New Perspectives on the Transatlantic Alliance

Nov 30, 2004

Lionel Barber identifies several crucial tests that will determine the future of the transatlantic alliance.


JOANNE MYERS: Good morning. I'm Joanne Myers, and on behalf of the Carnegie Council I'd like to welcome our members and guests to our Worldview Breakfast program this morning. Today we are delighted to have with us Lionel Barber. He will be discussing "New Perspectives on the Transatlantic Alliance." Seldom has a U.S. presidential election campaign been watched so vigilantly from the opposite side of the Atlantic as the contest between George W. Bush and John Kerry, and rarely have Europeans been quite so partisan in their support for one candidate over the other. So when the American electorate went to the polls and cast their ballots for Mr. Bush, giving him a second term, it was no secret that Europeans met this news with trepidation, as this was hardly the outcome they had desired.

However, comments by President Bush made during British Prime Minister Tony Blair's recent visit to Washington seem to have created new optimism in Europe that perhaps the second Bush Administration will attempt to repair the international rift that the first one created. On the other hand, recent statements by French President Jacques Chirac reveal a degree of uncertainty about the exact direction the second Bush Administration will take.

In order to look more closely at the future prospects of the transatlantic alliance, I have asked a person of extraordinary skill to share his thinking about this issue with us. Lionel Barber possesses that rare combination of imagination, intellect, and judgment, all which are needed to unravel the complexities of the current tension in the transatlantic relationship.

Our speaker this morning has written extensively and lectured widely in the United States and Europe on U.S. foreign policy, transatlantic relations, European security, and monetary union. He has been recognized by the British press as Young Journalist of the Year, and in 2001 he was cited by European Voice magazine as one of the fifty most influential people in Europe. In the same year he was invited to the White House to brief President Bush prior to his initial trip to Europe.

Mr. Barber has had journalistic experience on both sides of the Atlantic, first in Scotland, then in London as Editor of the Financial Times Continental European Edition, and also in Brussels as Bureau Chief. These two tours were followed by time spent in Washington, and now he is based in New York.

It is safe to say that he understands the nuances of U.S.-European relations better than most individuals in his field. Currently our guest is the Financial Times U.S. Managing Editor and is responsible for the FT's U.S. Edition, which I believe is one of the very best newspapers available today, as well as for all U.S. news on

Please join me in giving a very warm welcome to our guest this morning, Lionel Barber.


LIONEL BARBER: Good morning. Thank you, Joanne, for that very kind and warm introduction.

Listening to that biography, I should recall just one important fact which you failed to mention, and that is that almost fifty years ago to this month I was christened Franklin Lionel Barber. It was dropped because everybody kept calling me Frankie. But when I asked my father why he had named me Franklin, he said, "Well, it was because I was a great admirer of Franklin Roosevelt, and Roosevelt saved Britain and Europe from fascism and he saved America from the Depression."

So my question this morning for you all is: how many Europeans do you think are going to christen their first son George?

I have played around with a few titles for my speech this morning. I thought about "The Odd Couple," evoking Billy Wilder's bittersweet comedy about two grumpy old men condemned to what we foreign policy analysts call peaceful coexistence. I thought about perhaps "Europe and America: The View from the Psychiatrist's Couch," because there are those who look at Europe and America and think of it as a relationship in constant need of outside counseling. In any event, I have chosen a title which is somewhat bolder, "New Perspectives on the Transatlantic Relationship," and I'd like to append "Present at the Re-creation."

Now, that's a conceit borrowed from Dean Acheson's memoir of his formative years at the State Department immediately after 1945. This was a time of grave danger, but also of creative and far-sighted American diplomacy. Truman, Acheson, Marshall in Washington, and parliamentarians and political leaders in Europe, rewrote the modern world rule book of international relations. They acted with bipartisan support in Congress. All learned the lessons from the failure of the League of Nations, and together they built a new world order based on a network of institutions and alliances—the UN, NATO, the IMF, the World Bank, the GATT.

We need to find ways of re creating that same spirit of transatlantic partnership. But, as Brent Scowcroft said in the Financial Times recently, almost all our institutions are structured for a world that is departed. The old challenge of stabilizing Europe has largely been met, though we should not ignore the threat of a breakup of Ukraine, or indeed the resurgence of ethnic conflict in the Balkans. But the new challenge in the world after September 11th is to tackle problems that defy borders: messianic terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the phenomenon known as failed states.

