Brown, like Blair, em­pha­sizes spe­cial U.S. ties

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Helle Dale

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Gor­don Brown came to Wash­ing­ton last week, a visit an­tic­i­pated with much cu­rios­ity on this side of the At­lantic — and surely on the other as well. As dif­fi­cult as it must have been to fol­low his pre­de­ces­sor — Tony Blair with whom Pres­i­dent Bush had a close per­sonal re­la­tion­ship — Mr. Brown pulled off a ster­ling per­for­mance. His state­ments on Iraq and Afghanistan were steady, sup­port­ive and mea­sured, and he in­di­cated a deep com­mit­ment to the “spe­cial re­la­tion­ship” be­tween the United States and Bri­tain.

This approach must have been deeply wel­come and re­as­sur­ing to the rather em­bat­tled Amer­i­can pres­i­dent, whose re­cent months have been char­ac­ter­ized by set­backs at home on im­mi­gra­tion and whose poli­cies abroad in the Mid­dle East are the con­stant tar­gets of at­tack, even when they work. Mr. Brown’s out­stretched hand cer­tainly proves that at the Bri­tish­gov­ern­ment level, there is still an ap­pre­ci­a­tion that the re­la­tion­ship with the United States is of fun­da­men­tal im­por­tance for Bri­tish for­eign pol­icy.

It is no se­cret that the close Bri­tish al­liance with the United States in the war on ter­ror has been im­mensely con­tro­ver­sial in Bri­tain. In the view of many, Mr. Blair sac­ri­ficed other pri­or­i­ties of his prime min­is­ter­ship in or­der to show sup­port for the United States af­ter Septem­ber 11. It has there­fore been a mat­ter of in­tense spec­u­la­tion whether his cho­sen suc­ces­sor, the for­mer chan­cel­lor of the ex­che­quer, would de­vi­ate from the course he had set. Mean­while, the Bri­tish Tories un­der the new lead­er­ship of David Cameron have taken pains to cre­ate a cer­tain dis­tance from the Bush White House, some­thing that has not gone un­no­ticed here in Wash­ing­ton.

In ad­di­tion, Mr. Brown was quite a blank slate as far as for­eign pol­icy goes, with few pub­lic state­ments to in­di­cate where he stood. Fur­ther­more, his ap­point­ment of for­mer U.N. of­fi­cial and fa­mous Amer­ica-basher Mark Mal­loch Brown to a high po­si­tion in the Bri­tish For­eign Of­fice also left many won­der­ing about Mr. Brown’s own in­cli­na­tions. The in­di­ca­tions from Mr. Brown’s first weeks in of­fice, how­ever, dur­ing which a mas­sive bomb­ing plot was un­veiled in Scot­land, were that this is not some­one in­clined to be soft on ter­ror­ists.

In style, Mr. Brown is very dif­fer­ent from Mr. Blair. Dur­ing the Camp David press con­fer­ence with Mr. Bush, he avoided the chummy ban­ter and jostling that used to char­ac­ter­ize the Tony Blair-Ge­orge Bush press con­fer­ences. Fur­ther­more, Mr. Brown stayed away from the per­sonal en­dorse­ments that Mr. Bush is so fond of, the mark of some­one who sees world lead­er­ship in highly per­sonal terms.

In­stead Mr. Brown fo­cused on the tasks at hand, win­ning the war against ter­ror­ism, and on the foun­da­tion of the transAt­lantic re­la­tion­ship. On both counts he could not have been more en­cour­ag­ing. For ex­am­ple, he said: “In Iraq, we have du­ties to dis­charge and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to keep, in sup­port of the demo­crat­i­cally elected gov­ern­ment, and in sup­port of the ex­plicit will of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. . . So we are at one in fight­ing the bat­tle against ter­ror­ism, and that strug­gle is one that we will fight with de­ter­mi­na­tion and with re­silience and right across the world. . . We are in a gen­er­a­tion-long bat­tle against ter­ror­ism, against al Qaeda-in­spired ter­ror­ism, and this is a bat­tle for which we can give no quar­ter,” Mr. Brown said.

On the “re­la­tion­ship be­tween the Bri­tain and the United States,” he said “Call it the ‘spe­cial re­la­tion­ship’; call it, as Churchill did, the ‘join in­her­i­tance’; call it when we meet as a form of home­com­ing, as Pres­i­dent Rea­gan did, “The strength of this re­la­tion­ship is not just built on shared prob­lems that we have to deal with to­gether or on the shared his­tory, but is built[EnLeader] on shared val­ues.” No won­der Mr. Bush com­mented that “He gets it.”

Now, it is also the case that Mr. Brown chose to couch his views in terms of an in­de­pen­dent Bri­tish for­eign pol­icy rather than as a sub­sidiary of Amer­i­can in­ter­ests. And why wouldn’t he? He is af­ter all, Bri­tain’s prime min­is­ter, and his words will be scru­ti­nized at home.

Bri­tish pa­pers noted ap­prov­ingly that he stressed that Bri­tish mil­i­tary es­ti­mates would de­ter­mined when Bri­tain draws down its fi­nal 5,500 troops from the Basra area of Iraq. And he avoided us­ing the term “war on ter­ror,” call­ing ter­ror­ism in­stead a “crime against hu­man­ity.” Rather than get­ting fix­ated on the word “war,” let us be grate­ful that Mr. Brown’s visit to Wash­ing­ton was right on the mark in sub­stance.

Helle Dale is di­rec­tor of the Douglas and Sarah Al­li­son Cen­ter for For­eign Pol­icy Stud­ies at the Her­itage Foun­da­tion.

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