U.S. and Britain; Trans-Atlantic Relations Critical as the World Turns

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 16, 2007 | Go to article overview

U.S. and Britain; Trans-Atlantic Relations Critical as the World Turns


Byline: Helle Dale, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Americans love British politicians. To the distinguished company of Prime Ministers Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, we can now add Tony Blair as one of most admired people on this side of the Atlantic. Mr. Blair's favorable ratings here in the United States hover at about 70 percent. Granted this is a little behind Queen Elizabeth II, who after her state visit on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of Jamestown, had an approval rating of 80 percent. But, still, 70 percent is a lot of popularity.

As Mr. Blair arrives here in Washington tonight to spend the next few days with his friend President Bush, the special relationship between Britain and the United States is a subject that needs attention. It is very much in the national interest of both countries to nurture the relationship that dates as far back as this country has existed.

Britain remains the most important political and military ally of the United States. However, while Mr. Blair is extremely popular in the United States because he has to steadfastly stood with the United States since September 11, his approval rating has plummeted in Britain, in some ways for much the same reason. (This is not to say that domestic politics have not taken their toll as well.) Americans have deeply appreciated the solidarity and firmness Mr. Blair has shown (and the fact that the British are now drawing down their troops in Iraq after five years does not change that fact). Meanwhile, the British public has been deeply divided over the British engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, and indeed over the Blair government's approach to the war on terrorism - this, despite the fact that Britain by association with the United States remains a world power that punches far above its weight. The emblem of Britain is traditionally the bulldog, but under Mr. Blair, the bulldog has just about been replaced by the poodle as the most-used metaphor, a French dog at that.

This ambivalence is also suggested by the fact that the alliance sustained by Churchill, Thatcher and Blair with the United States in each case has come at the personal expense of domestic popularity. You could in fact argue that Mr. Blair made a great personal sacrifice as he ensured that the United States did not stand without major European allies as it face the most difficult external threat of this country's existence. …

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