Today I read the story about the UK redeploying troops from Basra to Bagdad. I was reminded of the unique friendship we have in Tony Blair.
In 1997, when Blair became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, much was made of the similarities between him and Bill Clinton. Two young liberal leaders walking side by side. In many ways, Clinton took him on as a protege. After all, Bill had already been in office for a few years, and he could give Blair pointers on style and substance. For awhile, it seems as though Blair was taking him up on his offer. They were two peas in a pod. Brothers, one older than the other, leading two of the worlds superpowers. As the Clinton presidency came to a close, many thought that Al Gore would easily take the place held by his boss. Blair and Gore were even closer in age and it would be easy for the two to appear “close” given the partnership made earlier with Clinton. Something was different though – there didn’t seem to be that natural glue between Gore and Blair. One could say that a sort of built-in distance existed between the two. When George W. Bush was elected the 43rd president of the United States, the media posed the question – what is to come of the relationship between the US and Britain? The conventional wisdom was that Bush could never form a partnership with Blair that would come anywhere close to the “brotherhood” he shared with Clinton, and in the first few months of the Bush presidency, it was hard to tell what kind of partnership the two would have.
Then came 9/11.
On that single day the relationship between Washington and London changed. On that single day, the alliance between Washington and London solidified. One could say that prior to 9/11, the US/UK posture was “superficial”. A photo-op friendship. A public partnership built upon media portrayals of two young men with open shirt collars. In the post 9/11 world, the picture was transformed. Blair, a former Clinton “mini-me”, was moved by the terror event. He became a real brother, not only to Bush, but to every American. Blair is the brother that won’t stand down. He’s the brother that will help protect and uphold the freedom of democracy. He’s shown that he is willing to sacrifice his own hold on power, his own legacy for America.
Prior to 9/11, I didn’t have a lot of respect for Tony Blair. But that day erased the past in an instant. Bush grew up, stepped up, and found he had a “brother” in Tony Blair. He is America’s true ally.