Is it time for Tony Blair to reconsider his relationship with George Bush?

Share
Related Topics

In his interview with
The Independent, the Prime Minister insisted that he would remain "shoulder to shoulder" with George Bush, despite mounting pressure to distance himself from the Americans. Photographs showing the mistreatment of Iraqi detainees in US-run prisons brought to a head months of seething dissatisfaction with Mr Blair's closeness to Washington, which is undoubtedly a political liability for him at home.

In his interview with The Independent, the Prime Minister insisted that he would remain "shoulder to shoulder" with George Bush, despite mounting pressure to distance himself from the Americans. Photographs showing the mistreatment of Iraqi detainees in US-run prisons brought to a head months of seething dissatisfaction with Mr Blair's closeness to Washington, which is undoubtedly a political liability for him at home.

Now no politician, least of all one as adroit as Tony Blair, is going to admit that there is any need to change course when such a major joint enterprise as Iraq is going as badly as it is. The words will be of toughness and constancy. But Mr Blair has a particular dilemma. If he heeds calls to dissociate himself from George Bush, he may please his backbenchers and find a little more favour with voters, but he will do nothing to change the situation on the ground in Iraq. Worse, from his point of view, any shift would amount to an admission that two crucial choices of his premiership were both wrong: his determination to show that a Labour government could be a loyal ally even of a Republican administration, and his decision to join Mr Bush in invading Iraq. These are not small mistakes.

Yet it is high time that Mr Blair reconsidered relations with Washington. The disaster playing out in Iraq is only the most visible evidence that Mr Blair's path and Mr Bush's should diverge. However differently Britain may have run the area of southern Iraq for which it is responsible, we are now utterly tainted by association with the Americans. Our stock in the region is just as low, the damage to our diplomacy as enduring.

One reason for supporting the US war given by the Blair government was the chance to exercise some influence over Washington. Yet there is no proof that Mr Blair has been able to influence Washington at all, beyond - perhaps - Mr Bush's agreement to work for a while through the UN. The Prime Minister's most recent US trip, hard on the heels of Mr Bush's public support for Israel's unilateral peace plan, showed just how little Mr Blair's views count in Washington. Any hope of reward for loyalty beyond the call of duty, the quid pro quo on Middle East peace that Mr Blair had sought, was dashed.

It is too late now to speculate about how and even whether Britain's relations with the US would have deteriorated had Mr Blair left the US to fight in Iraq alone. Britain stayed out of Vietnam without apparent damage either to the military alliance or to the tenuous "special relationship". But the Iraq war and its aftermath pose legitimate questions about the value of either. How useful are such arrangements as intelligence-sharing or Britain's share in Washington's nuclear deterrent? We are allied anyway through Nato. Might not the imbalance of power be too great now to leave any substance in the much-vaunted specialness of the bilateral ties?

Mr Blair clearly feels he has no alternative but to stick with Mr Bush for the time being. But he should be think seriously about an alternative to the outdated "special relationship" for the future.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to get in...

Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

SThree: Recruitment Consultant - IT

£25000 - £30000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking fo...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Prevention is better than cure if we want to save the NHS

Tanni Grey Thompson
Question time: Russell Brand interviewing Ed Miliband on his YouTube show  

Russell Brand's Labour endorsement is a stunning piece of hypocrisy

Lee Williams
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before