September 12, 2006


A Chilled Relationship, For Now (Sebastian Mallaby, September 11, 2006, Washington Post)

British politics has delivered its own verdict on the war on terror. By a poignant coincidence, Tony Blair, the prime minister who has often been the world's most forceful exponent of a virile response to militant Islam, became a political eunuch last week -- just as the world was taking stock of the fifth anniversary of 9/11. A revolt within Blair's Labor Party forced him to promise that he would be gone within a year. He had become too close to the foreign policy of George W. Bush: in short, too pro-American.

Blair has always been that way, even before those hijacked planes smashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In the 1990s he bonded with the Clinton team, promoting a new politics that eschewed the statist left and free-market right in favor of a Third Way synthesis. Ideas such as welfare reform and wage subsidies for poor workers were test-driven in the United States and then rolled out in Britain. The Blairites embraced the Clinton mix of pro-market economics and pro-poor social policies.

But Blair's affinity with the United States went deeper than policy. His can-do optimism, his relentlessly on-message spin, his frank love of the camera: All would have been unremarkable in an American pol, but all challenged British tradition. Blair's predecessors respected their countrymen's distaste for showmanship, and they often seemed mousy when appearing alongside U.S. leaders. But Blair smiled his enormous chipmunk smile. He was even more upbeat than Americans.

It's worth pondering these things as you contemplate the future of the war on terror. The United States has few allies in the world, and Blair's forced promise to step down reduces America's most faithful friend to lame-duck status.

Mr. Mallaby seems to think it's 2004, when Chretien, Schroeder, Chirac, etc. were distancing their countries from the US. The notion that the rise of yet another W-like conservative leader -- soon to be followed by another in France -- is bad news for the President and America is patently absurd.

Insurgents melt away from battle (GRAEME SMITH, 9/12/06, Globe and Mail)

Hundreds of insurgents have scattered from a grinding Canadian military advance in Panjwai district, as soldiers punched into a former Taliban stronghold in a cascade of dust and flying rubble.

US-British 'Special Relationship' Endures: When Vice President Dick Cheney emerged from the White House for the 9/11 memorial services in Washington his wife was on one arm, and on the other was Margaret Thatcher, the former prime minister of Britain. (Gary Thomas, 9/12/06, VOA News)
[T]he "special relationship" transcends the personalities of an American president and a British prime minister, even when the two leaders may not get along as well as President Bush and Mr. Blair do.

The director of the Institute for Transatlantic European and American Studies at Dundee University, Alan Dobson, says it encompasses a wide range of links.

"It is that interdependence, it is the de-facto existence of what we might call togetherness in the economic, intelligence, and cultural sphere, and political sphere, it seems, that gives this resilience to this relationship," he said.

Many analysts agree that the relationship is strongest in the security field, particularly in intelligence cooperation. An intelligence and security expert at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Bob Ayers, says that the attacks of September 11th, 2001 in New York and the terrorist bombings last year on the London transport system have led to greater intelligence cooperation between the two nations.

"The intelligence relationship has probably never been better [than] since 9/11 because there is a common enemy that all the international nation-states are trying to take and hopefully defeat," he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 12, 2006 9:04 AM

"grinding Canadian military advance"

A phrase last used in 1944. (or was it 1917?) And a few years ago, who'd've thought we'd ever see it used ever again?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 12, 2006 10:56 AM

Albeit this is a story from The Guardian, which has its own axes to grind, Cameron comes off as either a bit to willing to subscribe to the idea of whatever Blair is for/against, he's against/for, or he's pandering to what he believes people want to hear right now, even if he knows it's against the long-term British interests, because it's more likely to get him into No. 10 Downing faster.

If he's following path No. 2, its simply a foreign policy version of what Clinton did when he "reversed" himself on the tax hike a month after taking office. If it turns out he actually believes what he's saying, then his Conservative role model is less Margaret Thatcher than it is Jacques Chirac.

Posted by: John at September 12, 2006 1:26 PM

In domestic policy he's for whatever Blair is for, just as Clinton was a Reaganaut and W a Clintonite.

In foreign policy you talk wahoo (remember how tough Clinton was gonna be on the Chicoms) and govern cautiously (which for a Brit means you hide under our wing).

Posted by: oj at September 12, 2006 1:55 PM

Sebastian Mallaby ignores the obvious almost as frequently as Fred Kaplan.

Posted by: kevin whited at September 12, 2006 2:02 PM

"the rise of yet another W-like conservative leader" Whoooo? You don't mean Cameron, a self-proclaimed liberal non-neocon, do you?

To paraphrase one of Churchill's last advices to his country men: Stand by the Americans. They'll always do the right thing after trying everything else.

Posted by: ic at September 12, 2006 5:07 PM


Posted by: oj at September 12, 2006 6:07 PM