BUSH AND BLAIR….Anyone who’s paid even the slightest attention to George Bush’s personality understands that he values loyalty above all else. But there’s always been a catch: although he values loyalty to George Bush, it’s never been a two-way street. It’s not wise to expect anything in return.
I’ve always wondered just how long it would take until Tony Blair finally blew his stack over this, but the man seems to have superhuman patience and has never publicly revealed any cracks in the facade of his eternal friendship with the president. Lately, though, as Alex Massie reports in TNR, other pro-American Brits have begun asking the question that one of them finally voiced publicly during a recent visit to America: “What do we get out of it?”
On a range of issues, the Americans have upset the British, politely listening to their concerns and then, more often than not, simply ignoring them. A British offer to send 6,000 troops into the caves of Tora Bora to hunt for Osama bin Laden was rejected in November 2001. British proposals for postwar Iraq were, according to a senior Foreign Office official quoted by Coughlin, “dumped … in the dustbin.” The initial round of primary reconstruction contracts went exclusively to U.S. firms; British companies had to complain before they were allowed a bigger piece of the action. Moreover, despite Bush’s stated commitment to free trade, he imposed tariffs on European steel imports for over 20 months. And, ignoring repeated British pleas, the administration refused to engage on global warming or to make a priority of the Middle East road map.
Lately, Massie, says, two new slights have taken center stage. The first is the American refusal to pass a bilateral extradition treaty even though the British approved their end of it three years ago. The second is American refusal to allow technology transfers related to Britain’s agreement to buy 150 Joint Strike Fighter planes. Blair has raised this issue with Bush several times, but Bush has apparently declined to spend any of his precious political capital on the issue.
It sure is a special relationship, isn’t it? Very, very special.