Kendall Myers, a senior US state department analyst, has called the Anglo-American relationship “one sided” and implied that Blair was essentially an idiot for wasting his time. Some choice quotes:
It was a done deal from the beginning, it was a onesided relationship that was entered into with open eyes… there was nothing. There was no payback, no sense of reciprocity… We typically ignore them and take no notice Ã¢â‚¬â€ it’s a sad business… What I think and fear is that Britain will draw back from the U.S. without moving closer to Europe. In that sense, London’s bridge is falling down…
Kendall, a British politics specialist – and thus, I’m guessing, an Anglophile – admitted to feeling “a little ashamed” at the way Bush treats Blair.
I’m about as pro-American as anyone you’ll find on the British left, and I agree that the Bush-Blair relationship is a sick joke. But… I think Myers has misunderstood the PM’s motives on this one.
What, I would ask, was the alternative to what we’ve seen over the last six years?
I don’t mean what else could Britain have done. I mean, specifically, what could Blair?
Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 there’s been heated debate in Britain about exactly what Blair should be asking for, in exchange for his support. A deal on climate change? Another push for peace in Gaza? Trade benefits?
But… I don’t think Blair has ever seen the relationship in those terms. It’s much simpler – and much scarier – than that. He believes this stuff. He’s always pursued an activist foreign policy – remember Kosovo? – and he was pushing for something to be done about Saddam when Clinton was in charge. (Clinton, bless his little cotton socks, wasn’t that stupid.) He is, in a way, a neo-con.
So asking what Blair wanted in exchange for invading Iraq is a meaningless question. It’s like asking what Tom Cruise would want in exchange for accepting an Oscar.
Does he get listened to in the administration? Probably not. But then, the Rumsfield-Cheney axis have never shown much interest in listening to anyone from outside their own clique. I bet he still gets heard by policy makers more clearly than, say, Jacques Chirac, though: “Not much” beats “Bugger all.”
As to the other side of “London’s bridge”… With the exception of Ted Heath, Blair has probably been the most pro-European prime minister Britain has ever had. He was in favour of the Euro; he agreed to the EU constitution; he has said in the past that the idea of Britain having a future outside Europe is essentially inconceivable.
That Britain hasn’t moved closer to Europe despite that enthusiasm seems, to me, to be due to both popular antipathy to Brussels, and genuine differences in outlook between Britain and much of the continent. The British largely believe in market economics and nation states; the French largely believe in European integration and the French social model.
Given those inherent differences, I’m really not sure what “moving closer to Europe” is supposed to look like. But the fact that Britain is now part of an identifiable block of liberal EU economies, rather than some kind of isolated freak state, has got to be a good sign, right?
Blair’s foreign policy has been a disaster; he has no real influence in the US; and if there is a core group of European countries, Britain is clearly not part of it. On all those points, Myers was right.
But for Tony Blair – for a man of his convictions – what was the alternative?