Beijing and Moscow, gleefully, are on “Team Harry and Meghan,” and decidedly for self-serving and nefarious reasons. Intentionally or not, the two sidelined British royals, while luxuriously decamping in southern California, are recklessly undermining the national security of the United Kingdom and, by extension, imperiling that of the United States and its allies. In selling out “King and Country” in exchange for Hollywood-style celebrity on Netflix, apparently nothing about British national security is sacred to the two — not even the late Queen Elizabeth II’s greatest legacy: the 56-member Commonwealth of Nations.
Derisively referred to as “Empire 2.0” by Afua Hirsch, a British journalist born in Norway, during her commentary in the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Netflix series, “Harry & Meghan,” the Queen’s Commonwealth legacy in the documentary was held out to be an evil archetypical manifestation of racism and repression. The unspoken inference is that the British royal family is its chief propagator.
What rot. If only the Commonwealth Charter agreed. It doesn’t. The governing charter itself establishes all member-states as equals and emphasizes that it “is a voluntary association of independent and sovereign states.” Moreover, its founding precepts recognize its “special strength” lies within its “combination of our diversity and our shared inheritance in language, culture and the rule of law.”
In many respects, the saga of Prince Harry and Meghan mirrors Alfred Hitchcock’s classic whodunit comedy, “The Trouble with Harry.” In the British filmmaker’s movie, the character of Harry Worp, played by Philip Truex, is found dead. Three characters played by Edmund Gwenn (who played Kris Kringle in “The Miracle on 34th Street”), Shirley MacLaine and Mildred Natwick, are all convinced they accidentally murdered poor Harry.
The modern dystopian twist, however, is that Prince Harry wants the British and American publics to believe that the royal family, the Palace as an institution (or “The Firm” as it is known), and the British media have all conspired to destroy him and his family. Both he and Meghan Markle offer only vague reasons as to why and how. They all hinge around allegations of racism against her, yet none involves specific accusations naming members of the royal family.
In the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s version of Hitchcock’s dark comedy, each of the three prime suspects they disingenuously contend is responsible for their royal fallout and demise should accept they are racist in every regard — proven or not — and admit fault without the benefit of facts, evidence, trial or a jury.
It would be comical if the real-world implications of Harry and Meghan’s tantrums were not as serious and far-reaching as they are in reality — especially in a world where the West and its notions and ideals of neoliberalism are under assault by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine and by Chinese President Xi Jinping, among others.
As is, the Commonwealth is under existential attack by Moscow and Beijing — and East, Central and Southern Africa are most at risk. Both dictatorships offer worldviews fundamentally and diametrically opposed to the West. China believes in totalitarian democracy wherein citizens are the “masters” of the country, but the Chinese Communist Party is the master of the people. Putin espouses an autocratic multipolar world forged by military invasions and sham referenda.
One prong of attack, especially by China, has been to buy up the Commonwealth — a high-stakes hostile takeover, if you will. Since 2005, Xi has pumped £685 billion of Chinese investment into Commonwealth nations. Beijing’s largesse, however, comes at a steep cost. Xi has coerced numerous Commonwealth states into supporting Beijing over London when it comes to critical votes on resolutions at the United Nations.
Ten Commonwealth members sided with Beijing over London in 2020, during a human rights committee vote on China’s Hong Kong National Security Law. Putin also has benefited from his strategy of heavily involving the Wagner Group in Africa as a mercenary force for hire. Early on in March, 51 percent of African countries — barely a majority — voted to condemn Putin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine. Five Commonwealth members abstained, including Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa and Tanzania.
If Harry and Meghan failed to understand this growing threat to the Commonwealth at the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, then by October, neither had any excuse to be presently in denial about the extent of Beijing’s and Moscow’s growing influence on its member-nations. In October, after Russia “annexed” Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia, alarmingly, 10 Commonwealth countries abstained.
Most egregiously, however, is Prince Harry’s evident failure to understand the largely symbolic yet very real role his father, King Charles III, plays as the head of the United Kingdom’s military forces given that the threat to the Commonwealth is not merely political or economic, but an ever-growing military one as well. In addition to Russia’s Wagner Group conducting mercenary operations throughout Africa, China is steadfastly militarily encircling much of the Commonwealth in Africa and in the Pacific.
Beijing is accomplishing this encirclement vis-à-vis its Belt and Road Initiative, such as building a deep-water port in Lamu, Kenya, and developing the Lamu Port South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport corridor. China is also reportedly building a military base in Tanzania, expanding its military base and naval capacity in Djibouti in East Africa, and planning more military installations.
Given Moscow’s and Beijing’s designs on the Commonwealth, and Africa in particular, Harry and Meghan’s ratings “Empire 2.0” publicity stunt for their Netflix documentary could not come at a worse time. Yes, “Team Harry and Meghan” undoubtedly will argue — as some already have — the two could have served as much-needed ambassadors to Africa. But that’s revisionist theory. It appears they were never keenly interested in the role.
Further, by Harry and Meghan amassing personal wealth in America — by some estimates, more than $150 million for the Netflix series alone — and doing so by attacking the Commonwealth as “Empire 2.0,” they are crassly jeopardizing a global economic alliance that accounts for nearly 10 percent of the United Kingdom’s total foreign trade. Somewhere along the way, Harry and Meghan replaced “King and Country” with “Bling and Sundry.”
Poignantly, at Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, a hymn was played, entitled, “Who among us shall separate us?” Moscow and Beijing are betting on that answer, in part, being Harry and Meghan, especially in terms of fomenting racial divide in Africa. It undermines not only the United Kingdom but also the strength of its military and economic partnership with Washington — and as a result, U.S. national security.
In “The Trouble With Harry” (spoiler alert!), it turns out that Harry died of natural causes. No one murdered him, just as no one in the royal family, the Palace, or media is to blame for Harry and Meghan’s self-inflicted wounds. Ironically, one of the young supporting actors in Hitchcock’s comedy was Jerry Mathers, later of “Leave it to Beaver” fame. In that vein, “Leave it to Harry” to have messed this up badly, no doubt with Meghan leading him every step of the way. Please, really, “Spare” us and U.S. national security from any more of their tirades.
Mark Toth is a retired economist, historian and entrepreneur who has worked in banking, insurance, publishing, and global commerce. He is a former board member of the World Trade Center, St. Louis, and has lived in U.S. diplomatic and military communities around the world, including London, Tel Aviv, Augsburg, and Nagoya. Follow him on Twitter @MCTothSTL.
Jonathan Sweet, a retired Army colonel, served 30 years as a military intelligence officer. His background includes tours of duty with the 101st Airborne Division and the Intelligence and Security Command. He led the U.S. European Command Intelligence Engagement Division from 2012-14, working with NATO partners in the Black Sea and Baltics. Follow him on Twitter @JESweet2022.