This morning a reporter asked Donald Rumsfeld if we would go to war without Britain. He said:

To the extent they are able to participate — in the event that the president decides to use force — that would obviously be welcomed. To the extent they’re not, there are work-arounds and they would not be involved, at least in that phase…

Now, to Americans this seemed like just another case of good old straight shooting Don Rumsfeld. After all, there’s been a lot of news about backbench rebellion in the Labor Party, ministers resigning if Tony Blair commits troops without UN approval, and Blair’s stress-induced ill health, so it’s only natural that the Pentagon is planning what to do if Britain does indeed decide to pull out of the coalition.

But the real story here is how Rumsfeld’s comments show once again the Bush administration’s almost pathological inability to understand how other people are going to react to what they say. In Britain, Rumsfeld’s remarks caused a firestorm and were the lead story at the Times, the Telegraph, the Independent, and the Guardian ? and probably every other newspaper and television broadcast as well. A few hours later, after frantic transatlantic calls, Rumsfeld backtracked and said he had “no doubt” of the full support of Great Britain.

What a way to help the only ally you’ve got. Blair’s situation is already dicey enough, and Rumsfeld’s comments have potentially provided just the nudge needed to cause Blair to lose the support of his own party.

Every time one of these guys opens his mouth we lose another ally, and when this is all over it may turn out that their bungling in Turkey was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back. We lost the vote in Turkey by three votes, and this in turn probably demonstrated enough weakness to convince France and Russia to stand firm in their opposition to war. That in turn has sent Britain scrambling, and while we can surely prosecute the war on our own, the loss of both Turkey and Britain could delay the invasion long enough to allow even more opposition to develop. It’s still unlikely that anything will stop Bush from going to war, but at this point it’s at least possible.

And all because nobody in the administration can keep their damn mouths shut. It’s like watching a bunch of posturing teenagers in a schoolyard. Pathetic.

UPDATE: Bizarrely enough, Andrew Sullivan is on the same page as me. How likely is that?