A Poodle Shall Lead Him

By O'Neill, Brendan | The American Conservative, April 23, 2007 | Go to article overview

A Poodle Shall Lead Him


O'Neill, Brendan, The American Conservative


Much as the British PM is derided as the U.S. president's pet, Blair popularized his "ethical foreign policy" long before Bush fell under the neocon spell.

LONDON-On both sides of the Atlantic, it has become fashionable to refer to British Prime Minister Tony Blair as President George W. Bush's "poodle." Where the leaders of other European states, most notably France and Germany, snubbed Bush's bombardment of Iraq, Blair stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the president, yapping his approval of his master's destruction of the Ba'athist regime.

In Britain, at least, you cannot open a newspaper or a magazine without reading that Blair is the president's panting pet Last year, following the embarrassing overheard conversation between Bush and Blair at the G8 gathering in Russia-where the president greeted the PM with the words "Yo, Blair!" and thanked him for the sweater he gave him-a writer for the Guardian said Blair had become Bush's "servant." It is clear, said Ros Taylor, that Bush "exploits" the "feeble Blair."

Under the headline "Yo, Bush! Start Treating Our Prime Minister With Respect," the tabloid Daily Mirror said the unguarded exchange reinforced "the damaging public image of Blair as the US President's poodle." A new book by the British writer Geoffrey Wheatcroft titled Yo, Blair!, published this month, argues that the consequence of Blair's slavish relations with Bush is that British politics, if not British land, has become colonized by the neocons.

When Blair meekly lined up with the Bushies to support Israel's bombing of Lebanon last summer, the British left-leaning weekly The New Statesman demanded, "Unhitch us from the Bush chariot" The magazine spoke for many in the latte-drinking classes when it warned against allowing Bush to continue "to set the bearings of our moral compass."

In popular culture, too, Blair is blasted for sucking up to Bush. In 2005, the Pet Shop Boys, those aging survivors of 80s synthesizer pop, had a hit with "I'm With Stupid," in which they imagined Blair thinking of Bush in the following terms: "See you on the TV / Call you every day / Fly across the ocean / Just to let you get your way." In short, Blair is the sycophant in chief to the commander in chief. The British film "Love, Actually" had Hugh Grant playing a posh, slightly dithering but affable PM blatantly based on Blair-only this PM distanced himself from the American president (played by a sneering Billy Bob Thornton) in scenes that were cheered in some British cinemas.

It is of course true that Blair has been unquestioningly supportive of the Bush administration's disastrous war in Iraq. He has recently announced that British troops will start withdrawing, but alongside Australia's John Howard, Blair has been one of a dwindling number of world leaders that Bush has been able to rely upon to provide an internationalist gloss to America's wars.

So isn't it accurate to portray Blair as an obedient, fetching pup to Bush's rottweiler? Not at all, in my view. Indeed, one might argue that Bush is Blair's poodle. Many of the worst aspects of the Bush Doctrine-its reduction of world affairs to a black-and-white tableau of good and evil; its disregard for state sovereignty; its cynical claim to be acting in the interests of humanity-were inherited by the neoconservatives from Blair's "ethical foreign policy" of the 1990s.

Tagging Blair a "poodle" absolves him of responsibility for his key role in creating today's attack-dog militarism. For while he may have been a nodding dog over the Iraq War, he also helped to shape what has come to be known as the Bush Doctrine.

Blair was executing bloody wars of intervention for years before the neocons took the White House in 2001. He stormed to power in the British general election of 1997 on a ticket of cleaning up Parliamentary politics at home (following years of "sleaze scandals") and fixing other people's problems overseas. …

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