OR MERELY 'YO BLAIR'?
[George W.] Bush: Yo, Blair. How are you doing?
[Tony] Blair: I'm just...
Bush: You're leaving?
Blair: No, no, no not yet. On this trade thingy....(inaudible) (Mr Blair is getting anxious that the World Trade Organisation is falling apart because some nations, including the US, are putting domestic interests before a worldwide free trade agreement)
Bush: Yeah, I told that to the man.
Blair: Are you planning to say that here or not?
Bush: If you want me to.
Blair: Well, it's just that if the discussion arises...
Bush: I just want some movement.
Bush: Yesterday we didn't see much movement.
Blair: No, no, it may be that it's not, it may be that it's impossible.
Bush: I am prepared to say it.
Blair: But it's just I think what we need to be an opposition...
Bush: Who is introducing the trade?
Blair: Angela (The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, will lead the trade discussion. That is good for Mr Blair. She is on his side.)
Bush: Tell her to call 'em.
Bush: Tell her to put him on, them on the spot. Thanks for the sweater it's awfully thoughtful of you.
Blair: It's a pleasure.
Bush: I know you picked it out yourself.
Blair: Oh, absolutely, in fact (inaudible)
Bush: What about Kofi? (inaudible) His attitude to ceasefire and everything else ... happens. (Change of subject. Now they are on to Lebanon and the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan)
Blair: Yeah, no I think the (inaudible) is really difficult. We can't stop this unless you get this international business agreed.
Bush: Yeah. (Mr Blair is trying to push the idea of a UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon. That 'yeah' does not sound like a wholehearted agreement)
Blair: I don't know what you guys have talked about, but as I say I am perfectly happy to try and see what the lie of the land is, but you need that done quickly because otherwise it will spiral.
Bush: I think Condi is going to go pretty soon. (Meaning: 'No')
Blair: But that's, that's, that's all that matters. But if you... you see it will take some time to get that together. (Meaning: 'Oh well, all right, if you don't want me to. Just a thought')
Bush: Yeah, yeah.
Blair: But at least it gives people...
Bush: It's a process, I agree. I told her your offer to... (Meaning: 'Drop it. You're not going.')
Blair: Well... it's only if I mean... you know. If she's got a..., or if she needs the ground prepared as it were... Because obviously if she goes out, she's got to succeed, if it were, whereas I can go out and just talk.
Bush: You see, the ... thing is what they need to do is to get Syria, to get Hizbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over....
Blair: Because I think this is all part of the same thing.
Blair: What does he think? He thinks if Lebanon turns out fine, if we get a solution in Israel and Palestine, Iraq goes in the right way...
Bush: Yeah, yeah, he is sweet. (Mr Bush is probably being sarcastic)
Blair: He is honey. And that's what the whole thing is about. It's the same with Iraq.
Bush: I felt like telling Kofi to call, to get on the phone to Assad and make something happen.
Bush: We are not blaming the Lebanese government.
Blair: Is this...? (at this point Blair taps the microphone in front of him and the sound is cut.)
Conversation overheard at the G-8 Summit in Saint Petersburg in July 2007. Edited Transcript from the Independent in: www.news.independent.co.uk
For many critics, most especially in his own native United Kingdom, nothing symbolized better the 'lapdog' status that Great Britain fell into vis-`a-vis the United States, during the latter portion of Blair's premiership, than the above dialogue with the American President. In which Bush, in his inarticulate fashion seems to dominate the conversation, and, Blair seems to merely respond to Bush's demands. Even a seemingly fair minded, non-partisan historian and commentator, such as Ian Kershaw recently noted that while Blair is a:
"conviction politician par excellence. His actions have been nobly motivated, underpinned by his Christian beliefs and guided by the principals of liberal interventionism to bring about democracy and justice".
His decision to join the American intervention in Iraq was a 'catastrophic decision', which has had the end result of: "undermining the international standing and power position of both parties [UK & USA] to the 'Special Relationship'". See: "Blair's 'Special Relationship'" in www.latimes.com.