In this very forum, Tim Garton Ash, who also briefed President Bush ahead of his first trip to Europe, spoke about a crisis of the West. In his view, that stemmed from a Europe which seeks to define itself in opposition to America, an America which views Europe as troublesome and irrelevant, and a Britain torn between the two. I share some of his analysis, but not necessarily his more optimistic prognosis of a revival of Atlanticism built around what he calls a free world. Let me explain why.

First, between 1941, the entry of the United States into the Second World War, and 1991, the collapse of the Soviet Union, America led the most successful alliance in history. Success was based on two unassailable pillars. The first was that the ruling elite, from President Truman through President Reagan to President Bush, viewed the construction of alliances not as acts of altruism but acts of self-interest. Second, and crucially from the point of view of allies, these alliances served to disguise the incontrovertible but often hardly palatable fact of American power.

The process of consultation and collective decision-making was admittedly tedious, time-consuming, and, especially when dealing with the likes of President Chirac, immensely frustrating. However, this very process silenced those anti-American critics, who viewed NATO as a vehicle for American hegemony. The West emphatically did not amount to an American empire comprised of supplicants and vassals. The transatlantic alliance was a freely entered into, mutually reinforcing partnership based on shared democratic values. These shared values, and interests in turn, bestowed legitimacy on American leadership.

Now consider the state of the transatlantic alliance today. From the European vantage point, America has discarded that modern rule book of international relations. The Bush Administration's national security strategy publicly embraces the doctrine of preventive war and declares to the world that it will brook no challenge to its supremacy. Whatever happened to those wise words about carrying a big stick but speaking softly?

In the words of my colleague, Martin Wolfe, who is a friend of America, "The conservatives who nominally control policy in Washington are in fact radicals dedicated to overthrowing the post-1945 order. They have abandoned permanent alliances in favor of shifting coalitions." Today we in Europe are confronted with what he described as a "neo-Bismarckian balance of power, which owes more to the late-19th century than the early-21st century."

Just so you don't think this is getting one-sided—the Financial Times always believes in balance and objectivity—I will turn to the American view of Europe, with which I have a great deal of sympathy. In the words of a senior Administration official with whom I have had conversations for nearly fifteen years, "The present generation of political leaders in Europe, with the honorable exception of Tony Blair, have lost their moral compass. Chirac and Schröder are political dwarfs compared to the towering giants of De Gaulle and Adenauer." De Gaulle? That's a bit of rewriting of history there, but there we are.

To quote from this same official: "There is no longer much sense of collective purpose of solidarity in the Atlantic alliance. Foreign policy is driven by tactics—Schröder's anti-American platform ahead of the election campaign in 2002, Chirac's triple alliance with Germany and Russia to thwart the second UN Resolution authorizing force against Iraq"—whatever happened to that triple alliance?—"and, most notorious of all, Zapatero's post-election decision to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq."

Well before the traumatic attacks of 9/11 and the convulsive American reaction, powerful forces were pulling the Transatlantic Alliance apart. The Iraq War simply dramatically exacerbated the points of difference. And so too has the declared war on terrorism, whatever the cooperation which we don't hear about between police and intelligence forces in Europe and America.

The overwhelming view in Europe today is that the U.S. invasion of Iraq has made the threat of Islamic terrorism worse than it was; whereas the majority view in Washington is that the United States is currently engaged in a new existential struggle.

President Bush's reelection was greeted with dismay in many European capitals. Then again, we don't have a vote. And why should we? Indeed, a Kerry Administration would have been an equally less comfortable partner, or a more uncomfortable partner, for Europe than many might imagine, and that is because he would have inherited the same facts on the ground, the same policy, the same challenge, and largely views the threat from radical terrorism in the same way.

So where do we go from here? The first opportunity for a meeting of minds will come in January when Mr. Bush flies to Brussels. And no, I haven't been invited to brief him.

Some European diplomats are talking grandly about the possibility of a fresh start—no doubt prematurely. But currently certain circumstances are conspiring to pull or push America and Europe closer together: the desire for a common stand on Ukraine; the death of Yasser Arafat—best known as "the abominable no man"—which surely and seriously offers some margin of maneuver in the intractable Israel-Palestinian conflict; and the prospect of Iraqi elections in January, which will I believe go ahead on time—no party in the United States or in Europe has an interest in failure in Iraq; the question is how to define the terms of success—and finally, the issue of Iran's nuclear enrichment program, where the Europeans may be able to extract key concessions from Teheran.

