April 23, 2006


'We would have been close even if 9/11 hadn't happened' (Con Coughlin, 23/04/2006, Daily Telegraph)

How easy was it to establish a good working relationship with Bush after Clinton?

"Even those who most strongly disagree with President Bush in the international community would say that he is both extremely courteous and very straightforward. I suspect it would still have been a good, close, working relationship if September 11 had not happened, but obviously that redefined the relationship at every single level. If you look at the joint press conference we gave after meeting for the first time in February 2001, I was talking about the whole issue to do with proliferation, of nuclear and biological weapons, of terrorism, because I had become increasingly concerned about it.

"By 2001, before September 11, I was already in a pretty tough mode towards global terrorism or the proliferation of nuclear weapons. [I was] becoming increasingly alarmed at the number of terrorist incidents and also that this terrorism seemed to be aimed at creating the largest number of casualties."

From a very early stage in Blair's premiership, he seemed determined to have a close working relationship with the White House. How much was this down to the influence of Baroness Thatcher and the other people he conferred with when he first became Prime Minister, and how much was it his own judgment that Britain's defence and security needs were best served by having a close alliance with the US?

"Yes, it's true a lot of people expressed that view. But I had come to the conclusion before we came to office - and even more so afterwards - that the transatlantic alliance was crucial to the security of the world.

"The American relationship is absolutely central. I run our foreign policy on the basis that Britain should have strong alliances in Europe and maintain its pivotal alliance with America. I would not have committed this country to conflict simply on the basis of the American relationship."

Irrespective of who the president is?

"Absolutely. Irrespective of who the president is."

Clearly this was very much in your mind when 9/11 happened. You were straight out thereā€¦


Standing shoulder to shoulder, there's no daylight between us?

'I never had a moment's doubt about this. Because 9/11 for me was, 'Right, now I get it. I absolutely get it.' This has been building for a long time. It is like looking at a picture and knowing it was important to understand it, but not quite being able to make out all its contours. And suddenly a light was switched on and you saw the whole picture. It was a defining moment. We stood shoulder to shoulder with America because my belief then, and my belief now, is that America was attacked not because it was America - but because it was the repository of the values of the Western world, and it was the main power embodying them. It was an attack on all of us. And I don't mean that in a sentimental way."

There's a tendency to romaticize the FDR/Churchill, Reagan/Thatcher, Bush/Blair relationships, but that such leaders and loyalties arise whenever needed suggests that the specific people are rather secondary.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 23, 2006 8:27 PM

Churchill/FDR was expediency, I doubt Churchill shared Roosevelt's love affair with the Soviets while the others, Reagan/Thatcher and Blair/Bush all seem to be on the same page.

Posted by: erp at April 24, 2006 7:46 AM

We were there for them when they needed to retake the Falklands.

I shall never forget that in the middle of the Falklands operation our local classical music station first played "Rule Britannia," and then, for Argentina, a cut of das Englandlied, the WWII Nazi naval song with the reflain, "When we sail against England."

Posted by: Lou Gots at April 24, 2006 10:47 AM


You should read the Roosevelt-Churchill correspondence. Man oh man, does Roosevelt come out looking bad vis a vis the Soviets. To take just one example: Churchill, openly allied with the Soviets but relatively clear-eyed, sent Roosevelt a missive on Katyn Forest that described how we could be quite certain that the Soviets were the culprits. Roosevelt never responded.

Prior to Yalta (I think it was), Roosevelt resolutely refused to meet with Churchill to coordinate strategy but, according to one of his advisers, was as excited as a small boy to be meeting Stalin.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at April 24, 2006 12:13 PM


I beg your pardon, on second thought I believe it was the Teheran Conference.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at April 24, 2006 12:15 PM

Matt, you forget, I could be your grandmother. I was actually alive during that period and although just a small kid, I was a voracious reader. Even my younger self always wanted to make sense out what was happening and I couldn't reconcile what the oily devil on the radio was saying with what I learned by reading in the library.

I haven't heard FDR's voice in many many years, but I'll be if I do, my stomach will turn just like it did way back then.

I'm very much encouraged that kids like you are so knowledgeable and concerned. I hope you have a bunch of kids and teach them right thinking. We need more like you.

Posted by: erp at April 24, 2006 4:40 PM


Per your final comment, I'm lucky nobody can see me blush in cyberspace.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at April 24, 2006 8:20 PM


Oh, and of course, thank you.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at April 24, 2006 8:21 PM
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