Well one may inquire: is this true? As per the fact that the Iraq debacle has indeed 'undermined' the power and standing of both the UK and the USA (especially the latter), is an obvious truism. Equally true is the fact that from the very beginning of his premiership, Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, has expressed in both public and private, a moralism which one can scarcely encounter in a holder of the post of First Lord of the Treasury since Gladstone's second Ministry in the first half of the 1880's. Contrary to those who criticize him for going whole hog with the Americans into Iraq, Blair has from the very beginnings of his premiership, consistently sided with and aligned himself with the United States in a fashion that has been fairly unique among British Prime Minister's since the end of the Second World War. From operation 'Desert Fox', to the Invasion of Iraq in 2003, to the diplomacy of the Israel-Lebanon war of 2006, Blair has scarcely veered away from his embrace of the United States.
Which in turns begs another question: 'why'? Unlike other Prime Minister's in the Post-War period, Blair's alignment with the United States does not appear to have been inspired by a desire for some type of diplomatic quid pro quo. In which a UK 'service' would be reciprocated by some American favor. Quite the contrary appears to have been the case throughout his premiership. Nor does his closeness with for example the current American President, been rewarded with any degree of real influence into the shaping of American policy either in Iraq or in the Near East as a whole. Indeed, with the partial exception of the push for a second Security Council Resolution in March of 2003, there does not appear to have been an instance that Bush, et. al., have cared to tailor to the smallest degree American policy to take into account either Blair's advice or concerns. As the retired British Ambassador in Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer put it in his infamous memoirs (DC Confidential) that his remit from Downing Street was to:
"Get up the a--- of the White House and stay there".
And, that in their tet-`a-tet's Blair consistently failed to exercise any effective pressure or influence on Bush and company. Notwithstanding the fact that in absence of British support in the months leading to the invasion of Iraq, the Bush regime's policy to go to war, would have suffered perhaps (admittedly only a 'peut-etre')a near-fatal blow. Since, absent the UK, only geo-political pygmies like Azerbajian, Georgia and, Bulgaria would have made up the fabled 'coalition' with the United States. Instead of course, Blair gave his support, and pro-offered some thirty thousand troops (initially) for the invasion, and as of this writing, the UK still has seven thousand troops in Iraq. For what purpose escapes all and sundry. Obviously, the idea that via British support, Bush and company would gear American policy in the region to force through, a peace settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute has gone nowhere. With the contact group, merely providing the barest of fig leaf's for an American policy (until recently) of splendid inactivity.
To sum up, it would appear that Blair's support for American policy has been gratuitous in the extreme. Unlike in times past, it has not resulted in any effective British influence on shaping American policies, certainly not in the Bush years, and, once can assume that not much even during the Presidency of his mentor and doppelganger, President Clinton. One can only assume that perhaps the major reasoning behind Blair's thinking is that he wished to avoid the fate of his predecessor at 10 Downing Street, John Major, whose relationship with President Clinton's America, was from start to finish uniformally bad. Especially over Bosnia and Northern Ireland. With the result that the Tory Prime Minister, was to all intents and purposes persona non grata, with the White House. Which is not to gainsay the fact, that in an strange, perverted way, Blair 'is' the William Ewart Gladstone pour notre jour. Both strong Anglo-Catholics, both with Scottish backgrounds, both committed to almost totally moral view of politics and foreign affairs in particular. Both great public speakers, with a special talent to putting into words the feelings of the bien pensant at a particular moment. A talent which both subsequently lost well into their respective years at Number Ten. The fact that Blair supported American policy in Bosnia in the years prior to his premiership, from a purely moralistic point of view, perhaps explains Blair's subsequent, leach-like clinging to the American coattails. Something that notwithstanding their own at times (mostly rhetorical) idealistic gloss on the Anglo-American relations, Churchill, Bevin, Macmillian, Thatcher, and the other luminaries of the 'Special Relationship' would not have approved. Nor do I think should we. Notwithstanding this fact, one cannot deny that in many ways, Tony Blair, while indeed an unfortunate child of his era, is a most singularly talented and intelligent man and politician, as that arch-commentator on Twentieth Century British politicians and Premier's, Peter Hennessy has noted, in his book on the subject (The Prime Minister). All the more unfortunate, that his talents such as they are, were wasted in the sands of Iraq. Pour rien plus les beaux yeux of George W. Bush. What could possibly be a more tragic fate than that?