Saturday, December 09, 2006


Promoting yourself as a close ally and friend of George W. Bush is bad news in the United States today. Doing it in England is like loudly declaring you've lost your mind. That UK prime minister Tony Blair refuses to badmouth his mate, George, has cost him untold political capital and helped to turn Iraq into the defining moment of his long rein at No. 10 Downing Street.

He is also spending a lot of time defending the US-UK alliance :
Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain defended his nation's close alliance with the United States yesterday and dismissed charges that the relationship has damaged Britain's credibility in the Middle East.

Blair responded to an influential think tank's report on British foreign policy during his term in office, which said he had been unable to prevent a drop in Britain's standing in the Middle East because of his ties with Washington and his support for the "terrible mistake" of the US-led Iraq war.

"Britain having a strong relationship with the United States of America has been a cornerstone of our policy for years and years and years and . . . if [we] give it up . . . we will pay a very heavy price in the future," Blair said during a stop in Dubai on the last leg of a Middle East tour.

Chatham House said that Blair had made a huge error by backing the US-led war in Iraq and had failed to coordinate a European response that might have tempered Washington's actions.

"The root failure [of Blair's foreign policy] has been the inability to influence the Bush administration in any significant way despite the sacrifice -- military, political, and financial -- that the United Kingdom has made," Chatham House said in its report.

Through all the travails of the 'War On Terror' and terrorists attacks in London, Washington DC and New York City, or so the public myth goes, George and Tony have remained close and confidential friends, supporting each other through difficult times.

The question should not be whether the above is true, but whether Tony Blair and George W. Bush were ever 'close friends'.

For Blair to have blown the legacy of his time as PM on a failed war and a failed friendship that might never have actually existed is close to tragic, for Blair anyway. The public doesn't like the war or Bush and they're increasingly unlikely to favour Blair.

Even those Brits who still support the Iraq War (a few million) detest Bush. It's not the personality, it's the methodology, his way of doing business.

People will tolerate leaders who duck and weave and dodge and decieve. For a while. But once the public's been burned a few times, there's no coming back. As President Bush learns now he is on the verge of becoming the most unpopular president in US history.

Likewise Tony Blair has lost, literally, tens of millions of public supporters over the Iraq War.

Few leaders of the United Kingdom have fallen so far in the minds of the public.

From the UK Independent :

Differences have emerged between Tony Blair and George Bush on strategy in the Middle East, even as the two leaders agreed that a major change of course was necessary in Iraq in the wake of the devastating critique delivered this week by a high-level bipartisan panel in Washington.

In general Mr Blair sounded distinctly more enthusiastic about the report, welcoming the "strong way forward" it set out.

But the President stressed repeatedly that while it was "important," the ISG document was just one among several studies being prepared here, by the State Department, the Pentagon and the National Security Council.

Yesterday's meeting was a sombre occasion, the first at which the two architects of the war had to confront, head on and in public together, the recent slide towards anarchy in Iraq.

A tired-looking Mr Bush acknowledged that the situation was "bad" and "very tough," and that the task ahead was "daunting." But, he warned, the stakes could not be higher.

A terrorist-dominated Middle East, he said, represented "an unprecedented threat to civilisation". As unwilling as ever to admit error, he described America's involvement in Iraq as "a noble mission". Unlike the Prime Minister, he spoke explicitly of "victory," insisting that it was "important for the entire world" that the US and Britain prevailed.

And here's a short history of Tony & George :

February 2001

Tony Blair and George Bush hold their first face-to-face talks at Camp David. Blair is determined to preserve Britain's much-vaunted special relationship.

Summit score: Bush 1, Blair 1.

What happened next: Cordial relations cemented.

September 2001

Mr Blair is first out of the traps, flying to Washington to stand 'shoulder to shoulder' with Bush after the 9/11 attacks. In public, Blair's response looks more assured. In private, he urges Bush not to be hasty.

Summit score: Bush 0, Blair 1.

What happened next: The war in Afghanistan.

April 2002

At a crucial summit in Texas, Blair gives Bush a private pledge that Britain will back his moves to oust Saddam Hussein. They say nothing in public.

Summit score: Bush 4, Blair 0.

What happened next: The long march to war 11 months later begins.

July 2003

After an apparently successful war, the PM is greeted as a hero when he addresses the US Congress. He urges the US to avoid isolationism.

Summit score: Bush 1, Blair 2.

What happened next: En route from Washington to Tokyo he is told that the government scientist David Kelly had disappeared.

November 2004

In the US, Blair wins a public pledge that Bush will expend his 'capital' on breaking the deadlock in the Israel-Palestinian peace process. Bush says a Palestinian state could be created within four years.

Summit score: Bush 0, Blair 1.

What happened next: Not much, to Mr Blair's frustration (again).

May 2006

The leaders acknowledge that the problems in Iraq have lasted much longer than they anticipated but vow to stay the course.

Summit score: Bush O, Blair 0.

What happened next: The insurgency continues.