Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The veneer of fraternity

The veneer of fraternity

Tony Blair is not the first British prime minister to embrace a US president's mendacity, but he could well be the last

Sidney Blumenthal
Thursday May 12, 2005
The Guardian

....In his relationship with Bush, Blair apparently misread the outward signs of American culture and interpreted them through British eyes. Bush can be so amiable and informal dressed in blue jeans that his manner can be mistaken for openness and cooperation, when it conceals a particular type of American class superiority and indifference. Bush, after all, seems so friendly compared with the glowering Cheney, who clawed his way upward. It's not easy for someone who's never travelled in America to grasp the evolution of the Bush family from north-east patricians into Texas Tories, and the dissolution of the New England character along the way, especially its sense of responsibility, duty and humility.

Bush's amiability towards Blair merely demonstrates his acceptance of the prime minister into his fraternity, his private club. But even if Blair got Bush exactly right in every nuance, the outcome remains the same. (Gordon Brown and Bush are a car crash waiting to happen. Bush has an instinctive revulsion for serious intellectuals who have little capacity for the locker-room banter that is his mode of condescension.)

The underlying events that produced this election result provide a harsh, cautionary and unsettling lesson not only for Blair. Prime ministers to come will take the story of Blair's embrace of a powerful ally's mendacity and Blair's subsequent loss of trust as a warning. Future American presidents will be regarded with underlying suspicion far into the future. By chastening Blair, the British voters have applied the only brake they have on Bush's foreign policy. But the damage done to the US-UK relationship could have incalculable long-term negative consequences for the world.