One way to join the war bandwagon without embracing the war’s architect is to posit an ideological chasm between President Bush and Tony Blair and come down on the side of the latter. This report by Glenn Frankel of the Washington Post does just that. Frankel’s thesis is that, while Bush and Blair reached the same conclusion on the question whether to fight Iraq, “there are significant differences in the way they justify the war and in their vision for what happens after the fighting ends — inside Iraq, and in the wider Middle East and the world at large.” You can probably guess what the alleged differences are and which side of the supposed divide Frankel tilts towards. And you will not be surprised that Frankel contrasts Blair’s “secular and ecumenical” Christianity with the “doctrinal” approach of unnamed others.
My view is that, unfortunately, the gap between Bush and Blair is probably not that wide. For example, Bush made every effort to garner the support of the Security Council before going to war. It is true that, but for Blair, Bush probably would not have gone to the Security Council a second time. But this had more to do with the political situation Blair faced than with any real philosophical quarrel. Nor am I confident that the differences between the two about how to deal with France, Germany, and Israel in the aftermath of the war will be terribly profound. Blair, of course, needs to worry about his European partners more than Bush does. But many in America’s foreign policy establishment worry about Blair’s partners far more than they need to. It is far from clear that Bush will resist the pressure that will be exerted by that establishment, and by Blair himself, to be conciliatory to our former allies in the former Western Europe. And, sadly, that may well be the smart political move, in order to the prevent the successful emergence of a Tony Blair wing of the Democratic party.
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