Looking ahead I would single out five tests for the transatlantic relationship to study what the state of play is:

1) A new division of labor between the United States and Europe. This should not be reduced to the principle of Americans fighting the war and Europeans doing the post-conflict clean-up. Europe will never catch up with America in military terms, but it should have the capacity to intervene either as a complementary partner to the United States or in crisis management in limited regional conflicts. That is indeed the purpose behind the limited Anglo-French Defense Initiative.

Similarly, if Iraq has taught us anything, surely the United States needs to improve its own post-conflict capability, whatever the Pentagon may think. And above all, Europeans must recognize that America, rightly, expects a richer, more politically mature Europe to do more, to contribute to the task of managing the peace, not just inside its borders but also out of area. The test for Europe is to abandon the empty rhetoric and to be practical and relevant.

2) Beyond the immediate task of reaching agreement on reconstruction in Iraq, including the role of the UN, Europe and the United States must bridge their present differences over the Israel-Palestine conflict and the broader transformation of the greater Middle East. The United States and Europe largely agree on the way forward, on the nature of the settlement and the means to achieve it, that is the roadmap prepared by the Quartet. All efforts must be made to prevent a situation whereby the Europeans are driven into—or drive themselves into—the Palestinian camp and the Americans sit in the Israeli camp. And Iran, finally, represents a triple credibility test of the Administration's willingness to engage its allies in its efforts to transform the region, of the seriousness of the EU's nascent foreign policy, and the future of the Nonproliferation Treaty.

3) The bilateral trade relationship and the Doha Round. One of the most impressive achievements of the Bush Administration years was the way in which both the EU and the United States prevented political differences from poisoning the bilateral trade and economic relationship, and much credit should go to Pascal Lamy, the Trade Commissioner in Europe, and Bob Zoellick, the American Trade Representative. It is vital that their successors continue that legacy.

Talk of a new Transatlantic Free Trade Area is premature. The focus should be on reaching a general, timely agreement on Doha.

4) Economic tensions are likely to play out increasingly over the next twelve-to-eighteen months. The immediate trigger is the decline in the dollar. Americans rightly blame Europe's unwillingness to take painful structural measures to spur demand. But a super-strong euro is actually hurting exports, particularly in Germany.

One extra difficulty is that the European Central Bank still sets rates largely on the basis of conditions in the Eurozone rather than thinking about global demand, and, again, a test of Europe's credibility is to think beyond its borders rather than adopting an introspective view.

5) We do need some new rules of the road in international relations. The UN Secretary General's high-level group will produce some valuable recommendations. They are much needed because today not only are the UN and the rule of international law in crisis, there is no universally accepted practice governing the use of force, nor consensus on the relevance of the UN. There is a very real danger of states ignoring the constraints of international law, discounting the legitimacy of the UN, and increasingly taking the law into their own hands. So the key question will turn on the conditions under which the use of force is and can be considered legitimate, whether self-defense, external armed conflict, or internal crises that involve the gross violation of human rights.

Some reforms are both necessary and desirable. They include the enlargement of the UN Security Council. But at a minimum, Europe and America should go back to the original UN Charter and figure out whether they stand by its original provisions on the authorization of force, as in Article 51 and Chapter 7.

Without this commitment, the alternative—and I am quoting here Strobe Talbot in a recent Economist—"is that the sheer preeminence of American power could in itself be the ordering and taming principle of a disorderly and dangerous world."

No one disputes the fact of American power, but I have sought to explain how American power is a necessary but insufficient factor in international relations today. Allies are sources of strength rather than weakness. Let us hope that politicians on both sides of the Atlantic recognize this, as their forebears did so remarkably more than a half century ago.

JOANNE MYERS: Thank you very much. I'd like to open the floor to questions.

Questions and Remarks

QUESTION: There are two other important areas that might draw the Transatlantic Alliance closer together. One is the war on terrorism. Recent domestic events in the Netherlands, for example the killing of Theo van Gogh, an intellectual, has reminded the Europeans that militant Islam and fanaticism is an internal as well as an external danger and that the open borders within the European Union create many difficulties that everyone has to deal with.

And since you mentioned the balance of power, one fear that might be considered, especially with trade, is the growing prominence of China and India, and therefore a need for a greater balance among the major powers of the world. At a certain level there is more balance than others.

