”

Today, that idea is being put to the test in the Mid­dle East and North Africa, Oba­ma said, as peo­ple in coun­try after coun­try are mobi­liz­ing to free them­selves from the grip of an iron fist.

“His­to­ry tells us that democ­ra­cy is not easy,” he said. “It will be years before these rev­o­lu­tions reach their con­clu­sion, and there will be dif­fi­cult days along the way.”

But from Tehran to Tunis and Cairo’s Tahrir Square, all are “long­ing for the same free­doms that we take for grant­ed here at home,” the pres­i­dent said.

“It was a rejec­tion of the notion that peo­ple in cer­tain parts of the world don’t want to be free, or need to have democ­ra­cy imposed upon them,” he said. “It was a rebuke to the world view of al-Qai­da, which smoth­ers the rights of indi­vid­u­als, and would there­by sub­ject them to per­pet­u­al pover­ty and vio­lence.

“Let there be no doubt,” he added. “The Unit­ed States and Unit­ed King­dom stand square­ly on the side of those who long to be free.”

To take that prin­ci­ple beyond words, Oba­ma said, the Unit­ed States and Unit­ed King­dom must invest in the future of those nations that tran­si­tion to democ­ra­cy, by deep­en­ing ties of trade and com­merce and by help­ing them demon­strate that free­dom brings pros­per­i­ty.

“That means stand­ing up for uni­ver­sal rights – by sanc­tion­ing those who pur­sue repres­sion, strength­en­ing civ­il soci­ety, sup­port­ing the rights of minori­ties,” he said. This, he not­ed, guides U.S. and U.K. actions in Libya.

“It would have been easy at the out­set of the crack­down in Libya to say that none of this was our busi­ness – that a nation’s sov­er­eign­ty is more impor­tant than the slaugh­ter of civil­ians with­in its bor­ders,” Oba­ma said. “That argu­ment car­ries weight with some.

“But we are dif­fer­ent,” he con­tin­ued. “We embrace a broad­er respon­si­bil­i­ty. And while we can­not stop every injus­tice, there are cir­cum­stances that cut through our cau­tion — when a leader is threat­en­ing to mas­sacre his peo­ple, and the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty is call­ing for action. That’s why we stopped a mas­sacre in Libya. And we will not relent until the peo­ple of Libya are pro­tect­ed and the shad­ow of tyran­ny is lift­ed.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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