Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 23, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

BUSH AND BLAIR....Yeah, I know, this is from the Sunday Mirror, but it has the ring of truth anyway:

Tony Blair and George Bush's love-in has collapsed over the rebuilding of Iraq.

....According to diplomats, relations between the allies have gone into "deep freeze" since the capture of Saddam Hussein last weekend.

President Bush was incensed that Mr Blair stole Washington's thunder by being the first Western leader to confirm that the former dictator had been arrested by US troops.

Downing Street rushed out Mr Blair's announcement before he had spoken to the American leader early last Sunday, when Mr Bush - six hours behind London - was still in bed.

Whitehall insiders confirmed that Mr Blair's decision was partly out of anger over a US veto on his proposed visit to British troops in Iraq during the Christmas holiday.

....Mr Blair and Mr Bush have had at least three phone conversations during the past seven days which Whitehall officials described as "increasingly terse".

A Downing Street insider said: "Relations between the two are at the lowest ebb since they first met.

"The PM is not happy at having to deal with Britain's European partners who have been left out of the rebuilding contracts. Of course they are still talking - but the diplomatic temperature is in the deep freeze."

(Via Hesiod.)

I think there's a genuinely interesting dynamic at work here: Tony Blair supported the war on Iraq because he genuinely believed in it, but at the same time he also has an internationalist vision that is increasingly at odds with George Bush's. In fact, Blair's internationalism is I think quite close to my own, and his support of the war was something that influenced my views.

But in the end, Blair really is an internationalist. He wanted to get UN support, he was genuinely sorry that he couldn't convince Germany and France to get on board, and now that the war is over he truly wants to rebuild the old alliances. Bush, on the other hand, never really cared about that stuff and still doesn't. His instinct is to act alone.

Back in March I suggested that the Bush-Blair alliance wouldn't hold up forever, mainly because I didn't think that Bush would demonstrate any serious loyalty to Blair for the genuinely brave and risky stand that he took on the war. Blair is too canny a politician to ever publicly break with Bush, I think, but it wouldn't surprise me if their private relationship is getting increasingly testy. In the end, Bush doesn't really care about Blair except insofar as he supports what Bush wants, and there's only just so much of that that Blair can take.

What Blair is learning is that loyalty is a one-way street with George Bush: it's there as long as you support him unreservedly, but step out of line even for an instant and it's gone in a flash. As Fareed Zakaria put it just before the war, "should the guiding philosophy of the worlds leading democracy really be the tough talk of a Chicago mobster?....I can report that with the exception of Britain and Israel, every country the administration has dealt with feels humiliated by it."

And now Britain feels it too. Welcome to Crawford, Tony.

Kevin Drum 1:01 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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