LIONEL BARBER: You are absolutely right. The killing of Theo van Gogh was a traumatic shock, not just to the Dutch political system but also throughout Europe. Jane Kramer wrote a remarkable article in a recent issue of The New Yorker on the question of the French ban on veils and other religious symbols. She explained brilliantly how France in particular has ignored the Muslim problem. They have left them out of the city centers. There is a great deal of instability in Europe with this Muslim population.

The issue comes down to means and ends. All the European governments recognize that radical Islamic terrorism is a serious and immediate threat to their security. The question is about means, how best to attack it. Is it purely the balance between military, economic, and other tools? It cannot just be military.

That was indeed a wake-up call and the Europeans will seek to clamp down. They will be taking action in the next few months. Without going into detail, one of the fascinating insights in the conversation we had with the President was how the Administration and the President saw the world at that time. They were clearly very concerned about the rise of China as a world power, and they clearly saw Russia and a partnership with Putin as a countervailing force. That was why they had reached out to Putin in late 2000, and that relationship has tended to grow stronger despite the crackdown against Yukos, the crackdown in Chechnya.

China's rise is inexorable both as an economic power and as a political power. The key, though, is not to build a Bismarckian system, but to include China in the world councils, at the UN Security Council, reconstituting the system.

QUESTION: When the European Central Bank was founded, there were certain limitations to its ability to act. One is the Maastricht Treaty, which prescribes to the Central Bank to be completely independent of any government interference, and, secondly, to have as its inalterable goal an inflation rate that should not exceed 2 percent. It's probably premature to have a "one size fits all" European Central Bank and a differentiated approach would be necessary.

The U.S. dollar has been declining and we are in a situation similar to the 1980s and before, where the question is: what is happening to the international investments? Could it be that there is a certain hidden agenda in the decline of the U.S. dollar that we perhaps have to face up to?

LIONEL BARBER: I don't believe in conspiracy theories. I believe in markets. There is no conspiracy. There are very sound reasons why the dollar is declining. Let me just make a comment about the European Central Bank. Here you have one of the great historical ironies, that the price which Germany extracted for its agreement to give up the Deutschmark in favor of an untested Esperanto currency—that's a German phrase—the euro, was that the European Central Bank had to be absolutely on the Bundesbank model—not just Bundesbank, but Bundesbank with a capital B. Whoever heard of a completely independent central bank? This is like creating a huge monastery with monks in cells and nobody is allowed to come in as they set interest rates. No central bank can be completely immune. So that's the first problem.

The second problem is that Germany, the largest economy in Europe, is the economy which is most suffering from the current interest rate policy set in Frankfurt. Interest rates are palpably too high for Germany. And what will happen this week? Almost certainly, the European Central Bank will signal higher rates until, to quote a former Chancellor of the British Exchequer, "the pips start to squeak."

Once credibility has been established—and this will take some time—we will have to revisit the governments of the European Central Bank and that commitment to price stability.

QUESTION: One of the points of collaboration with Europe and the United States right now is in the intelligence community. There was recognition among the intelligence communities of most European states that the continent was in fact in trouble. But the political communities and the media did not want to recognize that, and now, belatedly, they have to make those decisions, which will enhance the collaboration among the political communities of the United States and Europe as well as the intelligence communities.

But one of the unifying factors, which you mentioned earlier, was the common enemy, and that was the Soviet Union. Now with its demise, there is a fragmentation.

Natan Sharansky recently spoke here of free societies and fear societies. The UN is largely made up of fear societies. There are very few things that democracies can get together to do with UN approval, so that leaves it to the United States to act on behalf of most of the democracies in meeting various threats.

How do you see Europe trying to meet a revived Soviet empire that Putin is building and the threat of China worldwide?

LIONEL BARBER: I would agree that the imperative of collaboration between the intelligence services is clearly there. The murder of Theo van Gogh was a wake-up call. The larger question touches on whether we in effect need to move completely beyond the 1945 system and create a new system built around a coalition of democracies, whether we stick to the old system, or whether we need to reinvent parts of the system. The wiser course would be limited reinvention rather than throwing everything up in the air.

Do we really believe that if we are conducting a global war against terror, that we can dispense with the cooperation of countries that may not be democracies? We need to have a dose of real politik here. And secondly, whatever one thinks of Putin's Russia—and certainly he has significantly overplayed his hand on Ukraine, on which the Europeans are more outspoken than the American Administration—he is useful. His country has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. You have to deal with him. And the same applies to China.

