On September 11, 2001, the United States of America was struck by terrorists. The world responded with offers of aid, many of which were accepted in the months which followed as we tracked down those who had arranged the attack. Canada did more.
As American airplanes found a need to suddenly be grounded, Canadians opened their doors to us. The small city of Gander became internationally famous for taking in one diverted passenger for every two people who lived in the city. Other airplanes landed at other Canadian airports, with no untoward results.
It wasn’t merely a matter of landing and going to a hotel. First, they needed to be processed.
According to the Gander International Airport, 39 planes were diverted there on Sept. 11, 2001. About 6,500 passengers had to be processed by the town’s single immigration officer, aided by another three who drove in from St. John’s.CBC
This was Canada at its best, proving itself as a nation and a neighbor. Contrast that with video from a reporter in Miami:
The response to a loss of lives, property, jobs and order is restricting and obfuscation. This is America at its worst, demonstrating that “America First” equates to “America Only” and showing its relative value as a neighbor.
This is a black eye for the country. That is the obvious take.
The less obvious take is this: the Bahamas are a former UK possession, part of the Commonwealth of Nations that hold very tight relations with the UK and in which the British retain significant economic holdings. Many Btitish citizens were born in the Bahamas, and thousands of Britons have permanent residence on the island nation (although far more live on the wealthier, lower-crime island of Jamaica). Right now, the UK is in the process of being held up as America’s closest European ally. They are, in terms of foreign policy, the neighbors with which we have our best relations.
The key to Brexit, what makes it economically viable, is the promise that the UK will receive a preferential trade deal with the U.S. after Brexit is complete. This is what will enable Britain to replace much of the money being lost by moving out of the trade associations with other European nations.
Theresa May was strongly pro-Brexit after being elected. After meeting with President Trump, her pro-Brexit stance shifted to supporting only a managed, “soft” Brexit which retained some of the trade allowances with the EU. It appeared, to outside analysts, that she may have distrusted Trump as a partner.
Johnson, on the other hand, publicly holds Trump in high regard. He has continued to be staunchly pro-Brexit, pressing forward with a sense of immediacy.
All of this is completely independent of the comparative merit of Brexit itself. Whether a person believes it is a necessary thing or the worst decision a nation has ever made, the fact remains that if it is to work as promised, the active aid of the United States will be required.
The response by official representatives of the Administrative branch of the U.S. Government to the devastation of the Bahamas provide a concrete example of the type of cooperation the UK may reasonably expect, under President Trump. It is a demonstration that “America First” does not mean, and has never meant, “America and its allies First.”
This is a teachable moment for Boris Johnson. Time will tell whether he has the capacity to learn from it.