The Times – George and Tony. For ever, by Tim Hames<br/> The political partnership of Bush and Blair is more than just a cynical marriage of convenience
The attacks on Mr Blair for his dealings with Mr Bush are based on a false nostalgia for the Clinton era, a failure to appreciate the realities that a Prime Minister faces in foreign affairs and a reluctance to admit that “liberal interventionism” often involves conservative methods.
The recasting of the Clinton years is risible. The former President is depicted as a sage diplomat, measured and consistent, who “spoke European” (unlike his successor, who can barely speak English) and with an astute strategy for global politics.
This is nonsense. Mr Clinton’s approach to international relations was rather like his attitude to women: he either wanted his hands everywhere or he ignored the body concerned entirely. He came into power demanding that Europe take charge alongside him in Bosnia and then retreated when a relatively minor military debacle elsewhere (Somalia) drained him of personal authority. After that he was such a feeble commander-in-chief that when Osama bin Laden started his terrorist campaign against American targets the response from the Oval Office was to bomb so-called chemical factories in Sudan — but only after local security guards had finished their night shift and there was no danger of them being hit by missiles. That must really have put the frighteners on al-Qaeda.
Then there was Kosovo. Six years after declaring the behaviour of the Serbs in one part of the Balkans to be utterly unacceptable, Mr Clinton had to be dragged kicking and screaming by Mr Blair into a neighbouring area where the atrocities committed were worse still. The split between the two men then was more profound than any that has occurred since Mr Bush entered the White House. It happened not because Mr Clinton was being “measured”, let alone “consistent”. He behaved as he did because he did not want to risk his poll ratings. Too often, Mr Clinton did not “speak European” — he spoke with a forked tongue. Whatever Mr Bush’s faults may be, as the Prime Minister has frequently observed, you do know where he stands and where you stand with him.