QUESTION: You went very quickly over Iraq, and I'd like to come back to that. You expressed certitude that there would be elections in January. I'm not so sure of that. But let's assume that there are and that the Sunnis do not participate, either willingly or because they can't. Question number one: will the Europeans say that this is an illegitimate election, as they have said about Ukraine and other places, and not the will of the people?

And secondly, what happens in a post-election situation if the United States starts a drawdown and the Europeans are left on their frontiers with a messy and very chaotic situation? Where do they go? I see grounds for conflict between the United States and the Europeans for a considerable period of time on Iraq.

LIONEL BARBER: The issue of Iraq is almost worthy of a separate talk, but I acknowledge the gaps. I see Iraq as an extraordinarily intractable, difficult issue both for the Americans and the Europeans.

I referred to the need to redefine the terms of success. What I mean by that is to say patently Iraq will not turn into a European-style democracy any time soon. We have to lower expectations here.

My bottom line would be to prevent the country from splitting apart. The reason that that is a worthy and necessary goal is that this is a goal not just shared by Americans and Europeans but also by the neighbors, Turkey and Iran for example.

So somehow we need to find a way for the three key core constituencies—the Sunnis, the Shi'ias, and the Kurds—to subscribe to the elections. They will be flawed. They will not be flawed for the same reasons as Ukraine, but they will not meet a high bar here. But the overall outcome needs to be a federation in which each ethnic group has a measure of self-government, and that is a very difficult thing.

European troop participation is very unlikely. The French and Germans have no public support for this and, unlike Tony Blair, they are not prepared to expend any political capital.

Having said that, the one card that this Administration has to play is to insist that Europe has no interest in a chaotic outcome and a fragmentation of Iraq, and in that sense perhaps the Europeans may be summoned to play a role.

QUESTION: You've expressed a hope for a limited re-creation of the Transatlantic Alliance. Would you elaborate further on what you see as Prime Minister Blair's influence in two directions? Do you have any concrete example where he has successfully changed or influenced American foreign policy on a major issue? And do you have any thought on the influence that he might have or will have vis-?-vis President Chirac or Chancellor Schröder or others on the other examples you've given? Is he in a position to be a bridge? He himself said he doesn't see himself playing that role in his press conference last week. But where is the British role in modifying the relationship?

LIONEL BARBER: The answer to your first question is that Tony Blair has had very limited influence. There are two areas I would single out. One was a catastrophic failure and the other was a limited success.

The first catastrophic failure was his success in persuading President Bush that the Coalition needed a second Resolution to authorize the use of force. This fact nearly polarized the camps, Europe and the U.S.-led Coalition.

The limited success was the recent visit to Washington, where for the first time the President understood and accepted Mr. Blair's premise that without some clear, tangible progress on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, there was no chance of either the greater transformation of the Middle East or progress in Iraq, that these two issues were inextricably linked, and it was time for America to engage in the process. Now, they palpably disengaged after the failure of the Accords under the Clinton Administration in 1999-2000.

Where does Blair stand in his chances of exerting influence on the diplomatic chancellors of Europe? He is a bit like someone who is doing the splits: the pond, the Atlantic, is pretty broad, so he's not in an entirely comfortable position right now.

Mr. Blair's decision to fully support the President has cost him an enormous amount in Europe. The relationship with Chirac is pretty appalling, despite the "love-in" at Buckingham Palace recently. They don't get on. Chirac was widely seen as undermining Prime Minister Blair during the Iraqi War.

And as for Schr?der, he again has distanced himself a bit from Chirac, but not to the point of moving back to London.

So our influence in Europe is limited. The best hope is that conditions on the ground in Iraq somehow force people to understand that we have a common interest in avoiding failure.

QUESTION: Thank you very much for that roundup of the alliance structure as of 1947. It's very important to remember when we had a successful bipartisan structure that did work on an international alliance basis.

We don't have one now. We may be at one of those break points in history in which a major change in alliances, economic structures, etc., are underway. I'd like to invite your thinking, even though you want a partial rehab of the old system, as to where this is going. Is there a possible split of England from the EU? What exactly is likely to happen on the power side of this, since you invited us to speculate about real politik?

