Thursday, October 19, 2006

Cracks in the Bush / Blair Axis

Breaking Up That Old Gang of Mine


"George Bush's most steadfast backer in the March 2003 preventive war invasion and occupation of Iraq has been British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The Bush-Blair "dynamic duo" act is, however, about to end. Blair is soon to resign his post in favor of the Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown.

Like the date on which British, U.S., and all other foreign occupation troops will leave Iraq, the exact month and day of the hand-over of #10 Downing Street remains undeclared. But pressure is sure to mount for some declaration on both points because of remarks by top British military official General Sir Richard Dannatt.

Dannatt, however, is to date the only active duty senior officer in either the UK or the United States to have come close to an explicit call for removing foreign troops. After Sir Richard's original remarks became public, retired Major General Patrick Cordingly, who commanded the UK's "Desert Rats" in the first Gulf War in 1991, commended Dannatt for speaking out.

Neither Downing Street nor the Ministry of Defence (MOD) publicly challenged, let alone attacked, Sir Richard. Blair's office said foreign troops were in Iraq "at the express wish" of the Iraqi government and under a UN mandate, while a MOD spokesperson said the military "had a clear strategy." This moderate response contrasts sharply with how, just before the U.S.-led invasion took place, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz rebuked then-U.S. Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki for telling Congress that "several hundred thousand" troops would be needed to occupy Iraq.

One thing seems certain. Even though the signature B-B relationship will survive the coming "regime change" in the UK when Brown replaces Blair, the intensity of UK enthusiasm for staying on in Iraq will diminish. With casualties mounting, with the generals beginning at last to criticize the war and the effects of combat, Brown will find himself under enormous pressure to set a timetable, declare an exit strategy, and bring the UK troops home.

And should the Republicans lose control of the House or Senate in next month's election, George Bush may have to declare "victory" and follow the lead of the British: out the door that was kicked in on March 19, 2003."

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