LIONEL BARBER: The Scots do. The interesting observation is that the Scots and the Welsh love the European Union. They are much more supportive of the EU than the English. Going back to England, one of the most disturbing facts is that you go into any pub and there's a St.George's Cross flag. English nationalism has grown substantially in the last five-to-ten years, and that is not just because we won the Rugby World Cup.

The idea that Britain could leave the EU is pure fantasy. That's not because the British are not fond of their American cousins; it's not just because we want to join NAFTA along with Mexico. It is because our terms of trade are simply directed towards Europe.

Now, the question is the degree of involvement. Do we think it would be in Britain's national interest today or anytime soon to join the euro?

Absolutely not. Can you imagine? House prices in London have gone up almost 20 percent a year, between 10-15 percent a year, and latterly 20 percent. Can you imagine what would have happened had we had interest rates at the rate in Europe, 2 percent instead of 4.5 percent? It would have been a catastrophe.

So we will not be part of some core aspects of the EU. This means that we're in a very tricky half-world, where we're in and we're slightly out. That has been the history of Britain's relationship with Europe. But the idea of full-scale withdrawal is for the birds. So I certainly would like to take that part into speculation, but I've just hit a barrier.

QUESTION: There is a school of thought particularly in continental Europe that welcomes tensions in the transatlantic relations as adding impetus for a further integration of the European Union. Is this likely to play an increasing role in the years ahead?

LIONEL BARBER: This notion that you can build Europe by defining it against America is one of the most dangerous and fallacious propositions around. It is what Tim Garton Ash described as the Euro-Gaullist or the neo-Gaullist vision. It is incredibly dangerous and ultimately self-defeating.

One of the reasons is because the EU has now enlarged beyond the six, beyond a Franco-German-run organization, to a grouping now where there are twenty-five countries. The Poles, the Hungarians, the Czechs, the Baltic States, have no interest and will oppose any attempt to create a EU as a counterweight to America.

However, if this Administration and future administrations adopt a tone and pursue a policy which appears to consign the European Union to total irrelevance, this will by itself create forces which will pull Europe more closely together in a way which would be inimical to American national interest. It comes down to Newtonian physics: action produces a counter-reaction.

QUESTION: You spoke earlier about this generation of political leadership—Schröder, Chirac, Blair—and the view from Washington of political elites in Europe. Can you look ahead and comment on how you see the coming generation of political leaders?

LIONEL BARBER: I would make two observations. The first is that British public opinion is closer to European public opinion than some in this country imagine. This was certainly true in the run-up to the war. In the end, opinion shifted behind Prime Minister Blair and the British military. That has tended to be historically the case, and not just because we are interested in re-fighting World War II.

The second countervailing observation is that there is a disconnect with a European political elite of a certain generation &m,dash; Chirac, and ten-fifteen-twenty years below—that has a belief in Europe, that is struggling to adjust to this new world. Beneath that there is the younger generation of Europeans—French, for example—who speak English and who want to pay less tax and want more rewards. They are attached to the European social model, but they want more rewards. The European political elite is delivering neither growth, nor rewards.

The tension over the next ten or fifteen years will be how and whether Europe's politicians address that disconnect between what Adlai Stevenson called "the revolution of rising expectations" in the younger European class and the political class.

QUESTION: If we continue with our deficit, our currency may no longer be held out as the most powerful. What would be the political affect of such a change?

LIONEL BARBER: We are certainly going through, and will go through, a period of dollar weakness. The fact of the euro's strength is not necessarily a boon. But central banks around the world, including the Asian central banks, are diversifying their currency reserves, and that will continue. However, unless Europe can deliver its promises of higher growth, I see no sign in the medium term of the euro challenging the dollar as the principal reserve currency, and indeed you may well see a correction of the euro in the next two years. This will not be simply a story of euro strength and dollar weakness.

QUESTION: Why did Tony Blair risk everything to be a friend of George?

LIONEL BARBER: Three-word answer: because he believes. If you spend any time with the Prime Minister, he is a very engaging, seductive, slightly unscrupulous politician. They all are. But he really believes that this terrorism is an existential threat which must be tackled.

And the second reason is that he believes that when it comes to the count, Britain's national interest is served by standing by America, that he and the country faced a strategic choice in 2002, and that he made that choice along with the Parliament to support America.

If Iraq goes terribly wrong, the question I would leave you with is whether Tony Blair is indeed the last great pro-American prime minister of Britain. Perhaps not.

JOANNE MYERS: Thank you very much for your insightful comments.

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